Tuesday, January 19, 2010
So, gardening friends, I'm baaack!! I admit, I got a little sidetracked, what with the holidays and being in town. In December, I satisfied my "green" urges by reading The Intelligence of Flowers, by nobel prize-winning author (1911) Maurice Maeterlinke, who wrote a compelling and intriguing analysis of why and how flowers do what they do; decorating a 7½ foot Frasier Fir, (which demonstrated remarkable needle retention) and keeping the plants in the basement “Limonaia,” well watered. I am happy to report that, so far, the Fish, Jabanero and Peruvian Purple pepper plants that I am overwintering are doing well. Now, surrounded by my favorite seed catalogues, I am ready to get down to the serious business of ordering seeds and planning for the coming growing season. Some plants are always on my growing list - Fish Peppers, Bloomsdale Spinach, Red Cored Chantenay Carrots, and Detroit Dark Red Beets - though I also try to grow something new each year. This year, it will be Kale, Nero Di Toscana. In any event, one of the most fun challenges of gardening is deciding just what plants one will attempt to grow. Some plants, say, tomatoes, might seem to be a given, but, choosing which varieties of tomatoes to grow can be hard work. (Best to plant a selection, with different traits, sizes and ripening times if you can). This decision-making is one of the factors that forms the mysterious “successful gardening” equation, which includes (but is not limited to) a. what your plot of land - or windowsill - can support, b. any given seasons' weather conditions and whether Priapus, the ancient Roman god of Horticulture decides to protect your plants from marauding rabbits!
Actually, before ordering new seed, I have taken stock of viable seed left over from last years garden. A good thing, too, as I found an ample supply of Spring Peas, (Progress # 9, a favorite and one of the first things I plant, on St. Patricks day, March 17th.) There is also a supply of seeds of Bush Beans, "Blue Lake" and "Triumphe de Farcy," Lettuce "Burgundy Red" Mix, and both White and Red varieties of Okra. Then too, friends from Europe, brought me flower and vegetable seeds, knowing how these rarer strains will appeal to me. Those packets include, Papaver commutatum (Ladybird), Raphanus sativus L. (Munchner Bier), and Aster Alpinus (Hellblau), one red, one white and one blue!
A very interesting plant that I became aware of just this past growing season is Leonitus Leonurus, or Lions Tail. It is a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, and native to South Africa. Still, in zone 6, it makes a handsome specimen for the rear of a mixed bed, where its tall growth (3 to 4 feet) and unusual orange flowers, arranged whorl-like around erect vertical stems will be sure to attract attention. I will be very pleased if I can germinate some of its seed.
Of course, some things will do better than others. It is by experimenting that we learn what plants and vegetables our gardens can support. Bottom line, support your local nurseries and plant people who are experienced and stock plants and seeds that will succeed where you live. Wish me luck, as I do all of you who take to the soil to beautify the world and participate in feeding yourselves. Write and let me know what you plan to grow this year.
Other news of interest to gardeners, includes a National Honeybee Bicentennial Event, on January 21, 2010, in Mount Airy, PA. Sponsored by the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, The Montco Beepkeepers and the Chester County Beekeepers Association, everyone is invited to start celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, (born December 25, 1810), inventor of the modern bee hive. His creation makes possible the pollination of over a third of the crops we eat! Go to www.scifri.org/dte, www.phillyhoneyfest.com, or www.phillybeekeepers.org for more information and directions.
Also, those of you, who, like myself, love a water feature, should be sure to check out the Jan. 11th edition of the New Yorker Magazine, for the article by John Seabrook on fountains designed by WET, (Water Entertainment Technologies) whose principal designer, Mark Fuller, was in charge of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas as well as the redesign of the fountain on the plaza at Lincoln Center in New York.
Finally, let us tip our gardening hats to Dave Murbach who passed away on December 23rd, 2009, of heart disease, at age 57. Mr. Murbach bore the responsibility and distinction of maintaining the gardens of Rockefeller Center, the quintessential urban landscape design, and was especially noted for choosing their famous Christmas tree, a process that he devoted himself to 365 days a year.