Bliss should be the name of the soil found in the Brandywine Valley. I am a firm believer that this soil is what might be found in heaven. The Brandywine Valley is famous for its history, historic homes, and beautiful gardens. From Longwood to Chanticleer, it offers a multitude of diverse horticultural entities that inspire. David L. Culp has written a book that takes us on a six-season visual journey at the Brandywine Cottage. Known by many for his Galanthus events and Hellebore introductions, this is David Culp’s second book. The first book is called The Layered Garden. Each book offers a different aspect of gardening at the Brandywine Cottage. Both books offer inspiration to fellow gardeners. The art of encouraging anyone to find inspiration in your personal green space is the shared message.
BLISS IN A BOOK
The book, A Year at Brandywine Cottage – Six Seasons of Beauty, Bounty, and Blooms by David Culp, Denise Cowie, and Rob Cardillo, reveals the six seasons of the gardening year. Think of each season as a meal. Consider the gardening year a six-course meal. Thirty years of creating a garden filled with love, experiments, and possibilities set the table for each season to be embraced.
Whether the season includes ephemerals of Spring or the colorful leaves appreciated in autumn, Brandywine Cottage is a garden story. David shares how he made his garden with the help of his partner, Michael Alderfer. Beautifully plated, shared, and enjoyed, each season could be considered a short story.
I began reading this book in March. Like many this year, I had quite a bit of time on my hands. I seized the opportunity to review this book as my cottage garden evolved right before my eyes. I fell in love instantly and knew I needed to see this garden for myself.
A Brandywine Hellebore, elegantly captured and centered on a single page, provided a perfect distraction to the worries of the day. The handsomely photographed bloom hypnotized me. Mesmerized, it nearly took my breath away. My attempts to focus were unsuccessful as my eyes repeatedly drifted back in amazement. Perhaps it was how David described naming his cultivars. Most named cultivars were defined by moments experienced in the garden. I realized this book was feeding my soul. Wondering how to deal with a pandemic, I had found my escape.
NOTICING BLISS IN THE SEASONAL GARDEN
As I began to read the story of David’s garden, the month of March was merely an appetizer. Each word allowed me to appreciate the garden in a different way. I understand this month offered an opportunity to pause and observe. At Brandywine Cottage this was the time to embrace the garden in the present. It was the beginning of a six-course seasonal journey into a garden. A cottage garden created by hard work and lots of love.
Month by month I settled into the new reality of unintentional pausing and this book has been my companion. Fortunately, A Year at Brandywine Cottage has encouraged me to anticipate what’s next in the garden. Imagining each chapter – month by month – as a course at a unique floral feast. As I savored March and April…I knew that this book was different. This is not a novel. It is a story about embracing seasonal beauty as an intentional act of love. To truly receive the gift this book offers, I suggest savoring it month by month. To be honest, I will not consider reading the chapters in the fifth and sixth seasons. It is merely November…known as late fall.
I consider the photos as a blessing in this book. Each one was a moment captured by an appreciative eye. Graceful blooms captured by the lens of Rob Cardillo, a fellow gardener, and photographer. As I gasped at Thalictrum rochebruneanum, my heart actually skipped a beat. Captured at the right time of the day and a perfect introduction to a course called Summer. The leaves of cabbage, veined with hints of plum accented by the dark foliage of the perilla below. The artist called Nature held her paintbrush high at the right moment and was captured by Cardillo.
Embracing each season with ideas is like tapas for the gardener. Simple bites for making a Cottage garden fill the pages of this book. David’s perspective allows the reader to consider each idea as a possibility. David advises us about the seasonal beauty we can find in our own gardens. This book is an open invitation to experiment with a diverse plant palette. David Culp suggests many easy options as he shares his garden story.
A Year at Brandywine Cottage also includes simple recipes offering ideas of what is edible in the garden. This book on gardening as a lifestyle provides a blueprint enabling us to reconsider our sense of taste. Each month teases the reader with edible delights. I was hesitant about eating my dandelions. The Dandelion Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing seemed to call out to me. I adhered to the warning – only use dandelions collected from a chemical-free garden. Encouraged, I gathered dandelions from my chemical-free garden. My adventurous spirit was rewarded with this delicious dish.
I considered the Sauteed Fiddlehead Ferns for April. The Fiddleheads in my garden were beautiful. The fronds offered hope for healthy, full-bodied ferns this season. Cooking with them was not an option this year. I made the Funny Cake for a delicious snack. One day I will have enough Fiddleheads to sacrifice. I will enjoy the fern’s beauty allowing them to unfurl in my garden. I dream about growing more to use for edible cooking.
Each chapter encourages the reader to discover a simple sip, a soup, or even a dessert. Imagine using watercress from your own garden for Watercress Tea sandwiches. David teaches the reader to understand the joy of simplicity found in our gardens.
MEMORIES CONTAINED OR CAPTURED
Vases or containers are traditional ways of sharing floral expressions from the garden. David encourages us to look beyond the vase. Containing blooms and creatively displaying them is an idea from this book. He reminds us that still life has been around for centuries. Collecting a leaf, bloom, or stem aids in creating a still life. Even placing pots artfully on a bench or a collection of seasonal items placed on a Taboret can capture moments otherwise lost. David encourages us to be present in the garden. Select memories of a day in the garden and place them anywhere. After all, moments savored throughout the day are important.
If we pause, memorable moments in the garden can be discovered. There is a certain joy when finding something that can be artfully arranged and enjoyed in the present. From a bud, a bloom, or even a leaf, David shares how A Year at Brandywine Cottage has something for all of us to mimic at home.
RECOMMENDED READING AND GIFTING
While we continue to be apart from each other, I highly recommend A Year At Brandywine Cottage. It is one of the best inspirational books that encourages each of us to garden in a way that speaks our language. What a great gift David shares. Like a flight of wine, A Year at Brandywine Cottage is unique to the individual reader’s taste. This book offers ideas, recipes, and simple ways to embrace life from the garden. Imagining possibilities, creating vignettes to delight, and examples of placing memories throughout the garden are on every page.
Envisioning opportunities to linger is one unexpected gift found in this book. Imagine looking at a space and allowing it to speak to you about what it needs. This is a naturalistic garden story designed to complement and add seasonal bliss. As new gardeners begin an ever-evolving journey, this book is a great gift. David Culp offers observations, as well as possibilities of what can be achieved in the garden for gardeners of all levels. The joy found in each month will encourage and inspire even the seasoned gardener.
Patiently embracing November at The Cottage In The Court as I remember walking with David Culp at the Brandywine Cottage in summer.
Teri, Cottage In The Court
To hear the podcast where I chatted with David L. Culp, click here
To read more about David Culp, click here.
For information about co-author Denise Cowie, click here
Inquiries about photographer Rob Cardillo, click here
To find out more abut Timber Press click hereby