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E-Garden Almanac: October 2007

E-Garden Almanac

The E-Garden Almanac is the push-button, real human journal of Kelly D. Norris. All errors, grammatic grievances, and opinions are that of the author. Kelly is a freelance writer and Master Gardener from southwest Iowa. His passion and obsession with horticulture, plants, and gardening embodies nearly every function of his life. The E-Garden Almanac serves as the web extension of his columns, articles, and lectures.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fall Dirt Digging

It's no secret that I'm in love with fall. Colorful leaves, migrating birds, cool temperatures, colchicums, reblooming irises and a host of other self absorbing minutiae consume me in the autumn of each year. Among these, and not a minutia, is the annual ritual of planting bulbs, otherwise known as my shameless attribution to Dutch ancestry I don't have.

Daffodils, tulips, crocus, fritillarias, colchicums, corydalis, calochortus, and lilies are but a few of my geophytic favorites that fill my shopping carts and shipments each year. I love planting daffodils because I get to dig big holes. Simple, childish, and a killer cardio exercise, my spade effortlessly slips through the soft ground. I'm able to round out a suitable planting hole; style and aesthetics of the process or its outcome are quite irrelevant. The plump, double-nosed bulbs from Brent & Becky's Bulbs get eagerly plopped into the crater I just carved in my perennial border. Laying on my stomach I arrange the bulbs with care, knowing that the resultant image starts with this humble task. Dirt under my nails, I couldn't be happier.

My digging escapades consumed the better part of today. I'll confess: my garden is hopelessly spring-biased and a far cry from the four season pomp I hope to create. If I were Vita Sackville-West my Bedford garden might be my Sevenoaks. I can only hope my Sissinghurst is yet to come. But despite this I've come to acknowledge another key element of gardening in four seasons.

Each season has its emblem plants, those valuable must-haves that augment the floral display we come to expect in any given month. For May it's irises (in my garden, at least). For July it's oriental lilies. For September it's colchicums (get some if you don't have any). I'd be foolish to think I could limit each month to one must have, but you get the idea. So while a sustainable, four season concept floats around your mind, as it does mine now, its important to not forget the plants who contribute to the beauty and feeling during those four seasons, though they themselves won't last for more than a moment in that span of time.

I'm reminded of these thoughts planting my favorite ephemeral bulbs today. Corydalis, a genus with whom I'm having a lusty affair, is a figment of the memory in the garden year in review but a headliner in its season. Its choruses of delectable flowers sing praise worthy of note in mid-spring. But always a season ahead, the performances of tomorrow are rehearsed today. And like a rehearsal, the ritual of planting bulbs, a grand excuse to play in the dirt, was again practiced in my Iowa garden today.

Monday, October 08, 2007

You'll be there, right?

November is fast approaching and for Iowans who like perennials, an early Christmas comes this year on the 10th. The annual Herbaceous Perennials Symposium will be held at the Scheman Building on the campus of Iowa State University. Coordinated by my academic advisor and dear friend Dr. Cindy Haynes, the well-known horticultural symposium draws top names from around the country. This year's lineup features Roy Diblik, Jim Nau, Pam Duthie, Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Steve Rodie, and Jamie Beyer. Information about the programs, speakers, and how to register can be found at this website. This is an event that no Midwestern gardener should miss. Register today!

Travels Here and There

It has been a very busy past few weeks and I'm ready to be home for a while. From Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 I was in Oklahoma City for the Garden Writers Association Symposium. The occasion of winning a 2007 Silver Garden Media Award (pictured above) was marked by fellowship with fellow plant fanatics and talented scribblers from across the globe. Our tours took us to some fine gardens in the area as well as culturally significant sites like the OKC Federal Building Memorial and the National Cowboy and Western Museum.

As if a glutton for traveler's punishment, I returned yesterday from another weekend getaway with the ISU Horticulture Club to St. Louis, MO. Blistering heat accompanied our visit to the Missouri Botanic Garden and other culturally interesting sites in the area.

From here to there, my appetitive mind has found some time to wander to thoughts of landscape design, ecology, plant usage, and the human spirit of horticulture; otherwise known as the usual table fare. In the next few autumnal weeks of our gardening season I'll share these with you. We truly live in a great world filled with rigorous, yet fulfilling challenges. The realm of horticulture shall not be excluded! Here are a few tidbits to whet your reader's appetite:

Gardening with Generation X/Y
Landscaping with ecological goodness
The autumnal garden
Ornamental grasses