I have always loved gardening with perennials. There is never that “all at once, everything in bloom” thing going on. What I like is how a plant can tell me what time of the year it is, sometimes whether it has just rained and sometimes when it is just too darn hot.
I love to watch how bits of foliage appearing from the soil in the early spring can be plants that are in full bloom and needing to be cut back by May because they cover the pathway already (e.g. zexmenia!). Sometimes a perennial when it is finished blooming is not so appealing, but so many are if you are able to appreciate the stark beauty of their seed heads and the bounty they provide to the birds.
Perennials are great plants for sharing and for memories. When the Chinese ground orchid blooms in spring I think of Michael Moore, a longtime friend, the beautiful crinum reminds me of a friend of Lorie’s and the orange daylily that is blooming right now also blooms in many of the gardens in our neighborhood because of a generous neighbor. And now, every time I look at the galphimia (which will bloom all summer), both my husband and I will think of his cousin who is about to embark on a new adventure in Portugal.
From the archives and something we still deal with at the store on a very regular basis…
One of the important premises of gardening organically is planting the right plant in the right place. One of the more common complaints we hear is that the grass will not grow under trees. Just try to live one summer in north Texas without a tree in the yard!
So instead of complaining and instead of trimming trees so far up that they no longer resemble a tree, plant understory trees, shrubs, perennials and shade-loving groundcovers. The blossoms of a Mexican plum in the springtime will delight you as will the exquisite foliage of a Japanese maple in the fall. Oakleaf hydrangea and American beautyberry are easy-care native shrubs. Columbines provide color in the spring, the red “fez” of the Turk’s cap invites hummingbirds in the summer and the yellow bloom of ligularia adds color to the fall shade garden.
Fill in with autumn, holly and wood ferns, inland sea oats, cedar sage, salvia guaranitica, sweet violets and horseherb and you will no longer complain about “nothing” growing under your tree!
Last week my husband surprised me with a 5-day trip to Paris for our 50th wedding anniversary. What a treat it was! We walked and walked through neighborhoods on the left bank. My favorite spot of all was the Luxembourg Gardens. I did hear a whistle as I was trying to take a photo of the beds of tulips – apparently I was in a restricted area. The plant palette was quite different from what we have here and needless to say I am always looking at plants.
The weather was still in the 50’s and 60’s. What amazed me though was that no matter what time of day, the park was filled with people engaging in such a wide range of activities. As expected, there were lots of runners and walkers. This large park though offers so much more. People were playing tennis, petanque (the French version of bocce ball) and Ping-Pong and engaged in Tai-chi and yoga. Artists and aspiring artists were painting. People of all ages were reading. Lots and lots of conversations going on and then there were those who were just sitting there (in those comfortable Luxembourg chairs from Fermob!) with eyes closed just enjoying being outside.
These gardens are the outdoors for all of these people living in the apartments in the area. They really know how to use them each and every day.
Last month I got to do one of my favorite things – walk around a local market in a different city. This time it was Oaxaca, Mexico, and was it ever vibrant!
Stalls and stalls up and down the aisles filled with local artisans, bakers, cheese makers (I hope I can find their string cheese quesillo here), butchers and purveyors of all sorts of vegetables. There is mole (a long-cooking pepper-based sauce with many other different ingredients such as chocolate, nuts, onions, cinnamon and other spices), chocolate (Oaxacan hot chocolate is so good!), beans, handmade corn tortillas on every corner, squash blossoms galore (loved them in my new favorite dish called tlayuda), tamales wrapped in banana leaves and many varieties of peppers dried and fresh.
One must not forget that Oaxaca is the home of Mezcal, most of which is produced from the Agave angustifolia (Haw.) var.espadin. And the favorite snack – I never would have believed I would have enjoyed it – is chapulines – grasshoppers toasted and seasoned with lime, chiles and garlic. I loved the crunch on top of guacamole!
As Earth Day approaches this week, I am reminded of the work of an organization that started here in Fort Worth that is near and dear to Redenta’s. Our children worldwide are the hope for the future. If we can give them the proper tools they will make this a better world for all.
REAL School Gardens www.realschoolgardens.org brings children, teachers, parents and the entire community together to create learning gardens in low-income schools. Students, teachers, parents, businesses and volunteers come together to install a garden. Teachers are trained to use the garden as an outdoor classroom for science, math, reading, art, music, writing and social studies. Students are learning more and thriving.
In 2009, REAL was providing support for 57 schools in North Texas. Today there are many more, with schools also in the Washington DC and Charlotte NC areas also benefiting from this incredible organization. Redenta’s has for many years provided plants for the North Texas gardens.
