The new air comes in,
As rustling wind,
A sojourner here,
Hurrying onward —
How many connoisseurs of silence remain? On quiet days, early-morning stillness carries the sound of the resident crows clacking their beaks. An occasional cockcrow or hen cackle escapes from nearby henhouses. Later, the crows will become more vocal as they patrol for something to eat or for a redtail to harass. Faint honking of Canada geese, flying from the ponds to their pastures, draws excited echoes from my three Brown Chinese as they practice their feeble domesticated flight. Soon, though, the thrum of tire on pavement penetrates this quiet, and then overhead, airplanes ferrying workers to Island jobs erase it further.
At night from here it is possible to hear the rhythmic murmuring of the wavelets rolling the beach pebbles in and out at Lambert’s Cove. During the day, although like the tides it persists, I can no longer hear it.
Bright spots; beans; insufficient pollination
Having a bright spot, a container or perhaps ’mums, brightens fall gardens as the inevitable nears. Use exotics and tropicals; they originate in far different climates and continue blooming here, until killed by frost.
“Those pole beans are done.” My husband, who is of the Pessimist Tribe, informed me. He was referring to the planting of tall, tasty, and tender ‘Fortex.’ I went out to check; 30 minutes later a nine-quart bowl filled to the top with over six pounds of ‘Fortex’ green beans sat on the kitchen counter. Moral: Don’t give up — there is almost always another picking of pole beans!
On another note though, my daughter, gardening in Virginia, bemoans the empty, rubbery pods containing no beans that her lovely Charlottesville garden produced this year: insufficient pollination. She is an ecologically aware gardener, so it is not as if she does not encourage pollinator activity.
It is possible that pollinators for our food crops will become too scarce to carry out this critical function for us, if we continue with widespread environmental/pesticide abuse, and there will be “empty, rubbery pods” of many, many descriptions.
You might say, “Impossible — there are too many insects, and they are everywhere!” (Were similar words were spoken about the passenger pigeon?) None of us knows what the critical mass is, but we must maintain awareness that we cannot live apart from nature and that our very lives are dependent upon it.
One of the iconic glories of island autumn is the burnished spread of little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) in open places. As it turns meadows and fields from a nondescript, mundane green into a glowing sunset color, a twisting and veering windblown tapestry, little bluestem lifts the ordinary into something dynamic and bewitching.
Reading for gardeners
I am more like a compiler or reporter of garden information, I should think, than a writer. However, I very much enjoy reading garden writers whose prose and thinking enter my mind and enrich my perception of this ambiguous and ancient urge called gardening.
Of the seemingly limitless numbers of garden writers and weblogs that the Internet gives us access to, it might be good to mention here a few that appeal to me. I am not a subscriber to blogs; the plethora of them is an invitation to spend vast amounts of time I do not have. Most blog writers also list, as sidebars, links to their own favorite sources of inspiration or information, so reading garden blogs can become like a hall of mirrors, with unending possibilities stretching into hours staring at a screen. (Not much gardening is accomplished that way.)
Some are design-oriented; others write with more focus on plants or their culture, or a particular kind of gardening. I tend more towards the plant-geek or eco-oriented garden authorities, and enjoy John Grimshaw’s and Noel Kingsbury’s posts and books. Nigel Colburn is a admired voice of British gardening experience. In a previous column (Sept. 17, Garden notes), I extolled Matt Mattus, a Massachusetts plantsman and blogger.
Almost anything by Adrian Higgins (no relation), the Washington Post’s garden columnist, and Anne Raver, who writes frequently for the New York Times, is good writing and reliable information. Higgins’s predecessor at the Post, Henry Mitchell, an almost universally revered source of garden writing and pithy knowledge, was the essential earthman (“Everything grows for everybody. Everything dies for everybody, too”).
Many gardeners who read have been exposed to the writing of Vita Sackville-West, on gardening and otherwise, but how many know the masterful writing of Mirabel Osler? Her “A Gentle Plea for Chaos” and “A Breath from Elsewhere,” among other work, are well worth seeking out. Christopher Lloyd would be on many best-garden-writing lists, as he is on mine: His books offer forcefully worded opinions, good writing on a broad array of plant subjects, and are strong on practical gardening advice.
I am enjoying the wise and gentle voices of Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd in a loaned book, “Our Lives in Gardens” (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009). The topics in this collection of garden essays are interesting, and I think I have arrived at the point of exposure where I can identify for myself, as a New England gardener, how acute and well written their observations really are, instead of taking it on “faith in the experts.”
Which isn’t to declare there is a point of becoming expert where one can sit back and coast. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote that though an old man, he was but a young gardener; this applies to everyone who attempts to grow and plant. Every garden is different, every year is different, and every gardener is different.