Last Blog of the Season

The gardening season is about to begin and soon I’ll be up to my knees in dirt–digging, planting, and weeding. I won’t have the time to write blogs.

Over 100 tulips have already popped up and together with yellow basket-of-gold and lilac-colored catmint, the front garden this spring should be charming.

My thanks to all the bloggers who have followed me on Facebook and Twitter. I hope you enjoyed reading the blogs as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Heartfelt thanks to Genesse Carrillo of Montana Moon Productions for arranging the texts and photographs so beautifully.

So for the time being, it’s farewell to dear Jane Austen, Penelope Lively, landscapers, the Armani-clad Earl le Baron, the cigarette puffing Hiram I. Swindell, and of course that optimistic DIY-er Mark Malarkey.

Maureen.

In the meantime, don’t forget to order your copy of Too Late for Regrets. Hard copy and e-books available here: http://www.amazon.com/Too-Late-Regrets-Maureen-Jabour/dp/0692229663/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425072314&sr=8-1&keywords=too+late+for+regrets

Comical Characters in Novels

The comical character in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice is Mr. Collins. He is pompous, overly pleased with himself, and filled with a sense of his own importance. He spouts inanities to anyone who will listen to him. Overawed by having been chosen by the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh to be the rector in her parish, he uses every opportunity to gush about her attention to him (invitations to dine at Rosings!), the size of the rooms in her mansion, the number of windows, and the price of the staircase and the fireplace! He bows and scrapes and hangs on her every platitude.

He is the heir to the Longbourn estate which is entailed (only a male can inherit it). He pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet sisters. Having no doubts about his attractiveness, he is offended when his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is rejected.

When Lydia Bennet elopes with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins hastens to Longbourn to offer his hypocritical condolences which do not mask his delight at the family’s downfall. Oozing insincerity from every pore, he assures them that they will never recover from disgrace.

He is the epitome of schadenfreude (the malicious enjoyment of others’ misfortunes). Mr. Collins: created for the reader’s amusement by an author with a satirical eye and a sharp wit.

What are some of your favorite comical characters in novels? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Heroes in Novels: Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Novel “Pride and Prejudice”

Mr. Darcy is not one of those heroes who rescues people from physical danger. However, he rescues the Bennet family from disgrace and loss of their good name. He is ashamed at the way he had proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, denigrating her family, thus insulting her. To make amends, he rescues the family from the shame of the elopement of Lydia Bennet with the dastardly villain, Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy pays off Mr. Wickham’s debts, ensuring that the marriage will take place and that the good name of the family will be restored. He does this anonymously with the understanding that his deeds will not be acknowledged. He wants no thanks or praise. Mr. Darcy–a gallant hero.

Dear readers, have you ever known anyone who was not a hero in the obvious sense, but radiated heroism in his or her daily actions? I’d love to hear about your everyday heroes in the comments below!

Jane Austen – An Appreciation

While I am not a scholar or expert on Jane Austen, I am an appreciative reader. It’s remarkable to think that the novels she wrote 200 years ago are still relevant today. The human condition hasn’t changed; jealousy, spitefulness, gossip, hypocrisy, and rumor mongering are the traits still prevalent in today’s society.

How was she able to capture all these characteristics while living in a vicarage within an isolated village? She had no formal education, but with the encouragement of her brilliant father she started to read at an early age. She devoured books, and as a young woman she became a master of the English language.

This branch of the Austen family was poor. However, they were upper class; many of their relatives were gentry and aristocrats.

When Jane and her sister Cassandra visited these relatives at their large estates and grand houses, they were exposed to a wide variety of people in these social settings. Balls, dinners, card parties, and picnics were the settings for many of her novels.

With her satirical eye and sharp wit, Jane observed and made mental notes. When she returned to the vicarage, she used this knowledge in her novels.

The family also visited Bath, the beautiful town with its exquisite architecture, its squares and crescents. Here was another opportunity to study the foibles and peculiarities of the gentry and leisured classes. Balls and concerts in the great assembly halls, the constant parade of elegantly dressed men and women–all were grist to her mill. Everything she wrote about is still pertinent in today’s society.

And the mothers–oh, those mothers! Vying with each other, scheming to ensure that their daughters would capture the most eligible (and rich) bachelor.

The famous first sentence in Pride and Prejudice says it all: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

A hundred years from now, when all the bestsellers of today are long forgotten, Jane Austen’s novels will still be read and enjoyed.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Who is the classic author that continues to inspire your work today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!