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Monday’s Muse

A very few of my garden books

A very few of my garden books

“Now, thank God, everything is finished; perhaps there are still things to be done; there at the back the soil is like lead, and I rather wanted to transplant this centaurea, but peace be with you; the snow has already fallen. . . . Well then make a fire in my room; let the garden sleep under its iderdown of snow. It is good to think of other things as well; the table is full of books which we have not read, let’s do that; . . .”

Karel Capek in The Gardener’s Year: The Gardener’s December.

I am so late with my Monday Report that I have decided to be a little early for my Muse Day post.  On the actual December 1 you can visit Sweet Home and Garden Chicago where Carolyn gail hosts Muse Day and see which of the other muses are abroad.

I’ve shown only a few of my garden books in my husband’s and my shared office. Needless to say there are many others, in the Great Room and piled next to my bed. I am ready for this reading season. Now that I am ‘retired’ I don’t have to rush out in the morning and I treasure my early morning reading, especially when I have lit the fire, and the wind cannot chill me.

Helping me celebrate my second blogoversary on December 6, Storey Publishing and Liquid Fence are offering gifts to the winner of my lottery.  Leave a comment about a favorite book, or seed starting tip, and I might choose your name to win Nan Ondra’s book, The Perennial Care Manual which will become a favorite read, as well as two packages of CowPots, made of composted cow manure. 24 in all. The lottery will close at midnight on December 5, and I hope I will have many names entered.  Good luck to all.

November Muse Day 2009

The Lawn Bed November 1

The Lawn Bed November 1


        “Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, and are then prepared to ignore them until the spring.  I am quite sure that a garden doesn’t like to be ignored like this.  It doesn’t like to be covered in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter.  Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the very frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance.”

                                                     Beverley Nichols

     I have been reading Rhapsody in Green,  an anthology of Beverely Nichols’ delightful writing about his life in the garden. Plums have been plucked from his various books including Down the Garden Path, Merry Hall, Laughter on the Stairs, Sunlight on the Lawn, and Garden Open Today. If you are equally as fond of cats as gardens he has also written about his beloved cats in Beverley Nichols’ Cats’ A.B.C. All of these have been reprinted by Timber Press and are available to all of us who mourn the fact that we were not born British with a country house in the 30’s and 40’s where we gardenened and wrote and entertained with great wit and style.


Nichols’ opinions could be sharp and brusque, but like all gardeners, he has a great appreciation of the natural world, acknowledges the pains that we gardeners are heir to, digging and weeding and picking and arranging.   I came across his delightful book Garden Open Today first, and that became the inspiration for our Annual Rose Viewing when we open the garden to our friends – and anyone wandering in the Heathan hills on the last Sunday of June.

     Even in November it is easy to attend to our garden because we look out at our Lawn Beds from our table where we have our meals and our tea times. I look down on it from my bedroom window when I first wake in the morning, and take a last moonlit glance when I draw the curtains in the evening.

     I will close with a final quote. “It is only to the gardener that Time is a friend, giving each year more than he steals.” A fine sentiment as the year begins to draw to a close.

Now visit Carolyn gail, who began Muse Day, over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago where she is celebrating a very special Muse Day.

Brilliant, and yet again brilliant


                   Foliage-viewing –

               Annual failure to slake

          Winter’s color thirst.          


In her haiku Carol Purington captures a season and the necessity of trying to prepare for the monochromatic winter landscape.  She captures the colors, creatures and songs of every season at Woodslawn Farm here in western Massachusetts.  This haiku is from her book Woodslawn Farm.

To see what other muses are abroad and inspiring us, visit Carolyn gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago, the host of Muse Day, and Blotanical nominee.  Don’t forget to vote.

Muse Day – September


He who bends to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

                         Eternity by William Blake


The golden days of summer are flying. Soon the hills will be a tapestry of rich color. I’ve already had to put a quilt on the bed.


Many thanks to Carolyn gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago for hosting Muse Day and giving us all a chance to share our observations and inspirations.




Malabar Farm on Muse Day

Malabar Farm
Malabar Farm


Book Review (of Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield 1948)

by E. B. White

“Malabar Farm is the farm for me,

A place of unbridled activity.

A farm is always in some kind of tizzy,

But Bromfield’s place is really busy:

Strangers arriving by every train,

Bromfield terracing against the rain,

Catamounts crying, mowers mowing,

Guest rooms full to overflowering,

Boxers in every room of the house,

Cows being milked to Brahms and Strauss,

Kids arriving by van or pung,

Bromfield up to his eyes in dung,

Sailors, trumpeters, mystics, actors,

All of them wanting to drive the tractors,

All of them eager to husk the corn,

Some of them sipping their drinks till morn;

Bulls in the bull pen, bulls on the loose,

Everyone bottling vegetable juice,

Play producers jousting with bards,

Boxers fighting with St. Bernards,

Boxers fooling with auto breakes,

Runaway cars at the bottom of lakes,

Bromfield diving to save the Boxers,

Moving vans full of bobby soxers,

People coming and people going,

Everything fertile, everything growing,

Fish in the ponds other fish seducing,

Thrashing around and reproducing,

Whole place teeming with men and pets,

Field mice nesting in radio sets,

Cats in the manger, rats in the nooks,

Publishers scanning the sky for books,

Harvested royalties, harvested grain,

Bromfield scanning the sky for rain,

Bromfield’s system proving reliable,

Soil getting rich and deep and friable,

Bromfield phoning, Bromfiled haying,

Bromfield watching mulch decaying,

Womenfolks busy shelling peas,

Guinea fowl up in catalpa trees,.

