Making myself right at home

Published 3:34 pm Thursday, May 30, 2019

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

It’s starting to feel like home around here.  Yes, DW and I have worked hard (mainly DW). Our to-do list is getting shorter, the yard is shaping up, and I have plants to share! That makes me feel good.

I’ve been to the Extension Plant sales and found lots of goodies that are sure to grow here and I’ve continued with flowers that I love and always had in my Batesville yard. Periwinkle and cleome two annuals to name a few.

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Periwinkle reseed and love the sun and can stand hot and dry days (native to an arid clime) all summer long without much watering.  It’s not the same as the vinca vine, though it is a vinca. When we lived on Gordon Drive in Batesville, I planted periwinkle seeds in a corner by the driveway.

They came up quickly. And thankfully, a rendering of what the seedling looks like was on the package, so I watched, waited, and weeded. But soon I noticed that my periwinkle were disappearing, I was puzzeled until I caught the boys coming along right behind me and pulling up the little plants. They were helping me. Smile.

Here in my front flower bed, the sidewalk makes a nice curve toward the front door so last year I planted white periwinkle to outline the curve.  As you know I have an affinity for blue ceramic pots, so there’s one set in the curve planted with lavender surrounded by white lantana, and dark coral petunias. I’m liking how it’s going.  And also liking the fact that thousands of periwinkle plants have volunteered in the same curve.  I have some thinning to do, so there’s more than enough to share.

You’ll find periwinkle transplants in all the big box stores in many colors. In front of the garage I planted a very pale coral periwinkle last year to accent the coral splashed white encore azaleas. And now, there are millions. No exaggeration.

Cleome…I love this flower. It has a little sentimental value. I don’t remember much about the five years I loved in Memphis as a little girl except, vividly, my mother growing what she called Grandfather’s whiskers in her flower beds. And visiting at a colleague’s house in Senatobia some 25+ years ago I noticed hers. She called them spider flowers and gladly shared the seeds. I’ve had them ever since. It just takes a tiny little seed to get started.

This is a true plant of summer. Cleome doesn’t require much attention, water or fertilizer, just well-drained loamy soil, and room to grow 3-5 feet tall. Butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to the white, pink and/or purple blooms on tall slender stalks. Its seed pods look like whiskers.  They’ll pop open in the fall, and voila! You’ll have millions next year.

Cleome seeds are the reason I keep those little pimento jars, they’re perfect for collecting the seeds to pass-a-long.

My first year here, I planted cleome seeds brought from Batesville, they came up, bloomed, and came back with more; now I’m thinning them out! The only negative about this flower is that the stalks tend to get sticky and prickly.

Just before frost, collect some seeds to share, then gently hit the stalks to make the seed pods burst pop open and send tiny seeds everywhere. Be sure to wear your gloves when you pull the plants up for the winter.

Luckily, I have a new, old friend (a Freed-Hardeman classmate of mine) who loves gardening, too. Last Friday Mack and I loaded up periwinkle transplants, a spade full of cleome plants, and a few Mexican petunias (who knew they’d grow up here) and drove further down our country road to deliver.

While Mack and Joan’s grand-daughters played, she showed me her yard and humongous vegetable garden with promises of all we could eat, including potato pumpkins this fall (sounds like good article material!). Oh, it’s so nice to be at home again.

Recipe of the Week

Southern Cheese Straws

A must have for June bridal showers or party appetizers!

16 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, hand grated only

½ cup butter

2 cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place cheese and butter in food processor; pulse until mixed well.   Add flour salt and pepper; mix until smooth. Put dough in cookie press, press out on ungreased baking sheet.  spaced 1 ½ inches apart. (Or, shape dough into log, wrap in plastic, chill 8 hours, then cut into thin slices to bake.) Bake for 15 minutes. Do not let brown.