Garden Writers

Someone reminded me of this e-mail I sent to my garden club last year and asked me if I would post it. I just re-read it, realized that sometimes I am grateful for hot and dry, and decided to share it with you.

Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2006 17:37:48 -0600
Home again.

Eleven days is about 6 days too many for me to be away from home. I know,
no whining. Or, MA, do you want some cheese with that whine?

Here is the saga of Garden Writers Symposium 2006. Please overlook the tired
grammar, poor syntax, and other foibles.

First of all, we scrambled to get to Philadelphia by non-reving (flying
standby) but managed to always get the last two seats on the each leg of the
trip. I was traveling with Kecia Carlson. She was a fairly good sport about
it all.

The first night in the Radisson at Valley Forge, the hotel was hit by a
tornado. I kid you not. Green lightning should have been the give-away.
Sideways rain happens in Boise, so that didn’t bother me. The fact the
building was rumbling was disconcerting, but, hey, thunder does that, right?
Then the lights went out at 11:15 pm. And stayed out. And, the water
stopped working. No flushing toilets kind of troubled me. And we were on
the 5th floor. Back to sleep. At 7:15 am the lights came back on and the
water was on. I scrambled to get to the first meeting and then went back
upstairs to take a shower at noon. All shampooed up and the water stopped.
Try toweling the soap out of your hair sometime. Someone’s car had $8000
worth of damage after a chunk of the building landed on it. Several people
gave up and went home.

I should mention the hotel was full of black folks gathered for the National
Primitive Baptist Convention. The ladies were totally decked out, all in
white no less, with huge fancy hats and sparkly suits. I had to ask what
‘Primitive’ meant. To them. It means they are baptized in the river, like
Jesus. So there. And they dress in different colors on different days.
White is the color to honor nurses and ushers. Ushers of what, I am not
sure. Apparently some of the gals lay out up to $700 for a hat. One woman
was overheard to say, “Can you imagine that?, she’s wearin a $700 dollah hat
with a $49 dollah suit……….who she think she is?” The conventioneers
even bring their own dress shop so you can get all dolled up if you forgot
something. Or, if you need a $700 suit to go with your hat. And the men
were all dressed like P Diddy. I am telling you, it was snazzy. And I
envied them. Until I heard that they thought the tornado was the Wrath of
God. One of the GWA members kept hearing a thumpity thump thump at
midnight. And more thumpity thump thump. Turns out, it was the Primitive
Baptist folks evacuating the building and that was the sound of their
roll-a-board suitcases going down the stairwell. Lordy.

Our keynote speaker was tremendous. The best presentation I have ever
heard. It left me sobbing in my seat. And I wasn’t the only one moved to
tears. William McDonough is truly the Hero for the Planet and we can save
this world. Go now and read about him, his work, and get his
book, Cradle to Cradle. His presentation was underwritten by Longwood
Gardens. We may make it to the 22nd century after all. And I could totally
relate to his working off his bad family karma of lumberjacks. And I told
him so. Thank you Bill and thank you Longwood.

Highlight of the stay at the Radisson, the Novalis cocktail party where they
had a baked potato bar, a hot pasta-to-order bar, a seafood bar with fresh
raw oysters, clams, shrimp and stone crab claws and a BAR bar serving Lemon
Daddy Margaritas and Knock Out Strawberry Daiquiris. Lemon Daddy is a newly
introduced hydrangea and Knock Out has a new Rainbow Rose. Thank you
Novalis and Don Eberly.

With the exception of the incredibly fabulous Novalis cocktail party, the
Valley Forge Convention center was a complete failure. Food was marginal.
Rooms were marginal. Service was marginal. And they are going to hear
about it.

Our garden tours were positively lovely. The organizing committee is too
be commended.

The 86 degree days and 90% humidity were overwhelming……..especially when
trying to take in Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer.

In our honor, Longwood served an perfectly divine meal to 662 people in the
elegant conservatory. I have never had such a nice meal at a
convention/meeting. Ever. At dark we were treated to a grand finale of
fireworks, music and the dancing fountains ( to the music of Swan Lake and
JP Souza) .

The strolling supper at Chanticleer was absolutely lovely except for the
humidity. I promptly located a table (for the awards ceremony) in front of
a fan, next to the bar, with two dessert trays for my group. And, then,
two of our tablemates won awards. We hooted and hollered and made complete
fools of ourselves but all the other tables were envious of a) our place in
front of the fan and the bar, and b) our unbridled enthusiasm for our
colleagues. Mary Kate Mackey won a silver for her article on the gardens of
the University of Oregon and Nan Sturman a silver and THEN A GOLD FOR BEST
OVERALL for her television program “A Growing Passion: Ordinary People
Making Extraordinary Gardens.” We are hoping that Nan’s program will be
picked up by PBS. It has appeared four times on the San Diego PBS
affiliate. (Betsy, any suggestions?)

