About

Missing Henry Mitchell refers to the garden writing world’s loss of Henry Mitchell, who wrote the gardening column in the Washington Post for nearly twenty-five years prior to his death in 1993. I didn’t come to gardening myself until a year or two after that, so I never had the pleasure of anticipating in real time his next insightful observation or clever turn of phrase. I moved to Washington DC in 1995 and there discovered Mitchell’s delightful writing, which I used for inspiration as I cultivated my first grand mental garden–in reality, I was limited to a single south-facing window in my small apartment.

Mitchell belonged to that last generation who really knew how to write letters, which, after all, is all that a column is. He was once apparently described as a “Victorian” writer. I don’t know about that; I do think, though, that his writing can transport us to a slower, more introspective, even a more gentle place. He could be curmudgeonly, for certain, but his advice in the aggregate is patient, kind, and encouraging, persuading us to take inevitable losses and failures in stride and to celebrate the tiny victories like the first push of new green shoots in spring, or the wondrous aspects of simply the passing of time and season.

I certainly don’t pretend to compare my writing in this blog with his. Instead, if I can eventually develop his practices of observation and patience, I may be able to consider myself a disciple worth her Felcos.

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17 thoughts on “About

  1. I am also very fond of Henry Mitchell’s writings and remember the distress I felt when I read of his death in Horticulture magazine. I know him from the books of his collected columns — The Essential Earthman, One Man’s Garden and Henry Mitchell on Gardening. Even though I garden under quite different conditions than he did (sandy soil and a cool Mediterranean climate on Canada’s west coast), I found so much I could relate to in his writings. I’m glad I found your blog, and will start following it now.

  2. I have his book The Essential Earthman which I love. He combines good, solid gardening advice with humour. An unusual combination. Nice to find your blog.

  3. I saw a stand of bearded iris this morning, and immediately thought of Henry Mitchell, whose charming columns I used to read in the Post so many years ago. Searching for images of that splendid plant, I came across your blog. Thank you for honoring his memory! And good luck with your garden this year!
    Hope

  4. I found your site during a web search and simply had to visit as I STILL miss Henry Mitchell, after all these years! His columns were a weekly delight and are still a delight when his books are re-read, as they have been many times over the years. He was my garden hero when I first started gardening; when I met him briefly at a book-sigining, I was so in awe, I was totally tongue-tied. Oh, how I wilsh I had been able to have a conversation! Hooray for your blog and its title!

    • Thanks for stopping by! He is my hero, too. I would have been like you, completely incapable of coherent speech. I find that reading his columns today is even more restorative to me than when I first encountered them—his pace is so unhurried, his language so precise. I hope to carve out time to try and write as thoughtfully as he does. I hope you’ll come back to visit, though I can’t make any guarantees that the writing will compare. Don’t hold it against me. 🙂

  5. Just found your blog. What a lovely surprise. When I first began gardening in D.C. I loved his garden columns – I cut them out of the paper I was so smitten. It was wonderful when they were turned into a book. What I loved was his humor and his down to earth approach. One of my favorite pieces was when he was asked, ‘when was the correct time to prune a certain plant’. His reply was something like, ‘when I remember or when I get around to it’. Such a real down to earth real life reply. Very comforting. Thank you for sharing your blog. Anne in Washington State.

  6. I was out enjoying a stroll in the great weather yesterday and noticed that I have a snowdrop blooming. I ordered the bulb/corm after seeing a post in your blog about them some years ago. I thought that the squirrels had eaten them all last year. I laid a piece of chicken wire over the top of the bulbs that was quickly covered in pine needles to defend them, and apparently it worked as the majority of them are back this year.

    It’s a simple pleasure that I’d have never enjoyed without the inspiration from your blog

    • I’m delighted to hear it! Aren’t they wonderful plants? They bloom for me when the rest of the garden is a sea of mud. I hope your snowdrops bring you years of squirrel-free pleasure. Thanks for writing back and letting me know.

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