Sunday, June 2, 2013

The 3000 Mile Garden

"It's a salmon coloured flower" was the reply I received when I asked about this Hibiscus which I bought a few months back at a local market.  When you spend so much time being a bit of a stickler for correct names of plants it is nice to have a few unknowns in the mix. Something can also be said for buying local whether it be food or plants. With plants you are likely to get ones which have adapted well to the climate and have particular desirable traits such as resistance to pests and disease or ability to flower well outside their normal seasonal range. Ability to withstand extremes of climate is also an important issue these days and one book which documents this well is The 3000 Mile Garden by Roger Phillips and Leslie Land (Pan Books 1992). This book (and later TV series) is based on an exchange of letters between Phillips in London and Land who gardens in Maine USA. At the time of writing both gardeners were battling drought and extremes of temperature. Included in the book are their lists of plants which survive extremes of dry and cold, always important information to pass on for those contemplating growing a particular plant outside its comfort zone. Phillips also tells of his joyous travel in Australia and on return he laments: 'Back in England everything seems very small and old fashioned. As a nation we have totally failed to invest in our future. I feel that it is most depressing: unless something radical happens we will become a very minor museum with our only asset our tourism'

It is Leslie Land however who shines from the pages of this book. Not afraid to call a spade a spade, with a career as an accomplished food and garden writer for The New York Times, she draws herself naked amongst her favourite garden plants celebrating the end of that long cold winter which is part and parcel of gardening in Maine. In summer there is the opportunity to cook a whole salmon in a bathtub while across the Atlantic, Roger Phillips enjoys a summer barbecue in his pride and joy, Eccleston Square in central London. This book is still available and is well worth seeking out.

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