My love for dahlias got off to a really slow start. I much preferred soil beneath my fingernails than for those same nails to be blackened by bruises from driving dahlia stakes into the ground. And the truth was, dahlias had no other purpose on earth than to stand around looking totally tall and beautiful. I liked plants that had a reason for being, like tomatoes. Now there was a plant worth growing even if it did need to be staked.
I grew up loving wildflowers, their little blooms, their foliage, their purpose in life. They seemed to grow and bloom with absolutely no care or attention. I discovered quite early that none of that was true for my mother's prized dahlias. They had to be staked and tied and needed daily care. I wasn't very fond of a plant whose bloom was too heavy for the stalk it grew on.
It started like this: She leaned over with her hand cupped around her mouth, and with her soft low voice against my ear, she whispered: "Wear yore darkest clothes, chile, an' meet me right here jus' 'fore dark. We're gonna git some rose maller seeds." "Aunt Bett, marshmalla seeds? Marshmallas don't . . . " That hand clamped itself over my mouth before I could say another word or even take a breath. Her next whisper was a little louder: "Hush yore mouth, chile, ya cain't grab seeds if ya cain't keep quiet!" The night got worse before it got better.
A rose is a rose unless it's a Rose of Sharon, and then it's a hibiscus. Some say it's the name of a crocus and others swear it's the name of a tulip and then there's some confusion with the lily of the valley. Poor plant, most likely it lives in a state of constant identity crisis, never knowing on which side of the garden it should grow.
They are the ancestors of all the lovely hybrids that we enjoy in our gardens today, those wild lilies that grow freely in different parts of the world. They have different faces, different names in other places, but I was the lucky one. The beautiful Turk's Cap Lily grew wild and wonderful in the Southern Appalachian mountains of Southeast Kentucky where I grew up.
I stood on a little knoll and looked around me. It was like nothing I'd ever seen, acres and acres of color spread out like a treasured old patchwork quilt made of random shapes and sizes. It was pieced together with strips of green and shades of brown that gently covered the rolling hills. It was an iris farm and every plant seemed to be blooming in glorious color!
Amazing blooms, those sunflowers have, and behind every huge golden petaled, chocolate-centered face, there hides a world of secrets. Their seeds are filled with nutrition, their young faces follow the sun, and their petals, seeds, and hulls provide both yellow and a dark purple dye. But that's not all: Sunflowers are the globetrotters of the plant world.
There was magic, she said, in the plants we gathered from the mountain. Magic plants had three reasons for living: They gave us food, they gave us medicine, and they gave us beauty. She said yarrow was truly magic because it was also a plant that could live with very little water. To me, the very best part about yarrow was that it was so old it had a story to tell. That made it even more magical. I loved Aunt Bett's stories.
It happened every spring as I walked up the dusty one-lane road past Aunt Bett's house. She'd yell out the back door: "The gooseberries are growing! Hurry! I see the robins!" And I'd take off in a run, straight up the mountain to the gooseberry patch.
I live in zone 7a and though our winter weather is unpredictable, for the past three years it hasn't stood between my fresh herbs and me. In fact, it was last year's severe drought that taught me the very best lesson. Here are some hints that might help put fresh herbs on your dinner table every winter day.
Uninvited, they join us at picnics. They race for the first bite of our apples. They pounce from beneath the blades of the lawnmower and crawl up the legs of our pants. Even our noses are at risk when we sniff our flowers. "What stung you?" she asked years ago. "I don't know, Ninna, but it had wings and a stinger!"
I grew up loving wildflowers. During the 40s and 50s there weren't many other flowers available in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. I also grew up loving color and I was particularly attracted to red. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered very few red wildflowers growing in my mountains.
It was a tree just like any other growing in the mountains of Southeast Kentucky, but it glowed like gold in the fall mountain sunshine. I watched Aunt Bett use her pocket knife to cut a little twig from it. She rarely used her pocket knife. Usually, she just broke off what she needed. Then she began to chew on the cut end of the twig, and I began to pay attention.
I will admit to being a grazer. When I was very young and growing up in eastern Kentucky, I nibbled my way up one side of the mountain and down the other, learning what was edible and what wasn't. I still nibble and graze and it just occurred to me that all the tastiest nibbles come from the perennials that grow around me.
