Growing as A Garden

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than a field of wildflowers?   Have you ever driven along a country highway, struck by nature, overwhelmed with the sudden urge to pull off the road and simply enjoy?

Okay, this does happen a LOT in Wyoming, where the mere glimpse of wildlife can send your brake pedal crashing to the floor (hopefully that’s the only thing crashing), but I find a field of wildflowers can stop me in my tracks.   Much safer, too.   Moose and buffalo can be so unpredictable.

But here in Florida, there are no enormous animals to consider, so long as you stay out of the water, only flowers distract you from the roadsides, filling the landscape with the breath of spring. Winter has eased its pinch, warm days and cool nights fill out the month of April. I used to think fall was my favorite season, but now, I’m second guessing that notion.

My garden is chock full of new plantings, my backyard is covered in wildflowers (seeds scattered by myself and the kids years ago but now completely self-proliferating). My jasmine is bursting with blossoms.  Bees literally follow me from garden to jasmine, jasmine to garden. I have blueberries out there and the bees love them as much as they love jasmine!

Throughout my daily travels, it occurs to me that life is in full swing.   The birds and the bees are doing their thing — the birds choosing to “take” from the fruit of my labors (read blueberries) where the bees tend to “give.”  But they’re instinctual little beasts and do as they were born to do.

Much like my sweet children.  As they grow, it’s becoming more and more apparent I will be walking down the path of most resistance, lurking in their shadows as they struggle through adolescence.  Teen boys have it no easier than girls, mind you.

They want to blend in.

They want to be like their friends.

Unlike our conversations of the past, where “standing out from the crowd” and “being your own person” were concepts they embraced, I now see the threads of homogeneous thought weaving silently through their minds.

Sure, it’s okay if that kid’s different, but not me.  Not you.

We can’t be different.  We can’t be unique.  No, no.

“Mom, you’re embarrassing me.”

“Mom, whatever you do, don’t say anything to Coach.”

“Mom, you’re not funny.”

“I’m not?”  I glance around my person, as though expecting to find a lifeline tossed my way.   “Are you sure?”   I plant my hands on my hips.   “You used to think it was fun when I honked at you on the playground, or waved at you during class.” I paused, glancing around the yard.   “Or danced in our field of wildflowers…”

Groan, grunt, grimace.  Arms flail as they reply in unison, “Not anymore.”

Not anymore, I murmur under my breath, then drop my gaze to the ground. Not anymore.

Lifting my head, I look at them more closely.  All legs and arms, long and lanky, smart as whips and filled with attitude I realize, No, I imagine not.  It’s easy to see you’re growing up (way too fast) and duly falling into line with your peers.  I know you can see the beauty in this field as well as I can, but you’re focused on the reds and pinks, the subtle blend of harmony they create when clustered together.

Those little white flowers over there…   Where you can appreciate them, you don’t want to be them.

I understand.  It’s normal.  From the classroom to the playground and everywhere in between, kids are sensitive to the shades of gray.   They’re not ready to stand up to that kind of scrutiny.

Yes, I totally understand.  But as I immerse myself in the gift of spring, this once a year treat, this glorious field of diverse color, I realize the effect is mostly lost upon our youth.  Where I see a gorgeous palette of subtle blends, I also delight in zeroing in on the standouts.  They leap out at me.

But I’m an adult. I’ve had years of practice shrugging off the pressure from my peers, the insatiable need to blend in.  I’m okay being known as the Crazy Garden Lady.  No longer requiring the validation of strangers, the safety of similar, I can dance with abandon.

With time, my kids will get there, too.  Once they’ve had the chance to develop their own identity. It’s okay. I get that not everyone wants to be the Crazy Garden Lady (though I can’t imagine why not.  Think of the fun they’re missing out on!). But one day they’ll come to terms with themselves and see this field as I do; beautiful in bits and pieces, as well as a whole, weeds, bare spots and all.

