What a grand welcome to spring with all the flowers which bloom in my garden. Here are the stars of this spring’s garden flower show!
Enter the lovely daffodils which were the first to grace the garden with their radiant colors.
Then came the tulips marching in with their stately beauty:
Of course, the peach blossoms and apple blossoms must also share their glory:
The blueberry blossoms contribute to the beauty of spring as well. Did you ever look closely at these lovely little blossoms? What design!
Kale blossoms! One lonely kale plant made it through the winter and has produced these bright yellow flowers.
Do you recognize this beautiful blossom? Strawberry! The strawberry bed is full of these blossoms right now, so here’s hoping for a delicious strawberry harvest coming up.
And last but not least, a sweet canine flower child, Bitsie. She is one of my three little dogs who all love to go with “GrannieAppleseed” out into the garden wonderland. Bitsie was found by one of my daughters out in one of our snow-covered pastures in February of 2011, very thin and very cold. We never found out where she came from after trying for weeks to find an owner. No ID or chip. She was only about 4 months old and appears to be a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix. She has been with me ever since and will remain so “until death do us part.” One of her favorite spots in the garden is this little patch of clover where she loves to take a nap.
At this time of year when I walk through the garden I’m always looking for blueberries! They are ripening daily now so just a handful has to keep me content and I’m actually thankful for each one.
Besides blueberries, I now look for my daily “herb snacks.” What are those you must wonder. This has been the year for me to discover amazing herbs, so I’ve planted several, enjoy watching them grow, and above all learning about their uses as well as tasting them. I tell my children I snack on herbs when I’m out working in the garden.
One of my very favorite herbs is peppermint and I do love chocolate too, so when I planted chocolate mint (Mentha piperita), I didn’t know what a treat I was in for. Chewing on a leaf of this plant is very minty and actually has a hint of chocolate. My daughter made a delicious raspberry and chocolate mint sauce to pour over coconut milk ice-cream last Sunday. You can also steep the leaves fresh or dried in a cup of hot tea. Use as an edible food garnish.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a delightful herb, another member of the mint family, with a mild and soothing lemon flavor. Like lemon in your tea? Put in a couple lemon balm leaves. So happy to have met lemon balm! More about lemon balm here. How fun to chew on a tender lemon balm leaf while digging in the garden dirt!
Do you like the taste of licorice? Holy basil leaves have a mild sweet licorice taste. This is one of my very favorite herbs now. My daughter and I enjoyed a cup of holy basil tea yesterday evening and when I was passing by the plant today of course I picked off a leaf to snack on as I watered the tomato plants. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is an important medicinal herb with many uses.
“What is Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights.”
William Lawson, 1618
Blueberries are ripening and we are enjoying a small handful every day. What fun to walk in a garden, pick a blueberry and eat it right off the plant. Even if you don’t have a garden spot or wish to grow lots of blueberries, you can plant yourself a blueberry bush in your backyard or even in a patio container. If you need, or like, having some kind of hedge plant, consider blueberry bushes. They are green all summer and have in the fall lovely orange and red leaves. And in the summer you can eat fresh fruit from your hedge!
I just happen to be a bit obsessed with blueberries as my children tell me; I have 50 young plants growing now. They ask me what I will do with so many blueberries. “Wouldn’t that be a nice problem”, I reply. The plants I have are all young and it will be a few years before they reach 4 and 5 feet high and produce “tons” of blueberries. If that ever happens and I have too many berries to freeze, make jam, give to family and friends, I would sell to local markets.
But, in the meantime I’m greedy with the small amounts I am getting from young but fruitful plants. The many birds in my garden, especially the mockingbirds, and I are in competition for blueberries. Why should they reap the fruits of my labor? I do love birds and invite them into my garden, except to eat blueberries. My first attempt to keep them away was bird netting. That was a problem because the leaves and twigs from the berry plants got tangled in the netting and hard to access the berries. Then, I heard about bird scare tape and bought some from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
It has worked wonderfully for me! You might be able to find this flashy tape at a local garden center as well.
At first I tied the tape onto a berry branch but when the wind blew it would tangle the tape into the branches and berries. Keeps the birds away no doubt but I didn’t like the tangled mess.
My next idea was to put in some staking rods here and there along the rows. I tie the tape to an end rod and pass it through a couple more rods to the other end of the row, twisting the tape loosely a couple of times so it really looks flashy with its red and silver color in the sunlight and wind. The slightest breeze ruffles the tape and apparently does its job of scaring away birds from the berries.
In years to come, if I ever get too many blueberries and don’t know what to do with them all, I will designate a bush or two just for the birds who come to my garden. 😊
This past week my aunt gave me a stack of old gardening magazines that she cleaned out of her closet, and in one of the old magazines I found the most inspiring and witty article written by a man named Henry Mitchell entitled, On the Defiance of Gardeners. I read it out loud to my daughter who was sitting on the couch with me browsing through this stack of old magazines. We both laughed at the truth and humor of Henry Mitchell’s gardening comments. How I could relate! Having gardened for almost 10 years, I’ve seen disease, a true grasshopper plague for 3 years in a row, hail, wind, and other forces try to defeat my dream of a Garden of Eden here in the northwest corner of Arkansas.
Henry Mitchell, in the same article, wrote about grubbing out the dead and dying plants and starting anew. My fabulous 5′ high rosy hedge along the southern border of my garden that was such a nice windbreak got a rose disease which invaded our area and all 12 bushes died within a year! So, I “grubbed” them all up and started anew with blueberry bushes! I’m very thankful that all 50 of them are doing well so far.
This April, a 15-minute pea-size hail storm demolished my little tomato plants, so I got out the seed packets and planted more. Like Henry Mitchell said, “It’s not nice to garden anywhere. Everywhere there are violent winds, startling once-per-five-centuries floods, unprecedented droughts, record-setting freezes, abusive and blasting heats never known before.” I think I’ve seen them all, but somehow every spring I have hope that maybe this year will be a good year for growing a productive garden full of healthy plants and beautiful flowers.
A little more wisdom from Henry Mitchell: “Everything grows for everybody. Everything dies for everybody too. There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who, ruin after ruin, get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises. Defiance, on the other hand, is what makes gardeners.”
Here they come again! By May we should be enjoying fresh strawberries and blueberries. Blueberries are my favorite berry but I really love all berries, including the tart gooseberry. With 52 young blueberry bushes, my kids told me to stop planting anymore as I would be overrun with them. I told my kids I can’t have too many blueberries and I won’t be “overrun” with them until I have my freezer and theirs full of berries and have given quarts away to friends and folk at church. If I still have so many blueberries, I would try to sell them at the local farmers’ market and restaurants which buy local produce. So, you see, I could buy at least one more plant this year. 😊
What varieties do I have so far? Rubel, Toro, Jersey, Early Blue, Jewel, Brigitta, Windsor, Legacy, O’Neal, Emerald, Elliott, Ochlocknee, Northern Blue and Sweetheart. By planting early, mid-season and late season varieties you can enjoy fresh blueberries from late April through June in my area of Northwest Arkansas.
The strawberry variety I have is Tristar which is a disease resistant, everbearing variety producing a heavy crop in early spring, lighter crops in hot summer weather, and increased size berries in fall. We have been very happy with this variety. I only have one small bed of strawberries so we eat them fresh and as fast as they come.