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Words of Wisdom

A very great designer, Marco Stufano, whose gardens at Wave Hill in the Bronx are world famous, has often said that gardens that don’t take risks aren’t worth making. Unless we are willing to try new ideas, new techniques, new plants and new designs, we can never travel beyond the known.

 

Garden making is one of the creative arts and as such will be and should be, expressed in individual and often experimental ways.

We need to pay more attention to foliage as a garden’s main cohesive factor, not as texture…but as color.

There are no bad plants, only failure to use them to good effect.

                                               -- Pamela Harper Color Echoes Harmonizing Color in the Garden, 1994

 

Vertical forms make excellent focal points in planting compositions, establishing focus and centers of interest whether alone or in combination. Verticals are so visually commanding they will engage our attention well before similarly scaled horizontal or weeping forms.
                                               -- Catherine Ziegler The Harmonious Garden Color, Form, and Texture, 1996

 

A professor can never better distinguish himself in his work than by encouraging a clever pupil, for the true discoverers are among them, as comets amongst the stars.
                                               -- Linnaeus (1701-1778)

 

What we want for and from our gardens is in the process of changing more rapidly and dramatically than it has for many years. We are looking for ways to garden that do no adversely affect the piece of land in our care. We are also exploring ways to combine plants in groupings that make cultural sense, and take full advantage of their specific beauties. What’s more, we increasingly want our gardens to present enticing vignettes in every season.
                                               -- Ann Lovejoy   Naturalistic Gardening, 1998

 

Memory is important because memory is possession
                                               -- Ryan Gainey

 

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated. 
                                              -- Christopher Hitchens


Now, more than ever, we need to learn how to use lightly and sustainably the natural systems that survive in our midst, from swamps, coastal waters, savannas, and tropical forests to hedgerows and remnant woodlands along urban streams. The more we plunder them, the more likely we are to lower the earth’s human carrying capacity—that is, its ability to support Homo sapiens.
                                              -- Yvonne Baskin  The Work of Nature How the Diversity of Life Sustains Us, 1997

 

Gardening is a painstaking exploration of place; everything that happens in my garden—the thriving and dying of particular plants, the marauding of various insects and other pests—teaches me to know this patch of land more intimately, its geology and microclimate, the particular ecology of its local weeds and animals and insects. My garden prospers to the extent I grasp these particularities and adapt to them. Lawns work on the opposite principle. they depend on their success on the overcoming of local conditions.

 

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. The garden is an unhappy place for the perfectionist. Too much stands beyond our control here, and the only thing we can absolutely count on is eventual catastrophe. Success in the garden is the moment in time, that week in June when the perennials unanimously bloom and the border jells, or those clarion days in September when the reds riot in the tomato patch—just before the black frost hits.  It’s easy to get discouraged, unless, like the green thumb, you are happier to garden in time than in space; unless, that is, your heart is in the verb.  For the garden is never done—the weeks you pull today will  return tomorrow, a new generation of aphids will step forward to avenge the ones you’ve slain, and everything you plant—everything—sooner or later will die. Among the many, many things the green thumb knows is the consolation of the compost pile, where nature, ever obliging, redeems this season’s deaths and disasters in the fresh promise of next spring.

                                               -- Michael Pollan Second Nature, l991

 

I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.

                                               -- George Burns

 

It is a wonderful lesson, and the most important one in garden making; a proper garden is not only full of flowers, but of magic and secret places. It is not so much a showplace as a retreat, a place for renewal, for sensory enjoyment, for escape from self.

                                               -- Ann Lovejoy  Intro to Perennials Toward Continuous Bloom

 

I would say  plan your garden to make yourself happy. Do it slowly, starting with what’s achievable, for failure does not make for happiness. Don’t be afraid to be different, to make a garden that is like nobody else’s. Finally, I would say, the garden should never be finished; there should always be room for that new perennial to surprise you with its wonderful bloom next year.

                                               -- Margaret Ward in Perennials Toward Continuous Bloom

 

Above all, a border  should look natural on the site, not imposed on it.

                                               -- Fred McGourty       The Perennial Gardener.

 

For the true gardener, the pleasure of finding just the spot where a plant wants to grow is always greater than growing it in just the spot the gardener wants. Success then becomes a partnership rather than a bullying (and often a futile one) of the plant by the gardener.

