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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Postcard From My Veg Garden

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

A postcard from my little veg garden. I'm picking lots from the garden right now as you can see from the picture of Saturday's pickin's. Everything is doing well except the peppers.  It's been cool these last few days, so we'll see what that does to the garden.  I'm not sure when I'll have time for a longer letter, but I will make time because I want to share with you and everyone in the Dear Friend and Gardener Virtual Garden Club my secrets for growing vegetables.

Take Care,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Obsessed gardener looking for an old variety...

Begonia 'Gloire de Lorraine' (American Gardening, 1900)
Obsessed gardener looking for an old variety of Begonia, 'Gloire de Lorraine'.

Described by Buckner Hollingsworth in Gardening on Main Street (1968) ~

"From a tight cushion of bright green foliage a great many lax stems emerged, each tipped with only two flowers, but when these fade and fall the stem lengthens and two more flowers appear. There are so many stems of so many varying lengths that the plant becomes a fountain of rose-colored flowers."

Hollingsworth also called it by another common name "A Yard of Roses". 

I searched the Internet and found ;Gloire de Lorraine' in a place called the past. Indeed, the picture above is from an issue of American Gardening dated December 1, 1900.

I found another article about 'Gloire de Lorraine' dated 1968, the same year Gardening on Main Street was published. And I quote, "The decline in popularity of 'Gloire de Lorraine' Begonias can be chiefly attributed to their unsatisfactory response to the living room climate. The leaves tend to curl and turn yellowish, and usually sooner or later become attacked by mildew which rapidly renders the plant unsightly. Moreover, the plants are susceptible to bud drop, and the flower colour presents only a limited range: white or light to deep pink."

I still want it.

Someone who went by the initials H.G.L. wrote the editor of Country Life in America back in 1903, "anxious to learn the secret of success in this culture" of Begonia 'Gloire de Lorraine'. He lost nearly all his begonias and wanted to know how to save those he had left. The editor provided a lengthy answer describing when the begonia needs a period of rest, how to harden it off so the buds don't drop inside and more. He makes it seem just a bit challenging to keep this plant going from year to year.

I still want it.

But I don't think I'm going to get it. I think it really is in the past. I even checked the website of the American Begonia Society and they have just one reference to it in one article.

This is one of the pitfalls of reading old gardening books.  They often describe plants that are lost to the ages, cast aside in favor of newer, maybe better, varieties or hybrids.  I can find newer, maybe better, begonias which long ago replaced 'Gloire de Lorraine'.  I'm not sure I want them. I just wanted to grow the begonia Hollingsworth described.  Or at least try.

Obsessed gardener looking for an old variety of Begonia, 'Gloire de Lorraine'. If you find it, let me know.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Buckner Hollingsworth

I will always remember this summer as the summer I discovered Buckner Hollingsworth's books.

My first discovery came when a friend and I were browsing in a nearby antique mall. I had gone my way in search of old gardening tools and books and she had gone her way in search of whatever.  I met up with her as she was looking through several shelves of  old books.

She handed me a copy of Gardening on Main Street by Buckner Hollingsworth (Rutgers University Press, 1968) and said she thought I would like it. 

Though it was newer than most of the old gardening books I buy, I decided to buy it because it looked interesting and would be a nice edition to my growing stack of "mid-century modern" gardening books, as I call the gardening books published in the 1940's, 50's and 60's.

I went home and read the book and loved it. It's the simple story of a gardener's garden.

Part way through the book I asked, "Who are you Buckner Hollingsworth?"

Down the rabbit hole of the Internet I went in search of this garden writer.

I found out she was really Edith Buckner Kirk Hollingsworth, known as Buckie to her friends and family. Born in 1892 in Baltimore, Maryland, (just two days after my own grandmother) she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where one of her classmates was Katharine S. White, who wrote the classic Onward and Upward in the Garden.

Buckie's younger sister, Mary, was a friend of Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Yes, that Wallis Simpson. Mary later married Ernest Simpson, after he divorced Wallis.  Buckie's youngest sister, Anne, wrote a book about their sister Mary.

Buckie served in the Red Cross in World War I and later married the artist Will Hollingsworth with whom she had one one son, Kirk. Eventually Will and Buckie bought a house on Main Street in Windsor, Vermont, where they lived and she gardened.

A web site about Will is a goldmine of information if you are looking especially for pictures of Buckie as I was one evening several weeks ago.

Buckie passed away in 1979 and many of her letters and correspondence related to her books and her sister Mary are now housed in a library at Harvard University.

