All serious gardeners have bucket lists –
a visit to Sissinghurst in June, to see a century plant shoot its tall, once in a lifetime bloom spike or to have a long dinner conversation with Penelope Hobhouse about gravel gardens. The list of possibilities is as endless and varied as the varieties of tea roses! Keeping to heart Thomas Jefferson’s often quoted line, “I am an old man, but a young gardener” and having had the luxury of visiting most of the “must see” gardens abroad and here in America (and yes, I lunched with Ms. Hobhouse years ago) I am commencing my most anticipated bucket list entry . . . to write about my most adored subject – traditional flowers and gardening
After years of hard work developing garden related products for major retailers, designing gardens and garden-inspired parties, weddings and corporate events for so many special clients I am at last going to take some time, slump into my comfy wing chair and chat with you about the many little tidbits of information I have gleaned about traditional gardens and gardening. So many entries will come from the years and I have spent gardening at my own old house – an 1840 architectural confection in Greene County, Georgia. Other thoughts will bubble up from my time as a very “young, green gardener” at Colonial Williamsburg where I “met” Philip Miller, Bernard McMahon, Peter Collinson and his penpal John Custis prosaically resting between leather bound covers on the shelves of the research library. And there are so many stories in between!
I always knew I wanted to garden. I am proud to have grown up in in the country near Folkston, Georgia where my papa was a forester and my mama taught school (Folkston is the gateway to the Okefenokee Swamp – yes, my sister and I had a pet alligator who loved chopped ham sandwiches made with lots of Mama’s homemade mayonnaise!) For my fifth birthday I asked for plants to be my present. Now, that’s a big deal! You see, at that point I was an only child! I could have asked for a pony or a go cart and either would have appeared with much adoration and fanfare! But I wanted plants, so my folks took me to Johnson Brother’s Hardware Store. To this day I remember that special trip to town. Past the bright showroom with nail bins, quarter round moulding and power tools, we walked through a dark and cavernous room filled with stacks and stacks of bags filled with potting soil, fertilizers and chemicals – the acrid smell was overwhelming. Then through a little back door, as if Alice through the rabbit hole, we entered a makeshift greenhouse filled with early spring blooming annuals. I picked out flats of pansies, sweet alyssum and snapdragons! Mr. Norris Johnson, the hardware store owner gave me a trowel as a present. I still use it today, 60 years later! Ironically enough, Mr. Norris’ wife Betty taught me American history in high school and helped spark my love of all things historical. So I guess I should dedicate this first entry to Mama and Papa who are resting together in the family cemetery in Summertown under a canopy of oak trees and ancient Camellia japonicas and to the Johnsons, who inspired a young fellow into his life’s work.