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.

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.

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.

Suckling Pig, Versilia and Amsterdam Roses in Autumnal Colors

Image 1 A suckingly pig from Tio Pepe's, the best Spanish restaurant in Baltimore, Md.  This pig arrived seemingly well educated although the one lens of his glasses was a bit singed.  What can you say to a guest at your party?  "Go home and get some clear glasses before we clear you away!"  Frankly Mr. Suckling Pig came to the party with just the right colors, golden and crisp, a burnt autumnal leaf brown.  He just knew how to wow the guests with red carnations and Granny Smith apples to say, "I'm here."  His coat was as good as his lining, tender, moist and for those who don't like pork, he wowed them.   Image"Mr. Suckling Pig," I asked him after everyone had gone.  "How did you know that your coat of golden brown would match so well with the Amsterdam Rose and Versilia Rose arrangements for the party? Your complimentary colors were just like our sugar maple tree, its tips a pink and salmon  yellow rose.  The race is now on.  We are writing invitations now for next year's party.  We have your head and the rose petals to bioengineer this delicious combination for 2014.

Rosedown Plantation, St. Francisville, South Louisiana

Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT
Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT

 

 

Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT
Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT

ROSEDOWN PLANTATION STATE HISTORIC SITE

Rosedown Plantation is located in the West Feliciana Parish community of St. Francisville along one of the most historic corridors in South Louisiana. Daniel and Martha Turnbull began construction on the main house at Rosedown in 1834, completing it by May the following year. The home was furnished with the finest pieces available, most imported from the North and from Europe. The gardens were the province of Martha Turnbull throughout her life. The Turnbulls’ honeymoon in Europe included great formal gardens of France and Italy, an influence seen in Martha's activities at Rosedown. The gardens grew out from the house over a span of many decades, to cover approximately 28 acres. In the 19th century, Rosedown was one of the few privately maintained formal gardens in the United States. A restoration of the formal gardens in the late 1950s was done by Catherine Fondren Underwood and Ralph Ellis Gunn, using Martha Turnbull’s extensive garden diaries. When possible, the same species and varieties were replanted. When plants in Martha’s inventory were discovered to be no longer available, the staff of gardeners would propagate them from plant stock surviving in the gardens. Through this process, the gardens, as well as the house, were returned to their original state.

 

A Spring, Metasequoia and Under a Maple Tree, To Drink a Garden

56 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of water from a fresh spring in Baltimore County, Md. Fresh water from a limestone base that we drank today. Can you imagine having fresh water scooped with a ladle by the spring for us to drink. To drink a garden, to see a garden, to smell a garden, to drink a garden from a spring within two to three hundred feet of a major intersection with water runoff that plummets ten feet below. Perhaps it is a testament to those metasequoia and dawn redwood trees that grow twenty-five feet higher than the surface of the spring. Their feet stick up like thumbs. The deer are drawn to their bark and then follow their path through the pipe under the road. And while contemplating the stand of 100 trees in a micro-clime that becomes awash with sand, ferns are discussed. Hundreds of ferns to plant as a backdrop to the bluestone bench far to the left, a path to be made of wood and stone, a destination there. While sitting on Greenspring stone and steps, the three of us are shaded by maple trees. Looking up to the filtered sun, the underside of the maple leaves are beautiful. Why had I never thought the leaves could be looked at from the underside and be so lovely. They were.