Archives for 2012

Seed Catalogs

 

Gardening friends, are you up for a re-run?

My article, below, orginally appeared on the Atlanta Gardening Forum. The website, run by a terrific gardener named Diane Cox, has just been revamped. It’s a great place to connect online and share your gardening questions, tips, stories, and photos. Check it out–there’s no charge to join.

After you do that—hope you enjoy these thoughts about seed catalogs:

“I used to think the first sign of spring was a yellow crocus sticking its nose up out of the thawing earth, or maybe a robin, bobbing for worms in a lawn made soggy by April rain. But spring really comes much earlier than that. For me, spring arrives on the morning I reach into my mailbox and find the first seed catalog of the season.

Even on the day after Christmas, a seed catalog is a welcome sight. As soon as I pack up the red holiday bows and chop up our evergreen branches for mulch, I’m winter-weary. I comb the local discount stores for signs of hope: a few leftover bulbs, still fat with promise for a late planting, or a tray of raggedgy-faced pansies to pot up for the porch. There’s not much else available, not much to hold me until I get my hands in the dirt again.

So I dream over seed catalogs instead, making lists like a child writing to Santa. The sum of my wants always alarms me, and I have to go back over my order, crossing out here and there. It’s tough to choose! Will it be new varieties of peas or petunias this spring? A feast for the plate or the eyes?

When the seeds arrive, I’ll take them to the basement. My husband’s rigged a grow lamp there, and I’ve saved disposable cups for seed beds. I shake the seeds out of their paper envelopes, some as fine as dust, and press them into the potting mix. A little water, a little sunlight in a warm corner of the kitchen, and ahhh–spring in a paper cup, promise in a pie pan.

I love seed catalogs, because they bring out the best in us as gardeners. And they bring out the best in us as human beings, because they give us hope. They let us believe in ourselves, and in our abilities, again.

When I plant each spring, I picture morning glories tangled on the fence and rows of corn marching military-straight across the back yard. By summer’s end, I usually find more tomato worms than tomatoes–and more zucchini than anything.

The best I can do then is sit down in the shade and take gardening philosophically. Real gardens aren’t perfect, seed catalogs notwithstanding. So I prop my hoe against a tree and settle for a nap in the hammock.

But I’m a gardener at heart, so I don’t take setbacks too seriously, or for too long. The seasons will turn again. One winter morning, I’ll hear the clunk of the mailbox door as another seed catalog arrives. Then I’ll plan again. And plant again. The seed sellers’ wish for us is that one summer evening, if we can straighten up long enough from our pile of just-pulled crabgrass, we’ll see one perfect, white moonflower unfurling its parasol blossom. Then, even if we never understand the how of gardening, we will understand the why.”

Copyright 2012 Lynn Coulter

Free Seeds from Plant Talk and Renee’s Garden

Talk about good timing! Just the other day, I blogged about Renee’s Garden, a wonderful mail order seed company based in California. Then today, I came across an offer for free seeds from Renee’s company.

Seattle gardening author and speaker Val Easton, who writes a blog called Plant Talk, is teaming up with Renee to give away seeds to readers who leave a comment on Val’s blog. Your comment should include a short list of “dream plants” you’d like to grow this year. Val will forward your list to Renee, who will then send you one or two packets of her choice. Pretty cool!

Alpine strawberries are on my list of 2012 “dream plants” to grow. I’ll either put them in hanging baskets or the strawberry jar that a neighbor gave me.

Do you know the trick for planting in strawberry jars, which can be difficult to water?

First, find a piece of PVC or plastic pipe with holes in it. Cut it long enough to fit all the way down inside your strawberry jar, with about an inch sticking up above the rim.

Ask someone to help you, or hold the pipe in the middle of the jar as you add potting soil all around it. Add your plants, putting some in the jar pockets, and some at the top, to add the inch of pipe that you left exposed. When you add water, pour it down the middle of the pipe. The holes will carry the water to the planting pockets up and down the sides.

Moonflowers are also on my list “dream plants” this year. If you’ve never grown them, they are beautiful flowers that open at night, and they’re especially attractive to those gorgeous, pale green Luna moths. The blossoms start out looking like tightly furled parasols, and remind me of morning glories when they’re fully open. They’re vining plants, so they need a trellis, fence, or other support to cling to. They’re not demanding or hard to grow, but germination can be tricky. I’ve had good results by either nicking the hard seed coats with a sharp knife, or by soaking them overnight in a glass of water, before I plant them.

I don’t know how long the free seed offer will go on, but I’m headed to Val’s Plant Talk blog right now to post a comment. See you there!

Sweet Peas for Your Sweetheart

'Heirloom Cupid' Windowbox Sweet Peas, from Renee's Garden.

Gardening friends, my first order of seeds for 2012 just arrived in the mail. These are from Renee’s Garden, a California-based company.

