Tahlequah Daily Press

April 24, 2013

‘Dirt therapy’ yields colorful results

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Ask a flower gardener why she spends countless hours outside in the dirt, and rarely will the end product be the first answer she gives.

Spring is in full swing, and local flora enthusiasts have already spent months scouting catalogues and planning their gardens for the summer season.

Local resident Cathy Cott finds the hobby eases tension.

“I call gardening ‘dirt therapy,’” said Cott. “I have friends - and a husband - who view it as hard work, but I never feel that way. I get dirty, and hot and tired, but I’m always happy when I’m digging in the dirt, yanking out weeds, and planting flowers.”

Pam Moore, also a local gardening enthusiast, believes her love of the hobby is genetic.

“I garden because I come from a long line of maniacal, genetically-programmed gardeners who cannot not garden,” said Moore. “Long before spring arrives, I am thinking about the coming gardening year and I am always optimistic, kind of like a gambler. I always believe that the coming season will have perfect weather. You can see the disconnect in my thinking; after all, I am living in Oklahoma.”

Cott said gardening in Oklahoma often present a challenge.

“I’m a little behind this year because of the unpredictable cold snaps that keep popping up,” said Cott. “So far, I haven’t lost anything, but that’s mainly due to my husband’s help in covering plants when they predict cold morning temperatures. I usually begin putting out any annuals like petunias, impatiens, and other flower bed mainstays about now. I have several flats of plants in my garage and on my back deck, waiting for things to normalize.”

Moore considers herself a “lazy gardener,” if such a thing exists. She’s also aware that in Cherokee County, it’s hard to find soil that isn’t laden with rocks.

“I am a lazy gardener in that I grow things that grow themselves, the easier the better,” said Moore. “So, I have learned what plants do best with rock mulch - again, this is gardening in Cherokee County where rocks are the main crop. My favorite plants that do best with rock mulch are Grosso lavender, rosemary and fennel. I like the look of these plants in my garden, and fennel is something I’m learning to cook with this year.”

This year, a friend of Moore’s has convinced her to move her compost bins to the center of her raised beds to get more nutrients to the plants.

“So far, this looks like a promising practice for coming years,” said Moore. “I just purchased some mints and lemon-flavored plants to play around with making some herbal teas this year. These are lemon balm, lemon verbena and lemon thyme. I also added orange mint and chocolate mint. They are interesting flavors for tea.”

Cott has no favorites with it comes to flowering plants.

“I love all types and colors,” said Cott. “My sentimental favorite is the easy-to-grow morning glory. They were my dad’s favorite flower and hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators love them. When you look down into the center of a morning glory it seems to have its own light source from deep within. Maybe that’s why they’re glorious.”

Cott also likes to try her hand at new varieties.

“When I find a new flower I’ve never seen before, I love to give it a try,” she said. “I cruise the only-mostly-dead racks at nurseries and garden centers for plants that have been forgotten or mistreated. I inspect them for any sign of life, and many times I save expensive perennials that [are costly] and buy them for pennies. This enables me to buy a lot more plants than I could or would at the regular price. I recently bought two blueberry bushes to try my hand at something edible. They were 60 percent off.”

Gardeners often share the love of their hobby with others.

“I love to share seeds and starts with people,” said Cott. “I mailed out a bunch of deep purple morning glory seeds to friends and family recently, and still have a bunch more in bags. I have shared daisy starts with my kids, and have a pretty good growth of phlox and herbs I can start sharing as well. The last two summers’ off-the-chart heat and drought conditions have really hurt my gardens, but I’m gradually restoring them.”

Moore’s seed collection is limited, but precious.


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