Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In the Thick of It: the Garden and the Novel


           As the month ends, a great month, a fantastic July for growing things, I have to wonder if it's time to pick some flowers.
            They grew tall this month, some of them, and thick, a lot of them.
            The tall phlox, with its pinkish violet blooms (top photo), push up to grab as much of the mid-summer sun as they can get while they're still fresh and young. They crowd each other and expand into any place they can take for their own before some other plant takes it. I find them in places where I don't really want, but I think, well in a month they'll flower.
            The phlox combine with the yellow blossoms -- the Rudbeckia (top photo, yellow blossoms), the taller and more persistent daylilies, the baby blue balloon (last pic) flowers, the white gooseneck loosestrife, which curve up and then down, little sine-curves of finger-pointing white blossoms, and the white Queen Anne's Lace (last) to make a busy upper-story in the perennial garden.
            Surely they could spare a few blossoms.  
            Bright colors also appear on the cone flowers, the red Mandeville roses (third photo), the red lobelia, the purple fuzzy Liatris, the ever-climbing morning glory (second photo), and a still lively array of newcomer daylilies that I'm grateful to for expanding the season.
            What of the fat fuzzy white "fairy candles"? The bees love them and drag their legs all through the cottony 'candles' of the tall stalky blossoms. The blaze in the shade.
            Should I take some inside. Will they flame as well indoors?
            D. H. Lawrence made the classic case against cut flowers in his iconic novel of young love and mother-love "Sons and Lovers."
            "I don’t want the corpses of flowers about me,” his biographical stand-in coming of age character Paul Morel maintains, in rejecting the desire of his first love, adolescent Miriam, to pick the wildflowers they both admire and take them home to put in a vase.
            Actually, he doesn't like Miriam's whole approach to nature. “You're always begging things to love you," Paul upbraids her, "as if you were a beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn on them--”
            Lawrence was a celebrated love poet ("Look! We have come Through!"), travel writer, and early theorist on modern psychology, in addition to novelist. His stand-in spokesmen have scathing things to say about his own early 20th century English society, in all social classes. His deeper characters, whether uneducated peasants, or anguished self-questioning aristocrats, have a deep connection with nature.
            Paul Morel, a coal miner's son just as "Bertie" Lawrence himself was, trekked all over the countryside, drew and painted plants, and bared his soul beneath the stars. It's not surprising he has strong feelings about flowers.
            While still la teenager, working class Paul takes his first fulltime job in a factory. "Already [Lawrence writes] he was a prisoner of industrialism. Large sunflowers stared over the old red wall of the garden opposite... He was being taken into bondage. His freedom in the beloved home valley was going now."
            Does that mean that Paul is right when he complains that cut blossoms are nothing more than "the corpses of flowers"?
            I don't thinks so. Flowers are the plant's way of persuading people to keep growing them -- and allow them to keep going and going and going. We'll never pick them all (and personally I never pick more than a couple). Some of the seed will always escape and find its own little piece of earth to start a new branch of the family. They spread their likeness, root, stem and flower in a deathless expansion of life.
            It appears to be working. Our black-eyed susans, to take one example, are all over the place.