Are You Excited About Beets?

note: The purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, which means this web site has nothing to do with them!

a photograph showing several beets on a cutting boardBeets are closely related to the fodder beet, sugar beet, and Swiss chard, all in the Amaranth family, Amaranthaceae. The National Garden Bureau has named beets the Vegetable of 2018, which means at least some of us will be planting and eating more of them.

Having trouble with your enthusiasm? Read more

The Best Resource for January Garden Tips

a snow-covered scene painted in Hungary with open countryside, low hills, and trees in the distance, all under a fresh blue sky; the artist is József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)
Winter, also known as Hills in Somogy, Undated
József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)

In the past I’ve mentioned the potential value of discarded holiday greens and–if you’re snow-free–to look out for discarded or unwanted mums. There’s always more and more . . . and more timely seasonal advice to say, so that’s why I wanted to let you know there’s a resource that covers it all. Read more

Build Anticipation With an Allée

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A color photo showing a driveway lined with Callery pear trees loaded with white flowers.
Callery pear makes a statement out of a driveway.

Not everyone owns enough property to have an allée. Other people do but live in hilly places; uneven terrain is simply not suited to creating this kind of effect. But where it can be done, ooh la la, does it ever create a sense of anticipation and arrival!

As we’ll see, an allée does far more than define space by creating an axis aligned with the house. To begin with the obvious, it’s also practical and good for the Earth. Canopied pavement is the best sort because it heats up less in summer. If I could design all parking lots, believe me, they wouldn’t look the way they always do!

Centuries ago, a tree-lined drive became a traditional treatment for the entrance to an estate. In the United States, I think most examples were in the southeast. Most of these are gone, but a few are still around. Shall we have a little look? Read more

In a Persian Garden by Liza Lehmann

Note: the timing of this post is meant to tie in with both Women’s History Month and the Persian New Year known as Nowruz or Norooz.

Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

a 17th Century Persian panel of tiles in shades of blue and yellow showing people enjoying themselves outside in a setting of blooming plants and trees
Fritware wall panel now in the Louvre, 1500s-1600s, showing entertainment in a garden
(similar to this one at the Victoria and Albert Museum)

The word “paradise” comes from an old Persian word that means “a walled garden.” The intent of that walled garden, however, was indeed to create an earthly paradise. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Genesis 2 mentions four rivers in the Garden of Eden, so these spaces were traditionally divided into quadrants, known as chahar bagh. In addition, so was the country.

oil painting showing inner courtyard and garden at the Palacio del Generalife and Patio de la Acequia near the Alhambra in Granada, Spain painted in 1848 by Wilhelm MeyerThat design sounds formal, and often these areas were courtyards with pavilions and elaborate tile work. You might wonder: what did Persians plant there? Most had rows of trees such as cypresses, sycamores, or date palms, possibly low boxwood hedges, and perhaps sycamores, beeches, lindens, palms, or other trees such as mimosa or redbud at intersecting points or just planted around for shade. But despite its formal tendencies, Read more

Meet the Garden Writer From the 1840s Who Believed That It Was All Right For Women to Go Outside and Get Their Hands Dirty

a portrait of John Loudon from the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society of EnglandBy the time he reached middle age, life had brought the Scottish botanist, landscape architect, and city planner John Loudon (1783-1843) an abundance of both triumph and trouble. He had traveled in northern Europe, learned French, German, and Italian, and published encyclopedias of gardening and agriculture. Thus he was worldly and intelligent and successful. Since he was a bachelor, these qualities certainly made him an excellent catch and a potentially ideal husband and father.

Health problems, however, Read more

You’ve Never Heard the Seasons in Sonic Panoramas Like This

In 1799, William Blake wrote “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way . . . But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” In 1816, John Keats wrote that no matter how still a summer day or winter night may be “the poetry of earth is never dead.” If you’re an avid gardener or a lover of the outdoors overall . . . and you’ve never heard Haydn’s large-scale treatment of the seasons for chorus and orchestra . . . isn’t it about time to find out what you’ve been missing?

This is a piece as much of our time as it was of its own. Long before Keats and Blake were alive, and in a culture far different from theirs, Confucius famously observed, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Versions of The Seasons are available in German and English, so you can’t use the language barrier as an excuse! For recommendations, skip to the bottom, or keep on going if you’d like to find out how early The Seasons became famous, when the oratorio crossed the Atlantic, what it was like to write, or why this piece represents the epitome of Enlightenment values.

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most are independent, but some help support this web site!

images of country life during the four seasons from Flemish baroque painter Sebastian Vrancx
Allegories of the Seasons, date unknown
Sebastian Vrancx (1573-1647)

On June 12, 1799, while working on this oratorio, one of the greatest composers in history wrote to his German publisher about–would you believe?–his concern that he was losing it: Read more