Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Lecture by Alan Chadwick in Saratoga, May 23, 1972


Lecture 4, Part 4.11

An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms

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Continue to Lecture 4, Part 4.12

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Contents of this Segment:

More questions from the audience: Hybridization; Rock Phosphate; Wood ash; Eucalyptus leaves, bay leaves, walnut leaves, all should be avoided in the compost; Ornithogalum Thyrsoides; Nature Conservancy; Saratoga Gardens; Termites.



The Full Text of this Lecture:



Villa Montalvo Lecture Series

Saratoga, California, 1972, Lecture 4,

The Totality of the Garden, Part 11



Questions and Answers (cont.)


Q: It’s hard in this area to keep the seed cool and dry...

A: It’s hard for anybody to keep cool and dry.


Q: Can any of these be kept after they’re dried well, in a freezer in a jar?

A: You know, you see, you’re on a subject I suppose I’m either very old fashioned or out of date. I detest freezers.

Q: Except now, if they fell naturally now, conceivably they would be frozen in the ground.

A: You’re absolutely right, and many seeds have to be frozen to germinate. So, I’ve got no argument against it...

Q: I was wondering if it can be done...

A: It certainly can be done. If you want to raise Phlox decussata you’ve got to freeze it for three weeks. You’ve got to sow it in ice, or they won’t germinate. So there are many seeds that have to be frozen. There are quite a lot of seeds that have to be burned. There are some seeds that have to be filed. So, one has to get to know all these things.

Q: I just wonder if there are some that for our convenience, for example...

A: I do know that it is perfectly feasible to keep any seed in a refrigerator. You know, at a mild refrigeration, it’s perfectly feasible.


Q: Can you take seed from hybrid vegetables?

A: No! Yes, you can, but beware of the danger, a huge danger. And what is more, in practically all cases today, you are not meant to do it. It’s like your motor car; you’re not meant to repair it. You’re supposed to go and buy a new one, immediately it goes wrong.
Hybridization today is this: A nurseryman marries this plant with this plant, and refuses to tell anybody what he’s done. The result of those two amalgamations will never give you those two again, or this one again. It will give you a whole reversion of inferiority. As the Greeks said, “Hybridize one step if you like, but beware, but don’t do it a second time.: You get retrogression to a degree.


Q: Can you use rock phosphate instead of wood ash, is this a good substitute?

A: No, it is not a satisfactory substitute. I’ve tried this on recommendations of numerous kinds... depending greatly upon your soils, of course. Sometimes rock phosphate is quite valuable, in most cases I must admit that I have found that rock phosphate is very, very overrated.


Q: What can you use in place, if you have no wood ash?

A: Make some.

Q: Against the law.

A: Go somewhere and borrow some. I get the fire marshall, at the University... The first year I was there, I’d burned half the place down. And he came up and said, “Do you happen to know the laws of America?” So I said, “No, of course not.” And he then argued and said “Well you can’t do that.” So I said, “Well, I’ve done it.” And he said “Well, you’re not going to do it again.” So I said, “Well, I’m going to do it again unless you promise to give me all the wood ash I want.” So he now burns all the rubbish, and brings me the wood ash and delivers it.


Q: Are walnut leaves bad?

A: Yes, they are, they are. Eucalyptus leaves are bad, Bay leaves are bad, Camphor is bad. They do alright for some plants, but for the general use of the garden, bad. Walnut contains this acrid, and is definitely damaging.


Q: Do you know anything about Biopro? Is that one of the good things?

A: Do I know anything about what?

Q: Biopro is a non-toxic insecticide... [She’s talking about…]

A: Yes, I know. I have no experience with it.


Q: Would you give the name of Park’s Seedhouse that you mentioned on... Is that George Parks?

A: Yes, it’s George Park. It’s here on this catalog.


Q: Oh, George Park, So that’s on the East Coast. Yeah. What, again is the name of the white lily that you have there?

A: Ornithogalum thyrsoides. There are seven or eight Ornithogalums. This is by far the most charming as a cut flower, and it is certainly the best lasting of all that bunch of lilies.

Q: Would you spell it?

A: Would I spell it? O-r-n-i-t-h-o-g-a-l-u-m t-h-y-r-s-o-i-d-e-s. Extra charge!


Q: A couple lectures ago, at the break, I heard someone talking to you about a program I’d never heard of called Conservation of the Americas. Can you tell me anything about that?

A: Yes, indeed I can, sir. Owing to our... not being in great demand in the University, we were thinking of traveling to New Zealand to set up bio-dynamic farming there. And the director of the Conservation Society of the United States of America* was brought to us, and we had a meeting together. And he told us of his past, his histoire, and how he actually went to New Zealand, as an enjoyment of life, and left, and came back to America, and decided that America had a vitality which told him that it has more possibility of entering the goodness of the future than any other place. And he was glad that he came back to America.

He asked us to consider not to go to New Zealand, but to open this project which I built at the University with him for the United States of America, to operate throughout all the states of America. And that he would supply us with backing and with all the lands required, since they owned lands in every state, even in Hawaii. And that we could go and survey these lands, and that they would allocate anything that we said was suitable as a clinic farm to train apprentices. This is what is now coming about. They are a society that has no connection whatever with the government of the United States of America. I am told that they have three billion behind them, which is enough to put anybody off forever. That they certainly own thousands of miles of land.

You understand that anybody today who owns land and who is doing anything with it, immediately becomes taxed, or assessed to a degree of insanity. Whereupon, just as in poor England, with death duties, we hand it all over to the government immediately. Here, they are giving it as a gift to the Society of Conservation, and they are very anxious… And he knew of this project and this method, and he came, and he was very anxious that we should have apprentices trained that can go to these lands and set up farms and smallholdings so that people can observe and see this way of growing which is in line with conservation. Does that something, answer something of what you are asking?


Q: How soon are you going to need apprentices? [I beg your pardon?] How soon are you going to need apprentices?

A: Would you put your name down? Almost immediately. However, don’t forget that your own district of Saratoga has exactly the same program, which must inimitably go, you know, not only first, but is a supreme matter.


Q: Now from the sublime to the ridiculous: Is there a plant that will kill termites?

A. Yes. It’s not a plant, it’s much more simple. Termites cannot live in light.

Q: Electric light will work? Or it has to be sunlight?

A: I am fully prepared to say that any light of any sufficient degree.

Q: Alright, you saved me three-thousand dollars.

A: Give. Laughter

Q: How about dry-wood? It’s possible dry-wood termites to kill, or is only subterranean termites?

A: As far as I know it’s all termites. However this is very much an untested matter.

Q: Oh, you didn’t say anything about that.

A: There are other things as well, and I’ll tell you about them.



*Alan is here referring to Huey Johnson, director of the Nature Conservancy.





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