It’s Almost Peony Time!

Wondering if the peonies are blooming at A Peony Garden yet?  Almost.  “I give it until next Thursday,” says garden maven and peony expert, Eleanor Tickner.  (That’s May 29th, and I’m counting the days.)  We met Eleanor two seasons ago while on the hunt for peonies as cut flowers, and succumbed to peony mania in the process.  Read the BLOG POST describing all the details.  Right now, there are many buds and a few blooms over at the garden in Glen Mills, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse!

Meet 'Sunny Boy,' a peony within a peony.

Meet ‘Sunny Boy,’ a peony within a peony and quite a rare find.

'Laning Peach'

This peony’s a peach!

'Raspberry Charm' is so bright I have to wear shades.

‘Raspberry Charm’ is so bright I have to wear shades.

And of course, no visit would be complete without a greeting from our old pal, Riddler, who is still going strong.  But don’t worry, his humans are very responsible with dog-shy visitors.

Enter as strangers, leave as friends.  Like the sign says.

“Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” Like the sign says.

See you in a little over a week, Eleanor! Thanks for creating a little slice of heaven on earth for us to visit.

A Peony Garden address: 1739 Middletown Rd. Glen Mills, PA 19342 – about 20 miles SW of Philadelphia.  4.6 miles NW of route 1 on 352.  tel 610.358.1321 call ahead for large orders.  Cut flowers offered as well as peonies in containers.  A must visit for any peony lover!

 

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spread the love

I’m referring to Jennie Love, of course! She’s the Eco-Queen of cut flowers, and the owner of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers – “a petite, sustainably managed, urban flower farm and full service event floral design studio in Philadelphia dedicated to creating fresh textural arrangements exclusively with locally grown flowers.” She is really doing it right, growing everything herself and utilizing those organically grown materials to create stunning designs! Please read her page on “Why Local,” it explains why sourcing local floral materials is the right choice in this global trade, and she says it better than I could…

I’ve been dying to meet Jennie for some time. Here she finally is in her cute vintage apron! I’m holding the hand-tied bouquet I made in class.

Today, she is our teacher for a Floral Fun class at Longwood Gardens, where we’ll be creating a hand-tied bouquet; and she should feel right at home here because Jennie got her training in both growing and floral design at Longwood.

hand tied bouquets from spring months – Jennie Love’s designs – photo courtesy of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers

Jennie Love spring design, photo courtesy of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers

Why create a hand-tied bouquet? They are very fast to make, they eliminate the need for carcinogenic floral foam, and they’re lovely in their loose, organic, country garden feel. They make a great simple gift, too, and it’s easy to create one out of the flowers right from your own garden, especially when you have great plants to work with and a teacher like Jennie to show you how.

Marigold ‘Jedi Orange’ gets very tall

Jennie has brought freshly harvested materials from her farm, and as you can see, these flowers are vibrating with health and beauty. She has two acres in the Roxborough section of Philly, where everything is grown organically – no chemical ever touches her sweet blooms. “But watch out for bugs and spiders,” she warns.

Jennie’s buckets of goodness

Here’s our plant list for the class – it’s also a good guide for easy to grow cut flowers. Jennie uses Renee’s Garden seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds in her garden. (And then I bet she saves seeds – I didn’t ask, but she just seems like a seedsaver to me!)

  • Hydrangea ‘Little Lamb’ a Pee Gee Hydrangea to be cut within the first year
  • Zinnia ‘Benary Series’ – easy to direct sow
  • Marigold ‘Jedi Orange’ – good variety for cutting, get very tall (6′!!)
  • Celosia or Cockscomb- small light purple variety…can’t remember name
  • Foxtail Grass or Setaria – grows by roadside, don’t be shy to collect it yourself, it will lend great drama to your bouquet
  • Baptisia – perennial shrub – great texture, blue-green foliage can add tendril effect, this time of year nice pods too
  • Caryopteris ‘Longwood Blue’ – perennial shrub – how appropriate, and gorgeous
  • Queen Anne’s Lace, Ammi majus ‘Green Mist’
  • Dill ‘Bouquet’ – grows extra big flower heads – I love this!
  • Gomphrena ‘Audray Series’ – cute cute cute little strawberry heads “like twinkling stars” within the framework of a bouquet
  • Bronze fennel
  • False sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Snow-on-the-Mountain, or Euphorbia marginata, emits a milky sap that when cut can cause dermatitis. We are given gloves in case we want to work with this – so gorgeous!