Oh, Bromfield’s valley is plenty pleasant –

Quail and rabbit, Boxers, pheasant.

Almost every Malabar day

Sees birth and growth, sees death, decay;

Summer ending, leaves a-falling,

Lecture dates, long distance calling.

. . .

And though his husbandry’s far from quiet,

Bromfield had the guts to try it.

A book like his is a very great boon,

And what he’s done, I’d like to be doon.”

I’d like to be doon it too.  E.B. White and Louis Bromfield were two of our inspirations when my husband and I started dreaming about living on a ‘farm’.  What we have resembles nothing either of them would recognize as a farm, but we’ve enjoyed the dream all these years.

We all know E.B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web which is a hymn to farm life and the cycles of life and death. We are no longer so familiar with Louis Bromfield (1896 – 1956) and his experimental Malabar Farm near Lucas, Ohio. My Muse Day Post is a portion of White’s review which appeared in The New Yorker Magazine of Bromfield’s book explaining his organic methods  and life on the farm.

Bromfield lived on Malabar Farm from 1938 until his death in 1956. The 32 room house sheltered the great and famous including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall who were married there.

Bromfield  studied agriculture before he studied journalism and took to writing best selling books including Early Autumn which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926. Today the Malabar Farm State Park continues Bromfield’s work for sustainable agriculture including powering the place with geothermal, solar and wind power. Logon to their website for more information about tours, facilities and events.

Thank you Carolyn gail for hosting Muse Day. Visit her blog and see what other muses are abroad today.

Muse Day


A little Madness in the Spring

Is wholesome even for the King,

But God be with the Clown–

Who ponders this tremendous scene–

This whole Experiment in Green–

As if it were his own!

                                  Emily Dickinson

We had our moment of madness at Sunday’s Rose Viewing, and I am not fool – or clown – enough to believe the roses are all my own.

With the help of my friend and Dickinson scholar, Martha Ackmann, I chose this poem for July’s Muse Day. I like the idea of the madness that lives in the spring, and summer, garden.  Martha had been telling me about the great Fence and Hedge Restoration at the Emily Dickinson Homestead and I was  also thinking of ways to entertain and educate the grandsons when they come to visit so I am happy to tell you that there are wonderful things for the young and not quite so young going on this summer.  I’ll be telling you more about the Restoration soon.

I am going to take Tynan to the Creatures of Bliss and Mystery: A nineteenth-century children’s circus on Saturday, July 11(rain date July 12) from 1 to 4 pm. Tim Van Egmond, folksinger and storyteller will give two performances and there will be a circus parade – join in kids! –  at 2:30. Lots of activities including hat, flag and music making, ring toss, and strawberry shortcake.  All this is FREE and open to the public.

We have a Dickinson family here in Heath. Although related, they are quick to point out that they are not THAT particular branch of Dickinsons. Still I like thinking that here on our hill we have a tenuous connection with one of the great literary figures of our country. Enough of her world still exists to help my imagination picture what Emily’s life might have been like.

The Emily Dickinson Museum, comprised of Emily Dickinson’s home and The Evergreens, Dickinson’s brother Austin’s house next door, is located in the middle of Amherst, only about 35 miles from our house in Heath. It is open 10-5 Wednesday through Sunday, until the end of August. All tours are guided and include both buildings. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children between 6&17.

Once again I thank Carolyn gail for hosting Muse Day, and giving us all a chance to share favorite poems and other works of art.

Monday Muse

Guan Yin Mian

Guan Yin Mian

Midsummer Morning

   One big white peony enough

      for a bouquet.

               by Carol Purington

My tree peony blossom is pink, but it is big enough for a bouquet.  Carol’s haiku are so evocative that I must include another on this Muse Day Monday.

End of the row

   The child’s strawberry basket

        still empty.

This haiku seems to me a perfect depiction of a child’s innocent greediness and the sweetness of summer. Thank you Carolyn Gail for hosting Muse Day.


This is not only Muse Day, it is time for my Monday Report. A sad tale. My squash and cucumber plants were killed by last night’s cold temperatures. It didn’t get down to 32 degrees but the cold and wind were too much for the seedlings. Now I’ll be planting seeds, and by hurrying the planting, I have the lost the time I thought I  would gain.  Never hurry. How many times do I have to learn this?



