Six on Saturday

Good morning, gardening daughters and friends! Today I’d like to join you all with my own “Six on Saturday” snapshots, but I’ll have to rely on stock photos from Google as I’ve yet to learn how to scan my photographs into the computer.

Someone created the Six on Saturday series to showcase six plants/things/happenings you find in your garden on a Saturday. Here in central Washington state, most if not all the snow has melted into the ground. Blessedly, this year’s melt down was not rapid but gentle, following along with a gradual rise in temperature to the 60’s when the sun was out.

Crocuses greet me every morning along my front entry, seemingly grateful that I cleaned up their bed.

Related image

Soon the edging of grape hyacinths will join them. It shouldn’t be long, now.

Related image

Tulips are poking their leaf tips above the soil. By April, they’ll begin to steal the show.

Related image

Peonies are just sprouting, too. Mine looked like this before I cleaned out the bed and pulled out the spent stalks from last summer. I’ve already set round grill supports in place. The stems will grow through the square holes on the top of the ring and support heavy blooms.

Image result for peonies sprouting

Did I mention narcissus? They’re not up yet. Nor are the woodland violets I transplanted years ago. The Russian sage bush remains year round like this before pruning. I’ve already pruned mine back to a mound.

Related image

One empty garden urn stands ready with debris cleaned out, including last year’s dried up geraniums. I’d like to replace the urn with something like this for a better accent at that end of the front bed and, perhaps, not plant anything in it at all, as I’ve seen on garden tours.

Image result for empty garden urn

All that in my front entry garden bed alongside the front porch! Still waiting for attention are a pair of pottery urns flanking my white Luytens bench under the front window on the porch. I “planted” tall birch twigs for an early spring effect until I can find primroses in the markets.

And that’s my first “Six on Saturday” contribution!


“Old Irish” Garden Snapshots

Since it’s March, and we just celebrated Saint Patrick and all things Irish, I thought we’d peek into a few of the old gardens of Ireland. By “old,” I mean a 17th-century manor, a circa 1185 castle, even an abbey’s walled garden–exactly as I envisioned Ireland’s proverbial romantic past. But, how really Irish, or Celtic, are these gardens?

Ancient Celts did not make gardens, nor did Celtic Eire Land. Only the Anglo-Saxon settlers who crossed the Irish Sea established estates and the later great plantations. English land-owners developed and cultivated what eventually evolved into an indigenous Irish garden design tradition.

Viewmount House, Country Longford

Related image

Built in 1620 by Lord Francis Aungier, Baron of Longford, Viewmount House is set amongst sweeping lawns and ancient lime trees in the heart of Ireland. Aungier served as a commissioner of the plantations of Munster in 1616 and Longford in 1620. It is likely that he built Viewmount House prior to Longford Castle, to administer the Longford estate.

It was converted to Georgian style in the mid-1700s by Thomas Pakenham who inherited the property when he married Elizabeth Cuffe, a grandniece of Lord Aungier. During the 1800s, Viewmount was used as a Church of Ireland school.   

Four acres of gardens were designed as a series of rooms set in wooded gardens. Viewmount House is now a converted hotel.  

Related image

Related image

Image result for viewmount house gardens


Kylemore Abbey, Galway, County Connemara

Related image

An oasis of ordered splendor rises unexpectedly from the wild Connemara countryside. Built between 1867-1871, the castle’s Victorian walled gardens once employed 40 gardeners with 21 heated glass greenhouses. It has been compared to London’s Kew Gardens in magnificence.

The estate includes the vegetable garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, a rockery and herb garden, and that all-important Victorian garden feature, a shaded fernery. Kylemore Abbey, now home for a Benedictine community of nuns, is a listed Heritage Garden displaying only Victorian era plant varieties.

Related image

Related image

Image result for kylemore abbey connemara county galway


Malahide Castle & Talbot Botanical Garden, Malahide, County Dublin

Related image

Caisleán Mhullach Íde with its 800-year-old history is set on 250 acres of park land in the seaside town of Malahide, near Dublin. Built as a fortress in 1185, Malahide was the private home of the Talbot family until their demise in 1973.

