I’m obsessed with the South. Moved by it. The "what’s that got to do with the price of butter" sayings, roadkill baked goods, dove hunt dinners, the ironic formality found in such a slow-paced, porch-drunk, June bug of a place. So it stood to reason that once I moved to Texas, I’d need a proper subscription to the ladymag Southern Living (among other How To Be a Proper Anything magazines). Said subscription has lead to my current state of derangement. The May 2010 issue of Southern Living features French hydrangeas and a promise of potato salad picnic pleasure. From glitz to grits, girls, I now know that "mulch" is a verb.
Did you know in order to change the color of your hydrangeas you simply change what you put in the soil? I sure as H-E-double-hockey-sticks didn’t. Acidic soil makes flowers turn blue, whereas alkaline should be credited for all those pink blushing blooms. I have a hard enough time remembering what alkaline even is, never mind how much to add a few shots to my soil. I’ve even watched Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener’s Guide to Hydrangeas, hoping they’d show how to go about planing these suckers. No luck, though now I’m deeper in the obsession.
Southern Living Hydrangeas
Why am I so consumed? Quite simply, a generous sweep of hydrangeas bring me that "I’ve just showered, had my hair blown, toes painted" feeling, all without doing any of it. They remind me of childhood (my parents home had them), of the Hamptons, of everything I adore about summer. They’re my favorite statement. They make life feel like the 4th of July. They bring to mind crisp white wine, linen napkins, grilled corn, lobsters and hurricane lamps. I have to imagine they’re worth all the trouble, and I’d love to trim my driveway with them, the entrance way of our home, plant them out back near our outdoor living room.
That’s another thing I love that about Texas: outdoor living spaces. We have a living room outside, complete with sectional sofas, throw pillows, a cozy blanket, coffee table, area rug, television, lights, bug zapper, heat lamps (when needed), and a built in stereo system… all beside a dining table, wrap around porch, grill, mini-fridge stocked with wine + beer, and of course, a porch swing. I love it. That is, when it doesn’t feel as if I’m walking in a parking lot, directly behind a bus.
It seems simple enough, right? My question is, how do I go about finding a crafty gardener to help me get started? Because the truth is, I kill everything. I strongly believe, though, that I set myself up to fail. Basil has no chance of living if I don’t know how to properly prune it, keeping it from blooming. I know I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t know where I’m supposed to clip exactly. Whenever I try, my basil leaves start turning pale and grow in small (and I know yellowing is to do with too much water or sometimes too much sun). They never turn into fat vibrant green leaves as big as a hat. That’s another one who needs to be well-drained, not drown.
Directions: clip regularly to force new leaves to grow and prevent flowering. Cut about one-third of the stem at a time, making each cut at a leaf node.
What, in all that is blooming, does that even mean? I need someone to come over and teach me. Show me where to plant things and how to go about doing it, put me on a watering schedule. I want to learn but don’t know where to begin. Books don’t help with this kind of thing. I literally need a person to come to my home, analyze my soil, who can say, "Plant this here." I will pay them handsomely in alcoholic beverages with muddled berries and fresh mint. Primrose and promise.