DIRTIER The Every So Often Garden Memoir

September 19, 2016

Well it’s been a crazy time since I have last been in touch...
cherry blossoms on Montauk Highway
before Christmas
were just one
of the unlikely circumstances on which
we careened into 2016












To catch up:

Arrived from glorious autumnal Paris (November a perfect time to be there)


to a garden full of many hued leaves
and gigantic mushrooms growing in the back forty...


Only two days later, news of the horrific attacks
in Paris hit us hard. Having just been there, it was more difficult to comprehend what must have thrown a  dark change of mood over the City of Light.














We were giddy with joie de vivre during our divine two week stay. 
Lodged in a charming duplex




















on a cobblestone street








right in the heart of the oldest part of St Germain.




























This was a joyous neighborhood – just like the one
they targeted.  So awful. So sad.

But before this happened,
we had a wonderful time.

A few of our Parisian highlights:

The new Picasso Musee is superbly light-filtered




























and filled with the gentle Picasso drawings one
seldom sees:

and things, of course, that you can never
see often enough

These empty black frames represent Picassos that
have not been recovered from the Nazis.

Parisian enamelled doorways are simply the best

Their sense of color even better than the Italians.

Wouldn’t these enhance any garden?
So easy to locate stone fragments in Europe...

...so difficult to get them home

We went to many churches and marvelled

This one happens to be the American Church in Paris.
The French are fortunate that the Rector in the 1870s
happened to be the brother of J.P. Morgan.
It is magnificent.
He was very generous.

and this, of course, is Notre Dame –
more fantastic with each visit
and worth every minute of the wait in line

And along with the rest of the world,
they're crazy about The Pope

And we visited lots of museums –
which left no time for shopping,
except for the shoe store CLIF
which had all those sensible-but-chic
styles that the French actually wear.

The usual and the less usual museums:

Near the new Picasso Museum is the
Musee de la Chasse
and la Nature.
(or The Hunting Museum, if you prefer)
We would have missed this one had Kiki Smith
not told us that it
was "the most wonderful fetishization of objects
that she had ever seen"

So, of course, we couldn't wait...

It was chockablock with all sorts of
strange and exhilarating stuff...

the scale of this was larger than life

the white owl in a sonorous black room all to itself
was the epitome of eccentricity,
by the weird but fabulous Jan Fabre

 domestic oddities, curiosities and several things
totally inexplicable abounded

Musee Cluny is other-worldly in a different way -
filled with tapestries and
many not so obvious delights

Le Monde d’Arabe had a spectacular
Egyptian exhibit

that we enjoyed with our new and wonderful friends
The Pattersons

We met them on our Indian voyage -
he was the architectural lecturer and she is
a Brit painter and raconteur

the Musee d'Orsay is absolutely divine –you need an
entire day to take it all in

Lots of particularly ooh-la-la art and fabulous Orientalist

and the new Frank Gehry Louis Vuitton Foundation
smack in the middle of the Bois de Bologne
is a mind-blower...
the art is arresting and au courant but the building
is spectacular

and at the Palais du Tokyo (Paris' MoMA)
it was the art that was great.
Four fabulous concurrent shows:

Ugo Rondinone's incredible
homage to John Giorno

and this is just one striking scene from an incredible
Ragnar Kvarrtson installation

 the often missed replica of Brancusi’s atelier
which is part of, but behind,  the Pompidou -
in its own building

Paris is exceptional:
bookstores still proliferate,
every gallery window is provocative,
at the Opera we saw a fantastic production by the new maverick Romeo Castelluci, the shops are filled with
unique and charming things, while the Cafes
are simply a way of life.
Parisians have every right to be so proud.
I forgot how much I love Paris.



Giant mushrooms in the back 40.

The fig tree indomitably producing edible figs
despite its withering leaves

and continued to bear fruit with no leaves at all

The dogwood 'controversa' was more ethereal than ever as the leaves get whiter and whiter

The clinging yellow leaves of the Japanese Maple
‘Sango kaku’ against the bark beginning to turn
its crazy shade of red

while the red-leaved Japanese maples glow in the twilight

The dropped leaves of the Magnolia macrophylla make a fabulous trompe l'oile-like carpet

and dance among the hellebores that are priming to
show their stuff

Cyclamen coum leaves producing stupefyingly intricate
and beautiful patterns

and for those of you who are Cyclamen nuts,
the great HAH (Horticultural Alliance)had a great
December lecture (and even better, a plant sale)
by John Lonsdale,
proprietor of Edgewood Gardens
who is as much a nut for standout variegation
and odd plants like Arisaemas as I.
A valuable new source


They have made a better-than-ever
Open Day Directory
Hamptons Open Days,
on which I am included are

May 7
June 11

The garden should be at its most floriferous and flooded
with all the nubile colors of new growth.
I can't guarantee that the magnolia will be in bloom
or that there will be lingering hellebores,
by the look of things right now -
there could well be a very early spring

There are fat buds and signs of growth everywhere.



It’s always nice to know that one is appreciated.
DIRTIER has gotten to Tom K at the Santa Cruz Sentinel
and he seems to like it very much. 
So naturally – I Love Him.

A burst-open tree peony seed pod...
beautiful and black...how long might it take for those ripe-looking seeds to produce a flower? 
Oh – to have the patience
and find out for myself



I was hoping to convince the ducks, geese and seagulls to  congregate around the feed pattern
and make a peace sign.
It didn’t really work, but it caused some consternation with our swan, who rarely gets out
of the water 

Our Town Pond swan walked across the ice with its big black feet to get to this food.

A more successful visual treat was created and
photographed by Durell Godfrey

This could almost be a scene from our Nature Trail.

And since, in the whirl of things, I missed sending you my dearest Holiday wishes,  I send them along now with hopes that the first weeks of this new year have
been good to you.

and Dare I say ‘Peace”...

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© 2019,  Dianne Benson