Electric Light Orchestra

This growing season at Fordhook has been frightening. Normally, I expect a couple of monsoon like periods, a few days in late May, and another few days in late July and a couple in late August, max. However, for 2009 the reverse has been true. The only normal days have been, all combined, about one week. Just a couple of days longer than the time it takes a carton of milk to spoil – that has been the extent of our warm season. Forget about tomato sauce. We even had a record year for lightening. And now this darkest of summers is nearly over.

However dreadful it has been on the vegetables, our “anti-summer” has been little different from a slightly gloomier-than-average English summer. In a word, this summer has been “nirvana” for our perennials.

Ideally, perennial gardens resemble symphonic orchestras, as is often mentioned in popular gardening books. Except that, instead of the normal 80 to 90 musicians playing, say, “The 1812 Overture”, you have 5 or 6. This makes Tchaikovsky sound a bit weird, to say the least. So, it’s not a very good analogy. If you’re looking for a big symphonic sweep, you need a crew of full time gardeners and several acres of land, at minimum.

I always like to listen to a symphonic orchestra, or orchestral symphony, or whatever it is. It has a very satisfying feeling. It reminds me of the Talking Heads song, “Heaven”, when he says that heaven is a bar where everyone leaves at “exactly the same time”. Good line!

Perennial gardens are just as dreamlike or fantastic – they never bloom anywhere near the same time. Thus, the reality is you have to zoom right in on your favorite candidate and love him, or her, up. (I always think of plants as “hims” or “hers”. Generally, the girls outnumber the boys.)

Recent brain research has found that the eye picks up the “macro” and “micro” simultaneously – that we focus not on either but on both at once. Perhaps this is what the ancient eastern philosophies called the “third eye”. In any case, our brains get a powerful, multi-focal workout in a large perennial garden.

Once a friend of mine said his garden was “heroic” in that there’s always one perennial showing off at any given time. Sometimes, he said, it amounted to a lone, comedic sort of performance – a stand-up solo, so to speak. Nothing else was even trying to bloom. Other times, the “hero” was dominant over a lesser, subordinate – or supporting – cast. More like a “concerto”.

At our new perennial and ornamental shrub gardens at Fordhook Farms, just as at the first Heronswood in Kingston, the successional nature of the plantings is so strong that there are always several heroes competing for favor. More like Babylon than Jerusalem. The original “heronistas” would say all roads lead to Kingston, as was the case last Sunday, August 30th, when we opened Mecca’s doors for a warm and sunny day’s reception, with all proceeds going to The Garden Conservancy. We had almost 400 guests in 6 hours!

The dates for the next Open House weekends are Fordhook Fall Open, Friday & Saturday, September 25 & 26 in Doylestown; and then the very next Sunday, October 4th, at Heronswood West in Kingston, Washington. Technically, you could go to both, if you have a lead foot – in a hybrid car.

Hope to see you there!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 at 8:07 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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5 Responses to “Electric Light Orchestra”

  1. Annete Shrader said:

    I look forward to your letters. The information is phenomenal – In other words GREAT.
    I am so sorry that I live such a great distance from your farm. The name always makes me smile and reminds me of my daughter. Her favorite vegetable ia the fordhook lima bean. Mine still to need to be harvested again. I forgot to mention that I live in Clarksville, Tennessee about a 45 minute drive from Nashville. We have had what I call a 5 bean year. As you well know when the beans typically bloom we have sufficient rainfall. As the pod develops and begins to mature the bean doesn’t have the moisture to grow and they “blast”. Not the case this year rain, rain, rain. Every pod has the max 5-6 beans in the butterbeans. What a blessing and I did not allow any to go to waste. Harvested 5 bushels of the Henderson Baby Lima and I am blessed to have a pea sheller and that works great!
    If I am ever in that part of the country again you can believe that I will visit your farm.

  2. Bob Bisti said:

    I was at the open house on Sat. August 22nd at Fordhook. The visit did make me feel better about my mediocare veggie garden this “summer”, as I heard firsthand about their bout with the cool, rainy season. As far as the hydrangeas in our neck of the woods,here at the central Jersey shore, they have never been prettier. If someone could only graft a Brandywine tomato onto a Nikko Blue. Bob Bisti

  3. Kitty Crouch said:

    One of the delightful things about a perennial garden is that it is quite different from year to year. Certain plants take center stage while others form a chorus. The stars vary from season to season, always leaving the drama and suspense of who will seem ascendant. And there is the joy of watching second and third year perennials become mature and lovelier.

  4. Linda Moran said:

    Your garden writings are happily received. they are
    such a ‘balm’ for the spirit as is my garden and is, of course, why most of us garden.
    thanks for enriching my mind and spirit with your
    ‘view of the universe’ through gardening – what a wise teacher. I hope to visit soon. thank you. linda

  5. david Cardenas said:

    It would sure be nice to see some more photo/scapes of your gardens.

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