The New Republic Gardener

Freedom's Gardener, James F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America, by Myra B. Young Armstead, is a book about a slave who became a master gardener and died a freeman.  James F. Brown kept diaries between 1829-1866.  Professor of History at Bard College, NY, Armstead brings to light how the citizens of the New Republic were at once making money hand over fist while trying to define what constitutes  a good United States citizen of the New Republic.  If you were a gardener and a member of a horticulture society that certainly gave you an upper hand, at least for men, and unusually so for a black man, James F. Brown who worked as a master gardener in the Hudson Valley of NY.  "Fruit, trees, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers stood as an antidote to their engagement with crude, materialistic commercial pursuits…" Professor Armstead writes in reference to these men of immigrant fathers who became merchants of import.

Mother Rose

A friend gave me the book, "A Walk Through My Garden" edited by Whitney Scott. I was looking for my Mother and came upon a poem, "Roses for My Mother," by Evewlyn Lewis-Chase. Her endearing poem promoted my musing and picture ... Mothers of Roses Bring Beauty Bring Sorrow Mothers of Roses Make Gardeners of Men When Gone Their Beauty Their Petals do lie Under the vegetables The sky shines by.

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An Infinity of Graces, Cecil Ross Pinsent, An English Architect in the Italian Landscape

Author: Ethne Clarke Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2013
Author: Ethne Clarke
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2013
Ethne Clarke's book, An Infinity of Graces tells the story of Cecil Ross Pinsent, an English architect in the Italian landscape. Mr Pinsent, as described by Ms. Clarke, "was trained not to look at any style...but with the full knowledge of what had been done in the past...."  The time of Mr. Pinsent's work was a time of change in the theories of English gardening.  What ultimately became acceptable was the style forged by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, a style with some formality mixed with informality. Pinsent left England, drawn to Florence, Italy, for its architecture and the expatriate world who lived there Ms. Clarke writes.  She continues that the Italian Renaissance garden was a template for perfection in the landscape.  Pinsent was an architect.  He was hired to renovated both indoor and out.  He treated the outdoors as an extension of the house, the garden separated into different rooms.  The beds were simple and cypress was often used to frame a view, the author writes.  Potted citrus or roses were used as transition points. His commissioned work included: I Tatti for Mary and George Berenson, Le Balze for Charles Augustus Strong, and Gli Scafari for Sybil and Percy Lubbock. Poignantly Ethne Clarke ends An Infinity of Graces by writing, "an insertion of architecture within Tuscan landscape was not a matter of camouflage but a continuous relation with history of landscape."

Tapis Vert at Villa Centinale, Sienna, Italy

Tapis vert, tapis vert, tapis vert.  You are slowly walking between columns of oak and ilex with a carpet of grass under your feet. Yes, pull away those blankets of snow. There is a gateway ahead of you.  A hermitage high on the hill.  Just climb those scala santa. Edith Wharton wrote about the tapis vert of the Villa Centinale near Sienna, Italy in the early 1900's. The villa is simple, not grand like the Roman villas.  "The glory of Centinale is its park," wrote Ms. Wharton in her book, "Italian Villas and Their Gardens" published by The Mount Press, Rizzoli. Vivian Russell in her book, "Edith Wharton's Italian Gardens" published by Bullfinch Press Book, Little, Brown & Co. , 2000, writes, "Behind the villa ... a long green walk extends between high walls.   The tapis vert leads to a crossroads." So back on the shores of the USA, what constitutes a tapis vert?  One could call it wishful thinking for some sign of grass below the white of snow.  The green that we can write home about.

Four Things to know about Edith Wharton and her book, “Italian Villas and Their Gardens”

  1. Villa Lante, Itlay
    Villa Lante, Italy, Photo courtesy of Roberto Piperno
  2. Read Introduction by John Dixon Hunt of " Italian Villas and Their Gardens," a book written by Edith Wharton originally published in 1904 by the Century Company, in 2008 by Rizzoli and The Mount Press.  Why did Henry James describe Edith Wharton's villa and garden visits as "excursionism?"
  3.  What is difference between garden writer and travel writer? Which was Edith?
  4. Charles Platt wrote a book about Italian gardens about the same time that Wharton did.  How did their writings differ?
  5. Did Edith approve of  Maxfield Parrish's pictures he painted to portray the gardens she wrote about? Do she have literary control?
Beautiful book to read and that is just the start of it!    

Burghers of Calais and Blush Rose

Blush Rose, Credit CarlisleFlowers The Blush rose is white tinged with red.  When cutting these stems under conditioned water I noticed how straight the stems were.  Not only straight but like a rod with some reinforcement.  First I arranged the roses in a cube, its square holding eight roses in upright fashion.  I studied the arrangement over night and decided the next morning to lop them off as to create a square of Blush roses on top of the cube.  The stems had turned, going in the direction they cared to go. The floor and sides inside the cube were lined with Calathea flowers, big, fleshy, and full of light, dark and a tinge of red. Four Blush roses were planted heads up in glass pyramidal vases. Now the Burghers of Calais struck me.  How the roses slightly turned yet their mass still there.  I had no control over this turning.  Could Auguste Rodin, the sculpture of the Burghers of Calais, commissioned by the town of Calais, France, mold his men cloaked in their robes of importance and have complete control of the movement of the rod and metal of his material?  His men were sculpted in unity and mass, slightly turning a head, a shoulder, to define their acceptance, pride, abjection, defeat.  Yet their lives were spared because the king's wife would not want her expectant child to have the blood of the rose spilt on her cradle's sheets.

“The Art of Being Nobody,” by Eric Manners, KEYS TO HAPPINESS, A Reader’s Digest Guide to Successful Living

Keys to Happiness, A Reader's Digest Guide to Successful Living copyrighted by the Reader's Digest Association in 1955 was once the property of the Hotel Rockaway.   Thanksgiving is four days away, the oak leaves on the hydrangea bush and trees hang tight in the wind of early morning light.  The provocative title by Eric Manners, "The Art of Being Nobody," was a phrase I had never heard.  Here's a paragraph from the essay:
Photo Courtesy: Hampton Mansion, National Park Service
Photo Courtesy: Hampton Mansion, National Park Service
"You're you.  If it's truly a part of the youness of you, sleep in a tree.  (Charles Waterton, the grand old English naturalist and grander individualist, used to do that every now and then.  He said it gave him the right tuning for feeling like a piece of God's creation, along with the chimpanzee and the owl.)