Seed Starts 2020 (2)

My name is John, and I am a garden nut. My immediate and extended families include a bumper crop of garden nuts. I am righteously proud of that fact let me tell you. I know many families lay claim to a heaping harvest of ordinary nuts, but garden nuts are special. One cannot walk many steps beside a garden nut before the contagion spreads.

I lived along a dirt road, not a street, and those twin tracks carried our dusty feet by the swamp and into the hills. Though we did not own the land we had permission from the owner to explore those endless acres and make them our own. What a gift to share with three boys!

As our gray winter yielded the stage to spring the hills burst alive. Wildflowers! Mom, one of my family’s ardent garden nuts, knew the names of each flower. She never ventured far into the woods, but she had an eye for those blossoms. She knew where to find the best specimens, and for a few weeks those beauties dominated the landscape. Mom’s face reflected sheer joy as she pointed out her favorites, especially her jack-in-the-pulpit which grew larger each year.

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Tomatoes ready to plant!

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Shawn’s lunchbox peppers growing in the living room.

Wildflowers generate happy memories for this garden nut. They broadcast the blessed hope that spring is warming the soil to support the envelopes of seeds I ordered during the cold days. Seriously, right now I have fourteen trays with fifteen to eighteen three inch square plant cells per tray scattered around the house. I am ready to do some gardening. Well, outdoor gardening I guess I better say since I’ve been gardening indoors all winter.

Wildflowers Spring 2020 (1)


One of the first flowers to appear in West Virginia’s spring also makes a decent showing in North Carolina, the bluet, my favorite wildflower. Searchers can find bluets dancing in sunny spots along the paths in the state parks especially Eno River State Park (which I think has the showiest display of wildflowers within close driving distance of the Triangle). Bluets pop up, do their thing, and gradually fade away as the tree canopy fills in.

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Bloodroot, my favorite of the wildflowers, is another prolific performer. Mom enjoyed a large stand at the top of the rise toward the back of her property, and those brilliant white petals were easily seen from the kitchen window fifty feet away. We never planted the bloodroot on that hillside, just cleared away the invasive honeysuckle, to provide light and nutrients. The bloodroot did the rest. Bloodroot blooms and disappears, an easily missed opportunity if the gardener is not paying attention. My schedule includes a daily spin around the spring garden so I don’t miss anything.

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Trout Lily

Establishing trout lilies proved quite the challenge, but given its status as my favorite wildflower I persevered. A plant that thrives in the wild under full shade to full sun and poor soil to rich soil seems like a good fit for any garden. While searchers may find these plants online the best source may be a gardener who is willing to share from his bounty.

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What a name to hang on such a lovely plant! I’ve found that toothwort spreads readily, and I have no idea who planted it. It sort of showed up one spring. And of course we kept it.

These images, fresh for spring 2020, were taken in the wildflower garden at Paths of Hope. The 100 square foot plot has been preserved as closely as possible to what it was when the woods were flattened to start the neighborhood thirty-four years ago. My tiny daughters, walking beside their garden nut Dad, had a passion to save wildflowers from the bulldozers. Time and time again I dug spaces for the botanical finds they carted home in a well-loved Radio Flyer wagon. Between the scavenging of Amanda and Michelle and the donations from Mom’s wildflower beds we amassed an impressive collection. Many of those specimens continue to survive. Some thrive, like the Solomon’s seal.

The undeniable truth is that both of my children have now become garden nuts. And I am seeing signs of the same malady in granddaughter, Fern. Grandpa Miller, Grandma Nichols, and Mary Nichols, I do not know if you are aware of these developments, but let me tell you that the garden nut does not fall far from the family tree.