Too much time on the bus and not enough time to see the gardens.

56 of us were hosted by the Valley Forge Chamber of Commerce for a day long
tour called Progressive Women in Horticulture. One of the faculty members
from Temple Ambler University was our tour guide. She was also a historian
and great speaker. We toured Wyck, Stenton (where the first Garden Club of
America was established), Temple Ambler U, and the Morris Arboretum.

Kecia and I rented a car. We had Mary Kate along for the ride. Took in
Stryer Nursery and Garden Center and then Winterthur. I did not like the
place, the gardens, the home or the staff at Winterthur. We decided it must
have bad karma, Mr. DuPont’s fortune having been derived from gunpowder. Bad
juju. He was obsessed with acquiring stuff and had to show it off. Off all
the grand gardens and homes I have seen, it is at the very bottom of the
list. My advice, skip it if you can.

We deposited Mary Kate at the airport so she could go home to Eugene,
repack, and leave on Saturday for Ireland. Whew.

I promptly found a Starbucks and ordered two drinks: an iced grande latte
and a Passionfruit black tea unsweetened. Amen. Without a car, there was
no way to go anywhere (read: to a Starbucks) for five days. I couldn’t
sweet talk the bus drivers into taking a side trip to Starbucks. Some issue
about the other 661 symposium participants. Note to drivers on 95 from
Philadelphia to DC: Starbucks are indicated on road signs along the freeway.
Convenient. And I am grateful for their foresight.

After Starbucks, we drove to the DC area to visit with my godparents, Pam
and Frank Hilton of the Hilton Inn fame. Not Hilton hotels or Paris Hilton.
Turns out that Hurricane Ernesto ALSO decided to turn up in the DC area and
we had three days of blowing rain. Undaunted, Frank drove his all-girl
group (Pam, MA and Kecia) to Davidsonville to take in Homestead Gardens,
supposedly one of the nations best nurseries, and then on to Annapolis for
some historic touring . Ernesto was causing water to churn up over the sea
wall at the Naval Academy but we stayed the course (GO NAVY) and found a
great place for lunch where we met up with Greg Hilton. No relation to
Paris either. Son of Pam and Frank. One of my beloved friends. Then on to
Pam and Frank’s new house for the grand tour and then to pick up the grand
kids, Elizabeth and Jack and the whole lot of us went out for Italian
food.And Kathleen Hilton was able to join us. And more rain. And more

Day three in DC was a trip via the Metro to the US Botanical Gardens and
absolutely pouring rain. We just happened to walk by the memorial for the
WWII Japanese Internment Camps. The Minidoka Camp of Idaho was named right
there on the black granite wall. The statue of the great crane wrapped in
barbed wire put me in tears again. Nancy Sewell and I just visited the
Minidoka sight last month. Barren. Desolate. Windblown. Dear God or
whoever might be listening:. Please forgive us our trespasses and inhumane
treatment of our fellow man.

At the Botanical Garden Conservatory, the kids (Jack and Elizabeth and I)
took in a demo where we made necklaces of little plastic bags with a cotton
ball, some moisture, a puff of our breath (CO2) and a bean seed. And then
we put it on a string and wore the packets as a necklace the rest of the
day. (My bean sprouted sometime last night. Hooray!)

And then we had………………More rain. So we couldn’t spend much time
taking in the the gardens around the Conservatory. Next time.

We dashed around the Museum of the American Indian to see the plantings of
corn, squash, tobacco, reeds, etc. And then went in for a coffee and to dry
off. Took the Circulator (a new bus service from the DC mall area to
Georgetown). Next, lunch at the original Clyde’s in Georgetown.
Crabcakes, shrimp, and fried green tomatoes. (Yes, there is a food theme
running parallel to the garden theme in this letter). The fried green
tomatoes were absolutely divine. With a corn, lima bean and shrimp
succotash on top.

My feet were wet for three days. Shoes are now washed and drying out in the
smoky hot sun. Hot and dry. Better than wet and humid. You are lucky you
weren’t here when I opened my musty suitcase this morning. Hot and dry.
Good things.

We actually got first class seats from Atlanta to Boise and made it home
last night. I slept until 11 today. I am sure there is more to tell, and I
will, but I am still defragging my hard drive (brain) and need more rest and
quiet. I have about 600 pictures to organize and am halfway through Bill
McDonough’s book, Cradle to Cradle.

I hope you are all well.