Archive for the ‘General’ Category
The sun is shining and the wind this morning is relatively calm (for a Texas spring day, that is). I look out my window and watch the yellow finch eating their thistle seed breakfast. The camellia is covered in red blooms, the ground orchid given to me by a friend is starting to bud and the hellebores are blooming in all their glory. Behind the rusty blackhaw viburnum that is starting to flower is my neighbor’s redbud tree covered in pink.
Dinner tonight will include salad greens, radishes and kale from the garden. Tomatoes are planted. Can it get any better than this?
On January 2, 1992 I opened Redenta’s Garden in Arlington. I envisioned a small shop carrying a wide selection of hard-to-find plants, lots and lots of herbs and great old garden roses. By the end of the first year we stocked only organic fertilizers and remedies. This made sense to me having been an avid follower of Organic Gardening magazine and Mother Earth News in the 70‘s. A warm, friendly, knowledgeable staff was a must. I had learned the hard way that gardening was not easy here in north Texas, so it was important to me that each and every customer have a successful gardening experience. So many of our customers that first year are still with us – they have indeed had success.
Most of my early personal gardening was vegetables. In 1992 there was very little interest in something I loved. Twenty years later it has become the most popular part of gardening – I am thrilled. Being organic then was unusual – now it is mainstream. Drought-tolerant, native plants were ignored – now they are a necessity and gardeners now realize how beautiful they can be. What do you suppose the gardening trend will be in another twenty years?
I am so jealous when I read and hear about the veggie gardens and the produce they yield at this time of year in other parts of the country. My bean plants for the most part look healthy, but for the past two months there has yet to be a bean on them. Basil is beautiful. My pepper plants are pathetic, but the ones at the Arlington store are big, lush and prolific (has to be all the compost, cow manure and John’s Recipe they fed them). I still have two tomato plants left from the spring and surprisingly there is the odd tomato on them. Not surprisingly they are the size of peas! The four plants put in the ground in early July may not make it though – I was out of town and they just did not get enough water. So sad.
And then I look at my eggplant and okra. Nothing seems to faze them. There indeed do exist plants that love this Texas sun and heat!
In all the brown and doom and gloom of this past two months of brutal heat, I do see spots of color. It has been tough. Plants that have thrived in my garden for the last 10 years are barely hanging on. This includes my Mexican mint marigold, salad burnet and chives. Yet the French tarragon that is not supposed to like even our normal summers in doing just fine. My fig that is in a pot is dropping its leaves. I had planted several new plants this spring. The zexmenia, rudbeckia and flame acanthus are thriving and blooming while the pigeonberry, hydrangea and ardisia are dead. All got the same amount of water – even I am wondering.
I do get to enjoy a nice spot of color right outside my back door. I planted three pots – one with lantana, one with penta and one with cigar plant. Next to them is a patch of Mexican milkweed. The penta and cigar plant are blooming – barely. But the lantana and milkweed have been in full bloom all summer. Such a delight and I am sure the monarchs will appreciate it when they pass through this fall!
In the middle our unrelenting Texas heatwave, I had a trip of a lifetime. My parents emigrated to Canada when I was five years old. I grew up without knowing my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. This past month all sixteen cousins met, most of us for the very first time in our lives. It was incredible!
What was most amazing was the common thread of gardening. I have mentioned before my cousin David in the Shetland Islands. Believe it or not, it is harder to garden there than here in Texas. We have brutal heat, while they have non-stop winds, lots of rain, rabbits, blight and an extremely short growing season. My cousin Raymond in Wales has to deal with rain, slugs and snails. Letters from my Uncle in New Zealand in the early 1940’s talked of how his garden was growing. And a visit to my cousin Stanley’s home in north London was a delight – everything I would have expected in a typical British garden. It was such a delight to discover that gardening must be part of my family’s DNA.
Redenta’s Garden opened its doors in January of 1992. My parents gave me Redenta as my middle name in honor of my Aunt Redenta, my father’s sister, who was a nun in a convent in Siena Italy. Today I found out that Redenta passed away – the last of all my uncles and aunts.
We visited Redenta several times over the years. On one of the earlier visits we had lunch with several of the nuns in the convent. At one point they pointed out to us that we were eating at the same table that centuries before Napoleon had also shared a meal. I will never forget when we explained to her that our landscape trucks had Redenta’s Garden on the doors – she was just not really impressed with that! And it was almost 13 years ago that she was able to share with us a special occasion – the wedding of Michael and Lorie in Siena.
I am sad at her passing, but as the nun who delivered the news to my sister said, “She is in paradise with the angels”…
In the gardening world (as well as others), we have come to think in terms of instant gratification. We want that big, beautiful plant and we want it now! But just as in life, that is not always how it works in the plant world. Early last spring I planted a puny 4-inch plant called Salvia argentea. All last year it remained about the same size, doing absolutely nothing to impress me (in full disclosure, I have planted this plant before, and knew what to expect!)). Towards the end of the growing season the foliage did get bigger.
Early this spring, a growing spurt took place. The silver grey foliage rapidly got larger and larger. About two weeks ago, it started to bloom. I love the foliage and the bloom of this plant. I have waited over a year to enjoy it, but to me it has been worth every minute of the wait…
It’s that time of year – time to cut back the grasses and perennials. I have enjoyed watching and hearing the grasses sway in the wind all winter. Birds have enjoyed the seed heads for food, especially during the arctic freeze. But with this warm spell we have had the past week, I can already see new green shoots emerging. The same goes for the perennials. New growth has exploded this past week, so out come the felcos to cut down the old. It is always so exciting to see pushing out of the ground the new year’s growth of inland sea oats, summer phlox, society garlic, hardy amaryllis and so many more.
Thank goodness I do not have shrubs and trees that need pruning; I hate doing that. Occasionally I do prune back the roses a bit, but this year it certainly was not necessary for three of them. The beavers did it for me…one of them is now barely 6 inches tall!
In just two weeks time, we have managed to go from a beautiful sunny 65 degree day as crews set up for the Super Bowl, to four days of snow and ice, back to 60 degrees for a day or so, and then down to a low of 15 degrees this morning – a record low for the day. What is a gardener to do in this kind of weather?
I have spent many an hour this past two weeks looking out my windows, thinking, planning and enjoying my garden as it is. Salad burnet, thyme and oregano are still as green as they were a month ago. Alas, my beautiful, big prostrate rosemary did not like the excessive cold. Oh well, I will replant; it grows so quickly that I will not be long without my favorite herb. The verdict is still out on the olive tree. I would miss it so much.
The biggest source of pleasure has been the birds. For years we have put out finch feeders at our current house and witnessed little to no interest. The feeders at our first house in Texas used to attract them by the dozen. We could never understand what was the difference, but do not care now. They have delighted us for days now. My husband just went to the store to buy more seed – they are eating us out of house and home!
Early yesterday I walked outside my kitchen door to toss the morning’s coffee grounds on my garden. What a beautiful morning it was, and hearing the sounds of the robins somewhere close by made me think spring was here. I stopped by the store and picked out some potatoes and onions to plant, not a lot, since my garden is small. But I need the experience of harvesting just a few of my own potatoes each year. I tidied up some plants and planted a few carrot, lettuce and radish seeds.
Then my husband gives me the bad news. By Tuesday we will be below freezing and stay that way until Friday. Those football fans from the north are bringing their weather with them!
I guess that means the frost cloth comes out again. Winter is still here.