Wednesday, February 25, 2009

St.Valentine's week is auspicious to me, not because of Cupid's arrow or the explosion of flowers I deal with as a floral designer, but because Valentine's Day is the traditional time to sow Sweet pea seeds. I plant mine in seed trays after a soak in tepid water for a few hours, certainly not more than 24. Some people just like to nick their seeds to encourage water absorption, I think that way might be safer for the more delicate varieties, soaking can lead to rot..if you're not careful. My Father always grew sweet peas in his vegetable garden,not for the small pods that are poisonous,but for their glorious fragrance and water color hues. Our early summer kitchen windowsill was always treated to a small but powerful bunch of sweet peas. This tradition began with my great aunt, who was an imposing woman at the turn of the 20Th century. She had taken my father in as a youth after first his father, then his mother had died. What she lacked in maternal affection, she compensated with a great love of gardening that he could relate to and learn from. I was the last child born in my family. It was fortunate in that my parents had more time to spend with me as an individual,rather than one of five. The hours spent in the garden with both my parents, gave me the knowledge that I needed to have a true foundation of the craft. My dad was primarily in to fruit and vegetables, my mom dealt with the more ornamental side of things. We raised a great deal of organic food for our family,and there were always fresh flowers in the house. Even in the winter, we would dig the crowded lily of the valley pips to force inside,paper whites and Chinese sacred Lily's(both Narcissus)and lots of forced branches from a great selection of woody plants and fruit trees. All this early exposure made the future of horticulture and fine flower design a no brainer for me. My moms credo-compost,compost,compost...for everything. You know, I think she was right!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Begining

Streptocarpus hybrid
Springtime for me, begins as the future year's catalogs start their seasonal migration to my mailbox. The detailed e-searches can reward the diligent searcher many treasures that he did not even know he needed. I've always been fixated with plants,the first plant fascination for me, was the genus Viola. I was very young when I discovered the amazing plant family in my own family's garden. At five or six years old, I had discovered as many varieties growing in the garden. There was a long row of White violets growing under a louvered fence, a back walkway to the courtyard had a beautiful wine- red variety,at the back of the property, where my mother had planted thousands of choice Narcissus,were a sea of confederate violets always crowding out the less powerful lavender downy violet. I told my parents I wanted to collect violets,this seemed like an odd but acceptable hobby for a six year old. I was a very lucky child to have been encouraged to pursue horticulture as a passion. The next year for Easter brought a basket full of Sainpaulias (African Violets) that my mother thought would pacify my growing plant needs. The great world of Gesneriads has been a source of some wonderful experiences with growing. Daily care yields amazing results. It's not that any part of their care is difficult, just specific. If my life is going well, the Saintpaulias do well...if there is too much stress for too long, the violets show the wear,but resurrection is as easy as striping the leaves and re potting the crown for a glorious rebirth in a few weeks. I am so grateful for the time I've been able to spend in the natural world,Horticulture is a food for all the senses as well as the soul. At Hiddenfield Farm where I live and garden now, I always take time in the spring to search the woods for violet treasures,the thread of green pleasure continues...