As the snows finally subside for the season and the chances of evening frost have finally passed, it is easy to get lulled into a sense of complacency when it comes to gardening. All that snow has melted deep into the ground and there is no need to worry about watering. Each day of spring presents a brand-new miracle to behold as the earth comes alive. Nature’s magic is in full swing.
As spring matures into summer, the plight of the gardener becomes apparent. Clouds are rolling in. Will it hail? Or, as it was this year, there were no clouds, only baking hot sun. Then the question becomes will it rain? Our rains came late this year but I will talk more on that later. As the garden transcends spring, the true tribulations of the gardener begin.
Quite simply and even more apparent, the typical garden will not survive without supplemental irrigation if you live in an arid climate – as we do in most of Colorado. I personally feel it is irresponsible to create a landscape that requires constant watering. Water is by far the most precious resource and conservation is of paramount importance. With this in mind, my garden primarily consists of plants native to this area or plants that are easily adaptable to our climate and (at times) extreme weather conditions.
Adaptability was certainly put to the test early this season. All around me plants were wilting, the earth was drying and cracking and I was losing plants. I started the habit — which continues to this day — of bringing a five-gallon Home Depot bucket with me into the shower. I position it in a way that manages to catch a lot of the water that would normally flow down the drain. Despite only turning on the water to get wet so I can lather and then again to rinse off, the bucket ends up nearly full. That is five gallons of water every day. I pour this water out on all the beds and if I am feeling generous, the grass. I gravely dislike grass. Beyond the recycled water, I will sometimes get the hose out in the mornings but I am very careful with the amount of water I apply and where.
With so many things that can go wrong in a garden (weather conditions are just the tip of the iceberg), it is a wonder anyone gardens at all. I know I have personally sunk deep into my outdoor chair many times in exasperation. It is arduous work but you know something? Just as Tom Hanks said in ‘A League of Their Own’, “It is the hard that makes it great.” If it was easy and required no effort, there would possibly be gardens everywhere just like the old times — when folks didn’t mind a bit of hard, soul-enhancing, satisfying work.
Oh! The old times! There once was a time when most everyone HAD to garden. That’s right. There wasn’t always a fancy, lit up, refrigerated aisle full of ‘fresh’ produce. If you wanted vegetables – and of course you did as they are paramount to proper nutrition – you had to grow them. You had to not only grow them but harvest them and then prepare them for storage through the winter. Oh, the humanity! I speak facetiously of course but this is an honest reaction in an age when very few bother to make something out of a bit of earth.
By the grace of God, the heat of June and early July dispersed and for the last several weeks we have been blessed with afternoon thunder showers. This coincides with our monsoon season but the cooler days and the plentiful moisture is so very welcome. The garden is responding in kind. The wilted plants have given way to robust, green stems and the struggling vegetables are flowering and will soon bear fruit. In some cases, they already have. For example, I have already harvested enough pickling cucumbers to create several jars of delicious pickles.
Oh, to garden! Just when you are about to throw your hands in the air and wash your hands of the whole affair, it rewards you with bountiful blessings.
The tomatoes are ripening, a small petunia formed from a seed of plantings past is flowering, ears of corn are forming on their stalks, perennial 4 o’clocks are blooming for the first time ever, ancho peppers are forming (those that were planted from seed), sunflowers are blooming everywhere, hummingbirds are flitting about the impatiens and penstemons, birds are darting from feeder to feeder and worms appear in every shovel of earth disrupted. Yes, gardening is hard work but it can be ever so rewarding!
As always, thank you very kindly for reading. I pray your day has been blessed.
And now, some photos from the garden. Enjoy!
Tomorrow, March 1st, 2013 will be the second week since I planted some Impatiens seeds in the same large pot my indoor Ficus Tree currently calls home. Plant World Seeds is a wonderful mail order seed company I discovered last summer. I get emails from them from time to time and one email featured their Impatiens. I love the Impatiens or Busy Lizzy as they are commonly called. I purchased a few from my local garden center Holly Acres Nursery just before autumn of 2012 arrived. I realized I would not have long to enjoy the plants for as soon as the first frost hit, they would be gone. I decided the half whisky barrel on our front porch which was in full shade all day would be the perfect place for the Impatiens. They would keep the Empress Wu hosta company I thought. On a side note, this hosta did not grow at all since planting it in August. I am not sure if it was due to the higher than normal temperatures but it just sort of sat there. I saw no new growth so when I placed the Impatiens in the planter, I was very happy when they started growing rapidly as if they knew they had to put on a quick show before the freezing temperatures arrived. What a show they put on! They grew quickly and offered beautiful orange-red flowers which more than made up for the poor showing of the hosta. Alas, when the freezing temperatures came, the Impatiens collapsed and all I could do was hope that some of those flowers dropped seeds so that I may see them come to life again in the spring.
As I was saying, Plant World Seeds sent me an email featuring their line of impatiens. I was immediately intrigued when I read their description for a variety of Impatiens called IMPATIENS ‘BLUE DIAMOND’:
Hidden in a remote part of Tibet in the Himalayas lies the world’s deepest canyon, the uninhabited Tsangpo gorge, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! And discovered there as recently as 2003 in the barely-explored Namcha Barwa Canyon was an extremely rare beauty, the first ever blue impatiens that also happens to be easy to grow! This fantastic, fast-growing plant has sizeable flowers of the most remarkable sapphire blue with a contrasting white throat, amidst attractive serrated leaves the colour of polished jade. Unlike the traditional flat-disk shape of other bedding impatiens, these constantly-produced flowers resemble elegant cranes in flight. This priceless new gem is a perennial species when grown indoors or perhaps in very mild winter areas. (aka Blue Dream)
Now, when you read that, how could you not want to grow this variety? I ordered several packets and I have taken their suggestion of growing this beauty indoors to heart. My Ficus is in a large blue pot with a small ground cover type plant growing beneath it. I thought if these Blue Diamonds could fill out the pot, what a wonderful display it would be! I had been meaning to look up when I could expect the seeds to germinate and according to sites I have read, the approximate germination time is 15-20 days so I may have a week or two before I see sprouts. I have several self-watering plastic pots that once housed some of my Streptocarpus plants so I may see if I can start some more in preparation for transplanting in the spring.
If you read my ‘Welcome Visitors’ article, you know that I am committed to looking after the birds that come to visit. I am so happy that I have a healthy number of birds visiting now for it would mean they will control the insect population during the warmer months. As I expressed the before mentioned article, I was concerned that birds were ignoring the suet log. Well, I am pleased to announce that woodpeckers have discovered it. This in itself is good and bad news. I must have did something wrong when placing the plugs into the logs for when the woodpeckers came to dine they managed to poke the plugs out and onto the ground. Thankfully I got to them before the squirrels did. I placed them on the platforms of the other feeders in hopes the finches, etc. would enjoy the treat. They did of course but to my surprise when looking out the window I spotted a female downy woodpecker!
She stayed there eating clinging to the platform of the feeder with her front feet and joyfully picked away at one of the plugs. I sat in awe watching her and was pleased she stayed for at least five minutes. I have not seen her since but I do see larger woodpeckers visit so it is definitely a blessing that my backyard bird population continues to grow and diversify.
I will be sure to keep you updated on all the progress with the Impatiens and birds that come to visit along with all of the exciting events to come as spring approaches. Until then, Happy Gardening and blessings to you all.
Image of Impatiens Blue Diamond is used with permission from Plant World Seeds
Image of female downy woodpecker is an image found on Wikimedia Commons
Image of orange-red Impatiens was taken by the author.