Appalachia Gardening

Getting Stuff Done

Fall work day

While me and the girls were out gallivanting at Mountain Heritage Day, The Deer Hunter was at home getting stuff done.

Back in the day, when the girls got big enough to tag along outside with me, I became slightly obsessed with flowers. I was constantly begging flowers out of someones yard or flipping through the pages of flower catalogs wishing I could buy a plant from every page.

I spent a lot of time working in my flowers. I hauled loads of rocks from the creek to border the beds with, did my best to keep the weeds at bay, and deadheaded the flowers to encourage new growth. I even followed the advice of horticulturalists and tied my daffodil leaves into neat little tufts instead of cutting them off once they became ragged and brown edged.

Grannys mustard greens

It was like I never thought of growing food-only flowers. Maybe it was because Granny and Pap were still spry enough to handle all of the ‘gardening for food’ chores in those days.

Then along came a year when money was even tighter than usual and I thought I should plant things that would actually benefit us instead of more flowers. I was hooked from the first cucumber, tomato, or whatever it was that I planted-nurtured-and then ate-all from my own garden. After that-I pretty much let flowers fall to the wayside and concentrated on growing things we could eat.

Growing plums in appalachia

My vegetable gardening expanded each year, and as it did, my flowers were more and more neglected. Right away I totally abandoned the flower bed that was the greatest distance from the house. The woods quickly reclaimed what I ignored. I kept the other beds up-but mostly my care for the plants came when I couldn’t take looking at the weeds any longer.

Instead of wishing for flowers I began to wish for fruit trees and bushes. Miss Cindy helped me by bringing plants sent by her friend Saleh. Uncle Henry donated pear trees and I bought raspberry plants off ebay.

The past few years, The Deer Hunter and I have felt the need to be even more self sufficient and we’ve added additional perennial food plants such as Asparagus, Salsify, and Mushrooms to our gardens.

Tipper working in the garden

Miss Cindy sent good news the other day-Saleh had blueberry bushes and grapevine starts for us. There was only one problem-where to put the new plants?

We threw around idea after idea-but none seemed to work. I finally realized my long perennial flower bed which gets a full day of sunshine was the perfect place. The Deer Hunter said-“What about your flowers? We could move them?” I said “You know what-I don’t want them anymore. And I still have tons of flowers without that bed anyway.”

It was true-once I thought about the flower bed, I realized the only thing I would miss was my wild phlox plants and my Uncle Woodrow’s rose bush.

So while we were gone, The Deer Hunter cut all the flowers down and starting just beyond Woodrow’s rose he plowed the rest under. I knew he was working while we were out playing and enjoying WCU’s offerings. He was on my mind several times that day-but truthfully it wasn’t cause I was feeling bad or worrying-I was wishing I had dug up my daffodils!

Daffodil bulbs in nc

When we got home late that evening, the yard looked so much larger. The Deer Hunter said “Well now that the flowers are gone are you sad?” As I looked around I said “No, not at all.”

I had already decided I wasn’t going to mention the daffodil bulbs to The Deer Hunter-I was just going to be grateful he had completed all that work without my help.

Breaking new ground

As I walked along the edge of the plowed area the next morning I had a pleasant surprise. My daffodil bulbs were turned out of the dark dirt like potatoes. I picked up over a gallon-now I just have to figure out where to put them.

Are you a flower grower, a food grower, or both?


