Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Archive for November, 2012

Jack Gilbert, On Stone

Similar to the way I started paying close attention to quarry photos after I began doing stonework, I also started noticing whenever writers wax poetic on about stone. Poets, I’ve noticed, really like to talk about it, it seems to be a way for them to identify themselves with its timelessness. I don’t really mind the romanticization, I probably do that myself, but I always listen to see if they really understand the material. Not all of them do.

The telltale for me is if they know the difference between stone and rock, which are not the same thing and not interchangeable words. Rock is the raw form, stone has been shaped by humans or natural forces. One of the main poets to romanticize stone, and one who seems to pass the rock and stone test, Jack Gilbert, passed away recently.

On Stone

The monks petition to live the harder way,
in pits dug farther up the mountain,
but only the favored ones are permitted
that scraped life. The syrup-water and cakes
the abbot served me were far too sweet.
A simple misunderstanding of pleasure
because of inexperience. I pull water up
hand over hand from thirty feet of stone.
My kerosene lamp burns a mineral light.
The mind and its fierceness lives here in silence.
I dream of women and hunger in my valley
for what can be made of granite. Like the sun
hammering this earth into pomegranates
and grapes. Dryness giving way to the smell
of basil at night. Otherwise, the stone
feeds on stone, is reborn as rock,
and the heart wanes. Athena’s owl calling
into the barrenness, and nothing answering.

from The Great Fires

Obituaries and recent articles about him tend to refer to him as obscure or unfairly neglected, to the point where he sort of managed the trick of being famous for not being famous. I don’t think that was his intention. I think it’s more that he just kept his head down, working away like a drystone waller, making things that could easily be forgotten but also last forever.

November in the Garden

Iochroma coccinae

I meant to post for bloom day yesterday but I ended up gardening instead. There aren’t really a lot of interesting blooms happening right now. The California Fuchsia is still going strong, and the Iochroma is in full bloom, plus the Alyssum and Violas are pretty much ever-blooming. Also, there are token blooms from a few other plants: an Agastache, both of our Geraniums, one of the Galvezias, the Feverfew, the Gartenmeister Fuchsia, the Strawberries, and the culinary Rosemary. Nothing I haven’t shown many times before.

California Fuchsia with Black Sage in the Background

I redid a couple of the planting beds, taking out perennials, adding bulbs, scattering seeds, and spreading mulch. It turns out in recent years, instead of buying plants I don’t need, I’ve been buying and collecting seeds I don’t need, so I tried to use as many of them as I could. In the planting bed that is mostly blueberries and native strawberry, I pulled most of the strawberries and replaced them with compost and wildflower seeds, mostly Clarkia varieties, Linanthus, Baby Bue Eyes and Chinese Houses. I also had a packet of Collomia, which I’ve never grown before; I’m curious to see how they do. I left a few of the strawberry plants. If all goes well we should have a good wildflower show next year, and then the strawberry will start to make a comeback by the year after that.

Yesterday's Handiwork

I also took out most of the plants in the main bed beside our new office shed. This bed got a lot of the same wildflowers as the blueberry bed, plus ‘Moonglow’ California Poppy and Tidy Tips, and I added Ipheion and Brodiaea to the Brodiaea and Triteleia bulbs that are already there. Our dog likes to sunbathe in this bed during the summer months, but I’m hoping she’ll wait until after the wildflowers have finished blooming.

Acer palmatum Japanese Sunrise

Our Maples have good color this year. The Japanese ‘Sunrise’ is a beautiful yellow, the native Vine Maple is scarlet, and the seed-grown Japanese Maples are more purple than I remember. Other deciduous plants like the Chinese Pistache, the Spicebush and the Redtwig Dogwood aren’t showing much color.

vine Maple, Acer cirnatum, with Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum

Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum

One deciduous thing out of the ordinary: our Ninebark has already put out fresh foliage. It usually leafs out again in early February, so I’m curious to see if it will drop these new leaves or hang onto them. It doesn’t seem so strange to see it leaf out with the start of the rains, but it hasn’t done that in previous years. Probably the clearest sign the garden is happy the rains are here.

Ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus

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