GARDENING GODDESS • BY KATHY JENTZ
Many gardeners were introduced to their passion for growing all things green at the knee of an older relative, such as a grandfather or older aunt, who took the time to show a child the wonders of planting your own flowers and vegetables. The memories of those gardens of our childhoods are strongly etched in our brains and we often yearn for that same feeling they gave us back then. The smells of heirloom roses and wisteria take us right back to those carefree days.
In the day-to-day scramble to fill up our garden beds with color and excitement, we can often skip over the tried-and-true classics and go straight for the new and exciting. We are dazzled by the many new, unique introductions that plant breeders and garden centers entice us with every year. This growing season why not make an effort to seek out the heirloom varieties you knew as a child or even those that were favorites of previous generations. Leave some space in your planting beds for these oldies, but goodies, and you’ll be rewarded with instant classics.
Here are some timeless beauties that belong in your garden:
Hollyhocks – Tall stocks of Hibiscus-like blooms ranging in color from white to pink to lipstick red are a classic back-of-the-border plant or lined up along a fence line. They self-seed with abandon and are easily grown in tough conditions such as full afternoon sun.
Lamb’s Ear – Stachys is a favorite of children everywhere for its soft, fur-like leaves. Pet it or just enjoy its stems of purple blooms in early summer. It is perfect at the front of a border and fills in between paving stones nicely. Divide it every few years and share your extras with your neighbors.
Marigolds – Easily grown from seed, these flowers are perfect companions to your vegetables. Their scent drives off bugs that may harm your edibles and the care-free blooms themselves put in a nice show throughout the growing season.
Snapdragons – Many gardeners started off with these easy-growing flowers as children. Share the mystery of the “snapping jaws” on this bloom with a child in your life. Perfect for part shade to full sun. You can cut blooms for mixed flower arrangements and enjoy them right through early fall.
Balsam – Before the current impatiens (a.k.a. Busy Lizzies) hit the scene in the 1950s, balsam were popular for shade garden color for hundreds of years. Buy a packet of seed and scatter it in a part shade spot, water, and stand back. These cuties establish well and will re-seed for years to come.
Lily of the Valley – Sweet smelling, demure, but oh so hardy. These dainty flowers are a must for the early spring garden. Perfect for filling in dry, shade spots where no other plants dare. Cut them for tiny bouquets, but be careful as they are poisonous and should not be handled by children.
Zinnias – Seen in almost sunny borders around town, Zinnias are loved by many experienced gardeners. Just as irresistible to bees and butterflies, these bright beauties just bloom and bloom all summer long. Try out the big, bold, old-fashioned varieties or the new creamy, green ones. Mix them in cut arrangements or just leave them for the pollinators and your neighbors to enjoy.
Bearded Iris – The older Irises bloom just once a year in late spring, but what a display! They fill out empty spaces with their sword-like foliage and can be divided annually to keep them from taking over. The classic purple or yellow varieties make wonderful additions to mixed border plantings and as filler in sunny garden beds.
Peonies – I couldn’t end this article without including my personal favorite flower and it is a show-stopper. Showy ruffled flowers that smell like a fresh spring morning, grace this perennial plant. Peonies grow easily and live for decades. The clumps should not be planted more than an inch or two below the soil.
Photos: Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine