January of last year I had no idea what a whirlwind of a year we were in for. I hadn’t written a blog post in who knows how long and would not have believed you if you’d told me my readers would go from 400 views total in 2014 to 8,707 in 2015. The purpose of returning to this blog was to advocate for orphans, to give voiceless children a name, a face, a story. I certainly did not expect that within that year two of those stories would become so rooted in my own heart that I would claim them as my own son and daughter.
This January we know we are in for quite a year! Hopefully we will meet and adopt Angelina and Travis earlier than later in the year and spend the rest of 2016 adjusting to the new normal with a household of 4 kids.
When I think of the months to come, all the known unknowns,such as knowing we will be traveling at some unknown point for some unknown length of time, I have to gently remind my fingers to relax from their tight fist on time and go with the flow. Usually this is the time of year when I pull out my garden journals, see what worked and what didn’t work last year, and plan for the first plants to go in on Mother’s Day in May. Seeds are ordered, grow light bubs are plugged in and tomato and eggplant seedlings are set to go.
This year though I could be traveling during February, March, April, May or even later. Seedlings don’t require much care but the do need some tlc so I’m not starting seeds indoors this year. But I still must plan something, plant something, anything!
Which is why I turned to the flower section of the Baker’s Creek seed catalog.
For the past two years I’ve stuck to only vegetables in my garden, adding a few edible flowers such as nasturtiums and russian breadseed poppies, but have resisted the urge to plant flowers for the sake of flowers. This year will be a different sort of year all together and honestly I expect it could be the hardest year of my life so far as our family absorbs all the pain Angelina and Travis may carry with them; my soul will need flowers in abundance this year. My plan is to prep an already existing forlorn bed against the house and toss out easy going free spirited annuals. This won’t be a perennial garden where you think about the size of the plants in 5 years and try to landscape for the future, nope, this is a one year blast of color plan. I’ve heard it said the earth laughs in flowers and, although it comes from a rather darker poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, this year I hope to help the earth laugh.
I narrowed down my choices by asking these questions: what has a good chance at growing in the location available, is it edible or at least not poisonous (which rules out plenty of my cottage garden favorites including foxgloves and larkspur) what will make nice bouquets, and what could be used to make flower fairies. I’ll still plant veg all from seed, but this year I’m asking much more from the garden, I’m asking for whimsy, laughter, joy, and healing.
Hollyhocks are the foundation for this year’s garden. They are meaningful because of their link to the country where Angelina and Travis are from; these are popular flowers there. They also meet every single other requirement being a cottage garden classic, edible, and perfect for the skirts of flower dolls. The traditional tall pink ones will go all the way in the back but the light pink ruffled ones are a dwarf variety so they will be in the middle of the planting, hopefully close enough to the front border for the kids to reach in and pick the without having to walk through the garden. I chose Indian Spring and Marjorette Double Champagne, both varieties could potentially bloom this year though hollyhocks can be biennial.
Next up, Bells of Ireland! I love the idea of having green flowers in the garden and these sprightly spires make great cut flower and are supposed to be super easy to grow from seed. They will be back along with the hollyhocks.
Yes, that is cauliflower, yes I know it’s not a usual plant for flower beds even though the word flower is in the name, but isn’t it stunning! I hope the Purple of Sicily Cauliflower survives rabbits and bugs long enough to make the vibrant purple heads. These large plants with big silky blueish green leaves and rich purple produce will be a nice balance with the spiked forms of the hollyhocks and bells of ireland.
I hope these frilly Pink Senorita Zinnias are true to color from the picture, not the usual zinnia color but I love them!
Although I’ve never seen Angel Wing Schizanthus (also known as Poor Man’s Orchid), the description was too good to pass up. This mix comes in an old fashioned range of colors, has a good germination rate, and does well in cooler weather and light shade making them perfect for one tricky corner of the garden. I can imagine my kids discovering these delicate flowers as they lie in the grass with their chins cupped their hands. I can imagine them watching large fuzz bumble bees weigh down the petals as they search for nectar, and I pray the drone of the bee, the warm sun on their backs, and the wonder of the beauty in such small miracles soothes their souls and breathes poetry into their mind.
