Archives for posts with tag: spring

It begins. Another season of gardening is under way. The first tender shoots of vegetables are just starting to peep out of the ground: beets, spinach, rainbow radishes, lettuce and two varietals of carrots.

A new season brings new characters to our community garden. Our neighbor, Bonnie, has retired to Florida. She left behind a giant rosemary bush that managed to survive the awful winter. The new tenant farmer hasn’t shown his/her hand yet.

Debbie, a new gardener last year, built wooden terraces and carefully tended her plot. But she was evicted by the Alexandria city overseers, because she actually lived over the border in neighboring Arlington (along with several others). Too bad, since she actually took care of her plot, which is more than we can say about some of our fellow gardeners. People fall in love with the idea of gardening, and when reality sets in, many abandon their plots and let the weeds take over.

We chatted with our friend Anne, who has gardened at Chinquapin longer than we have. One of her new garden neighbors is a chef from the steakhouse Charlie Palmer. We tittered at the chef who knows so little about the food he cooks. He took a set of onions and planted them in one clump. He’s already put in some tomatoes and peppers, a risky move this early.

Obviously, we community garden veterans have our eye on the chef. Stay tuned. The season is just beginning and the plot thickens…

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening

I know it’s spring when I step outside and a whiff of lilac’s heady fragrance hits me.

Do you have those moments when a smell or a taste takes you back to a memory long long ago? For me, it is the lilac. Its fragrance takes me back to my childhood—my mother had a long row of lilacs and she filled vases full of them that perfumed our house every May. Another cherished memory is a day spent with my sister at a lilac festival in Oregon. We sniffed scores of lilac varietals all afternoon and were giddy from pollen.

When CRR and I moved to a house with a large yard (half an acre, big for the suburbs), we planted a row of them along the west side of the property. A dozen years later, they’re six feet tall and will soon form a hedge.

Our lilacs are the upright shrub variety, the common lilac called Syringa vulgaris. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, lilacs have graced gardens since the 16th century. There are 2,000 cultivars, in colors ranging from light pink to magenta and violet. They’re tolerant to the sun, drought and clay soil of my Alexandria yard. In a fickle growing environment, my lilacs are an old-fashioned stalwart.

In a region where azaleas and cherry trees are much-heralded, it is the lilacs that spell spring to me.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist who is equally passionate about gardening and politics. She lives in Alexandria, Va.