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!