March 2010
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Perpetually a beginner - especially growing fruitsPerpetually a beginner –especially growing fruits

Yesterday, the warm air inspired me to prune the grape vines and other fruiting vines and trees.  While a very pleasant task,pruning these trees and vines always always makes me reflect on my inadequacies as a gardener.

My failures include the 10 year old grape vines that didn’t bother to produce at all last year and only grudingly before,and the 17 year old pear trees that have yet to even to form a fruiting bud. Same with the columnar apple trees received as gifts 10 years ago. And then there are the plum and sour cherry trees that do OK but just barely.  Each year I try to do things differently –adjust the soil, prune less or more – but there’s only once chance to get it right each year.  And as the years go by without little or no improvement,it does get discouraging.  Sigh.

Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote made late in his life,offers a bit of a consolation.  

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth,&no culture comparable to that of the garden. but tho’ an old man,I am but a young gardener.”

 –Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale,20 August 1811

For a guy with a bunch of slaves around doing the actual gardening work, many of whom must have been highly competent gardeners,that statement seems rather pretentious. Or maybe Jefferson in his old age truely was a “young gardener”since he spent most of his adult life away from home,his gardening mainly a theoretical exercise conducted from afar.

Regardless of your views on Jefferson, I highly recommend a visit to Monticello at this time of year.  Besides seeing his thoughtfully-designed gardens and learning about the life of an 18th Century foodie, I longingly recall the delicate salmon and magenta blossoms of dogwood and redbud drifting like clouds through the understory of the surrounding forests.  Sigh again.      

Finally,on a somewhat related and cheery note, check out this passionate Rant about why we should be glad to be aging gardeners.  None of this helps with my fruit growing skills,but I do feel better and suffice it to say,I’ll keep trying and when I stumble upon any fruit-related success, you’ll hear about it here.

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