Readings — From the June 2016 issue

Beating Around the Bush

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By Dorothea Tanning, from a letter written to Muriel Streeter in May 1947 and published in the most recent issue of A Public Space. Tanning was an artist and writer. Streeter was a painter.

Dearest Muriel:

Wonderful to have your letter and all your gardening news. It is a sort of duplicate of what is going on here — in fact, during the last frenzied week we’ve thought of almost nothing else. We spend every a.m. minutely examining each plant and bush, and we have put in a number of fresh perennials and annuals too.

Of course the gardening catalogues leave us feeling very small and amateurish, besides which I seem to have a lot of trouble with Latin names and pronunciation. But we do enjoy it all. I have insisted on a separate bed of Pubiscens and Pinus Pendula (English Daisy), backed up by a hedge of Sempervirus Labiatii. They’re all difficult to raise in this climate, but, happily, the Scabiosa, Clitoris, and Pycnocstachya make up for such failures. Our Gonorrhea isn’t doing too well, perhaps because we planted it too close to the Syringa. But the Dipsophelia is leafing and we expect a good show of its intoxicating blooms — surely you have it, too. The Saliva and Spittoonias do very well together, and we’ve put in a whole bed of Pox (dwarf and chicken) as a sort of color foil for the hedge of Nausea and Scrofulum that borders it. I love the Masturbatium, don’t you? It is a constant bloomer and there’s enough of it for a fresh bouquet every day. And it’s so easy to start. We have finally put up a trellis for the Mounting Hysteria, it was beginning to choke out the Verticallis Plumosa, or Phallus.

Too, this is the moment for sowing seeds — Phobia, Amnesia, and the everblooming bulbous Syphillis, noted for its long-stemmed, fiery pistules, delightful for cutting as well as a prodigal — if dubious — garden attraction. I don’t know if you have the dwarf-bedding Vagina — it does well if backed up by a staggered row of Nymphomania: also looks surprisingly well if mixed in casually with oval or glossy Testiculum.

On the shady side we’ve planted Anathema, Delirium, and Museum (vulgaris), as none of these require sunlight and can thrive in very poor soil. In the double beds we have Anal Eroticum, Necrophilia, and Harvard Atheneum. It’s so pretty — and very patriotic! — the red, then the white and the blue.

So, as you see, we’re really engrossed for the time being in getting this garden under way, and hope to be rewarded by a prize or two when the Sedona Flower Show tunes up.

Love,

Dorothea

P.S. Any suggestions?

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