.The coat of arms taken by the 1st Baroness Talbot. The lion is a traditional part of the Talbot family arms, both in Ireland and England, and actually originated as the royal arms of the Welsh House of Dinefwr, from whom the English Lord Talbots are descended.

The coat of arms taken by the 1st Baroness Talbot. The lion is a traditional part of the Talbot family arms, both in Ireland and England, and actually originated as the royal arms of the Welsh House of Dinefwr, from whom the English Lord Talbots are descended.

Lord Milo Talbot created the Talbot Botanical Gardens between 1948 and 1973 while retaining the contours of the surrounding parkland. Operated by Shannon Heritage as a tourist destination, Malahide Demesne Regional Park is nine miles north of Dublin.


Image result for Malahide Castle & Talbot Botanical Garden, Dublin

Image result for Malahide Castle & Talbot Botanical Garden, Dublin

Related image

For a history of the Talbots, click on


Photos from Google Images Stock Photos

I’ve returned to my gardens . . .

Image result for rose pruning images

. . . and boy! what a mess the frozen snow pack left behind. A little bit every day for the rest of the week should get things back in shape, including my winter “Bod.” First job on my list is pruning the roses neglected the past two years while I was ill and didn’t know it. (Turns out, I have CAD with breathlessness the only symptom.)

This afternoon’s hour I devoted to the East Lane rose garden. Not only were the bushes close to six or seven feet, interlocking branches were so tangled with ingrown shoots and the canes so thick that I had to use Hubby’s heavy duty clippers. My pink snippers from Garden Girl, Ltd., in England simply weren’t strong enough.

Now, the shortened branches are opened up to sun and air with nothing growing inward.

See the source image

Next, I tackled the lavender, worse than tangled and terribly overgrown and grey after the winter. My special hand-make sickle did well enough for most, but the biggest and oldest bush will require long-handled loppers. Hubby will cut it to the ground for me. I’ll dig and divide into smaller clumps to transplant along the lane to replace a few that died.

Image result for overgrown lavender from winter

And so it goes as I meander my way around the English style perennial borders. Yes, “Old Gertie” lives there among peonies in the north border.



Remembering Papa Joe

Related image

Irish eyes had Papa Joe, my maternal grandfather. In the photograph he sits back in an oak Adirondack chair, weathered grey. His right hand extends along an armrest wide enough to hold a cup of coffee; the other armrest holds a small granddaughter with golden ringlets. From under a garden hat brim, his eyes twinkle on a fine autumn afternoon. He chuckles around the pipe stem clamped in his teeth.

I am the small granddaughter in this sepia photograph. I am poking the buttons down the front of his wool vest, speckled brown like the thrasher swooping down from tall pines. Papa is teaching me to count. It is the afternoon before he died.

Papa was Irish in more ways than clear blue eyes. His own grandfather had been born in Granard, County Longford, in the heart of (then) Occupied Ireland, and so was Papa’s father who later emigrated to America with his family, circa 1850-60, following the aftermath of the Great Potato Famine. Papa was the eldest of seven children, born in 1847 during the beginning of the Irish Diaspora.

Those times were never talked about when I was growing up, so I had wondered who his people were or why the family left Ireland. Were they landowners or peasants? My continuing research reveals discrepancies. One source indicated they even may have been English who fled to Ireland under Cromwell’s persecution of Roman Catholics. By the time of British occupation, any Irish who were Catholic were prohibited from owning or leasing land, voting, or holding elective office under the so-called Penal Laws, although largely repealed by 1829.

English and Anglo-Irish families owned most of the land. Most Irish Catholics were relegated to work as tenant farmers and forced to pay rent. It was the English landed gentry who introduced the potato to Ireland, the “Irish Lumper” which soon became a food staple. The only way a common laborer could support a family was to rent a “potato patch” of land and cultivate it.

However, crops began to fail in 1845 due to P. infestans causing blight. As a result, thousands died of starvation and malnutrition. At the same time, other food crops such as beans and peas, fish and livestock, even butter, were exported to England!

