When tragedy strikes, solace can be found in the garden

September 4, 2011 

Why is it that many memories that are shocking and sad stay in the mind while over time so many happy and loving ones fade away?

It was Ladies Day at Bear Creek Golf club. My cart mate, Maggie Molony, and I had finished playing the 7th hole when a man raking a greenside sand trap told us that a plane had just hit a tall building in New York. We thought it likely that a small plane had again hit the Empire State Building. We played holes 8 and 9 and proceeded on to 10. As we passed the bag room, we were stopped by a gentleman who told us that a large plane had hit the World Trade Center. Maggie and I looked at one another and said in unison, "I'm going home and turning on the television."

The afternoon was spent sitting and watching and crying. My husband, Larry, came home, and we remembered that the last time we'd spent a similar afternoon was the day President Kennedy was shot. I remember I heard this bulletin on the car radio as I drove home from the A&P. I pulled over and cried with Walter Cronkite.

Flash back to the '40s; I was pitching a softball game, one dormitory team against another, when a classmate ran over to tell us that President Roosevelt had died. I cried then, too; I'd grown up while he was in office. He'd become a father figure to me.

The fourth bad memory happened on a Sunday. My brother and I were reading the Sunday funnies on the living room floor. The phone rang -- two longs and a short. It was a neighbor to say "turn on your radio." The date was December 7, 1941.

It has been said by those more eloquent than I, that we find peace and solace in the garden. I've spent hours thinking of those touched in a personal way by those four events.

As I write this, it's still August, it's still hot. This summer with its prolonged heat and dry spell will gradually fade into memory. There were lessons to be learned; the most important: recognizing the plants in our garden that look as vibrant as when planted three or more months ago.

Four stars go to zinnias and coleus, summer annuals that performed beyond expectation. This was not just any coleus. We're awarding a redhead; a fast-growing, full-sun plant. Mary O'Connor, global manager for Ball Horticultural Company, who developed the plant, named it "The Redhead" when she saw the alluring dark, luscious, wine-red coleus plant for the first time.

If you're a plant propagator, you picked up on "fast growing." From the one "Redhead" plant purchased locally, I've now six redheads in various sun spots in the ground and in pots.

THE FALL GARDEN

Many a Lowcountry gardener has come to recognize that a vegetable garden started in the fall can be more satisfying then one planted in spring. Easy to grow from seed are beets, kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, salad greens, onions, leeks and broccoli. To this list add garlic, the perfect addition to the fall garden.

Garlic bulbs can be planted through November, best after first frost. You'll need well-drained, high-nutrient soil, including lots of nitrogen and plenty of sunshine. There are two bulb types: hardneck, a variety that sends up a spike (scape) that should be removed before maturity to help the garlic put all its energy into bulb making; and softneck, that does not produce a flower spike unless highly stressed, and is considered easier to grow.

After planting (pointed end up), mulch well to keep weeds out. Water to maintain steady moisture throughout growing season; too much moisture during the two months before harvesting can rot the crop. Garlic does not like soggy feet. Harvest when there are only four to five green leaves on the plant. Sources for garlic are Johnnyseeds.com (877-564-6697) and Richters, OrderDesk@Richters.com (800-668-4372).

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