I am working with the enthusiasm of a man from Marseilles eating bouillabaisse, which shouldn’t come as a surprise…because I am busy painting huge sunflowers. ~ Vincent van Gogh
Sunflowers have captivated mankind for centuries. Even before van Gogh spent mad days with a paint brush in southern France, Native Americans domesticated the plant for its food value. And what child hasn’t pushed a sunflower seed into a Dixie cup in grade school and watched it sprout on the window sill?
The sunflower family. Sunflowers are members of the Asteraceae, also known as Compositae, Aster or Daisy, Family. This valuable family is huge and comprises about 2,000 genera and 20,000 species. It contains about 1/10 of all angiosperm (flowering plants) species.
Some family members provide food—lettuce, artichoke, chickory, endive and safflower—and others are important herbs—chamomile, feverfew, tansy and tarragon. Two infamous weeds, dandelion and thistle, are members. An important insecticide is derived from the Pyrethrum genus.
Our gardens wouldn’t be the same without members of the Daisy Family for plants such as the marigold, zinnia, artemesia, chrysanthemum, dahlia, Joe-Pye weed, osterspermum, gerbera, black-eyed Susan, coneflower and cosmos are also members.
Sunflower facts. • Scientific name is Helianthus annus. • Annual herbaceous plant that is native to North America. • Evolutionarily speaking, sunflowers are advanced as each flower is actually a complex inflorescence composed of two types: center disk flowers (often sterile, pollinator-attracting) are surrounded by a ring of ray flowers. • In the bud stage, sunflowers are heliotropic, i.e., they track the sun from east to west during the day and return to face the east during the night. Mature flowers aren’t heliotropic; instead most flower heads face east. • This heliotropisim feature of the sunflower was the answer to the weekly puzzler on NPR’s "Car Talk" on May 26, 2012. • Sunflowers are an important crop for both oil and seed production. In order, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota are the top producers. • Plant breeders have been fiddling with this species and many cultivars are available. In addition to the common yellow, other colors are offered and sizes range from dwarf to giant.
How to design with sunflowers. Barbara Damrosch is a gardener, author and co-business owner, along with Eliot Coleman, of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine. In her column in a May 2012 edition of The Washington Post, she wrote of her notions of sunflowers in a garden. Since they are big and rough in texture, they belong in the food garden where “hybrid tea roses would be out of place.”
Furthermore, “They are cheerful and unsubtle. They don’t blend well in ornamental borders, because they hog too much of the attention. I plant them in groups in the corners of my plot, among beans, broccoli and kale…”
How to grow sunflowers. Sunflowers are easily grown from seed. Choose a spot in full sun and sow directly into the garden when possible danger of frost has passed and the soil is beginning to warm. After sprouting, thin to about 12” on center.
Finally… By all means, cut copiously for a bouquet. Sunflower blossoms are long-lasting as it takes time for each tiny disk flower to open. And there’s not another flower that looks more enthusiastic and seems to exude such innocence, happiness and simplicity.
Photo at top by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman's Cabinet. Photo above taken at Lucia's Restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
For my eyes only: violas at the backdoor. A rustic basket planted with violas wasn’t on my list when I was shopping at the nursery last spring. But the purchase was more than impulsive. On that chilly, blustery day, I fell hard for the courageous, lively plants.
Simple things are best. This plain brown basket overflows with sweet-smelling Viola cornuta ‘Penny Lane Mix’. The diminutive scale is perfect for our back door entrance and the multi-colored blossoms brighten up gray steel siding and a cedar-colored door. ‘Penny Lane Mix’ is tolerant of both heat and cold and now, even in July, the plants remain strong and vibrant.
And even though I’ve passed the plants hundreds of times, they never, ever fail to delight.
A rose the color of butter. For the most part, modern roses have no place in my garden. I simply have no interest in a fragrance-free rose blossom. Rather, my style tends toward plain Rosa rugosa plants or old plants like the 1860-bred ‘Comte de Chambord’ and ‘Celeste’ that dates to 1756.
But ever since the ‘Julia Child’ rose was introduced in 2006 with much fanfare, touting “butter gold” flowers with “strong licorice candy and spice” scent, I was entranced and ultimately succumbed.
The plant is gorgeous! Above a gently rounded mound of glossy foliage is a continual show. Bright yellow buds open to reveal rich gold flowers with warm hints of orange. As blossoms mature, they gradually fade to ever softer shades of creamy yellow.
Placement, again, is key. ‘Julia Child’ merits a place of honor in the front garden, centered under the kitchen window where she is clearly visible from inside and where I can gaze on her endlessly while cooking and tidying up.
Once again…the importance of soil. Horticulture magazine continues its excellent series “Soil Life” by Peter Garnham in the May/June 2014 issue. This time Garnham focuses on fungi, “the primary decomposer of organic matter in the soil,” and again discusses the symbiotic relationship between plant roots and soil organisms.
He concludes with very strong words, “stop behaving like a mass murderer,” and details steps to nurture soil.
#1. ….no more rototilling. None. ever. A single pass with a rototiller kills quadrillions of bacteria and chops and destroys thousands of miles of fungal mycelia. No more double digging, either…
#2. …stop using any chemical fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide or pesticide. All these substances slaughter soil life and cause an imbalance that actually attracts pathogenic bacteria, nematodes and insects.
#3. Physically remove seed-bearing weeds. Mow the rest and let the residue lay in place. Fungi and bacteria will take care of it for you.
#4. Use a pointed hoe to cut a furrow for seeding, and cut individual holes for transplants. Once plants are established, quickly add copious amounts of mulch…
#5. …apply a one-inch thick coating of good compost all over the garden annually…
Finally…fuchsias. Who could resist these charming flowers that dangle like designer earrings? (Fuchsia ‘Eva Boerg’)
When one is on a working vacation at Burntside Lodge, a 101-year-old, family-owned lodge in surely one of the most beautiful settings in the world on a deep, clear lake in northern Minnesota (and where lilacs are just coming into full bloom), one should bring along a heavy armload of books. It doesn’t get much better than reading a good book, lakeside.
Curves, Flowers, Foliages & Flourishes in the Formal Decorative Arts by Lisa DeLong is a little book but has a big idea. Dr. DeLong (Ph.D. in the use of geometry in art) details the history of forms used for decorative ornaments. Lots of cool information is presented but so far I’ve gotten side-tracked by the section on “Ironwork.” I now know that most of the iron gate, trellis and fence designs use groups of C- and S-shaped patterns.
Airs Above the Ground, Wildfire at Midnight and This Rough Magic, all by Mary Stewart, are being re-read in honor and remembrance of Stewart, who died in May at age 97. Her books, beginning with Madame Will You Talk? in 1955, were among the first of the romantic genre. Hers were also the best—due to writing skill, strong, smart female characters and her ability to describe settings whether in southern France, Corfu or Austria. Stewart was also known for her series about Merlin, magician and sorcerer to King Arthur.
The Bird Skinner by Alice Greenway is a compelling story with an ornithologist/bird collector/bird skinner who has an encyclopedia for a mind as the title character. He currently lives on an island off the Maine coast but flashes back to his days on a South Seas island during WWII. He’s turned into an ornery old codger who drinks too much and can think of little else except blame and regret. His heroes are Robert Louis Stevenson and Ernest Hemingway. One might guess the tragic ending.
One Good Dish by David Tanis has been renewed from the library several times. The book caught my eye because even though one can cook elaborate, multi-course meals, sometimes the best are simple. As Tanis writes, his every day meal is “often one good dish and a green salad.” Perfect.
The recipes span a range of options—from Polenta Pizza with Crumbled Sage, Nicoise Salad on a Roll, Ham and Gruyere Bread Pudding, Potato Salad with Peppers and Olives and Warm French Lentil Salad to Classic Frisee Salad and Spaghetti with Bread Crumbs and Pepper. In all, 22 recipes need to be copied. Maybe I can renew for a fourth time?
I’ve been following Tanis since I attended one of his cooking classes several years ago. He was ruggedly handsome, self-deprecating and charming and lived an enviable life—splitting his time between an apartment in Paris and as chef at Chez Panisse in San Francisco. Now I never miss his New York Times column, City Kitchen.
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl is a fun read. The story has everything—interesting characters, good plot with a James Beard angle, romance, family troubles, work troubles, intrigue and an ugly-duckling-turns-into-a swan theme. Reichl has a fabulous resume: restaurant critic for The Los Angeles Times, restaurant critic for The New York Times, editor in chief of Gourmet magazine. Gourmet was by far the best of the genre at its heyday (pre Saveur) and its tragic, precipitous folding was the impetus for this book.
William Yeoward at Home by William Yeoward is, no doubt, a coffee-table book but a great deal can be gleaned from its luscious photographs. So much of style can be attributed to the idiom, “the devil is in the detail,” and Yeoward is a master. His pillows are fabulous as are his lamps, china and of course, his crystal. Always a sucker for small, simple structures, I love his Garden Room and Summerhouse. Too, Yeoward’s flowers are exquisite. Lavish bouquets of common garden flowers are, at once, simple, elegant and charming.
Even though Yeoward is perhaps best known for his line of crystal, he also designs furniture, linens and accessories. He is English and this book showcases his two homes—a country estate in the Cotswolds and a sleek apartment in London.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts recently concluded a special exhibition, Matisse: Masterworks from The Baltimore Museum of Art. The show included 50 pieces, mostly from the Cone Collection of Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone, of Baltimore. The sisters befriended Matisse, amassed an impressive collection (including several commissions) and then bequeathed the pieces to the Baltimore museum.
Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) was prolific and created paintings, sculptures and other pieces throughout his life. It started when he was given an art kit as a young man. “Afterwards I had nothing in my head except painting,” he said.
Two things—his obvious love of flowers and his use of bright colors, especially for the interiors of his paintings—have always drawn me to Matisse. In chronological order, here are some of the paintings in the exhibit. The last two (painted in 1947 and 1950, respectively) clearly show how his style had evolved. In his final years, he mainly worked on paper cut-out works.
The flower for the month of May is lily of the valley. The dainty, bell-shaped flowers in pure white emit a sweet, fresh fragrance. It could be the poster flower for the notion of simple gardening for it is, at once, simple, elegant and charming.
Lily of the valley facts. • Scientific name is Convallaria majalis. • Belongs to the Convallariaceae family. Other family members include Solomon Seal (Polygonatum), Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) and Merry Bells (Uvularia sessifolia). • Native to Europe and Asia. There is some disagreement about a similar plant growing in the Appalachians. Some botanists call it C. majalis var. montana. • Hardiness Zones 3 – 7. • Each plant produces one 6” flower—a raceme consisting of 6 – 14 blossoms dangling from a slender stem. The raceme seems to hide demurely below two nearly basal leaves, each about 9” tall. • Not a wonderful plant for wildlife. Fertilized flowers produce orange-red berries and only chipmunks seem to eat them. In addition, all plant parts contain the toxic substance cardiac glycosides rendering them useless as food sources. • On the other hand, not a wonderful plant for wildlife. Deer, mice, rabbits, voles, squirrels and others too numerous to mention will not decimate a planting. • Two cultivars are occasionally offered but are needless. ‘Rosea’ has pink (pink?) flowers and ‘Albostriata’ has unattractive striped foliage. • Good bee flower! Pollen is collected by honeybees. • An important plant for commercial reasons. In the past, its liquid “strengthened weak memories, cheered the heart, was an important ingredient in love potions and more prosaically cured gout,” according to Anna Pavord. Still used extensively for perfume, soap and candles. • Muguet is the French word for lily of the valley. What a pretty word! France celebrates May 1 (Fete le 1er Mai) when seemingly every street corner and flower shop in Paris sells pots or bouquets of muguets. • Kate Middleton’s wedding bouquet was a subtle bouquet of fragrant white flowers—mainly lily of the valley (with some Sweet William. Get it?).
How to grow lily of the valley. It’s really so simple. Plant the right plant in the right place!
