In East Texas Gardens

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Gardening is a labor of love. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I’ve spent a day pulling weeds or spreading fertilizer or trimming brambles. It only makes sense to reward your labor with plants that you love.

Take, for example, a vegetable garden. Why would you grow a vegetable that you don’t love to eat? I mean, who wants a bushel basket of zucchini, if they don’t like the taste of zucchini? I have to admit, I’m not that great a fan of beefsteak tomatoes – I don’t really eat sandwiches. I can get superb flavor from cherry tomatoes, and they’re perfect in my salads, so that’s what I grow. I like fresh lettuce, cucumbers and green beans, so that’s what you’ll find in my vegetable garden. Grow what you love.

Some of my absolute favorite flowers are the early spring bulbs. One of my big disappointments when I lived in Florida is that I couldn’t grow daffodils – how would I ever know that it’s spring without daffodils? So now that I’m in a cooler-winter climate, I once again mark the end of winter with my beloved daffodils.  

I’ll never forget the first time I happened across a field of jonquils – I was driving to Tyler when I saw a cloud of yellow on the side of the road. I pulled over and rolled down the passenger window for a better look – and was greeted with the sweet scent of Juicy Fruit gum. Daffodils! I later learned that they were jonquils, appropriately dubbed ‘sweeties’ for their fragrance, and they naturalize in East Texas. In near-blasphemy, I decided that central Texas could keep their bluebonnets, and I’d grow sweeties.

There are many other daffodils (narcissus species) that perennialize in East Texas, and I grow many of them (email me for a detailed list of those that do well year after year). However, I sometimes plant bulbs that I know aren’t suited for the long term in East Texas: big double pink daffodils or vivid tulips. The bulbs are inexpensive, simple to plant, and I love the show they put on when they bloom. One January, we at the Wood County Arboretum received a donation of 5,000 tulip bulbs, so we planted them. We knew they weren’t a permanent planting, but two months later (and the following spring) we had a knock-out display of colors outside the picket fence in front of the house. That’s when I found that I could plant something just to enjoy its blooms, without worrying about its longevity. 

It doesn’t matter what tree, flower or vegetable brings you joy – grow it. If you love what you’ve planted, you’ll love spending time in your East Texas garden.

About the author: Lin is the garden manager for the Wood County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in Quitman, and is there each Wednesday from 9 till noon, weather permitting. Join her there if you’d like to help in the gardens – no experience necessary. Please email your gardening questions to her at txgardengal@gmail.com.

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