My mind is as blank as my new Moleskin for Gardeners.
Or not so much blank as filled to the bursting point with ambitious ideas: spiral garden beds, dry river-bed paths and vertical wall gardens –
“I can do that too!”
I yell at the Pinterest screen, drunk on garden porn.
So my January is filled not with planning but paralysis. I mean – where do you even begin?
What, I wonder, do the professionals do in winter? What about my clever gardening friends, the amateurs with loads of experience and enviable gardens…what secret schemes are they hatching? What about the newbie – do they know what they’re in for?
I decided to ask them all.
Red Chimney Flower Farm
I asked gardening friends and professionals about their January planning process and the answers ranged from impressive (e.g. plans to redo an entire back patio that makes way for a home “power station” to plug in the new Prius), to avoidance (e.g. plans for a long foot bath and a lie down with a cuppa tea).
Local flower farmer Suzanne Montie of Red Chimney Farm in Bowie MD, has barely scrapped the winter mud off her boots: digging up and storing the tender dahlias and calla lilies tubers, putting in a new hoop house, planting rows of early blooming larkspur, agrostemma, dianthus, daisies, bupleurum, delphinium, bachelor buttons, etc, etc – you would think if anyone deserved a long winter’s nap it’s her, but noooo, here I am with my list of questions asking her what’s she going to do NEXT?!
But lucky for me, she’s game. While under the afghan with the seed catalogs this month she’ll be on the hunt for flowers to make next year’s wedding customers happy – maybe by adding a super sweet, super pretty tuber rose to her rows. Expensive but worth it, she thinks, given the number of pink-starved brides out there last season…
and at the other end of the flower trend, she’s thinking of reintroducing that garden stalwart: marigolds. Last Hallowe’en she saw an uptick in Hispanic customers searching for the traditional Dio de Todos los Santos flower. After the fun of flower seed orders, she’ll work on finding “equipment to make my life easier,” like tractors, tillers and walk-in coolers. Then there is her deer, groundhog and other vermin battle plan to tackle, so looks like a busy January for her. There really is no rest for the wicked, I guess.
Maraichere très fine frisée from Wild Garden Seed
Professional organic landscaping pal, Edamarie, of Backyard Bounty, enjoys the January pause button as it’s really the only time she can concentrate on her garden. She promises to spend this winter storm weekend under a blanket, circling seeds selections in her new find – Wild Seed Garden catalog, hunting her favorite fava bean and frisée seeds, and thinking of replacements for her beloved camelias and fig, both victims of two consecutive polar vortex winters.
Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Swap – January 31, 2016
But then I talk to Beth, my community garden neighbor, who, even in the depths of January has garlic and greens going gang-busters. She has trips planned for the Philly flower show and the Washington Gardener Magazine’s seed swap, then planting seeds in her impressive basement set-up of florescent lights and heated seedling pads. But even with her unstoppable Can-Do attitude, she still finds herself beset with worry. The warm December followed by the prospect of another freakishly brutal winter and what it means for our tender little gardens:
“I think our gardens are worrying too. I noticed that my asparagus was sending up shoots, so I broke off one to taste it and it tasted bitter and toxic. I think the asparagus was trying to communicate its anxiety for the world and our country.”
I hear ya Beth…anxiety mixed with ambition to tackle a newer bigger better vermin-free garden this year leaves me overwhelmed. I mean, who am I kidding? Any plans I do make always seem to fall victim to polar vortexes and voles, so why bother?
I stare at my very empty Garden Planner and feel a bit hopeless…until…
Wait..what was that? Did you hear a back hoe? Is he…did that guy just say he can’t WAIT for spring – he’s going to go to work right now?!
Oh YES! It’s Walker Marsh and he is on a roll! He and his crew slogged through a year’s worth of Baltimore City red tape until last month when they were finally cleared to break ground on Tha Flower Factory – Baltimore’s newest urban flower farm at 1433 N Gaye Street – sitting, as Marsh says “on its own island in between two busy streets, an oasis in the hood.”
This time next spring he plans on having an combined community space and cut-flower farm. “Just imagine,” he tells me, “a sunflower that grew through the concrete!”
Yeah, but where did Walker ever get the idea, I wanted to know – how does such an ambitious enterprise spring to life? Not surprisingly, it involved the thing that means the most – home:
I’ve always had a love for flowers because of my mother so I naturally wanted to grow them. I feel like flowers have a magical ability to make people feel better. And if you have ever been to Baltimore you’ve prolly seen all the abandon homes and “urban blight,” as they say, in many of the neighborhoods across the city. This urban blight has a very powerful negative effect on the people coming up in these neighborhoods. So I wanted to provide a place of beauty and hope to battle against hopelessness.
Wow. Exactly what this Gardener needed to hear. Thanks, Gardeners. My pencil is sharpened and I’m ready to roll.
“Can’t wait! Can’t wait for the Spring, baby – Let’s GO!” – Walker Marsh