After a delayed but rousing start, the promise of a glorious spring at Hayefield has pretty much fizzled out, due to the unusually dry conditions. Though other places near here have been blessed with some of the wet stuff, our little corner of the county has received exactly 0.0 inches of rain in the last 3 weeks. On the whole, I prefer a spring that’s on the dry side; if there’s regular, abundant rain through April and May, the plants produce soft stems and lush leaves, then struggle once the usual summer dry spells start. But really, no rain is tough to deal with. Instead of planting and weeding, I’ve been spending most of my gardening time hand-watering the new grass paths. It’s keeping the seedlings alive, but even after a month, there’s still just a light green haze–except for some lush green patches where the Canada thistles are thriving (sigh).
After The Winter That Wouldn’t Die, we’re finally starting to get a taste of spring here in southeastern PA. It’s going to be a bit longer before there’s anything green and growing to appreciate, though, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking instead. Mostly, my plans for the upcoming growing season have focused on how I can reduce some of the most resource-intensive areas so I can do a better job on the parts I really enjoy. A big part of that has been figuring out where those problem areas are, and how they got that way.
In my last post, I focused on just four herbs; this time, I’ve chosen some of my favorites from the wide range of other culinary, aromatic, and medicinal species and their selections. Above is Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which I’d planted with the intention of harvesting and drying the flowers for tea. It’s so cute in bloom, though, that I kind of hate to cut them. Here’s it’s planted with ‘Dali Marble’ burnet (usually listed under Sanguisorba menziesii, even though its height, flowers, and bloom time are far more like those of S. officinalis).
Surely it can’t still be winter? And yet, it clearly is–outside, anyway. In here, I’ve been immersed in my photo archives for the last few days, picking out photos of plant combinations for the book I’m working on. Revisiting the digital highlights of the last decade has reminded me of some plants and pairings I’d like to try again, including some old favorites that I’ve neglected over the past few years.
I still have herbs on my mind from my last post, so I decided to separate out a bunch of herb combination photos, in the hope that you too might enjoy thinking about these fragrant and flavorful beauties. There are a lot of them, so it made sense to focus only on lavenders, thymes, sages, and basils this time. Above is one of my all-time-favorite pairings: spiky ‘Provence’ lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) with wispy Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima).
It’s fascinating to watch how people interact with gardens. Some are primarily spectators, staying carefully on established paths and walking with their hands at their sides, as if they are afraid to break the flowers and leaves by laying a finger on them. These seem to be mostly non-gardeners, but some gardeners too are mostly hands-off, seemingly content to admire from afar but not thinking to touch except for necessary maintenance. They’re also very careful to keep paths clear, sticking to the short-plants-at-the-front “rule” and staking or snipping off anything that’s inclined to lean over the edge.
Then there are the full-contact folks who think nothing of diving off paths and into borders to pet a petal, rub a leaf, or give a tree trunk a firm tap. Visitors who do this are a bit of a terror to garden owners who aren’t particularly tactile themselves but kindred spirits to those who view paths as a waste of valuable planting space. If you find yourself not minding, or even enjoying, paths that are more akin to obstacle courses than proper walkways–having to step over this, duck under that, and brush those aside to get through–you’re probably one of the please-touch folks.
Being able to physically interact with plants is pretty much the only thing I miss about gardening during the winter. But, it’s another reason to look forward to spring, and something I like to keep in mind when I plant my gardens and containers for another growing season. I have lots of favorites for gardening by feel, but I’ve tried to narrow it down to my top five.
Four acres of meadow and garden, and this is all the flowery goodness I could come up with Bloom Day this month. I suppose it’s not too bad, considering. We’ve been blessed with rather mild weather until two days ago, which has been good for the last few blooms but also good for tackling garden cleanup, and I’d been chopping away until I thought of a way I might be able to pull together one last GBBD post for this year.