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Gardening Lessons

I come from a long line of gardeners. I have happy memories of spending time in the garden with both of my grandmothers. Sometimes we were tending vegetables that would eventually end up in cans or frozen so that the fruits of summer could be enjoyed long after its warmth had faded into the cool gray of winter. Even as a child I found this self-sufficiency very satisfying. I still always have a pot of something edible growing. This year it is jalepeno peppers and lots of different herbs.

My real passion, however, has been growing flowers. My goal is to always have something blooming from spring through fall. Most of my plants are perennials so it is fun to welcome them back each year. The daffodils are first. Then the peonies. Eventually the azaleas begin to bloom. Early spring also features the bleeding hearts, amsonias,   and wisteria. I supplement with a few annuals, especially those that either reseed themselves like morning glories or allow me to gather their seeds in the fall for planting the next year like marigolds.

The front yard is a very orderly, manicured garden with trimmed hedges and color coordinated pots.

The backyard, however is my playground. It is a mass of vegetation with no particular plan other than to see what will grow.

Right now I have these red hot pokers blooming. Their official name is kniphofia. They provide a splash of color but the blooms always look a little raggedy. The lower edges are dying off as the top top florets bloom. Still, I like them. They require little attention and come back reliably every year. 
I also have my first moonflower bush blossom. This is different from the moonflower vine. The scientific name is Datura inoxia. I bought this plant at a farmers market many years ago. It produces these huge white trumpets in the evening. They last through the next morning. Such a beautiful flower produces a wicked spiny seed pod. I have shared the plant with my mother-in-law and my father and they have thoroughly enjoyed its nightly show in their own gardens.  A word of caution, this plant is highly toxic. The Aztecs used it as a hallucinogen and it is apparently easy to overdose. My dogs leave it alone but I would be cautious if there were small children around.

I really do love sharing plants. My favorite gardening books is Pass-Along Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing.  I love sharing plants with friends and especially with family. I have irises and lilies in my garden that came from my mother-in-law. This climbing rose came from a cutting of a rose bush my parents planted when my daughter was born. (I have no idea why I can't get the rotated version of this photo to upload!)

I once visited a home where the entire backyard garden had been created with plants propagated from cuttings or seeds of plants from other family members. It was a gardening family album. I loved that idea. Unfortunately, I am in a different gardening zone from most of my family so our ability to share is limited. It is special, though, when gardening allows us to connect generations.

 I know the saying is "bloom where you are planted" but sometimes you have to make a change. This white hydrangea was having a tough time when I planted it against the back of the house a couple of years ago. I purchased it in a 10-inch pot and it didn't get much bigger for an entire year. I moved it to the more open garden and now look at it!
Take a look at these two pots of morning glories. They were planted on exactly the same day in the same kind of potting soil with exactly the same number of stray seedlings that sprouted from last year's morning glories. They get the same amount of water and fertilizer. Yet the one on the right is twice as big as the one on the left. I think the difference of just a few feet changes the amount of sun they get with the one on the right spending more time in full sun. A small adjustment can have huge results!

Among my other backyard bloomers are the astilbe filling in the shade
and the bee balm thriving in the sun.
Every one has his niche. You just have to find it.

 I am loving this pot of Gerbera daisies. It was a gift from one of my last semester students. I enjoy the bold bright flowers and am cheered by the gratitude with which they were given. An expression of gratitude lasts far longer than the moment it takes to offer it.


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