We begin by stripping the leaves and side stems off of all our materials, and making neat, organized piles of each material. To start the hand-tied bouquet, Jennie recommends taking foliage/flower that will create the inner column – in this case we use hydrangea. The first set of stems is to be kept straight, but as you add to your hand-tied, you should be constantly turning the whole bouquet and then adding your sets of stems at an angle, and it will eventually look like a spiral of stems, beautiful. We hold the stems in a relaxed manner in our non-dominant hands, pinching the index or middle finger and thumb together loosely to keep our angles intact.

As you build your hand-tied bouquet, keep turning and adding stems at an angle. As you build bigger, the angles will get more dramatic!

After the first set of stems, add sets of stems to develop texture and contrast. A zinnia or two here, some filler flower or foliage there. Do a 1/4 turn after each set of stems to create fullness and a balanced design. Here, Jennie apologizes for sounding like a hippy, as she advises us to really just “let the flowers speak to you.” You can add things to the center by dropping them down into the bouquet if you feel it needs more of something. “Don’t be afraid to get wild,” she imparts, adding her foxtail grass which erupts in green flame from the bouquet, which is growing ever larger, fuller, and more beautiful by the minute. Yes, she makes it look easy. That’s because hand-tieds are the bulk of what she does. She does many, many weddings (I think she said she’s already done 72 in this year alone?!) and these bouquets are central to her work. She’s developed the hand strength to whip right through them, and her eye guides the design as she goes.

Hand tied bouquets look good in round mouthed containers. No square vases please.

Then, when you’re all done, take the rubber band you have cleverly put around your wrist and work it around your stems. Cut stems evenly and at the height you want – measure against your container before you cut, and leave a bit longer so you can always cut more. Once inside the container, you can fuss and let things breathe a bit. So, how did we do?

Julie’s design is gorgeous and sits upright on it’s own after completion! Balance is perfection!

Kevin had no problem with his design, great job!

The next morning, I find a container for mine and a little patch of morning light to set it in.

My hand tied bouquet loosened up in a metal pitcher. Zinnia, baptisia foliage and pod, dill, foxtail grass, gomphrena, celosia, hydrangea, caroypteris, fennel, queen anne’s lace…

Thanks, Jennie Love. I really enjoyed meeting you! And I feel really good about this Philly-grown bouquet – no packaging, no shipping, no floral foam – spread the love!

lilies and lavender

A little while back, I visited a very unique flower farm in Doylestown, PA called Lilies and Lavender. The head honcho, Kate Sparks, gave my friend Jane and I a tour of her four acre sustainable farm.

Kate Sparks, the cowgirl of cut flowers, amongst the zinnias

Here, Kate and her team grow many types of cut flowers using only organic fertilizers and the least harmful pesticides. Black plastic mulch is used to prevent weeds from growing. I saw many bees buzzing and birds flying, and it seemed to me a very happy place where the circle of life remains unbroken.

Snapdragons growing like gangbusters in the hoop house

Kitchen scraps are fed to worms, creating worm compost that is used to add organic matter to the growing medium

Delicious dark purple calla lily has a happy home

The acreage is long and narrow, but goes on and on. Each time we passed one section, I thought we’d reached the end, only to find there was more around the corner. While the farm is not weeded in a pristine way, each group of plants is clearly thriving under the Kate’s green thumb. She has more energy and works harder than most human beings, you can tell, and I think it comes from the fact that she’s doing something that she loves.

Calendula – an herb for healing but also a beautiful cut flower!

