Alien Vegetables, Powerhouse Plants and “Yoga for Gardeners” by Veronica d’orazio

Alien Veggies

Heirloom vegetables are fun to grow because they’re odd and sometimes look other worldly. They don’t have the standard, grocery store look. Agri businesses that supply our “super” grocery stores grow vegetables for looks, ease of transportation and shelf life. We can buy picture perfect vegetables in abundance at any food store. So, why grow odd, sometimes ugly heirloom vegetables? In a word, nutrients. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition compared the nutritional values of 43 garden crops from 1950 and 1999.  They found a decline in six nutrients across the crop group. Yet another reason to “grow your own”. Washington based heirloom seed distributors include Ed Hume Seeds, Not Spuds and Uprising Seeds. Another large selection of heirloom vegetable seeds is at

Powerhouse Plants

Every garden is made interesting by adding rare and unusual plants. However, that same garden is held together with some  “powerhouse” plants that are easy and long lasting. If evergreens are the “bones” of the garden, “powerhouse” plants are the “backbones” of the garden. Take daylilies for instance. Daylilies are tough, long lasting and depending on the variety, provide blooms from June to September. Daffodils are “powerhouse” plants but tulips aren’t. Daffs multiply, come back year after year and neither deer nor squirrels find them tasty. Ferns and hostas for shade gardens are practically impossible to kill so use them often. There is a really good reason why some of the most common plants are still around. They’re “powerhouse” plants that survive no matter what. Plant those and then go for the wild and crazy new varieties to distribute among the reliables.

Yoga for Gardeners

Even “gym rats” find new muscles when they turn to gardening. “Gardener’s Yoga” is a little gem of a book that scales back yoga movements just for gardeners. Gardening requires more bending and stretching that brute force. The 21 gentle yoga positions in “Gardener’s Yoga” by Seattle author Veronica d’orazio, get you ready and help maintain some flexibility for playing in the dirt. The positions are basic and easy. You won’t be standing on your head or balancing on an elbow. Sasquatch Books, $12.95, 64 pages.

Patience, Patience

I don’t have patience. I like plants with a good start, preferably already flowering. I’m terrible at the tender care that seed starting requires. I cringe at the thought of having to wait weeks on end for germination. I lose interest and forget to water. Thank goodness there are people who are decidedly different than me and are willing to wait…and wait…and wait…for results.

Take Erik for example. I have seen him transplant dozens of cyclamen seedlings whose stems and root systems looked like threads. It gave me a headache just to watch.  But his latest bit of patience is above and beyond the call… Apologies for you home gardeners with similar propensities. I admire you. I just know I will never be like you.

One tiny lily sprig was purchased in 2000 at Heronswood when Heronswood was still on Kingston, WA (when their plants were truly unusual ones). Erik’s Lilium pardalinum has been moved all around his garden for 10 years, practically on wheels to find just the right growing spot.  He finally found the right spot. His patience paid off. Now he has 9 lily starts all happy to be left alone.