Pacific Northwest | December 28, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineDecember 28, 2003seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
POSTSCRIPTS
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY VALERIE EASTON
ILLUSTRATED BY MICHELLE KUMATA

Treasures Saved
Nuggets of wisdom help us dream green
 
 Illustration
I'M ALWAYS COLLECTING quotes. One that's stuck on our refrigerator was used by my son's second-grade teacher to inspire her class: "Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort."

My son is in his last year of high school now, but I haven't tired of those words from Franklin Roosevelt. Part of it is that I admire big thoughts couched in few words. Here are some of my favorites gathered during the past year, ones that seem to speak directly to gardeners, just in time for New Year's reflection:

Graham Stuart Thomas, the venerable British horticulturist who died this year at the age of 94, summed up the joy and fascination of gardening in an interview: "It's the artistry of the garden that is my principal love, and the love of beauty in plants as in all things. Today the stress is on the science and craft of gardening, not on the appreciation of plants or artistry. Gardening is an art, not a science." Such a heartfelt proclamation from one of the world's great plantsmen allows all of us who approach gardening from a less-than-scientific viewpoint to feel just fine about that.
 
JULIE NOTARIANNI / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Illustration Now In Bloom
The sedges shoulder on into winter, providing tufts of interest at ground level when so much else has disappeared. Carex oshimensis 'Evergold' lives up to its cultivar name, brightening the garden with its gold and white stripes. C. comans 'Frosty Curls' is a swirling mound of gilded foliage, which even on a mild morning looks as if it was frosted overnight. Sedges are evergreen, stay small (12 to 18 inches high and wide), flourish in full sun or part shade, and take well to being grown in containers.
In his book "Care of the Soul," Thomas Moore wrote, "Art arrests attention — an important service to the soul." Our attention is caught not by a botanical name or new method of pest control, but rather by a shaft of sunlight turning a purple leaf translucent, or a pure white snowdrop unfolding out of the soil. It is our yearning for moments of such attention-arresting satisfaction that compels us to work so hard at cultivating beautiful gardens.

I love to find nuggets of gardening wisdom and lore embedded in novels. Elinor Sparrow, a lonely old woman in Alice Hoffman's newest book, "The Probable Future," is estranged from her daughter and left alone to grow her roses. Elinor realizes "she had restored her garden in a way she had never repaired the rest of her life." As Elinor's health fails, the month of May burgeons around her, as integral to the story as a character in the book, its pulsing green vibrancy a poignant backdrop to her dying.

While traveling through Eastern Washington on one of the very hottest days of the blistering summer of '03, I sought the refuge of the air-conditioned Maryhill Museum. I was nearly as dazzled by a quote I found there as I had been by the waves of heat rising off the Columbia River. Boston artist Robert Douglas' explanation of his work, "Still Life with 3 Lemons," is an eloquent and complete description of good garden-making. The sign beneath his 1963 oil painting says, "I arrange abstract patterns so that the distribution of shape, form, color, value and linear context interact with each other to make an integrated whole."

This quote is of nebulous origin, but too good not to include. A friend told me he'd read an article in House and Garden magazine years ago, maybe written by V.S. Naipaul. My friend had never forgotten one line in the story, and now I never will, either, because it's my new goal in life. The author wrote that his plan was to make a garden that, when he looked out his windows, he would see nothing that needed to be done. Would that we all could achieve such nirvana!

I hope this quote from my dance teacher, Lara McIntosh, will help you continue to plot, scheme and dream green through the winter when it is just too wet, cold, dark (pick one or all) to garden. Not that she said it to inspire gardeners, but rather to help a class marooned halfway across the floor when the CD finished up. Picture 50 dancers of all ages beating out their own bare-foot rhythms to get to the other side of the room. When you're stranded, all you need to do, McIntosh says, is "keep on going to the music in your mind."

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is vjeaston@aol.com. Michelle Kumata is a Seattle Times news artist.

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