In case you haven’t heard, Christopher Lloyd died last Friday. I know many of you enjoyed his writing, as I did. His books could be frustrating, because so many things he grew were not hardy, but I found when he was writing for North American audiences, such as articles in Horticulture, he took pains to identify the hardiness of the plants he was discussing, and often suggested substitutes for the more tender ones.
I do enjoy the catankerous edge to his writing; it is often of a piece with his sense of humor. Here are some lines from Other People’s Gardens, where he is discussing North Hill, the garden of Wayne Winterrowd and Joe Eck:
Fall colour is famed in Vermont, but why anyone should actually choose to live year round in these parts is a little puzzling. . . . Perhaps they had a belligerent desire to show the world what could be done with a garden in unpromising circumstances
Again, describing the house:
There is a big kitchen-cum-dining room with a large hearth . . . and a brick floor. Wayne walks barefoot on this; he has beautiful toes.
The completely unexpected comment about the toes made me chuckle the first time I read it. Even at the end of this essay, Lloyd still can’t wrap his mind around the realities of the Vermont climate:
Gunneras are ridiculously tender for this climate; hence the challenge, for they are magnificent foliage plants. Four square holes have been excavated and lined with wooden shuttering. This will allow the plants to be set deep, for protection and to be covered with insulated plywood lids in winter. But why not emigrate?
I think many of us cold climate gardeners could give a reason or two why we don’t emigrate, and might well rejoin, Why bother with gunnera?