'Van Gogh' sunflower. I got the seeds from Renee's Seeds. She sent them to me to try. I like them.
I feel a post percolating about the fires and rebirth, but having just returned from GWA, I’m too tired to write it today. My home and garden were spared–the fire was several miles away–but many were not so lucky.
Below are two recent posts from Fiskars and Lowe’s. If you visit my Lowe’s post and leave a comment, I’ll give you a big hug next time I see you. Of course, I’d hug you anyway.
The weather is finally turning a bit, and I’ve been planting like a busy bee. Today, as I dug holes for an apricot tree and four shrubs (a forsythia, two red-twig dogwoods and a golden arborvitae), I thought about why I garden. I was covered with leaf mold, cotton burr compost and dirt, and yet, I felt like a child again. All around me violas, pansies, crocus and daffodils were blooming. Bees were just starting to buzz, and every day, something different was poking its leaves above ground.
Crocus, one of the tommies, but I didn't tag the spot, so I don't know which one.
In our ever busy, super techno world, it seems people are more cynical, and many try to regain their childhood in unhealthy ways. I can promise you playing Xbox is not the path to happiness.
I had a bone density test this morning, and as is often the case this time of year, I stood, in jeans, boots and gardening t-shirt, waiting. All around me in the waiting room were important looking women in their suits and heels with polished profiles. One looked askance at me, and I said, “I’m a gardener” and smiled. I smiled because every time I say those words, I feel the fluttering wings of joy in my heart. I was once the woman in the suit, and I am no more.
Chionodoxa forbesii 'Pink Giant'
Next, the other person will generally say they can’t garden, or ask a question about a plant with a kind of embarrassed look about the eyes, but every once in awhile, they will lean forward and whisper almost reverently, “I’m a gardener too.”
Ipheion uniflorum with Imperial Antique Shades pansy
Now, close your eyes for just a moment, sit back in your chair and be still. I know it’s hard, but essential things often are.
Just rest. Rest is essential.
After you reopen your eyes, think back to when you were a child. It’s Saturday, and all of your chores are done. The rest of the day is yours until supper. What will you do? My sister and I often went out back, made mud pies, and played with rolly pollies (sowbugs) and earthworms. We dug holes, and filled them with water. Sometimes, we even planted seeds. I’ll never forget (and I’m sure my mom won’t either) the time when I found a dead bird, and I put it in the planter where some rose moss grew. I knew it would break down in the soil, but I didn’t realize how bad it would smell in the meantime.Whoops.
I often transplanted weeds here and there pretending they were roses and other beautiful plants. We would crawl behind shrubs and make these small spaces our “houses.” What I was doing I now realize was learning my craft, bit by bit, or bird by bird as Anne Lamott would say.
N. x odorus, Campernelle, one of the most delicate of the daffs.
Now, bring yourself back to present. So many of our childhood memories involve the outdoors, and I hope you found some beautiful ones fluttering within your soul. Forts, flowers and fun were the watchwords of our childhood days.
So much of the time when I meet people who say they can’t garden, I am perplexed when they then wrinkle up their noses in distaste. I believe it’s because we’ve forgotten how to play. And, at its heart, gardening is simply play. I still get to dig in the dirt, stretch my muscles, fill holes with water, and get so supremely dirty, that a shower is a relief.
Michele's book is really good.
Michele Owens, one of my favorite writers, has her first gardening book out, Grow the Good Life, which explains some of why we have problems with gardening. After reading it, I think many of her assertions are dead on. Success lies in how we judge gardening. If we see it as a problem, or as warfare, we don’t want to do it. Our perspective is all wrong.
Instead of worrying about which bug to kill, we need to remember how much we loved to play outside. You know . . . re-awaken our sense of child-like wonder.
I’m willing to grow the good life. How about you? What will you do to change your outlook on gardening and the great outdoors?
Supposed to be R. 'Cl. Pinkie', but it sure looks like 'Cl. Cecil Brunner'. It's taken three years to bloom well. In any event, it is very beautiful.
The Best Thing in the World
What’s the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Love, when, so, you’re loved again.
What’s the best thing in the world?
–Something out of it, I think.
First, bear with me while I indulge in a bit of history.
