I am half English and when I was a child, my English relatives often sent me and my siblings classic English storybooks as gifts. So I grew up on Arthur Rackham, C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton. J.M. Barrie — and Cicely Mary Barker, author and illustrator of the Flower Fairies series of little books. They helped inspire and sustain my love of flowers and gardening, as I could imagine the fairies while my parents taught me how to plant perennials, weed flowerbeds and pot up bulbs.
Today, I will be planting winter aconite tubers, as well as various narcissus, and ajuga reptans to fill in among the flagstones of a new, small patio and pathway. Today’s Saturday Snippet:
The Winter Aconite Fairy
Deep in the Earth
I woke, I stirred.
I said: “Was that Spring I heard?
For something called!”
“No, no,” they said:
“Go back to sleep. Go back to bed.”
“You’re far too soon;
The world’s too cold
For you, so small.” So I was told.
But how could I
Go back to sleep?
I could not wait; I had to peep!
Up, up, I climbed,
And here am I.
How wide the earth! How great the sky!
O wintry world,
See me, awake!
Spring calls, and comes; ’tis no mistake.
Cicely Mary Barker
Illustration: Cicely Mary Barker (copyright The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker).
A wonderful book by veteran gardener and garden writer Ann Lovejoy, whose books on perennials and mixed borders are among my very favorites, Fragrance in Bloom sums up this season very well:
For gardeners, fall is less an ending than the beginning of another great cycle of work and rest and fulfillment. In fall, we plant the bulbs that will illuminate the spring yet unborn. In fall, we dig and divide and recombine our plants into fresh combinations to enjoy next summer. In fall, we commit new plants to the ground, giving trees, shrubs and perennials a chance to make strong root growth before winter. In fall, we can relax and let our plants ripen into maturity before they sleep. Autumn is also glorious in its own right. As the night air cools, leaves catch fire, the tired greens igniting to lava reds, ember oranges, and smoldering copper. As the slanting daylight lengthens, it gilds the garden with a soft haze. Numinous and transcendent, the autumn light turns mess into magic. When we can appreciate that the slumping, seed-spangled demise of summer’s magnificence is truly magnificent in itself, it becomes easier to stop being so concerned about grooming away every browning leaf. Instead, we can relax and simply revel in autumn’s richness.
I’ve changed my header image to reflect the current season, which seems appropriate for a blog focused on gardening and plants! What do you think? This lovely photo is an autumn view from the rose garden at Dumbarton Oaks.
There is an unmistakable rhythm in the gardening year. With the coming of early spring, the garden moves from sparse bloom into the explosive profusion of midsummer. The movement from this midsummer bounty of bloom toward winter reverses the cycle, turning it back toward sparseness. Autumn inevitably is a season of winding down, of ceasing, but its changes are very slow and gradual, and if plants are chosen carefully for what they bring to the garden at this time of year, fall can also bring bounty — and I don’t mean only its harvest of apples and pumpkins … The problem with our gardens in autumn lies not in the absence of plants that are lovely then but in our neglect of the season, our failure to widen our knowledge and exercise our imaginations, and our sticking to old, well-trodden, and familiar paths.