I visited a fruit tree orchard for the first time!
Normally, when we do garden day on the blog, Julie or I talk about what gardening things we’ve been doing lately. I’m confined to a dorm at the moment, but luckily my plant class is doing some interesting things and keeping me from going insane from “lack of plants-itis,” an actual disease suffered by gardeners, often resulting in symptoms like having lengthy conversations with trees, speaking encouragingly to wildflowers, and sneaking out in the night to deadhead flowers in public landscaping.
You may wonder why Jarad and I continually prattle on about gardening. If you do, it probably means you’re not a gardener yourself. Most of the gardeners we know kinda can’t help but wax on about varieties, heirloom seeds, the best fertilizers, and whether or not you can squeeze a drift rose into a spot with only four hours of sun. We are also writers and readers…this combination means garden posts for you! At least we don’t collect vacuum cleaners or take pictures of roundabouts.
But today we are no longer satisfied with simple loquacity, we have crossed the border into proselyting. Here’s Jarad on the benefits of gardening.
At this point in time, I believe I’ve prattled on about plants to the point where my friends and family are in danger of becoming homicidal. (Guys, if you do decide to kill me, at least bury me under the vegetables). Aside from actually being annoyed to death by an overly enthusiastic plant fiend, there are benefits to being a gardener. Here are some that I have discovered.
With most people's busy schedule, plants can seem like a hassle. Not for Jarad! He's digging his heels in against a plantless existence with an ever growing collection of houseplants.
I just moved back to college for the start of my senior year. This is an exciting time, but it also means that I don’t have a garden to tend to, and subsequently I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. For example, I had a dream the other day about hollyhocks. Sexy, I know but I am, after all, what several people have referred to as a, “plant freak,” so I suppose it’s only to be expected. This happened to me last spring as well, to the point where I was going around campus deadheading masses of daffodils and weeding flower beds, a job usually reserved for the people paid to do it. I couldn’t help myself, I had to do something. In my defense, they weren’t doing it often enough. And would it kill them to do a little pruning? That’s neither here nor there, but still I’m sorely tempted to take after a rose bush that’s half dead with my trimmers. Anyone have recommendations for a set of pruning shears that will fit neatly in a backpack?
This spring, I decided to get a little hands on experience with gardening. I went a little overboard. But only a little.
Monty Don once said, “It doesn’t matter how much you read or how much you study, nothing beats a lifetime of experience.” I think this is very true, and it’s something I decided to apply when I became interested (my mother says obsessed, but I think this is too harsh) in gardening. Besides my desire to be active in a garden rather than reading about it, I was eager to learn by doing. So, I did, and last winter I planned out several flower beds and one bed for vegetables, and I went a little crazy buying seeds. I couldn’t wait to get home for spring break to start all of my seeds, and as soon as the term was over, I busily went to work removing sod with a shovel and planting seeds, flowers and vegetables. For the first three months of the summer, I was watering all five beds with a two-gallon watering can, and it took almost an hour. Suffice it to say, I have never had the appreciation for a garden hose that I have now.
Julie and Jarad are predictably talking about gardening again. Just fyi, the next time you're taking a walk outside and you see a squirrel, just know they're cussing you out. You're welcome.
Jarad asked if I would like to add to his piece on enjoying a garden. I have to agree that for the most part, I find myself piddling when I go outside, deadheading roses, pulling up basil, weeding or planting. While I enjoy sitting calmly in a garden, I don’t often find myself in that position. I think that active gardening is what I love as well.
The only thing I can really add is that I also love - when no one is around to report me – talking to the plants, cats, birds, squirrels and occasionally garden statuary. This is why I really and truly need a fence. My neighbors don’t really need to know exactly what kind of crazy woman lives next door. They say that the real problem comes in when the monologue becomes a dialogue. It’s when things start to talk back that you know you’ve gone round the twist. (Let me add you might end up living with a snarky, skeletal visitor who never leaves.)
