Don’t be dissuaded by that other pulpy piece - Eat, Pray, Love - the big best-seller by the same author. This is nothing like her girly memoir or much like anything else you might read if you are enthralled by fascinating people who, among many other pursuits, are beguiled by:
Botanical Obsessions especially
It has never been so fascinating as in this tale.
You, my dear readers, surely must know by now that I am compulsively working to create a Moss Garden under our big old Magnolia tree with the 50 foot spread. That’s a lot of ground and a LOT of MOSS to tend
I devote much time to it: preening, plumping and patching; but in comparison my ambitions are paltry, totally unscientific and not particularly rigorous.
Can you imagine? Doesn't all moss look more or less the same to you?
My negligible knowledge of moss has come from observation and the single, but wonderful, book in my library devoted to moss, Moss Gardening by the estimable George Schenk.
Alma Whitaker, the gutsy protagonist of the Signature of All Things had no such awesome source to rely on in the 19th Century, so she set out to write the definitive book herself.
Now, we have come to know that all mosses Are Unequivocally Not the Same.
But on her fantastical journey, she learned there are 15,000 kinds.
Her experience began by observing the mossy rocks behind her studio cottage on her inimitable father's great estate on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.
Not so different from my own experience (minus the great estate) within my own mossy patches and the neighboring Nature Trail from which came the origins of my Moss Garden.
I try my hardest to keep it clear of leaves and debris
Because it does not like to be inhabited or disturbed
And attempt to keep it free of these awful ‘brown spots’
but it is a particularly trying... and never-ending job because, well...
one of the reasons the moss thrives is, naturally, because it is under this almost-century old magnolia;
So with the huge magnolia comes the constant storm of leaves: new ones, old ones, green ones, brown ones; plus all the elements of a flower that bud, bloom mature and then disintegrate. In varying stages they go from big browning petals to the pretty teardrop-shaped outer casings of the new buds as they swell with new life and burst open...
Which is actually what you see here
And now that I know that each of the mosses in my very own little yard IS DIFFERENT: depending on what surface it grows, the conditions around it, how hard it has to fight to keep its place in the moss kingdom
It makes a big difference, doesn't it? and I am more and more enchanted.
"Dedicated to the person who pauses to study small things in Nature." George Schenk
Read both books --- you’ll love them.
P.S. Signature of All Things isn’t only about Moss.
SIX MORE THINGS TO DO THIS WINTER:
1. Find other duos with matching hair:
This is Ulf Skogsbergh with one of their divine chickens
This is my brother-in-law David and me
And on that note, go and visit family. I had a wonderful time in Maryland.
2. Read a little Proust...
To get you started, consider this:
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom.”
3. APPRECIATE the LESS OBVIOUS in the Garden:
Fascinating contortions of the Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
And Cryptomeria cristata
Color of Bark
4. Learn fascinating new subjects, like:
Small Miracles of the Desert
This gorgeous clustering beauty was sent to Lys by her dear friends who live in the Bedouin Village of Petra, where it has just snowed, which is a startling happening in the desert.
I'll let Lys tell you more about this bunching Egyptian Meadow Saffron and why we are so lucky to know about it.
In the Mid-East, as everyone knows, water is more precious than what…? Oil? Gold? A Nabataean coin? When Dianne, Skye and I visited Amman, Jordan, our hostess, the photographer/writer Jane Taylor, instructed us to never ever leave the faucet on while brushing our teeth and to double up while taking a fast shower. Reason: 91% of the kingdom gets a paltry 50-200 mm rainfall per year while we Hamptonites are socked and soaked with 1300 mm per year. But over there, when it finally snows or rains –a “depression” according to the Jordan Times –- what looks like barren desert around Petra springs into action. This year’s first sign of stirring was sent out by Salwa Manaja, who as a small child lived in a cave carved 2,000 years ago out of red sandstone-- with her charismatic Bedouin father, Mohammad, and New Zealand mother, Marguerite. Pictured is Colchicum ritchii, or Egyptian Meadow Saffron, a low perennial with pointy green leaves, clusters of creamy white-to-pink petals, centered by bright yellow stamens. Not the cooking variety of saffron – this one is pure poison.
