A few summers ago I was at a local garden center checking out the markdown plants, and I came across some large but scrawny rose bushes marked $1.00 each. I really wasn't that fond roses then, having heard they had "high maintenance" reputation. I had long since decided they didn't belong in my carefree garden. However, $1.00 a plant was to hard to pass up, so I bought them all. I got them home and stuck them in some plastic tubs full of water because it was too hot and dry then to plant anything. I forgot about them for several weeks and when I finally remembered, I was surprised to find that they were still alive and seemingly quite happy. I decided then and there that they if they had withstood weeks of 100 degree heat living in a plastic storage tub with only an occasional sprinkle of rain to quench their thirst, they must be tougher than I thought. I promptly planted them in a place of honor--right next to the front porch. The following spring they leafed out early and I soon noticed buds forming on the canes. Then one morning I stepped out the door with coffee mug in hand and was greeted by the most spectacular rose blossoms I'd ever seen. The bushes were covered with glowing reddish-orange flowers with star-like centers of gold. The five single-layered petals were delicate in contrast to the vibrant coloring, and the canes arched gracefully to the ground under the weight of buds and blooms. Bees buzzed merrily around the bushes, and several hummingbirds zoomed by, air dancing from bloom to bloom. When I finally caught my breath, a question slowly formed in my mind: what kind of roses were these?! I tore myself away from their beauty and headed into the potting shed in search of an answer. I quickly grabbed the basket that I keep the plant name tags in and began rustling through it. After a few moments, I pulled out a dusty tag with a picture on it that was identical to what was blooming in my front yard. The name printed above the photo was "Austrian Copper Rose". That's all the info it gave me, so I went to my computer and did a quick search online. Turns out, Austrian Copper Roses are an heirloom variety species rose, having survived for centuries in the wild before finding their way into cultivation. They were introduced into society in the 1500's, and they are known to be the ancient ancestors of our modern-day ornamental roses. Wow! All this history growing right off my front porch. Who would have guessed it? Thank goodness I can't pass up a bargain, even if I don't think I need it. And though they only cost me $1.00 each, I now consider them priceless.
I have a problem with tomatoes. Each year I tell myself that I'm not going to plant as many as last year, and each year I end up planting more than the year before. I can't help myself. And I'm an heirloom girl, so I always plant plenty of Brandywine, Radiator Charlies Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, and anything else that has a pedigree. But there's this one little modern hybrid that's powerful enough to make me break my heirloom-only rule. It's a fantastic little beauty that goes by the name "Sunsugar". Oh my goodness, you haven't lived until you've popped one of these sweet treats in your mouth! They are so sweet, tangy, and bursting with flavor that I think they should change the name to "Sunburst". The color is irresistible, too--it's golden orange, and it glows so bright it makes you do a double take. The fruit grows in clusters of cherry tomato-sized morsels, just perfect for snacking as I go about my chores. One year I put my lounge chair in the garden right next to this plant. I'd sit there admiring my garden in the evenings, munching on a handful of these little fellows. Oh, the joys of summer! But this year I didn't have to wait until summer to have them. I cheated! I found full-sized plants at a local nursery with green tomatoes already on them. I immediately snapped up three and planted them as soon as I got home. Within a week or so I was snacking away, happy as a turtle in a tomato patch! You just can't beat homegrown tomatoes fresh from the vine. So if you're thinking of planting some this year, give Sunsugar a try. And if by some chance you don't like it, just send it my way...I can never get enough.
As I circled around the pond and started up the slope toward the woods, it suddenly occurred to me that it had been a while since I had explored our property. I paused for a moment to reflect on that, and I was reminded of how pretty our land is in springtime. I snapped this photo of the spring buttercups dusting the ankles of the trees, and then I pressed on with my task. I was actually there that day for two reasons: I was hunting for spring morels and also for a mysterious animal I'd spotted near the pond. I figured it was safe to go because the odds of my finding either one were pretty slim. Just to be cautious, I had called in some reinforcements in the form of my dad. He's always up for an adventure, and tracking a big black animal with a long tail and maybe finding some morels along the way was right up his alley. Who says there's nothing to do around here?! He drove right over and off we went across the field. After about an hour of searching, the only thing we found was that it's hard to look up and down at the same time. In hindsight we should have had one of us looking at the ground for the morels and one of us looking in the trees for the animal, but I didn't think of that until we got back. Oh well, it was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods even if we did come back empty handed. So I guess the morel of the story is: you don't always find what you're looking for, so take time to enjoy the scenery along the way!