When I began to garden, I was nineteen years old, married and living outside Del City, Oklahoma (near Tinker Air Force Base) in a mobile home. At the local Wal-Mart, I bought three rosebushes, their bare roots encased in plastic (ugh). Because I didn’t know any better, I planted R. ‘Tiffany’, R. ‘Double Delight’ and the grandiflora ‘Queen Elizabeth’ in a straight row in a bed next to the sidewalk, surrounded them with other plants, watered and waited. In spite of my lack of rose know-how, they flourished, and I loved them.
I was also in college at Oklahoma University studying to be the next Great American Writer, and since I had 200 pages of a novel due my senior year, gardening was probably the furthest thing from my mind. However, shopping one day, I saw Barbara Damrosch’s Theme Gardens, and I was entranced because she wove a bit of fantasy in with her information. I could see myself in a gossamer gown hanging out in the rose garden, or the butterfly garden, and I bought the book although I had almost no money or space to implement her plans.
P. 'Karl Rosenfield'
After graduation, we moved to a small house. In the front border were three peonies, two of which were probably the classic, ‘Karl Rosenfield’; the other was white. I increased the size of the border and added several roses. The economy slumped, so I put off being a novelist and worked first as a legal secretary and later, when I earned another degree, as a legal assistant. I then had more time to garden, and I began dabbling in vegetables. I still didn’t know much, but I read a lot and had enough success to keep trying.
Although unhappy in that house which was not a home, when I moved alone to an apartment, I still mourned the garden I left behind. So, on my apartment balcony, I grew everything I could in containers, which was quite a lot. I also read and learned more.
Then, when I was twenty-six, I met HH again, and he swept me off my feet to my dream home, a log cabin overlooking a small spring fed pond/lake. When spring came, the garden urge rose like sap within me, and he tilled a vegetable garden in the place where the new potager is. It was my first garden on our acreage, and after I amended the sandy soil with composted cottonseed hulls, manure and other good things, I had a beautiful vegetable garden. Twenty-one years later, we have come full circle.
What made me so reflective was a book I’m reading. I’m sent a lot of garden books for review, and I read them all. Many are good, but rarely does one call to me from the shelves. Garden Anywhere, by Alys Fowler practically leapt off the shelf at me. Part of the appeal was the cover. It looked all earthy, productive and beautiful. It sang of dirt and good things to eat; plus Alys (who I wish I knew, but she lives in England, so I can’t just pop over) is so cute, you just want to follow her spade in hand.
The tagline is “How to Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens, Herb Gardens, Kitchen Garden, and More–Without Spending a Fortune.”
This is a smart book. With that tagline, she is making gardening sound possible, and she is talking thrift. This will engage young people. When I started, I had no money, but the idea of growing my own food was appealing. Now, I am more comfortable, but I love the way vegetables, picked fresh from the garden, taste so I’m still growing much of my food. By the way, I ate my first red chard and bok choy today in a stir fry with a couple of green onions, tofu and chicken. Tender and crisp, bursting with flavor, why doesn’t everyone grow a little something? Because, they are afraid of failing.
A portion of my dream garden
I’d recommend Garden Anywhere to anyone who is starting out, or who wants to re-purpose things and save money. Alys won me over with her intro which she calls The Slow Lane. As she described her life and career path, I found myself nodding along. I’ve been in the slow lane ever since I decided to stay home with the Diva and ASW fourteen years ago. Alys was once a presenter on British TV’s Gardeners’ World.
Pardon me a moment while I again complain about the lack of garden programing in the U.S. I’ve resorted to watching Martha reruns on the Hallmark channel and videos of Ruth Stout on YouTube. Nuff said.
The book is structured much like those of the You Grow Girl franchise. The subjects are short and to the point with beautiful photos that make you want to go dig in the dirt. I find these look much like blogs, and Alys has done some blog writing for Gardener’s World. One of the things I find most appealing about the book is Alys working in many of the photos. She isn’t just standing pretty holding a plant or walking through a perfect English meadow. No, she’s got her Wellies on and is down in the dirt, planting, dividing, designing and pruning. In short, she is a gardener. She has the horticultural pedigree too, but I am more impressed by her willingness to do the work.
The point of the book is to just get on with it. Which is what reminded me of my own story. Everywhere I’ve been from my mother’s house, where I grew houseplants in macrame holders (it was the 70s after all) to my present home where I’ve created an English country garden with Oklahoma plants, I’ve always gardened.
Always. Forever. Amen.
