Thanksgiving Day was perfect for planting things, but I had nothing to plant until a friend gave me a batch of little green and white tulips, Tulipa turkestanica.
This grows about 10 inches high and blooms well into April, after many other wild tulips have come and gone. It is not showy, it is merely beautiful in a quiet way.
The interior of the tunic (that shiny red-brown skin over the bulbs) is lined with fur. Some wild tulips have these fur coats and some don't. One almost hates to plant the bulbs and thereby lose the pleasure of admiring them under a lamp. They remind me of those terriers that have tufts of chin whiskers.
But as I say, Thanksgiving was so perfect a day it was a delight to dig and get them in.
Gardeners, as a caste, are usually grateful for blessings. Indeed, it is wonderful how little it takes to make a gardener happy. A rooted sprig of some uncommonly pretty goldenrod will do it, or a start of Jacob's ladder, or a tuft of soldiers and sailors. A rooted sucker of Jew's mallow or some seeds of willow herb. An old out-of-date iris that the connoisseur would sneer at will bring joy to nine gardeners in 10, whether the gardener has room for it or not.
I am grateful first of all for my little cat-run garden, too small for grand effects. I do not envy those gardeners (or not much) who have pink walls of Tudor brick, or a cathedral tower at the back, or a crystal stream or a black moss-hung bayou running through the place.
No. Like almost every gardener I have met, I am enchanted at what has fallen to me, my 40-foot-by-185-foot town lot, with a big red maple and a big pin oak in front, and sun in the back.
You wouldn't know it to look at me, but almost every day I thank God for my Italian arum, which sends up its arrow leaves to perfection in October and dies down in May. All winter it is green, with white marblings, and I never tire of it.
A few years ago I bought a box bush. It has trebled in bulk. I feel like a dog with two tails when I see it, though other people would not even notice it.
I am grateful indeed for my modest iron gate, which I sanded and painted and hung, and the little brick piers (one lopsided, despite great care with the masonry) my wife and I built. I like the slate and remember the day we widened it by two feet with rectangular flags.
The epimediums or barrenworts we planted along it are a considerable joy. Now the leaves are bronze red. They will be cut to the ground on a mild day in February, so the tender elegant feathery new growth and flowers can rise unobstructed at the end of March.
Nothing pleases me more than my roses, though out of date to the point that most rose fanatics would not give them space. But how I plotted to find sites for them, and how I dithered to acquire them. Not everybody, maybe not many, go to pieces as I do when 'Jaune Desprez' blooms. Clusters of 2-inch buff-peach flowers scented of musk. And I may be the only guy in town with 'Polyantha Grandiflora,' with flowers like a blackberry only a bit bigger, and a smell of oranges.
'Agnes' is not so good this year. She is a yellow or yellowish rugosa rose. Last year I was pulling out honeysuckle, which somehow got into her without my noticing, when out flew a mother cardinal. I stopped, of course, and saw tiny eggs in the nest. But the mother never came back. I could not pull the honeysuckle out. Hoping. Now I can remove it, and must, before the next nesting season.
I am grateful for my big dead Norway maple. I disliked it while it was alive, but now it is a joy both to me and to woodpeckers and flickers. It is covered with the common Boston ivy, which fruits heavily, and now flocks of starlings come to eat those berries. Starlings are one of the most beautiful of birds this time of year, half-metallic green, half dusky, and sprinkled all over with stars. There was a farmer looking at his pigs (in a Huxley novel) who said as they were eating, "Rightly is they called pigs." Well, rightly are the lovely starlings called starlings.
I do not have the pink locust I used to have (Robinia kelseyi), which makes thickets about seven feet high, with pink flowers dangling down and then pods covered with crimson fur that gleams in the western sun. But I have another pink locust, 'Monument,' which is showier and almost as beautiful. I love my different trumpet vines, and the Carolina jasmine I grew from a cutting from old Miss Betty Cocke's house. And my ivy with yellow leaves ('Buttercup') and the beautiful form of Schlippenback's azalea that somebody gave me in a pot, and which is now a fine plant. I am bats for my water lilies, especially 'Yellow Pigmy' that sat out of water for a month when I moved up here years ago. And the little wild yellow one from Mexico, that produces two flowers a year and is "not worth growing" as the books say. Everything could be "better." Everything is perfect, just as it is.