Fantin Latour’s Hydrangeas

Playwright John Guare told me not to ” a lumpen, my dear” when I asked him a question he did not like. Joyce Carol Oates was graciousness personified when she I interviewed her for a provincial newspaper. Two writers, two different stytles, two different approaches. I remember Guare’s cowboy boots more clearly than I remember the lecture he delivered at the local university, but i cannot forget the comment he addressed to one of the students in the audience whose mind he compared to worn out jockey shorts elastic. During one of her lecture, Oates contended courteously with the high pitched wailing of a baby whose parents thought he was old enough to begin his career as a culture vulture.

I realize that none of this has to do with gardening, cookery or art. It has to do with my new blog, in which I will discuss writers and writing. I wait with baited breath to conclude an interview with Chandler Burr, whose title of perfume critic of the New York Times does him no justice. He is much more than that. See my new blog for details.
Meantime, the garden enters its slow phase. There is a second, more modest floraison of the heirloom roses. The rugosa Sir Thomas Lipton seems to have synchronized its blooming with the waxing moon. Pale daylilies, remnants of two subsequent plantings of White Flower Farm mixes and Klehm’s Song Sparrow farm specialties keep pace with lavender and china blue delphiniums. Bluestocking monarda thrusts its coarse blossoms among Seafoam roses. Casablanca lilies are in bud. Hydrangeas and nasturtiums compete in number of blooms.
In the vegetable garden all but half a dozen strawberry plants defy the voracious deer as do a few tomatoes, snow peas, okra–planted for the unsurpassed elegance of its flowers–summer squah and pumpkins. A terrifyingly repulsive worm has attacked the radishes and no doubt it will also devour the purple Dragon carrots. Season after growing season in the garden, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Thinking of ruined gardens, I pull Daphne du Marier’s Rebecca out of my bookshelf. It rereads marvelously well. I read recently, probably in Burr’s You or Someone Like You that “All paradises are paradises lost.” Max de Winter and the de Winter villainess in The Three Musqueteers’ each lost paradise due to the serpentine convolutions of adultery. In real gardens and in gardens of words, the more it changes, the more it remains the same.


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?

April came in like a lion, waving a rainy mane, blowing down tree branches, making the new blossoms on cherry treees shiver. There is nothing to fear. Frost date for my county is mid-May. While it is not to early to plant peas, potatoes, radishes and edible flowers such as calendulas, the tenderer crops will have be cossetted indoors for a few weeks yet. Mine are tucked into recycled yogurt containers and clear plastic boxes. Cake boxes from the grocery store make wonderful containers for potted seedlings. I find them fairly efficient as mini greenhouses provided that I do not forget that without adequate air circulation, my seedlings will succumb to the dreaded damping off fungus.
At the moment, I have Pink Oaxacan, Bulgarian, Fig, Hilbilly, Delicious and Jetsonic tomatoes planted in peat pots. In addition, I have Volcano and Peter peppers, Finissimo a Pala Verde basil in a motley collection of recicled containers. I am anxious to get out and plant the Jerusalem artichokes, the misnamed, yellow flowered plant. Heliantus tuberosus produces tuberers, as its scientific appelation indicates. Its place of origin is Virginia, where Sir Walter Raleigh found it in 1585. Jerussalem is thought to be a corruption of the Italian word for sunflower, girasole. In French, the tuber is known as Tupinambour, from the Tupi word Tupinamba, a Native Brazilian coalition whose members tended to eat French people around the time that good Sir Walter was plundering the natural resources of Native Americas. Toupinambour means uncouth and I suppose the French have a legitimate reason to the manners of the Tupinamba slightly objectionable. Nothing is known about the thoughts of the latter on the former. I imagine they might have said,
“Might taste good if washed thoroughly.”
The bathing habits of XVI Century Europeans are neither here nor there. Sunchokes, by any other name are delicious baked with cream and sprinkled with nutmeg. Plant yourself a row.