Cerinthe is one of the more unusual selections you”ll find here – I love it.

Bouquet of goodness from L&L contains huge dill flower heads!

Lilies and Lavender sells their flowers at both the Doylestown and Rittenhouse farmers markets, at their farm stand out front, and to select local florists. That’s us, we’re the lucky local designers today!

Melissa, Kate, Jane and Christine after our tour of Lilies and Lavender farm

Jane Godshalk, my wonderful teacher from Longwood Gardens and mentor extraordinaire, took some beautiful bouquets home to create rectangular table centerpieces for an upcoming event. Inspired by Kate’s commitment to sustainability, Jane wanted to keep this design as eco-friendly as possible. She used Excelsior, the non-toxic, biodegradable wood packaging product as the mechanic for stabilizing the stems, wetted down with a fair amount of water. Sure beats using the non-biodegradable, formaldehyde-laden floral foam!

Jane packs the containers with excelsior, then adds water. She begins her design with hosta greens from her own garden

VOILA – Jane Godshalk’s designs using locally grown flowers from Lilies and Lavender

Thanks, Kate Sparks! I know I only scratched the surface of your operation here, but that’s because I already desperately want to come back. PS You could be a jeans model.

Shucks, here’s one more lavender/bee shot for Kate:

hydrangea blues

My small world has been vibrating with blue lately…the blue of the hydrangea.   In the little town of Swarthmore, the sky-colored puffs are so prolific they must be predicting the end of the world with their abundance of blossom.  We’re surely going out in style!

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’ – flowers on both old and new growth

A stroll through the Hydrangea Collection at the Scott Arboretum will leave you reeling in disbelief at nature’s ability to create shades so cerulean.  Actually, their color can vary depending on the soil’s acidity…alkaline soil (pH>7) produces pink flowers, while acidic soil (pH<7) produces blue flowers.  We must be having quite an acidic year.

H. macrophylla ‘Nigra’ has lovely dark stems

H. macrophylla, one of the most common species of Hydrangea, can have two different forms of flowers – either hortensia, the mophead, ball-shaped form; or lace-cap which is flat topped.

‘Claudia’ has a lace-cap form.

H. serrata – Another lace-cap form: the smaller darker flowers in the center are fertile, while the outer more showy flowers (actually sepals) are infertile.  The bees know the difference.

Most hydrangeas like dappled shade and well drained loamy soil.  Hydrangea macrophylla blooms from late June through August, and prefers part shade and moist soil.    It flowers on the previous season’s growth and should be pruned immediately after flowers have faded in late summer or early fall.  (Unlike H. arborescens and H. paniculata – prune those in late winter or early spring, they flower on the current year’s growth.)  Here’s more on pruning, from Fine Gardening.

Larry enjoys a moment of relaxation

‘Glowing Embers’ also called ‘Alpengluhen’

These blooms are as big as my niece June’s head!

Finally, hydrangeas make wonderful cut flowers.  They can last for weeks if their stems are re-cut and the water is changed frequently.  For my birthday, I created this simple arrangement using Hugh and Juliet’s blue macrophylla hydrangea (thanks guys!) and some of the Ammi majus from my garden.

poppy pride

You poor neglected blog.  It’s just been too nice outside, and there’s been too much fun stuff going on to tend to you.  But I have some floral gifts for you today, in the form of poppies.  Yes, poppies!

Larry and I inspect the poppies – they are about 5′ tall!  Photo by Brandon Adamek

Papaver somniferum ‘Hungarian Blue’

I started these Hungarian Blue “bread seed” poppies from seed on March 20th of this year, a Seedsavers purchase. I love buying stuff from Seedsavers because I really believe in their mission, which is all about saving and sharing heirloom seeds to preserve genetic diversity.  In fact, they maintain thousands of varieties of different plant types – from amaranth to watermelon – in one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America. They also store varieties in back-up locations at the USDA Seed Bank in Fort Collins, CO and at Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, which houses the most diverse collection of food crop seeds anywhere on Earth.  Seeds are tucked away safely into the permafrost in the mountains of Svalbard, just in case we lose our crops due to some type of catastrophic event.