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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 28, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    We are both; I grow roses, marigolds and herbs (mostly parsley which I love to cook like turnip greens and eat); Brother Tom grows tomatoes and sometimes a variety of peppers. This year Bro Tom also tried growing morning glories in a most unusual way – in large pots beneath the excess clothes lines we have strung in and around between the numerous pine trees in our backyard. He put rope leaders up from each morning glory pot and tied it to the clothes line so as it grew up the leader rope to the clothes lines, it spread out like a blanket along it. The leaves were gorgeous, but we hadn’t realized how much morning sun they needed, so we never got flowers. Next year we’ll plan that better, and I bet we’ll get beautiful blankets of morning glories growing from our excess clothes lines.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    October 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I’m normally a “both” person but the last few years with our Market Garden becoming more of a reality and looking forward to the Farm becoming our main source of income (Dirt retires soon, to be a farmer for the second half of life), it’s true, the flower side of life has taken it in the shorts. This fall the back yard, where most of my purely ornamental gardens are, is getting a total revamping. It will eventually (I figure two years work) be a beautiful walking garden, forb lawn paths wandering between beds of fragrant, healing, gastronomical herbs. And of course my cut flower garden should be ready for my 2014 season, it hasn’t been AS neglected.
    I hope you find a good place for your daffs, it is a good thing to be able to feed soul and stomach alike. But there is nothing like the beauty of a squash to lay you back a bit.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Okra has a beautiful blossom although it lasts for only a day.
    Sunflowers last throughout the late summer. Toasted, it’s seeds are a delight to the tongue.
    What flower blooms lovelier than sweet pea?
    Pick your squash while the flower is still attached and fry it up too. Can heaven be much better?
    Potatoes and onions bloom too, as do cukes, corn and beans. It depends on you, what do you want to call flowers?
    Flowers are just part of the life cycle of plants. If we can enjoy them with our eyes, that’s great. If we can enjoy them with out noses, that’s better. If we can enjoy them with our tongues too, that’s paradise.
    The flower of a corn plant makes a broom as well as a bloom, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 30, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Bill Burnett is right about our parents being smart but if we can’t do one better than them, then we are backing up, or at best standing still. If we haven’t learned from them and added to it, what hope is there for humanity. I can only hope that the survival of the human race doesn’t depend on me!

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Both!! as well as encouraging/protecting the “wild ones” such as our mustang grapes and dewberries and the many wildflowers. Our fall wildflowers can make a nice show, especially gayfeather, eryngo, blue mealy sage, assorted fall milkweeds, and those wonderful maxmillian sunflowers – there are a few stalwart individuals showing off in spite of the drought.
    I too love day lillies – unfortunately, so do our neighbors cows!! – and they visit often! Luckily, I’ve been able to shoo them off before they do too much damage. These Houdini cows have confounded all of our neighbors efforts to constrain them.
    Enjoy your new gardens. I wonder if any of your readers have plants they’d like to pass-a-long to Texas.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    git r done!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I use to enjoy lots of flowers and
    shrubbery, but now just concentrate
    on my garden and lawn.
    Bill Burnett’s last line really hits
    home to me too…Ken

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    September 30, 2013 at 11:40 am

    The only thing we can grow is deer and taro. The deer eat everything else,and Taro won’t mature here. It needs 12 -15 months to mature, and the late fall will probably kill it. But the leaves are inedible unless cooked, so the deer leave it alone.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Flowers ——

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I just love all my flowers and I strive to keep them as healthy as possible. I miss them when they bloom and I am not here to enjoy them. However, I experiment with some vegetables and have enjoyed my small crop – two plants – of bell peppers. Right now I have some flowers starting to bloom as well as some roses. I understand your reasoning and don’t disagree one bit, but I don’t have a large piece of land, and being retired, the flowers and greenery bring me great pleasure.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 10:01 am

    My ex father-in-law always said if a person was going to plant a tree, it should bear fruit. I took his advice and have enjoyed the rewards for many years. I used to plant a half acre vegetable garden, till and harvest it without any help. The garden has become smaller each year. There’s an area between two sheds where I plant Zinnas every spring. They are so care-free, bloom for months and the most beautiful sight. We visited an old house that had not been lived in since the early 60’s. The wild roses were breathtaking! They were the small pink ones that grew on vines that had consumed most of the front yard. It was late summer and I knew it would be hard to get a start from them. I brought them home and planted them on each side of an entrance archway and coverd them with jars that fall and winter. I wonder if some of the private planes that fly over here in June are doing tours of my roses. LOL

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Since my Daddy is no longer with us don’t worry with a garden anymore. Like Miss Cindy said, it sure is interesting how the passage of time can change our interests.
    I have only two flowers now that I cultivate. An old red rose bush Momma gave me years ago and a little clump of white cushion mums that I have in an inconspicuous place – well out of harms way – at the old home place. They also were given to me years ago by Momma. Actually, don’t really care for white flowers anymore especially a white rose but I keep those cushion mums because of her.
    That was neat how the Deer Hunter saved your daffodils. He must like you. LOL

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    September 30, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Both. You can look at my yard then look inside my house and see which place I’d rather work. 🙂