 

The temperament that makes up all serious gardeners much have a large component of melancholy. For however glorious the garden’s display might be, the true gardener seems always to look behind with regret at what has passed and ahead with longing at what is to come. To be squarely anchored in the moment, to savor just what lies before one and want nothing more—this must be a great bliss for those who possess the ability.

                                               -- Eck, Witherrowd,   A Year at North Hill 

 

 In anything at all, perfection is attained not when there is no longer anything left to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
                                                                                                                                          
                                               -- Yvon Chouinard

 

Leisure, slowness, contemplation: in an age of presumed efficiency and professionalism, these amateur virtues are perhaps despised, but they may underlie the greatest joys of gardening, and of life.  It is not enough to grow the most beautiful things. It is even better to explore them, to identify with them, and to grow into a rather new consciousness of them.

Disaster….is the normal state of any garden

Indeed, almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise. But even the greatest gardens, if you live with them day after decade, will through you into despair.

There are no green thumbs or black thumbs.  There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises. It sounds very well to garden a “natural way”.  You may see the natural way in any desert, any swamp, any leech-filled laurel hell. Defiance, on the other hand, is what makes gardeners.

We do not, in our gardens, need rarities, nor more land, nor a better climate (though one can conceive of improvements here). We merely need more labor and less grumbling, more brains and fewer store-bought gewgaws, and most of all more awareness of what is in front of us in the garden.

Compared to gardeners, I think it is generally agreed that others understand very little about anything of consequence.

A garden should be, of course, whatever the gardener can make of it, and this is (as a rule) not much. But it is more important for the gardener to be enchanted than for critics to be pleased.

                                               -- Henry Mitchell The Essential Earthman

 

It is quite remarkable, when you think of it, that if you tell somebody to buy something and dump it on or squirt it on, he will almost certainly do it, after a fashion. But if you suggest that he observe something or think about something or learn about something, he almost certainly will not. Yet those gardens we admire are never the result of dumping and squirting, they are always the result of muddling things about in the brain and the eye.

                                               -- Henry Mitchell The Essential Earthman

 

But a garden is somewhat exalted above ordinary notions of correctness. A garden is more than a matter of the right fish fork, as it were.

On the contrary, a garden is (for the gardener) not so much a picture that will please the faint-eyed, but a cycle of wheeling life, encompassing more than trifling designs of color which (if that’s what you’re after) may so easily be had in pastry tarts.

                                               -- Henry Mitchell   The Essential Earthman

 

One reason gardens are so often a mess is the gardener’s itch to get on to something new instead of tending to what’s already there.

                                               -- Henry Mitchell   The Essential Earthman

 

Sometimes you don’t need to paint a picture, but should just stand there amazed at one plant. 

                                               -- Henry Mitchell   The Essential Earthman

 

It is quite remarkable, when you think of it, that if you tell somebody to buy something and dump it on or squirt it on, he will almost certainly do it, after a fashion. But if you suggest that he observe something or think about something or learn about something, he almost certainly will not. Yet those gardens we admire are never the result of dumping and squirting, they are always the result of muddling things about in the brain and the eye.

If we persist, I do not doubt that by age 96 or so we will all have gardens we are pleased with, more of less.

In the meantime, we usually learn that modesty, charm, reliability, freshness, calmness, are as satisfying in a garden as anywhere else. And in plugging right along patience, and freedom from fretting, are supreme gardening virtues.

But a garden is somewhat exalted above ordinary notions of correctness. A garden is more than a matter of the right fish fork, as it were.

On the contrary, a garden is (for the gardener) not so much a picture that will please the faint-eyed, but a cycle of wheeling life, encompassing more than trifling designs of color which (if that’s what you’re after) may so easily be had in pastry tarts.

                                               -- Henry Mitchell     The Essential Earthman

 

Gardening transcends everything that otherwise divides us. Differences of religion, politics, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and age become irrelevant among people of the gardening persuasion. The differences between the novice and the gardener with long experience become unimportant, for novices have set foot on the road they will probably follow the rest of their days, and experienced gardeners never cease learning (and never finish their gardens so they can say, “now—it’s done” )  Gardeners gladly teach and gladly learn, as Chaucer put it. We are a friendly tribe and a generous one. We are spirited, we are alive to each day’s new possibilities in our gardens, and on the whole we are men and women of good humor, perseverance, and forbearance.

