Gardening Q & A

liliesQuestion: How can I tell which plants will survive in my agricultural zone?

Answer: Most plant catalogs will give the coldness/heat zone in the cultural information adjacent to the photograph of the plant abbreviated with a Z.

When you buy a perennial (a plant that survives winter and stays with you for years), be certain it matches your hardiness zone. Here in Western NY, my zone is 4-5 which limits some plants I would dearly love to grow. Annuals grow from seed and only last for one season. Even there, cold/hot summers are a consideration. Zinnias, for instance, love hot dry summers but are prone to disease in very persistently wet days. Impatiens will curl up their toes and fade away if the nights dip below 40’s. The same goes for the popular herb basil.

In lieu of catalog information, check with your local nurseryman. They know the area best and can give invaluable information. Best to be forewarned to save you disappointment and money.


Courage for High Bush Cranberry and Authors

One of my favorite North American shrubs, which grows no more than twelve feet high, is a viburnum trilobum, common name “High Bush Cranberry”. The attractive red berries make great jams and jellies, presumably used similar to our cranberry sauce. Left on the shrubs, the birds feed on them all winter.

I voted the viburnum as number one in usefulness: lovely white flowers in the spring, sparkling red berries late summer and glorious red foliage in the fall. I happily encouraged every seedling that volunteered on my property.

That was before I heard about the dreaded viburnum leaf beetle and its larva. One summer it seemed every shrub was infested by this dreadful beetle. In two years every single bush was destroyed. Other members of the viburnum family also bit the dust, but I mourned only the high bush. This story has a happy ending. Last year I discovered two bushes with red berries. This year they are thriving. Why they were missed I have no idea but I admire the courage for their come back from severe adversity.

In my last post, I mentioned how sensitive, creative writers must grow a skin as tough as an alligator’s. When they get a submission rejection by a publisher or agent, they find the courage to pick their wounded egos up and start again. One of the best ways to do this is to remember everyone is not going to like, approve or accept your offerings. The task is to find those who do. Reading submission requirements is probably the best way to find a fit for your work. Key word here is “fit”. A rejection is not necessarily a commentary on your work. It may be just a poor fit for that month, year and day. Or it may be that your work stinks. 🙂  In either case, it’s back to the computer to rework your story, just in case. It takes courage, stamina, and a propped up ego, but success will be well worth it in the end.

Through My Window

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStories that live in my imagination now have windows of opportunity. I’ve loved writing all my life. Why then did I wait so long to sit down and express my imagination formally? Could it be lack of confidence? It takes nerve and sheer determination to complete a novel. After that it gets difficult. Writing is hard work, but sending stories out to be judged and reviewed is terrifying. Authors are sensitive people and the tough skin one needs has to be cultivated for survival. There’s lots of advice out in the world about handling reviews, unkind comments or worst, nothing at all. (Hint: if you have a friend who writes, please do an honest, but kind review for him/her and post it. Anyone who reviews and posts for others is a friend of all authors and readers everywhere).

Looking through my window you may see my back “kitchen” garden. At the breakfast table I gaze out at the wild flowers blooming in high summer. Since I work in a plant nursery, you may wonder why I cultivate wild flowers. I love them. Simple as that.  The yellow blossom is a plant called Elecampane, a medicinal herb still in use in some sections of the world. It’s a tall stately plant with large, dignified leaves. It will reseed but very slowly. I leave the seeds on for the birds, mainly gold finches, who visit in the winter. More on the view out my window next post.

Sweet Joe Pye

It’s said that when Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) blooms, summer is half over. I’ve noticed it’s definitely in bud. joe_pye_weedIt’s difficult for me with my other love to concentrate only on writing. I’m part owner in a plant nursery and our busy season is summer, of course. Still, ideas come to me when I’m out watering, selling plants, greeting customers and making bouquets for farmers’ markets, all labors of love.

Once while planting datura, an evil short story blinked into my conscious mind almost totally intact. I couldn’t wait to get home to get it all down. When I gave it out to a couple of female friends for quick beta reads, they loved it.

They still ask about it, but I haven’t found a proper home for it to be released as yet. Datura has lovely trumpet shaped blossoms but, for the uninitiated, is poison (all parts of the plant), so you might suspect a murder mystery.

Nature is a recurring theme in most of my stories. Authors write what they know and love. My Regency Romance ladies are out gathering herbs even as they plan their gowns for their coming out balls. The young women learn from their mothers how to use the “still” room to concoct formulas for household uses. Where do ideas come from for our stories? Authors borrow from real life and then take a twist or two from our imagination. It all works out somehow.

Emma Lane
soon to be released ~ THE DUKE AND MISS AMABEL HAWKINS