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Camp Frémont

Gardening, Photography, and Homeschool.

- by Sarah Fremont

  • Sarah Fremont

I was eleven years old and it was a glorious early spring day in the southern, rolling hills of Indiana. I walked down the street to play with my friend, Elizabeth, and as we were playing outside, I smelled something deliciously sweet and flowery. The smell captivated me long before I could even see what was blooming!

“Elizabeth! What is that delightful smell?”

“The sweet pea vine. Haven’t you grown them before?”

We had never grown sweet peas, but I was definitely storing the remembrance of this blossom away in my brain for the future.

Elizabeth and I picked the delicate, butterfly looking flowers from the vine and made fairy crowns. The more we picked the flowers, the more they seemed to bloom. We had a splendid month of harvesting the fragrant beauties for our play and for bouquets in our homes.

The sweet pea is an annual flowering and climbing plant. It can grow to a height of three to almost seven feet tall and flowers in a variety of pastel shades of blue, pink, purple, and white, including bi-colors. When we lived in Minnesota (cold winter climate) we always sowed our sweet pea seeds in April, so I was surprised to find out that in Texas (mild winter climate) we sow them in the fall (October or November) for a spring bloom. Sweet peas can handle a light frost, but do not like the heat. They prefer cool days and nights and will start to fade when temperatures go above 65°F.

Tips for growing your own sweet pea vine:

1. Soak your seeds in water overnight before planting in the ground.

2. Be sure your soil is rich and lovely. We always mix in good compost and a bit of bone meal for our sweet peas.

3. Sweet peas will need a trellis to climb. As the vine grows, be sure to help it find its way up the trellis.

4. Plant your seeds an inch deep and about an inch or two apart. After the seedlings are three inches tall, thin to one every six inches.

5. Keep the soil moist.

6. Pick the flowers often for indoor bouquets, and the vine will produce more blooms!

Sweet peas add such an enchanting burst of color and aroma to your garden. Consider growing this captivating spring vine in your garden.

Happy blooming! xo

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  • Sarah Fremont

“. . . arriving at Moonacre possessing nothing in the world but the clothes on my back and ten flower-pots with cuttings of geraniums in them, those glorious salmon-pink geraniums that are the pride of Cornwall.” The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

I was ten years old and my grandmother had brought me a gift. “For you!” she said. And she handed me a potted pink geranium. My first foray into my own personal gardening. I placed the geranium in my bedroom window and cared for it all by myself. A little watering and occasionally removing any spent flowers and the plant survived and thrived for a very long time. It seemed to bloom continuously and always made me think of my sweet grandmother.

Now, years later, my own children and I read a lot of British literature written before the 1950s, and so many of the novels write about geraniums—geraniums in pots on the windowsills, geraniums on red and white checkered cloths on the table, or geraniums in the garden. Succumbing to the influence of British literature and the remembrance of my own grandmother, we decided to fill our windows with the potted plant as well. Such a lovely touch of cheerful color and so easy to care for. The only caveat is that the plant often does so well that it eventually needs repotting into a larger pot. We are limited by the space of our sil, so to save money and the overgrown plant, we've begun geranium propagation. Geraniums are one of the easiest plants to propagate and so far we’ve had a 100 percent success rate.

Plant propagation is the process of growing new plants either from seeds, cuttings, or other plant parts.

If you want to try your hand at propagating geraniums, you will need a mother plant, a sharp knife or shears, seed soil, and a pot. Then follow these steps:

  1. With your mother plant, select a healthy six-inch stem, and cut in a straight line above a leaf joint or node (the swollen part of the stem). The cut stem end will naturally heal over and not be harmed.

  2. On your new cutting, make another cut just below a node, so that the length from the leafy tip to the node at the base is between four and six inches. Tidy up your leaf cutting by rubbing off any stipules (flaky parts) and strip off all but the leaves on the tip. This is the part that you’ll be planting.

  3. Place cutting into damp, fresh seed starting soil and set in a warm, bright location. Do not let the cutting dry out. In a few weeks, the cutting will form roots and can be potted.

  4. Carefully remove your rooted cutting from its seed starting soil home (gently shaking any excess seed soil) and place in a small pot with potting soil. Keep moist at all times.

A newly propagated geranium makes a cheerful and easy handmade present. Add a lovely tag and label to your pot and it is ready to be gifted. As long as geraniums have light, warmth, and water they will grow and flower year-round.

Happy propagating!

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  • Sarah Fremont

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Greetings from the mountains of New Mexico! In our new mountain garden we are busy restoring the long ago abandoned garden beds: weeding, building borders, and adding my favorite compost. In the years that we have been gardening, we have found a few helpful ideas that enable us to garden successfully, so I thought I would share them with you.

The number one factor is the location of the garden. Of course, you need to find a spot with enough sunlight, but beyond that, the most important thing is for it to be easily visible! Not just for ease of access, watering, and harvesting, but if the garden is located in the far, or out of sight, regions of your property you are less likely to care if it is a disheveled mess. When we lived in Minnesota, our garden was in the front yard visible to all the neighbors. Here in New Mexico, our garden can be viewed from the kitchen. A visible garden helps motivate you to keep it tidy and flourishing.

Another one of our favorite tricks to keeping our garden easy and enjoyable is to plant as many perennials (plants that will regrow every spring) as possible. You’ll spend less time working and buying new plants, and more time harvesting. We have perennials growing along the border of the entire garden: grapes, asparagus, chives, garlic, and berry bushes. In Minnesota, we were able to grow strawberries and rhubarb as perennials too.

A final thought for successful gardening: Know the specific vegetables that grow well in your area, when to plant them, and any other special considerations for them. Large, national chain stores will often sell a wide variety of plants, many of which are not well-suited to your area or your specific planting time. Purchasing plants from these types of stores often result in wasted planting efforts and money. We have a local organic nursery that provides us with helpful gardening information and only sells plants when they are ready to be planted. Most locally owned nurseries or local universities and colleges have material with gardening information for local conditions.

We love gardening for the way it provides food for our family, encourages us to be outside, and inspires us creatively. Find a few vegetables, fruits, or herbs you would enjoy harvesting and plant away. Happy gardening!

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