Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New York Botanical Gardens in April

My nine and a half year old son, Mark, and I went to the New York Botanical Gardens a couple of weeks ago on a warm April day that was full of sunshine and blooms in the gardens. This son is the only one of my three kids who has an interest in anything green and living, so I take full advantage, and I'm sure he'll be a big part of my blog since he joins me in the garden so much. I've been taking him to nurseries and garden centers since he was in the stroller. At three and four, his favorite part of these trips was picking out a new animal statue for our garden. We have two hedgehogs, a rabbit and a pig that all stand guard over our perennial border. We also have a frog that sits in the bed in our front yard. And he'd never fail to try and sell me on one of the large statues, like the $200 Labrador Retriever one we'd see every time we went to Colonial Gardens in our town. But now he loves picking out plants for the garden. Being a nine year old boy, he usually goes for large shrubs or trees - that our small yard gardens unfortunately can't accommodate - or funky succulents. He has actually sparked an interest in succulents for me, and we're collecting some cool ones for a miniature rock garden. He got started with some hens and chicks his Nonnie gave him last summer. And he loved the terrariums we saw at a garden expo in our town recently, so we made our own. We had so much fun learning how and putting it all together. But back to our NYBG visit... We saw so many plants we both like in the rock gardens - very cool plants for a boy! And we both loved all the cool and unusual orchids and other tropical plants in the Orchid Show. We really felt like we were in a rain forest. I can't wait to take my garden loving son back soon to see what's blooming. And maybe he'll even let me hold his hand again. Something else I have to take full advantage of when the opportunity presents itself!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Learning to love gardening in Connecticut when you have a southern soul

I'm a frustrated southern gardener digging in the dirt in Connecticut. I've lived here for over 20 years now and I've grown to love our relatively short summers and all the glorious plants that thrill me every year that I never would have known about had I stayed in Georgia where I grew up. In my early years learning to garden in the extremely rocky and usually acidic soil here, I hated the late Springs and the early Falls, with only a couple of months of hot weather in between. I missed the tomatoes ripening in July and the long growing season in Georgia. I resented not getting good local tomatoes until August and bragged relentlessly about "the tomatoes I grew up with" to anyone who would listen. Although I have to admit that Jersey corn isn't an urban myth -- that stuff is just plain crazy good. But now I cherish every Summer day, and I've learned to love the (to me) late blooming of the Redbuds, Lilacs, Cherry trees and Dogwoods. And I think I enjoy all the plants and trees here even more because I know Fall comes all too soon.

In Georgia, we see daffodils in late February, and here they come in late March or early April. But now when the snowdrops show themselves when there is snow on the ground and the hellebores show their beautiful blooms in late winter, I am more thankful than ever for the coming Spring. Now I look forward to Memorial Day when I can safely get my new plants in the ground (some I sneak in earlier during those inevitable early Spring warm spells and pray for a few weeks that they will survive!) And I cherish every gentle and warm late spring and early summer day and watch the plants thrive in our glorious summers.

Gardening by the Long Island Sound has proved to be a challenge that has rewarded me with joy and wonder every day I am digging in the rocky but fertile dirt.