the gestalt gardener

I’m a sucker for great public radio programming, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting does not disappoint. My favorite show, if I had to pick one, is The Gestalt Gardener–a 60-minute call-in show about plants, flowers, trees, landscaping, you name it–with Felder Rushing.

Each week, Felder fields questions from all over the state, with a few inquiries from neighboring states mixed in for good measure. And he always offers incisive, thoughtful feedback. I’ve learned oodles as a listener and newbie gardener. To listen to archives of this show, hop on over here. You and your garden can thank me later.

mums the word

One thing I’ve learned as a Jackson-Mississippi-by-way-of-Chicago transplant: Gardening is a wonderful pursuit if it suits your interests. It sure does mine. I’ve enjoyed gardening in the Deep South as much as I have enjoyed bicycling in Chicago, which is a great deal. Planting flowers is not just helpful for your property’s curb appeal and enjoyment, it’s also a great strategy for reducing stress. A week or so after ankle surgery, I used a couple sunny afternoons to plant these mums and pansies.┬áNavigating the front yard flower bed on crutches wasn’t all that easy and pretty slow going, but I like the process of digging and the outcome. The mums and pansies are so cheery. And low maintenance if that’s your thing.

Mums Jackson Mississippi Garden Flowers

Keeping up the lawn (freeing it of dead leaves and twigs) has been a lot more tedious than I remember from last autumn. This year I must have raked 13 oversize bags full of dead leaves, twigs, and fallen pine needles. Based on the amount of leaves still on the trees in my front and back yards, I probably have another 13 or so bags to go.

the language of flowers

A year ago the thought of working on the flower beds at my house seemed a daunting proposition. Surely I would screw it up. Surely I couldn’t tell if my efforts were successful. Well I could not be more incorrect. Two months and who knows how many pairs of gardening gloves later, this flower bed/gardening thing is actually a fun adventure. And plants and flowers will tell you pretty quickly if they like their new home. They have their own language, if that makes sense.My backyard is mostly shade so tried a haphazard mix of Boston ferns, hydrangea, impatiens, and ornamental grasses. The impatiens really took off. I water this part of my backyard every morning and am smitten with this hydrangea. So pretty.


The flower bed in my front yard is a bit more slow going, growth wise. It also gets more sun than the back yard so some of the plants are taking a beating with the heat of central Mississippi. I laid down a bed of pine straw to keep the flowers and plants from scorching and so far, so good. After I water the front yard flower bed, the leaves of the crotons stand upright as if to shout, “Hey thanks! I’ll have some more.”

accidental gardener

I’ve been chipping away at the flower beds at Clearance Special the last five weeks, and I suppose garden work is work. Goodness and then some. I planted mostly impatiens and hostas in the backyard flower bed, and the impatiens have really taken off. The soil and warm weather in central #Mississippi really suit these little ones.

I wish I could say I did a ton of research and planning before getting to it. I asked friends on Facebook what they would recommend for a flower bed that is mostly shade and received a lot of input. And then I just started digging. This is a before and after, Day 8:

Before and after Day 8

The front yard flower bed seems to be moving a bit quicker than the back yard one. I moved clumps of monkey grass to the back and have planted some fibrous begonia. Now if I can just get to power-washing the vinyl siding. Uff da.


when “i’m sorry” is grossly inadequate

Last Saturday I was working on giving life to a flower bed in my backyard. The flower bed looked awful, really. It needed a lot of attention and work. If you know me well, you would know I’m a city kid through and through. I don’t know the first thing about maintaining a flower bed or keeping anything green alive. But this bed was a long coffin of soil, manure, dead roots, and weeds. It needed life. It needed air and something green.

It took me three weekends to dig up the dead roots and weeds. I used a shovel to break up the dense soil and extract the roots. The dense soil makes a weird heaving, sucking sound when you shovel into it. I was intrigued and kept shoveling, ripping out dead roots along the way and dripping in sweat.

As I tried to breathe life into this coffin of soil on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think of a #Jackson family who was burying their only daughter. She was 18 years old and en route to her high school graduation practice last week when she drove over a large hole in Ridgewood Road. The hole was gaping and large enough that it warranted a manhole cover, which was missing. The convertible car she drove flipped. She was rushed to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where she died.


I don’t know this family but I grieve their unholy loss. Words like “tragic” and expressions of sympathy like “I’m sorry” just don’t effing cut it. What could you possibly say to a family who lost their only daughter? I have no words.

Which leads me to my frustration with the English language. It’s so shallow sometimes. There aren’t enough ways to say “I’m sorry,” which makes me really freaking sorry. Sigh.