A few years ago, I reviewed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which you can read here. I ended up reading it for class this semester, and my gardening senses started tingling when I read about all the plants in the book. I decided to write a paper about the herbs that the witches/healers used in the book, and horticulture's relation historically to witchcraft.
Witches and witchcraft permeate our culture. Every Halloween, without fail, congeries of witch hats flood the streets. There seems to be a cultural fascination with them, especially in recent years. However, witchcraft as a scholarly expedition is not new. Countless articles, journals and books have been written about them. The topics of incubi and succubi, demons, turning into animals, the devil and midnight joy rides on various cleaning apparatus are nearly to the point of being overdone. Well, maybe there’s room for more stories about traveling on appliances as technology advances. Who’s up for some stories about witches riding roombas?
How Julie Steals Garden Ideas from Her Neighbors…And You Can Too!
by Julie Carpenter
I moved into a new house in April. I have done a few things around the yard. I’ve dug up some flowering peaches that were, sadly, in the wrong place and planted a few low-growing radicans gardenias instead, underplanted with June bearing and ever bearing strawberries. I also threw some seeds in the ground, cleaned out some beds, removed some awkward brick circles filled with irises that won’t bloom due to lack of sun and being buried too deep, and pruned dead branches.
I know that a lot of people move in somewhere and immediately have big garden ideas. I’m not those people. I need time to see how I feel about the garden and how it feels about me. I like to take the time to see if it offers me any gifts. I wait for bulbs and perennials to show themselves, for shrubs I don’t recognize to bloom. My new place might have garden ideas of its own. I don’t make garden decisions quickly. I also need time to steal garden ideas from my neighbors, a practice I highly recommend.
Books hold onto the memories and experiences you had while reading them.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at my shelves, I not only see books, I also see memories. I can pick up a book and oftentimes I remember where I was when I was reading it, or I have a particular memory associated with it. Take The Secret Garden. I was on my aunt’s couch, in the middle of summer, hoping for even a small breeze to blow through that house. That was almost 12 years ago, and I still remember the heat of that summer and how the light fell through the curtains. I have no idea why I can clearly recall that moment and not others, because I am almost constantly reading, but some moments stick, and others don’t. Of course, it’s not always the book that sticks with you, but the emotions surrounding the time when you were reading it. I was reading Eragon when one of my cats died in middle school, and I remember loving that book, but I also can clearly recall that I was halfway through it when the cat passed away.
With most people's busy schedule, plants can seem like a hassle. Not for Jarad! He's digging his heels in against a plantless existence with an ever growing collection of houseplants.
I just moved back to college for the start of my senior year. This is an exciting time, but it also means that I don’t have a garden to tend to, and subsequently I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. For example, I had a dream the other day about hollyhocks. Sexy, I know but I am, after all, what several people have referred to as a, “plant freak,” so I suppose it’s only to be expected. This happened to me last spring as well, to the point where I was going around campus deadheading masses of daffodils and weeding flower beds, a job usually reserved for the people paid to do it. I couldn’t help myself, I had to do something. In my defense, they weren’t doing it often enough. And would it kill them to do a little pruning? That’s neither here nor there, but still I’m sorely tempted to take after a rose bush that’s half dead with my trimmers. Anyone have recommendations for a set of pruning shears that will fit neatly in a backpack?
This spring, I decided to get a little hands on experience with gardening. I went a little overboard. But only a little.
Monty Don once said, “It doesn’t matter how much you read or how much you study, nothing beats a lifetime of experience.” I think this is very true, and it’s something I decided to apply when I became interested (my mother says obsessed, but I think this is too harsh) in gardening. Besides my desire to be active in a garden rather than reading about it, I was eager to learn by doing. So, I did, and last winter I planned out several flower beds and one bed for vegetables, and I went a little crazy buying seeds. I couldn’t wait to get home for spring break to start all of my seeds, and as soon as the term was over, I busily went to work removing sod with a shovel and planting seeds, flowers and vegetables. For the first three months of the summer, I was watering all five beds with a two-gallon watering can, and it took almost an hour. Suffice it to say, I have never had the appreciation for a garden hose that I have now.
