Photograph from Wikipedia used under a Creative Commons license
If the Oak is out before the Ash,
T'will be a summer of wet and splash;
But if the Ash is out before the Oak,
T'will be a summer of fire and smoke.When the Hawthorne bloom too early shows,
We shall have still many snows.
When the Oak puts on his goslings gray,
'Tis time to sow barley, night or day.
When Elm leaves are big as a shilling,
Plant kidney beans if you are willing;
When Elm leaves are as big as a penny,
You must plant kidney beans if you wish to have any.
Today is National Arbor Day. And in honor of this unfashionable holiday (now completely usurped by Earth Day), we bring you a photograph of the setting garden designer Russell Page developed for the National Arboretum in Washington DC. Page incorporated twenty-two sandstone Corinthian columns—which were intended to support the East Portico of the capitol building, but ended up sunk in the Anacostia River—into the central garden of the arboretum as one of his very last commissions. Ground was broke for the project in 1985 but the project was not completed until 1990, five years after Page's death. The name Page gave it, the "Temple of Flora," perhaps deemed to fanciful for something repurposed from our national headquarters, seems not to be used these days.
Since Page's memoir and guide, The Education of a Gardener was published well before this project was conceived, we don't have any direct words from Page about it. But in 2001, Maureen Dowd offered her own appreciation in The New York Times:
THE NATIONAL CAPITOL COLUMNS
The 22 sandstone columns rise out of the meadow toward the open sky mysteriously and gracefully. It's almost like looking at a ruin of the Capitol, from some time in the distant future.
These 25-ton Corinthian columns, which were part of the east front of the Capitol from Andrew Jackson's inaugural to Ike's, were removed when a new facade was put on the building just before J.F.K.'s inaugural. They suffered decades of abuse before they found a home at the National Arboretum, Washington's sprawling secret garden, just northeast of the Capitol.
In 1926, when the columns were installed, congressmen helped to pull the carriage toting them up Capitol Hill. But in 1958, they were dumped for larger ones made of marble. The dismantled columns languished for 15 years before being rolled onto the banks of the Anacostia and left to sink in the mud.
Ethel Garrett, an original Kennedy Center trustee, campaigned for more than 20 years to have the columns recovered and mounted at the arboretum and raised $1 million from private donors. She died before it happened. But she created a Washington wonder: a new monument that looks more classically ancient than any of them.
The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page with a preface by Robin Lane Fox will be published in June.