Gardening is a gift that keeps on giving – and this is especially true of the Planting Fields Arboretum, a jewel of a gift on Long Island’s Gold Coast.
William Robertson Coe, who made his fortune in marine insurance, built the mansion in 1921 in the style of a 16th century Elizabethan country home – but it’s the park-like 409-acre estate, designed by the Olmsted brothers, that brings gardening enthusiasts, walkers, brides, and myself back in time.
Hooray! The car is fixed and we’re finally heading home. Since I am out of wireless and Internet range, I’m leaving the post writing to you. Remember, keep each other entertained until I get home.
We had a visitor the other day. At first, from the corner of his eye, Joe thought it was a rock. I thought it was a helmet — because, well, it makes perfect sense that a helmet would randomly appear outside the front door, right? I know. A definite “duh” moment.
In any event, the rock/helmet came to life with legs and a head.
I’m still in South Florida, waiting for my car to be fixed. The mechanic informs me that the transfer casing needs to be replaced and there is only one brand new part in the entire country and GMC cannot locate it. There is, fortunately, a used part in Orlando that has arrived and just needs to be installed.
My mind is worried about my New York garden and the clean-up that is waiting for me there. Three weeks is an awfully long time to be away, and I’m sure that there is mowing and weeding and staking to be done.
And my heart and prayers are in Colorado. It seems silly, doesn’t it? To be worried about car repairs and gardening when there is so much pain and absolute sadness surrounding the tragedy in Aurora. With each news update, I long for simpler times. Innocent times. Times when evil didn’t walk into a movie theater — or a school or a mall or a military base . . . and the only sounds to be heard came from life.
It’s positively steamy outside. I’m watching the sprinkler water the zinnias on the far side of the pool, and completely drowning out the sound of running water is the non-stop, rapid-fire droning chirps of the Cicadas. Some might consider the sound a nuisance or torture, but I find the chirping can trigger memories and it sparks my imagination.
As a kid, we always incorrectly referred to these buzzers as locusts — but no matter what we called them, no sound reminds me more of the dog days of summer than the Cicada’s song. It’s like a sizzling sound effect, perfectly accentuating the sun’s rays scorching the garden. A never-ending sizzle, that forces me to stand as still as the hot, humid air. As one chorus whines to an end, another starts up, and so on and so on.
I’m still in South Florida and while here, I’m thinking of there — my Long Island garden. Before Joe and I left, the bud of my Stargazer Lily was setting itself up to bloom. I just know that by now, nearly two weeks since we left, I missed Lily’s grand opening — and divas hate that. So in an effort to make amends with Lily, I offer you this repost.
The stars are ageless, aren’t they?
Let me first begin by saying that this is not the post that I had planned — but some plants tend to be divas. My initial idea was to give you a “Bloomin’ Update,” with a series of photos documenting the opening of a lily. My one and only lily that hasn’t been seen in years. To use a film reference, this lily is my very own Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard fame.
This post actually began long ago, well before there was a blog. I had planted three lilies in what I will call the perennial garden. In fact, the perennial garden was really my first attempt at gardening, and I felt the need to fill it with as many flowers as I could order, purchase, find, borrow, root. There was really no rhyme or reason. Regardless, the lilies bloomed beautifully, but their perfume was overpowering. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was smelling my yard or the funeral home that backs against the woods behind my property.
I love a good weed. It’s when I feel that I am most in my head, when I do my best thinking, when my imagination wanders up and down and sideways.
That’s the way it was this weekend when I knelt down to begin weeding the bed that’s wedged between a blue stone patio and a row of white pines growing in a bed of ivy behind a low stone wall. In truth, I began working on this bed weeks ago, when I cleaned it, weeded it, and planted the Gomphrena “Strawberry Fields” that I had started from seed.
And that’s where the work ended. Now all I see is the Gomphrena swallowed up by a new flush of weeds because I never had the chance or the time to place mulch. It’s uncanny how the driest stretch of my yard, heated by the surrounding stonework, is the perfect home for weeds.
As I pulled and yanked, my green world became black and white and I imagined myself in a 1940s film noir flick. In it, I’m in a chair, a beam of light aimed at me and throwing the far corners of the room into shadows. There’s a detective hovering above me, hair slicked back, hands on his waste so I can see his gun holstered under his jacket.
I was all set to do a before and after photo spread, starting off with white and colored eggs in the spirit of the Easter holiday, and then segue into a series of photos about my pre- and post-Spring clean-up.
Before: The implied knot garden.
My raking , though, became more of an excavation as I uncovered plants that I hadn’t seen in some time — and my imagination kicked in. Suddenly, I was a space explorer hovering over an unchartered alien world, boldly going where no man had gone before. Or, in keeping with the season, I was Alice down the rabbit hole — and the garden grew curiouser and curiouser.
An oasis of peony.
The Valley of Lily of the Valley.
A view of Hosta Heights.
The edge of the Great Boxwood Forest.
The Spiderwort Wood, or as the local tribes call it, Tradescantia.
The Great Desert was once a colorful jungle. What happened here?
The unfurling tendrils of the Ferocious Ferns are poised to snag an unsuspecting wanderer.
When I came to, I was back in my garden, rake in hand and surveying my work . . .
After: The implied knot garden.
. . . still unsure about where I had been. But at least I have the photos to prove that it was a real place.
Happy Passover. Happy Easter.
Willy Wonka — actually Gene Wilder in the better of the two Chocolate Factory movies — sang, “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.” But is it possible to have too much imagination?
That thought occurred to me just the other day when I found myself with my head very close to a pail of moist seed starting mix – inhaling. I’m not sure what came over me. One minute, I was mixing the dry powdery combo with water – and the next, I was breathing. Deeply. Completely absorbed by the clean, fresh, earthy smell.
I admit, when I’m working outside and I’m by myself, I do get lost in my own thoughts and imaginings – and it’s more than daydreaming of what to plant and where to plant it. No, that would be too easy. My imagination, I feel, needs a diagnosis.