Once Upon A River
Written by Diane Setterfield
Review by Jarad Johnson
We are fully into summer now, and I find that some books are best for the season. Easy, engulfing books that can distract from the oppressive heat. This is one such book. The first that struck me when I picked it up was the cover with a cool blue river snaking across the cover. Ah! Cool and blue. A summer book.
Julie and Jarad are predictably talking about gardening again. Just fyi, the next time you're taking a walk outside and you see a squirrel, just know they're cussing you out. You're welcome.
Jarad asked if I would like to add to his piece on enjoying a garden. I have to agree that for the most part, I find myself piddling when I go outside, deadheading roses, pulling up basil, weeding or planting. While I enjoy sitting calmly in a garden, I don’t often find myself in that position. I think that active gardening is what I love as well.
The only thing I can really add is that I also love - when no one is around to report me – talking to the plants, cats, birds, squirrels and occasionally garden statuary. This is why I really and truly need a fence. My neighbors don’t really need to know exactly what kind of crazy woman lives next door. They say that the real problem comes in when the monologue becomes a dialogue. It’s when things start to talk back that you know you’ve gone round the twist. (Let me add you might end up living with a snarky, skeletal visitor who never leaves.)
I suppose I wouldn’t say the plants talk back, but plants do tell you things in their own way. And I defy any one of you to tell me that squirrels don’t cuss. So I guess that’s it. Working in the garden helps me relax and so does having a little conversation with nature. (Except for squabbling with belligerent squirrels over the blueberries.)
What are your favorite books? The ones whose pages you find yourself turning again and again, relishing the sounds of
the gears and the glues that bring the complexity of a particular favorite, be it novel or collection, to the conclusion of each one’s story?
The hefty ones.
The short ones.
The dog-eared covered ones?
Jarad has some thoughts on an often uncomfortable topic: death. But these conversations are necessary and, like death, unavoidable. Feel free to share your thoughts as well.
I recently attended a funeral recently of a person I didn't know very well with my mother and grandmother. After the service, we made our way to the burial site. My grandmother is almost 90, and she had to use a wheelchair that day. This was challenging because the plot was near the back of the cemetery, and my mom realized there was no choice but to roll her through the grass. Of course, we thought this was hilarious; it’s not every day that grandma goes off road, and she was in for a bumpy ride. I'm pretty sure giggling is not appropriate at such a somber event, but we couldn't help ourselves. We neared the plot (finally!), and suddenly my gran cried out, "Don't roll me over all these graves!" It seemed like a moot point by then, since we’d already bounced her halfway through the cemetery. This did not help the giggling situation. I pictured skeletons rising from their slumber to tell the living, "get off my lawn!" Or alternatively, packing up their coffins to find a more restful place to, well..... rest. That phrase stuck with me though, mostly because I couldn't figure out why she said it. Did she think it was bad luck or disrespectful? Maybe both? Or perhaps she thought the wheelchair would collapse into one of the graves.
Here are the colors that the Sacred Chickens team likes to plant! What are your favorite colors of flowers?
I am a sucker for pictures of beautiful English cottage gardens, pink roses, clematis, with occasional spikes of blue delphinium to set off the delicate pastels. All this should be set against the soft fresh greens of mown grass, with a few white lilies thrown in for scent and serenity. If I could choose any colors at all, it would be these…however, I live in the Atlanta area where the summer sun is bright and hot and it has a tendency to wash all those colors out.
So, I try to get my pastel fix in spring, setting off pink blooming peach trees, pale yellow jonquils, white Thalia daffodils and grape hyacinth with brightly colored tulips. In my current garden I have bright red camellias and deep pink ruffled azaleas in the background, and I find that these colors pop better than pale pastels would. I can then add my usual pastel early bloomers.
If I do go with a pastel, I prefer one that spends some time absolutely covered in blooms, like my yellow lady banks or the sweetheart rose I had at the old house. Those plants are about as “in your face” as pastels are likely to get and I set them off with bright or dark purples, yellows and pinks.
For the summer, I have planted a wall of peach drift roses which shift from pastel pink to peach as they age. I find that this little bit of peach is complemented the purples of clematis or annuals. I also plant zinnias in my summer garden because they love the sun and the colors pop, even in the sea of hot sunshine that washes over them every day.
I love the golds, browns and reds of autumn and I try to have at least a few trees and shrubs that turn brightly colored in the fall.
Colors are a matter of taste, but also location and you have to take that into account when you are planting.