Back to my poppies.  These are Papaver somniferum ‘Hungarian Blue’ – a rare heirloom variety whose blue purple petals quickly emerge, crinkled and shiny.  This is the variety whose seeds are most often used to grace the tops of bread loaves and bagels.  Mmm.

The Hungarian Blue poppy (is actually more purple)

Buzz

The flowers don’t last long, but luckily the petals fall away to reveal a milky green blue seedpod, which will be full of edible poppy seeds when they dry out.  I’d like to save some for replanting, use some for baking onto the tops of bread or muffins, and use some seedpods in arrangements for Thanksgiving.

Aren’t they cool?

back to the garden

Remember the patch of earth my Pops and I dug back in February?

Pops and Larry dig out garden on 2/27/12

Well, I planted some euphorbia, and then sowed seeds, which sprouted up in no time. Sweet peas, dill, bachelor’s buttons, poppy, Ammi majus…

Then I added some plants from Mostardi’s:  foxglove, armeria, thyme, lavender, fennel, rosemary, delphinium, Russian sage, nepeta, lamb’s ear, eryngium…

Garden on 5/4/12

Red stemmed dogwood ‘fencing’

5/5/12 – Fertilized with Dr. Earth’s organic stuff

Since then, I’ve been watching my garden closely, watching things grow.  Thinning, weeding, a little watering if needed.  Then I went away for less than a week during a heat spell, and when I came back the garden seemed to be overflowing with plants!

5/31/12

Foxglove after a rain – 5/22/12

Bees love it

First Sweet Pea Blossom – 72 days after sowing seed (5/31/12)

the Overseer of Sweet Peas, placed by Pops

Delphinium 5/31

I did some editing today, and as if it’s not crammed full enough, I also sowed a few sunflower and Bells of Ireland seeds!  I can’t wait to see the poppies, bachelor’s buttons, and Ammi majus bloom – soon, I think.  I can’t believe how good it makes me feel to tend a few plants in a 4′ x 13′ bed.  Now, where to put that clematis vine…

a peony garden

I was never very good at keeping secrets.  So, for those of you that wanted A Peony Garden, in Glen Mills, PA to remain a secret, I’m terribly sorry.  This place is just too amazing not to share with everyone!

A Peony Garden is four acres of heaven on earth during the month of May, planted with 250 different cultivars of tree, garden, and intersectional peonies of all colors shapes and sizes.  Peony fans can buy peony plants, but the bulk of the business done here is cut flowers, and that’s what I’m interested in.  Prices vary throughout the season between $1 and $1.50 per stem, which in the floral world is absolutely unbeatable. And you can feel good about buying from a local grower – you’re not flying peonies from halfway around the world, there’s no excessive packaging – just bring your own bucket!  How sustainable is that!

Picking peonies with Valerie, Jane and volunteer Sandy Papa

Freelance floral designer Valerie McLaughlin stops to smell the peonies

But beware that you don’t succumb to peony mania, like we did.  There’s just something about all those fragrant blooms, and their silken petals worn like party dresses, that makes you simply swoon.  You will want more, more, more!!

Eleanor Tickner, head gardener

The woman behind it all, Eleanor Tickner, has her own secrets to growing peonies, which she downplays.  “Sunshine, of course.  And you go out and talk to them, you pray over them.”  Eleanor and her husband Bill have been growing peonies here for around 15 years.   It’s a family affair – her two daughters sometimes help out, and the Great Danes are not guard dogs but more like the official greeters of the place.

Riddler greets my Dad

Eleanor with head of the PR department, Great Dane Riddler

Eleanor began growing as a way to keep busy after retirement, because as she says, “you don’t stop working and all of a sudden eat bon bons and chase dust bunnies.” Accustomed to working hard and seeing results, Eleanor wanted to do something exciting with the four acres of sunny land, which she says is “just enough to get me in trouble.”   She chose to plant peonies, because they don’t need a lot of water (they only have well water on their property,) and because they’re “satisfying to the soul.”  Peonies reminded Eleanor of her adopted grandmother from next door, who grew a row of peonies she believed kept the evil spirits away.   After spending an hour at A Peony Garden, I begin to think that myth is true, because I just feel so darned good.