Choose a spot that receives mostly-to-full shade with rich, moist soil. Plant the rhizomes about 2 – 2½” deep and about 3” on center. Keep well watered until established. Every fall, top dress with 2” layer of compost, leaf mold or other organic material.
Lily of the valley pips (growing buds and roots) can be forced into bloom.
The bad rap. I truly don’t understand why gardeners and landscape designers don’t like lily of the valley; I chalk it up to arrogance. Some might call it a thug; I don’t and have never found it so in northern gardens.
Designing with lily of the valley. It is an ideal ground cover for shady locations. One spring many years ago while visiting Callaway Gardens in Georgia, I had a gardening epiphany. Azaleas of all colors and sizes were in full bloom in one area of the garden. Unifying the shrubs was a thick carpet of lily of the valley. The effect was simple, elegant, charming and unforgettable.
Finally… If one wants an annual bouquet of lily of the valley for an office desk or bedside table, grow your own. Bachman’s, the Twin Cities largest retail florist, doesn’t offer them as cut flowers—even for special orders. And they’re scarce and very expensive from wholesale florist Koehler & Dramm in Minneapolis.
Happy Birthday to all born in May!
Photos above in order: Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet The Guardian Carol Gillott, Paris Breakfasts
The Consolations of the Forest by Sylvain Tesson is a daily journal kept by French writer and traveler Tesson when he lived in a tiny, remote cabin. His introduction sounds a bit Thoreau-ish:
I’d promised myself that before I turned forty I would live as a hermit deep in the woods. I went to spend six months in a Siberian cabin on the shores of Lake Baikal…I took along books, cigars, and vodka. The rest—space, silence, and solitude—was already there…I knew winter and spring, happiness, despair, and in the end, peace.
Even though his writing is clunky at times and often trite (perhaps due to translation?) I am enjoying his story.
Heidi by Johanna Spryri made quite an impression when I read it as a child. I vividly remember so much—the hermit lifestyle of Heidi’s grandfather, the sound of the fir trees outside the hut and simple meals of cheese and bread. In fact it was just those meals that put the book back on my bedside table.
In a newly published book, Heidi’s meal is joined by other famous descriptions in Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memoriable Meals by Dina Fried. Authors featured include Hemingway, Melville, Twain, Proust, Garcia Marquez, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Lewis Carroll, Stieg Larsson, Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, Hunter S. Thompson and Virginia Woolf. This book might be next on my stack.
Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Debbie Lonnee, Nancy Rose, Don Selinger and John Whitman is generally not the type of reading I like to do to at the end of the day but, somehow, this revised and updated book ended up on my bedside table. Perhaps its beautiful plant photographs are an antidote to this elusive spring.
Most of the information is excellent. The authors are quite clear about scientific names, varieties, cultivars and crosses. Details about flower color and form, evergreen color, fall foliage where pertinent, mature height and width and minimum winter temperatures are included. For each of the 50 genera, crucial information about light, soil, moisture and spacing requirements is detailed, as well as insect and disease problems.
I have major issues with their advice about fertilizing and pruning. In fact, they are just plain wrong when almost every Fertilizing section begins with the sentence: “Fertilize every spring with 10-10-10 fertilizer.”
The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook by Michael Anthony with a History by Danny Meyer is a large, heavy book and rather hard to read in bed…but I love reading it. Meyer is the founder of The Gramercy Tavern and Anthony is partner/executive chef. Why name an exquisite restaurant a “tavern”? Meyer writes about that and his vision for this combination of styles:
…that refined restaurant in Paris a twinkle in its eye, a trattoria in Rome, a rustic Early American watering hole, and our space in the heart of nineteenth-century Manhattan.
It is seasonally arranged and includes gorgeous photographs of food and flowers, restaurant scenes and kitchen scenes. Interesting sidebars about the architects, flower designer and current and past employees are sprinkled throughout.
As with most good recipes, the ingredient lists aren’t too long. Rather, important components such as the quality of those ingredients, preparation details and presentation of the dish are key. Since I am actually reading the book (from the beginning) and have reached only page 256 (of 343), I haven’t actually cooked any of the dishes yet. But I will. And I do know that my next travel to New York City will include a meal at The Gramercy Tavern.
I think those three words perfectly describe this spring bouquet.
It couldn’t get much simpler than a huge handful of freshly cut branches from the garden. The tall crystal vase is classically elegant. And pussy willows are charming.
Pussy willow facts. • My bouquet is cut from native pussy willow (Salix discolor) that grows abundantly in our region. Flower shops usually carry the French pussy willow (S. caprea) because flowers are larger and showier. • Pussy willows belong to the Salicaceae family. Other family members include willow trees and the Populus genus, including quaking aspen (P. tremuloides) and cottonwood (P. deltoides). • Plant is dioecious—male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. • Bumblebees, butterflies, flies, and ants visit pussy willows for both nectar and pollen. Its nectar is high in sugar and often can be the first important forage for bees. • The fruit of pussy willows is a catkin containing numerous, tiny, very light seeds that are dispersed widely by the wind. • Pussy willows need full sun and extremely moist soils. In its native habitat, pussy willows rarely are found far from water’s edge.
Finally… Here’s a plea for mass. Just as in outdoor garden design, mass is a vital principle. This bouquet creates a bold, beautiful presence due to the volume of pussy willow branches.
If I allow, this simple bouquet will retain its elegance and charm for weeks. From their early pearl-y look, flowers will mature and soon fall. Later bright green foliage will emerge and roots will form.
Those were my exact words yesterday when I examined the garden bed at the base of my amur cherry (Prunus maackii).
About 40 ‘Blue Pearl’ crocus (Crocus chrysanthus 'Blue Pearl') looked bright and fresh and were a dearly welcome sight when all else in the landscape is drab shades of beige, tan and gray. Up close, each flower is exquisite. Demurely protected by six creamy white petals graced with faint purple lines is a vibrant orange stigma surround by golden stamens.
Crocus facts. • Crocus are members of the Iridaceae family (Iris). Besides the obvious iris, other family members include freesia, gladioulus and ixia. • Crocus grow from corms. Both corms and bulbs are types of modified underground stems and while they resemble each other externally, the structure is different. • Flower colors include only white, yellow and purple but there is an amazing array of tints, tones and shades of those colors available. • Crocus can easily be forced into bloom after about 12 weeks of storage in a cool, dark place.