Not until 1852 did the potato crop fully recover but, by then, it was too late. Those who survived left Ireland, including Papa’s family from Longford, and traveled on Canadian “lumber ships” returning empty from Europe.

My question: Did my Irish family choose to leave, or had they been evicted by British authorities for not paying the rent to their English Protestant landowners? Were they “land rich and money poor”? Or were they peasants with the manners of gentry?

And does it really matter?

Related image



Related image

A little girl in her garden no sloven

Once baked all her dirt in the oven –

            But they said what you bake

                   Is not tart and not cake,

  Macaroon, macaroni, or muvven –

Southern writer Eudora Welty did just that to sterilize the garden dirt from nematodes at her mother’s Pinehurst Street home they shared in Jackson, Mississippi. As with Virginia Woolf at Monks House, Eudora incorporated garden images as metaphor and used poetry and mystery of gardens as she discovered parts of her characters there.

Related image

“Gardening is akin to writing stories . . .” as in “A Curtain of Green” about one of a series of yard boys her mother employed and trained – “a round-faced youth of about sixteen” balancing on a ladder behind a curtain of cascading roses.

As I saw him there without a name to his initials . . . encircled by wide-open Silver Moons and pricked on every side by their strong thorns, with their fragrance and the gold dust of their pollen sweeping his cheeks, it might have been the first time I knew the compulsion to step back and place myself at a story-teller’s remove.

Photo: Langdon Clary

Landscape taught Eudora things a writer must know, feelings expressed in gestures, descriptions of certain plants. Eudora used landscape to depict the deprivation of tenant farmers during the Depression of the 1930s , the hardscrabble life they eked out in a sort of dignity, a fierce defiance, a farm woman’s garden, plants growing in pipe planters next to her porch. “The Whistle” tells the story of a farmer and his wife, for example, who are awakened in the night by a freeze warning; without a word, they arise and drag all their bedclothes outside in a vain attempt to cover tender plants.

“Livvie” is the story of a young black woman married to an old man whose garden is a bare, leafless grove of bottle trees – “a line of bare crape-myrtle trees with every branch of them ending in a colored bottle, green or blue” to keep “evil spirits from coming into the house.” The wife’s garden, on the other hand, is a swept yard with blood-red roses blooming every month.

Image result for the bottle tree

Virgie in “The Wanderer” aims to get married on her “bulb money.” Characters in other stories bear names that seem clipped right out of the Mississippi Market Bulletin, names like Maideen, Billy Texas, Eva Sistrunk. Through the Farm Bulletin, Eudora met many other gardeners and farmers’ wives with whom she corresponded, traded plants and seeds, and sometimes formed close friendships – such as with Elizabeth Lawrence in North Carolina. Lawrence wrote that, “Like Eudora’s novels, the market bulletins are a social history of the Deep South. My own life would have been a bit poorer without those things, for which I will always thank Eudora Welty” (Gardening for Love: The Market Bulletins).

Image result for susan haltom one writer's garden

Eudora and her mother, Chestina, relied on the writings of Lawrence and Vita Sackville-West for information on plant life and garden cycles. However, Eudora warned, “Gardening is not intellectual; you must get out and do it. The absolute contact between the hand and the earth, the intimacy of it, that is the instinct of a gardener.”

Related image

By the 1930s , the neighborhood social scene gradually shifted from the street front with its increasing noise and fumes of passing traffic to previously utilitarian back yards. More creative garden space allowed for expressing individuality, especially in terms of beauty. Besides, during the ensuing Great Depression, no one could afford to go anywhere else. Hedges, trees, trellises and arbors provided privacy as well as a sense of gracious hospitality to visitors. Wavy floral borders instead of straight edges enclosed lawns in a preference for naturalistic form. Only rose gardens remained geometric.

Image result for susan haltom one writer's garden

Here is where both Chestina and Eudora indulged their creative instincts to develop what had already become known as the proverbial English layered garden style. Chestina lavished most of her own time on the roses and flower borders fed by abundant sunshine filtered through surrounding pines. Climbing roses softened angular structures, such as yellow “Lady Banks” (Rosa banksiae var. lutea) and cameo pink “Dr. W. Van Fleet” (Hybrid Rosa wichurana, 1899). Christina planted several spireas, including S. thunbergii (“breath of spring,” she called it) and Siraea x vanhouttei (the Southern favorite “bridal wreath”).

