Peas interplanted with green onions. Passion fruit Maypop at the end of the row, on right.

The spice barrel also houses tomatoes.

Our first radishes of the season.

Ornamental quince O Yashima from Bluestone Perennials.

Rose of Spain, aka Russeliana in my garden.
Red Meidilland roses are blooming. Calendulas, pansies, catmint and lavendar continue their lavish show. Dorothy Perkins explodes into hundreds oddelicate blossoms and Seafoam sends out buds to partner Clair de Lune clematis. I have plopped chaenomelis O Yashima and the roses Amelia, Belle Amour, Dublin Bay, Jacques Cartier, Cecile Brunner, Geant de Batailles, Gloire de Dijon, Maiden’s Blush, Konigin von Danemark, Madame Plantier, Rosa Mundi, Russelliana, and Tuscany Superb into the rose borders. I have added hakonechloa and ferns to the shady border by the lily pond and began transplanting roses and perennials my poor planning consigned to places that have become too shaded by trees and shrubs. Blanc Double de Coubert, a nice white rugosa rose was the first for which I found new quarters. My old Konigin von Danemark also made the transition from shady border to a sunnier home. Peonies and irises will follow.
The deer continue to assault the vegetable garden, but so far there seems to be a chance that we will get some snow peas. We harvested radishes for the first time–those I plant as markers for carrots that are so slow to germinate I tend to forget where they have been sown. Okra, pumpkin and summer squash look promising. I think that the deer are waiting for them to get to the stage when their destruction will cause me the greatest heartbreak. They waited until the Casablanca lilies were in bud before they nipped them in half. That is how I became aware of their infernal cunning. Any kosher butchers out there? Any purvoyors of teeny quantities of Semtex–just enough to startle Bambi?


Rose The Fairy, organically grown.

Calendulas and pansies are edible.

Cousin David giant slayer, guards the goods against Bambi & Co.

Gooseberries are a controlled substance in West Virginia. They might carry a fungus fatal to white pine.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be. ” Anne Frank


The bad news is that free speech continues to be abused by haters such as president Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, who claims that “them Jews” are blocking his access to the White House. This, following the fatal shooting of Holocaust Museum security guard Stephen T. Johns, by Neo Nazi James von Brunn, points to the supreme irony of an African American pastor and a Neo Nazi being on the same page when it comes to “them Jews.” I wonder what Anne Frank, whose 80th. birthday the Holocaust Museum was about to commemorate on the day of the shooting, would have thought of this. What would she have thought of the reelection of Iranian Ahmadinejad, another Holocaust denying Jew hater? Would she continue to think, in face of apparently deathless bigotry, that “people are really good at heart”? Most probably. In the battle between light and darkness, light always prevails. Pathetic, frightened, narrow spirited people such von Brunn, Wright and Ahmadinejad end up as minor historical bleeps.The greatness of heart of Stephen T. Johns, and Anne Frank live on. This is the good news.

The good news in the garden is that the passion fruit vine is up and that the gooseberries are ripening. Calendulas raised from seeded have popped. The tomatoes have been potted, finally. The herbs–dill, basil, coriander–seem to be thriving although the snail population is growing by leaps and bounds and there are colonies of potato bugs in several of the container plantings. Beets, pumpkin and zucchini have sprouted and the snow peas are lush and green.

Amid positive horticultural happenings there is cause for trepidation. Bambi has made a day time appearance near the vegetable garden. It stood there eyeing its salad bar fearless brazenly. I take this to mean that the Bambi family–Mama, Papa Bambi and two bambini–has declared jihad on “them veggies.” As a response, I have placed a statue of a remote relative of mine, David, the giant slayer, amid the greenery. This is meant as warning that we of the tribe of Judah love peace, but we also love our veggies. Whether David will deter depredation depends on how badly he wants to fight. He might have to take out her nuclear reactor. I hope it does not come to that. I would rather reach some sort of compromise. Hilary Clinton and Ban Ki Moon might want to help. The Dalai Lama might be persuaded to mediate. I am willing to let Bambi have some of the veggies. She cannot under any circumstances eat all of them as she did last year. I am not discussing expansion of settlements with her and that is that. I will let you know how this shakes out.

