Human Flower Project
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The Book Club
To gardening books read, and to the right places for reading, at last, the others.
Essay and Photos by John Levett
There are times when it’s a fine thing to read books in context—Orwell in Wigan, Plath on a Yorkshire Moor, George Mackay Brown in Orkney, Proust in Montmartre, Patrick Hamilton in Earls Court, Isherwood in Berlin. I’m not sure of the legitimacy of Proust in Montmartre but the idea suits and I only ever got as far as the north bank of the Firth of Forth with G.M. Brown but, with the light in the right place at the right time of day, coincidence can add to words on the page.
Last week I went for a day’s walk and by late afternoon I was sitting on a hill near Fowlmere, a small village south of Cambridge, reading Mollie Panter-Downes’s ‘One Fine Day.’ It describes the commonplace events of a day in the life of a middle-class woman one year after the end of the last war and her balancing between resignation to the petty restrictions and inconveniences of Britain in austerity and the bright certainty of a future. I had arrived at this passage: “… never, even then, had Laura felt quite this rush of overwhelming thankfulness, so that the land swam and misted and danced before her. She had had to lose a dog and climb a hill, a year later, to realize what it would have meant if England has lost. We are at peace, we still stand, we will stand when you are dust, sang the humming land in the summer evening.” There was a dull drone gathering and shortly I was overflown by a Spitfire and Hurricane from (I guessed) the Battle of Britain flight up in Lincolnshire. Check the ration book then home to tea scrapings and margarine on toast.
Art & Media • Culture & Society • Gardening & Landscape • Permalink
Monday, September 07, 2009
A Flower for Knowledge in Latvia
The school year begins in Riga with ritual. Was this custom imposed by the Soviets or home grown in Latvia? Or both?
Knowledge Day at Balozu school, Latvia
Photo: Balozu skola
As bells ring—and in Texas high schools, the metal detectors are reactivated – the new year begins. We’ve been officially off the academic calendar for quite awhile now, but our neurochemistry still says September 1/Labor Day or just generally nowabouts is a new start.
Just so, Latvia’s Knowledge Day strikes us as right on, and right on time. September 1 is Zinību diena (“Knowledge Day”). On this, the first day of the school year, students dress quite formally – many in black and white, the boys especially handsome with their dark cravats on—and come to school with small gifts for their new teachers. Flowers, yes, are customary. (Note: Barack Obama has released the speech he’ll deliver to students tomorrow—perhaps we’re witnessing the inception of a “Knowledge Day” tradition here in the U.S. Mr. President, could you at least wear a boutonniere?)
From these pictures, it appears that Latvian pupils are ceremonially introduced to their new instructors, as parents stand proudly by. And in some schools, it seems students and teachers actually exchange gifts: a flower for a new book. The tradition is strong in Russia, too.
Friday, September 04, 2009
HFQ#8: Fungi Need Names
Mystery Mushroom #1
Photo: Georgia Silvera Seamans
Actually, it’s humans who need fungi names.
World traveler, local ecologist and urban arborist Georgia Silvera Seamans poses a question for all you mycologists.
Can anyone identify these Malaysian fungi? Georgia writes that the photos were taken May 2009 and the mushrooms found “on Gunung Mat Chincang Mountain, Langkawi, Malaysia.”
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Singing through the Soil
Allen Bush pays homage to one of his mentors—a Western North Carolina farmer who orchestrated crops and equipment, and sang gospel music, too.
Paul McKinney and his trusty 1949 Farmall tractor
Photo: Paula McKinney
By Allen Bush
Up Avery’s Creek and around Mills River in the North Carolina mountains, between Asheville and Hendersonville, folks love Paul McKinney. He is a good man, a remarkable man. He and his wife, Mary, own McKinney’s Small Fruits and have been partners in love for fifty-nine years. Paul is old school though not old-fashioned, except for his customary overalls. He stands tall, over six feet, a wise, handsome man who shakes hands as firmly as he strung barbed wire.
I lived a half-mile down the road from the McKinneys between 1979 and 1995. Paul came down to introduce himself soon after I arrived. It was the neighborly thing to do. I had bought 37 acres and started Holbrook Farm, named after my mother’s side of the family. They had come from Trap Hill, a few ridgetops away in Wilkes County. My retail mail-order nursery published a spring and fall catalog and shipped rare and unusual perennials across the country for fifteen years. I moved to the farm from Louisville, Kentucky, after a year’s training at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England. The summers were cooler and the winters milder in western North Carolina. I was a suburban boy turned nurseryman, full of myself, but actually not quite sure what I’d gotten myself into.
Mr. McKinney worshiped Jesus, loved his family and made no pretense. He drew no distinction between sinners and the saved. He was fair to everyone, especially his newly arrived, suspect, bearded neighbor. I was young, had some backing – the support of a family and new wife – and fell into the might-be-saved-someday category. Paul and Mary McKinney had bought a small place up the road, two years before I arrived. They had little financial backing but never lacked for loving family or devoted friends.