Late Winter Dose of Color, Inspiration and Hope

A dark and lovely specimen at the SE Flower and Garden Show

We’ve been blessed with a couple of weeks of unseasonably warm weather, which has everyone I know feeling cautiously jubilant that winter does end, spring does come, and its about to get really pretty and very busy around here.  Seems the forests and gardens are thinking the same things, and all are hoping that a frost doesn’t come along and ruin everything.  It is, after all, still February – another 3 weeks till the official start of spring, and probably 6 weeks till the last official frost.

Nevertheless, our Old Man Willow is now wearing a shear veil of chartreuse buds – which I swear occurred in just ten minutes while I had my back turned.  It was just last week that I told myself I had to take a photo of his silvery gray branches blowing in the chilly wind, because it so epitomized winter.  Look at him now:

Old Man WIllow decides to just go for it.

I’m pretty excited to see my bulbs are starting to come up, and the first crocus of the season just reared her little golden head.

An eagerly anticipated crocus, and her spider visitor.

Our garlic has sprouted, but so have some weeds.

More respite from winter came in a visit to the Southeastern Flower and Garden Show in Atlanta with my mom.  We had a blast, and left feeling inspired and eager to try some new things. I was really excited that many of the artists used edibles in their landscapes in really creative and attractive ways.  Ornamental cabbages are quite common in winter gardens these days, but I was surprised to see things like kale and bok choy among pansies and snapdragons. (You’ll have to forgive my amateurish photos – artificial convention center lighting, crowds, and a waning camera battery conspired to make these photos less artistic than I like).

A relative of Bok Choy with creeping thyme and pansies

Purple kale with snapdragons, pansies, and dusty miller

Mom, my personal garden guru, cautioned me that many of the exhibits, though beautifully artistic, did not use realistic groupings of plants – sun and shade lovers were sometimes placed together, and shrubs that get very large were being shown as low growing ornamentals.  But I loved the way that flowers and edibles were being thrown all together in an explosion of color.

Rainbow chard, peppers and flowers

Tomato plants and geraniums

Some gardeners argue that this crowds plants and depletes nutrients.  I’d worry most about the tomatoes, which in the southeast region are prone to blight if too closely spaced.  But there are some movements that advocate for this type of densely packed, slightly overgrown method of planting (see here and here, for example).  The plants mulch each other, so water is retained and erosion is slowed, and the flowers attract pollinators and beneficial insects that keep the detrimental infestations at bay. It makes intuitive sense to me, and is so pretty – it transforms a farmy looking plot of row crops into a kind-of wonderland. But I’ve never actually tried it and so can’t claim with confidence that it works.

So I’m eager to try my hand at growing my garden in a more creative and aesthetic way this year.  It just amazes me how people can make art with just about any medium, including flowers. Here are a few more inspirations from the show:

A new take on flamingo yard art: this fellow is made of dried flower heads, petals, and leaves.

A little herb garden, with whole nuts in the shell as mulch, and trowel plant labels

I was utterly enchanted by this little fairy house (in the kids pavilion), and vowed to start making my own.

A chandelier with tulip flames

an easy way to do a living roof

Dog topiary

colorful containers

I always love to hear from you in the comments.  What is inspiring you as you plan your garden this year?  What harbingers of spring are keeping you going?

Next time we’ll have more news about the chickens!  Stay tuned…

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2 Responses to Late Winter Dose of Color, Inspiration and Hope

  1. Diane says:

    Years and years ago I went with your mom to the flower show. It was such fun! She was a font of information, but yet, she took a lot of notes that day, too. I was impressed.
    With your photos of flowers/vegetables, you’ve got me wondering: if I put marigolds all around the raised bed, would the goats (neighbor’s) eat vegetables in the center of the bed?

    • teeandzee says:

      Great question about using flowers as a deterrent for goats. Wouldn’t it be cool if companion plants could not only control certain bugs, but also the larger mammalian pests that sometimes wander in to our gardens?! There’s a woman in our community who keeps milk goats – I’ll ask her next time I see her and report back.

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