Against Nativism

THE STRAIGHT LINE IS IN BAD ODOR IN AMERICAN horticulture these days, along with just about anything else that smacks of Old World influence or the hand of man. This was first impressed on me rather violently a couple of years ago, after I published in these pages an account of a disastrous attempt at

The Seed Conspiracy

THIS IS THE SEASON OF THE garden seed, that time of pure promise when the entire contents of a quarter-acre patch of vegetables—the yield of which will burden a small truck come August—can still fit inside an envelope and be sent cross-country by Fed Ex. The seeds themselves betray no sign of the prodigies they

Look Who’s Saving Elm

Without question, the dinkiest plant in my garden these last few seasons has been the American elm tree my father-in-law gave me three years ago. I realize that “dinky” is not a word often attached to elm trees—”graceful” or “venerable” or even, in recent years, “dead” are a lot more like it. But there is

A Gardener’s Guide to Sex, Politics and Class

Call me bookish, but I bet there are many of us who choose their pastimes on the basis of the accompanying literature. Fly-fishing would hold little appeal if not for the shelf-ful of classics that comes with it, and until snowmobiling or pickerel-fishing acquire a halfway decent literature, people like me will have no trouble

My Two Gardens

My first garden was a place no grown-up ever knew about, even though it was in the backyard of a quarter-acre suburban plot. Behind our house in Farmingdale, on Long Island, stood a rough hedge of lilac and forsythia that had been planted to hide the neighbor’s slat wood fence. My garden, which I shared

Into the Rose Garden

PREPARING A BED FOR ROSES IS A LITTLE LIKE getting the house ready for the arrival of a difficult old lady, some biddy with aristocratic pretensions and persnickety tastes. The stay is bound to be an ordeal, and you want to give as little cause for complaint as possible. All of a sudden the soil

Autumn, It’s No Garden Party

The harvest moon sometimes ushers in such a frost, always one of nature’s heartbreakers, since typically it is followed by a few weeks of fine growing weather. When the tomatoes have succumbed to a September frost, and hang like black crepe from their cages, those weeks can seem cruel—the tease and rebuke of missed opportunities.

Putting Down Roots

FOR A WHILE NOW, I’VE been thinking about planting a tree—a real tree. It’s not that I haven’t planted trees before, but all of these have been minor ones, lightweights really, the kind of trees you can justify in the short term: white pines to screen the road, dwarf fruit trees, a crab apple or

Weeds Are Us

Ralph Waldo Emerson, who as a gardener really should have known better, once said that a weed is simply a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet discovered. “Weed,” that is, is not a category of nature but a human construct, a defect of our perception. This kind of attitude, which draws on an old American

Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns

Anyone new to the experience of owning a lawn, as I am, soon figures out that there is more at stake here than a patch of grass. A lawn immediately establishes a certain relationship with one’s neighbors and, by extension, the larger American landscape. Mowing the lawn, I realized the first time I gazed into