Saturday, September 8, 2018

Now I shall find out if anyone really reads my blog--and one you may even be rewarded if you read to the end...I happen to be in Victoria (British Columbia) and the fog was pea soup this morning at dawn, but now the sun is threatening to come out and the misty air is positively glowing with a promise of sunlight. And if Jan ever gets off her damn I-Phone, we'll be off to Butchart's (yes, Butchart's) where I've not been for quite a few decades since my last color headache there...

In this misty luminous light it should be even more electrifyingly incandescent....

I have a bit of history in Victoria: I've been here quite a few times, even before 1980 when I quite literally launched my lecture career at the Empress Hotel (a long and embarrassing story). My first visit was July 1976 when I went on my first adventure in the old Falcon attending the Interim International Rock Garden Conference in Seattle and Vancouver....afterwards, I drove up to Anacortes and the ferry to spend time with my best friend from High School, but was highjacked by Roy Davidson, his cousin Linda Wilson and Sharon Sutton--and we spent nearly a week camping on the beaches of West Vancouver Island and exploring Mt. Arrowsmith vicinity. I still grow Dicentra formosa I collected on that trip over forty years later!

But before that even, as a teenager or earlier I'd discovered Hugh Preece's book--the feeble picture above isn't the real cover (I have it with a dustjacket). It's a quirky Edwardian piece--strangely personal and full of great data. I am sorry I can't seem to find any of the images inside it on the Web to post--and my copy's in Colorado (and I'm in Preece's backyard, figuratively speaking). But honestly, his commentary on a vast variety of American wildflowers inspired me as a kid: even then I knew the prose was a bit much, and that he was a piece of work.

I met Ed and Ethel Lohbrunner on my first trip, and asked them if they knew Preece. Indeed they knew Hugh (who was long gone by then). He was sumpthin'! I never quite figured out what that Sumpthin' was...but his book is something. If you look below and click the title of the book, you'll go to the Abebooks page where several copies are for sale, some for under $10.00 for a first edition from 80 years ago!

The classic North American Rock Plants by Hugh Preece has apparently been reprinted by one of those South Asian publishing companies--I'd go for a first edition myself..

I know you may have a kindle or whatever brand of e-book reader--I've resisted. I know much of the world's literature is digitized: I don't think this book is. And no matter how good the reproduction and how wonderful the digital glow of text, there's something about those old black and white images on slick paper that isn't reproducible on a screen.

Some day I think this book will be recognized as a classic--it is surely the first time that many great garden plants from North America were described so well, photographed so nicely, and rhapsodized in such fine Edwardian-era prose...

I wrote a review 8 years ago I stand by--which they've attached to the new ersatz edition (not sure I think that's kosher). Click on the first sentence and you can get a bit more about it...

A misty day outside our Air-bandb in Victoria--and Hugh's spirit still lingers in my memory, and just beyond the corner there, hidden in the mist.


  1. Thanks, Panayoti - I'll definitely get the book! I was lucky to visit Butchart in early March - not many bulbs blooming, so the focus was all on the great shrubs and trees. Hope you have a pair of dark sunglasses with you!

  2. Thank you!!! I'm ordering North American Rock Plants NOW!!! I appreciate your blog...hope you're having a wonderful time with our Wonderful Neighbor to the north. Years ago in the 1970s I was visiting Theodore Payne in Southern California, asking Eddie who was the proprietor, "do you have any Bleeding Heart"? He looked a little irritated and said, "If you are really interested in native plants and other plants, learn the correct names! It's Dicentra formosa!" I was in my thirties and I've learned quite a few Latin names since then....

    Again, Thank you!!!

  3. Thanks for stirring the pea soup pot handle in my mind. I haven't even been gracious enough to think much of what seems the other end of this big island and its capital Victoria. Even its climate seems far removed from me "up north" sometimes! Yet when I visit I consider them, Ed and Ethel Lohbrunner, that is. They were such bright lights in the early days. That was well before my time but I was honoured to be gainfully employed in the UBC garden that carries their surname. I'm also pleased as punch even to be connected at arm's length to that famous rock garden conference of July 1976. Some of the wonderful display troughs still grace the alpine garden at UBC too. And Roy Davidson would be tickled to see his name in print after all this time. Plants and people, they come and go..yet I'm thankful for having you too Panayoti, in our mutual orbit for these many memorable years.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Somehow only half the comment made it, so I --- Something about a real paper book in the hand... I don't like to do real reading on a lighted screen..

  6. Great lecture tonight at UW! So much food for thought and you've garnered a whole new crowd who will be visiting DBG.


Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive