By LYNNE IRONS
I use a typewriter to write this column. I really like the sound and feel of the old-fashioned typewriter. People make fun of me endlessly but that has never stopped me in any other of my pursuits. Granted I use gallons of white correction fluid and the reliable Webster’s for spell-check.
Having just done the seasonal switch in my mind, I am thinking ahead to spring. Now is the time to start dividing favorite perennials. Iris, especially, needs to be divided when it dies in the middle and forms a circle around the dead center. That circle can be chopped into four pieces and distributed among friends and neighbors. Remember, they do not like to be planted very deeply nor do they like manure. Just a few inches below the surface in reasonably fertile soil will do.
One of my favorite annuals is amaranth. It is simply spectacular right now. The Aztecs worshiped it and there is evidence of it in the ancient tombs. Cortez, in true white European conqueror fashion, wiped out every trace of the plant because he knew how highly regarded it was by the native Americans. Sometimes, having a revisionist theory of history can be depressing and discouraging.
Nevertheless, amaranth has come back into style, thankfully. You have, no doubt, noticed several brands of cereal on the market. The young leaves can be eaten in a salad. Amaranth is a cousin of Lamb’s Quarters (aka pigweed). The seeds from which the flour is ground can be fed to birds or popped like corn. My all-time favorite cultivar is called Love-Lies Bleeding. Its flowers look like long chenille ropes. Who comes up with the names of plants, paint and cars?
I gathered some black seed-like bulbs off the stems of Captain’s lilies. They are the Turk’s Turban type found on old properties. Supposedly, the whaling captains brought them here in the 19th century. I was going to plant them in the spring, but noticed they have already sent out tiny white sprouts. Perhaps I will direct-seed them into a cold frame.
I have a bad case of the should-haves. I should have labeled those daylilies I meant to move this fall. I had a couple out of place that clashed with the other . . . . Oh, well. Please do as I say, not as I do. I tried that statement on my children but it never worked.
I am determined to bring some inkberries back from the brink. They are too tall, too leggy, messy and dead underneath. I spoke with Alicia Lesnikowski. She says I need to Pro-Holly like crazy this fall and wait until spring and ruthlessly chop them. I know they will look like something out of Dr. Seuss at first but I have no mercy.
Here is an interesting fact about bark mulch: When Hurricane Katrina struck down countless trees along the Gulf Coast, those trees were chipped and sold as mulch to the Home Depot. Unfortunately that mulch harbored the eggs of a very aggressive termite. Guess we don’t want to introduce that near our homes. Okay, I’m two years too late with this news, but I like how it makes me think about everyday products. I don’t want to turn into a Chicken Little but often wonder about the world in which we live.
Speaking of bark mulch, I hate it. First of all it actually sucks nitrogen out of the soil as it is decomposing. Then it forms an impenetrable crust of the top of the bed. It makes it almost impossible for water to pass through. There is the problem with putting so much on the bed over the years that the bed is way too high for the surrounding lawn. Landscapers seem to be fond of making an edge with a little trench, a moat, if you will, One needs a drawbridge to enter the planting area. I prefer seaweed, hay, or just plain good compost that can be weeded and scratched occasionally. It is not so obvious when I move things around every five minutes.
The annual harvest supper was held this past Saturday night. A good time was had by all. Great food, good company, and dancing with young and old. I had a laughingly horrific conversation with Chuck and Chris Wiley about various environmental snafus. For example, when those huge tankers travel back and forth across the oceans, they can never be empty. (Don’t get me started about the trade deficit). Therefore, they fill them with sea water for return trips and have caused some potential disasters. The highly invasive razor-back mussel is now wreaking havoc in the Great Lakes. I need to repeat myself from a couple of months ago. Where are we and how did we get in this handbasket?