Henry Mitchell was born on this day in 1923 and died on November 12, 1993. I knew next to nothing about garden writers or Henry Mitchell when I first picked up The Essential Earthman, but it was love at first read. I'll try to refrain from my usual gushing (although you can find plenty of that in this blog's "Henry Mitchell" category). Instead, let me offer up a sampling of his wit and wisdom, plucked almost at random from a quick flip through the pages of Henry Mitchell on Gardening:
From "Thomas Jefferson, an Optimistic Gardener":
This broadening of scope is the single most definitive quality of the true gardener: if you fail in small things and cannot perfectly manage your small garden, then expand and take on three times as much. That is gardening orthodoxy and Jefferson believed it with all his heart.
From "The Perfect Moment":
With tender new leaves and flowers all about, it is easy for the gardener to think he has done well. Payday will come in summer, when all defects shall be revealed. This is Scarlett O'Hara time in the garden. Tomorrow is another day. These are the few days the gods give us to jump up and down in. Tomorrow, when all that is wrong will be evident in the garden — tomorrow, well I say tomorrow is spinach and I say the hell with it.
From "After the Rain, a Deluge of Tasks":
As I watched Nightline on television, it suddenly struck me that the moonflower vines have not yet been planted. The seeds should have gone in the first of May. That program specializes in things to worry about and often reminds me of dreadful deficiencies in the garden.
From "The Wings of August":
In 1933 I had my picture in the paper in the town I grew up in, with the mayor standing beside me. We looked equally stupid, as I recall, but the point was that I was planting a crape myrtle that had been proclaimed the official tree of the city. It does seem so long ago, and I often wonder if those crape myrtles I planted as a kid are still in that garden.
From "Support Groups on High":
The totalitarian frame of mind is now so common in America that I know there are apartments in which you cannot have a dog, cat, or pet mouse or grow anything on the balcony railing. Such apartments also forbid corn bread in the kitchen, I suppose, and if you like tyranny you go along with it, but my advice, if you find yourself living in such a place, is to wake up, tell the landlord to go to hell, and move out.
From "The Latest Dirt on the Garden's Doings":
Some months ago I had to cancel a talk in Lawrence, Kansas, and a television crew arrived here to show, I suppose, that I was seriously off my feed and could not travel. We waddled about the garden, which was ill kempt. Months later I finally screwed up the courage to play the tape of this ill-considered venture, and as I had feared (in my initial protests at the very idea of television), it showed me as rather fat and far from youthful. Talk about distortions. But the star of the program was a mockingbird, singing in top form at top volume. Yet at the time of the filming we were unaware of so sweet a songster as we galumphed about. The moral is clear enough, that most of the beauty of a garden we were oblivious to, being preoccupied with absurd concerns about bugs on the nasturtiums or a certain rounding out of the body. And I will say this for the garden in that film, and it's about all I can say for it: it was rather funny, and the growth was as luxuriant as a jungle — it showed a place where mockingbirds sing like mad.