Image result for bridal wreath spirea

The camellia, however, was Eudora’s favorite flower in her mother’s garden. Once in a dream, she wrote, millions of camellias shrunk into only one, a closing of a jewel box “holding one thing that is the essence and holy.” With a little snap, that was the end of the dream and the beginning of war – Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.

During World War II, gardening allowed Eudora to create order out of a sense of chaos instead of dwelling on her brothers and a serious boyfriend in foreign battle. Immersion in the garden was tense, intense, leaving little time for her real work of writing. “I only think about . . . the planting and transplanting and spading and digging and weeding and watering, and then I am asleep and doing the same thing in my sleep . . .” she wrote in a letter to her agent.

Memories entwined with Eudora’s actual garden. “I am just now lying in the pine needles in the side yard – it is sunny and sweet smelling – fall butterflies . . . the camellias doing so well – Leila [commonly known as “Catherine Cathcart:] & the Herme . . .”

Image result for camellia japonica

Camellias still are popular in the South, especially C. japonica, the bulk of Eudora’s collection. Native to Japan and China, japonica’s first recorded appearance in England was the “Alba Plena” in 1792. From there it spread to the U. S. Eastern Seaboard and into the Deep South. In Mississippi, February through March is its peak bloom time, with azaleas merging and taking over into April and even May in some years.

Image result for C. japonica in welty garden

Today, more than 40 camellias dating to the early 20th century survive in the Welty gardens, among them “Lady Clare” which appears as a character’s name in her novel Delta Wedding, and “Élegans” planted in the cemetery in The Optimist’s Daughter.

Image result for Delta Wedding

Eudora could experience occasional mystic communion in her Southern garden:

Every evening when the sun is going down and it is cool enough to water the garden, and it is all quiet except for the locusts in great waves of sound, and I stand still in one place for a long time putting water on the plants, I feel something new . . . a stubbornness melting . . . [a feeling] that something is lost or left unknown or undone perhaps . . .

Image result for susan haltom one writer's garden

The pace of life in America following the war sped up in optimism, both casual and practical matters. That meant perennial gardens like the Welty women’s eschewed high maintenance, partly due to Chestina’s failing health, partly due to Eudora’s travels and writing priority. Invading insects, vines, and multiplying perennials took over in the year-round growing season, not to mention hurricanes. Even so, the garden still provided joy, especially as mother and daughter replanted old-fashioned garden roses – “Lady Hillingdon,” “Maman Cochet,” “Lady Banks,” a read “Becky’s Climber” intertwined with white Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoipides), the gnarled “Silver Moon” climbing their garage – many of which Eudora named in her stories.

Related image

The garden flowers of her characters expressed their personalities and their social backgrounds, while the garden’s decline corresponded to Chestina’s declining final 15 years. “[O]vernight all the roses up and died. I never told my mother.” At the same time, four iconic old-fashioned flowers persisted: daffodils (“Silver Bells Narcissus moschatus, Elizabeth Lawrence’s favorite, too), irises, camellias, and roses.

Related image

In the short story “The Demonstrators” Eudora wrote:

The roses were done for, the perennials, too. But the surrounding crape-myrtle tree, the redbud, the dogwood, the Chinese tallow tree, and the pomegranate bush were bright as toys. The ailing pear tree had shed its leaves ahead of the rest. Past a falling wall of Michaelmas daisies that had not been tied up, a pair of flickers were rifling the grass, the cock in one part of the garden, the hen in another, picking at the devastation right through the bright leaves that appeared to have been left lying there just for them, probing and feeding.

In 1980, Eudora wrote in a letter, “It’s early in the morning, I’m having coffee by the breakfast room window looking out over the backyard (not a garden anymore, but what it is).” By the mid-1990s, the Welty garden existed mainly in Eudora’s memory. Then, finally, she decided to use her memory to restore the garden. But “it would be hell to do.” After her mother died, Eudora was able to stay in her home until she died in 2001.

