ColumbiaMagazine.com
Printed from:

Welcome to Columbia Magazine  
 

























 
The Whitehurst Diaries: The Sturdy Volunteers

Click on headline for complete diary entry with photo(s)

By Sharon Whitehurst

Jim didn't till the two lower strips of the side garden this spring. Since we are (hopefully) in transit to another property a few miles away, our main gardening efforts have been concentrated there.

I wasn't surprised to see sunflowers emerging in the neglected strips with the advent of warmer weather. The surprise has been at how quickly they reached blooming status. Scrolling through photos from 2013, I find the first sunflower in bloom on July 7.

The scent of a pollen-laden sunflower has been familiar since childhood when my Grampa Mac planted a row at the bottom of the garden each year.

Volunteer plants whether flowers or vegetable intrigue me. Each summer finds a few tomato plants which have popped up, usually after the garden has been rototilled. In my Vermont garden I allowed any of those which were growing in a likely area to continue, sometimes transplanting a particularly promising specimen to a safer spot.

Invariably the tomato plants have caught up to their cosseted greenhouse companions and in spite of many being hybrid varieties, the fruit produced has been indistinguishable from those deliberately cultivated.

This year's example is the Roma variety, the tiny tomatoes already showing their distinctive oval shape.

I sowed pink cosmos in 2010 (the first year of our Kentucky gardens) and they made a rather feeble showing alongside an exuberance of zinnias. I collected seed and in following years was rewarded with swaths of dainty billowing foliage and pale blooms dancing along a row near the zinnias. This year a few are growing stoutly among the sunflowers in the grassy uncut lower strip--uncut due to my 'spare the flowers' protest.

I set out perhaps three cleome seedlings last year--tenderly cosseted to transplanting size in small pots on the front porch. The first bloom opened on July 5. I was regretting that I hadn't time to start plants this year when I discovered that 'Rose Queen' had done the job for me and perpetuated her kind all around the big rock in the front yard.

Mint - what can one say! Although I spent an hour one afternoon as summer waned ripping out yards of mint roots, it has returned, undaunted, to clamber around the Red Knock-Out roses.

My beautiful trailing rosemary was a casualty of a cold February night when I forgot to trundle the plants inside from the front porch. Three other varieties survived with only a touch of frostbite browning the needles. The prostrate rosemary had been covered for months in tiny blue flowers. In chilly earliest springtime I was astonished to find a colony of tiny plantlets surrounding the dead trunk of the mother plant. I lost a few in the transplanting process, but have nearly two dozen ready to pot up individually.

It could be argued that I don't need that many rosemarys, however I'm determined to keep enough to learn if they grow true to form or offer interesting mutations.

In 2012 I planted a nursery grown foxglove. Knowing it to be a self-seeding biennial, I anticipated a crowd of seedlings would appear in 2013. Nary a one!

I abandoned that particular small garden behind the clothesline this spring, having found it too vulnerable to washing out in a hard rain. I removed the peonies early on, leaving only some clumps of seed-grown achillea which seems impervious to anything weather or climate may offer. A few poppies straggled out of the springtime mud and in admiring them I spotted half a dozen foxglove seedlings. I can only wonder if the severe cold of January prompted the seeds to germinate.

One by one I'm potting up the small plants. A friend in Wales shared photos of foxglove naturalized in great sweeps along the country lanes where she walks. I doubt I can establish a colony of foxgloves but I shall encourage any that are inclined to volunteer.

Nigella produced only a few wispy stems in 2010 but has since faithfully maintained a presence. The fat striped seed pods can be gathered and the seeds merely strewed on top of the soil. This year a second flowering has sprung from plants that Jim mowed in his persistent efforts to tidy the straggling edges of my gardens. A clump has established along with an errant poppy or two in the edge of the stony rubble behind the garage.

Johnny-jump-up (viola) has behaved predictably, bouncing about in the herb garden, crouching in the edges of the lawn, lurking under the lilies, fading to brown stems with the heat of summer, reappearing in the chilly days of autumn and earliest spring.

Lambs' ears (stachys byzantina) encroaches on less vigorous plants and must be restrained. Lemon balm and catnip rampage, assuring me that I will never be without their distinctive scents.

  At our other property Jim resignedly turned a strip alongside the veg garden where I strewed the carefully saved and labeled seeds from last years gaudiest zinnias and the boldest colored of the 'dwarf' sunflowers.

Assisted by a stiff breeze I flung out poppy and cosmos seed with a profligate hand.

  My gardens will never resemble the tidy well-planned arrangements that appear in magazines and the glossy pages of books detailing the work of revered English gardeners. I sow, weed, divide, gather seeds, transplant, grumbling at the resultant ache in aging back and knees, but unable to accept a season without flowers.

Chief among my delights are those plants, the sturdy volunteers, that surprise me with their cheerful reappearance--a reward far beyond the price of the original packet of seeds.


This story was posted on 2014-06-19 09:16:15
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.


 

To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.

Sturdy Volunteers: Shades of Lavender and Blue Nigella



2014-06-19 - Old Gradyville Road, Gradyville, KY - Photo by Sharon Whitehurst.
Our Nigella produced only a few wispy stems in 2010
but has since faithfully maintained a presence. The fat striped seed pods can be gathered and the seeds merely strewed on top of the soil. This year a second flowering has sprung from plants that Jim mowed in his persistent efforts to tidy the straggling edges of my gardens. A clump has established along with an errant poppy or two in the edge of the stony rubble behind the garage. Sharon Whitehurst

Read More... | Comments? | Click here to share, print, or bookmark this photo.



Sturdy Volunteers: Early Blooming Sunflowers



2014-06-19 - Old Gradyville Road, Gradyville, KY - Photo by Sharon Whitehurst.
I wasn't surprised to see sunflowers emerging
in the neglected strips with the advent of warmer weather. The surprise has been at how quickly they reached blooming status. Scrolling through photos from 2013, I find the first sunflower in bloom on July 7. The scent of a pollen-laden sunflower has been familiar since childhood when my Grampa Mac planted a row at the bottom of the garden each year. - Sharon Whitehurst

Read More... | Comments? | Click here to share, print, or bookmark this photo.



Sturdy Volunteers: Pink Cleome



2014-06-19 - Old Gradyville Road, Gradyville, KY - Photo by Sharon Whitehurst. I set out perhaps three cleome seedlings last year - tenderly cosseted to transplanting size in small pots on the front porch. The first bloom opened on July 5. I was regretting that I hadn't time to start plants this year when I discovered that 'Rose Queen' had done the job for me and perpetuated her kind all around the big rock in the front yard. - Sharon Whitehurst
Read More... | Comments? | Click here to share, print, or bookmark this photo.



 

























 
 
Quick Links to Popular Features


 

ColumbiaMagazine.com content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Use the following link: http://www.columbiamagazine.com/columbiamagazinerss.php.

Contact us: Columbia Magazine and columbiamagazine.com are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.
Phone: 270-250-2730 Fax: 270-751-0401


Please use our contact page, or send questions about technical issues with this site to webmaster@columbiamagazine.com. All logos and trademarks used on this site are property of their respective owners. All comments remain the property and responsibility of their posters, all articles and photos remain the property of their creators, and all the rest is copyright 1995-Present by Columbia! Magazine and D'Zine, Ltd. Privacy policy: use of this site requires no sharing of information. Voluntarily shared information may be published and made available to the public on this site and/or stored electronically. Anonymous submissions will be subject to additional verification. Cookies are not required to use our site. However, if you have cookies enabled in your web browser, some of our advertisers may use cookies for interest-based advertising across multiple domains. For more information about third-party advertising, visit the NAI web privacy site.