“Smell this rose!” he said.
Riverside, California. Sixty-two miles east of our cozy house in Highland Park where we’d lived since 1992. The sun shines 277 days each year, on average; the average high for July is 92 degrees.
We moved to the Inland Empire in June 2013, found ourselves an adorable Riverside apartment that had a nice kitchen and was okay with our little dog. Of the 288 apartments in the entire complex, only a very small handful get full sun on their patios. In fact, because we’re in Riverside and because it’s hot here, the patios are purposefully situated to avoid full sun. We face west and get great full sun, pretty much all day.
We’d never lived alone.
I was a single mom with a six-year-old when we got married. Then Steven came along quickly and our house was filled with boys and noise and years and years.
It most certainly could’ve gone either way!
Those first few months, we debated the placement of every picture, piece of art. Argued about the color of our kitchen mitts bathroom towels and dish cloths.
After much debate, we’d procured patio furniture including an expansive hammocky thing we thought would be delightful for laying out in the sun! Our next purchase could have been a small BBQ grill for cooking on the patio.
But then Don stopped me at Home Depot or Lowe’s. I don’t remember which.
“Stop!” he said.
“Smell this rose!”
This is the rose Don stopped me to smell.
She’s named Rosa ‘Bella’Roma,’ and she is what it means to be a rose: She’s finicky, fragile here in the hot low desert, the lightest of yellow cream, bordered with dark pink in teeny waves. She smells the way a rose one stops to smell is supposed to smell. “Rose!” she yells at my nose.
The Regan Nursery captures her perfectly: “A wonderful rose for cutting, Bella’roma boasts sumptuous blooms and a strong, tantalizing scent evocative of French Perfume, bright yellow buds spiral open, revealing gorgeous, warm yellow petals blushed rich pink at their edges, and set off by glossy, dark green foliage.”
Weeks Roses calls her “wonderfully fragrant,” adds “Bella’Roma boasts an intoxicating perfume for the garden walk.”
And from Edmunds’ Roses: “The name alone lets you know this rose not only has classic beauty, but also boasts a strong, tantalizing fragrance. Its bright yellow pointed buds spiral open to reveal warm yellow petals blushed with varying degrees of pink at their edges. Drenched with sweet antique rose perfume, the heady fragrance radiates throughout the garden and indoors as long-stemmed cutflowers.”
She blooms quickly, one day a bud, very soon a full bloom, and I love to watch her move from bud to bloom.
I love roses!
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
~Tupac Shakur, The Rose That Grew From Concrete
And fresh herbs.
But a garden? Here? No bar-b-que? No hammock?
Sweetly, he found me just the right wooden table to put for pots the plants on to make the best use of the sun. I discovered Pot Risers to lift the pots and allow them to drain (the key to gardening in pots and containers, in my opinion). No one enjoys wet feet. I’ve settled on these industrial strength pieces of invisible plastic rather than the cute and decorative pot feet I used at first. Ceramic pink flamingos, cute kitties, penguins with cute baby penguins – all adorbs. But they break!
And then they are garden art!
Because I have so little space, I had to establish strict garden priorities. Everything I plant must:
- Smell nice
- Be edible
- Be really really pretty
Mostly it’s a rose garden.
“I believe in roses. And I believe in putting roses into a vase and sitting the vase on the table. I believe in getting lost and being found, I believe in going barefoot, and in laughter! My religion is to laugh at myself, whenever I can! I believe in the sunlight and in grey skies with big, beautiful clouds!”
― C. JoyBell C.
For me, I’ve found gardeners to be incredibly friendly! Anything I’ve wondered, any gardening question I’ve had – there’s someone helpful easily at hand!
Or find a local Master Gardener.
There’s much good, accessible gardening information out there – like this article from Live to Garden – that sums up pretty much everything needed to get a container garden started.
So, after trial and error and reading and research, the formula for planter planting is this:
That is: start with the tallest plant appropriate for the planter, fill the middle with smaller, spreading plants, and finish them off with plants at the outside that hang or dangle.
