Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Knowing Dee

You guys. I am well aware of how lucky I am, okay? 
Yesterday just proved it all over again. 

For several friendly, languid hours I sat, strolled, chatted, and brunched
with a beautiful and interesting woman you will want to know.
She and I first met in 2012 for that nifty little Oklahoma Bloggers' Ball we had here at the farm.
She advised me in my garden when we hosted a wedding  a couple of months later.
And most importantly we have become friends.

Dee Nash writes over at Red Dirt Ramblings and 
generously gave me practically all of her Tuesday 
so that I can share it with you. 

She sweetly photographed me in my garden for her upcoming book.
(terrifying but she made it so easy... More on that later...)
We talked about garden pests and best practices.
We played with Pacino and petted Mia.
We drank coffee, ate hard boiled eggs and downed fresh fruit smoothies.

We talked about life and family and books and discovered 
another few dozen wonderful things we have in common.

Dee and I topped off the afternoon by visiting a nearby tree farm,
Tony is a friend of hers and her husband's.
Do you know how much fun it was for me to explore 
a fancy garden center with someone 
whose passion for plants matches my own, 
but whose knowledge triples it?
So. Much. Fun. 
She was like a happy little girl, and I loved it.
On her urging, I brought home a St. John's Wort for my new herb garden.

I was excited about her visit ahead of time;
but I had no idea how much the day would nourish my soul.

Thank you, Dee, for so much enriching conversation!
Thank you for your gardening encouragement and inspiration,
and thank you for sharing these wonderful interview answers that follow!
You are an Oklahoma treasure, and I am proud to call you my friend.

Dee Nash holding a pretty variegated canna at Tony's Tree Plantation

1.     Do you come from a long line of gardeners?
Yes and No. Both of my grandmothers and one grandfather were gardeners, but my parents weren't. I learned most of my gardening from toddling after my Grandma Nita and from books. She died when my son, now 18, was two, so I've read a lot of books.

2.     What is your earliest gardening memory?
You may be too young to remember small white toddler shoes, but I remember mine against the black soil of my grandmother’s garden in Commerce, Oklahoma. I was walking behind her. I also remember her teaching about the “bad butterflies” i.e., cabbage moths, and why she had to kill them.

3.     At what age did you start your own garden?
It depends upon what you mean by garden. I had house plants in my bedroom when I was 13. I planted outside for the first time at my first home, a mobile home in a trailer park. I was 19.

4.     What was your first plant, if you remember?
Polka dot plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya. Mine was green with light pink polka dots. I was about twelve.

5.     When did you first start keeping a garden journal?
I’m embarrassed to say I've started about a billion of them, but I don’t keep them up very well. I guess the blog is my real garden journal. Keeping too much info, too neatly, takes the joy out of it for me. I’m very right brained.
I love that about you, Dee! I am right brained too, and keeping a blog is the ONLY way I am ever gonna keep an ongoing real record of anything. And three cheers for joyful chaos. 

6.     When did you first start photographing your gardens?
In 2004. I wanted to see the layout.

7.     Present day, do you prefer growing edibles or ornamentals?
I like both. I find ornamentals to be less work, but I like to eat the edibles so there you are!

8.     Two phrases you have coined are very special to me... "English with an Oklahoman accent" and             "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" for container gardening... Do you have any new comments or adds for                   these?
I can take credit for the first one, but the second was actually coined by Steve Silk in Fine Gardening magazine a long time ago. Here’s the link to his article: I try to give him credit whenever I write the terms. They are perfect though.
As for “English with an Oklahoma accent,” that’s mine. It pretty much explains itself. It simply explains my love of the English cottage style garden, but the reality of gardening in a state with climate as difficult as Oklahoma. In other words, you need different plants. I've been experimenting with Carol Klein’s favorite plants though this year. I started a lot of them with seed. I’m testing how they will perform here.

9.     How has your gardening style evolved over time?
I’m much more intense and intentional than I once was. I think more about design and symmetry.
I love the photos of your garden. Your use of color, scale, shape, rhythm... All so beautiful. Living, changing artwork.

10.  What factors or life events have affected these changes?
My kids growing up. I have more time. However, the writing and speaking have really picked up so I now need a helper in the garden. I’m considering a horticulture intern. I must talk to OSU about that.
What a lucky intern that will be! I would love to have worked with someone like you in college.

11.  Who and what are your biggest gardening influences today?
Carol Klein and Sarah Raven, both in England. I love Raven’s use of dark, rich color in the garden. I enjoy Klein’s sense of fun. She loves gardening and loves to share her craft. My friend, Helen Weis, is also a great influence as is Deborah Silver, each for their sense of design. Helen is always stressing symmetry to keep my jungle in some kind of form.

12.  I know you love Pinterest (I do too) and have written a great piece on its usefulness... Where else do you find inspiration?
I watch English gardening shows on You can’t get their shows here in the U.S. very often. Sometimes, they are on YouTube, but not with any regularity. I can’t buy the DVDs because they are in a different format. I love Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden, I bought the companion book. I also watch Sarah Raven on YouTube. She isn't as infectious as Klein, but is soothing. I watch these in the winter when I’m ready to go mad. February is the worst month for me. I also read a lot of gardening books when I’m not writing my own. Sarah Raven’s The Bold and Brilliant Garden is a treasure. Also, here in America, I follow Nan Ondra’s blog, Hayefield. I've also bought most of her books. Nan is a darling, and I enjoy her photos and insights so much.

13.  How did you break into the professional garden writing world?
I was already writing professionally for the local newspaper, The Oklahoman, occasionally, along with other regional newspapers. I also wrote for the state Catholic newspaper. I joined the Garden Writers Association where I met wonderful people who encouraged me to start a blog. The blog helped national editors see my work. I then began speaking at various venues. I met my publisher at a GWA event. Two years later, I pitched them a book idea. Hint: I already had the outline ready, and they knew me. I emailed them the outline at their request when I got home.

14.  Also, how did you come to do the landscaping at Mount Saint Mary's?
I don’t do MSM’s landscaping. I do the landscaping for St. Mary’s in Guthrie. We now attend church there, and she went to 8th grade at their middle school. I just saw a need, asked the priest if I could work on it, and when he said, yes, I did. I've been working on it for over a year now. I do get help from friends and volunteers for the big jobs. It’s starting to take shape. I’m happy. Tony of Tony’s Tree Plantation (?) is the landscaper for MSM. He does a beautiful job.

15.  Congratulations for your first book! I imagine more book ideas are already in the back of your mind. Care to spill any literary beans? Don't worry. Not too many people read my blog anyway. We'll keep it secret.
LOL! Thanks. You need to be more specific. Hmmm, it’s a book for 20/30 something gardeners just starting out. That’s all I can say until after August when the cover and other stuff is announced.
We will be tuning in to watch this adventure unfold! And you need to know how happy you made me to be invited to take photos for this age bracket. : ) By the time you book hits the shelves, I will barley qualify.

16.  Can you name your Top Five favorite plants? Or is that like asking you to name your favorite child?
It’s not easy, but here goes.
            A. Roses, but my love is becoming more jaded over time. I had Rose Rosette Disease in the garden, and I lost six roses to it. I have over 90. I think I just saw it on another old (over 25 years old) rose. I will have to dig it out in fall, and it will be very hard. It is ‘Cl. Old Blush.’ I thought I had it eliminated, but I am seeing similar damage. Of roses, my favorites are ‘Carefree Beauty,’ ‘Dame de Coeur,’ the Drift(r) series of roses, particularly Pink Drift, Coral Drift and Red Drift. I've added a lot more red to my color scheme over the years. I like the depth of color. I’m also still a big fan of single Pink Knockout(r). They are rock hardy in my yard. Of the David Austins, ‘Gertrude Jekyll,’ ‘Graham Thomas’ and ‘Darcey Bussell’ are favorite cultivars.
          B. The humble day-lily, Hemerocallis. If you live in the south, you can’t miss with day-lilies. They are beautiful and easy to grow. If you choose yours based upon early, mid and late blooming, you will get two months of bloom.
            C. Dahlias, but they aren't easy to grow here. I’m just sayin’. I like the ones with bronze foliage.
            D. Tomatoes. I love all types. Cherry types are easy to grow. Larger, potato-leaved ones don’t fruit as often and take longer, but the tomatoes are wonderful. I don’t like ‘Brandywine,’ but I am fond of the pink, ‘Marianna’s Peace.’ I now collect seed. Eggplants are the other edible I can’t be without. Oh, and onions too. I make a mean salsa.
            E. Japanese maples. I like all types. Some perform better in Oklahoma than others. They must have a windbreak and supplemental irrigation. Also, they need to be on the north side of the house most of the time. ‘Tamukeyama’ will take a lot of sun although in hotter years, it has leaf burn. 
You and I have so much in common. Great choices. Oklahoma gardeners should be paying attention!

