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  • Writer's pictureLelia

Gardens: A Commonplace

Updated: May 2, 2021

Golden Marguerite, a self-seeding annual.

"In summer, we work hard to make a tidy garden, bordered by pansies with rows or clumps of columbine, petunias, bleeding hearts. Then we find ourselves longing for the forest, where everything has the appearance of disorder; yet, we feel peaceful there." Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg

"I have been working or trying to work my garden into a kind of permanent shape - so that if I live for twenty-five years it will be pleasant to walk about it by the time I'm too old to do anything else. It will probably take the 25 years because I don't know too much about doing it and good things are sometimes a long time in growing." Georgia O'Keeffe, letter to Anita Pollitzer, quoted in Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, Roxana Robinson

"... gardening is the embodiment of creative expression. You're given constraints: a plot of land, a specific climate, certain conditions of light and soil. It's up to you what to do with them.There is no 'right' garden, only the one you choose to design, plant, and tend." Creative Calling, Chase Jarvis

"People who spend their time gardening are as a rule very reliable. The qualities of industry, patience and perseverance are fostered, and they usually have calm and steady nerves." Dark Threat: A Miss Silver Mystery, Patricia Wentworth

"I have already encountered the first dandelion. I stood and stared at it with a kind of horror. And then I felt ashamed of myself, and sorry for the dandelion. And suddenly, without my doing anything about it at all, my face just crumpled up and cried. How excited he [her late husband, Eugen] always was when he saw the first dandelion! And long before the plants got big enough for even a rabbit to find them, he had dug a fine mess, for greens. He used to say “pick dandelions”; and I would say, “Not pick,—dig.” And he would say, “Oh, don't scold poor Uge—he does so his best.” Edna St. Vincent Millay, Letter to George Dillon, 29 Dec 1938 (from Letters of Note, one of my favorite websites/newsletters:)

I always leave the milkweed in my garden. Here's a monarch caterpillar eating her fill:)

... What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

- from Inversnaid, Gerard Manley Hopkins

"It was in 1948 that she established her garden [in Abiquiu]. This was a large and flourishing operation, an old-fashioned mixture of flowers and vegetables. 'I have a garden this year,' she wrote enthusiastically to Henry McBride. 'The vegetables are really surprising. There are lots of startling poppies along beside the lettuce - all different every morning - so delicate - and gay - My onion patch is round and about 15 feet across - a rose in the middle of it - Ho - the garden would surprise you and I think you would like it very much.' ... Vital and flourishing in the dry white landscape, [the garden] manifested the energy and care that O'Keeffe put into it. She devoted herself to the tasks of gardening, making recipes for compost, ordering seeds, and planting and weeding. Water was allotted once a week, and the whole garden was flooded like a rice paddy." Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life, Roxana Robinson

Strawberry blossom (plants from Stark Bro's)

"They passed into the sunlight. Cecil watched them cross the terrace and descend out of sight by the steps. They would descend - he knew their ways - past the shrubbery, and past the tennis-lawn and the dahlia-bed, until they reached the kitchen garden, and there, in the presence of the potatoes and the peas, the great event would be discussed." A Room with a View, E.M. Forster

"I should like now to promenade round your Gardens—apple-tasting—pear-tasting—plum-judging—apricot-nibbling—peach-scrunching—nectarine-sucking and Melon-carving. I have also a great feeling for antiquated cherries full of sugar cracks—and a white currant tree kept for company. I admire lolling on a lawn by a water lilied pond to eat white currants and see gold-fish: and go to the Fair in the Evening if I’m good." John Keats, Letter to Fanny Keats, 29 Aug 1819 (from Letters of Note ♥)

"Noel [Murphy] made soup with herbs and vegetables from her garden; she filled the closets with lavender she grew herself, and she planted and carefully tended asters, dahlias, Madonna lilies, hyacinths, Canterbury bells, and zinnias in front of the house. Her roses were the size of saucers." Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner, Brenda Wineapple

Janet Flanner "lyrically described the roses in Noel's garden, blooming in grand profusion as they had bloomed all those many summers before... One patch, in particular, she loved best of all: 'It blooms with a medley of colors and confusions - a garden of errors and survivors of mistakes, left to chance and to their floral fate, frequently bursting with inappropriate rich colors, like bad embroidery.'" Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner, Brenda Wineapple

"Vera couldn't bear tidy gardens, and she was more interested in growing food than flowers. She let dandelions grow in damp patches and picked the leaves for salad on the rare occasions when she fancied a healthy meal." Silent Voices, Ann Cleeves

"Outside, the garden is full of beautiful weeds. In the summer, if [Rose] Wylie wants to sit down, she flattens the foliage in her boots." Skye Sherwin, The Guardian, "Rose Wylie: 'I want to be known for my paintings – not because I'm old,'" November 22, 2017

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