It's tea time in the garden! Welcome to a new garden series that will feature a virtual letter exchange between myself and my green thumb, shovel wielding friend Jen each month. Come sip some hot tea, sit back and chitchat with us! In each letter, we will be discussing a different garden related topic from our point of view as well as updates on what is going on under our grow lights, growing in our planters and sprouting in the yard. You are all welcome to chime in and pour us a cup of your homemade brew in the comment section below. Let the scuttlebutt commence!
I became acquainted with Jen awhile back during #gardenchat on twitter. It was lovely to meet a likeminded, passionate gardener with a knack for all things nature. Check out her blog Frau Zinnie where she frequently writes about turning her lawn into a gardeners paradise. She also performs magic behind the lens as a talented freelance photographer. You can check out her beautiful work here. She is not only talented, but brilliant to boot coming up with ideas such as this one for a fun new letter based blog series! I was, of course, thrilled to hop on board. Being a fellow New England gardener, we seem to have similar gardening styles. It will be fun to gab and share our unique approach to seasonal backyard affairs. Click on the postcard below to see her letter to me!
I awoke to a dismally grey fog outside my window combined with the sound of rain drops tapping lightly on the roof. The darker the day, the more my mind seems to wander to visions of transplanting healthy seedlings outdoors. New plants popping out of the soil along with the longer days are always such an exciting part of the year! New England has such a short growing season, so it's almost time to start planting some seeds indoors. Like you, looking through the colorful pages of the seed catalogs helps me look forward to the sunshine that will fill the days to come.
Your seed starting area sounds like any gardeners dream! My baby plants have a humble beginning on just a regular south facing window ledge. I am no expert, but I have been learning little by little as I go. I try to reuse everyday household items for planting like pie tins, egg cartons and because of my deep love for coffee, K-cups. I'm hoping to slowly build a more professional set up that is somewhat budget friendly.
This fall, I made the first step and purchased a hanging, industrial style shop light fixture. My next step was finding a spot for this, which is easier said than done. I've decided the basement would work perfectly. Lots of space makes it ideal, and it will be out of the way. (Warning) This is the sad part where everything came to a screeching halt. Picking which bulbs to use and purchasing them. I became hung up on which bulb would work best for growing plants. T8 or T5 bulb? Regular lights or an actual certified grow light? Instead of finishing my project, the holidays arrived and with that, my light fixture has been just collecting dust.
Not anymore though! What good is it if I'm not using it? No matter what bulbs I purchase, I've decided that they will be better than no bulbs at all! I've also been eyeing a heat mat that's available at my local garden supply store. I'm a little worried about anything overheating since it needs to be left on, so that is always in the back of my mind. As long as it's safe and works, I am going to Macgyver something within the next couple of weeks. I will definitely be keeping you posted!
A cut flower garden seems like a wonderful addition! I've thought about adding edibles into my flower beds as well. I have rabbits and groundhogs that frequent my yard, so I may have to take that into consideration. I might add a few herb plants around my lilies and some other flowers this year. I've been reading how this can deter unwanted pests. Every season, my Lilies start out great, but then they become munched away by rabid lily leaf beetles. Those things are unstoppable! I've tried so many things, even squishing them myself. The things we do for our plants, am I right?
Speaking of new garden ventures, I'm thinking of planting more wildflower seeds for the birds and the butterflies this year. If I have enough room, I'll designate a whole patch of my yard to them. I'm also hoping to add a few different types of wildflowers throughout my butterfly garden. I was gifted the book Taming Wildflowers by Miriam Goldberger during the holidays, and I was thrilled. This book has been at the top of my wish list! I have been thumbing through the pages and getting inspiration daily. I can't wait to dive right into this colorful and wild side of nature. I have also been frequenting her online seed catalog Wildflower Farm, where she offers many different seed mixes and even native grasses. If you regularly daydream about planting your own flower filled meadow (which, lets be honest, is a photographer's heaven), this is definitely the place to look.