Intriguing crocus. The crocus genus is divided into two major groups depending on flowering time—spring or fall. Most of the spring plants that are hardy to Zone 3 are species or cultivars of C. chrysanthesus, C. malyi, C. sieberi, C. tommasianianus and C. vernus.
There are many following fall-flowering crocuses are hardy to Zone 3: C. banaticus, C. goulimyi, C. kotschyanus, C.longiflorus, C. medius, C. nudiflorus, C. pulchellus and C. speciousus, with gorgeous purple/blue/mauve flowers that open to reveal a frilly orange stigma.
Saffron is an expensive spice that comes exclusively from stigmas of C. sativus.
Colchichum is another genus entirely in the family Colchicaceae. Its common name is, confusingly, fall crocus.
Designing with crocus. As with all bulbs and corms, follow these three simple rules. 1. Plant in masses. Five crocuses look silly. Instead buy at least 20. 2. It’s okay to mix colors. 3. Plant in casual groups, not straight lines or geometric patterns.
Planting crocus. Crocuses are easy to cultivate as long as this simple rule is followed: Plant the right plant in the right spot.
Crocus need full or part sun and well-drained soil. Then plant corms 2-3” deep, spaced 2-3” apart. Since squirrels, gophers, voles and mice love to feed on crocus, protection might be necessary. Consider planting in bulb cages or loosely wrapping corms in chicken wire.
No matter if one is a die-hard northerner with little interest in palm trees, grits and crowded sunny beaches or has lived his or her entire life in Zone 4 or farther north, a proper, genuine spring should be experienced at least once. And there’s no better place than the southeastern part of the U.S.
For one thing, the balmy days are seemingly endless (with nary a snowstorm in the forecast). That warmth and sunshine serves not only to soothe a winter-weary soul but also leisurely to entice myriad trees and shrubs into blossom.
Choose March, April or even May and travel deep into Zone 5 and beyond. Southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia are exquisite. Here one will find Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, Monticello, the Biltmore in Asheville and the adjacent Blue Ridge Mountains, Charleston, Callaway Gardens, Savannah and countless other areas—each one more lovely than the last.
Stalwarts such as redbuds (Cerciscanadensis) and flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are not to be either missed or dismissed but there are many plants—less well-known perhaps—with charming bell-shaped flowers or fragrant flowers or drooping flowers.
Even though certain species and cultivars of the following genera grow in more northern regions, I have seen dozens more robust, floriferous options in southern gardens. • deutzia (Deutzia) • forsythia (Forsythia) • honeysuckle (Lonicera) • magnolias (Magolia) • peaches, plums, cherries (Prunus) • spicebush (Lindera) • viburnums (Viburnum, especially Korean Spicebush, V. carlesii) • wisteria (Wisteria) • witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia)
The epitome, though, of spring-flowering plants is azaleas and rhododendrons (all Rhododendron genera). They vary broadly in size, can be either evergreen or deciduous and come in a gorgeous, breath-taking array of colors.
But, alas, I am a true northerner. While I adore the opportunity to travel and to experience other springs, my heart remains true to our season—as subtle and fleeting as it is.
Sigurd F. Olson was a writer and naturalist who lived most of his life in Ely, Minnesota (at least Zone 3). He expertly and eloquently captured the first hint of spring in the north.
The very thought of it (spring) is something to live for when the days are bitter and winter is stretching out a little longer than it should. When March comes in, mo natter how cold and blustery it is, the time is ripe for signs.
I caught it one day toward the end of March, just the faintest hint of softness in the air, a slight tempering of the cold, a promise that hadn’t been there before.
Then I became conscious of the sound of trickling water beside me—nothing more than a whisper, but the forerunner, I knew, of a million coming trickles that would take down the drifts of the entire countryside.
It was there that I got my first real whiff of spring: the smell of warming trees, pines and balsams and resins beginning to soften on the south slopes. I stood there and sniffed like a hound on the loose, winnowing through my starved nostrils the whole composite picture of coming events.
~ Sigurd F. Olson, The Singing Wilderness
Photos above: Native azalea/Georgia/photo by Callaway Gardens Redbud branch/Tennessee Dogwood branch/Tennessee Formosa azalea/Georgia Native azalea/Georgia/photo by Callaway Gardens Trickle to take down drifts/Minnesota
One notion—water—and one activity—swimming—have always been part of my life. In fact, water and swimming are of such visceral importance that they are both guideposts and sources of inspiration.
Fact #1. I was born in May and within weeks my parents were bathing me in a lake, which I consider a sort of pagan baptism. My maternal Scandinavian grandparents built a small, simple, log-sided cabin on a pretty piece of lakeshore in northern Minnesota and my family spent summers there when I was growing up. Living close to water was “the source of my earliest, fondest memories” and gave me a feeling of “deep utter contentment” as I wrote for a piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2013.
As an adult I still spent as much time as possible at the lake cabin until, finally, I bought my own.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core. ~ The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats
Fact #2. Swimming came early, too, as my parents didn’t believe in—or spend money on—fancy rings and duck-shaped floats. Instead, my siblings and I had to learn to swim. Rudimentary lessons were administered at the lake but I remember formal lessons, too. They were always held early in the morning when the air was colder than the water and we shivered as much as anything. I somehow passed through each level—from minnow to barracuda, shark to Water Safety Instructor.
Swimmers generally prefer one stroke over others and my favorite is the freestyle. I like its speed and total body involvement. The back stroke is boring and I never mastered the butterfly. My breast stroke is an easy, relaxing style—totally unlike the Olympic stroke—and perfect for deep, even breathing.
