Time

Ralph, my wise, old garden gnome.  He sees all.

Ralph, my wise, old garden gnome. He sees all.

I have an article due later this week on the subject of peanuts.  I’m looking forward to writing it, yet I haven’t gotten the urge or the inspiration to get started.  The deadline will get me moving, I know, because I have a deep-seated need to fulfill my obligations to the best of my ability.  I still see my mother staring at me, arms crossed, with tapping foot and pursed lips.  It will be on time.  The Miss Joan in my head will make sure of it.

Tonight, I’m avoiding the article on peanuts by writing in my blog.  How convenient!  I know I am not alone…often, my dear, brilliant attorney friend, Catherine, has writer’s block with the briefs she must file on time.  She’ll finish in time and turn them in; meantime, she knits, and writes blog posts, and brilliant articles for magazines.  I get that urge to avoid when the writing “don’t come easy”, as Ringo Starr sang.

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy lately, for various reasons.  Steve and I just came off a wonderful, Summer vacation to Savannah, Beaufort SC, and St. Augustine FL.  More on the trip in another post (with Steve’s great photos); let’s just say it was hard to come home.  I’m still having dreams of moss swaying lazily in live oak trees.

It’s the “off-season” for me, also, so my days aren’t as crazy and I have time to fill as I see fit.  It’s kind of a crack in the wheel of the year for me because everything is in that lull between the end of Summer and the start of Fall.  I don’t have to think too much about appointments and installations and garden maintenance and schedules and deadlines (other than the article deadline, that is)–everything seems to be hanging in suspended animation until a switch gets flicked and time says, “Okay. It’s time for Fall.”  I’m working on redecorating a bathroom, reading, and just staring into space thinking about all kinds of things.  One of those things is time.  As much as I love Fall, I’m sad to see the Summer go.

I felt propelled to my bookshelf today and pulled down “Every Day in Tuscany” by my penpal friend, Frances Mayes, my favorite.  I was thinking about time and, sure enough, she discusses it much in this book.  I’ve been reading all day and stopped many times to ponder.  So many thoughts about time came to me today.

It’s funny how clients are so different from one another in terms of “garden time” (thank goodness–it keeps my job interesting).  Some are patient (they get that a garden needs to grow and can take years to develop), and some are not (they want the end product NOW).  We gardeners know the answer, of course:  great gardens develop over time.  I was having dinner the other night with my dear friend, Crawford, who will be 90 next year, and we were talking about gardens and time.  I told him about my impatient clients.  He said, “What a shame that they miss out on the joy and pleasure of watching their gardens grow.”  Indeed.  But I didn’t let him off the hook, either.  I said, “You are just as guilty!  You cajoled, fertilized, watered, and just about put stretchers on your Pieris to get them to grow, remember?!  You complained for three years or so, and the fourth year they doubled in size.  How quickly you forget!”  He said, “Welllll–it was all that encouragement I gave them that made them grow!!”  We laughed.  Even in your 80s, you can learn lessons about time.

Remember, with plants:  “It sleeps, it creeps, it leaps.”  And that’s not just about English Ivy, either.  In my experience, it’s pretty much across the board, at least in the Southern climates where I live and garden.  Seems like the plants take forever to grow, then one day you notice suddenly that they’ve doubled and need pruning.  Astounding!  What a pleasure to be a gardener with a few years under my belt…now, I sit back and enjoy the process because I know the reward will come soon enough, at a seemingly increasing speed.

Steve was up this weekend, and after a delightful evening with a dear friend and her nephew on Friday night, we had a full Saturday night.  First, we were privileged to be invited to a 50th birthday surprise party for our friend, Stephanie.  What a cordial group of people, and when Steph walked in and heard the “SURPRISE!!!”, she started to cry.  The crowd burst into a lively version of “Happy Birthday”, and in the amount of time it took to sing the song, I could feel the honest and devoted love for Steph.  Her years devoted to cultivating these loving friendships all came to fruit in that one instant.  A moment in time, and a lesson for all of us.  It’s very easy for gardeners to see the metaphor here.

