Much to report, soon, about a field trip to Delaware, where gardens are beginning to spangle with new life. But for now, a perfect moment to share: the infantile stage of ferns, unfurling. They always take my breath away. I love the combination of soft bronze and pale green and creamy sunlight against the deep chestnut color of wet bark mulch. (It hasn't stopped raining anywhere.) One could key the palette for a living room, or bedroom, right off this garden moment; the fiddleheads look like that short-napped cut velvet the Italian looms produce so exquisitely. When I was at House and Garden, I noticed that readers were most confused and intimidated by color. Hence the default white walls everywhere--not bad if you like that, but boring if you yearn for hue. I always got questions about what color goes with what? Go into nature and look around. The best color combinations are right before our eyes! And never paint a room a color that you wouldn't wear yourself...


Bruce Barone said...

Delicious saute with butter!

Lost in Provence said...

I love this post for all the promise it holds--the promise of Spring, the promise of growth, the promise of the happy moments that color brings us constantly whether we realize it or not.

david terry said...

I'm sorry.....but I can't read this posting without recalling the terrible weekend when (after some difficult years trying to establish a bed of ferns, which came from my family's place in the Tennessee mountains) I had a weekend guest, whom I'd known from gradskool in Vermont a few years previously. I was living in a big old house which I RENTED (that matters in the tale).

the woman (we were both about 30 at the time) was terribly, incisively (and, finally, tiresomely) "brilliant". A Poet, in fact. Widely published, in fact.

She had, however, become a Wiccan (this would be after she moved out to New Mexico and met her guru/"warlock"/whatever) and was apparently obsessed with all things "back-to-the-EARTH-Our-MOTHER/GODDESS".

I came home the first night (I'd finished teaching my gradstoodint classes at Duke that morning and afterwards done my evening stint at slinging hash) to find her sitting in the middle of the front hallway, and in the center of a six foot circle of SAGE. She'd basically denuded all the sage I'd grown and was using it (along with dried sage from the unedfiyingly prosaic Krogers down the street) to rid my house of bad vibes or spirits or something similarly ominous. I had to tell her that she couldn't light six foot-radius rings of fire in my house. she was miffed at my materialism and disappointed by my lack of enthusiasm, to say the least. I distinctly recall telling her that I was perfectly happy being an Episcopalian, and that we retained solid insurance policies and didn't DO that kind of shit in our houses, thank you (???).

The next morning? I got up to find that she'd gone out at dawn (this was in April) and, as poetess/mystics who are "in touch with the Goddess" do from time to time, cut every single fiddlehead off of ever single fern I'd managed to establish....so that we could eat them and avail ourselves of vitamin C.I should emphasize that, having grown up in innner-city Chicago, she wasn't exactly finely-attuned to anything regarding actual plants or the actual "earth".

I got her mystical, Wiccan, Goddess-worshipping, sage-burning ass back on a plane that Sunday and was never so glad to be shed of someone.

And, yes, all the ferns died that year and never came back.

I bought another old house later (still live in it, in fact) and was out just this morning....inspecting all my fiddleheads and enjoying them just-where-they-are-&-as-they-are.

They're quite beautiful.

Advisedly as ever,

David Terry
(who is, obviously, betting on the chance that fierce, pyromaiac Wiccan Poetess/Priestesses are not reading a blog by the former editor of "house and Garden". I hope I'm right....)


Anonymous said...

Let us know when and where you will be in Delaware. I'd love to hear you speak. There are some beautiful gardens in Cape May County, New Jersey, as well. Maybe you can arrange a trip to the shore this summer to see wonderful hummingbird and butterfly gardens.

Susan Keyser

pamingram said...

Summer has arrived with a vengeance - in the nineties here in N. Florida today- and yet fiddleheads are still unfurling.Was out in our garden this morning admiring the textured velvet just as you describe. The image you captured is exquisite. All my favorite colors. And what you say about selecting one's palette from nature is so true. i never thought about the notion of never painting a room a color one would not wear, but love it. Such great advice, as always! - psi

Violet Cadburry said...

What is so violinistic about these plants that they are called "fiddleheads" -- is there some other reason for this nomenclature? Did quaint fairies live under the unfurling arms and play tiny tinny violas? Love the pics and if you squint really hard while holding your nose and blowing out your sinuses, you can see leprechauns dancing a reel about the fecund ferns.

