- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
In this lighthearted, instructive, original "game of lists," Fenton selects one hundred plants he would choose to grow from seed. Flowers for color, size, and exotic interest; herbs and meadow flowers; climbing ...
Ships from: Lansing, KS
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Ships from: Shell Lake, WI
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
In this lighthearted, instructive, original "game of lists," Fenton selects one hundred plants he would choose to grow from seed. Flowers for color, size, and exotic interest; herbs and meadow flowers; climbing vines, tropical species-Fenton describes readily available varieties, and tells how to acquire and grow them.
Here is a happy, stylish, unpretentious, and thought-provoking gardening book that will beguile and inspire novice and expert alike.
Evidence that the over-the-fence conversation of literary gardeners continues as volubly as ever can be found in James Fenton's A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Starting from the premise that, in the received wisdom of garden planning, "design has become a terrible, stupid, and expensive tyrant," Fenton encourages his readers to buy seeds, plant them, and see what happens. Contemptuous of the "color snobbery" of garden writers, he evinces a fondness for bright orange. Ideally, he feels, gardens need make no statement more consequential than "This is what I felt like having this year." (Leo Carey)
Of course, you may say it is only a game, and indeed it is a game: a game of lists. What plants would you choose to grow, given a blank slate of a garden, and given the stipulation that everything you grow in this garden must be raised by you from seed? It is a game of choice, but it could be more than a game. At the very least, it could be a way of thinking afresh about how to put a garden together, and with what purpose in mind.
For years now the gardening press (newspaper columns, magazines, and glossy books) has been, consciously and unconsciously, campaigning for a common approach. One starts with a design, the "bones" of the garden, the "structure." Next one shades in plausible areas and shapes, indicating trees, shrubs, and perennials. Finally, one is supposed to go out and buy the plants penciled in in those plausible shapes. The rest is mostly maintenance.
This approach to gardening would never have become plausible or popular if it did not reflect a certain wisdom. But may I respectfully suggest that it is not the only way to garden? It may be one wise way to operate, but it is not the only wisdom available to humankind. To take the simplest counterexample: in Britain every town has several communal gardens in which one can rent assigned plots known as allotments; these are used mainly for growing vegetables and fruit; an allotment gardener does not have to start with a design. The important question is: What do I want to grow?
The design of an allotment is hardly an issue. Content is everything. So the allotment gardener in January may be happily and appropriately engaged in the simple act of compiling lists: this is what I want to eat this year, or this is what I want to grow for the challenge, or this is what has piqued my curiosity.
Why should the flower gardener not feel the same? Why should he or she not ask: What do I feel like growing this year? What delights me? What bores me? What is ravishing? What is revolting? Flower fanatic and vegetable fiend, we are seated at the same kitchen table, leafing through many of the same catalogues. The same gales are howling around the rooftops. The same frosts are glazing the water butts. Why should I not feel, this January, the same freedom as my pea epicurean, my marrow-maniacal friend?
The first answer that springs to mind is that a flower garden is of its nature a permanent thing, whereas an allotment, to all intents and purposes, closes down for the winter. But this objection need not necessarily hold. After all, I have not yet defined the sort of flower garden I am thinking of. Indeed, I do not want to define it at all too nicely, because I am ambitious to hold the attention of more than one kind of reader (including, of course, the allotment gardener).
So my definition — my nondefinition — of a garden must include a spectacular one that I saw last summer in Manhattan, which consisted of nothing but morning glories grown on a fire escape, high up above the street. Mustard and cress sown on a washcloth, Virginia stock in an old crab shell, or a row of hyacinths in glasses — all these count as gardens, in my understanding of the word, along with Great Dixter, Powis Castle, and Versailles.
For those who have landed on some property of which they can say, "This is where I hope to live for the next so-many years," I have some advice, which may prove welcome, since it may well prove cheap. It is not the case that your permanent plantings, your graph-paper layout of shrubs and perennials (supposing this to be your ultimate goal), should be put in place as soon as possible. If you are renovating an old garden, or starting one from scratch, it may well be good practice to plant experimentally for a couple of seasons, relying mainly on annuals, until the soil has been well conditioned and the perennial weeds have been largely defeated.
Copyright (c) 2001 James Fenton
|1||Flowers and Their Colors||13|
|2||Flowers for Their Size||23|
|3||Flowers That Hop Around||31|
|4||Flowers for Cutting||39|
|5||The Perennial Prejudice||47|
|6||Useful and Decorative Herbs||55|
|8||The Poppy Festival||75|
|9||Climbers on Impulse||83|
|10||For the Tropical Look||91|
|11||As an Afterthought||99|
|12||The Rest of the Kit||107|
|When Raising Plants from Seed||113|
|The Seed List||117|