Pea brush

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(Host) Commentator Edith Hunter is spending lots of time in the garden again, where she is often reminded of favorite poems.

(Hunter) Birch boughs enough piled everywhere!-
All fresh and sound from the recent axe.
Time someone came with cart and pair
And got them off the wild flowers’ backs.”

That is what Robert Frost found when he went in search of brush to “bush his peas.”

For me, it was not birch boughs but wild raspberry canes, wild grape vines, and mulitflora roses that were breaking the backs of the just emerging wildflowers and fern. They were in the little gardens that Aunt Mary had planted sixty years ago.

Soon after she and her sister Margaret bought the farm that had belonged to their great-grandfather, the Rev. James Converse, they arranged for remodeling the house and improving the grounds..

Aunt Mary, who should have been a general, directed the removal of the decrepit ice-house and chicken house next to the big barns just back of the kitchen. She created a fern garden and a wildflower garden within the granite boulders that had served as the foundations of these structures.

I have kept relatively good care of them, but this year decided they needed a few days of my undivided attention. Well covered with bug spray against the blackflies, I attacked the brush in a way that would have made Aunt Mary proud.

What have I freed up? An astonishing number of Jack-in-the-Pulpits.

And what else did I find? Red trillium, lily of the valley, Solomon’s seal, blue cohosh, and wild columbine.

And the fern! In my long life I have only been able to master about ten fern, but these I know from Aunt Mary’s plantings: bracken (the children called it umbrella fern because of three umbrella-like fronds), interrupted (easy to know from the fertile section of the frond that interrupts the sterile leaflets), cinammon (whose fertile central fronds look as though someone had covered them with cinammon), ostrich (the tall ferns that in their emerging form are savored as fiddleheads), marginal woodfern (the spores are along the margin of the leaflets), maidenhair (a delicate fan-shaped fern), sensitive (so named because it is sensitive to frost), New York (tapered at both ends), royal (with fertile tips that it wears like a crown), and Christmas (an evergreen fern).

Again describing the brush he was about to remove, Frost wrote:
“Small good to anything growing wild,
They were crooking many a trillium
That had budded before the boughs were piled
And since it was coming up, had to come.”

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont. “Pea Brush” is found in “The Poetry of Robert Frost” published by Henry Holt and Company.

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