                                               -- Allen Lacy,  The Inviting Garden 1998

 

Buying plants before you have a workable plan is rather like choosing paint for walls of a house that isn’t built yet.

                                               -- Ann Lovejoy,  Gardening from Scratch  1998

 

In the natural landscape, form is innate; it arises from within, in response to climate, geology, and terrain.  But in the traditional Western garden, a predetermined pattern has been imposed on nature.

The science of ecology tells us that our gardens are not isolated slivers of land, that what we do with our home landscapes has a ripple effect on larger, natural systems. And the effect of traditional gardening has been substantially negative.

I’m convinced that the environmental heroes of the twenty-first century will in fact be humble gardeners—gardeners who believe that it is their responsibility, maybe even their destiny, to promote a richer evolution of life on Earth through a new, ecologically wise landscape art.

                                 -- Janet Marinelli  Stalking the Wild Amaranth  Gardening in the Age of Extinction  1998



I have been gardening now for over thirty years, I have prowled round parks and pleasances in many corners of the earth and have read as widely as most; and yet, still they come, the new discoveries, the unknown beauties, like fresh young dancers who suddenly drift on to the stage as the ballet is drawing to its close.

                                               -- Beverley Nichols         Garden Open Today  1963

 

The most significant decisions in making a garden—those that will bring pleasure or despair or boredom for years after they are made—concern the choice of woody plants, the trees and shrubs that will as they mature give shape, texture, character, and volume or mass to the garden that is made. In addition to being grown as specimens interesting in their own right, woody plants are also of great value as visual screens, ensuring that to be enjoyed the garden must be walked through and experienced with all the senses, not just taken in as a whole with a glance.

                                               -- Allen Lacy  The Garden in Autumn 1990

 

The wonder of gardening, however, is that one becomes a gardener by becoming a gardener.  Horticulture is sometimes described as a science, sometimes as an art, but the truth is that it is neither, although it partakes of both endeavors. It is more like falling in love, something which escapes all logic. There is a moment before one becomes a gardener, and a moment after—with a whole lifetime to keep on becoming a gardener.

                                               -- Allen Lacy, The Inviting Garden 1998

 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

                                               -- T. S. Eliot

 

I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book.

                                               -- Groucho Marx

 

Maybe excepting only human population and acute chemical pollution, the greatest threat to a sensible environmental future is nature illiteracy. In earlier cultures, most members of the community were capable naturalists, familiar with many other species around them—or else they perished. There was strong adaptive pressure to know your neighbors. Even in our cultures, nature study was considered a standard part of the public school curriculum, and familiarity with local flora and fauna, a basic and durable skill. Nature literacy went out between the wars, and was given a good strong punt out of the park by Sputnik—just when I came along, and found that my interests were considered passé in public school. Environmental education has never really taken up the slack. Urbanization, the extinction of experience, and the virtual in lieu of the real exacerbate the case. Outdoor activities are extremely popular, but contact with plants and animals runs only skin-deep for many, so that a state of mass detachment from nature prevails.
Without any question, my most important classes in school were typing and plant taxonomy.
                                              -- Robert Michael Pyle   Walking the High Ridge Life as Field Trip, 2000

 


Every bit as important to our development as gardeners is to look up from the dirt long enough to travel, visit art museums and galleries, tour public and private gardens, and appreciate all the arts. We train our eyes and exercise our creativities, learn more about color and design, by watching dance, reading novels, and paying attention to art, architecture, streetscapes, and fashion than by narrowing our field of study to plants and gardens.

                                               -- Valerie Easton   A Pattern Garden

 

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.   

                                               -- Christopher Hitchens

 

Everyone runs into naysayers but if you love something enough and feel passionately enough, you just go on ahead, walk right round the person saying it, proceed down the road and don't look back. 

                                               -- Jennifer Hidgon (Symphonic composer)

 

I haven't  had jerk journalists for a really long time. I've had dumb ones, like the one who asked if I had hobbies. How dare you ask me that question? Do you think I'm sitting around collecting Pez machines? Stamps? I hate people with hobbies. You should have a passion for whatever interests you and try to make it your life's work--not dabble!

                                               -- John Waters  Baltimore writer and filmmaker

 

Physical fitness is the firest requisite to happiness.

                                               -- Joseph Pilates