A Halcyon June In My GardenTuesday, June 03, 2008
Monday was a sad day but an important one. Joan Hodgson, Donald Hodgson's widow, had indicated she wanted me to pass by to pick up a few hostas that I might want and to help her ID some that had no labels.
Sooner or later we must all go through the passage of deciding who gets what once we know we cannot part this world with any of it. Some may be lucky (are they?) to decide when they are alive, others may be unlucky (are they?) not to have to make that decision.
Donald Hodgson had converted (before he knew of his terminal cancer a year ago after winding down his wholesale hosta business) his backyard and front yard into a beautiful garden with winding paths, rare shrubs and trees, and hostas in clumps so large that made me salivate when I saw them.
Sadly he was not around to finish the garden and Joan had to get rid of some of the plants. At age 70 she must be able to handle the garden on her own.
The last time I had been in that garden Donald had given me a tour of the works while I waited for that moment when he would say, "Well Alex, which plants do you want to buy?" The price for his hostas which were tried and true specimens grown in large pots and kept for a few years before he would sell them, was far more reasonable than I could ever hope for. And Donald would always throw a few extra plants for nothing.
I remember one other day when I showed up with Rebecca and he said, "The best Hosta 'Halcyon' are the ones that come from Hosta 'June's that revert.
As I explained here about my fondness for the very blue Hosta 'Halcyon' becuase of its elegance and an ability to look good until late fall, my ears percked up. Donald and I both knew that the beautiful Hosta 'June' (below, left) was a spontaneous mutation of Halcyon in England.
When people come to my garden they invariably point at June and ask, "What is that?" or "Who is she?" While Halcyon is almost understated, June is quietly flamboyant. Donald was telling us that the best Halcyons where the ones that had been Halcyon at one time, become June, and then reverted or gone back to their roots. Donald gave Rebecca a pot of reverted June and when I saw it on Sunday afternoon at Rebecca's house I was breathless at its beauty and of leaves that did not have any spots. The plant is perfect. You can see some spots in the scan of the Halcyon leaf here (above, left, and the June leaf to its right).
Joan and I walked through the garden and when I would complain (when not being able to ID some plant,"Why is not Donald here to help?" Joan would say, "He is but I have yet to figure out how to communicate."
It was a sad afternoon and I told Joan and she understood when I mentioned, "This is going to happen to me some day. Perhaps over my roses, or my hostas or my negatives." Both of us understood that what we were doing was a sort of preparation for that final right of passage.
Before I left I went to one of the corners of Donald's garden and I pointed at a glorious plant (very much like the one below, in my garden) and I said, "Donald and I used to comment on how faithful, beautiful and ignored this ordinary hosta is. It is Hosta 'Antioch'".
As I look over this monitor on to the back garden I can spot Halcyon, June and Antioch. They are a piece of Donald in my garden. I will follow suit someday and be a piece in someone else's garden.