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…
When I opened Redenta’s 25 years ago, most of my personal gardening had been vegetables. As a child, back in Ontario, Canada, we spent May to September out in the large vegetable garden planted by my Mum and Dad.
Potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, and turnips were harvested and kept in the root cellar under the front porch. Beans, peas and broccoli ended up in the freezer. Tomatoes were canned, some made into sauce. Cucumbers and some beets were pickled. Every evening before dinner my Mum would go down to the garden and pick fresh lettuce – her salads were amazing. Raspberries were made into jam, as were peaches we bought from the Niagara peninsula each Labor Day weekend.
When we bought our first home in Texas we planted the same large vegetable garden. There was no large root cellar, but I did continue my
Mum’s example of preserving as much as I could. It was difficult for me in the early years of the business as there was very little interest in the part of gardening that I loved the most. It has come back and I am thrilled!
Now back to my Mum’s salad, so simple and easy:
Ingredients usually consist of fresh leaf lettuce, a little chopped red onion, maybe some cucumber and a bit of tomato. Olive oil, only enough to coat the leaves – toss gently. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, red wine or balsamic vinegar and salt, tossing gently after each addition. After many years of making salad just like my Mum, I do not even think about proportions, it just seems natural and I think of her each time I make it.
I’ve been back in our Arlington store training a mostly new crew these past few weeks. Redenta’s started there and we recently celebrated our 25th anniversary. Gardeners (we don’t call them customers) from the early years recognized me and it was great having a hug and doing some catching up. I’m getting to that age where everyone tells me it’s time to slow down and smell the roses. I prefer to stay active and smell the roses in my stores. It’s where I belong.
In the age of “devices”, there must be somewhere to unplug and connect—with other people and with nature. I’ve always strived to make the stores that kind of place. Dick was making deposits at the bank last week and the teller told him how much she loved our store and that she sometimes takes her lunch there to just sit and soak up the atmosphere. Perfect! That’s exactly what we are trying to create.
It feels like spring already. We are all excited and invigorated and ready to share our enthusiasm with you. I will be giving the class on Spring Vegetable Gardening at our Arlington store at 10:30, this coming Saturday, February 25th, and will be there most of the day to answer your gardening questions or just to say hello. Oh, and put your devices on “silent.”
Dick and I are walking down a back street not far off the Piazza del Campo in the heart of Siena, looking for the address of the convent. Finally, we are ushered into the reception area and I’m reunited with my aunt, Sister Redenta. I’ve brought photos of our garden centers that bear her name (it’s also my middle name). All is going well until she sees her name on the side of one of our pickup trucks. “Mama Mia!, Mama Mia!”
When I started Redenta’s Garden, 25 years ago last month, I wanted it to be a special place that reflected some of my European heritage (mum was British; dad was Italian). Over the years, together with some very talented and dedicated staff, the goal is still to offer a personal shopping experience. It’s also a family business – my son Michael and daughter-in-law Lorie have developed our landscape design and installation business. Now, if I could just get one of my four grandsons to come aboard, we would be good for another 25 years.
My goal here is to share some thoughts about gardening with you and listen to your thoughts and feedback as well. Let the journey begin.