This book should give anyone who wants to garden, but doesn’t know how to do it where they’re at, the impetus to get in there and as Nike says, “Just do it.”
According to an article on Alys Fowler, she has a new BBC series which started on April 7, starring her backyard. There is also a companion book. I wish we could see it, but alas, no. Come on BBC America, show us something other than Dr. Who.
In the meantime, here’s a video of her having tea and pulling weeds in the allotment. You don’t get more British than that.
Well, Daylight Savings Time began two days ago. So, today, I’m tired. You wouldn’t think one little hour could make so much difference, would you?
HH walked in the door from work last night with two, blue/green eggs in his hands. The girls have started laying. Before Bear turned them into brownies, I snapped a photo. To me, nothing says spring like a beautiful chicken egg, or a chocolate bunny for that matter.
Bear holding two Aracauna eggs in her hands.
Work continues on the potager. The blocks we bought were supposed to fit easily together, but guess what, they don’t. I think the guys now have a rhythm going since they’ve nearly finished two beds today. Hard, hard work. HH and I spent half of Sunday working on one of the walls to see how high it needed to be, and we had to tear it down and rebuild it.
Part of one garden bed and the brick walkways.
Tomorrow, I need to plant the rest of my cold crops in the back garden because the new potager won’t be finished in time. I still have my potatoes and onions to plant, and I need to get them in now. I received the Forellenchuss or Flashy Troutback lettuce seeds we’re going to all grow, and I’ll get them in the ground this week. I’m also planting collards, which are still a staple crop in the south.
Come summer, I know I’m going to shoot myself for writing this, but I really can’t wait for warm weather and clear, blue skies. It’s been a long and hard winter everywhere, and the gray skies just aren’t my thing. In honor of warmth, I want to introduce you to all the basil varieties I’m planting this year. I won the Renee’s Garden Basil Lover’s Bonanza, and what a nice gift. I wish I could remember which blogger’s contest it was? So many different basil seeds in one package: Italian Pesto basil, Mrs. Burns’s Lemon Basil, Salad Leaf Basil, Windowbox Mini Basil and Scented Basil Trio. I will grow some in containers and some in the kitchen garden. Really, I can’t wait.
Containers on my deck last summer. The terra cotta pots held basil seeds.
Meanwhile, today, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., I’ll be at Best of Books in Edmond speaking to a group of kids on spring break about earthworms. We’re going to make a worm hotel, read some books on worms and other activities. Bear said she’d be my assistant. Folks in Edmond are welcome to stop by and have dirt pudding with us. Passing on the love of gardening is what’s it’s all about.
Don’t forget, today is the last day to enter the Ethel Glove Giveaway. One luck winner will get a pair of Ethel Gloves, and the rest of us get a ten percent discount with the code RDR10. There’s also free shipping in the U.S.
I’m also blogging for Lowe’s over at their Garden Grow Along blog, and I’m trying to convince a friend of mine that she can have her vegetable garden in containers on her deck. She has a bad back from a car accident and wants to do a bit of gardening. I dissuaded her from using that silly, topsy turvy tomato container. I pointed our that the weight of the soil could compact the roots and that you were forcing the plant to try to find the sun. I always wonder about the creators of these silly gimics. She said she was interested in the containers. I wonder if she’d trade facials and dermabrasion for me creating a kitchen container garden for her?
I have, and if you follow me on GoodReads.com, you might have already read my mini-reviews of these two books, but, in case you missed them . . . .
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Sharon Lovejoy’s work. For the past twenty years, I’ve read everything she’s written, smiled at her drawings, and implemented much of what she teaches. I’ve built sunflower houses, played with my children during Hollyhock Days, and we’ve shared many other adventures in the garden.
Cute cover, eh?
I’m also proud to be working with her and seven other wonderful writers on the Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog this spring.
When she asked me to review her new book, Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks, I nearly clapped my hands in delight. Its arrival in the mail made me stop what I was doing to plop down in a chair and give it a once over. This time, Sharon directed her efforts toward grandparents, especially grandmothers. She encourages them to pass on their love for gardening, nature, cooking and all things home to their grandchildren. There are suggestions for making a cozy room with a quilt on the bed and a basket full of books for visiting little ones. (I had a grandmother like this, and I can tell you, next to my mother, I love her more than anyone.)
One grandmother met her darlings with a cup of hot cocoa on the first morning of their stay and then took them for a walk to the beach to see the sunrise. Pure inspiration.
