Robert Dash's columns in the East Hampton Star have delighted readers for 12 years. He writes about gardening with an expert's eye and his own unique ear for wit, exhibiting both the intensity required for planting a garden, but also the resilience required of anyone who undertakes such a potentially frustrating project. Notes from Madoo is a compilation of these columns. It is the perfect book for anyone who gardens, a harvest of images to sample as you contemplate plans for your own Madoo.
Dash's columns often give very practical, yet simultaneously reverent, accounts of the plants he likes most, which he titles Plant Portraits. As he writes of the plume poppy, A wonder of a plant, nearly eight feet in height and, placed properly in the garden, of splendid effect. I like it opened up and do quite a bit of stem-stripping (hence, saffron hands) in order to see the fine silken sheen of its blue-green but nearly silver stem. The image of Dash staining his hands bright yellow in an attempt to make the plume poppy as majestic as possible inspires gardeners to put forth this kind of effort in their own gardens, even if their foliage is considerably more pedestrian.
But Dash does not restrict himself to accounts of even his most exotic plants. In a section called simply Fairies, he writes about the old folk tale that says that anyone who stands in a fairy ring of mushrooms and moss on Midsummer's Eve will have countless wishes granted. Dash's wishes are, of course, botanical, and he recalls that for different gardens he has tended over the years he has wished for such necessities as more level ground, better soil, a longer frost-free season, and simply rain.
But in the end, he concludes that it is better to take your chances and know the garden is your own, warts and all. For, as he writes, The voices would speak and I would heed them all and all good things would come to my garden. Or should I say their garden, for the garden would no longer be mine. I don't think that I want a fairy-run, fairy managed garden. As a matter of fact, it is out of the question. Eliza R.
L. McGraw lives and writes in Nashville.