Edible Gardening

Why We Plant

 Witty Rd_40

The ice is melting and the forecast is for a gorgeous 67 degree day on Tuesday. Warm sunshine on a winter day is so motivating!  Like my cats waiting at the door to be released out at the first ray of daylight, we gardeners wait impatiently to be back outside inspecting the height of our daffodils, the first new blooms on our hellebores or primrose, seeing what needs cleaning up or mulching, and planning where to add the next new plant.

Twice last week I was asked if it is OK to prune roses now.  It is tempting to do it, but wait.   Minor pruning to shape them up a bit is OK, but hold off on the major pruning until late February.  Heavy pruning promotes new growth which could be frozen back and weaken the plant.  Our last average frost date is April 15th so there is still a lot of winter left to go.

What can you prune now? Crepe myrtles, nandinas, fruit trees, raspberry & blackberry brambles, and conifers (tip prune only) to name a few.  But honestly, if you have not been to my pruning class yet, WAIT to prune anything!  Dates for my prerequisite Course #1 on Soils and Pruning are scheduled at the perfect time – when the coldest winter days are past, but new buds are not yet breaking.  (There is still room in my March 4th and 5th classes. Please invite friends & get in touch if you want to attend.  I will not be accepting new students after March 5th.)

Celebrate cold days inside reading through seed catalogs, and ordering your summer flower bulbs and asparagus plants.  I like Territorial Seed Company’s catalog because it is an excellent  reference manual for growing vegetables.  I recommend ordering it whether you get their seed or not:  http://www.territorialseed.com/catalog_request   Pinetree Garden Seeds is my favorite for offering smaller packets of seed at a low price for the home gardener: https://www.superseeds.com/

If you love asparagus consider making room for it in your garden.  It is the perfect perennial vegetable, producing for up to 20 years and with gorgeous vase-worthy ferny foliage all summer.  Roots should always be mail ordered. Any that you find hanging on a store display rack will be dead. When roots are shipped to you they should be refrigerated or planted within 5 days of arrival in Mid-March,  so now is the perfect time to prepare a new bed for them with lots of compost.  The Jersey hybrids are good producers, and the purple variety (green when cooked) produce the fattest, nuttiest tasting stalks.

Here is another treat to share with you…my favorite Blogspot.  Tom Rainer, “a landscape architect by profession and a gardener by obsession”,  is also an exceptional writer. His perspectives on nature, gardens and design are moving and inspiring as he eloquently shows us why we are so moved by nature.   http://landscapeofmeaning.blogspot.com/

Here is an excerpt from his Feb 6, 2012 post “Why We Plant”.    I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.     Ellen

Garden design magazines and blogs dedicate a lot of space to answering the questions “how” and “what” to plant. But in the last few weeks, I’ve become rather fascinated with the question: why do we design with plants? In many ways, planting design is one of the most frivolous, silly activities I can think of. That’s not to say it doesn’t matter. But it is certainly not necessary, like paychecks or vaccines or heart surgery. It is a pure extravagance, something we do for our own pleasure.

We can survive without gardens, yes, but the question is, can we live without them? What I love about plants, in particular, is their ability to reveal the invisible world. The way a grass moves in the wind, or the way a seedhead glows when backlit by the setting sun. …. When garden design becomes another form of interior decorating, it loses its soul. No, what interests me is creating landscapes that are more alive than we are, but in a completely different way. When we enter into a landscape brimming with life and let that life enter into us, let it move through us, then we get a glimpse of the horizon we were created for.

How do we create these landscapes? First, we stop obsessing about prettiness. … Great planting design is nostalgic. By that, I mean that the goal of planting in gardens is to remind us of a larger moment in nature. When a moment in the garden is reminiscent of some larger landscape, when a group of plants makes you feel like walking through a meadow, or hiking through a dark forest, or entering into a woodland glade, then you have created an emotional experience. And that, to me, is the essential skill of planting design: to know how to arrange plants in ways that evokes our memory of nature.

I believe all of us have embedded in us a longing for nature … It is not that we have lost the capacity to read and see landscapes, but we are out of practice. And as a result, we are more desperate for it. Have you ever entered a garden or a landscape and felt a profound connection to it? It is almost like a moment of déjà vu. Part of us awakes for the first time—like the feeling of a phantom limb. We tap into a part of our being that remembers the way we are supposed to be in this world. For a brief moment, there is an opening within ourselves and we glimpse the shoreline of the limitless horizon within. The preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” Sometimes we feel this as an epiphany, other times it comes in small waves. A subtle feeling of expansiveness surges through us.

This is why the goal of planting design is to make people see again, to make them remember. We arrange plants in ways that will enable people to have an experience of the ephemeral. It is not the plants themselves as objects that have power. But it is their patterns—particularly archetypal patterns—and that can become animated as light and life pass through it.

We do not create beauty. But we can create thresholds through which people enter and have an experience of beauty.