Do or Do Not - There Is No Try

Loyal readers, if any of you are left, it has been a long, long time since I last wrote, and I apologize deeply for the radio silence. A litany of almost biblical proportions has kept me from my keyboard: epic journeys (we flew cross-country), blizzard (it snowed for an hour in DC), plague (my son had a fever), famine (I haven’t had lunch yet). And here comes the full confession: it’s cold and miserable outside, and I don’t want to garden. There – I said it. I. Do. Not. Care. About. Going. Outside. In the words of the noble Yoda, who today graces us with our title, I choose ‘do not.’ So how in good faith can I sit at my desk and tell you, brave and stoic readers, to get out there and dig? [spotify id="spotify:track:3Hkp1WixgTvAYcWs0DARcW" width="300" height="380" /]

And at last it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks – NO ONE wants to sweat or work or dig or plant or exert oneself right now. It’s midwinter, and it’s time to withdraw from the fray, curl up with a cup of tea and reflect on the year past and the year to come. From a gardening perspective, this is a vitally important time of year. Without leaves on branches, we can clearly see the structure of our gardens, and thus observe them with clarity. What’s not quite right? What’s actually quite beautiful but spends most of the year covered by a big leafy branch?

Photo: Goldsborough Hall viewed behind frost-encrusted grasses

It’s also a time think back on al fresco fun from the last year. Did you host a summer BBQ and wish you’d had more shade? Would your nightly drink outside after the damn children went to bed (whoops, I’ve said too much) been even better with some sultry evening fragrance floating past? Did you wind up with 1 carrot and 58 tons of tomatoes?

Datura 'Evening Fragrance' Photo: The Cornwallville Gardens

And what about the happy outcomes? My son discovered a lifelong obsession (well, 5 years and counting) with olallieberries thanks to a little vine I’d stuck in the ground three years ago. Hummingbirds discovered a Cigar plant (Cuphea micropetala) outside my kitchen window, and now we get to watch their dive-bombing turf wars while we eat our Wheaties. Small victories and happy accidents, but over the course of the year they added up to little triumphs that made life more enchanting and fun.

Hummingbird and Cuphea micropetala Photo: Russ Thompson, January 2010

“I have a cunning plan.”

– Baldrick, Black Adder 

So let’s make like Baldrick and plan, and I use the first person plural literally, not in the annoying bloggy way that seems so prevalent online. If there’s something you want to add or remove or achieve or change about your exterior space and you have questions or just generally don’t know where to begin, please email me and I’ll cover it in the blog. I’d like to undertake a few case studies in which we tackle landscape issues of a few readers and come up with easy, low-cost, gorgeous solutions. Hit me up at and you may just be our next Linden Green Case Study.

In the meantime, I want to share some planning I’ve been doing for a client whose big (2-acre) garden is undergoing a huge transformation. He has an untouched and sunny field at the bottom of a steep slope, with a creek behind it and a majestic Coast Live Oak spreading its lovely form above it. We have decided to plant an orchard  - 14 fruit trees with a meadow of poppies and bachelor’s buttons at their feet, and I expect it to be simple, fruitful (literally) and breathtaking. And I mention this because now and over the next few months – depending on where you live – is the perfect time of year to plant bare-root fruit trees.

Peach orchard Photo:, August 29

Bare root trees are dormant and must go into the ground before their growing season begins. This isn’t as horticulturally complicated as it sounds; your nursery will ship to you when they feel the time is right for your climate.

A few of my suggestions:

If you live somewhere warm but not too humid, like California, try:

George IV peach, Photo: Trees of Antiquity

  •  a peach, such as George IV, a white variety grown since 1820 and considered one of the best white-fleshed peaches in cultivation.
If you live somewhere with cold winters and cool summers, such as Maine or England, try:

Cox's Orange Pippin apple Photo: Trees of Antiquity

  • an apple, such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, cultivated since 1830, striped red and yellow, very juicy, and almost spicy in flavor.
If you live somewhere very warm and mild, like LA, Hawaii or Mexico, try:

Avocado tree Photo: Bill Britt

If you live in a city, especially one with a cold winter such as London, New York or Paris, and particularly if you have a small garden or balcony, try:

Violette de Bordeux fig Photo: Trees of Antiquity

  • Violette de Bordeaux fig, which is rich in flavor and does well in containers. This fig is hardier than most, but if your climate is very cold, bring it indoors for winter and enjoy its beautiful structure and any leaves that might remain on the tree.
If you’re a history buff, try:

Bartlett pear Photo: Trees of Antiquity

  • Bartlett pear (also known as Williams Bon Cretien), grown in England since 1700. It has a musky, slightly tart flavor and is delicious eaten fresh or used in cooking. Pear trees can live for many decades and those beautifying the French and English landscapes were planted by farmers in former centuries with foresight, strong arms and gentle souls.

Read more:

Buy more:

  • In the UK, buy fruit trees from Crocus.
  • In the US, use Trees of Antiquity.
  • Or best of all, visit a good, local nursery – categorically NOT B&Q or Home Depot or the like. You want a plantsman who knows what’s good and what works for your area.

And so, young Skywalker, we finish where we began, with Yoda of course. Cold and gloomy winter (and my lackadaisical attitude) is not entirely a case of ‘do not’ but rather ‘do a tiny bit’ and ‘think quite a bit’ and, hopefully come the summer, ‘eat a lot of extremely delicious fruit.’