Gardens hold more than dirt and plants. They hold power. They heal.

Gardens foster community and relationships and awaken the senses while they provide hope and teach patience and fortitude.

Gardens contribute to our quality of life whether we're working in them or sitting back and taking them in.

Here we will dig deep and expose what all gardens hold, teach and reveal.

Stop and View the Grasses

Picture courtesy of Irving Park Garden Club
March 30th, 2011
I love ornamental grasses.  They have always been one of my favorite parts of a garden.  They can be used in container plantings and in perennial beds.  They can be used for borders, backgrounds, or accent plants.  Most have winter interest and not only look good in the cold months, but provide food for birds and other animals as well.  And best of all, they are really easy to care for.  Most require a quick whack once a year, maybe a little fertilizer, and then every few years they may need dividing.

Grasses sway in the wind.  Their form and texture as they wave back and forth are mesmerizing to watch.  The rustling sound they make is relaxing, makes you feel as though you are not alone.  Grasses catch sunlight in just the right way creating a wonderful scene.  I especially love grasses in late fall sunsets.

Picture courtesy of All the Latest Dirt
The upright arching habit of the Purple Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') is so graceful as it flops over its companions, giving them a big hug.  The amazing purple color adds dimensions to the container with its hues.

The spiky fescues (such as Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’) add just the right contrast to the flowing, rounded flowers surrounding them.  And the silvery foliage is a welcome sight among the standard greens.

I was on vacation visiting a friend in Milwaukee last week.  One day I was drawn to the computer (even though I swore myself a respite for the week) and remembered that there was a webinar on ornamental grasses I had signed up for.  I began watching it.  I was soon joined by my berating daughter who knew the promise I had made to stay away from technology.  She quickly switched from “You said you wouldn’t go on the computer” to “Why would you want to waste your time watching slides and listening to boring people talk about grass?”  I have to agree on the boring people talking about grasses part.  The horticulture industry needs more people who can get excited and relate info in a non-boring, non-scientific way.  But that was beside the point. 

Waste of time?!  Look at all these cool grasses!  Check out how the seed heads of the Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) have this purplish-pink glow when they ripen.  Look at how fluffy the Japanese Silvergrass (Miscanthus sinesis) is and imagine it blowing in a breeze.  They are amazing!  The webinar was given by someone in California, so I was also seeing a lot of grasses that were ‘new’ to me, grasses that aren’t hardy in the cold tundra of zone 4 in MN.  Fu-un!  Look what they get to grow! 

My friend walks in and hears the tail end of my purplish-pink hue explanation.  She starts teasing me.  It amazes her I can get so excited about grass.  It becomes a source of fun for the rest of the week. 
We go for a walk everyday and I steer us toward the grasses, I point out the height, the feathery texture, the sound, the pink hues.  We go to the Milwaukee Home & Garden show and I have to stop and view the grasses.  It becomes a metaphor, instead of stop and smell the roses, stop and view the grasses.  My friend and her family will never look at grasses the same again.

What excites you in the garden?  What is it, that when you talk about it, your passion shows through?  What do you want to share with everyone so they like it as much as you do?  What do you need to stop and appreciate?

Winter Rest for the Weed Warrior

February 21, 2011
6 to 10, 12 to 15, 18 to 21.  The inches expected keep getting bigger and bigger and so does my smile.  Snow is dumping down from the sky , an easterly wind (at least I think it’s easterly, it’s blowing so much out there, who can tell?) is blowing huge flakes fiercely around, drifting in unusual places.  I don my under armor, extra socks, Carhartt, Sorels, hat, and mittens and head out.  I am a Snow Warrior.  I love winter.  I love snow.  I love the cold, the extremes.  How can a gardener love winter everyone wonders?  “Do you ski?” I am often asked.  The explanation I have is usually that I hate the opposite.  I hate, hate, hate HOT.  And the second reason is that the dormancy of winter (especially with the length of it here in Minnesota zone 4) makes me appreciate the growing months all the more.  It makes me be efficient in what can be accomplished in one season.  Winter allows the rest period that is so needed.  Winter rest is an actual term (from the German term Winterruhe) and is defined as a state of reduced activity of plants and warm-blooded animals during winter.   The law of growth is rest.  We all need to take a break, to nurture our own bodies, to heal our souls, to re-center.  Winter does that for me.
I head out to the driveway with the snow blower, but the pile the city snow plow made at the end is too big for the snow blower to tackle it on its own.  I have to chop it down into bite size pieces the snow blower can gobble up.  After working at this pile for some time, my sides and back can feel a slight ache.  I’m sweating.  I’m smiling.  I’m waving to my neighbors and asking if they need help.  I love this.
Today, though, my smile is two-fold.  The digging I’m doing with my shovel is the same motion as digging in the dirt.  I think about how spring really isn’t that far away, this snow is just a temporary blanket, and I’ll be digging in the real dirt soon.  I feel the ache in my sides and back and can’t wait to feel that after an afternoon of working in the garden.  There is such a satisfaction in the aches after a good days work.  Even though it’s cold out, I can still feel the sun on my face and am reminded that I will soon feel that warm spring sun.  (I can’t look too far here and think of the hot summer sun or all of my happy thoughts will disappear!)  And lastly I’m thinking about comradery.  My neighbors and I collaborate with our snow removal.  We share snow blowers and shovels and gas and stories about what’s going on inside our homes.  The same thing happens in the summer, only then we swap plants and mowers and tips on getting the rabbits out of our gardens.  Shoveling for me, just like gardening, is a social event.
For now I am a Snow Warrior and loving every minute of it.  In another 2 months (or less!), I will become a Weed Warrior again.  I better hunker down and continue my dormancy in preparation.

Oh, The Possibilities!

"MMMMM!! Smell That?" I say to my husband.  The scent hit me immediately as I walked through the exhibit hall double doors.  Halfway up the ramp, I heard it, too.  Spring was hitting all my senses.  The St. Paul Home and Garden show was in full swing and I could feel spring.  From the smell of the lilies, hyacinth, and mulch, to the sound of the water running in make-shift ponds and their feeder waterfalls, I was immersed in spring.
My mood and step lightened as I looked around at the primrose, the lilies, the hyacinth, and all the other forced bulbs.  It was 20 degrees and windy outside.  The sun was hiding behind some clouds, but inside was warm, smelled good, and was full of bright colors.
I love feeling the hope, the inevitable changing of the seasons, the comfort that the world keeps turning, and I with it, that comes with witnessing the beginning of a new season.
We at Home Sown Gardens often encourage those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or those who just plain have trouble getting through long Minnesota winters, to plant spring flowering bulbs or early spring blooming perennials.  Just the thought of them popping through the ground gives one hope.  The mere thought gives one something to look forward to, something that keeps them going and makes them think of life, color, waking up after a period of hibernation or dormancy.  Then there’s the actual emergence, and the thoughts that we can all begin anew.  It’s a fresh start, a chance to bloom our best.
Smelling spring and thinking about the spring bulbs gets me dreaming about my garden.  What am I going to move this year?  The Obedients really need a bigger place to roam.  What new plants am I going to try?  I’ve been eyeing a Hydrangea Paniculata for some time now.  I really wanted to get some new mulch added to my East bed and the rocks in my North bed replaced with mulch.  The flag Iris is looking kind of tired, I wonder if it would like its feet in a wetter spot?
I can hear my husband saying something to me, but I’m too immersed in my summer garden plans to pay any attention.  “Tami!” he prods, “What are you thinking about?”
“Oh, the possibilities…” I murmur back.