A Better Way to Plant Colchicums
In May of 1999 I opened up my new issue of Horticulture and started reading “In Search of a Mowable Groundcover.” Canadian author Brian Bixley described an ingenious planting scheme that involved interplanting colchicums with hardy geraniums. In the middle of August, he mowed down the geraniums. Two weeks later, they were the perfect height to set off the colchicum flowers, which bloom without foliage. Colchicums, with their unusual growing cycle, are notorious for being difficult to place well in the garden. This was the best design solution I had come across, taking advantage of the plants’ natural inclinations and being easy to maintain as well.
A New Cold-Climate Writer
Even more exciting was the author’s bio line at the end of the article: “Brian Bixley, a retired economist, is the author of Essays on Gardening in a Cold Climate (Whitfield Press, 1998).” In those days, the internet was in its infancy and information on cold climate gardening was hard to find. Shoot, any information on books was hard to find, as our family didn’t yet have an internet connection with access to Amazon’s huge database. To know that a book of essays existed was half the battle. To know there was a book addressing cold climate gardening was wonderful. I requested it from the local library, which had to go “out of system” to get it for me. I read it cover to cover and it entered my pantheon of books no cold climate gardener should be without. He had a second article in Horticulture, and then I never saw his byline, or any mention of him, again.
Brian Bixley, Rediscovered
More than ten years later, Brian Bixley resurfaced in my life, commenting on a blog post of mine. It was another one of those doors that blogging has opened for me, being able to communicate with a favorite gardening author. (And yet, if I had remarked breathlessly “Brian Bixley just commented on my blog!” to anyone I know, I would have gotten, at best, a blank look.) From that began a somewhat erratic email exchange. I wanted to know if he had published, or intended to publish, any more books. No books were planned, but he writes Garden Notes, a newsletter of sorts:
My Garden Notes are written six times a year, before each of our five Open Days, plus a Postscript. I regard the Notes as a kind of staying-in-touch love letter; my happiest moments are when those friends call or write to say, “I can hear your voice.” My friends are, for the most part, forgiving of my literary and gardening sins.
I asked if he would let me publish some of those notes on this website. He was hesitant.
I have little interest in the technicalities of gardening, just enough to ensure that we have–and here I shall be overtly immodest–a very beautiful garden. My stuff is only “helpful’ to people who wish to reflect on the very nature of “a garden”, on what it means to be a a gardener, and on the relations between gardening and the other arts. I am not easy on my readers. I trust that they will at least have heard of Proust, and accept that I quote him untranslated; that they know who Eliot is; and that they will be amused by words they have not met before, like “twiggified’ and ‘epizeuxian.’ Will your readers forgive all that?
I’m betting you, my readers, will not only forgive “all that” but delight in it. Look for the first excerpt from Brian’s Garden Notes tomorrow, with more to follow on an irregular basis.