Here is another zinnia, the Royal Purple Zinnia, because why only plant one zinnia when you can plan two? I don’t know how the salmon pink and the royal purple will look mixed together in the garden but I hope they are complimentary instead of clashing.
I’m planting these Paper Moon flowers more for their interesting seed heads than for their flowers, when you don’t have steady perennials you can rely on to bloom at certain times throughout the season it is nice to have something with seed pods to add interest to the fall garden when you really don’t know what, if anything, will be blooming.
The Kalibos Cabbage is another vegetable sneaking into the flower garden. Cabbage is so delicious and this substantive plant makes a perfect counterpoint to the frilly lighter annuals. I’ll be planting this in the veg garden as well as the flower garden for good measure, I have high hopes for purple sauerkraut come fall.
Solar Flashback Calendula will be a nice splash of orange balanced with creamy pinks and calendula is edible, perhaps I’ll try my hand at calendula tea at the end of the summer.
Baby Blue Eyes Nemophila could make dear little faces on the flower fairies. Small little wildflowers easy from seed and hopefully will reseed for next year. The lime green frothy foliage should also accent nicely against the cauliflower and cabbage leaves.
Showy Evening Primrose is a perennial but grows like an annual and adds the interest of blooming in the evening just as the name suggests. It’s fun to think of plants that bloom at different times of the year, but also exciting to think of plants that bloom at different times of the day (think evening primrose, sunflowers, morning glories).
Red Orach is related to lambs quaters and is a salad “green” that only grows 4″-10″ tall. It will be along all the border and should blend with the fairy linaria and bunny tail grass. Dellabug already loves wandering through the veg gardening chewing on anything and everything like a little bunny. I have no idea how much exposure Angelina and Travis have had to vegetables, my guess is not a lot, and the more they can explore tasting greens on their own the better.
Fairy Bouquet Linaria will be sprinkled around the border. I had a packet of these last year and sprinkled them haphazardly against the sandbox. I never water them or weeded them and they burst up and bloomed all summer long until the first hard frost. It seems too good to be true; I don’t know if last year was a fluke but with results like that I’m more than happy to give it another try.
The neglected garden bed where all this wonder will hopefully take place may not have the best soil and I know we won’t have the finances to just pour in gorgeous top soil this year. When in doubt about the quality of the soil and the ability to keep up with the weeds, plant nasturtiums. This rockstar plant which provides oodles of peppery greens, interesting lilypad foliage, and mounds of flowers, does best when you plant it in bad soil and totally ignore it. There are bush varieties and vine varieties and colors can range from cream and yellow to the more common orange and red. The reds and orange varieties would clash with the rest of the garden, so I went with Moonlight Nasturtium, a vine variety with creamy yellow blossoms. If the other annuals don’t do well, I will let the nasturtiums run wild, if the other flowers do well, I will keep the nasturtiums in check by adding them to salads, soups and using the leaves as wraps for egg or chicken salad. Yum!
After looking through the flower selection, I have high hopes for this year’s experiment of a toss-it-and-leave-it annual garden. Indeed I have high hopes for the year as a whole, but if seeds do not germinate, if foul weather and foul moods plague this year of 2016, I will stand by every garden’s hope: there is always next year.
* All flower photos are from the Baker’s Creek seed catalog. I do not receive any compensation for highlighting their product but I must say they have not only provided excellent seeds but have also given quick and thorough feedback to my many questions about plants. I was planning on planting some red orach around a perennial that was already well established when we moved in, thinking the flowers would be nice against the edible orach, but since I had been unable to identify it on my own, I emailed a picture to Baker’s Creek. They identified it right away as Hellebore flowers, a toxic plant! Eeeeek! You’d better believe as soon as this perennial pops up in the spring it will come right out of the garden and I will not plant anything appealing there for the next year, to make sure it is gone for good. Crazy to think I even had a blog post featuring this plant and so incredibly grateful the horticulturalists were able to identify it and warn me, I cannot bare to think of the tragedy our garden could have caused. Please, if you plan on creating edible landscapes and you have kids, always research thoroughly! I had already removed a hydrangea bush and have been trying to eradicate all the lilly of the valley as well. I absolutely love those little white drops of flowers but with having such young adventurous children it really is not worth the risk!!!