A Garden Stroll
by Karla Jones Seidita
“Spring is Nature’s Way of Saying Let’s Party!”
-Robin Williams – Comedian
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Spring in Fauquier is indeed a party to celebrate our gardens waking from their long winter’s sleep. Splashes of color pop here and there, coaxing birds and butterflies back from their hiatus. The fragrant, warming soil fills the air with the promise of sunny days ahead. Spring fever becomes the universal itch. We’re all desperate to get back into our gardens with the hope that this year the flowers will be prettier, the vegetables more abundant, and the weeds nonexistent. And this year, because of the crippling isolation we all endured in 2020, a great big, wonderful party thrown by Mother Nature is what we all need!
Step into my garden for a leisurely stroll of memories as my little bit of Fauquier begins to waken.
“Bloom where you are planted.” –
St. Francis de Sales – Catholic Bishop
Whenever I see daffodils, I think SPRING! Some flowers, like snowdrops and hellebores, come up earlier, but, for me, it’s daffodils that mark the beginning of spring with their happy faces and sunshine colors.
You’ll see daffodils carefully planted in gardens all over Fauquier but it’s those random daffodil pop-ups in fields and pastures that really brings a smile to my face. Ever wonder how that happens?
Underground dwellers who share our gardens (like moles and voles), hungry for something tasty to eat, will take a bite of that daffodil bulb you’ve so carefully planted. They’ll drag the bit of bulb back into their tunnel to eat in safety or to save for a bedtime snack only to discover that daffodil bulbs are not tasty at all. So, they leave the bit of bulb where it is and return to your garden in search of their favorite snack: your expensive tulip bulbs.
The following spring, after a good, long, winter’s nap, the daffodil bits germinate wherever they were left, poking their heads up through the sod. And that’s how daffodils pop up here and there and everywhere.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”-
Audrey Hepburn – Actress
Sometimes I surprise myself. A mass of herbs and roses in pinks and whites with a touch of lavender: could any garden be more gorgeous? Well, yes, many are – well, most are actually – but this time I think I got it right on first planting.
Usually my gardening goes something like this: plant it; prune it; shape it, then pull it out and replant it somewhere else hoping it will look better, grow better, produce better. Gardens are never really finished are they? Not like making a quilt or baking bread. When you’re done with those, you’re done and you have something very nice to show for your efforts.
Not so with gardens. Just when you think it’s time to call it a day and treat yourself to a cup of tea for a job well done, the garden decides to grow uncontrollably without any regard for your feelings or overall garden design plan. Then weeds begin to pop up in matted, tangled masses of confusion attempting to strangle your most prized plants. Suddenly, everything needs pruning or pulling. Then the pests come out to play and the dog runs wild, trampling your bougainvillea. It’s enough to make you want to throw in your trowel. But you’re a gardener. A hardy perennial of a person. A puller of weeds and the champion of the trampled. So you live to garden one more day.
“A rose is a rose is a rose.”
-Gertrude Stein – Writer
The red rose is the universal symbol of love. Ever wonder why?
According to legend, Cupid was in charge of the rose gardens which, in those days, produced only white blossoms. Each day, he happily fluttered among the blossoms to water and tend them.
One day, a thorn caught Cupid by surprise and his blood spilled onto a bush. Magically, the white roses turned gloriously red. Awed by their incredible beauty, Cupid fell hopelessly in love with them and, for ever after, shared his undying love with the world through his red roses.
“I suppose that flowers, when they’re through blooming, have some sort of awareness of some purpose having been served.”
-Kurt Vonnegut – Author
Oversized galvanized wash tubs are perhaps my favorite containers for massive displays of flowers in shady areas. They are sturdy, age gracefully, and can be left outside in any kind of weather. They are deep so there’s tons of room for really good root production. Poking a few holes in the bottom provides drainage. As a bonus, the tubs are cheap. I like that. But perhaps the main reason I love galvanized wash tubs is that being metal, they attract nature’s root-stimulating static electricity which boosts growth and blossoms especially needed in shaded areas where the sun doesn’t have a chance to do the same. I wouldn’t recommend metal containers for planting in full sun as plant roots may get too hot.
Pictured here are my white impatiens happily growing in part shade where the ground is packed, hard and covered in driveway stone. By using these containers, I was able to add a big splash of happiness to this otherwise dreary spot.
“The practice of horticulture is a wildly humbling way to pass the days on earth.”
-Margaret Roach – Garden Writer
Every garden needs a hidden spot to surprise those who visit. An out of the way, unexpected gesture to tease and tickle. A garden statue or a showy trellis popping out of a sea of calm. A tiny table and bistro chair offering a brief respite. A splash of color. A water feature. A deeply melodic wind chime.
This vintage bench is tucked away behind a cascade of variegated English ivy. Complete the picture with a cup of tea and a cozy book for an interlude away from it all.
“A little flower that blooms in May
A lovely sunset at the end of a day
Someone helping a stranger along the way
That’s heaven to me.”
-Sam Cooke – Musician
I love my roses. This picture may look like a few dogwood blossoms surrounding a peach-colored rose bud, but it’s not. In its bud stage, this pink “Knock Out” rose is actually salmon-y pink in color. Over the course of a few days, the bud unfolds into a full flower and its salmon color morphs into a tender shade of pink. As the days go by, the petals continue to open stretching out as far as they can. Once the petals have fully extended, the pink color fades to almost white leaving just blushes of pink to remain on the tips. Gorgeous at every stage of life – just as people are, don’t you think?