Artichoke plants, for example, are amazing to watch grow (especially when you realize they’re thistles!) but they take up a lot of room. Cherry tomatoes, on the other hand, grow gloriously, wrapped up inside a strong, stable rose bush.
Daylilies are magical plants! I’ve got just two and I’d love to plant a hundred of them, all different!
“Daylilies belong to the genus Hemerocallis and are not true lilies. This Greek word is made up of two parts: hemera meaning day and kallos meaning beauty. The name is appropriate, since each flower lasts only one day. Some of the newer varieties have flowers that open in the evening and remain open until the evening of the following day. Many of these night blooming plants are delightfully fragrant.” – University of Minnesota, Extension Program
He found me another simple perfect table with a sun on its face.
Then we found a planter with a trellis attached to it that fits into the corner of the patio as if it were made to fit in just that corner.
I’ve learned to go up, to use every possible space. I used two window boxes on the patio walls until it was building painting time. There’s always room to go up! Climbing roses, every variety of jasmine, Sweet Potato vines, two different kinds of Clematis! Big white plate-like Moonflower blooms…
Of course it’s an organic garden. My grandson eats those baby tomatoes straight from the plant! Green, even!
To summarize then, if you’re thinking of starting a garden, plant something. Start with one sweet rose. Add basil.
Here are my tips, hints, and suggestions, numbered because that’s fun to do. Just start. Get your hands dirty and your salad growing!
- Dirt: Use good dirt. (I like Foxfarm, especially the Happy Frog mix.)
- Pots: As long as it drains, any container can be a planter. Keep pots as light as possible. Terra cotta pots are gorgeous to my eye, so calming to look at, especially in the garden, but they’re so heavy to move. Plastic containers work just fine and are so much easier to rearrange! I fill the bottom of big pots with plastic milk jugs or Styrofoam peanuts to keep them lighter.)
- Organic: Of course! My grandson eats those tomatoes right off the vine. Here’s a great guide to get started from Mother Earth News ~
- Be selective!
- Be ruthless & bold! Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener, shares gardening basics here, in great style: 10 Ways to Make Gardening Easier
- Fertilize! (Remember the gardening adage: Fertilize weekly, weakly. I use a nice liquid fish emulsion/seaweed mix because it smells so good. Actually it smells like fish only ickier – but it really works well and the smell doesn’t last but a day!)
- Attract what you love! Want hummingbirds in your garden? They’re always seeking nectar and they love flowers they can stick their beaks into. Plant honeysuckle, agastache, salvia (sage), penstemon, bee balm; they love my buddleia. Want butterflies in your garden? Here’s a great list of plants that attract butterflies! Plant Milkweed no matter what! Want to attract children to your garden? Plant peas (they’ll eat them from the garden even if they’ll not eat them anywhere else) plus peas make your dirt better! Any appropriate small fruit or vegetable will work.
- Companion gardening: Couple plants that enjoy each other’s company. I still love the concept from the first gardening book I ever read in the early 1990’s: Roses Love Garlic. Or this lovely updated guideline 32 companion plants to grow with your peppers
And us? This week we celebrate 27 years of marriage, happier together, closer in partnership, than on that hot Labor Day in Elysian Park in 1989, ready to plant and transplant and build a new little garden, closer to the rest of the little Butchers!
By all means, plant a garden!
“If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. ‘Green fingers’ are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.”
― Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener
Enjoy three minutes of pictures of three years of the little Butcher Garden here, if you like!
SIMPLE & BASIC GARDENING RESOURCES
Help Me Find (Roses) Comprehensive searchable database of roses
All Things Plants – now Gardening.org Complete & reliable gardening information, advice, voluminous amount of forums, very helpful gardeners
My Growing Zone is 9b – what’s yours?
More information here about growing organically ~
And the Best on-line gardening websites for your beginning enjoyment!
Good news about the future of gardening from the Desert Gardener: Millennials have a new hobby: “A national gardening survey conducted in 2015 found they are gardening. In fact, the survey showed more than 6 million Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 are gardening.”
“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”
~ David Hobson
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”
~ Bessie Stanley
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”
~ Alfred Austin
Pope John Paul II
Nicole Carole Miller
Rise N Shine