I have enjoyed gardening even during this cold damp early spring, and Spring always makes me think of two fine horticultural columnists associated with the “Washington Post”: Henry Mitchell and Adrian Higgins. Both offer more than the soil and plants of gardening. They help us see our inner gardener and not be disillusioned as we set about planning our own gardens. They take the ego out of gardening but add the personality.
Henry Mitchell is the subject of this entry. So much has been written about him that there is really nothing that I can add. If you want to read a wonderful essay that will sum up what Henry Mitchell means to gardeners, read Deborah Needleman’s “The Anti-Martha: The late, great Henry Mitchell that appeared in Slate.”
There is a Charlottesville connection here as well. Mitchell attended the University of Virginia until World War II began, and he served in the Armed Forces. He lived in Washington DC from 1970 until his death in 1993. A journalist already, he began his garden writings for the “Washington Post” in 1973 and continued that column until he died. His three books on gardening are available in the library: The Essential Earthman: Henry Mitchell on Gardening, Henry Mitchell on Gardening, and One Man’s Garden, which was published posthumously.
For gardeners at any level he will offer gardening and philosophical insights. Read the following quotes then get yourself to your garden:
“Fortunately, by the thirtieth or fortieth or fiftieth year or thereabouts, the gardener strikes that balance by which he has the best of all seasons. By the time one is eighty, it is said, there is no longer a tug of war in the garden with the May flowers hauling like mad against the claims of the other months. All is at last in balance and all is serene. The gardener is usually dead, of course.”
“Gardening is not some sort of game by which one proves his superiority over others, nor is it a marketplace for the display of elegant things that others cannot afford. It is, on the contrary, a growing work of creation, endless in its changing elements. It is not a monument or an achievement, but a sort of traveling, a kind of pilgrimage you might say, often a bit grubby and sweaty though true pilgrims do not mind that. A garden is not a picture, but a language, which is of course the major art of life.”