Mom & Me Mani

With fall fast approaching and most gardens winding down, what’s a gal to do with the extra time on her hands? If you’re like me and my daughter, you take out the nail polish and get painting–painting those gorgeous summer flowers on your nails before they disappear!

flower nails

While it’s nowhere near as wonderful as gazing upon the real thing, it is a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon with the girl who means the most to you. When my daughter and I heard August 30th was officially Mom and Me Mani Day, well, the decision was made! I mean, not only do I love spending time with my daughter, but I enjoy watching her use two or three colors to do her nails. Now in my day, we used one color, much like I still do for my pedicure. But her? No way. The more the merrier. She paints pictures, designs, initials–whatever strikes her fancy at the moment will end up on her nails. For example, the first letter from every boy’s name in the band, One Direction…

Me? I like flowers and vegetables, and considering she led the last mutiny in our vegetable garden, we went with flowers. While hot pink is my all-time favorite color, we went with tomato red and autumn orange, plus a dot of pale pink in the center. As you can see, my daughter has the perfect hands and nails for a beautiful manicure. I do not.

Mom and Me mani

But I’m a gardener first, a beauty second. As a young teenager, my daughter’s priorities are reversed–exactly where most girls her age are in life, with one pointed difference: my gal can identify vegetable plants by their mere leaf shape. Can most teens make this claim to fame?

I’d venture to guess, no, giving us mothers one more reason to get out and get gardening–our youth needs us! And even if we don’t teach them the basics of organic gardening, we can spend a wonderful afternoon together painting our nails. Since I have no nails to speak of, I have the added pleasure of living vicariously through my daughter’s nails. They are quite lovely, as is she.

Julep colors to create this design: January (Red), Brielle (Orange) and Jennifer (Pink).

April Showers, May Flowers

While many of you are currently welcoming your favorite blooms, a few are stuck in cold and snow. And I should know–just returned from a conference in Kansas City MO where it snowed. In May!

Crazy. Back in Florida, my flowers are in full bloom. From the gardenias—one of my vivid connection to my childhood…

 gardenia morning glory

 …to the jasmine, I’m treated to the decadent scents of spring.

jasmine in bloom

My Gerber daisies are blooming, but while pretty, they have no fragrance. None that I can detect merely passing them.

Clipping a gardenia, I place it by my kitchen sink (because I spend a lot of time there). Not only can I behold it with my eyes, but breathe in its sweet perfume.

Life is busy. I’m busy. Growing flowers gives me pause. Unlike my vegetables where I reap the reward of food, flowers are simply aesthetic, grown for their beauty alone. But indulging in their glory is a reward in and of itself. It reminds me of the little things in life, the sweet moments, the calm between storms.

Flowers remind me to breathe. Slow down, and just breathe.

No mad dash to pull weeds, no heated job of harvest, just be. I don’t know about you, but it’s a concept I need reminding now and again.


A Photo Journal of My Winter Garden

It’s February in Florida and that means different things to different gardeners.  Some have closed up their garden until spring, opting out of the fight with Jack Frost.  Others are focused on cleaning out and preparing for spring.  Me?  I garden all year-long–except summer.  It’s simply too hot and my garden is supposed to sustain me, not kill me. 🙂

You understand what I mean.  So this February, my garden holds mixed blessings.  My potatoes are thrilled with the warmer winter.

My sweet onions don’t mind either way… More

We’ve Got Pumpkins!

And you will never see more excitement in the garden than kids discovering their first recognizable pumpkins.  Except in the case of worms and frogs.  Those are WAY exciting.

Granted we missed Halloween, but these are sugar pumpkins and we intend to cook them into pumpkin pie.  YUM! 🙂  Next up, our first tomato. More

Gifts for the Gardener on Your List

Searching for the perfect gift for that gardener on your list?  Well have I got some suggestions for you!  As an avid gardener I have a few ideas on this subject and they don’t include garden tools.  Oh no, your garden friend will take care of securing her own tools because like shoes, they are quiet individual specific in both taste and fit. 

