If you spend your days doing full time baby sitting for a grandson who is almost three, then your only time to write a newsletter, or anything, is when he is napping or sleeping at night. The spare bedroom, where he sleeps, happens to double as my office and I know very well the primary rule of parenting, “never wake a sleeping child.” He was with us for 2 weeks and he has now returned to his parents and while missing him greatly, I can now get back to writing and gardening. His little brother’s liver transplant has apparently been very successful. So it’s back to a much delayed “Dallying In The Dirt.”

I did manage to get some of last year’s left over onion seeds, (I’m always amazed at how well they keep,) sown and they have all leaped out of the soil to provide the first green shoots of the coming spring. The one seed order I managed to send out has arrived and as soon as I publish this, I will retire to the basement to sow the rest of the Onions, Leeks and Shallots so that we can get caught up on the things that need to be in the ground in February. A few Tomatoes and Peppers will also get going. It really is a bit early but my competitive gardening side needs to have a few bigger plants for early June in an attempt to have the first Tomatoes on the street.

The leafless Hibiscus has been attacked, three year olds can help by picking up the dropped branches, and is now about a third of it’s original size. In the week since that was done the dormant buds have already started to leaf out. It should be fully developed and ready to grace the patio by late May. That’s assuming that I can keep the spider mites at bay.

I did manage to get my four days touring Florida gardens, on your behalf, just before I started my grandparenting gig. We saw some wonderful delights and ate some wonderful food and I will tell you more about it in upcoming editions of ‘Dallying.’ One of the delights of the trip was a visit to Hollis Garden a little gem of a garden in Lakeland Florida.(picture left) It is well worth a visit and your visit needs to be longer than you might think given its relatively small size. It is packed with interesting things to see.

Now this is a gardening site but even gardeners have to eat and many of us become cooks to utilize the vegetables that we grow. That’s my justification for telling you about Harry’s Old Place. This is one of those restaurants that we all know exist but need somebody to tell us about. The food is great, my yellow tail, grilled with garlic caper sauce, was delightful, the decor is well on the basic side, the wine is inexpensive but quite drinkable. The outside, on the other hand, might not make you want to stop unless you had been told to try it. If you are ever in Winter Haven Florida search it out and enjoy yourself. Oh! Yes, they do an excellent job of preparing the vegetables, (pictured right with my friend's shrimp,) which is what a garden writer should notice.

The solarium is delightful as the days get longer. The barren stick of Hibiscus is surrounded by the pots of Cymbidium Orchids that are in full bloom. The pots of miniature Daffodils that were potted in November are displaying their sunshine yellow flowers from several spots. A couple of the Amaryllis are putting up yet another flower spike and the Phalaenopsis Orchid on the breakfast table is about to open its second stalk of speckled white and purple blooms. One of the extra joys of having a constant parade of things in bloom is the ability to avoid the stress and exorbitantly priced flowers on that artificially created Hallmark day that rears its ugly head on the 14th of this month. I enjoy the gardening and the Assistant Gardener is perpetually lavished with flowers. Win Win!

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Susan Asks? You talked about growing sweet Peas this coming year. When are you starting them and where should I look for seeds.?

Ken Answers!
I haven’t even ordered them yet but I should have. They need to be started about 8 weeks before the plant out date which is probably the end of April in my zone. They will survive a little frost and like to be grown in cool weather. I also need to get out there as soon as the snow disappears and build some sort of structure to grow them on, as the main varieties can easily exceed 2 m in height. This will be a new adventure for me and I am hoping for wonderful bouquets of sweet smelling flowers to bring in to the Assistant Gardener. Lot’s of places sell seeds for Sweet Peas but Renee’s seems to specialize in them and has a wide assortment of varieties. I’m sending this newsletter out and then sending her my order.

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Whitby ON