No garden variety apologies needed

Plant rack at Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

While shopping at box stores and garden nurseries, I often see old friends and meet new ones, usually over plants. In fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to meet people.

At parties, when new friends learn I’m a garden writer, they seem to feel the need to apologize for their garden or lack of plant-growing expertise.

Deck with plants, chairs and rug. It's a cozy outdoor space where we relax in the evenings.
Deck with plants, chairs and rug. It’s a cozy outdoor space where we relax in the evenings.

No garden variety apologies are needed. I don’t expect everyone to garden like I do. Really, I don’t.

What I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard. Also, the garden--and my plant knowledge--grew over the years. Click To Tweet

What I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard. Also, the garden–and my plant knowledge–grew over the years. I know I’m nuts.

I do hope you’ll garden though. You don’t have to plow up the back forty or plant an acre of tomatoes, peppers, and squash either. Even tending one pot on your deck or porch is gardening.

Hemerocallis 'Ever Redeemewd' (Carpenter 2003) daylily
Hemerocallis ‘Ever Redeemed’ (Carpenter 2003) daylily. Check out that saturated color.

Really. I started with houseplants in the 1970s and macrame. My first real “garden” was a small plot outdoors with three roses, some begonias and another tropical/annual I no longer remember.

Potager and boxwood hedges. I didn't start gardening like this. It evolved over time.
Potager and boxwood hedges. I didn’t start gardening like this. It evolved over time.

Men seem to feel the need to apologize for their lawns or lack of one. If only they knew how little I care about grass maintenance. Women tell me their true confessions about all the flowers/vegetables they’ve killed.

Do you think I don't kill plants? Oh yes, I surely do. I just don't take pictures of their dead bodies. Ha! Click To Tweet

Do you think I don’t kill plants? Oh yes, I surely do. I just don’t take pictures of their dead bodies. Ha!

H. 'Mystical Intuition' daylily (Petit 2011)
H. ‘Mystical Intuition’ daylily (Petit 2011)

 

If you don’t kill something once in a while, you’re not growing as a gardener.

You’re not branching out and trying new things. Plus, the climate in Oklahoma lends itself to plant death and destruction. It’s ok. With every plant we kill, we learn new things about our climate, soil and water conditions. We discover those plants that can deal with clay and those that turn up their leaves and die.

Do you think people find me intimidating? Gosh, I hope not. I don’t want to intimidate anyone. Instead, I want to help. It’s why I wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.

My last post on lilies made me realize, again, that people find gardening hard. It’s not hard. It’s simply a skill that must be learned, one tomato plant, one lettuce, one zinnia at a time. I’m still learning.

Gardens take planning, but in our hurry-up world, gardening is the balm of Gilead.
H. 'Dragonfly Dawn' daylily (Trimmer-J., 2010)
H. ‘Dragonfly Dawn’ daylily (Trimmer-J., 2010)

Gardening is unhurried and calm. If you don’t use power tools, it is also supremely quiet other than the sounds of insects buzzing about doing their thing. By the way, gardens should be full of insects, toads, and frogs, rabbits, and birds. If you’re able to create a small ecosystem for them, they will come, and your garden will be better for it.

Ecosystem sounds so grand, doesn’t it? It’s not really.

Just don’t use pesticides, organic or chemical–as much as possible. Cut down on herbicides too. Plant flowers full of nectar and those that feed baby butterflies and moths, and have some type of water in the garden. Really and truly, that’s all there is to it.

H. 'Free Wheelin'' daylily (Stamile, 2004). This big and bold daylily is truly one of my favorites. It blooms pretty early, but the flowers are huge and open in multiples.
H. ‘Free Wheelin” daylily (Stamile, 2004). This big and bold daylily is truly one of my favorites. It blooms pretty early, but the flowers are huge and open in multiples.

But, back to intimidation, no worries. When I visit your home, or see you at the box store or nursery, I’m not judging your space. The only garden I ever judge is my own, and I’m constantly learning, one mistake at a time.

Do you think seeing my garden online stresses people out?

I hope not. I don’t expect anyone to garden this much space this intensively. Cottage gardens are a lot of maintenance. I’d like to think that if I started over at a new property tomorrow, I would go for an easier landscape style, but I doubt it. I need flowers like some people need their morning latte.

