Saturday, November 29, 2014



When Dick Cavett asked Katherine Hepburn about the sacrifices in her private life that she had to make in order to forge a career, she said without hesitation or regret, "You can't have it all."  

Then there's the play, "You Can't Take It With You" that I saw as a kid too young to "get it." Here I am at 67.5, still trying to "get it."

Hi, Lee,

Thanks for your thoughtful message. You have explained the situation tactfully, and of course you are right.

 I have had that spot since the community garden began, and I remember fondly having Helen, Dottie, you, and Mildred as my gardening neighbors. I also recall wonderful conversations with the original British caretaker of the property whose hand-hewn stakes I used until recently, when they disappeared. 

My son, now 33 and soon to become a father, was my 2-year-old gardening partner when we started the plot. His regular watering with the "poop tea" that we made from composted cow manure resulted in many fabulous crops of vegetables. One year when we had bounty from 24 tomato plants and a dozen eggplants, the saintly Italian grandmother who took care of N from age 3 weeks (and after whom he will name his first child) helped us make many quarts of the best tomato sauce. 

The garden has been and always will be a touchstone for me, but that is not a reason to prevent others from having a chance to create their own memories there. I will be leaving for Italy on May 7, and will want to ask Jeff for advice about what, if anything, I should try to transplant from my community garden plot to our house. So if the person who inherits my space can wait until that is sorted out, that would be best.

We are currently working out how to divide our time between New Haven and Italy, and even though I will no longer have a plot, whenever I am here I will be glad to help out by working in communal areas and supporting this garden which has been very dear to me.--Sincerely, D

What softened the blow of giving up my garden space was to get to know the lovely person, an apartment dweller, who would be taking over my space in the community garden. I was able to write to her.

Hi on this beautiful day for gardening--I wish I were doing that, instead of packing!

Below is the message I alluded to which I sent to Lee about my decision to leave the garden to the next generation, and which tells a bit about what it has meant to me.

I am very happy to know that it is going to you, a kindred spirit. When we first moved to New Haven in 1976 (three years before we bought our house), we lived in the top two floors of a Civil War-era brownstone on Court Street in Wooster Square. There, I used to garden in boxes on the balcony, so I know that you, too, will appreciate the change of being part of the gardening community. 

You didn't mention your current living situation, but until the end of August when I return to teaching, you are most welcome to spend time in our beautiful home garden. It is a calm oasis that has a country feel. My friend Jeff, a Master Gardner, helps keep it going in our absence, but the house will be empty except for our cat, who will be fed daily by our kind neighbor, Bill who lives in the grey house next door. He has a SPLENDID, AMAZING garden that one would never believe is in New Haven. Thoroughly European in spirit and design, it is a sight to behold. If you came over, you could get a glimpse from here, or I'm sure he'd be glad to give you a tour. 

          And now, back to the packing.--Sincerely, D

Dear D,

Thanks so much for the message.  I will soon be heading over to the community garden and will begin work in the beds with a clear conscience and without worry of digging up a treasured plant in my ignorance and enthusiasm to get started.  I have so much to learn, but I agree with you that that plot of earth will do so much to improve my quality of life in New Haven.  Until now, I have been trying to make do with a container garden on my apartment's balcony.  Even that effort has brought me tremendous joy, but with almost no sun and an army of aggressive squirrels it never felt quite fair to ask the plants to try to grow there.

And if you are willing to share it, I would really enjoy reading what you wrote about your garden’s early spring state; its heritage as an English garden is quite evident.  It is so warm and welcoming, and it will be such a pleasure to be surrounded by all those plants as I slowly work to weed and plant and identify what's there...  

(grin) So, I'm off to the garden!  Have a wonderful summer and do stop by if you're even in the park.  It would be great to meet you!

All the best and thanks so much for passing on to me this beautiful space.  I already absolutely adore it!--E

Hi, E,
Thanks so much for your wonderful message. You can absolutely go right to work on those raised beds which unfortunately are full of weeds. As a compulsive nut who used to have zero tolerance for weeds, I am embarrassed that things are in such disorder. But we have been living in Italy the last several summers, and my well-intentioned friends who were excited to take over the garden in my absence were not able to follow through. 

Two summers ago Master Gardener Jeff built the raised beds at a friend's request,  but I never got to use them myself, and the whole design of the garden changed quite a bit when I went off duty. It used to be a beautiful, wild English cottage-style garden, especially during the month of June.

I just skimmed a nice article about you. You and my writer/art historian son, would have a lot to talk about. He regularly lectures on the problem of crime as related to antiquities, and has founded a non-profit think tank to deal with the problem of art theft. Now 34 and a new dad, he's the little 2-year-old who helped me from the very first days of the garden. During the years he watered the 24 tomato plants and 12 eggplants with his little watering can (full of "poop tea" that we had made from dehydrated cow manure), we had bumper crops of everything. So there is a long history to that garden. 

I even recall having met the former gardener of the Brewster estate, a British gentleman named George, who was a fount of information and who gave me some beautiful stakes that I used for decades. He had whittled them himself. But sadly, someone must have thrown them away.

In any case, I'm so happy to leave the garden in your capable hands. For me, it has been a precious touchstone--one of the best things about New Haven. I can send you under separate cover something I wrote about it to Lee, when she urged me to give up the garden. 

By coincidence, I have a brother with the same name as yours, so maybe there's a bit of destiny in your taking over the garden.

It sounds like tomorrow will be a great day for gardening!--best, d

 Hi, Lee,
You must've read my mind! Jeff and I looked at the plot Thursday and decided on a few things to move from there to my house. We were both hoping that the new gardener might want to keep the tree, which would be nearly impossible to move, and which has been happily pushing its way out of its original pot for about 25 years. It's hard to believe that it started out as an eight-dollar tiny sapling. I mentioned to Jeff that it could also be used as a living trellis. 

I'm delighted to know that this space that has meant so much to me over the past 32+ years will be going to such a wonderful person as E, who I am sure will enjoy it.--best, D

Dear D,

Indeed, I adore the tree!  The whole plot has such a wonderful feel to it and I'm so excited to begin gardening.  My working plan for this season is to plant vegetables in the two beds and weed and tend the remainder of the plot, put in a few herbs, but mainly wait and watch the plants that are already there and see what happens.  It's such a wonderful garden and I have no plans to clear the whole space and start from scratch.  I want to build on what is already there.  I only met the plot this morning but already love it, and I chose it over another plot in large part because of that wonderful tree.  

All the best, and if you are ever in the garden and see me working there, please introduce yourself.  I love the tradition the garden carries (especially with the beautiful red maple), and it would be such a pleasure to meet you.--E

A POST-SCRIPT: When I got back to the States and went to visit the garden, I saw that it was thriving in E's hands. Voltaire was right to say, "il faut cultiver son jardin." He forgot to add, "and don't be greedy by hoarding your garden space when someone like E has been longing to have a space in the Community Garden."



Step One: Buy lotsa gadgets from "Gardener's Supply"


1. Move to Orvieto 
2. Befriend a local farmer who has been raising tomatoes in your valley for generations everything he does and do everything he says
4.staking, crop selection, etc.
5.even if everyone else is having a bad year in the garden, pick mountains of tomatoes 

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