While the UN debates Bambi’s declaration of war, I will be unpacking rose shipments from Nor’East Miniature Roses, Heirloom Roses and Rogue River Roses. I intend to plant them with clematis from Bluestone Perennials. In order to that I must reclaim a border that has been taken over by the fatal tree of heaven and other invasive entities. This is an enormous job, not easily accomplished in hot, humid weather when all one wishes to do is to lie languidly in a hammock with Colette’s essays in hand and a tall glass of icy lemonade nearby.


Path at Georges Sand’s garden, Nohant.

The dream–Georges Sand’s garden at Nohant, painted by Delacroix.

The reality–a modest path bordered by sweet rocket and a a volunteer redbud.

A Worth creation

In my next life I will embrace minimalism. I will wear starkly tailored black clothes and live in a Richard Neutrahhouse decorated with no more than a couple of Noguchi pieces. I will become a vegan and drink nothing but Pernod. I will read Derrida and listen to Phillip Glass. I will make a Japanese garden with only three plants. If you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.
These are the facts–I believe that if you don’t have some excess in your life, you are on your way to becoming one of those one-dimensional stick people little kids draw. If I could choose two clothes designers, I would choose Vionnet and Worth. I like plush, lush, sumptuous stuff. I like silk velvet, satin, soft Kashmiri shawls, handmade Valenciennes lace. I like colors–cinnabar, eau de nil, heliotrope, indigo, lapis lazuli, rose madder, saffron yellow. Minimalism, deconstructionism, pretty much any kind of ism just isn’t my thing. There is no danger that I will become the owner of a Japanese garden. I don’t have the temperament for Zen. Mine is a very Victorian sensibility. I like Queen Anne houses and Cotswold cottages. I love Grand Marnier and I detest Pernod. Though I mean to reform any day soon, I am, at present, an unreconstructed meat eater. I love Eastlake chairs and camel back sofas, reproductions of Paul Duprees sugary botanical paintings, blue and white Sttafordshire, flowery Limoges, embroidered linens and frilly furbelows. I could almost say, as Flaubert did, that “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” Minus Charles, Rodolphe, Leon and suicide, bien sur.
I do not have the temperament for Zen. I adore Dickens in all his overblown verbosity, I love Tchaikovy’s folksy musical gingerbread and I would not trade Beethoven’s Appassionata for a million Glass concerti.
Now, don’t go thinking that I go around swathed in silks and velvets. I should be so lucky. I wear denim all too often. I live in a log house and my love of Victorian trappings is kept severely in check by budgetary constraints. But for better or for worse, plants are my downfall. I burn with a lust that has no bounds for roses and roses and roses and peonies and irises and ferns and poppies. I lust for pawpaw and yuzu and meddlars, bananas and fig trees. Then I lust some more. As we speak, I wait with great impatience for the arrival of approximately two dozens roses, twenty peonies, a dozen ferns, a white ornamental quince, a clump of Hakonechloa, half a dozen German irises and three Fialla lilacs. As I wait, I work on a wish list that grows dangerously long–the old roses roses Ghislaine de Feligonde, Guirlande d’Amour, Queen of the Bourbons, Ispahan, Kazanlik, Omar Khayyam, Deuil de Paul Fontaine, Charles de Mills, Rose de Reshts, Perles des Panachees, Tour de Malakoff, Robin Hood, and the newer Livin‘ Easy. Finding room for this many plants could be a problem unless I tear up the lawn. I have some space I am honor bound to leave untouched. The turtles and birds that live in my neighborhood need it more than I do. The lawn is another story. I am very tempted to do away with it. However, it is no good to imagine that it can be replaced by roses and perennials. I would have to go with native plan, deer resistant plants that require no watering. Bother. In my next life I to be George Sand. Better yet, I want to be Queen Victoria.



