Calendars — an important gardening tool

By ALLEN MARTINSON,

It takes me about this long to get 2019 put away and admit that 2020 has taken over. Every year it takes me about this long to put the correct date on checks and all those other papers to be filled out. As I am getting rid of my old calendars and bringing in the new ones, I realize how important calendars are to gardeners. I have the daily highs and lows and rainfall tracked back to 2010. I know you can get this information from the computer, but I like to know what the weather really did, right here in Ridgeland, in my little world. The NOAA weather report that happens at the Jackson airport is sometimes very different from what happens here in Ridgeland.

Calendars make gardening easier because timing is very important on planting dates, pruning dates, chemical use and most of all, remembering what day it is. One of the important dates that I love is February 5th. February 5th is the date I call dead of winter, the best time to prune dormant plants. It seems to be the magic day, even with the weird weather changes we've been seeing lately that allows enough cold time for plants that require pruning to become fully dormant.

February 5th is the time for pre-emerge to be applied to lawns and landscape beds to prevent existing weed seeds from germinating. February 5th is a time when herbicides can be applied while the lawn is dormant. I love this date because it is the time to create new beds using composted materials and a tiller so when the nursery fills up I can begin planting right into the beds. So, mark February 5th on your garden calendar.

During planting seasons, most of my days off involve filling my truck and trailer with all the plants that Mimi wants planted and then adding some more, enough to fill my day off. Mimi and I spend our evenings in February, walking around our yard and discussing new additions. She has the creative eye for working with colors of plant foliage that make contrasting colors pop. Mimi has the innate talent to bring colors and textures together like no one I've ever met. I see her getting inspiration from garden books, magazines, gardens in other states, and following garden gurus such as Flora Grubb in San Francisco and Dan Hinkley from Monrovia Growers.

The inspiration Mimi garners from places that turn her on transforms into her own art form that she uses in our garden at home, the layout of our garden center, and for the pot scapes she creates for our customers. Mimi does the buying for GardenWorks. She buys what she thinks will give people similar inspiration. It's beautiful to watch develop and I have begun to speak the language of Mimi. If you know her, you know what I mean.

She knows that I, along with our team, can handle the logistics of putting her ideas together. She describes them to me ever so delicately so I'll understand the creative end to her vision. I'm getting better at catching on now that we've been gardening together for 26 years and so many of her ideas have fully developed into maturity. Our six acre yard is stunning with layers and textures and colors, and it still blows my mind every day.

Mimi comes from a farming family in the Delta. That says a lot. Delta people are not like us regular people. If you think about the most creative artists, hard-working, and just a little bit crazy people you know, they are most likely from the Delta. I've never met anyone from there who I don't like for some reason or another. When we first married, Mimi was teaching at a high school in Madison. Before school and after coaching cross country in the afternoons, she would help me with my new greenhouse growing operation, Rising Sun Growers. After a year of that, she threw in the teacher towel and joined the Garden Works family for good.

We had been doing our best, as a bunch of men can do at a garden center, but we didn't see the light until she came sashaying into our world. She began painting walls crazy colors, displaying inspirationally instead of rowing up plants. She would paint us if we stood still long enough. It didn't take us long to see that there was another way to show people what plants can do when used together, correctly, and to provide people the inspiration to go home and try it for themselves.

We visited a garden center in Austin, Texas, that got her riled up for months afterwards. She wanted to recreate our own version of its look and feel. She decided to go for it. I remember the first time we entered the Big Red Sun and Johnny Cash was playing loud over their speakers. Mimi's eyes got big, and she declared, “ This is what it should be like to visit a garden center. And by golly, if we are going to work our fingers to the bone, it should be at a cool place where we enjoy being every day.” That day is really what inspired the look and the funky vibe that Garden Works has today.

We are just back from our winter market trip and are busy preparing for people to walk through Mimi's mind this spring. It's like taking a trip but never leaving the farm. I'm sure all family owned and operated garden centers have their story to tell. They have their own ways of creating enough excitement for a gardener to take a plant home and try it for themselves.

I suggest you add something to your own calendar. Make a point, once a week, to try out a different local garden center, and dive in. Talk to the friendly people at each one. They want you to be successful in your gardening trials and tribulations. When they ask if they can help you, say, “Yes.” Have a conversation. Who knows? It may change your life. Remember, gardening is perseverance, so go persevere.

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1. She took her first ceramics class at seven years old at Pickenpaugh Pottery. 2. She and her father got their black belts in Tae Kwon Do together.