I suppose I wouldn’t say the plants talk back, but plants do tell you things in their own way. And I defy any one of you to tell me that squirrels don’t cuss. So I guess that’s it. Working in the garden helps me relax and so does having a little conversation with nature. (Except for squabbling with belligerent squirrels over the blueberries.)
Here are the colors that the Sacred Chickens team likes to plant! What are your favorite colors of flowers?
I am a sucker for pictures of beautiful English cottage gardens, pink roses, clematis, with occasional spikes of blue delphinium to set off the delicate pastels. All this should be set against the soft fresh greens of mown grass, with a few white lilies thrown in for scent and serenity. If I could choose any colors at all, it would be these…however, I live in the Atlanta area where the summer sun is bright and hot and it has a tendency to wash all those colors out.
So, I try to get my pastel fix in spring, setting off pink blooming peach trees, pale yellow jonquils, white Thalia daffodils and grape hyacinth with brightly colored tulips. In my current garden I have bright red camellias and deep pink ruffled azaleas in the background, and I find that these colors pop better than pale pastels would. I can then add my usual pastel early bloomers.
If I do go with a pastel, I prefer one that spends some time absolutely covered in blooms, like my yellow lady banks or the sweetheart rose I had at the old house. Those plants are about as “in your face” as pastels are likely to get and I set them off with bright or dark purples, yellows and pinks.
For the summer, I have planted a wall of peach drift roses which shift from pastel pink to peach as they age. I find that this little bit of peach is complemented the purples of clematis or annuals. I also plant zinnias in my summer garden because they love the sun and the colors pop, even in the sea of hot sunshine that washes over them every day.
I love the golds, browns and reds of autumn and I try to have at least a few trees and shrubs that turn brightly colored in the fall.
Colors are a matter of taste, but also location and you have to take that into account when you are planting.
Summer fun for Sacred Chickens. We went on an expedition yesterday! Can we call it team building? We spent the entire morning wandering around the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, getting ideas for our own gardens, enjoying herb gardens, vegetables, lilies, woodlands, and moving rapidly from one ecosystem to the next in the conservatory. Jarad, of course, bought a book. We discovered that the heat and all the walking fried our brains so instead of a real post...here are some pictures of the garden!
Jarad ruminates on garden maintenance, weeds and other day to day garden things.
When I say the word gardening, people tend to think of planting flowers or trees, pruning shrubs or something of that sort. And while that is a large part of it, an equally larger part of gardening is maintenance. Watering, weeding, pest management and other general care of flowerbeds is a lot of work, and something I didn’t necessarily realize when I began my projects (mulch, or any other weed suppressant, is my new best friend). And really, you are never fully in control of the garden. There’s no way to be, unless you have a hired staff, and then, you’re not really a gardener, are you? But, unlike flowers, one cannot cultivate control. There’s always a stray weed, a dramatic plant drooping in the heat (hydrangeas are the worst of the drama queens), or some other problem that you must troubleshoot on a daily basis.
How thoughts about murder and mayhem in the garden led me to question my intake of caffeine – another random train of thought that stopped at an unexpected station.
by Julie Carpenter
This particular thought train to nowhere was triggered by squirrels. Squirrels seem to be taking up an inordinate amount of real estate in my mental landscape lately, but that’s another story.
I looked out my kitchen window yesterday and I saw a squirrel looking back at me. He was stuffing his cheeks with almost, nearly, barely ripe blueberries. The ones I was going to pick today. I pounded on the window and he shrugged. Whatever. I could see it in his eyes.
Hats off to Tom!
by Julie Carpenter
(Is this Friday? No it is not. Pity poor Jarad trying to establish a publishing schedule with me in tow. Anyhoo...here is the post that was perfectly ready yesterday but just didn't get put up.)
Tom is the gardener who lived in my new place before me. He was an elderly man who apparently died of dementia. I never met him, but the neighbors have some lovely stories about how helpful he was, finding treasures for the kids and helping them with their gardens. But even though we were never introduced, Tom gave me some gifts as well. He planted my garden full of perennials, shrubs, and small trees, and now I don’t have to start from scratch.