Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Enormity of Water

I haven't written in a while, not because I've been indoors, but because I didn't think what I was doing was really related to gardening.  But it is, I think, in the most elemental sense.

I've been struggling with water.  The Papershell property (my garden center) is located on a very flat piece of ground near the floodplain of a creek.  All the land around here is very low and level -- it's basically all  Brazos River bottomlands.  It's very hard to drain land like that, unless money is no object.  Water tends to just sit on flat ground, and the clay is so impervious that it takes a long, long time for water to percolate down into the soil. 

Now factor in the rain patterns we get on the Gulf Coast.  Monsoon-style rain, followed by drought, followed by floods.  When it's dry, you can't really get a sense of the way the water will move across the land.  When it's wet, it's all submerged.  But from time to time, a window of opportunity opens up.  Now is one of those times.

Studying water in the bottomlands is a matter of inches.  You need to get right up close, muddy and wet.  The slightest rise or contour can divert water away from a catchbasin, or toward a structure.  To really see where the water wants to go, it's necessary to go out there when it's raining, which I hate to do.  To change where the water wants to go, it's necessary to dig.  And not just in clay.  In heavy, wet, sticky, clay.  That terrible sucking sound the mud makes as it yanks your boots off your feet? My nightmare.

Rubber Cowgirl Boots, the saving grace.
So yeah.  I've been out there.  Not gardening, exactly.  More like hand-to-hand combat.  Who's winning?  The elements, that's who.


  1. The old margarine commercial with the famous line, "You can't fool Mother Nature", can be amended to be "You can't TAME Mother Nature". If we, as gardeners, work within Her parameters and alter her contours respectfully, She rewards us. If we take too heavy a hand, we are doomed to be disappointed ... or worse. Houses on cliffs in California, or below sea level in New Orleans, come to mind.

    Okay, LOVE the boots!!! Are they yours? I would TOTALLY wear them!

  2. I deal a lot with water and red clay issues in both architecture and landscaping. Trenching to redirect seem like what you are up to. You can always build swales too.

  3. Are they your boots? We had that battle on a MUCH smaller scale in our first years here. And yes rain gardening is absolutely all about gardening!

  4. My boots! I wear them proudly. Somehow, though, when I imagined rain gardening, I had pictured a smaller scale!