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I see the perfect place for your daffodils…The banks beside the steps…They can be left along til the foliage dies and then mow.
    All those rocks, a huge sheet of black landscape fabric covering the bank. Slits cut in the fabric, bulbs planted, maybe the sun tolerant specias of hosta right next to the steps…and then cover with with rocks..Instand rock garden…Oh, and some wood chip mulch to cover the little spaces and right up nex to the slits to hide the fabric. “WA-LA” instant rock garden and no mowing the bank…Oh maybe some evergreen daylilies to hang over when they come in the June!
    I’d just love to get my hands in that new grape, blueberry, flower bed….LOL Already a sign of hope for the Spring!
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 30, 2013 at 8:38 am

    The older we get, the more our urge to grow plants that don’t require a lot of bed making, like annuals. Garden for us nowadays and for the last few years had been right in our front yard. Raised beds! We have some longer raised beds in a big side lot.
    Back in the day we had a big loamy garden down in the back of our house and grew and canned lots of vegetables..Our help grew up to be men with their own raised garden beds. It really takes a lot of time to homestead and raise crops, berries and time for tree growth. You have to stay right on top of things like weeds, disease and predators. Our Scuppernongs finally came in pretty good this year. We didn’t watch well and the birds and deer ate our grapes and blueberries..
    Our aparagus needs to have a restoration..The ground hogs and rabbits nibble the tops off. The garlic and horseradish can’t be killed..LOL
    We have over 500 varieties of Day Lilies and Iris…Mothers favorite was Iris beds and I grew up planting and dividing iris every three or four years..
    I really think if push came to shove I would do without a potato if it meant digging up my daffodils…I love them and have gathered several varieties thru the years…They are faithful bulbs as you know by visiting old homesteads, there will be the iris and golden bells or forsynthees as my Granma called them!
    Just take the bulbs toss around in the back or front yard and plant where they land. Naturalizing is my favorite way to plant them…Usually by the time the grass needs a short mowing the daffys and narcisus have faded until the next year!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I won’t hurt a thing if you go along that row where the grapes will be planted or blueberries and push in a few daffodils along, they are tough and self sustaining for the most part and bring joy in the springtime, especially ina sunny spot, no weeding necessary!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    September 30, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Tipper: I do believe you use to measure up to my passion flowers. Now it is time I get serious about those ‘March Flowers’ and get rid of some! But they were the only flowers my Mother had for the show of early spring arriving in the mountains. Now I must have a thousand growing in a dozen gardens and THE DEER DO NOT BOTHER THEM! If I could just find a cure for my DAY LILIES!!! Those Deer consume every blossom and even the straps! Oh well.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 30, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Tipper–I grow a little bit of everything–on the perennial side of things, there’s asparagus, garlic, and a whole bunch of “come back” herbs. As for fruits and berries, I have rasperries, blueberry plants which are 40 years old and 10 feet tall, thornless blackberries, apples, cooking pears, oriental persimmons, Chinese chestnuts, and pecans. I grow a big garden (actually two, since I have two plots and a raise a wide variety of vegetables). Right now we’re down to nothing but okra and egg plant to harvest, but cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips, five kinds of lettuce, mustard greens, and Swiss chard are coming on.
    As for flowers, I have beds scattered all over the place.
    It is all my therapy and escape from a keyboard.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 30, 2013 at 7:59 am

    That looks like a perfect spot for the blueberries! The Deer Hunter said he had a spot for the grape vines also.
    This year Saleh planted marigolds for the bees, so they wouldn’t consume his grapes and it worked. They stayed on the flowers and he was able to harvest his grapes.
    Tipper, it sure is interesting to watch how priorities change through life. Things that used to seem important are now not so much.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 30, 2013 at 7:33 am

    I try to grow food-stuff while my Wonderful Bride of 36 years tomorrow loves her flowers. When one thinks about it the biggest waste of time and space is all the grass we labor over in our lawns. Thinking back to my youth I remember small lawns and large fields of crops. If you saw large areas of grass you could bet it was for grazing or hay. I fear we are about to return to those days with food prices increasing at the rate we are seeing. It appears our parents were smarter than we are but that’s nothing new, I’ve said for years that the older I got the smarter my parents became.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 30, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Both, in fact we are planning a community garden in my town, I am insisting there are flowers to feed the soul along with veggies to feed the body.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Doesn’t that garden bed look great! We plant both flowers and vegetables but I do admit that my flower beds have become mostly trusty, hard working, low-care perennials like iris and day lily and mostly were pass along plants that have a memory for me.

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