Posts Tagged ‘Margery Fish’

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Allan had gone boating.

My mission was to get enough compost to mulch the battered soil around the new water feature….which has leaked another half an inch or so.

I need to make some driftwood or other access points for frogs to get in there.

My hope for mulch lay in compost bin one.

compost critter

I got four red wheelbarrows of coarsely sifted compost.

Bin one empty:

Center bed is better now, but I still need more mulch.

When I have time, I can surely get more from bins two through four, especially the lower half of bin four, which has been sitting the longest.

While gardening today and yesterday, I thought at times about gardening partners, with some envy about couples I perceive as working hard together on their entire gardens.  The only couples who come to mind who I imagine doing this compatibly are the owners of The Bayside Garden and Mirabel Osler and her late husband, based on her book A Gentle Plea for Chaos.  (Even those two had a somewhat traditional division of labor, with him doing the mowing.)

In our garden, Allan now does the mowing (although at first I did, before the garden got big enough to needs lots of work).  He has his garden, on the east side of the house, small enough to be kept perfect, and I have the rest…not a half and half arrangement like Ciscoe and Mary Morris’ evenly divided and competitive garden.  Unlike that equally garden-obsessed pair, Allan does have other interests.  However, I can count on him to help whenever asked and to build cool things like my greenhouse lean to.  Longtime readers have seen much photo proof of his efforts.

In two previous relationships of mine, Bryan had no interest in gardening…until years after we broke up, when he developed a passion for collecting bamboo.  And he was a pot farmer, which I suppose counts as gardening but was not something I was involved in at all.

I was not obsessed with gardening during the five years when Bryan and I were together, although I did try to care for my garden that had once been my grandmother’s. Bryan and his friend Owen planted a parking strip tree for meyeads before I turned the parking strip into a garden.

Chris had no interest in the garden, to the point where I one day gave him an ultimatum, that I would no longer read any of his writing until he started to appreciate my art, the garden itself.  He did listen.  His next spouse was also a gardener.  Now, many years later, he has an allotment patch.  If he had been such a gardener in 1990, we would probably still be together!

(I must also point out the irony that both Bryan and Chris were completely opposed to having children while in their 20s and 30s, and both changed their minds in their mid 40s, very much to my disgruntlement at the time.)

After I became an obsessed gardener, Bryan built a wonderful fence for me at the back of my Seattle garden, just because he was a great friend.

And Bryan and his mum Louise helped prune my pear tree and pick the fruit each year.

Robert was my co-gardener both at work and in the garden.  Even though I did the plant collecting, I remember us gardening together at home and even have photos to prove it.

From our Seattle garden:

Robert watering
Robert building a twig arbour
Robert pruning the pear tree, early spring
Making our Ilwaco garden, 1995

However, I am content to garden large expanses of my current garden mostly on my own.  I get to make the decisions without a lot of argy bargy, have help to call for if something is to big for me to handle alone, and I am well aware that not all gardening partnerships are idyllic—especially with someone like Walter.

This evening, I finished reading We Made a Garden by Margery Fish, whose spouse was the worst example I have ever read of the kind of gardening partner that you do not want to have.

I did remove the label, and I put it back on.

I found a perfect essay about Margery and Walter right here on Slate, titled A Gardener’s Revenge, which is just what I was thinking while reading the book.

I remembered what Ann Lamott wrote: “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

All about Walter:


When she wanted to plant in amongst paving, “Walter would not have [that] at any price. I was allowed a few very small holes…. Time has improved things and a lot of the …cement has become loosened…helped…by a crowbar.”

He insisted on blue clematis and ridiculed the red ones she liked. “I was warned I was wasting my time.” He referred to them as “your red clematis” until they began to do well, and then they were “ours”.

He would not let her have a wisteria….  “Since Walter died, I have cut down the ampelopsis.  He could never be persuaded to have a wisteria because he said they would take too long to flower.  Now I have two, and they flowered two years after I planted them.”

He hovered and criticized.

I am reminded of how my mother, after my father died, even though she missed him dreadfully, soon confessed to me that “it’s kind of a relief to not get made fun of” for her gardening efforts.

Margery’s stonework “did not meet with approval.”  Walter liked to “gaze with horror” at what she had done the day before and make snide remarks.

He insisted on planting pole roses and gaudy dahlias in the area she had planned out, so that she had to work her planting around them.

“He never worried about treading on my plants, or smothering them with the great piles of earth that were thrown up, so I had to be careful not to plant anything” near the dahlias.

Margery wanted a year round garden but was “not allowed to plant many out of season plants” because all Walter wanted was a summer garden.

I found this the most telling paragraph of all:

(She was frightened of harming her little plants so dotted the manure around carefully.)

Oh, but wait, there’s more:

You might say that there must be another side to the story. I say what a horrible, dreadful man. After he died, and the pole roses and big showy dahlias went away, and cracks were made in the paving for Margery to plant as she liked, she became a famous garden writer and a great inspiration to cottage style gardeners of today.  It was in watching Carol Klein’s wonderful Life in a Cottage Garden series that I learned of Margery’s books.  I now intend to read all of them.

We Made a Garden is invaluable for its plant lists and descriptions and I must get myself a copy of my very own, maybe with this lovely cover:

Postscript: Two days later, in Tales from Titchmarsh, I found Alan T. expounding on the same topic:

…planted and where….








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