“Well, there’s an end to everything,” says the self-taught botanist. “Good God, I’m 96 years old. I ought to die. And I don’t do it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
But then Miller has never followed convention.
When she realized as a child of 12 back in 1920 that animals were killed for meat, she turned vegetarian. When she later read that the world was heading toward overpopulation, she vowed never to have children. When bookshelves arrived at the St. Louis schoolhouse where she taught, she filled them with plants and bugs.
And when, approaching her 50th birthday, she began searching for land on which to plant her dream garden, she settled on 2.5 acres of steep, rugged slopes descending into Boat Canyon—conditions that would have even the most daring gardener wringing her hands.
But it’s what she has done with those slopes (1958 price tag: $20,000) that earned her a spot in the book “America’s Great Private Gardens” and magazines like Horticulture and Sunset.
In a 1978 newspaper article, Miller says she moved with her husband Oscar from Chicago where he practiced law (and she attended the Art Institute of Chicago) to Laguna Beach because “I wanted to be the mother of a bougainvillea.”
Instead, she gave birth to a living, breathing Monet. Beyond her house a tangle of Burmese honeysuckle, wisteria, jasmine vines and wild roses ramble down the slopes for hundreds of feet before fading into the coastal sage scrub-covered canyon, turned velvet green with recent rains.
People cross the ocean to wander her footpaths that are padded with bark and pine needles. Depending on the season, they might encounter a stand of 9-foot hollyhocks, a hillside of purple African daisies, a carpet of bacopa like tiny snowflakes. Somewhere hundreds of feet below the switchbacks, Boat Canyon Creek gurgles. Ravens caw overhead. Sage scents the air. Steps of stone and wood dot the steeper slopes.
“I couldn’t live without it,” Miller says. “I’d be at a terrible loss if I didn’t have plants.”
But, alas, she confides a nobler cause. Miller told a newspaper reporter decades ago that her garden is an attempt to “save a corner of the Earth. Not because I like people. Because I like the Earth.”
It’s why in the ’70s she gave the city the title to her property, provided it remains true to her vision of a wild garden—and pledges to keep it open for the public.
Her motivation, she said at the time, was to block a “theoretical rich man” from splitting up her property after she died and selling it off. (She has no heirs and her husband died of a long illness a few months after they moved in.)
Out of the deal grew Friends of the Hortense Miller Garden. Members raise money for upkeep and volunteer time to take visitors on tours.
Miller led the troops (longtime friend Marsha Bode recalls that her first day working in the garden, she watched Miller climb onto the roof to rake off leaves—at age 82) until several springs ago when she broke her leg. It happened while showing the garden, in fact.
“I think it just cracked,” Miller says. And before she knew it, she was eye to eye with a pot of geraniums.
Now she sits in a wheelchair at her kitchen table, at once funny and philosophical. “You don’t really have any choices. You get old whether you want to or not,” she said.
So garden enthusiasts, many she’s never met, have begun arriving at her doorstep, offering to pull her weeds and dig in her dirt. When a plant puzzles them, they head back to the house holding leaves for Miller to scrutinize.
Last month, Bode told Miller that wild South African irises, delicate and blue, were blooming along the path. Miller couldn’t stand it and asked her caretaker to drive her to the lower gate. Leaning on a walker, she pushed up the trail a ways. Buoyed by the beauty, she decided to keep going. She made it to the foot of the California redwood she planted 40 years ago. Exhausted, she lay down on the ground. Friends were summoned to help her back to the house.
“I haven’t gone down the hill since then,” she says. She finds comfort, though, at her giant picture windows. From practically any spot in the house, including her bathroom, she can see canyon hills, or gnarled tree trunks, or flowering vines or the ocean off in the distance. Not another house in sight.
If it’s not too cold (she is often cold these days), Miller lies on the bench swing in the shady courtyard garden of camellias and azaleas just outside her bedroom. She dozes and reads. This week it is a book about Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle.
Miller is a writer, too. Her garden essays are part poetry, part plant appreciation (she dedicates one to the marvels of mushrooms), part journal, part botanical history of Boat Canyon (she has documented clouds of migrating butterflies and the disappearance of quail), and part philosophy. Peppered with quotes from Cleopatra to Huck Finn (she is “addicted” to Mark Twain), they are tough on “meddling” mankind and forgiving of nature.
She writes without bitterness about the bobcat that snatched her screaming cockatoo, Dody, while the bird, a pet of 31 years, strolled through the garden one day. Her beloved friend’s feathers are displayed in a shadow box over her desk.
Another essay is titled “Thanks to the Fire.” It was written after the 1979 fire that scorched her hillsides. In paragraph after paragraph she counts the blessings the blaze brought to her doorstep, from new growth of never-before-seen whispering bells and lupines to her first glorious view of Boat Canyon Creek tumbling far below.
The circle of life, she says, shrugging. She’s ready.
