Mental gardening


An eyeful of colourful marigolds on a black and white winter’s day.



The 3,000 Mile Garden is one of those books about gardening that isn’t anything like gardening books. During a long wait for a late spring, dipping into this extraordinary exchange of letters between Leslie Land, who lived in the northeastern United States, and Roger Phillips, based in London, England, is like sitting at a summer’s picnic table heaped with soul-satisifying deliciousness while the brightest conversation about plants, seeds, recipes, planting ideas and garden wisdom flowed. If you’re looking out the window today at a wintery black and white garden, get a mind-rush of colour by reading this excerpt from a letter Land, who sadly passed away last August, wrote in March of 1990.

I did do a lot of carpet bedding with the vegetables; perhaps by way of compensation. There were zigzag borders of leeks, with the triangular patches filled by assorted lettuces. Beds of fennel were ringed with rhubarb chard, and I got a lot of mileage out of seaweed mulch–the black is very effective.

There’s a fellow on our road who is a perfect carpet gardener of the old school. His whole front yard is filled with patterns and (except for the sunflowers) flat as the proverbial pancake. Plastic doodads are minimal, he does it all with flowers: zinnias, snapdragons, impatiens, petunias, dusty miller–the year before last he spelled out HELLO! in yellow and orange marigolds (yellow on an orange ground). Rather like an Escher in that you didn’t really see it until it was pointed out to you then you couldn’t not see it. This year yielded no similar splendour but I have hopes for next. Doesn’t do to be snobby, though–I think we all start out as naive painters and only move to Impressionism after a bit of practice.

Photo: Image courtesy of Nujalee/

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