“Flowers don’t worry about how they are going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.”
–Jim Carrey – Actor
Pansies are one of the first bedding plants available at garden centers because they thrive on the chill in the air and can withstand any weather spring throws their way.
Seeing flats of pansies is absolutely irresistible to gardeners who are itching to get back to the soil. But gardeners aren’t the only ones snapping up flats of pansies to add color to their otherwise dreary winter landscapes. Fauquier’s commercial landscapers plant pansies by the thousands in beds around office buildings and in huge containers you’ll see around town and at shopping centers.
I particularly like my early spring deck rail planting. One solid mass of happy, smiling, pansy faces the entire length of my deck dancing to the music of spring’s gentle breezes.
I’ve heard of gardeners who grow pansies from seed and gardeners who cut back the plants after blooming so they can re-bloom in the fall but neither of these gardeners is me. I do, of course, feel terribly guilty about resigning spent plants to the compost bin when they could possibly have another go-round.
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”
-Gautama Buddha – Spiritual Teacher
Of all of the flowers, roses have the highest level of vibration. Vibration (also called chi or life force) is the energy that flows through all things.
Roses have long been considered sacred expressions of love, peace, and healing. You’ll often see roses depicted in religious as well secular paintings, adornments and artifacts to symbolize love and peace. Being near a rose, tradition tells us, helps raise the vibrations of everything nearby, bringing health and wellbeing.
“Love is flowers you’ve got to let grow.”
John Lennon – Musician
Every garden has at least one problem spot. Most have several. One of mine is the whiskey barrels that accent our barn doors.
For years, I have been struggling with the plantings. I have been looking for just the right combination of easy care, drought tolerant, shade and heat loving, deer resistant, tall growing plants that were beautiful to look at but not harmful to our horses should they decide to take a bite. A long list of requirements!
Over the years I’ve tried impatiens, boxwood, knockout rose bushes, vinca, daffodils, marigolds and every combination thereof…. even shrubs. No luck. They all did poorly or were eaten by my forever foraging deer.
This picture was my most recent attempt which worked out OK but I’m not crazy about its looks. The leafy purple plants are perilla, a sort of a spicy, basil-y, mint-y herb used medicinally and for cooking in Southeast Asia and India. The perilla showed up around the barn last year (its seeds no doubt blown in on the wind) and took up residence. Turns out they self-seed so I now have a never ending crop. I figured that since they picked the spot, they might do well in my barrels so I pulled some up and stuck them in along with some purslane I found growing nearby. I had a few vincas left over from a sunny planting so I stuck them in too even though I knew there wouldn’t be enough sun for them to do much of anything. Like I said, the planting is just OK – at least no one wants to eat it.
“Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul.”
-Luther Burbank – Botanist
A water feature adds movement to a garden. Movement is important because movement brings a calm you can see. That may sound contradictory but watching water trickle from a spout or tiny toads hopping in and out of water filled saucers or butterflies fluttering their wings as they sip from the edge of a waterlily filled pond are all very soothing things to see.
A bird bath is probably the simplest water feature to add to any garden. Classic cement birdbaths are not expensive and last forever, taking on a classy patina as the age. They are easy to clean and you don’t have to take them inside in winter.
Close plantings around your bird bath give birds and butterflies places to land while waiting their turn and quick places for retreat if they feel threatened. Frogs and toads will appreciate the damp ground around the birdbath and find shelter under the plantings.
Watching the birds from my kitchen window enjoy their morning bath as I sip my just brewed coffee is a calm that gently jump-starts my day!
“I always have flowers on the table. I think they make it look special.”
-Ina Garten – TV Chef and Cookbook Author
Food and flowers just naturally go together, don’t you think?
While elaborate, professional arrangements are always lovely, tousled displays of home grown flowers appeal to me more. There’s just something gracious about flowers from the garden.
Traditional vases are nice, especially if they are heirloom, pass-me-downs from family or friends but anything can become a charming vase. In this photo, I used a silver pitcher as the vase for my loosely-bunched garden roses.
Vintage tea pots, cans, and crockery all work well as vases. Tea cups and mugs make good vases for smaller arrangements or for short stemmed flowers. I know one hostess who saves the tops from aerosol cans, spray paints them to match and uses them as “vases” for individual, dinner party place setting arrangements. The guests love it and at the end of the evening, they get to take their mini arrangements home as a remembrance.
“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
–Henri Matisse – Artist
I have no idea what these field flowers are but they come up year after year spreading happily throughout my un-mowed areas. The flower stems don’t last very long in the field and they don’t do well as a cut flower so I have to enjoy their brief appearance wherever they happen to grace me with their presence. Seeing them grow so carelessly makes me smile. In my efforts to identify them I have only come up with “Blue Toadflax” but I’m not sure that’s really what they are. I’ll keep looking. Maybe you know their name and can let me know.
About the Author
In her fifty-plus years as a food industry professional, Karla Jones Seidita has been a teacher, a writer, a restaurant and wholesale bakery owner as well as a regular host and contributor to popular radio shows. She is the owner and innkeeper of Cheesecake Farms, a Bed and Breakfast in Southern Fauquier county. CheesecakeFarms.com