The Garden Gate Columns
The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies

The Garden Gate
By Miss Elizabeth Lacy
Friday, November 7, 1930
(from The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies)

On Sunday, the Darling Dahlias held their planning meeting for the annual talent show that's coming up on October 24 in the gymnasium at the Darling Academy. The program, under the direction of Mrs. Roger Kilgore, includes the Carsons' Comedy Caravan, the Tumbling Tambourines, the Akins' Spanish fandango, the Juggling Jinks, and many other unique and exciting acts. We're still looking for another act or two, so if you sing, dance, play the accordion, or recite poetry, please give Mrs. Kilgore a call. Admission to the program is only twenty cents, children a nickel. We hope you will come and bring the whole family. (Mrs. Kilgore says to tell you that there has been a costume modification in the Spanish fandango.)

Miss Bessie Bloodworth's Angel trumpet (Brugmansia) is blooming now. I saw it this weekend, and it's beautiful. It smells heavenly, too, especially when the big peach-colored trumpets open in the evening. Miss Bloodworth says to tell you that she'll be glad to show it to you and give you some cuttings, as well. But you have to remember that this is a poisonous plant, so if you have children, you might want to think twice before you fall in love with it.

Mrs. Kilgore has some lovely summer phlox in her garden just now, along with zinnias and marigolds, cosmos, asters, and roses. She'll be glad to share some of those blossoms for a beautiful bouquet on your dining room table, but she hopes you'll come prepared to help dead-head. (She's got an extra pair of clippers she'll let you use.) If you don't know what dead-heading is, Mrs. Kilgore explains it this way. The plant's main purpose in life is to flower, set seed, and make baby plants. So if you clip off the flowers, you frustrate the plant, and a frustrated plant just sends out more blooms to try to frustrate you. Thank you, Mrs. Kilgore, for that explanation.

The summer rains came at just the right time and it's been a bountiful year for Darling's vegetable gardens, as you can probably see by the stands along the roadsides, where people are making a little extra money by selling part of their bountiful harvest. Between now and frost, you'll be able to find tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, beans, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, pumpkins, southern peas, maybe even some late corn. If you've got some extra jars and lids, why not get out that canning kettle and get to work? Come January or February, when you start bringing up those gleaming jars from the fruit cellar, you'll be glad you did!

Speaking of pumpkins, looks like there'll be plenty this year and you're certain to want one or two for your front porch when Halloween rolls around. But if you'd like to keep some over the winter, you'll want to know how to keep them from spoiling. Pick only the deep orange, solid pumpkins, and leave a three-inch stem. Try not to scratch or poke a hole in the rind. Dip the pumpkins in a bucket of water and chlorine bleach (4 teaspoons per gallon). Cure them at room temperature for a week to harden the rind, then store in a cool place. Rinse before using. Your pumpkins will keep at least through Christmas, by which time you will have turned them all into holiday pies.

It's planting time again! Lots of people think that gardeners do all of their work in the spring. But every gardener knows that fall is another good time for planting. Here are some of the things the Dahlias will be putting into their gardens through the end of October: shrubs; spring-flowering bulbs (hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses); hardy winter vegetables (turnips, mustard, kale, spinach, onion sets); and hardy annuals, such as pansies, poppies, and sweet peas. Oh, and strawberries, of course. You don't want to miss out on strawberry shortcake next spring!

Aunt Hetty Little wants to remind you that as you clean up your garden, you should burn or bury any plant debris that has insects in it. These little pests like nothing better than to snuggle up for the winter inside a curled up leaf or a dead stem and jump out and surprise you in the spring. Right now, she says, you need to be on the lookout for cabbage loopers. If your cabbage leaves have turned to lace, you definitely have a problem. The best cure: hand-picking. (Use gloves if you're squeamish.) Aunt Hetty says: "To convince these little boogers that they don't want to mess with your garden, you can mash up a couple of cups of hot peppers and some garlic, stir into a pint of water, and spray. Some people also like to smoosh up a few of the little boogers themselves, and dump them in the mix, on the theory that this will scare all their friends and relations. Next year, be sure to move your brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and the like) to a different corner of the garden, so the bugs will at least have to go looking. Replanting in the same place makes it just a little too easy for them."

Alice Ann Walker reports that she has been remodeling her garden this month, now that it's a little cooler. Her husband, Arnold, is disabled, but he doesn't let that stop him. He is a talented whittler and has made several large wooden animals and birds for her, including bunnies, chipmunks, ducks, and pink-painted flamingoes. He has also made a flock of wooden geese with wings that go around and around like a windmill, painted in all different colors. Arnold is willing to sell a few of these for just thirty cents each, so if you'd like to buy one, stop out front and honk and somebody will come out and help you pick the color that's just right for your garden. (Arnold says the flamingoes are for sale, too.)

While I'm mentioning colors, I should like to say that I have some beautiful lilies in my garden just now. There are the usual day-lilies, but also spider lilies, ox-blood lilies, and some naked ladies (not as pretty as those in Miss Hamer's front yard, on Camellia Street). I also have some truly gorgeous torch lilies. (Miss Rogers will remind me that I should use a proper name: Kniphofia Pfitzeri.) A reader from Florida sent me a delightful ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium, Miss Rogers), which has two other pretty names: butterfly lily and garland flower. The ginger lily is four feet tall, a strong, robust plant, with leaves like cannas, sprays of fragrant white flowers, and showy pods full of bright red seeds. It likes partial shade to full sun; a hard frost will kill it to the ground, but it'll come back again. It's easy to propagate: just dig it up, slice the root into six- or eight-inch pieces, and replant. If you want some, let me know. I'll be digging next week and will be glad to save some for you.

And don't forget to turn to the back page and read the Dahlias. "Dirty Dozen" tips for cleaning house without spending a lot of money. You're bound to learn something you didn't already know! If you have tips to share, they're welcome. Just write them down and leave them for Elizabeth Lacy at the Dispatch office.

Darling Dahlias & the Cucumber Tree
July, 2010
    Darling Dahlias & the Naked Ladies
July, 2011
    Darling Dahlias & the Confederate Rose
September, 2012
    Darling Dahlias & the Texas Star
September, 2013
    Darling Dahlias & the Silver Dollar Bush
September, 2014
    Darling Dahlias & the Eleven O'Clock Lady
September, 2015
    Darling Dahlias & the Unlucky Clover
March, 2018
    Darling Dahlias & the Poinsettia Puzzle
October, 2018