Archive for February, 2011


I’ve no real facts to base this on. But it seems to me that, when I was growing up, there were many more opportunities to run into pussy-willows growing ‘wild’ in the northern woods of suburbia. They were the harbinger of spring and, since as a child I loved all things soft and furry, the glossy catkins were a favorite of mine.

Though easy to root and propagate, ‘Salix discolor’ are ‘dioecious’. If you see yellow catkins at the time of pollen release, it’s a male.

Gosh, this little rhyme brings back an innocent time.

I know a little pussy
Her coat is silver gray
She lives down in the meadow
Not very far away.
She’ll always be a pussy
She’ll never be a cat
‘Cause she’s a pussy willow
Now what do you think of that?

Sure, one can buy branches and shrubs today at random florists or online, but that’s not as much fun as finding them on a walk or getting a few cuttings from the odd lady down the street.

What childhood pussy willow stories can you pull from the backwoods of your mind?

Picture source: Wikimedia Commons

Nancy R. Peck


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Since Presidents’ Day is coming up I assigned myself a little First Lady reading. Excerpts from Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” journal-column touch on a morning view of the White House gardens on a very agenda-ed day, June 9, 1939. There was to be a visit from King George VI and the Queen of England.

“The President told me firmly that I must ready at ten minutes before eleven.”

After making the rounds of every room with White House housekeeper Mrs. Nesbitt and explaining to her the English customs of morning tea, bread, butter and water with no ice, she writes:

“I think Mr. Reeves, the head gardener, has done the most beautiful job with the flowers in and around the house.” She profusely compliments him and his assistants. “It has meant a great deal to him [Mr. Reeves] to have such wonderful flowers sent in from various parts of the country.” Roses have been sent from New Jersey, “pink gladioli from Alabama, and orchids,” to be used that night for centerpiece, “come from a friend in New York City.”

“When I went out on the porch for my breakfast, I could not help exclaiming over the gorgeous vases of deep purple gladioli standing by each column.”

“The railings of the steps leading down to the garden are covered with honeysuckle in bloom and the big magnolia tree planted [in 1835] by Andrew Jackson has opened wide its blossoms.”

She goes on to write that she expects the rest of her day may be “somewhat busy . . .garden party at the British Embassy . . . I do not see that there is going to be any time . . . to do more than remove a hat!”

This was the first visit from a reigning British Monarch on U.S. soil ever—“two people who have impressed their sympathetic personalities upon a continent,” Mrs. Roosevelt writes. The six-day visit started formally but ended casually at Hyde Park for a Sunday picnic of Virginia Ham, Smoked Turkey, Rolls, Cranberry Jelly and Hot Dogs (if weather permits).

Source: The White House Historical Association—The Household Staff Prepares for a Royal Visit http://www.whitehousehistory.org

Additional source: FDR Library documents http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/royalv.html

Photo source: Serge Melki, Flickr Creative Commons

Nancy R. Peck

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“The first impression for a visitor arriving in a town is often formed by their view from a train carriage, and it is a disgrace that view is so often a degraded and dirty one that suggests a lack of care or pride in the area.”—Bill Bryson


How many times have you ridden on a train where railway property litter is just part of the scenery? I can’t think of a train trip when that wasn’t the case. Especially entering and emerging city rail stations, I’ve seen the strangest combination of things strewn—car seats, discarded wheel-less strollers, open-for-business signs, crumpled venetian blinds, things I haven’t been able to identify, hair-dryers, wigs. And everything plastic known to Man has just “blown” over the embankment.

As it turns out, this is also a serious pet peeve of Bill Bryson, current president of Campaign to Protect Rural England. (He doesn’t know it, but Bill also has the distinction of being one of my favorite Laugh Out Loud armchair-travel writer-humorists.*)

“This generation of people has a duty to pass the countryside on in as good a condition as we can.”

“In one of the most beautiful countries in the world,” (Bill, is it ok to call you Bill?) says “I just can’t understand how someone could open up a car window and toss out an empty pizza box.” That is something that has baffled so many of us over many a decade.

