Well, where did August go. I blinked and it disappeared. Actually I'm sure I was too focused on going away for a short vacation and those last days just slipped away without my having a proper chance to read the August chapter of Anna Pavord's The Curious Gardener. So, today August and next week September and I think I'll be back on track.
Although I just said I don't have any plans in mind for next year, I guess I am catching myself in a little fib. I have had in the back of my mind for many months now a few ideas of another 'serial' read like this for next year. I have two books in mind as a matter of fact. One is another nature book (not quite a gardening book like this) and the other involves letters--a sort of epistolary nonfiction book that would make a perfect daily/weekly sort of read. But more about those later, as I am sure I will change my mind (back and forth) several times before the year is out.
I'm really enjoying the Pavord, however, and have the last third yet to read. While some of the brief writings are a little over my head (in which case I begin wondering just what am I doing with a book like this in hand) and maybe a tiny bit technical, at least technical in the gardening and botany terms, most of them are breezy, easy reading and sometimes are only peripherally associated with her garden. She was wise to mix it up a little and make all her readers happy and contented. each chapter is perhaps an hour of pleasant reading time.
While some of the more technical (and for me technical is probably pretty basic stuff for most dedicated gardeners) references are beyond my experience somewhat, it's amazing how some little fact will be picked up and incorporated into my slowly growing gardening knowledge--if only from an armchair gardeners standpoint. I tuck the information away knowing you never know when it will come in handy.
For example she writes about creating a butterfly garden, you know the sort that attracts and nurtures local butterflies. She writes about a neighbor who takes keen interest in creating just the sort of garden that will be a draw and haven for butterflies. But he is disappointed when after a 'bad summer' he throws a garden of a party and no butterflies show up. She talks about her neighbor's "carefully managed wilderness". This wilderness is made up of wild flowers, which surprisingly are harder to keep up and tidy as "they don't stay where they're put".
"Most of the wild part of the garden lies on a steep hillside which falls away from the house. The soil is relatively poor, which is a help, as wild flowers generally favor starved ground, where they are not crowded out by the coarser type of grass. There is plenty of ragwort (horse-lovers will hate that), tawny-colored fox and cubs and bird's foot trefoil, which provides food for the caterpillars of the common blue."
Who knew. I guess the trick with wildflowers is to not try too hard? Maybe I have discovered something I really can grow?
My favorite bits, or one of them anyway, of her writing is when she writes about the personal--herself or her family--in relation to her garden. She underwent treatment for cancer--she went "into hospital to have various bits" cut out, and she puts her recovery down to sweet peas. Or at least the smell of them. The drugs she was given for the pain were excruciating and as is often the case with medication, they really messed her up. Her husband would bring in a fresh bunch of sweet peas from her garden every day.
". . . what neither of us knew was how crucial they would become to my recovery. The sweet peas became the most important reason to get the hell out of that horrible place and get myself back into the garden."
Maybe that's one of the reasons why people traditionally bring flowers to friends and family recuperating in the hospital?
She writes about plums (yum) and antique galvanized flower tubs she finds in an antique market that would be perfect for planting bulbs in, and the Columbia Road flower market in London. And she always shares some visit to an exotic locale--this time around a trip to the scattered islands of the Maddalenas off the coast of Corsica and Sardinia. It sounds heavenly. To think I just look and appreciate, but Pavord actually tries to identify the plants and flowers she sees. I am not sure I would even know how to start. But one other little nugget of information I am now tucking away--
". . . wildflower books are not laid out alphabetically but according to the age of the family in question. So my Mediterranean flower books start with pines, which, according to the fossil records, are the oldest group of plants in the region, and finish with families such as the thrifts, olives, gentians and bedstraws, which, in geological time, evolved much more recently."
September's chapter begins with mazes! Garden mazes fascinate me, so perhaps I'll be back next week with some more interesting things to share about them. Since I tend to complain a lot about the weather, I will end on a happy note--we are enjoying a perfect Indian Summer. It has been so pleasant outside this week that I have been taking my breaks, including my lunch, outside. I find a semi-shady spot where I can have just a bit of sunshine and enjoy my book and my sandwich. Not too shabby for September!