Pigweeds, indeed!

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Just came across A Manual of Gardening by Liberty Hyde Bailey online. Presumable this is in the public domain, although it is never stated on the website. I only read a bit of it, but that bit brought a smile to my face:

“The satisfaction of a garden does not depend on the area, nor, happily, on the cost or rarity of the plants. It depends on the temper of the person. One must first seek to love plants and nature, and then to cultivate the happy peace of mind that is satisfied with little.

In the vast majority of cases a person will be happier if he has no rigid and arbitrary notions, for gardens are moodish, particularly with the novice. If plants grow and thrive, he should be happy; and if the plants that thrive chance not to be the ones that he planted, they are plants nevertheless, and nature is satisfied with them.

We are wont to covet the things that we cannot have; but we are happier when we love the things that grow because they must. A patch of lusty pigweeds, growing and crowding in luxuriant abandon, may be a better and more worthy object of affection than a bed of coleuses in which every spark of life and spirit and individuality has been sheared out and suppressed. The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in loving the dandelions. Each blossom is worth more than a gold coin, as it shines in the exuberant sunlight of the growing spring, and attracts the insects to its bosom. Little children like the dandelions: why may not we? Love the things nearest at hand; and love intensely. If I were to write a motto over the gate of a garden, I should choose the remark that Socrates is said to have made as he saw the luxuries in the market, ‘How much there is in the world that I do not want!’

I verily believe that this paragraph I have just written is worth more than all the advice with which I intend to cram the succeeding pages, notwithstanding the fact that I have most assiduously extracted this advice from various worthy but, happily, long-forgotten authors. Happiness is a quality of a person, not of a plant or a garden; and the anticipation of joy in the writing of a book may be the reason why so many books on garden-making have been written. Of course, all these books have been good and useful. It would be ungrateful, at the least, for the present writer to say otherwise; but books grow old, and the advice becomes too familiar. The sentences need to be transposed and the order of the chapters varied, now and then, or interest lags. Or, to speak plainly, a new book of advice on handicraft is needed in every decade, or perhaps oftener in these days of many publishers. There has been a long and worthy procession of these handbooks,–Gardiner & Hepburn, M’Mahon, Cobbett–original, pungent, versatile Cobbett!–Fessenden, Squibb, Bridgeman, Sayers, Buist, and a dozen more, each one a little richer because the others had been written. But even the fact that all books pass into oblivion does not deter another hand from making still another venture.

I expect, then, that every person who reads this book will make a garden, or will try to make one; but if only tares grow where roses are desired, I must remind the reader that at the outset I advised pigweeds. The book, therefore, will suit everybody,–the experienced gardener, because it will be a repetition of what he already knows; and the novice, because it will apply as well to a garden of burdocks as of onions.”

Missing from this online edition are the illustrations, in this case, a plate depicting “ornamental” burdock!

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

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Chan S. October 27, 2004, 9:44 pm

“Love the things nearest at hand; and love intensely.” This makes me smile too. Thanks for the link–I’m looking forward to reading more of Mr. Hyde Bailey.

bill October 27, 2004, 1:47 pm

I had an aunt who really liked the look of dandelions and grew them in her flower beds.

One of my gardener friends is shocked that I allow goldenrod to grow in my yard