Monday, May 28, 2012

The Green Garden

Monday, May 28, 2012

My kind of morning here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. It is clear except for some very high level, broken mackerel sky and it's windless. The quiet of the morning is interrupted here and there by the songs of tiny, secret, warblers and vireos with nice voices and an ability to stay hidden. There is no concert here but one voice after another calling and replying in pleasant sounds that want me to find the source but I never can. I need some time and a very good pair of binoculars for tired older eyes--mine.

The Vermont Gardener spends winters reading and writing and sometimes there is something that really catches his attention. Two months ago now I received a copy of a very special book that deserves attention. I have pictured it above for reference. It's Ellen Sousa's The Green Gardener. The subtitle offers a good indication of the paths it follows. "A New England Guide to Planning, Planting and Maintaining the Eco-Friendly Habitat Garden". If that doesn't jump start you enough to purchase a copy, I think the Forward by William Cullina will help. Mr Cullina is the Executive Director of my very favorite Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.He is known to me as an expert in the wild flowers I love so dearly. When you get a few minutes, check out his site and go from there. From one gardener to another, believe me, Ellen's book is a worthy journey into garden planning and planting in a manner that remembers habitats the way I think they should be remembered.

When I first heard about Ellen's book I knew it was the kind of book I kept telling myself had to be written. There are bazillions of gardening books out there and many sell because they have fine pictures of perfectly manicured gardens that some people pay to have recreated and others dream about or put into a twenty year plan of development, one or two plants at a  time. The Green Gardener is so different however, because it commands us to look at everything that resides in and about our gardens and passes through at different times of the year. It emphasizes the relationships of wildlife to our plantings and speaks confidently about the virtues of relationships some have forgotten. I like that thinking a lot.

Last week I spent some time in Maine at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, and two very special gardens in adjacent Northeast Harbor, the Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden. I also visited Coastal Maine Botanical Garden as I have perhaps 6-7 times now. These garden tours were a living reflection on what The Green Gardener offers as guides for keeping nature in all garden planning schemes.

Ellen Sousa is a master of photography and she knows how to incorporate just the right picture with just the right description of eco-friendly habitat gardening. I could easily write a book of gardening short stories to coincide with each of her pictures as they are so very powerful. They run like ocean currents with the adjoining flora and leave the reader this a list of "must dos" for their own garden development.

Last week as I sat on Sand Beach and then on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia I thought through The Green Gardener time and again. I kept making mental notes of things I had read and garden elements I saw along the way that came close to Ellen's design ideas. When I finished at the botanical gardens I was possessed to get back home and tell others they have to order up The Green Gardener. As I sit here this morning, the tiger swallowtail butterflies Ellen pictures on alliums are heading in droves to our just-opening James MacFarlane lilacs, bumblebees are pollinating the blueberries,  a phoebe is finishing a nest, Mr. Tom turkey just strode by Mrs Turkey's nest along the woodland perimeter, and spent dandelions wait for a morning breeze, their numbers reminding of soil that needs attention, not weeds that need herbicide. 

Regardless of whether your gardens are well established or still on the drawing board, I know you will find Ellen's Sousa's The Green Gardener a friendly read that will leave you with a list of things to do as well as many, many good conversations with fellow gardeners. I know it has made me look at things differently and helped with lots of new ideas. One more cup of coffee and I have to head to the flower farm where before the day ends, I'll share some new ideas with some new visitors.  Good reading to all!!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the Vermont Gardener is getting back into writing as days get longer and flowers boost enthusiasm. If you have read The Green Gardener or another gardening book you would like to recommend, please leave a comment here. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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