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… 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… 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.

Before the spring freeze

Japanese maple 'Tamukeyama'
Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief' blooming in front of my house. You can see the burned edges on the laurels in front of it. We had such a cold and unforgiving winter.
Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’ blooming in front of my house. You can see the burned edges on the laurels in front of it. We had such a cold and unforgiving winter.

Will it freeze tonight? In our house, we always say, “Is the Pope Catholic?” Yes, it’s going to freeze. Before the projected cold front robbed my garden of its spring grandeur, I took some pictures in the snow. I want to share the heartbreak that is often a prairie spring. Yes, you read that right. Snow. Confounded snow is falling outside my door and now even collecting slightly on the ground. What started out as small flakes are now large, white and fluffy. I am not amused.

The snow won’t stick because it was 88F yesterday. The ground is very warm, and that’s a good thing.

Light snow falls on the back garden in April with a projected hard freeze tonight.
Light snow falls on the back garden in April with a projected hard freeze tonight.

Everything is blooming or leafed out. Even my lilacs are blooming. We are supposed to get down to 26F tonight. I can’t tell you how much this saddens me. Even though our last freeze date is April 20 or so, we don’t usually get into the 20s this late in the year. It will set everything back again, and I can hardly watch. Imagine no fruit on the apple, peach and cherry trees. No more lilacs and probably no peonies unless I get out there and try to cover everything. I’m tempted, but I may not. Summer will hold its own riches. I just hate to not see my peonies bloom.

Those little white dots you see are snow falling. It's now falling much harder.
Those little white dots you see are snow falling. It’s now falling much harder.

I wish the cloud cover would stay as an insulating blanket, but alas, it will not. We’ll have sunshine by this afternoon, and cold temperatures will come tomorrow. We can’t do anything about the weather so let’s enjoy what is blooming now. It’s all so very pretty.

Cercis canadensis 'JN2', The Rising Sun redbud always gets nipped by frost. I hope it doesn't completely freeze. It would then be forced to sprout even more new golden leaves.
Cercis canadensis ‘JN2’, The Rising Sun redbud always gets nipped by frost. I hope it doesn’t completely freeze. It would then be forced to sprout even more new golden leaves.

I don’t know about you, but I’m debating about whether to cover a few things. The Rising Sun™ redbud always gets hit by freezes and frosts, but it’s still managed to grow quite beautifully in the last couple of years. It does help to cover plants if the covers go all the way to the ground, but dang it!! I just don’t want to do it. Remember last year? We had a freeze as late as May 3 which is just crazy. I drove myself batty trying to get everything under some sort of cover, and then, half of them blew off. I was still finding five gallon buckets down by the pond last summer as I made my rounds. Cover or not to cover–that could be the question.

This photo of a native redbud up beside the chicken run and barn isn't one of my best because of the woodpile cover, but I wanted you to see how beautiful the redbuds are this year before the freeze.
This photo of a native redbud up beside the chicken run and barn isn’t one of my best because of the woodpile cover, but I wanted you to see how beautiful the redbuds are this year.

One note, by May 15, everything had recovered nicely whether I covered them or not.

While I ponder what I’m going to do, I’ll dodge the snow outside to clip a bunch of lilacs from my favorite bush. I’m bring them inside and enjoying them today, because, my dear friends, today is all we have anyway, and worrying about tomorrow just makes us sad.

Here’s hoping the weather is kind to your garden. I’ll let you know how mine does in a few days.