Thursday, March 19, 2009

Linum and some old folklore about gardening

Tuesday's 75-degree temperature broke records in northern Illinois. What a fabulous early spring day! I was able to spend a little time outside in the late afternoon. Pulling back leaf mulch on the sunny side of my stone wall I found daffodil bulbs already emerging. Also did some surveying for two spots to move a couple heirloom Gallica roses that aren't happy in their old location. Not looking forward to moving these.

I'm really enjoying doing the research on new additions to my garden this spring. This has become my year for experimenting with new plants. I ordered a package of Linum perenne or blue flax shown below from Swallowtail Seeds. Here is what I learned mostly from Tracy DiSabato-Aust's (aka the Queen of Deadheading;) and author of The Well Tended Perennial Garden.

(Texas A & M photo)

Three gardeners have highly recommended linum to me going so far as to say it's one of their favorites. Saphyr is 12-20 inches tall and blooms for several weeks in late spring/early summer then again in September. It is tolerant of heat and drought so it should be a good fit in my garden. It will probably be a short lived perennial but a good reseeder. I like an informal, cottagy style garden so this will be perfect adding a dash of cool blue here and there without adding a lot of bulk.

Tracy says cut cut back by about half in May to create bushier, studier plants. After bloom sheer off half to two thirds. Keep watered as they reestablish new foliage.

If you've grown linum, please let me know the pros and cons you found with it.

It looks like my plans to grow Tithonia Fiesta Del Sol may not work out. TC informs me that the Japanese beetles love the blooms and leaves. I'll try one or two but no point in feeding the darn beetles.

(Swallowtail Seeds Photo)

On to a completely unrelated topic. My Harbin and Cowden ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland and settled in the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. Most settlers brought with them some ideas about farming and growing things that today we consider somewhat odd. I can understand their desperate desire for crops to grow well, after all their very lives depended on it. What I can't understand is what made them think these particular methods of witchcraft and tough love might work.

According to Appalachian folklore here are some remedies for common garden problems. (By the way, these were not passed to me from my family but are just folk lore I researched. If all else fails in your garden, try them;)


Eat sugar before planting fruit trees to make the fruit sweeter.

Apples with red spots inside means that the tree's root grew into the body of a murdered person. (This one creeps me out.)

Drive a rusty nail on the north side of the fruit tree for better yields.

The number of seeds in an apple will be your lucky number.

Whip a poor yielding tree and it will bear better the next year. (This one is pretty creepy too.)


Don't thank a person who gives you seeds or roots, or the plants will never grow. (I heard this from my Grandmother. )

Plant potatoes at night so the eyes don't see light.

Planting peppers when you are mad makes the peppers grow hotter.

For a good crop of watermelons, crawl to the patch backwards on the first day of May.

Since Good Friday is the only day when the devil has no power, plant as much as possible on that day. When planting on other days, plant two seeds for the devil and one for yourself.

Avoiding Bad Luck

To turn away negative forces of human, spectral or animal nature, toss nine broom straws, one at a time, on a hearth fire at sunset. ( I wonder if this would get rid of squirrels, moles, rabbits or bad neighbors;)

Dried basil hung over the doorways, windows, & fireplaces will keep unwelcome visitors (human or spirits) from entering. Rue or Purslane planted near the house discourages unwelcome visitors.

Placing a fern or ivy on the porch will protect against bad luck.

Geranium petals will protect you from lighting strikes and snakebites.

Geraniums on the southwest edge of your land can also provide protection against storms.

And last but not least, if you refuse to heed the weatherman and garden during thunderstorms, carry pieces of wood from a lightening-struck tree to protect yourself.

All kidding aside, I've met a few modern day rose growers that practice a similar blend of witchcraft and high tech chemistry. But that's a story for another blog.

Have a great weekend.