But I digress...

After I finished reading Gardening on Main Street, I found good used copies of the two other books written by Buckie, including Her Garden was Her Delight (The MacMillan Company, 1962)

This lovely book is a collection of essays Buckie wrote about women gardeners from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and very early 20th centuries.  It's a gold mine of information all on its own and was reviewed by Katharine S. White, though not with great enthusiasm.

In a letter sent by Katharine S. White to Elizabeth Lawrence dated June 5, 1962, White writes she couldn't give Buckie's book an enthusiastic review. She "detected many small errors in fact..." She felt bad about the short review she did include in The New Yorker, because Buckie was an old friend and according to White, almost totally blind.

Buckie also wrote Flower Chronicles (Rutgers University Press, 1958) in which she tells the history of several different flowers.

As noted in the front flap, "Every gardener knows that his craft is immemorially old, and that the flowers of this year's blossoming are the latest delights in a sequence rooted in centuries and millennia. This is a book to affirm the gardener's sense of the past, to reaffirm the ancient sense of connection between this year's blossoms and the story of flowers and men as it has happened in many times, many places and among many peoples."

In many ways, Gardening on Main Street is also an affirmation of the "gardener's sense of the past", the timeless story of a garden and the relationship a gardener forms with her garden and with the universe of gardeners past and present.

I think what I enjoyed most about Gardening on Main Street is that reading it was like sitting in Buckie's garden or in her kitchen, listening to her tell the story of her garden. I can imagine arriving early and following her around the garden, stopping here and there as she tells me how she solved the problem of what to plant along the narrow front garden, how beautiful the morning glory vine is that grows by her front door, and how she and Will rigged up a garden hose to keep the water moving in her little fish pond.

It has a timeless quality about it, even though it was written 46 years ago.  And it made me want some of the plants she described.  More on that some other time...

Buckner Hollingsworth. Until this summer, I never knew her.  But meeting her through her books has added to my life and thoughts as a gardener, and convinced me, once again, that stories of gardens really are timeless.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Class is now in session for Wildflower Wednesday - Wild Petunia

Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis
"Good morning, class."

"Good morning, Miss Horters."

"Now class, I hope you all remembered that today we are having a very special Show & Tell for Wildflower Wednesday, which is always on the 4th Wednesday of the month".

"Yes, Miss Horters, we remembered," said the class in unison.

"Miss Horters?"

"Yes, Judy?" 

"Miss Horters, Carol brought in a garden fairy with her wildflower I thought you didn't allow garden fairies in class will you be sending her to the principal's office?"

"No, Judy.  I won't be sending Carol or anyone else to the principal's office. We are granting a special exception just for today because we all know garden fairies are notoriously hard to control and I'm sure Carol didn't mean to bring in a garden fairy with her wildflower."

"Now, Carol, why don't you tell us about your wildflower. It's very pretty."

"Thank you, Miss Horters", said Carol as she stood up, stuck her tongue out at Judy and headed to the front of the class.  "My wildflower today is wild petunia, Ruellia humilis.  Would you like to know more about it or the garden fairy who came in with it?"

"Just tell us about the wildflower, Carol. We don't want to encourage garden fairies with any publicity."

"Well, Miss Horters, and fellow classmates, I got my wild petunia from my garden designer.  She sent me an email and asked if I'd like a start of wild petunia and of course I said yes.  I had visions of it blanketing the ground of my August Dreams Garden border with its pretty bluish-purple flowers.

When she gave it to me late in the fall, I dutifully planted it as soon as I got it home. I thought it hadn't survived that first winter in my garden when I didn't see it the next spring, the next summer or the next fall or the next spring. Then this summer, there it was. It was growing in the path, not the garden border. It is pretty tolerant of a lot of different conditions, apparently. I suspect the garden fairies knew this and they grabbed some seeds from the one I got from the garden designer and threw them out into the path."

"Carol, that's an interesting theory about how it came to grow in the path."

"I almost weeded it out of the path when I saw it but something made me stop. I suspect garden fairies held me back. Anyway, I'm glad I did stop short of pulling out my wild petunia because now it is blooming. I am hopeful that this one sets seeds and more wild petunias pop up around my garden and one day I'll have a blanket of wild petunias."

"Well, Carol, we're glad you didn't weed it out, too, and we hope it continues to sow itself around your garden. Thank you for sharing it with us today."

"Your welcome, Miss Horters.  I love my wild petunia and I love Wildflower Wednesday."

"Now class, does anyone else have a wildflower to share, posted on Clay and Limestone?"