Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fleeting moments in the garden


It seemed like spring was a long time coming this year, but all of a sudden it is racing along too quickly.  I guess it's like that every year, but the things that usually bloom in February were late to get going and didn't emerge until mid-March.  Then everything started at once.

I am reminded of the cliche about how slow life seems to unfold when you're young, and then all of a sudden you're your parents' age, and the years start barreling by.  I'm caught in that web right now.  Inside, I feel like an 18 year old, but I wake up every morning in amazement at my age.  I feel very, very grateful to be here, but still it's a shocker to realize that all but one of the relatives of my parents' generation are gone from this world.  I'm at the top now!

But, back to spring.  It wasn't even a week ago that I captured this photograph of Viburnum juddii.  That day, I had gotten out of my car and knew that one of Margaret Moseley's fragrant viburnums was in bloom. I had to get Margaret, who is totally bedridden, but still has a sharp mind, to tell me which viburnum was next to the carport.  How amazing that at almost 99 years old she can know immediately the name and location of the shrub she planted decades ago.

On Sunday, when I revisited the garden, the flowers were just a little past their prime.  But others were coming on.  Near the back of the garden, another fragrant viburnum (V. x burkwoodii 'Mohawk') was wafting its scent in the cool breeze.  When I go out there next week, I feel sure her Viburnum carlesii (Korean spice viburnum - the first one she ever planted) will be in flower.  It's heavily budded now.  It, too, is highly fragrant.  Last to bloom of the fragrant viburnum series is V. x carlecephalum.  It has the biggest rounded flowers of the scented types.

Margaret collected viburnums, so there's not much she doesn't have.  I didn't see her more tender V. tinus this year.  It could have died or gotten cut down by mistake.  The macrocephalums and the plicatums will follow.  They are not fragrant but are showy.

In the book Margaret Moseley's A Garden to Remember, I explain that Margaret formed her garden by collecting four types of plants:  viburnums, hydrangeas, Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica.  She had all types of shrubs, trees and perennials, too, every one of which she planted herself, but the garden's seasons revolved around those collections.  She's always thought that collecting was a good way for a beginning gardener to get organized - and the chase for the different types was always challenging and fun.

Of all her plant material, viburnums rank up there with her favorites.  Marsha Yeager, a younger friend who is a garden designer and has a fabulous garden of her own, gave Margaret a copy of Michael A. Dirr's Viburnums (Timber Press).  Marsha's inscription reads:

"Dear Margaret~You introduced me to viburnums, and now they are one of my favorites - just like you!  Love, Marsha"

Later, when Dr. Dirr came to see Margaret's viburnums, he wrote an inscription in her book:

"Gardeners never grow old...the future is always more exciting than the past.  Pleased to know that there are two viburnum lovers in this world.  My best, Michael Dirr, 2008."

 Even though Margaret has grown old if you count age, she never did become an old gardener.  Every season was special, every new bud opening a joy.  That's the long-term message she has for younger generations.  If you read the book about her, or if you walk out into the garden she created and tended for four decades, you somehow come away with the exhilarating feeling that when it comes to a garden, the future is indeed "always more exciting than the past."