Renee Shepherd, the gardener behind the company, sells heirloom and gourmet vegetables, aromatic herbs, and cottage garden-style flowers. I’ve never been disappointed in any of her seeds, which you can find at some retail stores, or order online (she doesn’t offer a mail-order catalog).

Unfortunately, Renee’s site doesn’t list which retailers carry her seeds. That’s probably because it’s too hard to keep that kind of information updated. But you can email her, at customerservice@reneesgarden.com, to try to locate a nearby source. Or simply order online, which is what I do.

Renee’s site is packed with great info, like recipes, gardening tips, info on making herbal teas and vinegars, and much more. There are also links to magazines and newspapers that have interviewed Renee about gardening. After reading this New York Times piece on growing alpine strawberries, in which the writer describes picking the tiny, fresh berries and eating them with cereal and milk, I can hardly wait to try them.

Most of the seeds I ordered should be planted in April or later, because they’re frost-tender. But I did buy a variety of sweet peas called Heirloom Cupid.’ I’m going to try growing them, even though our weather usually warms up fast in the spring, and sweet peas prefer cool temps (they can even handle light frost).

The picture on the sweet peas packet charmed me into buying it. All of Renee’s packets started out as commissioned, original watercolors, and I love these flowers, which look heart-shaped and have a sweet perfume. This variety is also small enough to grow in window boxes or containers. Can’t you see giving a bouquet to your sweetie for Valentine’s Day?

Of course, I have to be realistic, even though beautiful flowers get me carried away. Sweet peas can be started in the fall, but I missed that planting season. They can also be sown starting in February, but that means mine won’t be in bloom by Feb. 14.

That’s okay. I’ll enjoy growing them and giving them to someone special anyway. I’ll let you know how they grow for me!

Gardening With – Doors? Add Color And Plants To Your Entrance

When I visited the Pike Nurseries garden center this weekend in Peachtree City, GA, I was looking for a few new houseplants to bring home, to tide me through the dreary winter days.  But here’s what I found instead: 3 displays of brightly-painted doors, arranged with color-coordinated plants.

I’ve been fascinated by doors for some time now. (Is anybody else pinning beautiful doors they’ve found on Pinterest? Love that site.) These appealed to me, in these shades of purple, lime green, and soft blue.

Admittedly, the plants in the display look like houseplants, and they wouldn’t survive outside in the Atlanta area, since our temps can drop below freezing during the winter.

But I like the concept of matching plants to an eye-catching door color, and I can envision using tropicals, perennials, and even annuals, in containers and  beds at the front of my house, once spring returns.

I also plant to re-paint our door when better weather arrives. Right now, it matches our shutters, which are medium blue. Not bad, but the door could be a lot livelier.  Maybe I can find a warm, deep red. If we don’t like it, it wouldn’t be much trouble to repaint it, even after one season.

If you decide to experiment with your front door this spring, here’s a great video with DIY guy Carter Oosterhouse: GMC Trade Secrets: How to Paint Your Front Door. I’m going to try his tip about photographing my house, cutting the front door out of the photo, and then sliding different paint chips behind the opening, to see how various colors would work.

Got a picture of your front door you’d like to share? I’d love to see it here. I’m always looking for inspiration for the garden!

Dallas and the Spitfire – a book review and a “new model for men’s ministry”

 

Image courtesy of Bethany House

Friends, I promised to tell you more about seed catalogs for your spring garden, but I just read a really good book, and I can’t resist sharing a review with you. Here goes:

Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, An Ex-Con, and An Unlikely Friendship, by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke. Bethany House. On-sale in April 2012.

(You can find this review, and other reviews I’ve written, online at LibraryThing.com)

Men–at least the ones I know–don’t share their feelings easily. That’s why freelance writer and author Ted Kluck says he didn’t know where to start, when his pastor asked him to hang out with a new believer, a young, “tattooed, goateed kid” at church.

The kid, Dallas Jahncke, had a troubled past as an ex-con who’d used and sold drugs. He had no parents, and while their initial meetings were awkward and uncomfortable, Kluck admits, “I guess I felt like he needed us (Kluck and his family).” Besides, Kluck adds, he needed help with a broken down convertible, and Dallas proved to have many talents, including the ability to rebuilt carburetors and dismantle gearshifts.

Klout’s real hope, of course, was that he’d be able to share his faith in God and help Dallas stay clean. This book is the story of the journey they made together, to grow toward a real friendship and into an enduring love for Jesus.

In his introduction, Klout says he wanted to craft a Christian book that guys wouldn’t be embarrassed to read. I’m not a guy, but I think I can say that he’s exceeded his goal. This is an honest, deeply-felt book that has just enough grease and gunk around the edges to make even the biggest macho-man consider coming alongside a fellow believer in need–and realize how that brother could fill his own life with grace and friendship.

This book is tagged, “a new model for men’s ministry,” and I highly recommend it.