Today we celebrate the American Romantic poet who wrote: "The rose that lives its little hour is prized beyond the sculptured flower..."
We'll also learn about the man who made Six Hills Nursery famous.
We hear some words about autumn by an American Poet Laureate.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book that rocked the Vegetable Cookbook world three years ago - and here’s a hint: the author divided the year into Six Seasons.
And then we’ll wrap things up with a recipe I received from a friend recently for a delicious Golden Squash Soup.
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November 3, 1794
Today is the birthday of the American Romantic poet and nature-lover William Cullen Bryant.
As a young man, William became an attorney. His first job was in Plainfield, Massachusetts - a town seven miles away from his home. In 1815, William was walking to work one day in December when he spied a lone bird flying on the horizon. The image moved him so much that William wrote his poem called To a Waterfowl.
William Cullen Bryant is a favorite poet among gardeners.
Here’s an excerpt from a little poem by William called A Winter Piece:
The bleak November winds, and smote the woods,
And the brown fields were herbless, and the shades,
That met above the merry rivulet,
Were spoiled, I sought, I loved them still,—they seemed
Like old companions in adversity.
When he was alive, William Cullen Bryant visited Wodenethe - the 20-acre estate overlooking the Hudson River purchased and sculpted by Henry Winthrop Sargent. Sargent’s naming of Wodenethe was a marriage of two old Saxon terms Woden (pronounced Woe-den) and ethe, which stands for woody promontory ( promontory ), of high land that juts out into the sea or a large lake; a headland. Sargent turned Wodenethe into a personal arboretum, where he artfully used trees to frame the Hudson's incredible views. One reviewer said it was,
“a bijou full of interest for the lover of rural beauty; abounding in rare trees, shrubs, and plants, as well as vases, and objects of rural embellishment of all kinds.”
William Cullen Bryant loved Wodenethe, and he was particularly charmed by an illusion that Sargent had created on the property. Sargent had created the view from inside his house to look like the lawn extended out to the Hudson, creating the illusion of a sharp dropoff - almost like the lawn ran out to the edge of a cliff. To help pull this off, Sargent would send his young son Winthrop out onto the lawn with a fishing pole where he would pretend to fish off the edge of a nonexistent cliff. On one occasion, a lady visitor commented on how SHE wouldn't let her own children play so close to that dropoff. In reality, Winthrop was sitting a good mile away from the water's edge - quite safe on the flat earth of the lawn nestled among the trees. Sargent's masterful vista created an artful and beautiful illusion - a trick that he even pulled on his good friend William Cullen Bryant.
Wodenethe so moved William he wrote his poem “A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson.” Here’s an excerpt:
All, save this little nook of land,
Circled with trees on which I stand;
All, save that line of hills which lie
Suspended in the mimic sky,—
Seems a blue void, above, below,
Through which the white clouds come and go;
And from the green world's farthest steep,
I gaze into the airy deep
Loveliest of lovely things are they,
On earth, that soonest pass away.
The rose that lives its little hour
Is prized beyond the sculptured flower.
November 3, 1881
Today is the birthday of the English garden writer, plant explorer, renowned nurseryman, alpine specialist, and a founding member of the Alpine Garden Society, Clarence Elliott.
Clarence had a remarkable career, and he cast an enormous shadow from his legendary nursery in Stevenage called Six Hills. If Six Hills has a familiar ring to it, you might be familiar with the popular and prevalent landscape plant and stalwart of most garden borders cultivated at Six Hills: the Nepeta Six Hills Giant. Or, perhaps you were thinking of the Penstemon Six Hills - another Clarence offspring. And many gardeners have forgotten that the Mrs. Popple Fuschia - was actually a nod to the Popples - a couple who lived near Six Hills. One day Clarence spied Mrs. Popple’s gorgeous hardy Fuschia. After taking some cuttings, Clarence ultimately won an RHS Show Award of Merit for the Mrs. Popple Fuschia in 1934. Nearly a century later, gardeners still grow this beloved starter Fuschia in their gardens today.
When Clarence wasn’t scouring his neighborhood (or the world in general) for new plants, he was busy mentoring other horticultural greats like Will Ingwerson and EK Balls. The great Graham Stuart Thomas worked at Six Hills for 24 years.
A gardener’s gardener, Clarence even invented a little garden tool he dubbed The Widger. Somehow Vita Sackville-West ended up with a Widger, and she wrote that it was “the neatest, slimmest, and cheapest of all gadgets to carry in the pocket.” Vita continued:
"[Clarence] invented the Widger, its name, and the verb "to widge", which, although not exactly onomatopoeic, suggests very successfully the action of prising up—you widge up a weed, or widge up a caked bit of soil for the purpose of aerating it—all very necessary operations which before the arrival of the Widger were sometimes awkward to perform. This small sleek object, four inches long, slides into the pocket, no more cumbersome than a pencil, and may be put to many uses. Screwdriver, toothpick, letter-opener, Widger, it fulfills all functions throughout the day… it is the perfect gadget.”
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither …
— Robert Frost, American poet and Poet Laureate
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2017, and the subtitle is A New Way with Vegetables.
This is one of my favorite vegetable cookbooks ever. Joshua’s book won a James Beard Award for Best Book in Vegetable-Focused Cooking. His book was named a Best Cookbook of the Year by the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Bon Appétit, Food Network Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, USA Today, Seattle Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Library Journal, Eater, and more.
“Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables is poised to join the veggie canon. . . . The flavors are big. . . . They’re also layered and complex, despite their apparent simplicity. What will really change your cooking is [McFadden’s] approach to seasoning. . . . Trust me: Read this book and you’ll never look at cabbage the same way again.” —Bon Appétit
“Downright thrilling. . . . Divided into six seasons rather than the traditional four—a more accurate reflection of what’s happening in the fields—the book encourages readers to embrace what he calls ‘the joyful ride of eating with the seasons. . . .’ On page after page, McFadden presents a deliciously enlightening way of cooking with vegetables.” —Sunset
This book is 384 pages of vegetable magic.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Speaking of recipes, I wanted to share a delicious recipe I received from a friend for Golden Squash soup. It’s a keeper.
Golden Squash Soup
3 leeks (white portion only)
4 medium carrots chopped
5 Tbl. butter or margarine
3 lbs. butternut squash peeled, sliced
6 c. chicken or vegetable broth
3 medium zucchini, peeled, sliced
2 t. Salt
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. white pepper
1 c. half & half
1/2 c. milk
In a soup kettle over medium heat, saute leeks and carrots in butter for 5 min., stirring occasionally.
Add squash, broth, zucchini, salt, thyme, pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 min.
Cool until lukewarm.
In a blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth.
Return to the kettle, add cream and milk, and heat through. Do not boil.
If desired, garnish with parmesan cheese and chives.
yields 12 - 14 servings ( 3 ½ qts )
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