But not to worry, there are still a host of other items you can choose from, including something as simple as garden-inspired note cards.  Next time they sit down to craft a personal message to someone near and dear, they’ll do so with the added mood boost of having peering at images from one of their favorite hobbies.  This Raining Flowers note card caught my eye as adorable and fun and something sure to bring a smile on the face of its recipient.

And if this little picture can bring a quick smile, won’t this garden dish towel do the same thing every day?  Sure does help to make the chore of dish duty more appealing in my kitchen and Williams-Sonoma has some beauties.  I love colorful garden weaves for my dish towels and in fact, like to switch them out from season to season. 

Interested in more function than fancy?  How about these reusable produce bags to take their veggie harvest from garden to refrigerator? 

Wonderful.  Simply wonderful.  For more about these items and others, check this month’s listing in the Prize Picks section of my website.  There’s sure to be something that will fit both your budget and your taste buds. 🙂

Attention Shoppers

When you’re standing in the midst of rows and rows of luscious flowers and plants, herbs and vegetables I warn you:  TAKE CAUTION—your desire may outweigh your energy.

At least mine does!  Kinda like my “eyes are bigger than my stomach” syndrome, my desire for fabulous vegetables fresh from the garden can outweigh my energy level—to weed, plant, mulch and feed them all.  Especially fall and spring here in Central Florida.  It’s our planting seasons. 

How do I know?  Well, this weekend I found myself in the garden for more hours than I had planned and while this isn’t particularly unusual for a woman like me (multi-tasker extraordinaire, 4000 sq. ft. garden), it was still eye-opening.  I had a babysitter for the evening–I had places to go, a husband to talk to, dinners (I didn’t cook) to eat!  I didn’t have time to toil away in the garden, I was busy, busy, busy!

But much like standing before a sumptuous buffet on a cruise ship, I couldn’t help myself as I shopped, piling more plants and flowers into my basket until I could barely fit them in the back-end of my suburban. 

“Ohhh…look at that lavender!  (Grabbed one.) Those cabbage are absolutely delectable.  (Snatched up two.) And garlic–is it that time already?”

Add a few shallots, some more scallions and oh what the heck, why not get a head start on my sweet onions?  (Toss in a little brown bag-full.)  Sure I’ve already ordered two hundred-count bunches from my neighborhood seed shop—so what?  These will go in earlier and mature earlier which will amount to an endless harvest of sweet buttery onions!  Mmmmm….

You can see how it happens.  It’s easy to fall prey.  So please, take a word of advice from an overachiever and make a list—before you go.  Buy only what you need, but do bring an extra bag with you.  Like those dastardly buy one-get ones at my local supermarket, I can’t help myself when I see a great deal and this time of year—you’ll see plenty.  From the sweet savory onion bulbs calling your name to the fresh green herbs thick and full, you’ll have more than enough to choose from.  And don’t forget the mulch, weed protection, fertilizer…

They all equate to more time and more energy!  Great when you have it, not so much when you don’t.  But in the end, it’s worth it.  My garden is healthy and happy and I think is the most beautiful sight to behold.  Corn, limas, tomatoes, zucchini, beans, squash, lettuce, garlic, onions (scallions, sweets and shallots!), pumpkins, cantaloupe, okra, sweet potatoes…

And this is only the beginning!  Wait until I get my hands on some golden papas!  Then we’re talking cream of the crop!  Healthy French fries, roasted quarters, mashed, baked—you name it, the skye’s the limit.

Creative Containers

Container gardening is a must for some gardeners.  Whether it be they have no space or no time to garden, containers are the perfect solution to manage their gumption to garden. 

But with so many to choose from, where does one begin? 

With the cutest ones! 🙂  The most creative ones.  The planters that will add style and pizzazz to your patio or home AND serve a function.

From traditional terra-cotta to 21st century state-of-the-art composter bins/planters, you will be amazed by the variety and selection available.  For some of my favorites, check out this month’s Prize Picks section — and be sure to add some of your favorites to the comment list!