It's that time of year again: blooms, blooms and more blooms! And every year just like clockwork, we wake up, grab our coffee and our cameras and race to see the newest blooms in our gardens. If there are no new blooms, we drop our heads and slowly walk back inside to wait for tomorrow. But wait a minute; there's something we shouldn't miss! Let's take a closer look at foliage.
Sometimes when we are going full blast ahead and not paying a bit of attention to anything around us, something stunning catches our eyes and an old truth simply slaps us right in the face. It happened to me when I saw the poppies.
We spent most of the month of March watching for signs, those signals that would tell us it was planting time. I don't remember knowing much about the groundhog and his shadow, but I do remember watching for the turkey buzzard to come swooping over our heads, announcing to all the world that spring had arrived.
I have a plan that will make a huge difference in my future gardens. It's simple really; I'm going to plant vegetables among my flowers and let them argue or fight or become friends. It isn't a new plan, it's one Aunt Bett and I hatched a long time ago.
Long, long years ago when our colonists made their way across the ocean, they brought with them valuable things. One of those valuable things was the apple seed. From those seeds came so many different apple colors, textures and flavors, it's difficult today to make a choice.
Winter celebrations were all strung out like beads on a necklace, one right after the other. It was difficult for a child to tell one from the other since most of them were all covered in snow, but I always knew Thanksgiving followed closely on the edges of my birthday.
Aunt Bett always said, "Look for the magic that hides in plants, look real close and you'll find it." Cayenne pepper, HOT! On a hot scale of one to five, I'd rank it close to a six, it's that powerful. Even so, it too contains magic; let's find it.
Aunt Bett always said, "Look for the magic that hides in plants, look real close and you'll find it." I needed a little magic in my life and I think I've found what I need in spices. Along with a few others, thyme is one that is ripe with nutrition. Let's check it out.
Growing up I ate more when grazing in the gardens than when sitting at the dinner table. Even now I wander around tasting my tomatoes, a nibble here, a nibble there, a leaf of spearmint, a daylily bud or two, a pinch of rosemary, basil . . . Yes. I do. I nibble my daylilies.
Did you ever think about giving your gardens a total makeover? My newest garden is probably ten years old and over the years it has had additions randomly tucked in here and there. I've been thinking about a change and I think I'll start with white. How about a Moon Garden where an old patchwork garden used to be?
Aunt Bett always said, "Look for the magic that hides in plants, look real close and you'll find it." We get so used to seeing condiments at every meal, sometimes we don't even notice them and we certainly never think of the plants that are their source. Most of them provide nutrition our bodies need, whether we realize it or not. So is black pepper magic? Surely not. Oh, but let's take a closer look.
The scent of cilantro didn't impress me a few years ago. I planted it in my garden as a border plant only because I loved the look of its lacy foliage. Funny how a few years can make a huge difference. Aunt Bett always said, 'Look for the magic that hides in plants, look real close and you'll find it." Here's my take on cilantro now; I looked for the magic.
'Garden Up' is an excellent book for gardening vertically in spaces large, small or anything in between. It's filled with everything from instructions, directions, and colorful images to lists of plants that will grow in the spaces that are portrayed. This is a must read for gardeners, one that you'll take outside with you.
Let's talk a little about legends, lore and Nature. On good weather Sundays, late in the afternoon, you can find me wandering in the Land Between the Lakes here in western Kentucky. I have a friend who always goes with me; last week when she called she said, "Let's go visit the Cedar Tree."
It's been a little like Jack's beanstalk, you know, the rapid growth of All Things Plants. It's only been a year, but just look at what the year has brought to gardeners all around the world. Let's begin this article now with a word from the top.
They were only little tomato plants, each no more than two or three inches tall. I carefully dug two of them from the family garden and transplanted them to my own private garden hidden behind the playhouse. After all, who would ever miss two little tomato plants?
Right up front I'll tell you this book is not a 'how-to' gardening book. It is, however, a book that might very well mirror every thought and fear that most of us gardeners have faced at one time or another. Let's take a look at a surprisingly fun, totally inspiring, and very personal glimpse into the soul of a New York businesswoman turned full-time gardener.
