Favorite Flora: Rosemary

Rosemary  (Rosmarinus officinalis)– The Herb of Remembrance

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)– The Herb of Remembrance

By Debra Knapke

What is it about rosemary that is so compelling?  Its deep, woodsy, piney fragrance?  The blue flowers that open in June/July and in December just before Christmas?  Its 8-10’ by 8-10’ shrubby habit in zone 7 and warmer climes?  All of the above?

Before the mid-80’s I only knew it as the slightly piney, grassy herb that was in a jar.  I remember when I first discovered the plant and realized that dried rosemary was a poor substitute for the real thing.  Rosemary vinegar, oil, pesto and butter are a few of the ways that rosemary is added to the food I make.

In the garden, I have tested different areas in an effort to discover the perfect microclimate where rosemary might survive our supposed zone 6 winters.   Most cultivars can survive 10°F temperatures and a few can survive colder winters: ‘Arp’ and ‘Madeline Hill’ are two selections that can take 0°F and live.  For the past two winters much of Central Ohio has experienced zone 7 winters.  Both ‘Arp’ and ‘Barbecue’ came through with flying colors.  The survivors are in full sun, well-drained areas that are out of direct winter winds.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I was able to spend a lot of time in the garden.  I weeded, watered, fertilized – with compost tea – and planted.  While planting rosemary I thought about its well-known meaning in light of the weekend and the true Memorial Day of May 31st.  I remembered.  And silently thanked all who have guided me in my garden and my life.

Favorite Flora: Memorial Day bouquets

peonies (1)By Michael Leach

I wonder how many people take family heirlooms to the cemetery on Memorial Day? These are blossoms from plants handed down from one generation to the next. Most gardens have such plants. Felder Rushing, a Mississippi gardener and writer, calls them pass-alongs.

Weather permitting, peonies were always among the Memorial Day bouquets for my family. At the family home place where I live, all of them came from my grandparents or great-grandparents. They readily shared these cast-iron standards along with garden phlox and iris, plants growing in my garden today.

Maybe that’s why I never feel lonely as I garden in blessed solitude. Memories return with the fragrance of the masses of sweet violets that grew so thickly around Auntie’s back door they perfumed the air and took away my breath. Dreams of tropical places enchanted me as a child, and so I was attracted to Grandpa’s yucca. I suppose the spiky leaves resembled some type of palm to a 10-year-old boy. I had to grow much taller before I could smell the sweetness of their satin white flowers, a much-anticipated annual event.

Unlike the yuccas, the peonies are slowly declining. Ever-increasing shade, a boon and bane, has nearly eliminated most of the 60 or so plants of perhaps a half-dozen varieties that graced beds and borders. I suppose no one needs that many reminders of long-gone contributors.

Besides these family treasures, my garden grows memories of other gardeners who shared columbines, brunneras, roses, wildflowers and day lilies. Even indoors heirlooms whisper old tales. My great-grandmother’s sprawling Christmas cactus blooms every year, usually starting in January. Such a lapse can be forgiven a grand dame who may be 100 or so.

Unlike funeral flowers, such plants make me smile. Perhaps because I remember the donors in their gardening years, active, yet at peace, working in their little Edens.

Gardens to Drive For: Open Garden Days

By Michael Leach

Summertime is coming and that means house and garden tours, a wonderful chance to see how other people live and garden.

Tour hosts are to be greatly commended for spending countless hours and perhaps almost as much money to make their private retreats available for public viewing. Throughout the Midwest, communities large and small have garden tours, often benefitting a worthy cause.

On the national level, a series of tours support the Garden Conservancy’s goals of saving and preserving America’s exceptional gardens for public enjoyment and education.

Several Garden Conservancy Open Days are planned in the Midwest.  Locations include:

June 8  St. Louis Area falls creek

June 22-23 Erie County  (PA)

June 23  Chicago’s North Shore

July 21 Chicago’s Western Suburbs

July 28 Chicago’s North Shore

Book Notes: Seed Underground

Seed-Underground1The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food — Janisse Ray, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012.

Reviewed by Teresa Woodard

I am planting seeds today with a renewed appreciation for their diversity, cultural heritage and important role in our food supply – thanks to Janisse Ray’s compelling new book, The Seed Underground. This naturalist, activist and poet author encourages readers to be germinators and not terminators of our country’s seed supply and thus food supply.  She cites a University of Georgia study that found 94 percent of the seeds offered a century ago are no longer available for today’s gardeners and farmers.

In this award-winning book, Ray describes seeds as “the most hopeful thing in the world”. Imagine a small acorn growing into an 80-foot oak or a bucket of seeds producing a bountiful crop to feed a family.  In each chapter, she shares several anecdotes of seed savers – a hand-pollinator of squash, a tomato grower that trials some 1,000 varieties and a Saskatchewan farmer that battled a seed company all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court for alleged corn seed patent violations from “genetic drift”.  Ray also adds how-to chapters on seed saving and personal stories from her garden in Southern Georgia.



Catch Us If You Can: Deb Knapke

knapke ohio magCongratulations to our “Garden Sage” Debra Knapke who shares her passion for herb gardening in this month’s Ohio Magazine.  On June 22, she will be teaching about herbs as part of the Ohioana Library Association’s “Back to the Garden on Gahanna’s Herbal Trail” tour.  Deb is the author of Herbal Gardening in the Midwest and several other gardening titles.

Check out the Herbal Delights story.  Also catch her on a special live remote edition of WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher on May 10 from 10 a.m. – noon at the Chadwick Arboretum Plant Sale.

Garden Topics

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