Saturday, February 10, 2007

Henry Mitchell

I'd never heard of Henry Mitchell until a few months ago (so sue me, as Henry would have said), but as I was looking through the gardening genre of books at, a few of his caught my eye. I'm right now reading Henry Mitchell On Gardening and when I'm done with that, I intend to read his other books, which are a collection of essays he's written. He used to do a column called Earthman for the Washington Post, before his death in 1993.

He was an ordinary gardener like you and me, and not afraid to admit his shortcomings or failed attempts at growing a zone 9 plant in a zone 7 garden. Like the rest of us, when we see a flower that we must have, we near-sightedly read the tag and dismiss the information that might deter us from having it. If we fail and it freezes out one winter, we try again, planting it in a different location. We mulch it. We mulch it more. By gosh and by golly, we will grow that plant. It's as if someone double-dog dared us. After all, the plants don't read the tags, do they?

Gardeners, as a group, are somewhat delusional. If you don't like that word, then try idealistic.

" But you don't garden and deal with gardeners for very long before
you discover that good sense has little to do with it."

- Henry Mitchell

We are on a never-ending quest to grow the gardens we see in our minds. And sometimes when we look at them,
we see our dream realized, even if others don't. But our gardens are mostly for our own enjoyment anyway, so it doesn't matter.

Mitchell lived in our nation's capital and wrote of his exploits there, but there are gardening basics that apply whether you live in Key West or Anchorage, and many people learned these through his writings. He shared his everyday experiences and there was always a tidbit of information that you didn't know before, as well as insight into his delightful personality. He related to us, and vice versa.

If you read blogs or write blogs, you'll soon see that Henry Mitchell had the routine down, long before blogging or online journaling became popular. Thankfully - gratefully - his columns have been preserved in his books:


Carol Michel said...

You should join the Garden Bloggers' Book Club, and read gardening related books with other like minded garden bloggers. We read The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell in November. This month we are reading Two Gardeners: Katherine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence -- A Friendship in Letters.

Details for the book club are on my blog. All are welcome and we even have ways to participate even if you don't read the selected book.

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