Last Saturday there was an example of a “Big Dig” at Diamond Hill Elementary in Fort Worth. Can you not just tell how excited everyone is – especially the children!
Sometimes life gets so busy I forget what the date is, but if I just go out and take a walk in my garden I am reminded. This is what I love so much about a perennial garden – it is ever changing, day-by-day and month-by-month.
It is early April. The hardy amaryllis (Hippeastrum johnsonii) are spectacular and in full bloom. The Easter lily cactus (Echinopsis oxygona) right on cue has started to bloom.
I hate that each bloom lasts only a day or two, but I love watching the bees and moths on it. The first blooms of the tough cutleaf daisy (Engelmannia persistenia) have already started. I love taking some of these inside as cut flowers.
And then there is an unknown hardy gerbera daisy that I planted three or four years ago. The flower is small, but I (or actually my husband!) has cut many a bloom from it for vases all season long. Wish I could find more of them!
I was going back through newsletter items I wrote in 2008. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the same basic gardening tools I used then, I still use now. In fact, we still carry these basic tools in our stores today!
From 2008 I am going out to plant – what do I need? Just as the right knives, frying pans and proper ingredients make cooking a pleasure, so do the proper tools and products in the organic garden. All my garden beds have long ago been prepared with organic matter. Each year, organic fertilizers, compost and mulch are added. Even so, each time I plant, I go to my little shed and bring out my supplies. I put on my favorite Atlas gloves. A Korean hand plow or my Radius scooper is used for digging holes, a Hori-Hori knife for slicing root-bound plants. If I need to prune, my old reliable Felco pruner is ready for action.
As I dig each hole, I put in a handful of earthworm castings, which are full of nutrients that plants love. We think so highly of it that it is one of the ingredients in our potting soil and many of our specialty organic foods. The root of the plant and the planting hole are soaked with a liquid seaweed solution. After planting, the area is covered with either a shredded cedar or hardwood mulch. Simple, basic tools and ingredients for successful organic gardening!
This is NOT a normal spring…though after 38 springs here in Texas I should know that there is no such thing as a normal anything! The cool season vegetables such as broccoli raab and arugula are already flowering. I am leaving them and will let the pollinators enjoy them until I am ready to replace them with warm season vegetables. Tomatoes have been planted and are looking healthy. This week I will plant some basil and peppers – that is a huge leap of faith! My husband is already cutting a rose daily from our rose bushes and the hardy gerbera daisy that we planted three years ago and placing them in a vase for me to enjoy as I prepare dinner.
Slavia greggii are already blooming, as are the hardy ground orchids. Zexmemia and hardy amaryllis (hippeastrum x johnsonii ) are about to bloom.. Hellebore blooms have kept me happy since early this year.
One of the things that hit me as I worked in the Arlington store this past couple of weeks was a reminder…please ask us about those labels that are on the plants. Many a time they are written for northern climates and just do not apply to us. No matter how busy it is, please consult with us for verification. We do NOT want you to plant your Japanese maple or your gardenia in the full sun!
Part of the fun of gardening that I love is planting by seed. Two years ago in the late fall, I planted a package of Hungarian Blue Bread Poppy Seeds from Botanical Interests in my small herb garden on a whim. Have I ever been rewarded! Last spring there were dozens of the purple-blue blooms. I let many of them flower and go to seed. I gathered several of the beautiful brown seedpods and put them in an old copper container that one of my sons had given me many years ago. What memories it invokes. What I have not done yet is use the seeds in baking – that is this year’s project!
And we here in Texas know that cilantro bolts and goes to seed as soon as the weather warms up. I let this happen and harvest the coriander seeds when they have fully dried. You might try Santo, a slow-bolting variety. What I am most excited about this year is a new–to-me variety called Dwarf Lemon. The coriander seed it produces is supposed to have a citrus flavor to it – I can hardly wait.
Cool drizzly days are a treat here in Texas, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around our neighborhood this morning. Looks like there is going to be another good harvest from the pot of Sunshine Blue blueberries I planted last year in a pot. I moved it out of the sun for the dog days of summer and back to a sunnier locale for the winter.
The snowball viburnum is just being to bud out – can hardly wait to see its spectacular blooms.Walking by the Mexican plum in bloom next door kept me thinking – which do I enjoy more – its bloom or its captivating sweet fragrance?
Need an impenetrable hedge and a habitat for nesting birds? Consider Mermaid roses – the foliage is shiny green and it is covered in large creamy yellow fragrant flowers on
an off throughout the season. And bees love it!
Redbuds are in full bloom. I cannot decide which shade of pink/purple I like best. I just know it is spring when they are blooming.
And I have taken the ultimate leap of faith in planting several tomato plants.
They are thriving…so far…