I need crowded, jumbled and tumbled spaces. I need scented plants. I need butterflies, moths, bees and flower flies. I crave the garden the same way some people crave chocolate cake. If you told me I couldn’t garden, I think I would simply wither up and die.

My garden represents a lifetime of learning, and please note, I’m still learning. My garden is my life’s work, and since I began gardening when I was nineteen, that translates to thirty-six years.

Gosh, that makes me sound old. I think I’ll just go off and totter into the sunset.

Just kidding. I do mean this though. If you have a question, please ask me. I may not know the answer, but if not I’ll find it. Gardening is like breathing. It’s what I do, and I want to help you garden in whatever capacity you can. We need to get off our computers and see and touch the real world. It brings down stress, and it makes us slow down and appreciate our lives.

So, ask me gardening questions, but no garden variety apologies please.

Seven ways to smile through winter

Forcing lily of the valley is a great way to smile through winter.

It’s only mid-January, and I’ve reached winter’s crying time.

After the recent ice storm, I feel almost as frozen as this holly. We'll both thaw out in time.
After the recent ice storm, I feel almost as frozen as this holly. We’ll both thaw out in time.

You think I’m being overly dramatic? I’m not. Usually, I reach this stage mid-February right after Valentine’s Day, but crying time came early this year.

Ice storms are beautiful, but hard on plants and people.
Ice storms are beautiful, but hard on plants and people. I don’t mind snow as much.

In one week, Oklahoma had a snowstorm, an ice storm and copious rain.

Don’t panic. I’m not really crying. I am a bit lethargic and misty-eyed in winter’s aftermath. So, this morning, I took myself in hand, sat down with a cup of tea and a breakfast bar, and considered ways to smile through winter.

More of Mother Nature's icy grip.
More of Mother Nature’s icy grip.

After 54 years of circling the sun, I know myself pretty well. First, I thought about why I’m in such a funk. Oh yeah, my entire family was sick for weeks during and after the holidays. Between the cold virus, bronchitis and the norovirus, my poor family was down for the count. It reminded me of the years when I spent all my time doing laundry and pouring cold medicines down everyone’s throats. I am grateful I did not catch the norovirus. You just don’t know how grateful.

In the meantime, my exercise routine fell off, and I haven’t been outside nearly enough. I also went to see the movie, Jackie, yesterday in the rain no less. No wonder I’m feeling crotchety.

Time to make some changes. Here’s my seven-point plan

  1. Keep eating healthy as much as possible. With May and Megan’s wedding looming ever closer, I need to look my best for those important photos. Plus, it’s good to be healthy, and I’m not getting any younger. Blah, blah, blah.
  2. Exercise three to four times a week. Grant permission not to kill myself either. My exercise has been pretty bad for the last couple of weeks, and it shows in how my clothes fit. However, I have a tendency to punish myself when I relapse from the treadmill. That just makes me sore, and then I don’t exercise in a vicious circle. Remember that I’m also trying to stay strong for spring and garden season along with a daylily tour here in June.
  3. Read more books and stay off the internet as much as possible. I have a new reading challenge on Goodreads. There are now studies showing our brains work differently because of our social media addiction. I know I get a dopamine rush when my phone bings. So, more books and less online time unless I’m working on an article or post.
  4. Have more indoor plants. I’m thrilled my bulbs are starting to grow and bloom. It makes winter seem less formidable. Also, I’m going to spend more time in my greenhouse. I’ve neglected it this year because we had a disaster early on. I need to get out there and cut back the dead limbs on some of my citrus burned by cold weather. The door blew open, and I haven’t had the heart to repair the damage indoors.
  5. Use my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp when I’m reading for thirty minutes a day. I need to remember to use this because I have one, and it works.
  6. Keep doing videos. I like live video and my channel on YouTube. I don’t do many gardening videos this time of year because there’s not much gardening to do, but I enjoy making unboxing videos and such.
  7. Garden when and where I can. As I wrote above, so far this month, we’ve had a snowstorm, an ice storm and copious amounts of rain, but in between, we’ve also had wonderful weather. I need to get out there and cut back the perennial grasses. Since we finally got some cold weather making the roses dormant, I’ll also prune them.

These are my seven ways to smile through winter. What are yours?