Monday, May 1, 2017

May is for Gardens and Moms, and for Home grown and Hand made

By Sharon Parker
Sharon's Compendium

Happy May Day! 

It's a time to dance around the May pole, deliver May baskets to neighbors and Grandma, and honor workers and the fight for the eight-hour workday.

Flower garden zipper pull by Relaine
But for the garden obsessed, like me, it really marks the beginning of the first month of intensive gardening, when we have the most energy and inspiration for getting out and making our little patch of earth beautiful again.

I've been a gardener for more than 40 years now, which has given me lots of opportunities to learn from my mistakes, and to develop an appreciation for both the practical and aesthetic aspects of gardening.

Here follow a few tips from the lessons I've learned, along with some Minnesota handmade items that complement them.

Hey! These would also make terrific Mother's Day gifts, wouldn't you know.

When perusing my garden journal this spring, I was reminded that I was a little slow to start picking Japanese beetles off my roses last year, which led to an increasingly difficult problem to manage. Reading about that reminds me to be watchful so I can address the problem as soon as it begins, and to take preventative measures, such as applying beneficial nematodes once the ground is warm enough.

That's just one reason why a garden journal can be one of your most useful tools, and this unique handmade journal/scrapbook made by TC Witchcraft Factory may be just what you need to get started.

Garden Journal from TC Witchcraft Factory


Glass honeybee from Western Art Glass
Gardens that welcome butterflies, bees, and other insects are not only more productive, but also more beautiful, as these dainty creatures hover and dance in the air like fairies while providing useful services such as pollinating our crops and patrolling for pests. Helpful insects will feel at home in your garden if you don't use pesticides, if you're not overly tidy (weeds in corners and in the lawn are a banquet for beneficials), and if you plant a variety of flowers, especially native ones.

Seeds and sometimes plants of a few Minnesota native and butterfly friendly flowers are available from The Owl Shop, which also sells vintage items for home and garden. This is rose milkweed, also known as swamp white milkweed, which is a more attractive and less weedy variety than the common milkweed, but just as appealing to monarchs. The seeds can be planted now, or check with the shop to see if they expect to have some plants ready soon.

Rose milkweed seeds are available from the Owl Shop
When I go out to weed, I carry two buckets: a small one with my tools, and a larger one for the weeds. But I don't really need all my tools every time, so I'm thinking that this cotton canvas half apron from Anna Terre Designs would come in very handy. It has three deep pockets for small tools, gloves, or seed packets, and a loop for holding a long-handled hand hoe. She has several of these in different patterns and fabrics.

Apron from Anna Terre Designs
And here's a weeding tip: Too overwhelmed to tackle the weeding in mid summer when it's hot? Just edge the garden instead. You'll be amazed by the illusion of tidiness it creates; I have received complements on some very weedy gardens with neatly defined edges.

After a session of digging and weeding, be sure to wash hands and arms throughly with soap and cold water to remove not just dirt, but also plant oils that can irritate skin or even cause a rash. Why cold water? To avoid opening pores and allowing those oils to penetrate the skin. That's what's recommended for treating exposure to poison ivy, but other plants can also cause dermatitis, depending on your particular skin sensitivities and the plants in your garden.

Unscented soap from Faith, Soaps and Love
Why not use a wholesome handmade soap to clean the grit and plant oils off your skin? This rich unscented soap from Faith, Soaps and Love is a fine choice for all skin types, although they also have herbal soaps if you prefer something a little fancier.

For extra good measure, you could follow that with some soothing Gardener's Balm from Bath-N-Beads.

Gardener's Balm from Bath & Beads

One of the joys of gardening is bringing in a bouquet of lovelies to enjoy indoors. Picking flowers also promotes more blooms, and in the case of spring bulbs, it directs the plant's efforts into nourishing its roots for next year instead of trying to turn blossoms into seeds. Also, picking large-blossomed flowers like peonies before a rain can save them from becoming too heavy for their stems to support (just be sure to hold peonies upside down and shake out the ants before bringing them inside).

Flowers in a Vase original watercolor by Kelly Newcomer
I have an older urban garden with an abundance of hostas and daylilies. I've removed a lot of them to make way for a greater variety of plants, but I do like keeping a few around, in part because  their leaves actually look very nice in floral arrangements.

After you've gathered a nice bouquet from your garden, show off your homegrown beauties in a handmade vase, such as this lovely oval ceramic one from Diane Gamm.

Vase by Dianne Gamm

Display individual stems and small bouquets in a unique bud vase made with Lake Superior stones from Naturally Unique Rock. 

Assorted bud vases from Naturally Unique Rock

Smaller bud vases, like this one by Nicole Baxter, are great for sweet little posies, as well as the daisies and dandelions that kids like to pick and give to Mom or Grandma.

Ceramic bud vase from N. Baxter Pottery

Come to think of it, a handmade vase filled with flowers, whether from your garden or the store, makes a very nice Mother's Day gift even for moms who don't garden.

And here's one more gardening tip especially for Minnesotans: No matter how warm and tempting the weather may be in early April, don't be fooled into jumping the season. And never ever plant tomatoes before Memorial Day weekend!

Trowel Tomato art print by Cindy Lindgren


3 comments:

Cindy said...

Gardening themes are my favorite. Thanks for sharing my trowel card.

Craig Cox said...

Reading this piece while watching it snow outside reminds me that gardening in Minnesota is more exciting than most other places.

Brian Western said...

a wonderful bouquet of HandmadeMN handiwork for a lovely May Day fandango...thanks for the buzz, Sharon!