Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spring Fix

Today I attended the day-long 2010 Garden Symposium, sponsored by Friends of Powell Gardens. I knew this event would inspire lust for warm weather in any gardener's heart, but I didn't know it was going to lead me right out the door at lunchtime rather than returning for the second half.

Claire Sawyers gave a great slideshow presentation on creating an authentic garden...when I wasn't concentrating on her massive locks. Smoothing gel emergency aside, she was a fantastic speaker.

Her five principles are:
1. Work with what you have been given.
2. Derive beauty from function.
3. Use "humble" or indigenous materials.
4. Integrate the inside with the outside.
5. Involve the visitor in your garden; develop "audience participation."

I am definitely inspired to incorporate these principles in our own property, yet I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities (with 9 acres and all). Our strongest existing element is our restored native grass and wildflower field. It's on its third season now and is really developing a vivid palette. My ultimate desire would be for it to look like the Lurie Garden at Chicago's Millennium Park -- I just about pitched a tent and moved in last summer when I saw it in full bloom. The above link has lists of all the plants used, when they bloom, which are native, photos for identifying them, etc.

Sassy Stephanie Cohen is truly "The Perennial Diva." I thoroughly enjoyed not only her topic of pointing out easy-care shade and sun perennials but also her personality. Her humor was bigger than the stage. I never realized plants could be considered "promiscuous" or "thugs," but the way she described things was perfect! Read all about her here.

Rosalind Creasy had to follow a tough act, but her lecture was what really got me going. Gardens are made to be beautiful, of course, but her edible landscaping idea adds functionality. Her main point? It's not the plant, it's how you use it.

"Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental setting," she explains. "The same design principles of ornamental landscapes are used, but annual and perennial edible plants are substituted for some of the unproductive plant material. While edible landscaping is the mixture of beauty and utility, it does not mean that all plants in the yard are edible."

Her suggestions: weave tulips with rhubarb; asparagus with zinnias. Grow cherry tomatoes, beans and cucumbers over an arbor. Throw in some spring-flowering apple trees and flaming-red fall blueberry bush foliage.

Finally, I'd had enough of salivating all over my notes and left to get going on my own plans. According to my vegetable planting calendar, today was designated as plant-cool-season-crops-if-you're-up-for-an-adventure day, but alas, that crazy phenomenon known as weather was not in cooperation. Yes, it was snowing. Again. So, cancel those plans.

Instead, I stopped by one of my favorite nurseries for a quick flower fix in their greenhouse. I dawdled by the daffodils, fondled the ferns and closed in on the cyclamen. I also picked up some potting supplies for my change of plans to sow seeds currently in the date box referred to as March 13. After referencing multiple calendars and charts, I decided the editors at Mother Earth News, whose office is a mere 54 miles away in Topeka -- and also in Zone 5b -- would have to have one of the most accurate, right? So I deferred to this planting chart and started broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage tonight. At least I'm dabbling in the soil. Even if it is indoors.

Oh, spring, why must you be a month away still?!

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