26 January 2009

desert island choices

Sunday afternoon conversation in Greenwich Village:
J: Shirl at Shirl’s Gardenwatch has asked what three plants we’d take with us to a desert island. What would you choose, B?
B: Who’s Shirl? Wait, where?
J: On Blotanical.
B: Blotanical?
J: Yeah, the place I’m always hanging out, so that you never get to use the computer.
B: Ohhh. Well, it’s too bad it’s a desert island, because I’d choose lilacs, but I don’t think lilacs grow particularly well on a desert island.
J: It can be any plant at all! Lilacs, too!
B: But, J, lilacs bloom in the spring, and would the desert island have spring? Besides, how would you water them? And they need cold to bloom, don’t they?
J: No, no, no. Any plant at all, even a lilac! This is a hypothetical question.
B: Well, the thing that makes lilacs special is I don’t think anyone has found out yet how to get them to bloom any time other than spring. You can get tulips year round, and roses, and chrysanthemums, but I’ve never seen lilacs except in May. I’d choose a fragrant, dark purple lilac. So long as it bloomed, even on a desert island.

So, that’s B’s first choice. Mine, too.

Lilacs bloom around the time of B’s birthday, so he has pleasant associations with them. Which led me to think about the flowers that make me feel wonderful. And, you know, nothing makes me feel better than seeing a bunch of daffodils blooming after a long winter, just when I think that I can’t take another snowy day or muddy, mucky walk across the garden (and in Washington County, New York, one sort of day follows fast on the heels of the other in April). I might choose “Van Sion,” because it’s so crazy and wonderful.

But then I might choose a simple white narcissus with a small fragrant cup. They glow in the April sun. Very hopeful.

And that leaves me with one more plant for this beautiful desert island landscape, and I think I would choose it in honor of Mr. Robinson, a gardener of the first order who hired me to take care of his lawn and gardens when I was a teenager. He was an inspiration and a gentleman. And he had a beautiful larch tree at the turnaround of his driveway. B and I planted a larch at the bottom of our driveway a few years back in memory of Mr. Robinson. I love larches because of their soft, deciduous needles, their beautiful fall color, and their slightly drooping shape. Ours isn’t as tall yet as the one I’d like to take to the desert island and won’t be for many years, so here’s a photo from the Web. Ah, the larch!

Daffodil, lilac, larch: Three plants for the desert island. Added to everyone else’s choices, wow, what a fantasy island!


  1. Anonymous12:28 AM

    I really do feel this will be a fantasy island -- what wonderful choices you've made! I'm particularly pleased you chose the lilacs -- so beautiful and fragrant, too. And I'm anxious to watch that Larch tree grow!

  2. I love your floral photos; very pretty!

  3. Lilacs...mmm. My grandmother had them in her yard and I can still smell them. I wish I had a decent place for one here.

    That's a very pretty daffodil. I'll have to try to remember that one. Never heard of the larch...until now;) I'm taking a willow, so there will certainly be lots of shade! See ya there!

  4. Nancy, I hope everyone's choices are allowed. It will be something. Can you imagine? Our larch gets a little bigger each year; I'm hoping this year it will LEAP!

    Thanks for the compliment, Tootie! And thanks for the visit! It's hard to take a bad photograph of a daffodil, that's for sure!

    Jan, I think the larch and willow will look great together! We have some old lilacs in our yard and now we've started supplementing them with a few new bushes. B would like to plant a few new varieties each year. They're wonderful.

  5. Hi there J, sorry my island ship got delayed by some bird counting ;-)

    Entertaining post and a great selection :-) Another tree too, a Larch, an excellent choice! Lilacs will be popular with wildlife and dark purple flowers will look great but simple white narcissi swing it for me. Very nice :-D

    Yes, I agree, with any plant growing and the choices we have all made it will be a fantasy island :-D

  6. What lovely choices J. Especially that great smelling lilac, the sunshine of the daffys, and the shade from the magnificent larch.

  7. With the lilac, you can look forward all year to the wonderful scent. I planted one near my bedroom window, hoping the perfume would drift in, but it does not seem large enough yet. The daffodil is another one you can anticipate all year, from simple to flouncy. I enjoy seeing large stands of larch when hiking in the mountains.
    It's interesting how memories and associations affect many gardeners' choices for favourite plants.

  8. Thanks for all the visits!

    Shirl, I've had such a great time reading about everyone's choices. What a great idea this was.

    Tina, our larch is going to take some time to become as much a presence as the picture I posted, but it's getting settled in and starting to really grow.

    Northern Shade, we hope one day the lilacs we've been planting will do the same thing as yours. They are such beautiful shrubs. And there are so many varieties!