Gardeners are Partners in Creation

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes too.”
If you dabble in the dirt, you may have come across these words of wisdom at one time or another.  There is nothing like working in a garden to stabilize your mind and access your soul.
God could have made Adam a fisherman, a hunter, a shepherd, or a gatherer of wild berries, but chose instead to make him the steward of a plot of ground called Eden.  There had to have been a higher purpose in this divine decision.

seeds for fall planting

I think God wanted to make Adam a partner in creation since planting seeds is part of a gardener’s job description.  Many people consider the birth of their children as the most memorable moments of their lives.  And although it would not be fair to compare seeds germinating to babies being born, there is a similarity, after all.

I just came across a website that serves as a clearinghouse for free vegetable and flower seeds, as well as bulbs.  You pay only for shipping costs, which are minimal.  Visit and see for yourself.  All varieties sold are open pollinated or heirlooms, meaning that the plants grown from their seeds — and the plants grown from seeds found in next year’s crop — will yield the same quality vegetables and will continue to do so year after year after year.  By contrast, most seeds you find in nurseries and garden centers come from hybrid varieties, and the vegetables grown from them will contain seeds you do not want to plant because of the inferior quality crops that will come from them the following year.
I hereby invite you to send along any additional sources of seeds you may have discovered in the course of your gardening adventures.
To get at the essence of the gardener’s personality, however, I would like to amend the quotation at the top of this column as follows: “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes — most of which you will probably give away to neighbors and friends — too.”  Part of the therapy of gardening is sharing the flowers and fruits of your labors since, as we all know, nothing lifts a person’s spirits more than giving to others.
In this context, the concept of a “secret garden” is an anomaly to me.  A beautiful or memorable garden of any kind is a consequence of true love and, as such, is something you can hardly contain yourself from sharing with one and all.
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Just before many of our garden plants enter their cold weather hiatus or demise, let’s take one last look at some late fall bloomers that, even as winter begins, have a few more flowers, if not more than a few, to give before dormancy sets in or death occurs.
One of these is Turk’s Cap.  No plant on earth, except for bougainvillea, gives more color in exchange for less exertion on the part of the gardener.  And, unlike bougainvillea, Turk’s Cap is thornless, too.  The expression “thrives on neglect” comes to mind.  Once it matures, Turk’s Cap never needs watering except for winter rain and it stays lush and full of flowers this time of year without need for fertilization.

Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus drummondii)

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus drummondii) is a woody perennial that loves sun and can grow in almost any type of soil.  It is an excellent candidate for a side yard or a slope, something to plant and water for a year or two and, after that, allow to grow into a thicket that knows no bounds.  The flowers, whose petals stay tightly wrapped around an extruding stigma, are brilliant cinnabar red and provide a feast of nectar for hummingbirds in fall and early winter.

A few days ago I also saw a Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens), another woody perennial, that was still in bloom.  Normally bedecked with pink to purple blooms, this one was covered in white flowers, as if it were dreaming about some Southern California snow that will never fall on it.



Two other holdovers from summer were annual Cosmos, those giant daisies that also bloom in pink, purple, or white, complimented by extremely lacy foliage, and a sulfur yellow dahlia with nearly black leaves, a stunning contrast to behold.  If there are any other late bloomers you would like us to know about, please advise.

pink trumpet tree (Tabebuia impetiginosa)

golden trumpet tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha)

Tip of the Week:  In response to my soliciting street tree recommendations, Rae McCormick emailed that “Here in La Crescenta we have many beautiful pink tabebuias as street trees.  Some yellow ones too.”  Tabebuias, sometimes called trumpet trees, come from South America and reach a height of around thirty feet locally.  They are among the longest lived tropical trees, surviving for up to 300 years although it is unlikely they would reach that age in arid Southern California.  Growth is sparse so that pruning is an after thought and the electric pink or yellow flowers are among the first to bloom in the new year, opening up in February.  “I think Chinese fringe trees are good too,” Rae added, “although not particularly shady.”  Chinese fringe trees (Chionanthus retusus) are famous for the intoxicating scent of their snowflake flowers. They have luminescent foliage and grow to a height of 20 feet.  Their natural growth habit is that of a large vertically oriented shrub so, even when trained as trees, they are still strictly for beautification and not for shade.

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