I wanted to share some background with my readers and how and where I have learned to garden. I am originally from the great state of Maine. The picture was taken from a vantage point not too far from my mothers home in Mid-Coast Maine. I grew up on the ocean and to this day, the unique smell of the ocean breeze evokes powerful feelings in me. I use a lot of things from the ocean in my garden. (I will save that for another posting) Mr. Fix-it and the kids also love the ocean, even though they did not grow up around it. A common question asked of Army soldiers when they meet new people is where are you from? I always responded Maine. You would not believe how many times I was asked if Maine was a part of the United States and where was it located! It never fails to amaze me how little we Americans truly know about our country.
While growing up, I had to have a garden in every single house we lived in. French marigolds to line the walkway to the front door, snapdragons and African marigolds in other areas in front of the house. These flowers are some of the easiest to grow and might be why, as a child, I was very attracted to them. I concerned myself with the lawn too. Oh yes, even as a pre-teen I was busy researching, buying and planting Kentucky bluegrass. The hardest part of growing a lawn in the area where we lived was keeping people off from the lawn in the mud season. Mud season, as some of you may know, is when the spring thaw hits after a winter of snow. The mud season in Maine lasts for a few good months in the spring. Maine has wonderful soil but on the coast you have to battle rocks and ledges and strong ocean breezes. For the most part anything I grew in Maine I can grow here-including peonies. Some of my favorites for down here do not grow in Maine, most notably Crepe Myrtles.
I next gardened in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. North Carolina is actually a wonderful place to garden if you can manage the heat. The Piedmont area is one zone hotter than we are here in Tennessee and I found the humidity to be much higher. The only real drawback to North Carolina gardening is in the area I lived the soil was sandy. Most of you are saying "That is great! Beats clay!" Actually, whether you have clay or sand is not really important. What is important is understanding the soil and how best to manage it (more on managing soil in another posting). Sandy soil drains very quickly and does not retain water and nutrients as long as clay soil which can be ok. But with the recent droughts we have had, can you imagine gardening and watering a sandy soil garden? I think it would be nigh on impossible. No matter how much I worked the soil and added organic matter to it, the soil would still be sandy-though vegetables and flowers grew very well.
The last state, not including Tennessee, where I have lived and gardened is in southeastern Alabama. Let me tell you, as a gardener I would not wish Alabama on anyone. Not only was the soil very much clay, but it was full of fire ants! If you could get past the fire ants and clay soil then you had to cope with the heat and humidity. There are many more plants you can grow in southern Alabama that you cannot grow in Tennessee. Then again, there are many plants you cannot grow in Alabama that grow in Tennessee-like peonies. As an avid gardener I did garden in Alabama and had I lived there longer I may have become adapted to the region. When Mr. Fix-it and I sold the house a few years ago we went back for a visit. I was happy and sad at the same time to see my rose garden, perennial garden and Japanese maple happily growing and even thriving. Sad I had to leave them forever but I truly hope the new homeowners and neighbors enjoy the plants. Plants are an investment in time, money and the future. The one foot red Japanese maple I had planted five years earlier had grown to a beautiful eight foot tall speciman! How quickly time flies.
Now I am in Tennessee and garden most of my free time-or talk about it to others. I love Tennessee gardening for one simple reason-you can truly garden all year long here in Tennessee. Some of my friends say it is too hot or too cold, but again, I think it is all relative to how you approach gardening. There are always opportunities to do something in, around or about gardening even on the hottest, coldest, rainiest and sometimes snowiest days. Thank goodness for garden catalogs at this time of year!
I have also gardened in Germany but will not go into that on this posting. I just wanted to share some areas of the United States where I have gardened. Even though I live in Tennessee, the plants, ideas and sometimes experience come from all over the country. For instance; I cannot visit Maine without bringing back plants. You can find plants up there that you can't find down here EVEN though those same plants WILL grow here too. I have actually had a nursery worker tell me that if you can't find Joe Pye weed down here, then it doesn't grow down here. That is so not true and was rather shortsighted on the part of the worker. Nurserymen are selective in what they will offer the public. Certain areas of the country stick to certain plants, and that is too bad because plants can transcend all boundaries.
Notes on the garden: Pine needles are NOT ready for raking (at least in the area I go to rake), vegetable garden brick walkways are complete, and the 125 perennials I bought at Lowe's big sale this week have been planted out! Whew. It was not as difficult as you might think-the hard part was finding the right spots for them all. If you did not have a chance to get to Lowes it might not be too late. At .56-.64 cents a one to two gallon pot, Lowes was practically giving away the perennials. A dream for gardeners so hurry on over.
in the garden....