17.  Do your husband or children ever ask you to grow certain things?
Yes, Bill asks for potatoes and green beans, not the fuzzy flat kind. There’s a story there.
I'd love to hear this story.

18.  How much does your family participate in your gardens?
The kids sometimes help, but at this time, they don’t like to garden. They are teens and have been surrounded by it all their lives. Bill helps a lot with hardscaping, building greenhouses, setting up fence. He likes to build stuff. I like the plant work. He doesn't.
Sounds familiar... xoxo

19.  Do you have any special gardening proverbs or expressions that are near and dear to you?
That’s funny because I think of the weirdest stuff while gardening, and it’s not usually related. For example, when I weed, I think “Out, out damn spot” from Macbeth. I don’t know why.
I love that. I find so much meditation and stress relief in weeding. Not weird at all.

20.  What is some of the best gardening advice you have ever received? Who offered it? Did you heed it?
I've received so much good advice over the years. My friend, Wanda Faller, used to say to "plant things pretty close together and not worry too much." She now lives in Washington state.
As with so much wisdom in the gardening world, this seems relevant to all of life. "Stay close together and don't worry too much." Excellent.

21.  What gardening questions do you get asked most often?
People often want me to landscape their properties. I’m not a landscaper or landscape designer. I’ll come over and garden coach you though. I get asked a lot about what will grow in Oklahoma, or does nothing grow here. That was the primary question of 2011 and 2012. In those years, not much. 2013 has been a whole different animal.
I am so glad you hear you mention that last part! Lots of my friends started gardening in the most recent HORRIFIC years and felt discouraged, with good reason. But it's just not the norm. Try again ladies and gentlemen!

22.  Do you think that anyone can be a successful gardener? What are the basic criteria?
Yes. You must like to be outside. You need a water source in our state, preferably drip irrigation or soaker hoses, but you can use sprinklers if you time them right. You must be consistent. You need to learn to tolerate imperfection and bugs. You don’t have to like either, but toleration is key.

23.  I know that you and I both love this beautiful state... Oklahoma. Indian Territory. The Red Dirt beauty. But it certainly presents some unique challenges in the garden. And I know you are widely travelled, visiting gardens in lots of different climates and regions. If not here in Oklahoma, then where in this big wide world would choose to grow and tend your personal Eden?
Hawaii or California. Need I say more?

24.  Okay. You are stranded on a desert island. You can choose only one gardening tool (made by Fiskars of course)  and five plants either in seed or seedling form to grow your own food. What do you bring along?
Well, honestly, the tool would be made by DeWitt. It’s a Dutch Hand Hoe. I can’t garden without one. 1. Sunflowers. 2. Zinnias. I need those because they are easy and pretty, and I can save seed. 3. Tomatoes. 4. Garlic. 5. Lettuce of some sort. I like ‘Nevada’ and ‘Black-Seeded Simpson.’
Again, great choices.

25.  Similarly, you are given one year and a choice of only five plants to grow the most beautiful flower garden, perhaps for a wedding or royal birth or something. What is your floral focus?
Roses. You must have roses for a wedding or royal birth. Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ because it’s an easy and native hydrangea, and it is white. Peonies, big pink ones like ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, Asparagus fern for greenery and great big sunflowers as a backdrop. I know the last doesn't go with the other four, but I love sunflowers. They are tall and beautiful. Oh, and I must have Shasta daisies, Leucanthemum x superbum  ‘Becky’. Whoops, that’s six isn't it?
You're totally forgiven. In fact, you get extra credit. xoxo

26.  I am big fan of Niki Jabbour, and I know you two are friends. Have you mastered the year-round vegetable gardening techniques? Do you believe it can be done in Oklahoma?
If Niki can do it in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I would think so. I have mastered ¾ of the year. Honestly, I get tired around Christmas with all the mom duties. However, I now have a greenhouse, and Bill wants to build cold frames, so yes, it can be done. Niki is the master. I am simply the grasshopper where this is concerned. LOL!
(Hang on now, I thought we hate grasshoppers.)