At one level, it’s purely sensual: the silky feeling of liquid on skin; the chance to float free…But it’s also an inward journey, a time of quiet contemplation. I find myself at peace, able to flex my mind and imagine new possibilities without the startling interruptions of modern life. The silence is stunning. ~ Why I Swim, by Lynn Sherr, Parade Magazine, May 13, 2012
Since lake swimming tends to be recreational rather than physically challenging, I’ve been swimming laps in pools since I was 14. The pools have been both indoors and out and have ranged in size from 40 feet to 25 yards, 25 meters and an Olympic-sized 50-meter pool. One pool was in a back yard but I’ve belonged to YMCAs, a private health club and now pay to swim at a local high school pool through an adult education program.
For better or worse, the mind wanders: we are left alone with our
thoughts, wherever they make take us. A lot of creative thinking happens
when we’re not actively aware of it...The body is engaged in full
physical movement, but the mind itself floats, untethered. ~ The Self-Reflecting Pool, by Bonnie Tsui, The New York Times, February 16, 2014
Not surprisingly, my vacation choices are always near water and usually include swimming. I’ve visited the Pacific Ocean off northern California and the Atlantic coasts of Maine, Massachusetts, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Farther south about 1,500 miles, I’ve swum in warm Atlantic water off the islands of Barbados and Grenada.
I can vouch, also, for the lovely Gulf of Mexico, too. Holidays have taken me from Fort Walton Beach in Florida’s Panhandle to Key West and many beaches in between.
It’s the most complete feeling of freedom that there is. ~ The River Swimmer, by Jim Harrison, 2013
But one destination surpasses all. The Caribbean Sea surrounding the U.S. and British Virgin Islands is simply the most beautiful water in the world. Ordinary words like blue and green seem inadequate to describe the colors. Instead aquamarine, turquoise, azure, emerald, lapis and indigo come to mind. There is a translucence that makes the water not only rapturous to behold but sublime for swimming.
…I can achieve a blank and shining serenity if only I can reach the very edge of a natural body of water. The very edge of anything from a rivulet to an ocean says to me: “Now you know where you are. Now you know which way to go. You will soon be home now. ~ The Lake, by Kurt Vonnegut, June 1988
Photos from top to bottom: Dock at Burntside Lodge, Burntside Lake, Ely, Minnesota Listening Point, Burntside Lake, Ely, Minnesota Olympic Champion Amanda Weir/photo by Nike Atlantic Ocean, Nantucket, Massachusetts Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands/photo by Little Dix Bay Atlantic Ocean, Tybee Island, Georgia
It is, really, so simple. Healthy soil = healthy plants.
Good soil is the most important aspect of any garden. Good gardeners understand. They know that tidy rows of vegetables and pretty perennials are totally dependent on what’s happening below ground.
The complex, fascinating, symbiotic process that occurs is called the soil food web.
Consider these facts and sequence of events: • One teaspoon of soil contains several billion (billion...with a "b") bacteria. • 30,000 kinds of bacteria live in the soil. • The action takes place in the rhizosphere—a thin layer only 1/50” thick between roots and soil. • Tiny bacteria and fungi eat plant root exudates—organic material sloughed off by roots of plants. • Those bacteria and fungi create nutrients the plant needs. • They also are a food source for other bacteria, protozoa, fungi, beetles and worms that live in the soil.
The January/February 2014 “Horticulture” magazine published the first of Peter Garnham’s outstanding series on soil. It was continued in the March/April 2014 issue and I can hardly wait to read the next installment. Garnham, an organic farmer on Long Island, NY, has written previously for the magazine.
Gardeners can easily do their part. Start this spring.
1. Go cold turkey on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. You’ll save the lives of billions (billions) of bacteria, fungi and larger creatures. Healthy soil is the best defense. If truly necessary, use organic solutions.
2. Don’t rototill. Again you’ll save the lives of billions (with a "b") of bacteria, fungi, beetles and worms. Instead, use a broad fork.
3. Top dress beds with a couple inches of good compost. You’ll nourish those billions of critters.
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. I try to read anything by Quindlen, the Pulitzer Prize-winner who also wrote “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” The lead character of this latest book, Rebecca, is 59 years old when, at a crossroads, she moves from New York City to a run-down cabin in a rural area. She even becomes a dog person, allowing it to sleep at the foot of her bed. She had succeeded at her career in a big way but now suffers money problems, career problems, divorce problems—and must, in other words, overcome difficulties that most of us face at one time or another. The crux is how she copes and comes through her trying times. A little romance never hurts, too. The hero is a big guy (“a block of man”) with fair hair and scarred hands who makes “a good grilled cheese sandwich.”
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has been on my bedside table for weeks. I devoured the opening chapters but was overcome by Theo’s ordeal and needed a break. When I could summon the emotional courage to pick up the book again, I couldn’t put it down. It is mesmerizing and one of the best books I’ve ever read.
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron was published in 2010 and is the last book she wrote. She died in 2012 from a rather secret bout of acute myeloid leukemia. Ephron wrote the screenplays for some of my favorite romantic comedies including, "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You’ve Got Mail." She also wrote "Heartburn" after a nasty divorce from Carl Bernstein, of Deep Throat fame. This book is a collection of essays written in her intelligent, thoughtful, sassy way.
Pines and Plantations, subtitled Native recipes of Thomasville, Georgia, is published by The Vashti Auxiliary. For the past two winters, my husband Jerry and I have lived near Thomasville. We like to eat local—whether at home or out on date nights. We fell hard for lots of yummy southern foods—grits, biscuits, fried chicken, pecans, fried green tomatoes, Gulf shrimp and key lime pie. One thing I didn't care for at all was stewed greens made from kale, turnips or spinach.
Veranda, The Art of Outdoor Living, by Lisa Newsom is more than a coffee-table book of pretty gardens. Newsom is a native of Thomasville and the founder of the magazine "Veranda." What I like best about the places and spaces (the plants are pretty, too) is simple and rare in books of this type--the quality of design.
Newsom writes in her introduction: “The rich talents of some of the world’s finest landscape architects, interior designers, architects, and good old-fashioned green thumbs are on display here.”
If I were a rich man, Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum. All day long I'd biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man. ~ Sheldon Harnick & Jerry Bock
If Tevye, the main character in the 1964 musical "Fiddler on the Roof," were rich he’d build a big house with three staircases and make his wife Goldie happy with money for meals and servants to boss around.
