“For our Founding Fathers, gardening, agriculture, and botany were elemental passions, as deeply ingrained in their characters as their belief in liberty for the nation they were creating.
From Founding Gardeners: the Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf.
While I write in my study, my husband Mel pounds a crowbar into the earth with his sledgehammer. When the wind holds its breath for a second, I hear Ping! Ping! Ping!
It’s Richardson Wright’s old-fashioned way he advocates in his Gardener’s Bed-Book to deep fertilize tree roots. First published in 1929, Wright puts a smile on your face and blooms and food in your dreams.
I often obey this book because Wright appeals to my organic bent. For instance, after Mel pounds the holes almost two feet deep and a foot apart around the breadth of the branches’ circumference, he pours chicken manure water into the holes.
He’s not particularly fond of this task, but he knows the healthier the harvest, the more pies a la mode on his plate. I know this crowbar labor first hand and award our efforts throughout the long winter.
I also value Wright’s “use what you have” mantra; one my mother learned as a child and passed on to me. Thus, there’s bottomless chicken manure water per our little hen house to feed flower beds, shrubs, and vegetable garden.
Furthermore, our fire pit provides maple and oak leaf ashes. When this squall gives up, I’ll shovel buckets of ash on every growing thing.
“Spray currant bushes today, then again ten days later,” says my Bed-Book in perfect timing. And Wright warns if I don’t prune my four champagne grape vines in this cold snap, I’ll most likely miss my last open window.
Bit by bit, these botanical lessons sink into the soul of our three acres. Although I’ve accomplished minimal deadheading and pruning this week with hail and snow chasing me inside, I’ll catch up eventually.
No, I don’t fret, even though there’s no sign of asparagus shoots. The vegetable has been around since Thomas Jefferson planted it in Monticello’s kitchen garden. This is about our tenth asparagus harvest.
Meanwhile, there’s good ol’ faithful rhubarb unfurling her green leaves outside our kitchen window to soothe my eye. I have Benjamin Franklin to thank for this vegetable and my mother’s strawberry rhubarb pie.
As you see, a modern gardener toils in esteemed company. When I return to my terrace with my trowel, I’ll “encounter the marks of wayfaring,” as Richardson Wright says in The Story of Gardening.
George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Paine also found pleasure in creating gardens, and solace in the growing seasons.
“What pace the political summer may keep with the natural, no human foresight can determine. It is, however, not difficult to perceive that the spring is begun,” Thomas Paine wrote in The Rights of Man.
Dear Reader, I’d like to know the wayfaring botanist who brought gladiolus from Africa and Blackberry lilies from Russia to America.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.