Warren said...

Delaware!? That's where I grew up! The time to be in Delaware is the first weekend in May when nearly everything is in bloom. WInterthur Museum -- a must go see place for anyone interested in American decoration -- has a point to point cross country horse race. Quite a spectacle with some old friends with horse and carriages showing up, etc. etc.

The gardens at Winterthur and Longwood are going big-time. There are family things to do to so bring everyone.

Well David, I would take that piggy in hay recipe you mentioned. (warrensly@gmail com.)

You write so well about visiting wiccans. Someone should put that in a retro-movie about the '60s. BUT I can say that we have some here in the PNW that seem just as out of touch. I am willing to bet that your visitor has probably 'passed through' that phase and is probably as staunchly mainstream religious as you are.

It's rained 37 of the last 42 days here in Seattle. Folks thinking about relocating here should first do the math.

The good news is that we have more fiddleheads growing than any houseguest can pick.

VL said...

I came over to your blog for a pick-me-up after a hard day, and when the photo downloaded, I smiled to myself and thought what a lovely color combination, this caramel and celadon.....then I read your post, and smiled and shook my head to see that the colors were the subject of your text. The way you speak of turning to nature for color palettes reminds me, of course, of Donald Kaufman, whose paint graces my own walls, much to my never-ending delight, and whose books I shared a little over-eagerly with a friend the other night who just moved into a new apartment. (I think I overwhelmed her with my enthusiasm for his gospel of colored atmosphere). At any rate, thank you for bringing some beauty into our lives, yet again.

Cristina said...

...and I imagine that the two sprouts in the top left corner, will soon become some lovely (and nice smelling?) flowers. feels good!

Sue Blaney said...

really looking forward to hearing you speak this thursday!

Sue Blaney said...

really looking forward to hearing you speak this thursday!

Dominique said...

Fiddleheads? I always assumed it was the head or top of the neck of the fiddle, where the strings attach...but maybe I'm making this up!

Leslie said...

Nothing like a Wiccan with poor manners.

SweetRetreat said...

Fiddleheads are a lovely early sign of spring. I could never bear to disturb their early birth, although they indeed are good sauted in butter.

I have always chosen decorating and personal colors based on the beautiful shades of birds eggs.

david terry said...


1. I've also always assumed that "fiddleheads" refers to the part of a violin that's techincally referred to as "the scroll"...just above the "pegbox", to which strings are attached and by which they're adjusted. For those who've never taken a lateral view of a violin?....the scroll looks exactly like a...well, Fiddlehead....

2. given that previous posting, I should emphasize that I'm friends with three different, quite sincerely-practicing Wiccans (2 women and one man....repectively, a radiologist, a lawyer specilaizing in sexual abuse cases, and a very prosaic&practical carpenter). None of them makes a fuss over the bidness or lights fires in other folks' houses.

----david terry

david terry said...

P.S. (2)

The husband just came home and informs me that the French "country" term for fiddleheads is "Croziers". They do, indeed, look just like the scrolled top of a Bishop's crozier (the staff he carries).

Isn't it interesting that, in 2 major languages, the sprouts of ferns are given figurative names? they don't, finally, look like the sprouts of any other plants; people seem compelled to name them after something else.

Leave it to the Germans to go all literal on folks. The German word for fiddleheads is "Farnspitzen" (basically "Fern sprouts", which I don't find particularly poetic....)

Bemusedly as ever,
----david terry

Violet Cadburry said...

Hmmm, I wonder if Nero feasted on fiddlehead ferns while serenading the conflagration of Rome? Thanks for the interesting research:)

Ashling said...

How awesome...would love to encounter such things...are they ANY ferns, or sepcific ones?

@ David Terry....rest assured,most Goddess-loving Pagans wouldn't dream of denuding your sage or--gasp--beheading your ferns! You and your ferns can rest easy, though it's easy to see why one might have horrifying flashbacks after such an experience!

Clara Walmsley said...

Brilliant idea to paint your rooms a color you would wear ! I painted my bedroom a very old fashioned, rather strong sky blue . At first I found it charming and now it is starting to grate. I applied your test and find that this color would look awful on me, bad in a Princess Beatrice sort of way. So back to the drawing board with a fresh perspective. Am wondering if you are a fan of any speciality paints or is Benjamin Moore perfectly adequate.