If I were a rich woman, what would I do? Normal trappings have no appeal. Many women would dash out to the nearest Nordstrom and indulge in clothes and shoes. A uniform of jeans, Patagonia long underwear tops and Chaco sandals are more my style. Nor would I want a big house with miles of granite countertops, tile everything and lavish furnishings. My preference has always been for small and rustic—more cozy cabin-ish—and outfitted simply and sparingly.
My choices would be different. I’d travel and buy jewels.
Which is why, when reading the March 2014 issue of "Town & Country," a stunning collection of plant-inspired jewelry caught my eye. Chestnuts, hazelnuts, oak leaves and acorns, figs, rose hips and a pomegranate were fashioned into fabulous earrings and brooches by Hemmerle.
Nature and art have always been – and continue to be – inexhaustible sources for ideas. ~ Stefan Hemmerle
Hemmerle is a German jewelry design company (in business since 1893) that ventures to the U.S. for a semiannual salon in New York City. That show, at the Plaza Athenee Hotel, is now closed and I’ll miss their booth at the TEFAF art fair in the Netherlands. But no bother. I’ll travel (and get a two-fer) to the Hemmerle boutique on Maximilianstrasse, Munich’s tony shopping boulevard.
How to choose? The cranberry brooch (top photo), created of coral, spinels, silver and gold, is nice. But I also like the subtle charm and colors of the fritillary earrings made with diamonds, copper and gold. Or maybe the arbutus...
Sometimes a gardener wants to be entertained, wants simply to be dazzled by flowers and color and exuberance and not pay any attention to plant names, cultivars and culture. Sometimes, it’s nice to just enjoy the show.
Nature has mysterious infinities and imaginative power…The artist himself is one of nature’s means. ~ Paul Gauguin
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is celebrating three impressionist artists—Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin—and the inspiration each found in flowers, landscapes and nature. Famous sights are interpreted through massive displays of orchids: Monet’s water lily pond at Giverny, van Gogh’s swirling yellow, blue and white Starry Night and the tropical scenes of Gauguin.
The special display is titled Orchid Daze—Lasting Impressions and will be held in the Fuqua Orchid Center until April 13, 2014.
Why not a window box or container garden filled with orchids?
More than anything I must have flowers, always, always. ~ Claude Monet
Many woody plants—mainly shrubs or small ornamental trees—were in full bloom outside but their white or yellow flowers seemed dull and unimaginative. • forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) • honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii) • magnolia (Magnolia x ‘Jon Jon’) • paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) • pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) • quince (Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Nivalis’) • spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Mt. Fuji’ and ‘Ugon’) • winter hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora)
Now, the only reason for making a buzzing noise that I know of is because you're a bee. And the only reason for being a bee is to make honey, and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. ~ Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne
Lately there seems to be a resurgence of publicity about bees, further illuminating the issues and fate of this vital insect. My favorite restaurant recently promoted bees and I’ve noticed bee stuff in magazines. Too, I did just buy a jar of sourwood honey from Savannah Bee Company and it is yummy.
Recent bee publicity. Lucia’s Restaurant, a much-applauded, James Beard award winner in Minneapolis just wrapped up a February “Bee” month. (See bee cookies in photo below.) A portion of February’s sales went to the Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota.
Nearly all of the fruits and vegetables on our menu would not exist without bee pollination. Foods like apples, figs, chestnuts, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, vanilla, and even coffee wouldn’t be here without the hard work of our bees! ~ Lucia’s Restaurant
Chantecaille , a high-end cosmetics company that sells its brand through high-end stores (Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom) introduced a “Save the Bees Palette” this spring. Included are highlighter, blush and eye shade compacts in pretty shades with clever names like Beehive, Nectar Blush and Honey. The company will donate 5% of proceeds from the Save the Bees Palette to The Xerces Society.
When the air is wine and the wind is free and the morning sits on the lovely leaf, and sunlight ripples on every tree Then love-in-air is the thing for me I’m a bee, I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee, That’s me. ~ E. B White, Song of the Queen Bee The New Yorker, December 15, 1945
Cool bee and honey facts. • Bees need flowers for food. Some flowers provide pollen only and others provide both pollen and nectar. • Plants need bees to transport pollen from one flower to another for pollination. • Honey is the liquid produced by honeybees from nectar they collect, refine and concentrate. • There are about 20,000 known bee species in the world including bumble (Bombus spp.), carpenter (Xylocopa spp.), honey (Apis spp.), leaf cutting (Megachilidae spp.), mason (Osmia spp.) and sweat (Halictidae spp.) bees. • The European honey bee—not a native insect—produces most of the honey. • Varietal or monofloral honey is honey collected from a single source. Some nice options include clover, blueberry, buckwheat, basswood, sourwood, orange blossom, lavender and tupelo. • Honey is sold in liquid, whipped, comb or chunk forms. • Honey is extremely stable and naturally resists fungi, molds and other bacteria allowing it to last years without refrigeration. • Beeswax makes great candles.
Honey is the celestial gift of the dew. ~ Virgil, 29 BC
Simple steps for gardeners and others to help bees. • Grow many kinds of flowering plants all season. (Plants for Minnesota Bees) • Consider reducing the size of turf grass (very unfriendly to bees) or allow some plants like clover, creeping Charlie and dandelions to grow. • Avoid using insecticides and herbicides. • Buy and eat honey.
More bee information. beelab.umn.edu beesquad.umn.edu espseeds.com prairiemoon.com/seed-mixes/pollinator-palooza-seed-mix savannahbee.com thebeezkneezdelivery.com xerces.org/bees
Finally… The March Tastemakers (based in Minneapolis) topic is “The Buzz On Life As We Know It,” subtitled “preventing the steep decline of our world’s pollinators.” The event, March 18, is hosted by Stephanie March and Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl; the panelists are leaders in their respective professions:
• Dr. Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota • Lucia Watson, Owner of Lucia’s Restaurant in Minneapolis • Ron Bowen, Founder and President of Prairie Restorations
Honey bees represent the goodness of the earth and all that grows on it. If we take care of bees in ways that allow them to survive on their own, we are taking care not to contaminate our planet. What we learn from bees is how to be better stewards of the earth. ~ Dr. Marla Spivak
Most likely, Andre Le Notre is not well known by gardeners in this country. Due to high school European History, though, more should be familiar with his prime benefactor, King Louis XIV, the Sun King, of France. All should recognize their masterpiece—the dazzling, extraordinary palace at Versailles. Le Notre was the landscape architect who designed its gardens and grounds.