Hello Ryiad, Rabat, Barbastro, Jerusalem, Teheran, Mega, Rouen, Lisbon and Pawpaw! It is rainy and cool in little Macondo by the Potomac. Roses, irises, oriental poppies, spirea and sweet rocket are blooming, asparagus is ready to harvest and it is time to plant more strawberries. I am about to have a slice of freshly baked corn cheese bread and a cup of espresso. How about you? I am assuming that you also have breakfast, wherever you live and I hope that you have plenty to feed yourself and your family, plus a few extra pennies to blow on books, a box of chocolate, flowers, a bottle of good wine, music, movies, and whatever you like and your religious beliefs permit. Out there, in the big world of realpolitik, things are not so pretty. People are killing each other in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Sri Lanka, among other places.

I suspect that some of you might think that killing is not such a bad thing. Some of you might believe that you go boom-boom and you fly straight up to where your seventy virgins await you. That is your thing. I confess that I do not understand it. It is not that I am that terribly afraid of dying. I just happen to have seen enough death to gather that it is dadblasted final. Besides, there a few features this side of paradise that I would like to enjoy a little longer.
Being on the sunny side of sixty, I belong to a group whose peers seem to be departing life all too often. Two of mine died within the lat couple of months. A couple of days ago I helped bury a good friend. Actually, some of us who love her scattered her ashes in the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, below Harpers Ferry. It was a sunny afternoon. The sky was as clear as the best aquamarine. Gold flecks shone on the cool river water and and on the hills, the old trees had the achingly beautiful green of new saplings. A gentle breeze turne the surface of the water to a froth of lace. A Pawlonia tree showered us with it royal blue flowers.
After we had scattered ashes and roses into the river, a pair of wild ducks made its leisurely way to the shore. A swallowtail butterfly, old quaint old buildings of the town seemed to huddle together arund gardens where e pink clematis yellow roses bloomed. In the hour long trip home we saw more wildlife than we usually see in a week. Baby turtles sunned themselves on a log on the Potomac. A trio of groundogs played in the grass. Deer watched us from the woods. A great blue heron fed in the shallows. Mourning doves sang in the wheat fields. All about us there were reminders that in the midst of death there is unquenchable life.
I think that you out there in Rabat, Teheran, Rouen, Jerusalem, and I, in this little town in West Virginia are good neighbours. We have more in common than you imagine. We hve known love, loss and we have learnt to carry our burden of grief with dignity. We know that some of that grief could have been avoided if only we could have chosen wise leaders. As it is, we have to do goes on when our best as individuals. We cannot determine the results of the talks between Obama and Netanyahu. We cannot prevail upon Ahmadinejad to stop rattling his nucler saber and bringing the world closer to complete disaster. We cannot stop floods in Brazil, nor keep the swine flu from spreading globally. What we can do is to respect each other. Life is short. We can do nothing better than to honor our shared humanity and tend the seeds of peace as carefully we tend our gardens.


R. Cecile Brunner
All the roses of my childhood were French. Cecille Brunner, a mini poliantha bred in Lyon by Joseph PernetDucher, grew in its original shrublet form in the torrid gardens throughout the Brazilian sertao. So did the Alba Amelia, released by Parisian rose breeder Jean Pierre Vibert, in 1823 and Guillot’s La France, the first hybrid tea ever, introduced in 1867. Today, I grow these and many other French Heirloom roses in West Virginia garden where summers are humid, black spot is a menace and Japanese beetles an ever present nuisance.
I would like to know how these French beauties travelled to Brazil. My sister theorizes that they arrived with immigrants from Madeira. She might be right. I prefer to think homesick Norman pirates carried them to Brazilian coast, tending them lovingly so that they could present the blossoms to a dark eyed Brazilian beauty. I admit that such a theory belongs in a romance novel complete with a picture of Fabio on its cover, but it is my theory and I am sticking to it until a scholarly rosarian out there traces the history of French roses in Brazil. As for the Cecile Brunner, in my WV garden, why, it came from The Antique Rose Emporium, in Texas. I have the climber, a sport that popped up in California in 1894. In a few weeks, I will be planting the shrub form along with Amelia and La France. I hope they come with a Norman pirate who will cosset them when they sulk. They will need him in this climate.