A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

I read A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis on the car ride home from our vacation. Felt like a journey or a walk with Lewis himself. Written after the death of his wife, a Grief Observed began as his journal to work things out, but he thought it might help others cope with their own loss so he published it. As he says, it is the story of him first, his wife, and God. In that order.

Porcelain Berry Bright…

Another vine which is giving me great pleasure at the moment is Vitis heterophylla, an East Asian.  You can’t eat it, but you can pick it and put it in a little glass on your table, where its curiously coloured berries and deeply cut leaves look oddly artificial, more like a spray designed by a jeweler out of dying turquoises than like a living thing.

 

-Vita Sackville-West
In Your Garden; October 12th, 1947

As I write this it’s raining.  Not a downpour but rather a slight drizzle.   I took a walk around my garden and noticed my honeysuckle had burst forth some new blooms.  I rested by them a moment to catch their scent.  I won’t smell them again for many months.  For here, in this state, we have been trained to succumb to the “fall” of good weather, predictable weather, and give in to the desolate, the gray, the wet, the cold.  I sat there with the last breath of honeysuckle flower and watched the sparrows fly madly in flocks above the autumn colored leaves.  It made me rather sad, but one must shrug it off, live day by day and start plans for next year’s garden.

So for next year, remember: when the garden gets rather dreary like this, one can always plant something that will excite and add color.  Intrigued by Vita’s description, I was determine to find myself some of these magical autumn berries for myself.   I went to the local nursery and found something similar.  Because the Vitis heterophylla doesn’t grow well in our harsh Michigan winters.  I have found instead porcelain berries, the Ampelopsis brevipedunculata.  They belong to the same family and are almost identical, save their foliage.

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The berries started to appear around mid-September, but because I had just purchased it from a green house, it might have been a little ahead of its natural schedule.   I planted it against my garage and gave it some lattice to climb up.  It does not have “suckers” so it will not do any damage to your walls.  It does however have those cute little arms that reach out and twist themselves around whatever they can.  It grows quickly but not as quickly as the morning glory vine which I talked about last week in my post, Morning Glory: A Warning.  This one seems rather easy to control since its growing period occurs before the berries appear.  Then it conserves all its energy to produce its brightly colored fruit.   You can trim it and train it to grow just how you want it.

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They are fun.  I couldn’t believe the different shades of blues and purples it will produce.  I picked up a couple antique butter dishes like the one above and put a handful in with a little water (otherwise they’ll shrivel), they do make quite a display.  In a larger bowl with some of their beautiful leaves intermixed would be a nice too.  Or perhaps drying them?There are countless decorative ideas one might do with them.

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So if you’re looking for some added color to your garden or want something out of the ordinary, try porcelain berries.  They are a fun juxtaposition to all the autumn colors we’re so used to seeing.  So much so they might become the conversation piece of your garden.   After all,  it isn’t something your neighbor might grow.  Visitors that might not know what they are will be intrigued and applaud your discovery. 

It’s good for one’s garden to inspire others with a bit of whimsy and wonder.  Don’t you think?

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Short and Sweet Woodruff

There are things we grow in our gardens and forget about, and then remember suddenly, as I have just remembered the Sweet Woodruff, that meek, lowly, bright green native of Britain, so easy to grow, so rapid in propagation-every little bit of root will grow and extend itself-keeping weeds down and making a bright green strip or patch wherever you want it.
It is not showy.  Its little white flowers make no display, but it is a useful carpenter for blank spaces, and it certainly makes sweet bags for hanging in the linen cupboard to discourage the moth or to put under you pillow at night.

-Vita Sackville-West
May 14th, 1950
In Your Garden

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I read about these late one night and was intrigued by a certain useful quality the Sweet Woodruff possesses.   So intrigued and attracted, that I headed to the nursery strictly to get my hands on some.   I’ve since planted it all over my flower beds and under trees, so my supply is great and my harvest will be plentiful.

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Vita advises that if you cut the leaves in autumn, which, if they grow as rapidly as I’m told, I would just cut their long stalks of leaves and hang them upside down as you would a spice.  They will not have a scent until they are dried.
After which, you can make them into little sachets which smell of freshly mowed grass and lingers for years.  Imagine the lift you’ll receive when in the dead of winter you’ve forgotten what grass looks like let alone smells like!  Slip it under your pillow to remind yourself.  You’ll sleep peacefully knowing that spring is always right around the corner.