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Le Notre’s birth, Chateau de Versailles recently presented “Andre Le Notre in Perspective, 1613 – 2013.” As part of the exhibition, Versailles published a huge (9½” x 12”), heavy (416 pages), expensive (lists at $65), hard cover “catalogue.” It is as beautiful as it is massive. Included are detailed hand drawings and plan-views—most in color and some stained—of his designs for Versailles and other projects; and lush photographs of Le Notre’s extensive art collection of paintings, bronzes and porcelain pieces.
Even though Le Notre has been dead for more than three centuries, his landscape design work remains relevant and continues to inspire. One devotee was Dan Kiley (1912 – 2004), a major designer of the 20th century. Kiley was trained at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design but remained lost until 1945 when he encountered Le Notre’s work in Europe.
This was what I had been searching for—a language with which to vocalize the dynamic hand of human order on the land—a way to reveal nature’s power and create spaces of structural integrity. I suddenly saw that lines, allees and orchards/bosques of trees, tapis verts and clipped hedges, canals, pools and fountains could be tools to build landscapes of clarity and infinity, just like a walk in the woods. I did not see then, and to this day do not see, a problem with using classic elements in modern compositions, for this is not about style of decoration but about articulation of space. ~ Dan Kiley
Once he found his muse, Kiley was prolific. Here are just a few of his projects. • Chicago Art Institute • Chicago Botanic Garden • Dallas Museum of Art • Fountain Place, Dallas • John F. Kennedy Library • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City • London Standard Chartered Bank, London • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. • Twin Farms Inn, Barnard, Vermont • United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs
Now in the 21st century, the tradition continues. Peter Morrow Meyer worked with Dan Kiley for 13 years and is now with Raycroft-Meyer Landscape Architecture. The timeless approach Le Notre utilized remains the underlying structure for Meyer’s public and private projects, including Burlington College in Burlington, Vermont, Chicago Botanic Garden, Dallas Urban Plaza, du Pont Residence in Rockland, Delaware, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
And most recently, one look at the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City confirms Le Notre’s enduring legacy of classic landscape design.
“What eye candy! I’m on a visual high!” a large man exclaimed as he walked up the hill to our small group at the trail entrance of the Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve outside Cairo, Georgia. His eyes were bright as he mopped his brow with a discarded shirt.
Fifty million trout lilies in full bloom can do that to a person.
But it’s not only the mass display concentrated on just 15 acres that is mind-boggling. The nodding, yellow flowers seem demure but as they open, petals and sepals recurve completely, revealing pistils and stamens. When those stamens mature, fuzzy anthers match brown freckles on the petals. The mottled green and brown foliage is fascinating, too, and does resemble the skin of a trout.
This particular trout lily, dimpled trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum), is native to the southeastern corner of the U.S.—from Alabama east to Florida, north to Delaware and west to Tennessee. A northern relative is commonly called trout lily or dogtooth violet (E. americanum). (Throughout this post, “trout lily” refers to the southern plant, dimpled trout lily.)
Trout lily facts. • Trout lily is a member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae) and has the customary flower parts in threes: 3 sepals, 3 petals and 6 stamens. • Another common name is dogtooth violet. “Dogtooth” is suitable as the corm resembles a dog’s tooth but “violet” is a complete misnomer. • The species name “umbilicatum” is derived from an umbilical cord-like connection between the corm and the plant. • Flowers open in early afternoon and close at night. They usually last four to five days. • Trout lily spreads by corms (vertical, fleshy, underground stems) and by seeds. Bees, other flying insects and wind pollinate the flowers. • They are ephemeral that finishes its life cycle in about four months. After April, there is no sign of trout lilies at the preserve.
The history of Wolf Creek. The preserve began innocently in 2006 when Dan Miller (above), a retired chemist with the state of Florida, wanted to grow trout lilies in his garden in Tallahassee. His friend Wilson Baker mentioned this sight as a possible seed source. They both realized the uniqueness of the property and a “For Sale” sign sparked both men to action. They worked diligently with the Florida Native Plant Society and the Georgia Land Conservation Program, among others; but as time wound down, they were still lacking enough money. Serendipitously, a woman from Thomasville, Georgia, anonymously donated the final $44,000 to complete the sale.
In 2009, the land was purchased and Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve was formed.
It is the largest expanse of dimpled trout lily known. That they have been left alone for decades is key to their abundance but so, too, are features of the sight and the plant’s longevity. The mostly deciduous forest supplies not only the perfect canopy of dappled shade but its leaves provide a thick layer of organic matter. The northeast-facing slope offers coolness and “a layer of pipe clay close to the surface allows for high soil moisture content,” Dan says. He added, “Trout lilies can live 30 to 40 years.”
The forest of Wolf Creek. Since the allure of Wolf Creek is trout lilies, most visitors spend the majority of their time looking down. That’s a shame for they are missing out on a beautiful example of a southern oak-pine forest type. Even though conifers were represented by only spruce pines (not a typo…just a confusing name), 15 other woody plants, including six oaks were identified.
• American elm (Ulmus americana) • American Holly (Ilex opaca) • beech (Fagus grandifolia) • hop hornbean (Ostrya virginiana) • southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) • oaks: laurel (Quercus hemisphaerica), live (Q. virginiana), Shumard (Q. shumardii), swamp chestnut (Q. michauxii), white (Q. alba), willow (Q. phellos) • pignut hickory (Carya glabra) • spruce pine (Pinus glabra) • sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) • tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) • white ash (Fraxinum americana)
No matter where a gardener lives—from the frigid, snow-covered regions of the Midwest to the heat and sunshine of the desert southwest—plants are never far from their minds. And they usually take time to check out nurseries, greenhouses, flower shops and garden centers.