Eleanor swears that growing peonies is just a hobby, but from the glint in her eye, and the fact that she’s out in her garden until dusk every day, I believe she’s passed into the realm of obsession.  While she has no horticulture degree, she’s the President and co-founder of the Mid Atlantic Peony Society, and serves on the Board of Directors at The American Peony Society. She’s also written articles on peonies – for Philly News, and for The Hardy Plant Society, to name a few.  She’s referred to as a “promoter” of peonies, by Don Hollingsworth, of Hollingsworth Nursery in Missouri, one of the top growers of peonies in the country.  Holllingsworth, along with Adelman Peony Gardens in Oregon, and Hidden Springs Flower Farm in Minnesota, are the main sources for her plants.

It’s clear that Eleanor has more than just a love for peonies; she’s adopted a scientific approach to growing them, evaluating cultivars for reliability, consistent bloom, and the ability to grow without staking.  She is always willing to share her knowledge with others, and her humility is unparalleled.  “As far as I’m concerned, every person is replaceable on this earth.  But my job needs to be done, so that’s what I’m doing out here – educating.”

Eleanor gives a tour to the Scattered Seeds Garden Club

Through the American Peony Society, she judges plants worthy of the APS Award of Landscape Merit, and grows a few of these recipients on her property, such as ‘Do Tell,’ a pink anemone form peony, and one of my favorites of the day.

‘Do Tell’ peony – I mean, amazing, right??

If you’re a peony lover looking to grow some reliable favorites for cutting, Eleanor recommends varieties like ‘Festiva Maxima,’ a huge fragrant double variety whose frilly white petals are edged with red flares.

‘Festiva Maxima’ has been around for 150 years

If you like big pink peonies, try growing ‘President Taft’ or ‘Walter Faxon;’ but for a glorious red peony Eleanor suggests ‘The Mackinac Grand’ (pronounced mackin-AW,) whose brilliant fiery red hues could literally stop traffic.

‘The Mackinac Grand’ – also an APS Award of Landscape Merit winner

There are many unnamed varieties here too, gotten ‘over the garden gate’ or at an end of season sale. “It’s a gardener’s dream, to have this much land available to play in – and that’s what I do – play,” says Eleanor.  If you go for cut flowers, bring a bucket and expect to spend some time combing the gardens for your favorites.  Either Eleanor or her volunteer, Sandy, will walk you through the fields and cut the blooms you desire.  She doesn’t let the public cut her peonies, spritzing alcohol on the pruners between each plant to stop any diseases from spreading.

Sandy Papa, volunteer, cuts ‘The Mackinac Grand’ for me to bring home

Jane Godshalk hides behind a peony bloom

Jane counting peonies.

For floral fanatics, Eleanor shares her special recipe for prolonging a peony’s vase life:  1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar (to fight bacterial growth) and 1 tablespoon sugar (food for bloom) to one quart of water.  It really works!  The blooms at A Peony Garden should last through Memorial Day Weekend, so hurry to get a glimpse of these old fashioned beauties, and be sure to take some home with you.  Thanks to my Dad and stepmom Julie for sharing their secret peony source with me!

A Peony Garden address: 1739 Middletown Rd. Glen Mills, PA 19342 – about 20 miles SW of Philadelphia.  4.6 miles NW of route 1 on 352.  tel 610.358.1321 call ahead for large orders

the little garden that could

Back in February, my parents said they’d let me turn a patch of earth at their house into a garden of my own(ish).  Turns out they weren’t kidding after all, and made good on the promise.  At the end of February, I did some soil excavation to test the tilth and drainage of the area.

holding the ball of soil, then seeing how easily it breaks apart - it stayed in the ball so it's pretty much clay (feb 21st)

i dug a foot-deep hole and poured water in twice to see how it would drain - good news, it drained right away both times! (feb 21st)

Satisfied enough to try this garden experiment, I roped off two 4′ x 13′ beds in a mostly full sun spot by the garage with all the best intentions.

