Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dreaming of gardens

Excerpt of a draft romantic novel I've been intermittently dabbling with for years...

… The cultivated acres of the estate and the majestic Hudson, shimmering in the bright morning, spread out before her. This was a landscape shaped over the years by capable hands, someone’s vision, and she would now help to expand on that vision, would be paid to do so. It was so tempting to just wander now, peer in the windows of the brick, white-shuttered, four-chimneyed mansion; take a closer look at the pergola that framed the river view. Claudia headed away from the house and the pergola, and made her way to the graceful glass structure at one end of the lawn. As she came nearer she could see that around it was a complex of several other working greenhouses. Claudia peered in a window, dusty from a long winter. This building seemed to be devoted to desert plants; table after table was stacked with cacti and succulents. The next building contained every variety of houseplant, cyclamen in deep pink bloom, variegated ivies, budding fuchsias, and the building next to that nascent seedlings and tender overwintering perennials, perhaps to be planted in the various gardens of the estate when the weather grew reliably warm.

“You must be Claudia,” he said. “I’m Jack Willis.” He removed a glove to shake Claudia’s hand. His eyes, deep blue with a touch of sadness [oy!] met hers for an instant, and he smiled, a brief unassuming grin.

Jack and Claudia headed out across the grounds. Claudia kept up with his long stride. They passed an ancient copper beech tree, with its giant umbrella of bare branches spreading from an ancient, massive trunk.

They remained silent as they walked. The air was cold and blustery, and Claudia thrust her hands deep in her pockets and warmed her chin and mouth in the wool scarf that was tied in a thick knot at her throat. It seemed to Claudia that a mockingbird was following them. She could tell its characteristic upturned tailfeathers as it alighted on top of one tree, then another, a few steps ahead of them.

They reached the conservatory, a small hexagonal structure that they entered through a simple white-washed wood door. Stepping inside Claudia felt that she had been instantly transported into June, and she felt the rush of joy she would get when the days were long and everything was in bloom. She loosened her scarf and unbuttoned her jacket, marveling at the sunlight streaming through the high glass-domed ceiling. Baskets filled with trailing verbena, fuchsia and impatiens hung overhead, while on the flagstone floor artful groupings of glazed pots held an abundance of brilliantly colored flowers. Claudia could identify some of the flowers, but others were unfamiliar to her.

“This is so amazing,” she said. “Look at these beautiful nasturtiums, such a creamy yellow. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen nasturtiums that color.”

Jack indicated two French doors, one across from the other, that led off the conservatory. “The greenhouses are through there,” he said.

Claudia peered through the steamy and slightly dusty panes. One structure was devoted to desert plants, with table after table of cactus plants and succulents. Another held a myriad of plants, including a table with orchids, another with young plants in seed trays. Stacked inside the door were empty moss-lined baskets.

“Do those get put out for the summer?,” Claudia asked.

“Around mid-May, they go on the pergola overlooking the river,” said Jack…

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