I’m no different. Even though my husband Jerry and I are living near Thomasville, Georgia (Zone 8b), this winter where red and pink camellias (Camellia spp.) are still blooming and saucer magnolias (Magnolia x soulangeana) are just opening, I, too, am always on the prowl.
During a recent stop at the very cool Native Nurseries in Tallahassee, Florida, employees were unpacking a tray of colorful primroses (Primula obconica ‘Libre Mix’). Perky flowers in shades of peach, deep pink, violet, rose and lavender bloomed on slender stalks from fuzzy basal rosettes of foliage. I had never grown any species of primula before and here, serendipitously, was an opportunity. It was tempting to buy the entire tray but reason (and budget) prevailed. After 15 minutes (only) of playing with combinations, I chose plants with peach and lavender blossoms.
Now I had the beginning of a tabletop garden. A plant with white flowers in a different shape would be perfect. I found a nemesia (Nemesia fruticans ‘Compact Innocence’) with tiny, sweet-smelling, snapdragon-like blooms. Rounding out my combination are two pots of delicate maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum). All plants fit nicely into a rustic metal tray.
For now, the indoor garden is vigorous and healthy. As soon as night temperatures remain above 50, though, I’ll move the tray outside.
Plants grown indoors have the same basic needs as those grown outside. They need soil, light and water.
Soil. It’s simple: Healthy soil = healthy plants.
Buy topnotch potting soil from a greenhouse or nursery (Don't buy "garden soil" or "topsoil.") or mix your own. Potting soil is usually an assortment of organic materials in various amounts: peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, compost, sand and lime. Potting soil for cacti and succulents should have more sand while orchids and bromeliads need a mixture containing chopped bark.
Due to all the wonderful organisms that live in soil, organic components such as peat moss and compost break down and nutrients get used up over time. Soil then compacts, resulting in an imbalance of the essential ratio of 50% air to 50% soil. Either top-dress with about 1” of fresh compost or re-pot with fresh soil.
Because we humans run on food, we tend to think that plants depend on fertilizer (as "food")… Certainly they do, but plants derive most of their energy from light. ~ Barbara Pleasant, The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual
Light. Again, it’s simple. Plants need light. Certain plant cells, called chloroplasts, contain the green pigment chlorophyll where the unique and rather magical process of photosynthesis occurs. Plants take carbon dioxide and water, and in the presence of sunlight, manufacture sugar for them and oxygen for us. That sugar is their source of food and energy.
So if a plant doesn't receive enough light, it starves.
Inside the home, though, light levels are different than full sun, part sun, light shade, dense shade. Other considerations need to be assessed.
1. Window direction. East light in summer and winter (although weaker) is excellent as it is bright but never hot. West light in summer is harsh and scorching while in winter is good light. Due to the extreme declination of the winter sun at northern latitudes, light from a south window is fairly weak while from that same window will be intense in summer. North windows in the winter provide almost no light but in summer offer enough light for many plants.
2. Blocked windows. Light from windows could be blocked by awnings, roof overhangs or a covered porch. Trees can also block light. Evergreens could severely limit light in all season while deciduous trees will be bare during for half the year.
3. Color of interior walls. Pleasant wrote: "In rooms with dark walls, good plant-growing space is limited to 12-24 in. from the windowpane, while rooms with light-colored walls can accommodate large plants, or plants placed more than 24 in. from the window."
Once light levels are reviewed, there’s just one simple concept to be understood and heeded.
1. Know individual light requirements for plants.
Water. Since rainfall isn’t an option in an indoor garden, a daily task is to check soil moisture levels. Watering needs vary with the weather. During a period of cloudy, damp weather, plants will need far less water than during bright sunlight. Too, soil can dry out more quickly during the heating season.
Watering indoor garden plants is simple as long as five concepts are understood and heeded.
1. Know individual watering requirements of plants and water only when the plant needs it.
2. Provide drainage, i.e., pots should have holes in the bottom. If a favorite, beautiful container doesn’t have holes, grow the plant in another container that does have drainage and plop it inside the pretty pot.
3. Use room-temperature, untreated (not softened) water. When possible, water from a rain barrel is perfect. If your water contains fluoride or chlorine, fill the watering can and let rest for 24 hours. The chemicals will escape as gas.
4. Water thoroughly until about 10% of the total water drains out the bottom of the pot. I bring all tote-able plants to the sink to water so drainage is easy.
5. Don't allow the pot to sit in water. With a pot-within-a-pot scheme, remove the inside pot, bring to the sink, water, let drain and then return to the pretty pot. If the plant is too heavy or cumbersome to move, water in place. Allow the excess water to collect in a saucer and then remove the saucer.
Most gardeners have a few favorite catalogs—whether for seeds, perennials, vegetables or woody plants. By now though, we have scrutinized every page and even marked certain items for purchase. But it’s still January and spring is months away.
What’s a gardener to do?
You have to dream before your dreams can come true. ~ Abdul Kalam
Dream big. This might also be called brainstorming wherein, at its most basic, everything is on the table. Think impulses, hunches, schemes and daydreams. A favorite source of inspiration for me has always been to study.
So I read. I spend hours at new and used bookstores—reading, browsing and occasionally purchasing. I read my new books, re-read old books and borrow books from the library. And I always check out the periodicals where a plethora of bright covers entice. While books are perfect for certain subjects and information, magazines are current and often edgier.
If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft, And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left, Sell one, and with the dole Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul. ~ Moslih Eddin Saadi
Get out. Leaving a cozy home in the gloaming of a wintry afternoon might not sound fun or even seem like a good idea. But once away, the mind becomes free of common thoughts, which, in turn, leaves room for new ones.
Sign up for a class. Go to that garden club presentation and any of the “Home and Garden” trade shows. Drive to nearby public conservatories and botanic gardens and give yourself plenty of time to ramble.
Head to a greenhouse and wander leisurely up and down every bench. On the way home, stop at a flower shop and reward yourself with a bouquet of fragrant hyacinths.