Happily there is good new news in other people’s gardens. Jerry Sternstein’s 300+ rhododendrons are just coming into bloom. He had just visited the Heritage Museum and Garden, home of the Dexter rhododendron collection out on Cape Cod, but his own collection, which includes many Dexters is stupendous. Scintillation is one of Dexter’s most famous hybrids, and as you can see from Jerry’s specimen it is worthy of its popularity.

Purple Princess

Purple Princess

Dexter’s hybrids are known for the size of the individual blossoms that make up each flower truss.



Jerry collection has flowers of every color from deep reds to pale shades like this yellow Capistrano.

Jerry also has a large collection of deciduous azaleas, sometimes growing with the rhodies. Local nurseries have only a small variety of the rhododendrons that are available. Jerry has bought his from a number of mail order nurseries including Rare Find Nursery, and Greer Gardens.

Other friends in Charlemont, Ray and Esther Purinton, have been encouraging a lupine field along their long drive.

Lupines bloom in shades of pink, blue and purple. Right now, most of the Purinton’s flowers are blue.

There is a lupine field in Hawley that enjoys a local fame. Another friend said when he is out picking raspberries in July, before a thunderstorm, he can hear the lupine seeds exploding nearby. That explains how lupine fields grow and continue. Self seeding just before a rain.

Don’t forget you still have time to sign up for the Sundial drawing. Just leave a comment here or on the previous posting before Friday at midnight.  The drawing will be Saturday morning and I’ll notify the lucky winner and Teak, Wicker and More.  Good luck all.

Muse Day May 2009

Bounded by strand
above strand of song
— the robin’s acre

This haiku by a local poet, Carol Purington, who lives one town over in Colrain, is from her book Family Farm: Haiku for a Place of Moons.

Carol was struck by polio in her childhood and has lived in an iron lung for most of her life, but she has found a way to connect the limitations of her life with the boundless energies of her family and the ever renewing growth and husbandry of the farm. She has captured the seasons and the love of a piece of land that sharpens the way I look at my own landscape.

If we hadn’t named our ‘farm’ End of the Road Farm, it would have been Robin Hill. Lots of robins mark the beginning of spring.

Thank you Carolyn Gail over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago for hosting Muse Day

Books and Gardens

When You Open a Book
by Rory Matthews (age 12)
When you open a book
A journey begins
In which many people can take
Whether they read poetry or novels
Either is fine.
Both take you to lands unknown
From fiction to sci-fi
Or drama to action
Maybe Moby Dick or Swiss Family Robinson
Or even a Wrinkle in Time.
From one galaxy to another
Or on a big wooden ship
With mast and all
All you have to do
Is open a book
and each page is a journey for you.

My grandson Rory has been greatly enjoying a poetry project in school. They are reading poetry from Emily Dickinson to haiku. Then they write poetry. I’m happy that Rory is not only a poet, he is a reader, and celebrates the pleasure he gets from books in this poem.

Over the past months I have had to do my garden journeying in books. Some have gorgeous photographs like The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy with photos by Sam Abell which come at garden design from the standpoint of different archetypal landscapes that appeal to different people.

Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping with Colorgul, Low Mainenance Ground Covers by Barbara Ellis is less grand but so useful. It also has great photos.

Sometimes all I need is the words. So many conversations, with deep thinkers and quirky specialists. Roses: A Celebration is a collection of essays about their favorite rose by 33 eminent gardeners and Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening by Aurelia C. Scott may seem even funnier to non-rose gardeners than to rose lovers. Not just for rose nuts.

So many gardens. So little time. Journeys on each page indeed.

For more Muse Day posts visit our host Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.

Fruitless Steps

“If we are to describe the gardener’s March according to truth and old tradition we must carefully take note of two things: (a) what the gardener is supposed to do and wishes to do, and (b) what in fact he does, not being able to do more!”

So spake Karel Capek in his delightful book The Gardener’s Year published in 1931. No less true today.

Seduced by the brilliant sun and the mild temperatures we’ve had for the past few days, melting the snow, I told my husband we had to go down and look at the vegetable garden and discuss the plans I have for arranging the new cold frame and some new plantings. We trudged along, sometimes sinking up to our knees in the icy drifts, but to no purpose. There is no way to see the borders of the garden as they are and what space new elements might take. There is still nothing to do outside.

As Capek continues his March lament he says, “Yes, only when he becomes a gardener does a man appreciate those threadbare sayings like “the bitter cold,” and “the merciless North wind,” “the harsh frost,” and other such poetic cursings; he even himself uses expressions still more poetic, saying that the cold this year is rotten, damned, devilish, cursed, beastly, and blasted; in contrast to the poets he does not only swear at the North wind, but also at the evil-minded East winds, and he curses the driving sleet less than the feline and insidious black frost.”

Alas, as he says, “Yes, nothing can be done; it is the middle of March, and snow lies on the frozen ground. Lord be merciful to the little flowers of the gardeners.

Thank you Carolyn Gail for instituting and hosting Gardener’s Muse Day.