Come with us now as we travel to Canada to view the gorgeous gardens of Margaret, (mcash70). Short growing seasons and long cold winters don't seem to mar the beauty of her landscape. Be sure to click on the images to enlarge them. You are going to love what you see!
I don't ingest harmful chemicals, I don't give them to my family or my cats and I certainly don't want them near my plants or in my soil. So what should I do about those slugs, meal worms, spider mites, cabbage worms and Japanese beetles that insist on destroying my flowers and vegetables? Simple, really. I just do what my grandmother did; I save my old dishwater.
This is a Garden Tour you'll long remember. Chelle has done marvelous things with her 10 acres in Indiana and she will show us both the before and after photos. We think you are going to love this tour! (Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge so you'll get the full picture!)
It's exciting to look at beautiful gardens in the middle of winter. For our first tour of the new season we're taking you to Wisconsin to see the gardens of Chris Rentmeister. Her creative touch can be seen not only in the color combination of blooms, but also in the interesting garden art she shares with us. You're going to love what you see!
It's that time again. Critters who live near you are making plans for midnight raids on your roses, early morning feasts involving your lettuce, and late afternoon snacks with your daffodils. It's that time again; trust me, they're making plans. It's a surprise party they'll have. You won't be getting an invitation.
Recently I wrote an article about trees and their value to our lives; this is a follow-up to that article. At the time I was writing it, I failed to mention one aspect of trees that we can't do without, so let's get right to the heart and backbone of the matter.
It's a good time to take a look at the bare bones of trees now that winter is upon most of us. That's about all we can see anyway since they aren't dressed in their leafy finery at the moment. Look out your window. How many trees can you see?
No doubt wreaths and garlands of red and green are decorating your homes this week. I've been thinking quite seriously of making a carrot wreath for my front door. After all, it's carrots that played an important role in my winter celebrations; isn't that how traditions start?
It's to Iowa we travel this week, to visit the gardens of Larry Rettig and his wife, Wilma. I've been fortunate, I met Larry's Amana Colonies garden face to face earlier this year. I wandered those garden paths for days and every day I found something new. Let's take a look at these unbelievably beautiful Iowa gardens.
A successful site is made by the interest and the strength of its members. From time to time I receive from our members letters that are worthy of sharing. Today's letter is from Brenda Savage and on this Thanksgiving Day I'd like to share it with you.
Let's take a trip this week to Oregon and visit the lovely gardens created by Lynn Smith and her husband, Cliff. It's always fun to step out of our own climate to see what grows well in another, and sometimes it's even more fun to see what our climates have in common. You are going to love what you see!
Welcome to Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we travel to Hawaii where Carol will take us through the gardens she and her husband have created. You are going to love what you see! Be sure you click on the images to enlarge them.
Welcome to All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we travel way down south to Florida where Ann will take us through the gardens she has created. You are going to love what you see!
Welcome to All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we travel to zone 7 where Tarev will take us through the gardens she has created. You are going to love what you see!
Welcome to All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we travel to California where Mike will take us through the gardens he has created. You are going to love what you see!
Welcome to All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we travel to Indiana where Veronica will take us through the gardens she has created. You are going to love what you see! (Be sure to click each image for an enlarged view.)
Welcome to a special feature at All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we travel to New York to see the gardens created by Jo Ann Gentle. I think you are going to love what you see! (Be sure to click each image for an enlarged view.)
Welcome to a new feature at All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. Join us now as we go to Alberta, Canada to see the gardens created by Joannabanana. I think you are going to love what you see! (Be sure to click each image for an enlarged view.)
It isn't goldenrod that makes you sneeze. It's the ragweed that grows beside it. Let's take a look at this golden beauty that many would like to banish. Aunt Bett and I never could convince Mom that goldenrod didn't cause her allergies; maybe I can convince you.
Welcome to a new feature at All Things Plants: Garden Tours. Each week we'll take you on a tour of the lovely gardens of one of our members. This week we are going to California for the breathtaking view created by Zuzu. Come with us as she tells us all about her gardens. (Be sure to click each image for an enlarged view.)
My mother had a plethora of houseplants. They held no interest for me when I was growing up. I much preferred climbing the mountains with Aunt Bett, gathering wildflowers and herbs and learning of the magic they held. To a little tomboy, houseplants were nothing but boring, except for the one that I was told to never touch, Aloe vera.