Nothing bad happens to a writer…everything is material.
March was one of the most stressful months of my life but I do remember thinking it would all give me something to wax philosophical about in my monthly blog. The ill fated month started out in beautiful Savannah, Georgia at the annual meeting of The Southern Garden History Society where I was elected to a second term on the board of directors. I can thank the late Flora Ann Bynum and the not so late William C. Welch for steering me into this fabulous group of Southern garden history enthusiasts. The meeting lectures were very educational as expected but as always the tours were simply fantastic. The two things that stand out the most in my mind about the trip were the fabulous Spanish moss draped live oaks and the incredible Camellia japonicas. Next year’s meeting will be in trendy Nashville, Tennessee if you care to join us. See southerngardenhistory.org for more information.
Savannah was plagued by a cold and plant damaging winter, just like the rest of us were. Unfortunately while I was there one last blast of winter passed through Texas leaving my jonquils, narcissus, and daffodils under two inches of snow according to my dad, not to mention frozen plumbing at my old houses. Naturally the weathermen had called for no temperatures below freezing before I left so I hadn’t prepared at all for it. I even left my Granny’s pass-a-long aloe vera sitting on the back steps to die! I’m smart enough to keep extras however. Luckily the cold front was going to be between Texas and Georgia meaning our flights were most likely to be able to leave on time…or so we thought. The morning we got ready to leave and were preparing to print our boarding passes on line at the hotel, word came without warning or explanation that our flight was canceled and would be rerouted through Chicago a day and half later.
Well the Texas Rose Rustler contingent was having no part of that and started exploring other options for getting home. These included a $1500 train ride, a $1200 bus ticket, or a $500 rental car (which was only $30 if we returned it to Savannah!). My mom, her best friend Mary Beth, and a gaggle of self sufficient Rose Rustlers chose the latter and loaded into two rental cars for the 1,000 mile, two day trip home with an overnight stay in Mobile. Once again the weathermen failed to warn us of a freak ice storm that stranded us in Baton Rouge for three-plus hours. Oddly enough this was my second time to weather an ice storm in Baton Rouge this year. Note to self: Stay the heck out of Baton Rouge!
Though I swore I’d NEVER travel again, we made it home around midnight and were actually still friends.
The month was full of master gardener tours including Nacogdoches County, Gregg County, Smith County, Harrison County, and Gregg County, plus the Smith County chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas. And while desperately trying to cut back on public lectures I also spoke to the District Garden club meeting in Center, the Cherokee County Spring Garden Conference, and the SFA Gardens Lecture Series. I was also scheduled to attend the American Daffodil Society meeting in Little Rock during the last weekend of the month but with our big SFA Garden spring plant sale coming up on April 5, with tons of prep to do, I wisely canceled it. The SFA Pineywoods Native Plant Center simply can’t exist without the income from our two plant sales.
Though it already seems like a distant memory, our spring break occurred during the middle of the month allowing me to not only conduct my annual controlled burns on my 8 acre pine savanna and 5 acre tall grass prairie, but also my new 6 acre mixed forest across the road. Luckily I had expert help this year including friends Larry Shelton and Dan McBride along with my enthusiastic nephews and niece. As I’ve mentioned before prescribed fire prevents catastrophic wildfires, acts as a herbicide, fungicide, and insecticide, promotes more palatable vegetation for wildlife and butterfly larvae, makes the woods more traversable and aesthetically pleasing, and creates an open savanna-like ecosystem for specialized bird species like my little brown headed nuthatches.
With a house full of children all week it was all my poor mother could do to keep the herd fed. Those boys can sure plow through some food. Luckily my sweet-sixteen group of hens is back into the egg laying business. In addition to a host of other main dishes and desserts, she made two cheesecakes that week. She makes one fine cheesecake and it’s on my list of things for her to teach me how to make. Unfortunately she has shared all her recipes with the women in our family but none with the one that might actually cook them! I especially like it with a pecan-praline sauce.
Good friend and fellow writer Steve Chamblee spent one night with me in Arcadia on his way to give two talks in Lufkin. We had a great time visiting about life, love, and lilies. He’s one of my all-time favorite horticulturists and philosophers. He also toured SFA Gardens with Dr. Creech, Dawn Stover, and me.
As always, March was the month where my late Narcissus made their annual show; including ‘Laurens Koster’, ‘Franciscus Drake’, and ‘Golden Dawn’. It was the first year however that I received freeze damage on my snowflakes (Leucojum). Interestingly enough, the larger flowered English cultivar ‘Gravetye Giant’ didn’t show any ill effect from the cold and ice.
Although I haven’t planted them yet I did seed purple, yellow, and striped pole beans for my back fence, along with baby cucumbers, and virus resistant yellow squash. I also stepped up my tomato transplants into one gallon pots so they’d be big and stout when I put them out. I’ve just started picking asparagus which will go on through the month of April. I always stop harvesting on May 1. Remember: A is for asparagus and you MAY not have any more.
My friend Missy (who has plans for everyone) chastised me for not providing enough horticultural advice in my blogs, so this is for her. NEVER wet the foliage on roses, otherwise you will cause disease problem. Always remember that plants drink through their roots, not their leaves.
Until next month, stay off planes, stay out of Baton Rouge, and stake your tomatoes. -Greg