Mushrooms Create Their Own Weather
How weird is that?...but this seems to be the result attested to by some academics from Trinity College and reported by The Daily Mail UK. Of course, Brits do like to exaggerate and mushrooms haven’t really figured out everything; but they concur that mushrooms, somehow, create their own special breezes and little windtunnels to carry their spores. (which is how they propegate) And the tests were conclusive on Shitake and Oyster mushrooms - my favorites.
5. Watch the carniverous plants grow... This delightful insect-eating pitcher plant came from festive Marders during the holiday season... absolutely delighted to see it throwing up its veiny and other-worldly new shoots (or flouresences or stalks, not sure of this nomenclature)
The carniverous plant specialist chosen by Marders is right on our own North Shore firstname.lastname@example.org, this is a Sarracenia, the expert's name is Eric and he did promise this would thrive outdoors in a boggy but sunny spot. We'll see...
6. And it goes without saying ORDER NEW PLANTS FOR SPRING
On these blustery, icy stay-inside days, there is nothing better than perusing the plant catalogues. What I like least is deciding which to actually order from, and then what to buy: considerations of sun, shade, space, and $$$.
Here are a few little tips:
Get lost in the catalogues but order online...at least then you can keep track and they usually add up the order as you go...so it is not so startling when you total it up.
Stagger their delivery (put in your agenda or calendar) so that the plants don’t arrive all at once. I have made this mistake more than once.
and of course, Digging Dog is an especially cute name and the Egyptian dogs are quite divine.
Plus they had things I have been searching for (another criteria, because it is so easy to order things you have really no place for but are enthralled by the pictures or descriptions) like weeping and variegated-leaved Tricyrtis (toad lilies that bloom in September), trillium, geraniums to experiment with and one of those must-haves that Ken Druse advised: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’... the one with big thick leaves that turn burgundy in the fall ..
This catalogue has charming line drawings and you can go to their site for most pictures
There is a great pile of catalogues on my desk that I am sorting through daily...
OTHER WINTER PERKS
Flora’s head when it unexpectedly comes peeping out of the doggie door
The maze underneath the Sargent’s Weeping Hemlock when unimpeded by greenery
and a smidgeon of a vision of New Green
the green of the first new leaves on the Hellebores
For those of you who have not heard, LongHouse Reserve has a fabulous Insider's Tour Program...
Trips to Japan, India and Arkansas (Arkansas? of course, the new Alice Walton museum) have been so successful because of the specialized nature of LongHouse and personal relationships that allow visitors to be welcomed into places that are normally not on the regular route.
Late this spring, LongHouse is visiting gardens in England in its own unique way.
Idbury Manor by John Dransfield, a 16th C. private home and garden
LongHouse is happy to invite you to join our first study tour to London and Gardens of England in Sussex, Kent, the Cotswolds and the Capital. This tour (June 5 - 12, 2014) is tailor-made for gardens at the height of their season.
You will be invited to visit estates with head gardeners and one particular highlight will be meeting Fergus Garrett (2013 LongHouse Landscape Award recipient) and sharing dinner with him at Great Dixter - the five hundred year old house and famous gardens.
To travel with LongHouse is to meet Outstanding People and to experience the best of the world.
Please note there is limited space on this tour and I recommend forwarding a reservation as soon as possible.
If you want to be part of this glorious trip...call LongHouse now. 631.329.3568
The Cotswolds by John Dransfield
The Nature Trail is freezing over, the ducks and geese have fled to higher ground
The swans are iced in...
and all of the wildlife is HUNGRY. So, don’t forget when the ground is snow-covered, PLEASE feed the birds
And since more snow and even colder temperatures are expected as I write this...