Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And the Winner Is...!

The winner of the "Down-to-Earth Gardener" Contest by Martha Moments has been chosen by author Suzy Bales! (Drum roll, please...) Congratulations to Pauline Mucciaccio who penned a lovely ode to the crocus. Below you can read Suzy's wonderful comments on all of the entries I received as well as Pauline's entry. Pauline will receive a copy of Suzy Bales' "The Down-to-Earth Gardener" an excellent collection of gardening wisdom, beautiful photographs and helpful tips to carry you through the seasons. Thank you to everyone who entered! I'm hoping to have more contests in the near future with more great prizes. -Andrew


Suzy Bales' Thoughts on the Entries:

So many thoughtful entries and so many good ideas! It is the golden garden circle, repeated in each entry—you cheer up your garden, enlivening it with plants and it cheers you.

After reading all of the entries, I too want ‘Molly the Witch’. Even without seeing the peony who could resist the name? I suggest for Ailsa Francis’ yellow fetish, another ironclad true perennial, the yellow foxglove, Digitalis grandiflora. It blooms in early summer and off and on again until late fall, year after year. It also comes true from seed so the plants increase yearly.

Marissa Butler reminded me of the wonderful qualities of mint. It is a thug in my herb garden crowding out the gentle growers and I have been known to attach it with a spade. I have tried and failed to keep it in bounds, but you are right it does have wonderful flavor. It simply needs to be imprisoned in a pot. I need a better attitude and more mint juleps.

Naturally, I agree with Marie-Ève Laforte. Lilacs are one of my favorite plants and their traveling scent, a longed for perfume. If you have never met, ‘Sensation,’ a purple lilac with each petal ringed in white, I would like to introduce you to it. It is a beauty on the bush and in the vase. I also can’t help but pass along a tip. For the longest lasting cut lilacs, cut all of the foliage of the stem. If you want foliage along with the flowers, the foliage should be on its own stem. It is too much for one stem to support both foliage and flowers. Simply cut the stem on a slant, no smashing with a hammer, and put it in water with a floral preservative.

A walkway in Suzy's Long Island garden meanders through a lilac grove to a gazebo beyond.

I too like Mary Leone’s wouldn’t want to be without zinnias, in all their disguises. Let me offer a timesaving tip for prolonging the bloom of cut flowers. If they have a floral preservative in the water they last even longer. There is no need to change the water, only top it off when it gets low. A floral preservative stops bacteria from growing and feeds the flowers. Tests show it can often double the life of cut flowers.

Renee Fitzgerald has the right idea. Anticipation and planning ahead are the joys of gardening. Hellebore flowers, depending on which variety you bought can open white, pink or purple, be freckled or spotted. What looks like flower petals are really bracts and they fade over the three or four months of bloom to a wonderful lime green. In the center of the bracts a lime-green seed pod forms. Make sure you look under the skirts of the mother next year for seedlings, a gift that keeps giving.

Nancy Bliss beautifully summed up one of the joys of gardening—the memories and the friends we make along the way.

The truth is, each of the entries was a pleasure to read. I walked back down memory lane, appreciating the many beautiful and diverse plants that nature has graciously given us.

All of the entries were winners in their own way. Since I could only chose one, I chose Pauline Mucciaccio’s love of the humble crocus. It really gets to the heart of what I love about gardening. The plants are an example to us all. They routinely brave ice storms, blizzards, blankets of snow, high winds, gray days and quickly plunging temperatures. They cost very little, are small as buttons, slip into the soil without much effort and reliably return to cheer us each year. Who could resist? I don’t understand how there can be gardens without them. Planting any of the early blooming bulbs, snowdrops, winter aconite, dwarf iris and crocus is as close to a sure thing as a gardener ever gets.


The Winning Entry by Pauline Mucciaccio

This is a hard question for me, since I have so many favorites. Is it the majestic Weeping Willow tree, or the beautiful maple & oak trees that dazzle me with their brilliant colors every fall, or is it that first red ripe, juicy tomato of the summer? Actually, if I had to chose my favorite it would be the crocus. By the time winter is almost over, but it's still too early to garden, there in the garden under a light blanket of snow is the hint that spring will soon be here. I see my crocuses, ever so slightly starting to show the first signs of getting ready to bloom. I love these plants, because they come in so many different sizes and colors, some with stripes, multi-color, or solid colors. Yet even though they maybe small they are the strongest flowers blooming when everything is against their survival, frigid soil, and temperatures barely above freezing. True there maybe grander flowers than the crocus, but the crocus will always remain my absolute favorite flower, because still with snow on the ground, these warriors, break winters last frozen grip on my garden to announce...Spring is on it's way!

You can read all of the entries here.

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