27.  All good gardeners are constantly growing, learning, and improving. What questions do you still have that need answering, and where do you seek your best information? What challenges do you still face?
How do we cure Rose Rosette Disease? What about Sudden Oak Death? I have it in our trees here. Our climate is a big issue although I manage pretty well. I always love learning about new plants.

28.  What big gardening adventures are on your horizon?
Finishing the book. Building a cold frame. Keeping it all going. Each year is a new addition. I learn more every year about growing vegetables on trellises and how to do things better.

29.  Please share a little more about your recent greenhouse addition. What prompted it? How big is it? What is going on inside its opaque walls? Has it proven worthy of the investment yet?
The greenhouse is 8 x 16, but I’m not using it yet. We need to finish the water system which involves rain barrels and a copper gutter. We traveled a lot this year so we’re behind. Besides, I need that greenhouse for winter so I won’t be so bored.

30.  When you visit other people's gardens, surely you do little edits in your mind. I mean, I do! Not to be critical; just because it's fun. What are some common "changes" you make to other people's gardens?
I really don’t. I mean, if they’re out of control and weeding needs to be done, I think about that. Also, deadheading. We should all get the clippers out and deadhead more often. It makes the garden neat and tidy. Plus, flowers bloom better. Harvested vegetables is the same thing in the edible garden. As for design, I don’t. I figure everyone needs their own space to do their thing.
More solid life advice, I think. We all need space to do out own thing. Love the advice to keep weeds out and deadhead or harvest regularly. I am often surprised by how much better my garden looks just after a good, thorough cleaning.

31.  What one big message would you get out to the average gardener, to help them?
Hang in there. Rome wasn't built in a day. Much of my garden is 25 years old.
Bless you for saying this, Dee. I have to repeat it to myself almost weekly.

32.  Now... what would you tell ME? Go ahead, I can take it.
I need to see your garden first Missy.
Fair enough Missy. haha! For my readers to know... Let me say that I was terrified of showing you my garden, although you gave me to no reason to fear. I am just alone in it all the time, and seeing it through someone else's eyes was daunting. Thank you for all of your kind words... Now tell me what you REALLY thought. i already know that I need to weed better. : )

33.  I am sure you spend at least a little time in your Eden every day... But you also are busy caring for your beautiful family and have several other professional pursuits, too. So. Do you have a gardening schedule? Do you follow a daily or a weekly routine? Or is it intuitive and fluctuating based on needs?
It’s intuitive. I have no schedule. I tend to get out there and never come back in. Ask my kids! When I’m writing and get really stuck, I go outside. Also, if I’m sad, it’s the first place I go. My best friend was just diagnosed with cancer. I pray a lot in the garden, and sometimes I cry.
It is possibly the most sacred place in my home, too, for times like this. I think God meets us in the garden when we need it. And it is often the first place we notice His miracles. Prayers for your sweet friend. xoxo

34.  Travelling seems to be at its peak when the garden is also at its peak, summertime. It's a cruel joke, and it always divides my heart. How do you prepare your garden for long absences?
I installed drip irrigation in my pots and put everything on timers. As for the weeds, I mulch beforehand and let the grass grow where it may. Then, I play catch up when I get home.

35.  My final and most important question: Do you really wear gardening gloves every day?
No, but I do most of the time. My hands can’t keep up with the amount of work I do. However, I do go out there sometimes without them, and invariably, I get bit, stung, or I clip my little finger. Yes, I did it last week. Gardening gloves might have lessened the injury. I have a basket of gloves by my back door.
I feel so honored by this as though I’m in Horticulture magazine’s profile or something. Great questions. As for that desert island, we should check out which plants can handle salt spray best. Perhaps, read Celia Thaxter?
Haha!! Great! I am so glad. You honored me by visiting the farm, and I certainly appreciate all of this wonderful insight. As for Celia Thaxter, yes. Let's start there then travel like mad.


   Wasn't that fantastic? I thoroughly enjoyed every word here and every moment with Dee yesterday. If you're not already following her blog, I encourage you to start. I learn volumes there and also glean so much inspiration.

   And friends, please stay tuned throughout the year. I'll keep you updated on her book release, and if you're local, won't you join us for her book release reception here at the farm? 

   Happy gardening!

"Stay close together and don't worry too much."
~Wanda Faller


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