June 21, 2019

Growing Organic Herbs from Seeds

Some of you are under the impression that I have a great memory, well I don’t. It was mid-winter about 20 or 25 years ago, when I was bored of reading books and watching TV, so I decided to list all the organic herbs that I had grown. So I went thru the brown check list page by page listing the names as I remembered them. From there I went on to each year’s checklist and did the same. After that time I continued to add to the list when I found the time. Right now it is on a disc with over a 1000 names.

Now, a 1000 names for some of you is not many, but taking in the account that I’ve never had over 200 named organic cultivars (including my own) in the garden at any one time it is quite a few. In my first garden (up to 1962) I never had room for over 75. What happens is that every time I get a new hem, another one in the garden has to leave.

Most hems last 8 years in the garden before they are pushed out. A new one I don’t like will leave within 2 years, Ones that I like will last 4-5 years before I divide them and then they are replanted for hopefully another 4-5 years. I think that ROSETTE (Spalding ’74) lasted 10 or 11 years before being dug. It was tender and part of it would die out each winter until finally there was 2 or 3 mild winters in a row, which made the clump too large, so out it went. For those who have never visited my garden I grow most of my clumps 3 to 4 feet apart (center to center), however some of my beds they are now becoming around 30 inches, with perhaps more than 200 spaces total.

Importance of Gardening Mentors

My second mentor was Willard King, who once he and Carey Quinn had started the NCDC they then decided they needed a young person to perform the tasks of having a national convention in 1959. And I was it. My first task was to arrange for the club’s first garden tour, after that Willard had me run a regional meeting in 1958, which was a dry run for the national.

Earlier, I had been visiting his garden during bloom season weekly (or more), when he asked me to help him move some shrubs, some of which were to be removed, thus he gave them to me. Once, when he was in the hospital, I planted some hems for him. Willard was a daffodil judge and had lots of choice daffodils throughout his garden. During one of my visits he needed help digging up a lot of mature clumps, thus I added to my daffodil collection. Some of the clumps almost filled a bushel basket.

Once while digging these I cracked the spade blade, and several days later when I went to give him a replacement he had already done so. I still have that spade I purchased and use it all the time. The blade is about 18 inches long and about 8 inches wide, I use it to dig my hems as well as the daffodils. What really made my day was in 1960, Willard gave me the use of one of his seedling beds, a plot about 100 feet long and six feet wide. So, in 1961 I then planted my first seedling!!

Early on, Willard asked me to attend the slide show that he had every February in his living-dining room. This event was always attended by David McKeithan who was from Bartlesville, OK. David had family in the DC area and always brought super slides from his visits to the Wilds and others around the country. Some of the others that always came were: Robert ‘Baker’ Wynne, Raleigh, NC, Harry Tuggle, VA and Jim Stevens, NY. This event was perhaps the one that got me started to make visitation around the country. I grew some of McKeithan cultivars such as:

  • PECOS ’62,
  • ROCKY FORD ’62,
  • OSAGE FLARE ’66 (my favorite) and

‘Baker’ Wynne’s only hem that I remember growing was SONGSTER ’56 which as I remember was a small yellow.

About Jim Stevens, Both Willard and Carey Quinn grew his cultivars, the first ones that comes to mind is:

  • SPLENDOR ’52, a red that was a top favorite by both;
  • CENTURION ’56, a rose-red that for me at times had 75-80 buds and
  • TINKER BELL ’54, which was my favorite of his.

In 1961, when he was eight years old, my oldest son Tom used TINKER BELL with GOLDEN DEWDROP (Taylor ’55) to create his SMALL WONDER. I believe this one is still commerce.

A Visit to the Greenlawn Hill Organic Garden

One of my first trips was with a daylily friend from Baltimore, and we went to visit Peter Fass in Greenlawn Hill on Long Island. Peter lived in the nursery area and had a small nursery along with his daylilies. Peter went overboard and gave us bundle full of his hems before we left. Later on, I visited him several more times and he came down and visited me once, when I took him on a cook’s tour around here. After Peter moved to the north part of the island, Ruth, our 2 boys and myself visited and Peter took us down to ocean so the boys could swim. Later on, Peter was a slide show companion at several of the conventions. I grew most of his cultivars;

  • FULL SWING ’57 was my favorite,
  • INLAID GOLD ’60 was another one I liked, as well as
  • LA LOUISIANE ’64 and

Before I leave this time frame, I would like to go back to the 1959 convention. I have no idea what events took place inside the hotel, the only thing I remember is handling the buses out on Connecticut Avenue (At the Shoreham Hotel). What I do remember is going to Willard King’s on Sunday (the day after). Upon arriving I found Mary Lester, (Atlanta) holding court in Willard’s living room, where she could see most of the garden thru the picture windows. Mary was Willard’s favorite! He grew most all of her cultivars, my garden favorites were:

  • COLONEL JOE ’51,
  • GREEN FLARE ’56,
  • JACK FROST ’53,
  • PICTURE 52 and
  • SWAN BALLET ’58.

I do remember Jean Wild cornering me to tour the garden and helping her check out Willard’s seedlings. I don’t remember if she picked any out at that time, but later the Wild’s did introduce several of Willard’s. The only one that I remember is KINGS SIZE ’59, it was first called ‘Big Fanny’ which did not suit the Wilds (I wonder why). The ones that I grew and liked of his were:

  • INDIAN LOVE CALL ’62 and
  • LOVELY LEA ’64.

Next time we will go to the ’68 St. Louis Convention.

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