Larry the dog sniffs out the projected garden site (feb 26th)

My dad and I started the sod removal/soil amendment at the end of February, deciding just to see what the work was like between the two of us for one bed.  One bed at a time.  I have a bad back, and he’s 72.  (That’s never stopped us from doing stupid things, though.)

My dad, the ex-Marine, is going along with this folly and helping me remove sod (feb 27th)

a nice crisp edge is how we like it (feb 27th)

dad the incredible hulk does the bulk of the work, we have to remove quite a bit of crap soil to make way for the good stuff (feb 27th)

While I’m not looking, Dad (and Larry) double-dig much of the bed, despite my wishes to wait to do that until we had the soil amendment materials. There is no stopping him!  He is a machine!  We get into a heated discussion that’s not really about the garden at all, but more about my current life situation (I call it a ‘pickle’) and the fact that I can’t do this all myself because of my back.  He lets me yell at him for a while until I realize I am not treating my only laborer with the kindness he deserves.  Many apologies and a few tears later…we both agree that gardening brings out the best in me!

double digging and lots of sniffing (feb 27th)

Ok, now we got the goods: Bumper Crop, the new and improved organic soil builder we purchased from Mostardi’s Nursery.  It contains Sphagnum Peat Moss, Peat Humus, Worm Castings, Kelp Meal, Dolomitic Lime, Composted cow manure, Lobster and Crab Shells (wait, I’m getting hungry) Aged Bark, dehydrated Poultry manure, and both endo and ectomycorrhizae.  This soil needs all the help it can get!

subarus rock for garden jobs! (feb 28th)

i can't thrash like i used to. adding bumper crop soil amendment (feb 28th)

Capt Mac works in the luscious good stuff with the garden weasel and later i help a little with a pitchfork (feb 28th)

We let the bed sit, and carefully watch as rains come, sun shines, and bunnies hop.  All looks good.   I go back to Boston to see my husband.  I come back. Then the temps warm up. I decide that in my current situation (living a few different places) it might be best not to have two garden beds to maintain, so it will be one for now.  I also decide to get the ball rolling and add some more of the black stuff since we aren’t using it for the other bed.  And do some fine raking to break up some remaining clumps.  There is a voice in my head saying, “Be careful Ann, this is one of the ways you threw your back out once.”  Again, it doesn’t stop me (but now I do my back stretches almost every day to counter the gardening etc.)

raking out clumps, added another bumper crop bag (mar 19th)

i read in my Flower Farmer book it's good to soak sweet peas for 24 hours before planting. they got all swelled up and look ready to burst here. (mar 20th)

And then it’s TIME TO SOW!  Here’s everything I planted today…Sweet Peas (Grandiflora mixture,) Hungarian Blue Poppy (Papaver somniferum,) Blue Boy Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus), White Lace Bishop’s Flower (Ammi majus) and Grandma Einck’s Dill.

first round of sowing (mar 20th)

Julie and I also bought some more stuff at Mostardi’s – I found some Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’ which I really dig for the foliage, although it is blooming now.  It will get 2-3′ tall and spread a bit.

Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' (mar 20th)

garden diagram gone haywire, at least i can read it (mar 20th)

after first round of sowing/planting (mar 20th)

The red-stemmed dogwood will hopefully support the sweet peas, and also looks neat while there’s nothing happening.  Heck, maybe it will actually root! (Doubtful.) The plan is to see what germinates and perhaps add a few other things like sunflowers, zinnias or stuff I see in nurseries I like.  (Not doing the cukes this year because I think my huzz and I should do that project together.)  All watered and ready to grow…so think good thoughts for the little garden that could.  And happy first day of Spring!

a garden of my own(-ish)

Okay, I’ve done a lot of digging in the dirt, at other people’s houses. For money. I’ve taken classes in ornamental horticulture, worked at NYBG, and been a TV garden editor for Martha Stewart. But I’ve never envisioned my own garden and created one. What would it look like?

