The Heirloom Tomatoes Have Arrived

The heirloom tomatoes arrived in Wilmington this week. Steve planted them this weekend. “Then I weeded the vegetable garden really well and put straw around everything,” he said. “And I don’t think I’ll have to buy any tomatoes for the garden at the fire station this year, because I bet I pulled up about 50 seedlings that must have come up from the half-rotted tomatoes I threw out there last fall. Remember, in November?” Yes, I do remember that.

I’ve never grown the heirloom tomatoes before (unless you count the varieties that I grew as an eight-year old, 40-some years ago). I got eight varieties and don’t have a clue which ones. “Please don’t forget to put the tags with the names by the plants, as you plant them,” I texted Steve. “And you now have those tomato cages I gave you at Christmas!” Though, come to think of it, I don’t think I gave him enough to surround all eight.

It will be fun to watch them grow and taste them, come summer. There is nothing on the planet like the taste of a homegrown tomato. Yum.

It’s getting to be time to plant them, everywhere. But give them lots and lots a lots of sun. Or you won’t get tomato one.

Posted under Uncategorized, Vegetable gardening

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 13, 2010

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Appendicitis perforitis

No, it’s obviously not the name of a plant…although I kind of tried to fashion it that way to fit it into this blog. “What’s this got to do with gardening?” you say.

I just got home from the hospital today after an appendectomy on Saturday. So I had three days in the hospital to do lots of reading, which leads to relaxing, which leads to thinking, which leads to sleeping, which leads to dreaming. Which brings me to gardens.

Actually, the first garden thing that I’m referring to happened before any of the reading or relaxing or thinking…and I was waking up from being knocked out for the surgery, so that is kind of forced sleeping…but anyway. As I was waking up in the recovery room, I was drifting from the most beautiful dream of a garden–maybe the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. It was in California. How do I know this? Because I sensed it: from the architecture of the buildings, to the types of plants, to the sunlight. It was early morning and the sun was coming through the morning mist. There were a million scents. And sounds: birds, insects, the slight movement of the wind and the leaves. I was smiling when I woke up. No!!!, my mind screamed! I want to stay here! But, of course, slowly the dream, and the garden, melted away. Where was it? Who knows, but I will never forget that garden as long as I live.

Later, I was rolled into my hospital room. Two of my very best friends in the world, Mike and Michael, were there with me that afternoon. My first glimpse into the room was of my friend, Mike (who was waiting for me to get up there) and the gorgeous treetops behind him through the window. It was late afternoon, and the trees here in Virginia right now are all that chartreusy, spring green. Combine the two, that light and that color, and the two are breathtaking together.

Over the days I was in the hospital, I kept thinking of all the things I need to do for work, in my own garden, etc. etc.–and can’t, of course, for several weeks because I can’t lift a darn thing. Which is probably a good thing so this abdomen of mine can heal. Then I got to thinking: if it wasn’t for gardening, and my enthusiastic involvement in it–both physically and mentally–I may not be healing as quickly as I am. So: thank you, gardening, for making me stronger; for giving me appreciation of the life around me; and for so vividly opening my senses.

Posted under Random garden thoughts

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 13, 2010

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Camellia Time!

What a glorious, glorious day we had today here in Northern Virginia. Upper 70s, not a cloud in the sky. The camellias are popping into bloom and they are really stunning this year…just full of flowers. Granted, a lot of the branches are hanging down as a result of the heavy snows this winter, but I will do some pruning after they finish blooming.

Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica

Spring-blooming Camellias, Camellia japonica, like a little bit of shade from hot, midday sun, but on the other hand won’t bloom if the shade is too dense. Here where I live, they are best grown in an eastern or northern exposure so they don’t get sunburn in the winter. Camellias are shallow-rooted. Plant them an inch or two higher than the natural grade of the ground in nice, rich soil that drains well. They do not like wet feet. A light mulch is beneficial. They are surprisingly drought-tolerant and easy-to-grow once established.

I’ve been thinking today about a few years ago when my best friend from growing up, Jeff, and his family visited on this date. It was a carbon copy of today. Stunning. They had a grand week…seeing the cherry blossoms, monuments in DC, family and friends. Then…BAM! It turned COLD and SNOWED–yes, SNOWED! Everything was blooming and got covered with snow.

Camellias in the April snow, 2007

Camellias in the April snow

It didn’t last long, and melted quickly, but what a bummer! Just a reminder that it ain’t over ’til it’s over…the frost dates are there for a reason, and it is prudent not to plant tender things or put your houseplants out until after the average last frost date. If you do, you could get burned…and so could your plants!

Posted under Spring Flowers

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 1, 2010

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