From the producer: June 7, 2008

I love life stories. In my little routine, it can be difficult to see progress, other than the outright obvious: got this week’s CTG on the air, the bulb foliage pruned down, Erlicheer bulbs moved while I could still see them, and the first coneflowers in the crepe bed bloomed!

Of course, I can see progress outside. Greg and I are astounded that what was bare ground a few months ago has filled in so well. We agree that the front looks a lot better, glorious even, in our view. But I wouldn’t wish last fall’s plumbing adventure on anyone.

Still, it was the incentive to dump nandina-ville and carve a beautiful new look. I have a few gaps to fill yet, and I’m thinking of the dwarf Abelia ‘Rose Creek’ or ‘Mardi Gras’ that Jeff from The Emerald Garden mentioned on CTG a few weeks ago.

And we don’t miss photinia-ville one bit; in fact, we wonder now why we didn’t do it sooner. The cenizo, thryallis, and moved rose are growing like weeds. I’m thinking about adding the orange version of esperanza (Tecoma stans) to the mix. Pictures of the front soon, it’s still too early for wide shots.

Achieving these small goals is great, but the really big picture of life is harder for me to grasp. I guess that’s why I’m such a fan of PBS programs like American Experience and American Masters. When I see someone’s timeline put into perspective, I find significance in that journey to insert into mine. It’s also one commitment I have for CTG; to share gardeners’ journeys with you.

This week’s guest, Jeannie Ralston, is another inspiration I’ve met in person. A New York journalist, she married National Geographic photographer Robb Kendrick. He wanted to return to country roots, and she wound up in Blanco. On a fluke, they started Hill Country Lavender, and unwittingly started a whole new industry for the Hill Country.

I met her years ago when we taped the lavender farm. Here’s Robb with our director, Ed Fuentes.

You can see our award-winning video on Jeannie’s site under Videos. We’ve stayed in touch as she and Robb moved on to other pursuits, leaving Hill Country Lavender in loving hands. Now, Jeannie’s published her first book, The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming, detailing the unexpected confrontation that changed her life.

In her conversation with Tom, she also gives us hands-on tips for growing lavender at home. Lavender can be the Holy Grail for gardeners, who prize its foliage, fragrance, and herbal use (the flowers are a nice bonus), but that can suddenly go belly up between sniffs. I’m still quite astounded that the lavender I stuck in the cat cove last year survived all the rain. I guess it’s the crushed granite that did it.

To meet Jeannie yourself for more lavender tips, visit our calendar on our Blog page or at Events on our home page to scroll through her Texas appearances. You can also get the scoop on the Blanco Lavender Festival June 14 & 15. Grab a friend and a camera for a sensory good time.

Although my lavender isn’t blooming, the althea (Rose of Sharon) put on a nice display in the rental side bed. This is truly amazing since it’s way too shady for her, but I don’t dare try to move her. She’s almost the last of the ones that came with the house, old-fashioned deciduous shrubs that I love.

They mean summer to me.

In the crepe bed, the Mexican oreganos have started to bloom lavender. This is Poliomintha longiflora, not to be confused with Lippia Graveolens, since they have the same common name. This little evergreen woody perennial (about 2-1/2′ for me) accepts shade, attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, and can be used for cooking. In February, I give it the same tough pruning I give to the Salvia greggiis to encourage lush new growth. And that’s about it.

The plumbagos, in a hue of lavender, are starting to bloom, even the ones I recently moved in front. This guy is under the rental fence pistache, with a passalong shrimp plant beyond.

For another good read, a mystery that includes lots of wonderful tips about growing lavender, along with recipes and crafts, check out Susan Wittig Albert’s Lavender Lies. But to get the complete picture of her series, featuring real-world life changes through her fictional character, gardener China Bayles, start with Thyme of Death, the first in the series. It won’t be hard to keep on reading until you get to the current book, Nightshade.

You’ll also want to check out her web site and blog for the history of herbs, recipes, garden tips, her life as an author, and much more.

Susan doesn’t know it, but she was a life-changing event for me. A few years ago I went to hear her speak about how she exchanged her secure career to become a full-time writer. I’ve also watched her grow into international acclaim on her web site, as well as a recognized and beloved author, where readers simply can’t wait for the next book.

I thank her, Jeannie, our CTG guests and gardeners, and especially all of you, for a life’s progression that gets richer every day. And let me know how your lavender is doing! Linda