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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Feb 16

Sweet Gardening

Posted on February 16, 2017 at 2:48 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

This Valentine's week, it seems appropriate to celebrate sweetness. In the garden, sweetness comes in many forms. 

Many flowers are associated with love in tradition or in name. The classic rose is usually the first flower one thinks about when sharing sweet thoughts. In Italy, on the other hand, carnations are a token of ardent love. The viola is known in many countries as love-in-idleness, kiss-her-in-the-pantry and tickle-my-fancy. Forget-me-nots also spell out their charm. 

Bleeding heart
 Bleeding hearts in the shade garden

In my garden, bleeding hearts adorn the shade garden. Their tiny fern-like foliage is a beautiful contrast to the large trusses of the rhododendron flowers nearby. In another section of the garden, the deep-burgundy, heart-shaped leaves of the Cercis 'Forest Pansy' (eastern redbud) are accented with magenta flowers.

Flowers also attract with their engaging fragrances. When working on the design of a garden, I love to plan for fragrance in many corners of the landscape. It is like a treasure hunt, as you search out the mysterious source of that magical scent. Is it a lilac in bloom? Or perhaps it is the tiny flower of the Sarcococca, which emits a walloping punch of perfume. Wisteria and jasmine clamoring up trellis archways are also a treat. In many cases, it is the sweet smell of wild violets that catch the attention of anyone strolling through. 

I would be remiss if I didn't include the edible sweetness that gardens can offer. A handful of blueberries, raspberries or grapes picked from these plants as you walk by will satisfy the sweetest taste buds of all. Add a heavier trellis and plant kiwi--one male to four female plants will keep your fruit bowl and the neighbors' filled for some time to come. Include your favorite peach, nectarine, apricot, plum, apple or other fruit-tree-of-choice for the total package. If planned correctly, there can be sweet fruit to pick for months on end.

Houseplants can also bring those sweet moments of joy for those without outdoor gardens. How can I not acknowledge beautiful indoor flowers such as orchids, or Stephanotis whose fragrance will take you into another world? Just this week I enjoyed the gift of two Christmas cactus that put on a Valentine's Day show for me.

Gardens, whether they be indoor or out, sing with fragrance and sweetness. Enjoy!


Scott Stokes
February 28, 2017 at 9:50 AM
Again, a wonderful article. The best. "The viola is known in many countries as love-in-idleness" now you must explain the Italian version of love in idleness just a little more. :-)

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