Saturday Snippet: Garden Travel

Book about Garden Tourism by Richard W. Benfield

I don’t own the book pictured but I plan to engage in a lot of “garden tourism” soon. We will be traveling to Devon, Cornwall and Ireland this summer! I am so excited to see these beautiful parts of the world for the first time.  We will actually start in Glastonbury then work our way down the coast counterclockwise, ending up near Torquay for a family wedding. What gardens in the Southwest of England are not to be missed, in your opinion?

After the wedding, we will go to Northern Ireland and Dublin for a few days. I am excited to see the Giants’ Causeway and Trinity College, which my grandmother attended briefly many years ago. I know there will be many beautiful gardens to see in Ireland — which would you recommend? Thanks!

Saturday Snippet: Easter

Statue of Jesus Christ in memorial garden with white azaleas

I think Easter is my favorite holiday. It hasn’t been swamped by materialism, as Christmas often is, and it doesn’t take months or even weeks of preparation. AND it includes flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Many of my favorite flowers, including spring bulbs, lilies of the valley, white dogwoods, pink azaleas. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer has a beautiful blessing for gardens, recalling the special place of gardens during Holy Week:

Almighty and everliving God, whose Son Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in a garden and called her to be the first witness of his Resurrection:  we beseech thee to bless this humble garden wherein we have a remembrance of the mighty acts by which we have been saved; grant that all those who see it may ponder and adore the glory of the Cross and the mystery of his Resurrection and may sing with joy the victory hymn; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

But on Easter Saturday, the time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, we should also remember that Jesus’ Passion began in a garden too, the Garden of Gethsemane. Gardens contain death and life, endings and beginnings, whatever the gardener’s or visitor’s beliefs. So whether you celebrate Easter or not, I wish you a peaceful day in a garden, wherever you may be.

Statue of Jesus Christ in a memorial garden with white azaleas.
Jesus in the garden.

Owl Moon

We have lived in our house for 23 years. It is in the middle of a city, though our neighborhood is park-like, and over 100 years old. We have tall trees and small lots, but my garden and those of my neighbors are a decent size, ranging from one quarter of an acre to a full acre.

Tonight, for the first time in those 23 years, we distinctly heard an owl calling. More than once — in fact, for several minutes. I think it was a barred owl; it had the distinctive rhythm sometimes described as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?”. And it sounded just like my father.

My father was a bird lover and bird-watcher. During my childhood, he developed a fascination with owls of all kinds, and he learned how to call them from the elevated deck on the back of our house, which faced several acres of New England woods. Hoo hoo hoo-hoo, he would call; and the owls would call back to him.

I taught my youngest child this trick some years ago, when we spent a week in Yorkshire at a wonderful, isolated location surrounded by woods on two sides and looking out over the moors on another. I cherish the memories of playing on a swingset with my little boy, stopping to listen to owls calling to each other in the woods, and teaching him to call back to them from the old walled garden, across an ancient ha-ha.

Although my father never took me out into the woods at night to call owls, I used to read the book “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen to my children. So in honor of tonight’s owl, here is a video snippet from that lovely book: Owl Moon.

Illustrations by John Schoenherr.

Saturday Snippet: The Lily of the Valley Fairy

I planted twenty lily of the valley pips today, so this weekend’s Saturday Snippet is from a favorite book series: Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies. Lilies of the valley are some of my favorite flowers, and I love their fragrance too.

Gentle fairies, hush your singing;
Can you hear my white bells ringing,
Ringing as from far away?
Who can tell me what they say?

Little snowy bells out-springing
From the stem and softly ringing—
Tell they of a country where
Everything is good and fair?

Lovely, lovely things for L?
Lilac, Lavender as well;
And, more sweet than rhyming tells,
Lily-of-the-Valley’s bells.

And this was one of my favorite songs to sing as a round with my children when they were little:

White coral bells upon a slender stalk
Lilies of the valley line my garden walk.
Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when the fairies sing.

Cicely Mary Barker Lily of the Valley Fairy

Illustration and poem: Copyright Estate of Cicely Mary Barker.