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"Let's go to Russell's." said Sally. "I want some more 'Empress Wu'. That's a ginormous hosta that we'd found earlier this year at Russell Gardens Wholesale. I didn't want any more hosta for myself, you understand. But I'm always ready, willing, and able to visit a garden or a nursery. And so off we went.
Now, Russell's is, as the full name says, a wholesale nursery. I've been shopping there for a few years, and introduced Sally to the place a couple of years ago. Alan has a wonderful range of perennials, and he's especially good for hosta. The selection is incredible, from tiny to brobdingnabian, old favorites to the newest selections. But I had not, heretofore, paid much attention to his selection of herbs. I knew he had them, of course, just had not wandered over to that part of the nursery. But today I did want a rosemary. A rosemary, did I say? Russell Gardens Wholesale has a phenomenal list of rosemary cultivars, all the way from 'Alida Hyde' through to 'Tuscan Blue'. I grabbed my scribbled up piece of paper with cryptic notes, "hedge in mild climates" for one, "barbecue skewer branches" for another, "trailing" for a few, "hardy?" for a couple.
Checked in at the office and Alan waved us off to where the greenhouse of herbs was. We went where we thought we were supposed to go and found a greenhouse jam-packed with herbs alright, but they were recently rooted cuttings, endless numbers of them.
Beautiful little lavenders, looking as crisp as hoarfrost on a window pane.
This is 'Goodwin Creek Grey', with especially lovely foliage.
Oregano, and purple sage. Next year's plants don't appear by magic.
Alan has to plan ahead: get the cuttings, grow them along, pot them on.
And an absolute forest of rosemary, but cuttings not culinary size plants.
So we went back to the trailer, stopping to admire the office cat. Asked Alan just where were the herbs? With a sigh he got up and walked us over into a greenhouse filled with rosemary and thyme and scented geraniums and even several cultivars of Viola odorata (that if you recall I wanted for fragrant winter flowers in my cool temperature greenhouse. Is today my lucky day or what!)
Here there be rosemary plants alright.
I chose a 'Salem', which has a dense habit and some (including Alan) say has the best flavor. And an 'Alida Hyde' (named for the grandma at Well Sweep Herb Farm), plus a 'Goriza' which was discovered in Goriza, Italy and introduced in 1986. It has very broad leaves and large flowers.
And a 'Mabel Grey', 'Variegated Oak', and 'Mint Rose Variegated' scented geraniums. And five, count them, yes, five! different cultivars of sweet violets: 'German White', 'Double White', 'Pastor's Purple', 'Bey's Yellow', and 'Fairy Oaks Pink'.
But we're not done yet. Because Alan had planted up some wonderful centerpiece / hostess gift type herb bowls. Some with a mix of herbs, others with different cultivars of one kind of herb such as
a bowl of different kinds of rosemary plants or another filled with thymes.
Sally was over the moon. She's the outgoing president of the Tohickon Garden Club. At our annual luncheon early in December thank you gifts are presented to members who have been especially helpful throughout the year. And what nicer gift than a bowl of herbs. She bought ten bowls, will keep them in her sunroom, and carry them over to the luncheon. An aside - being informed that one of the bowls would have my name attached to it I chose the bowl of thyme and solomnly assured her that I would be glad to care for it in the meantime. (And keep it in my cool greenhouse, too.) Yes, she got her 'Empress Wu'. We had to fold the back seats in her SUV down to make room but all the plants fit. And happy, happy, home we went.
I'm thankful for friends like Sally. And for nurseries such as Russell Gardens Wholesale, where Alan makes sure that a gardener's greedy impulses can be satisfied.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 4 December 2013
It's the garden club's luncheon today. Here's Sally
with an armfull of herb bowls in a box, bringing them in to the restaurant.
They were lined up along the wall, and as people were individually named, thanked, applauded, then one by one they could go and pick out a bowl of herbs. Since Sally had bought 19 bowls at Russell Gardens Wholesale (probably all he had on hand at the time) there were four bowls left over. They became door prizes, and very popular ones too.
Ann chose this very pretty bowl of different mints, and set it on the window sill by the table at which we were seated. She'll have to give them room to roam when they're planted outside, as mints have expansionist tendencies. But for now, they look great, and smell wonderful, releasing their aromatic oil with just a gentle stroking.
Such a pleasant time in the company of friends, with a holiday luncheon, and what could be more appropriate than incorportaing herbs. After all, in some of the bowls there was rosemary, and that's for remembrance.
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