Showing posts with label Vita Sackville-West. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vita Sackville-West. Show all posts

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

"When my time comes, I have to flower" - Snowdrops once again

Britta Huegel

little ballerinas - so fragile-looking in their white tutu - and, like dancers serving up Illusions: both, dancer and flower, are working hard and unrelenting against gravity. 
I love them in their simple form - elegant Art Nouveau style snowdrops, with a hint of virginity about them - their frilly sisters, the 'filled' ones (I hope you will kindly tell me the adequate term) are not my cup of tea. 
Snowdrops balance on the line that divides winter from spring - the quote in the headline is from a snowdrop-poem that the German poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote. And the author Robert Walser (rough translation by me) remarked: 

"They still talk about winter; but also of spring; they speak of the past, though at the same time boldly and cheerfully of the new. They talk about coldness and yet already about more warmth; they say: There is still a lot of snow near the shadows and on the heights, but in the sun it has already melted. Still there can come quite a lot of roughness. You can't trust April."

You, my ardent reader, will startle at this last sentence. "April?" you will ask. "When I look into the front gardens they are already here!" I know - but Walser lived in Switzerland, and there many things come a bit later. 
In our gardens you will mostly find Galanthus nivalis - the 'common' snowdrop, though there are - as Vita Sackville-West points out - 14 different species (and not all are flowering in spring). 
I saw a beautiful little video on youtube - filmed by Artur Homan for Sir David Attenborough, called "Early Spring" - indulge in those 2 mesmerizing minutes! I cannot load it up, but here is the link: it is worth to paste and watch it.
As a practical gardener you have to plant snowdrops 'in the green' (if you take dry bulbs they often don't flower for years). Then, hopefully they spread - left on their own they weave huge carpets of white and green in the woods.  
In 'The Morville Hours' Katherine Swift mentions an 'Old Tom the shepherd': 

"(...) who has been planting snowdrops for more than fifty years. He started in 1953, the year he married. The date was written in snowdrops on the front lawn of his cottage, flanked by two snowdrop pheasants (...). He lives at Broncroft Parks, (...) he used every year to take clumps of snowdrops from the banks of the brook and plant them out along the lanes, each year a little further - from Broncroft Parks to Broncroft; and on towards Broncroft Castle: and now other people (...) do the same (...) spreading the snowdrops from Broncroft to Broadstone, from Broadstone to Tugford, from Tugford to Holdgate, lining the lanes with snowdrops, a ribbon of white." p.65

That sounds so marvellous! 
And as inviting as the Scottish Snowdrop Festival: 

Have you ever been there? 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Reading Cultivator: on Tussie-Mussies

Britta Hill

'A dear neighbour brought me a tussie-mussie this week. The dictionary defines tuzzy-muzzy, or tussie mussie, as "a bunch or posy of flowers, a nosegay," and then disobligingly adds that the word is obsolete. I refuse to regard it as obsolete. It is a charming word; I have always used it and shall continue to use it, whatever the great Oxford Dictionary may say.'
- Vita Sackville-West

Britta say: I own lots and lots of little vases - the one above is made of two kinds of glass - and use them often - so easy to bind a beautiful little tussie-mussie, so hard to steal from one's big garden too many flowers.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Herbage Cartwheel (text by me)

Britta Huegel

Looking back I would file my "herbage cartwheel" under the heading “super tips that turned out rubbish”. I am easily impressed and I do have a vivid imagination, so my bolder sisters rapidly win me over when they call “Come, Britta!”
Especially convincing is the late Vita Sackville-West, whose garden-columns I devoured over and over. Vita tempted me to a lot of thrilling garden experiments, for example I planted the hedge of wild roses, so powerful described by her, at the edge of Mr. Avaricious’ garden, ordering the whole bunch of Scottish briars at Jensen's nursery.
I have to admit that those roses have grown, at least in height: long gigantic spiky spears aim at the sky, and in summer, after a shower of rain the foliage of the Sweet Briars smells absolutely wonderful. But their flowers last only very short, and the colours are not especially bewitching - though maybe I’m too spoilt, too hard to please to appreciate the simplicity of the tiny blossoms enough?
Anyhow, husband is nagging that the thorn-armoured-ones should disappear, because they are looking so untidy (as if order ever has been my aim in the garden…).
Well, and another idea of Vita is the Herbage Cartwheel. You need an old wooden cartwheel - which I discovered promptly at a local bootsale. Husband carted it to our garden, and I painted it a deep crimson. We put it at the back of a border, and into each segment of the spokes I planted a different kitchen herb.
For a while it looked perfectly pretty and practical. But then the herbs began to develop very differently; especially an estragon of Russian origin, who acted rather tasteless in the kitchen, and the luscious lovage that I couldn’t use in any food grew out of hand, while I had no luck with dill: hardly surprising because then the huge spruce still overshadowed everything and threw its needles onto the ground - which reacted quite sourly to that. Only the chives sprouted rampant; the parsley disappeared completely after no time at all, and an English peppermint, covered with wonderful soft hairs was on the run. 
And while the beloved ones moved away, some strange fairy ring mushrooms arrived as uninvited visitors, remained like clingy relations all over the summer, and return with aplomb every year. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The (Rea-)Wee-ding Cultivator: Vita Sackville-West on Apples and Youth

Britta Huegel

Vita Sackville-West writes:

'I had had occasion to drive across ten miles of Kent, through the orchard country. The apple-blossom was not yet fully out; and it was still in that fugitive precious stage of being more of a promise than a fulfilment. Apple-blossoms too quickly become overblown, wheras its true character is to be as tightly youthful as an eighteen-year-old poet. There they were, the closed buds just flushing pink, making a faintly roseate haze over the old trees grey with age; closed buds of youth graciously blushing as youth must blush in the presence of age, knowing very well that withing a few months they themselves would turn into apples of autumnal fruit.'
(written 1948, published 1951)

Britta thinks: These days you have to go a long way to find blushing youth in the presence of age :-) 
As a gardener, you will have noticed instantly that my photo is of a crabapple (Malus floribunda), which stands on my balcony table.