Monday, March 5, 2012

March Means Spring, and a Middle-aged Woman's Fancy Turns to Gardening!

As I write this, only a couple of inches of snow linger on the ground here in Minnesota. At the rate things have been going this winter, they’ll have melted by the time I finish. Some winter enthusiasts up here may be screaming, but I can’t hear them. I enjoy the changing seasons, but twenty-two years in the frozen northland have failed to win me over to the wonders of winter. I’m ready to garden!

Being a northern gardener challenges one’s optimism, but so far, every year I’ve won the battle. Not only do I garden, but I dare to grow roses in this climate. When we moved into our current home seven years ago, I was excited to have a south-facing front yard for the first time. I ripped out the aging junipers (actually, I paid some strong young men to do it) and drew up an all-new design that included nine hardy shrub roses in three different shades of pink.

I chose a variety developed at the University of Iowa and have been thrilled with the results. Every year, the bushes grow larger. A couple of them are now as tall as I am. And when they’re in bloom, they literally stop traffic. I’ve had strangers in cars and neighbors out dog-walking stop and admire them.

This year, I’m taking on a new challenge. My husband and I bought a vacation condo on the Central Coast of California, a region with very limited seasonal rainfall. It’s a gorgeous area where anything will grow if it gets enough water. I have a small, shady front garden and two sunny squares cut into the back patio, so I’ve been studying drought-tolerant plants that can survive when I’m not there to water them.

Very few of the Midwestern plants I’m familiar with grow in coastal California, and that’s a big part of the fun. I’ve discovered some exotic options - like sticky monkey flower! How can I resist something with a great name like that?

Lavender is another lovely choice. It reminds me of Provence and only has to be watered the first year. Roses thrive in the area, but they have to be watered regularly. Maybe when I retire and we can spend longer periods of time there, I’ll install drip irrigation. At the moment, I’m nervous about leaving any kind of water on when we’re gone.

A new garden is like a blank canvas (or page), full of hope and possibility, just waiting for the creative expression of the artist. I can’t wait.

Alison Henderson


Barbara Edwards said...

Hi Alison,
I also love to garden. My antique roses-two very hardy plants- are my pride and joy. Something about they return every year is comforting.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Lovely pictures. I was afraid I'd miss Minnesota gardening with my move to AZ but since we get some snow and milder temps, I think some of the same plants will work. Plus I'll have more variety with the longer season. I've lived in CA but in an apartment. But you should've seen my inside garden! Good luck and have fun.

Celia Yeary said...

I only enjoy gardening vicariously through dedicated people such as you. Oh, I love flowers--in someone else's yard. Besides, we live on a foundation of limestone which goes all the way down to China, and if planted anything in my yard--3 acres-well, it's a Texas yard!--I'd have to put an 8ft high fence around it so the deer wouldn't eat it. The consider flowers as salad.
But there are beautiful drought resistant plants that deer do no like, so we plant those among our groves of live oaks--Mountain Laurel, which stay darn green year round, and right now all 14 bushes/trees are blooming. Perfume in the air.
A nearby Central Texas town has a Lavendar festival each year--so beautiful. And here in town we have Daffodil Days--which is growing each year. But not because of my contribution--no daffodils in my yard. But I do have a native flower called Lantana that blooms yellow flowers all summer--a perrenial, ever faithful in our heat.
Your photos are gorgeous--thanks for the stroll in your garden.

Alison H. said...

Hi Barabara! I've always wanted to grow antique roses. They're so beautiful!

Alison H. said...

Brenda, gardening in Arizona will be just another part of your new adventure. I can't wait to see the pictures.

Alison H. said...

Hi Celia! One of the things I love about this country is the huge variety of climates and growing conditions. It allows for such a wonderful variety of plants. I wish I could smell your Mountain Laurel right now!

Laura Breck said...

I miss gardening. We're in a condo, so our container garden only holds the necessities. Mint (for Mojitos) cilantro (for salsa) and basil (for Pizza Margarita) I love your flowers!

Jody Vitek said...

Absolutely beautiful pictures! You're so on spot with a new garden and the blank canvas being similar to writing. I wish you the best with your garden in CA and can't wait to see the pictures of what you've created.

Jannine Gallant said...

Love your photos. I'm one of those people who stop to admire gardens since I don't have one of my own. My yard is usually covered in snow from Oct. to late May, which doesn't allow for much of a growing season. And my dog likes to dig. It's easier to enjoy other people's efforts!

Jerri Hines said...

Oh, the flowers do remind me of spring. I too have to wait. Beautiful pictures!

glenys said...

Alison - you've inspired me! This lovely old house was once owned by a keen gardener who planted all sorts of perennials, some of which I haven't identified yet. There are also some very elderly, now scraggly, roses which I'm hoping to prune back into shape - their blooms are old-fashioned and wonderfully scented. Ah, it's all sleeping under several feet of snow right now...but spring will surely come.

Vonnie Davis said...

Lovely post. Will you show us pictures of what you've done with your tiny front space and the two cut-outs in the patio.