Photograph: © Country Life Picture Library, from Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden by Judith B. Tankard, Rizzoli New York, 2011

No, not like that.

I guess I tell myself that my excuse for never making a garden of my own is that I got caught up in television production, a career that has served me well over the years but also required an unhealthy amount of ignoring my own life. But if I’m being totally honest (and I think I should because this is my blog,) gardening and I parted ways after a traumatic event that occurred at Martha’s house in Maine. Yes, I’m going to blame it all on Martha.

garden mothra: i drew this mustache on using GIMP

We had Dan Hinkley as a guest, you know the fantastic plantsman of Heronswood fame, and I was the producer and garden prep person for a segment we were to do on shade treasures. Since Dan travels the world collecting rare specimens and cultivating them for trade, you can imagine the amazing plants he had brought for the Skylands property! (And he’s also the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet.) This would be a chance to educate folks on some of the possibilities for shady areas, so we had a good variety of stuff out there. As I’m prepping Martha for the segment, she looks at all the “shade treasures” and says, “what’s all this? I can’t plant all this here! I only want one kind of plant here, Solomon’s seal.” I tried to argue with her (bad idea) about the fact that we had already discussed every inch of the material and she had already agreed to all of the plants going into the ground, but she was steadfast. It was her garden, of course, so we turned it into a Plant of the Week segment on the very beautiful Solomon’s seal that Dan had brought. Yes, we flew him across the country to talk about ONE PLANT. I think I was more upset about that than anything else.

Polygonatum odoratum

But…in this process of arguing with her, and trying to convince her that the plant variety was important for education, she hooked onto the idea that I was more of a television producer than a gardener. She looked at me with those see-everything brown eyes and said, “You’re not a real gardener.” This was pretty much the only time Martha ever made me cry in the entire decade I worked for her. I almost quit right there. And I think I really took that statement to heart, and followed the TV production path instead of the gardening one. It was quite stupid of me, to listen to someone who has minions that make her gardens. And stupid of me to let this one sentence sink into my bones. It doesn’t mean I can’t grow a few fucking flowers. (Addendum: please don’t get the wrong idea about Martha. I have so many good things to say about her, and her beautiful gardens, and all the opportunities she gave me, and the Emmys we won, and everything I learned…but I just had to tell that one little Fleur de Mal.)

ANYWAY…now that I’m ‘in-between’ TV gigs, or maybe done with TV altogether, this gardening/floristry/plant path is once again beckoning to me. I’ve begun dreaming about my garden…made possible by my amazing parents, who said they’d let me have a little patch of earth on their property to play with. Oh golly! Really? I hope they’re serious! Because I already ordered some seeds from Seedsavers Exchange! That’s the first place I thought of, because they offer heirloom varieties of seeds that gardeners from around the world save and swap each year.

cosmos

I’m thinking cutting garden with some herbs and veggies thrown in. In other words, it will be totally utilitarian with a bunch of stuff I love. Keep it simple, try to be successful at something small. Neat and organized. I haven’t measured or really taken this to the next level by cordoning off an area yet, because I don’t want to scare my parents off of the idea. I must admit I went a little crazy on the Seedsavers site today, and I know I will have to scale back (bearing in mind I also want to order plants too.) I need to do this in the proper order, starting with doing a LOT of research and reading about what plants perform well in zone 7a (yes, that’s right, we are 7a now with the new USDA plant hardiness map!) and are also deer resistant. I hope to create a spreadsheet with all the salient facts to help keep me organized. Last night, I fell asleep with a cut flower book in my lap and tonight I plan on doing the same. This is my Seedsavers order:

The cukes are for my husband, who has been talking about pickling for the last 1700 years. This is the year to do that, too, I hope. Enjoy the new moon energy!