Since 1926 CPRE has been “campaigning for the beauty, tranquility and diversity of the countryside.” It is spearheading a movement to use a little enforced law requiring rail companies and public highway agencies to keep their properties clear of litter and rubbish. If written requests to agencies go unheeded, then anyone in the public can use a legal mechanism and file a Litter Abatement Order to enforce the law. Introduced by the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, this also applies to local councils, schools, colleges, hospitals, port authorities and airports. If you live in England, CPRE has instructions for you.

There are many conservation and landscape preservation issues CPRE addresses—over and above preserving hedgerows, championing for forests, deterring roadside advertising, sprawl and traffic, fly-tipping (sneaky dumping on the fly). Explore the CPRE website http://www.cpre.org.uk/home and their publication library http://www.cpre.org.uk/library.

On the right sidebar here at Garden Club Salon, see the “Blogroll” if you’d like to link to similar organizations in the U.S.—Keep America Beautiful, Scenic America, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, The Trust for Public Land. Use your favorite search engine to locate those U.S. states that have their own organizations dedicated to landscape protection.

*Bill Bryson was born in Iowa in 1951 but has spent most of his professional life living in England when he isn’t traveling. Among his many books are A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Notes from a Small Island, Down Under, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Made in America.

Thanks Bill, and thanks to all our friends at CPRE.

Nancy R. Peck 

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Floriography. Though you won’t necessarily find that word in the dictionary, you may have seen it about referring to the “language of flowers.” In Victorian times, in prior centuries and in other parts of the world, the variety of specific plants, flowers and their colors have been used to communicate hidden, coded messages and evoke sentiments. It’s not an exact science, mind you, as over the ages meanings have been misconstrued and cross-pollinated. Nevertheless, I have gathered a LOVE bouquet out of a huge garden of meanings. Here we go:

Acacia, yellow = secret love

Carnation, red = my heart aches for you, deep romantic love, passion

Carnation, white = pure love, faithfulness

Forget-me-not = true love

Honeysuckle = devoted affection

Lilac, purple = first emotion of love

Mallow = consumed by love

Rose, red = true love

Rose, coral = desire, passion

Ivy = fidelity, marriage

Ambrosia = love returned

Indian Jasmine = I attach myself to you

Lady’s slipper = win me + wear me

Japan rose = beauty is your only attraction

Kennedia = mental beauty

Maiden blush rose = if you love me, you will find it out

Butterfly weed = let me go

Ice plant = your looks freeze me

Just checking to see if you were still reading. What mixed messages are you sending in your bouquets I wonder.

Nancy R. Peck

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If you crush the flower ‘bleeding heart,’ and red blood flows, your love has a heart full of love for you; but if the juice is white, he loves you no more.

From the Encyclopedia of Superstitions . . .— 1903.

Photo by ‘Geert Orye’—Flickr Creative Commons

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Photo captured by ‘mozzecork’ in Cork, Ireland—Flickr Creative Commons

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I distinctly remember pulling the petals off a daisy—over whatever boy was the object of my affections in a given youthful summer. But I never seemed to get the desired outcome. Should I start with “He Loves Me” or start with “He Loves Me Not?”

I suppose I could have counted the petals beforehand, applying some practical mathematics. Alas, at a tender age I was unlucky in love . . . unlucky in math, too, come to think of it.

He loves me. He loves me not.

This child’s play is actually a centuries-old game—thought to pre-date even 1800. See in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Tragedy of Faust, published in 1808, how it is an already established game. Excerpted and translated—Scene XII: The Garden 

Faust: Sweet darling! 

Margaret: Wait a moment!  (She picks a Marguerite and pulls the petals off one by one.)

Faust: What’s that for, a bouquet? 

Margaret: No, it’s a game. 

Faust: What?

Margaret: No, you’ll laugh if I say!  (She pulls off the petals, murmuring to herself.)

Faust: What are you whispering?

Margaret: (Half aloud.) He loves me – he loves me not.

Faust: You sweet face that Heaven forgot! 

Margaret: (Continuing.) Loves me – Not – Loves me – Not

He loves me!

Faust: Yes, my child! Let this flower-speech

Be heaven’s speech to you. He loves you!                                              

Do you know what that means? He loves you!


Source: www.poetryintranslation.com

Also readable through Project Gutenberg.

Picture source: ‘Vortesteur’, Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike

Nancy R. Peck

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