Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tangutica Meets the Lorax

21 degrees here on the hill this morning, clear as a bell and just plain quiet. Karl the wonder dog went out and suddenly froze like a statue, his tender foot pads not yet adjusted to the fact that winter is on the way. I refused to carry him back to the house and he quickly got the picture that this was not the morning for more sniffing.

Young deer hunters are probably already in the woods, sitting in tree stands or at preselected vantage points. They are no doubt waiting in anticipation of a big buck while already wondering what pocket they hid away a couple snacks and why their feet are already cold and their seat is no longer comfortable. It's youth weekend in Vermont and young hunters under 16 can hunt in the company of an adult. The theory is that giving new hunters a couple days without other competition might encourage them to stick with the sport. My neighbor Kim is out there right now with his oldest daughter Alexandria. She's a good shot and a nice kid but I'll bet she'll still be cold in another hour.

Gardeners sometimes ask me why I write about things which don't appear to have much to do with gardening. I can't understand the questioning because to me gardens are like part of a constellation and they all relate to their surroundings. Deer and other animals live in proximity to our gardens here at Vermont Flower Farm and at different points of the year they are addressed as friend or foe. Right now with the gardens about tucked away for the winter, the deer are "pretty to watch". In spring the new fawns will be "cute" and then as early July approaches, when they are old enough to follow their moms, they will become a "nuisance". By late July, expletives will be included in our thoughts and comments and unless the new deer fence holds true, it will be difficult to find something positive to say about them.

This is the time of year when outdoor gardening is kind of like deer hunting. There are some beautiful sights left to enjoy but you have to hunt a little. I really enjoy comparing seedheads and I guess I am not alone. Timber Press, one of my favorite publishers, just released a book by Noel Kingsbury entitled Seedheads in the Garden. It has over 200 photos of seedheads and just the pictures, forget about the narrative, encourage me to collect an armful and put together a nice fall arrangement.

One of the latest clematis to bloom here is Clematis tangutica. It grows in great tangles and enjoys holding tight to fences and rock walls. In late fall the yellow blooms have matured to seed heads which catch my fancy with their fluffy little mop-like feathers which quickly expand to cotton balls. I have often thought that Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) must have been looking at Clematis tangutica when he was drawing the Lorax. I'm probaly wrong but there are some similarities.

Of all the clematis on the market, this one ranks lower in popularity, especially as you journey south of Vermont. It reproduces prodigious amounts of seed and in warmer climates than Marshfield, the germination rate pushes the plant into the invasive category. Still I like the flowers and the seedheads and I really still do read Dr. Seuss.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond, where the doves are eating side-by-side with the blue jays, and where I still can't figure out the rule for words like "seedheads"?? "Seed heads"???

Gardening wishes on a cold morning,

George Africa


Ann Zuccardy said...


I enjoyed today's essay. Your ability to weave together many story elements and always tie it back to plants is captivating. I, too, was up early this morning. My thermometer in Huntington showed mid-20s in the early a.m. I was greeted by 5 ruffed grouse strutting about in my backyard. They always make me chuckle.

Ann Zuccardy
Vermont Shortbread Company

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Seedheads, seed heads... as long as people know what you mean, you don't have to worry about the space (or lack thereof) IMHO.

Nice essay--and I really enjoyed the landscape picture in the previous post as well.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog doing a search for Noel Kingsbury. The Vermont Gardener is a breath of fresh air. Like your rambling, wide ranging posts, even those tenuously related to gardening. I sometimes visit friends who own an inn in Hart's Location, NH. Is your nursery anywhere near there, or on the way (from NY/NJ area)?