After our quick appearance at Steph’s party, we went out to Wolftrap (which is a local venue set in a national park here outside D.C.) to participate in a sing-along viewing of “The Sound of Music”.  So much fun and so many memories associated with the film.  On the way home, we discussed how the huge crowd joined together, joyfully, as one big unit, to celebrate the fun of this film.  For those three hours, we all had one thing in common:  our experience watching the film–not our differences.  It was a congenial,  civilized and laughter-filled evening I will remember.  Yes, some melancholy there, too, for me–I was seven years old when “The Sound of Music” was released in 1965 and much in my life has changed.  But “The Sound of Music” has remained the same, even as my own life is flying by.

This time of year, for me, is a time of thought:  “What’s next?”  The seasons are changing, days are shortening, nights are cooling. What will you plant in your garden this Fall?

Posted under Books, Garden Ornament, Gardeners, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Fall Garden, The Summer Garden, Writers

Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Garden in Hillsborough, NC

I noticed Anne Raver wrote a piece in the New York Times recently about Nancy Goodwin and her garden in Hillsborough, NC, “Montrose”.  Here’s a link. Nancy wrote a book about her garden and her experiences there, Montrose: Life in a Garden.  It’s a lovely, informative read.

The garden at Montrose in late Summer

The garden at Montrose in early Fall

Steve and I visited there two Winters ago, and we had a personal tour through the garden with Nancy.  It was magical.  I wrote about it here.

The garden at Montrose in late Winter

The garden at Montrose in late Winter

Hillsborough, NC, is the American home, also, for Frances Mayes, (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) and her husband, Ed.  They’ve just completed a new cookbook, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, which will be released next week, on March 13th.  Can’t wait!  Following the book’s release, they’ll start their book tour.

Posted under Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens, Writers

Books for Snuggly Days

If you garden, Winter is a time of major dreaming. Dreaming about how our gardens will do this year, dreaming about maybe traveling to see some gardens, and, well…dreaming while sleeping.  It’s a great time for naps, snuggled up in your favorite old blankets and afghans.

Personally, my reading time is just before I sleep–at night or before a nap.  I relax and dig into whatever book I’m reading (though I might have two going at once), and reading lulls me to sleep.  Right before bedtime is the only time I have to read, during most of the year…having the extra time in the Winter is a real luxury and treat, and I do take advantage of it!

After a hectic holiday season and January, I finally finished up my long list of things to do and now I’m in Wilmington, NC, for a nice, long stay.  Ahhhhhh.  Even after being here for a week, I’m just now coming down off the craziness and beginning to relax.  Let the naps and reading begin!

I just finished reading The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough.  It tells about creative Americans who went to Paris between about 1830 and 1900.  You’ll recognize the names of many of the movers and shakers of American history.  If you love Paris, as I do, you’ll recognize so much of the city in Mr. McCullough’s words.  I learned so much from this book.

Of course, I’m reading garden books!  A book I’ve wanted to read for awhile is And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by the wonderful blogger, Margaret Roach.  She is a former executive from the Martha Stewart empire and finally threw in the towel so she could do her own thing.  I confess that I just started this one, but I can tell I’m going to get sucked into it quickly.

Dominique Browning, former editor-in-chief of House & Garden magazine, left the fast lane, as well, but not by choice.  The magazine folded.  She wrote the wonderful book Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness about her post-job experiences.  I’ve read all her books, and this is my favorite.  Though I enjoyed her other books very much, I sensed an underlying anxiety that I don’t sense in this book.  What I see in this book is a letting go, and I can feel it happening as I read.  Gardening helped her find her way.  I really enjoy reading her blog, as well:  Slow Love Life.