Essays and articles are two very popular and useful forms of writing present in most literary mediums. Whether online, in the classroom or in a coffee shop, if you're reading something it's probably either an essay or an article. People often construct both forms of writing without paying attention to the key distinguishing factors of each. Being able to 'change hat' so to speak and know when to write an article and when to write an essay and the requirements of both is a helpful and advantageous skill to possess in the business and academic world.
Essay writing defined
Essays are common forms of writing found in many places. Popular personal essays in the media for example, allow the writer to explore and reflect on their personal experiences while engaging an audience and proving a particular point or claim.
In general, an essay is a brief, concise form of nonfiction that is comprised of an introduction, support paragraphs and a conclusion. It may inform the reader on subject matter, argue a claim, entertain an audience, analyze an issue, or elaborate on a concept or term (for example, definition essays).
Writing in this form means several things depending on your purpose or objective. If writing an argumentative, critical, or persuasive essay for college you'll likely be very concerned about strong support details to prove your point and having a clear decisive thesis statement. When writing personal or descriptive essays for example, with no deadline or grade to receive, you may be less concerned with form and support details and more about sustaining your audience with enticing, engaging sentences as well as insightful and useful content.
Common types of essays
Article writing defined
With the prevalence of the internet in today's society the major mode of online communication, reading and writing, has greatly impacted the world of writing and the definition of articles in general. The term article has several meanings. As it relates to writing the word article refers to a written composition that is usually non-fiction and prose. Though as we see the evolution of the term article, to the more specific internet article (this phrase will be discussed later) which is very popular today, the meaning and expectations of article writing tends to change. But interestingly the structure has stayed much the same in that many internet articles are non-fiction and written in prose as are their non-internet counterparts.
Internet articles vs print articles
Outside of the context of websites, generally when speaking of articles a person is usually referring to the types of prose compositions found in a magazines, journals or newspapers. Many of the same principles of structure and format found in print venues are also applied to the construction of online articles. Some slight differences include (a) internet articles are usually broken up into small 'chunks' to make it easy for the reader to read online (b)internet articles are usually informative and have information-giving titles *for example Online title: "Saving money on transportation" as compared to Print title: "The constrained hand" (c) lastly, they often contain keywords to improve searchability.
Common types of internet articles
- How-to articles
- Review articles
- Blog/Personal experience articles
Common types of print articles
- Scholarly research articles
- Feature newspaper articles
- Editorial or commentary articles
- Book review articles
- Discussion articles
Internet Article Marketing
An important and noteworthy type of article writing is internet article marketing. This marketing tool involves creating useful articles that provide information while also promoting a writer's business, product or service. This technique increases the amount visitors or 'traffic' a website can generate by sharing the article with many other sites known as article directories. *Though some sites have now placed restrictions on 'duplicate' content and require that each article be unique and one of kind.
On the surface both forms of writing look pretty similar and slight differences may not seem worth mentioning. But actually when we seek out different forms of reading material, whether it be a magazine, encyclopedia, website, newspaper or cookbook we know what type of writing we are expecting to encounter from each of those mediums-even if not consciously expressed. Therefore there are important differences to each form writing.
The first difference we can look to is the overall formatting and structure of each item. For example, many articles are written to be straight to the point and may not offer a fully developed or charming introduction and conclusion.
For example, an article about how to make biscuits, may offer "Biscuits are great for breakfast on-the-go and can be made quickly and easily with following recipe" as an introduction whereas an essay that compares making biscuits to making bread will most likely offer a more entertaining and engaging introduction about biscuits and possibly baking in general.
Entertainment vs Information
A good way to think about an article is with the term information. This will most definitely come up when searching online for valuable information on a subject matter. When you want an informational article you want clear, helpful, and useful information on a particular topic. Though the wording should still be tasteful and creative, you may not be exactly looking for the writer to support claims or provide evidential support. Essays in turn may also be informational but are often crafted in such a way that the reader is also entertained and or intrigued by the material. *Perhaps the essay opened up their minds to new ways of looking or thinking about an issue or provoked thoughtful questions for exploration.
Main Idea vs Main Objective
Another significant difference is that essays are thesis oriented forms of writing, meaning that they are seeking to prove a point or support a claim. Essays may be described as having a main objective because they have clear goal that they must reach by the end of the composition. Additionally, articles also have a goal in mind and it may be informative or expressive as well but does not necessarily offer the same type of evidential support found in most essays.
The differences and similarities between articles and essays are somewhat relative and subjective. Some of the key characteristics of article writing such as being informative and brief may also be applied to essay writing and vice versa.
But its safe to say that when you think of the internet you think of articles-and when we think of academia we think of essays. Why is that? One possible answer is that one of the primary functions of the internet is provide users with knowledge and information - we go to it for soccer scores, definitions, math problems, dinner ideas and so much more. So in a sense, articles are what make up the internet.