Image result for susan haltom one writer's garden

Since the summer of 2008, both house and grounds have been restored by the Eudora Welty Foundation. Today, this “one writer’s garden” is maintained by a cohort of Jackson ladies who have dubbed themselves the Cereus Weeders, after Miss Welty’s Night Blooming Cereus Club of the 1930s. When they tire, they become the Cereus Readers delving into one of Eudora’s stories and taking a road trip to its setting.

Photo: Langdon Clay


SOURCE: One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place, Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown (2011)

“Queen of Horticulture”

Image result for rosemary verey barnsley house

When I opened one of my old garden journals recently, out fluttered an old newspaper clipping titled, “English Garden Authority Rosemary Verey Dies.” The notice was brief: guru of gardens, lady of laburnum, vicar of vegetables, doyenne of design. Some staff writer obviously had fun with that one. 

Rosemary Verey, indeed, was the last of the great English gardeners. Hailing originally from Northamptonshire, she was a passionate horsewoman devoted to the hunt. She led quite a conventional life as wife and mother in the Cotswolds; her usual social pursuits as a typical English country lady centered on church and family, but she came to gardening later in life. In the 1960s, her husband, an architect, enticed her interest with old gardening books. Consequently, she began to teach herself design principles and to develop an eye for colour, line, and texture.

At Barnsley House, Rosemary’s garden evolved into the classical English revival style. She rejected the Victorian bedding-out in tight formality and chose, instead, to follow William Robinson’s more naturalistic and picturesque approach. Her husband lent his architectural skill and training to provide the bones and create focal points, and taught her to make the longest possible distance into the most important vista to give it an arresting focal point. 

Related image

“Like cooking, gardening is tremendously influenced by social history. At the turn of the century, cheap labor and cheap coal meant people could [hire] fleets of gardeners and [build] enormous hothouses . . . [E]xtra flower beds were created to fit in everything [from around the world]. In those times, the ladies of the house often knew little of their gardens. Now that situation has changed and in many cases for the better.”


A superb plantswoman, Rosemary excelled in plant combinations for colour and texture within formal structure. She is noted for her flowing style, ornamental borders of mixed perennials, annuals, bulbs, trees, and shrubbery. Profuse plantings became her trademark. 

Related image 

Decorative horticulture meant, to her, creating picturesque and even photographic images related to the house, not separate from it. She meant for her whole garden to be visually beautiful and harmonious in all seasons, including the dead of winter.

 Image result for Barnsley House

Her approach required seasonal planting and replacing and/or replanting, and careful maintenance. Thus, she planted in “layers” – spring bulbs planted in autumn among still thriving late summer perennials. She was an instinctive educator to visitors to Barnsley as she used her gardens as examples of her design style. She began to write short articles for The Countryman in the late 1960s, first a two-part piece called “A Garden Inheritance” describing Barnsley’s evolution over time as she sharpened and refined her art.

Related image

Following her growing interest in garden history, she added a knot garden, then an herb garden, finally a potager (kitchen garden) with geometrical patterns – quite appropriate to a house built in 1697. The Elizabethan knot garden was comprised of clipped herbs and/or box within a square or rectangular framework. One would look down from a raised wall or an upper-story window to view the pattern. Gardens of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia are a prime example of this garden design in America. Rosemary sited her own knot garden off her crenellated porch, copied complex designs, and reduced the size to fit her space.

 Image result for Barnsley House

“The whole beauty of the knots depends on how well tutored the box is kept . . .”

Perhaps best known for adapting existing garden designs to make them fit into smaller home lots, Rosemary Verey received the Victorian Medal of Honour from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1999. She was 82 when she died in 1999.

Today, Barnsley House is maintained as a country hotel situated in the center of the Cotswold village of Barnsley in Cirencster [Gloucestershire GL7 5 EE, Tel. 01285 740000]

My source for this blog story is Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener by Barbara Paul Robinson (2012)

 Related image

A Few of the Books by Rosemary Verey: Making of a Garden, The Garden in Winter, English Country Garden, The Scented Garden, The Flower Arranger’s Garden