One book that has really excited me this Winter is One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown. I’d read over the years that Ms. Welty was a gardener, but who knew she was a capital “G” Gardener?  This book looks at the Welty garden in Jackson, Mississippi, which has been lovingly restored to the time Ms. Welty’s mother, Chestina Welty, was alive and tending it with her daughter.  I love the criss-cross of the history of the garden melded with Ms. Welty’s history.  I’ve maintained always that behind every garden and gardener is an interesting backstory, and the fact that Ms. Welty was a famous, Southern writer is not the main course here–her garden is.  This is a slant that we gardeners love.  It feels like a privilege to get a behind-the-scenes look at a very private part of this famous writer’s life.

Another book that just landed on the doorstep here in Wilmington is The Art of Creative Pruning: Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs by Jake Hobson.  I heard about this book here from the wonderful garden blog Garden Rant.  Okay–the photos in this book are plant porn, especially if you love your plants trimmed and controlled just so.  I’m not one of those people, but still…maybe I could try it, even a little?  This book is instructive, well-illustrated with examples and looks like a winner.  I’m looking forward to reading it, not just glancing.

I revisit two of my favorite books throughout the year (and years), not just Wintertime.  Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden and Mrs. Whaley Entertains were written by Emily Whaley, with William Baldwin.  Mrs. Whaley, who passed away a few years ago well into her eighties, had the most visited garden in the country.  She wrote these books in her eighties, and they are absolutely, wonderfully, cheekily delightful.  What a woman she was, and what a gardener.  The books describe not only her garden, but those of her childhood and old, old South Carolina family.  And we all get to listen to her life story, peppered with saucy opinions and comments.  She was Southern to the core.  These books are a quick read and great books in which to just get lost.  I love them.  (And I have a confession to make:  a few years ago, my talented Richmond friend, David Pippin, and I snuck into Mrs. Whaley’s garden on one of our Charleston trips.  We peeked quickly, then left in one piece.  Thank goodness!  We later found out she’d already died before we saw the garden.  How I wish we could have met her.)


As you can tell, my tastes go for essay-type books, whether they are garden or travel or cook books, which tend to be my favorites genres.  I like history, too.  But please:  don’t just give me the facts…tell me a story, too.  If an author does that, they’ve got me as a reader.

Steve and I are headed to our beloved Savannah, GA, tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ll have a lot of reading time (though some), but we will be trying to see every garden we can see.  First stop may be Boone Hall Plantation just North of Charleston, SC.  There was a freeze over the weekend, so some of the early bloomers may got zapped…I’ll keep you posted.

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Blogs, Books, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Topiary, Travel, Writers

Time to Sit and Watch the Leaves

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.”
— Elizabeth Lawrence

Thanks to Shirley of Pender Nursery in NC for posting this in a recent e-mail. I love the NC writer, Elizabeth Lawrence, whose books are wonderful recipes of seasonal gardening chores and observations, mixed in with garden philosophy. Great reads, especially in the winter when there is time to settle in with a good garden book.

The leaves are really crankin’ here at Woodland Cottage. It’s maybe the fastest change I can remember. On Monday, there was little color; two days later, we’re almost at peak. One glance out any window here generates a “Wow!” in my brain. Here are some photos showing my views–I think they speak for themselves.

From the living room window...

From the living room window...

...and from the dining room...

...and from the dining room...

...and from my bedroom.

...and from my bedroom.

Color, color, color, all around…love it.

Posted under The Fall Garden, Writers

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on October 27, 2010

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Frances Mayes Website/Blog Link

To know me is to know that my favorite author is Frances Mayes, writer of the Under the Tuscan Sun series about her life in Italy.  I have spent many an hour dreaming as I read through her books.  Her work has influenced me greatly.  She is a gardener in her own right and usually writes extensively about gardens in each of her books (in addition to cooking, decorating, traveling, etc.).  She has a new book coming out in March:  Every Day in Tuscany. Can’t wait!

For those who are interested, she has a new website link for her updated webpage and periodic journal.  Both are great pleasures.  Enjoy if you are so inclined.

http://www.francesmayesbooks.com/

Posted under Writers

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 14, 2010

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