Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Posts by James A. Baggett

Lyn Berry and Margaret Knight set out to crochet a humble 120 poppies to “plant” on Remembrance Day in 2013 at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. It was this simple tribute of love and honor that sparked massive community interest, with an estimated 300,000 contributors from around the world. Contributors as young as two right through to 102 from many different backgrounds and cultures sent in their poppies and their stories. This breathtaking collection of beautiful handcrafted poppies is the result…and it is a stunning acknowledgement of the service and sacrifice of British servicemen and women. Acclaimed landscape designer Phillip Johnson collaborated with the 5000 Poppies Project and recreated this spectacular installation at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the Christopher Wren-designed Royal Hospital Chelsea. It serves as a poignant commemoration of the Centenary of WWI.

Country Gardens Visits the Gardens of London Take One: Just back from our whirlwind tour of the gardens of London and the Chelsea Flower Show and have finally sorted out my pictures to share some with you. Let me start by saying how great it was to spend seven garden-filled days with some of the loveliest Country Gardens readers from all across the United States. In the next few days I’ll show you scenes from The Savill Garden and Wisley and Hampton Court Palace and Kew Gardens, but first I have to share a few shots of the friends I bumped into (!) while attending the Chelsea Flower Show.

Here I am with my friend Val Bourne, a garden writer whose work regularly appears in Gardens Illustrated. She snuck me into the Exhibitor’s Restaurant for lunch.

After lunch Val introduced me to Sue Biggs, the Royal Horticultural Society Director General and the woman behind the Chelsea Flower Show. Imagine my surprise when I pulled back her scarf to read her nametag!

Inside the pavilion, I was happy to catch up with my friend Michael Marriott with David Austin Roses. Michael was kind enough to talk to our group about growing English Roses in the United States.

And I also met a new friend. Here is Rachel de Thame, the presenter of the BBC’s Gardeners’ World, getting ready for a live segment on the BBC from behind the press tent.

Look what’s putting on a show in my front yard here in Des Moines, Iowa—and inspiring gasps from neighborly passersby. Rhododendron calendulaceum, also known as the Flame Azalea, is one of our most spectacular native shrubs. The flowers are larger than most of the natives, measuring from 1.5 to 2.5 inches across, and come in a wide range of colors from clear yellow, through shades of orange, to brilliant red. First collected by A. Michaux in 1795 from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this species has a wide range of distribution from southern New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio as a northern limit, southward through the Appalacian mountains to northern Georgia. In late May and June, entire hillsides can be bathed with brilliant color as these spectacular azaleas come into bloom. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Helmrichs.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, stars of Cooking Channel’s The Fabulous Beekman Boys (and winners of the Amazing Race), are accidental cheesemakers: Just after they bought their 200-year-old upstate New York farmhouse—built by Revolutionary War veteran William Beekman—a neighboring farmer needed a home for his flock of 88 goats. Suddenly Josh and Brent found themselves offering up their land—and making lots of goat cheese. The handsome couple was here in Des Moines to meet with colleagues (we publish their quarterly magazine called Beekman 1802 Almanac; the next issue goes on sale May 10th). After a tour of the Meredith Photo Studios, the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen, and the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden, we enjoyed a delightful dinner together at Proof. That’s Brent (left) and Josh (right) sharing the garden love with me.

The Country Gardens team couldn’t be more proud of our former editorial intern Kelly Norris on the occasion of the publication of his beautiful new book, Plants with Style  (Timber Press). Last week, we attended a reception for Kelly at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center (GDMBC)—where he’s the Director of Horticulture—to celebrate. That’s Kelly, above, flanked by Stephanie Jutila, President and CEO of GDMBG, and CG editor James A. Baggett. As Kelly puts it, “A garden is the best way to savor life on earth.” Let him guide you to the plants that will provide a richer, more fulfilling connection between you and your own patch of soil.

My brothers and I colored our way through buckets of Crayola Crayons—we simply called them “cranz” in 1960s Indianapolis—but mostly we contained them in old cigar or shoe boxes. And the black ones were always well worn down to hard-to-hold stubs. We colored in coloring books at Sunday school, we sharpened our favorite colors with the built-in sharpener on the coveted Crayola 64-pack, and we were especially careful to stay within the lines for the special ones we drew for our grandfather in the hospital because we weren’t allowed to visit. If you were a child of the 60s, you know the distinctive waxy smell of a box of just-opened Crayons as well as I do. So I have to smile at the current trend of publishing coloring books designed for fully grown adults. Why is coloring suddenly a craze amongst grownups? For starters, coloring books are thoroughly therapeutic. Still, that doesn’t quite explain what motivates adults to color rather than, say, draw or paint or just doodle. Is it about nostalgia? Or do stressed-out adults feel comforted by the infantilizing nature of returning to an activity for small children? Is it about ceding control of a task, or making something with zero pressure? Or is it something else entirely? Three new grown-up coloring books have recently arrived on my desk that are of special interest to garden-lovers:

Color the Natural World (“a Timber Press coloring book”) by Zoe Keller features intricately drawn plants and animals ($12.95).

Every Little Thing (“a Flat Vernacular coloring book” from Potter Style) by Payton Coswell Turner is a mesmerizing hand-drawn coloring book that includes a parade of woodland plants and creatures ($15.99).

I <Heart> Coloring Flowers (from Price Stern Sloan) is a pocket-size coloring book of nothing but flowers illustrated by Lizzie Preston and Jane Ryder-Gray ($9.99).

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