I am drawn to the soft pink Penstemon 'Beardtongue' flower. They are related to snapdragons and are a favorite of hummingbirds! I also love the visually stunning Wild Lupine/Sundial Lupine blossoms. I've read that birds like to eat the seeds, and the flowers attract the Frosted Elfin butterfly. The fiery color of the Cardinal Flower would also make a welcome addition to my garden. They bloom for a month or longer and seem to be popular amongst all pollinators. Do you grow varieties of wildflowers in your yard?
I love Floret on Instagram! I'll be scrolling through my feed, and I often stop to admire the dreamy bouquets and jaw dropping bloom pictures they post. I totally agree, their photography is stunning. Just the other day, I was drooling over a picture I saw of 'Aztec Sunset' Zinnias on their account. The flowers you chose are real knockout beauties, and I'm already looking forward to seeing them when they bloom! Oh, sweet peas, right up my ally! You won't be disappointed as long as you make sure to soak the seeds (I learned not to skip this step!) and start them as early as possible. Give them something tall to climb, and watch them burst with color and fill the air with that intoxicating sweet scent! I planted many varieties to up my chances and see what grew best. Oh nasturtiums! I call them the miracle flower! I love watching them cluster and trail throughout the garden. When I first learned about them, I would pronounce them completely wrong, which led to some puzzled looks when I nervously asked about them at the garden center. I would mistakenly enunciate the "i", and it was a mystery to me as to why no one knew what I was talking about. I am happy to report my flower pronunciation skills have improved immensely, and I always make sure to get a couple of packs every year.
I am always drawn to cottage style gardens. This year, I am really going to focus on adding some backbone plants to my flower beds as well as some ground cover to bring the charm and chase away the weeds. Every year, I try to add a new variety as well as color of peonies to the garden. Now, I have to start focusing on a mid to late summer showstopper. I've been thinking of incorporating foxglove and hollyhocks for backbone. Now that you told me foxglove are a special flower for fairies, they are a must! Foxgloves have always been endearing to me since we share the gift of freckles! When it comes to ground cover, my mind goes to Lady's Mantle and Creeping Jenny. Ever since my David Austin Roses handbook came in the mail, I've been fantasizing about filling my yard with pretty much the whole catalog. Pictures they share of the victorian garden in Shropshire, UK make me want to jump on a plane and after I arrive, possibly never leave.
Since this is my first time trying to grow a year round vegetable garden, I'm curious to see if some of my crops produce earlier in the spring. My peas seem to be doing the best out of everything I planted. The two varieties I'm growing are 'De Grace' Snow Peas along with 'Little Marvel' Garden Peas. I've never grown these varieties before, so I'm looking forward to tasting them! Last year, I grew 'Dark Seeded Early Perfection' as well as 'Super Sugar' Snap Peas. Early Perfection yielded an abundance of peas and Super Sugar Snap was absolutely delicious! I really enjoy growing tomatoes as well, especially cherry tomatoes! I'm really hoping to find that Rapunzel variety! Although, I'm not sure if that's inviting all the neighborhood chipmunks to grab hold of the cascading stems full of ripe fruit and steal them all. The higher up the tomato, the better luck I have. I do get the occasional desperate garden rodent that starts shaking my plants until one falls off for a quick snack. It kills me that they usually take one bite, then leave the rest for me to find. It's like, at least eat the whole thing! Brandywine seems to never disappoint, and I always tend to come back to that variety. When it comes to hybrid, Better Boy is one of my favorite varieties. I'm always looking for disease resistant tomatoes with an abundant harvest. I can't wait to make a fresh garden salad again!
It was great to hear all the interesting varieties of seeds you are thinking of growing! All the catalogs compel me to continue searching and prepping for seed starting season. I am intrigued by your garden plans and am already anticipating an abundance of alluring Jen-styled garden photographs! I find people who dream big to be magnetic and motivational, so never stop! I embrace becoming a crazy plant lady around this time of year. I feel like crazy turns into creativity in the garden world. I think we should refer to it as being moonstruck. Sounds way more dignified, don't you think? Yes, we are moonstruck by nature! Since the groundhog predicted an early spring, we might just be in luck this year! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the ground to start thawing earlier than later. Until then, I'll be browsing all the flower filled pages intently.
Can't wait to hear from you soon,