The hornworm’s summer

hornwormIf you’ve ever raised tomatoes, you’re likely to have seen these guys. Usually, you first see a bunch of black detritus under your ravaged plants. They merge so perfectly into the tomato leaves, that it takes awhile to find them.  Stanley Kunitz was a renowned gardener as well as a poet, and wrote a  Hornworm poem in two parts, Summer and Autumn.  Here’s the summer part:

Summer Reverie

Here in caterpillar country
I learned how to survive
by pretending to be a dragon. Continue reading “The hornworm’s summer”

I’ve been waiting for this…

I’ve had this Epiphyllum for a long time, but it’s been languishing in the wrong corner of the garden–too much sun or not the right sun. A few months ago I moved it towards the street where it gets filtered late afternoon sun, and I’ve been watching it revive and bud… This morning, the first bloom.


And lots more to come…


All of which made me think of Stanley Kunitz, as I often do when I’m in the garden, as he was almost as famous for his garden as his poetry.

But often, when weeding especially, creating my own little piles (both physical and metaphorical), I think of this poem by Louise Glück…

Purple Bathing Suit

I like watching you garden
with your back to me in your purple bathing suit:
your back is my favorite part of you,
the part furthest away from your mouth.

You might give some thought to that mouth.
Also to the way you weed, breaking
the grass off at ground level
when you should pull it by the roots.

How many times do I have to tell you
how the grass spreads, your little
pile notwithstanding, in a dark mass which
by smoothing over the surface you have finally
fully obscured. Watching you

stare into space in the tidy
rows of the vegetable garden, ostensibly
working hard while actually
doing the worst job possible, I think

you are a small irritating purple thing
and I would like to see you walk off the face of the earth
because you are all that’s wrong with my life
and I need you and I claim you.

Louise Glück

So deceptively simple and darkly complex! Now we’ll wait and see what the deer think of the Epiphyllum–I doubt my feeling if they eat it will be complex at all.

Blake Garden

In North Berkeley, tucked off Arlington Avenue across from the library, is a street called Rincon Road. If you turn onto it, after a few hundred yards you come upon an imposing gate, behind which is the Blake Garden created in the twenties by the wife of then UC President Anson Blake and Mabel Symmes, a landscape architecture student. Today it’s run by a conservancy and linked with the landscape architecture school at UC.

The garden is a wonderful mix of the formal–pillars, reflecting pool, and the whimsical (in the album below). On any non-holiday weekday, the gate opens at 8 am, and you can wander the woodland or grassy paths, look at the reflecting pool and the gardens, and see one of the ongoing projects the students create. It’s a wonderful amble any time of year, and right now there are some particularly entrancing projects to look at–the vegetable garden with its pole-bean teepee, a tule-grass canoe (where is baby Moses?), a sinuous reed tunnel for crawling through, a bamboo culvert to a water tank:


And it occurs to me that Stanley Kunitz, a former poet laureate of the US who lived almost to his 100th birthday, was also famous for his garden. He celebrated it in a book published about five years ago, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden.  My favorite poem of his, though, is about his father’s suicide and its impact on his life. I first heard this recited by Marie Howe: Continue reading “Blake Garden”