However, before you think this book is only for grandparents, think again. These same games can be played with our nieces and nephews and our own children if we only take the time. Toad Cottages is similar in format to her earlier work Sunflower Houses. You really can build a sunflower house with a morning glory roof. It isn’t difficult, and I assure you the children in your life will always remember it.
As a writer, I receive too many books describing how we should involve our children in the garden, but which base their advice only on practical matters. I think, instead, we should read and implement a book like Toad Cottages which encourages us to instill the love of gardening lore and whimsy.
We only get this one life, and childhood is very short. I would encourage you to take your child’s hand and go on an explore today.
While you’re outside, bring along a sketchbook or notebook with you. Then, if you seen a fantastic bird, or interesting flower or plant, you can quickly capture its essence on paper. Better yet, encourage your child to bring along one too. A love of a gardening starts with a love for nature in all of its beauty, violence and just plain ickiness (think of parasitic wasps eating a caterpillar inside out for example). Kids adore the ick factor as much as beauty, by the way.
Susan Leigh Tomlinson, paleontologist, artist and professor in the Natural History and Humanities program at Texas Tech University, also writes and draws at The Bike Garden. Further, as someone who can build almost anything and often does, she is a woman I truly admire. A few weeks ago, she asked if I’d like to review her new book, How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook. While reading it, I was reminded of those amazing, nineteenth-century, women naturalists who carried their field kits with them everywhere and kept detailed records of what they heard and saw on their walks.
Susan drew these images on the cover.
You might ask, in this age of Nikon D90 DX cameras, voice recorders and Flip camcorders, why anyone would want to make their own notebook? A notebook of one’s own contains so much more. Samples of flowers or ferns can be pressed, and one’s own artwork can grace the pages. If you feel intimidated by the idea of creating your own notebook, this book is for you. By the time you finish, you will know the essential information and skills to record and comment upon your own environment. Tomlinson gives both basic and detailed art instruction. Anyone can draw with a bit of help. Even me.
Each chapter addresses a different topic from required equipment for your field kit to tips for wildflower and bird identification. After reading it, I felt inspired to get out my colored pencils and draw, something which I haven’t done since I was pregnant with Bear. I’ll let you know if I draw anything worth scanning.
Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with these two artists and authors. I’m glad to call them my friends.
This year, I swore no indoor seed growing. Here’s why:
I really don’t have a place for them except the basement (where I’ll forget to water).
The seedlings get leggy from not enough light (although I use full spectrum, grow lights);
and quite frankly, I don’t wanna.
Photo of the urban community garden "Seeds" sign in North Carolina
After placing orders for those seeds I can direct sow (outdoors), I gathered up the catalog multitude for recycling. Totally Tomatoes landed in a basket, and a small, lonely sigh escaped from within its depths. I tried to ignore it, but then a tabbed page fell open to my deep, dark paramours.
Smitten by their charcoal beauty, I began leafing through their descriptions.
Carbon, Black Krim, Black from Tula, Japanese Black Truffle or Trifele (new to me), Paul Robeson ((named after the African-American concert singer and activist) and Black Brandywine (more disease resistant in my garden than the original). Deep, rich, dark taste. Sultry grace on a summer plate combined with an ability to co-mingle with the brighters colors in the tomato rainbow. I confess we are in love, and, sadly, I’d nearly forgotten them.
Here, I would love to show a picture of one growing in my garden, but after looking through all of my photos, I discovered I don’t have a single one. Apparently, I ate them too fast to take a picture.
As stated on the Cold Climate Tomato website, almost all of these originally hail from Russian locales. I wonder if their darker color developed as a way to trap more sunlight. At 75 to 80 days, many of them are mid-season tomatoes (another reason to love them). They are indeterminate, and I like to grow a mix of determinate and indeterminate types. Although black tomatoes were developed in a frigid climate, I’ve never had trouble growing them in Oklahoma (at least in those years when I could grow tomatoes at all).
That is the question. She definitely has Carbon, Black Brandywine, Black from Tula and Cherokee Purple (which is nearly black). I’m sorry Totally Tomatoes. I’m taking the easy route this year and tearing up the asphalt to Tulsa. I can also hit Whole Foods while I’m there.
Anyone up for a road trip?
She also has eggplant (the French aubergine is so much prettier don’t you think?) and pepper plants. April 15, 2010 is her official opening day.