Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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Poppies, Blooms, And Travels...


The end of this weekend will be Memorial Day. I think lately Memorial Day gets remembered more as a day for sales and not so much the real reason. The federal holiday is a time to honor and mourn the military personnel who died while serving in our Armed Forces. It is always observed the last Monday in May and traditionally seen as the start of the summer. The temperatures this week certainly seem to agree. It already feels like the beginning of summer.


As with just about everything there is a flower associated with this day of honoring the fallen. The red poppy is traditionally worn in memory of the World War I fields which were covered in red poppies after the fighting. Red poppy seeds will lie dormant until the soil gets disturbed and turned such as the devastated battlefields of northern France. I don't know where one can get red poppies for that day but probably a picture of one or a sticker would show your respect.


We grow an Icelandic poppy crop in the fall. They are absolutely gorgeous with bright orange, yellow, red and white blooms. We plant them in mid October along with the pansies. Poppies bloom throughout the winter and well went to spring. Mimi and I just pulled our last poppies last week. The heat is not kind to them, they were beginning to look like some of the plants I got too close to with my flamethrower, a sore subject.


We also cut snapdragons until all our vases were full and then we started delivering stems to quarantined friends to brighten their day. I do believe we are going to get yet one more flush of blooms from the snapdragons. We shall see.


Speaking of filing vases, I'm sure everyone has noticed the heavy blooms the magnolias are giving us this year, I guess a result of all that rain. It turns out magnolia blooms don't last but a day or two in a vase. I'm having similar results with Oakleaf hydrangeas. The hydrangeas have bloomed more prolifically this year than I've ever seen. Even though they don't last long in the vase they are perfect for an event. Cut them that day and enjoy for the evening as they are stunning mixed with Nandina foliage.


Another great filler for a vase is pittosporum. Either the variegated or the green pittosporum do so well in Mississippi and now there are dwarf varieties that we have great luck with. The dwarf pittosporum are wonderful for that final layer in front of the taller plants in your bed.


I am waiting now on the Lime light hydrangeas to bloom. If you haven't discovered limelight it is time to get to your favorite garden center and get some. Limelight hydrangeas can get eight to 10 feet tall. If that’s too tall for your use then check out the little limes, a dwarf variety that does great but stays around four feet tall. The great thing about the limelight is they can take full sun unlike other hydrangea. The petals on the round bloom start off and stay green for a long time then turns white. The blooms stay good looking for a long time and are great for using in vases. I plan to find out how long they last.


Another plant that seems to be getting discovered is the red Yucca. I have two that are more than 15 years old. They are blooming now with 10 or 12 bloom stalks that are five feet tall and brick red. Red yuccas are another lazy gardeners dream as they require very little care or water. The blue green foliage on them stays perfectly beautiful all winter and summer. The bloom stalks seem to stay for months until they began to develop seedheads then I cut them back only to see more bloom stalks appear. There is a very hard-to-find yellow blooming Yucca that doesn't seem to bloom as prolifically.


The last time I wrote about my journey around the earth I had just arrived on the coastline of turkey. It reminded me of Big Sur in Northern California. The rocky cliffs led right to the azure blue sea,. The cliffs were hosts to windblown pines and Cedars that look like bonsai trees, short and windswept. I spent two months in Turkey. I spent some time in Istanbul. I got out of the giant city and headed for the countryside. I came across a village where people were living in soapstone carved houses. I was invited into one and saw that even the shelves in the walls were carved out of the soapstone. Our food was cooked in the carved out fireplace. It was cozy in there, as everything was covered in snow outside I was in no hurry to go back out there. The family made some great tasting tea while we laughed and stared at each other for a while. The kids toured me all over the three-story ant mound looking abode. I'll never forget the happy faces.


I was slowly making my way to Mesopotamia where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers divide the area. This is the area where Noah's Ark is said to be. I couldn't find it anywhere. My goal was to make it to Iran, get on a seven-day bus ride through the countryside on a path to Pakistan so that I could wind up in my dream destination of India. The embassy there was not telling me that I couldn't go, they were telling me to go at my own risk.


I sat down and thought about it and counted my money, that wasn't looking too good. Something told me that living in a tent for a year on less than $100 a month was beginning to take a toll on my decision-making process. I was about to make an unsafe decision and wind up in Pakistan with very little money. I decided to hightail it back to Amsterdam, pick up my stuff and go home to finish college and save up money for a trip back to India.


I spent two years finishing my degree in horticulture and saving money for the trip of my lifetime. I'll tell you about that next time.


Until then, stay safe and take care of your neighbors and elderly people in your life. This Covid is hanging tough. At least we can continue gardening, without that I believe we would have mayhem on our hands.

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