Bentwood Trellises for Your Garden

Bentwood arbor entry to my lower garden area.
I've been making and writing about bentwood gardens for several decades. Actually I started making things out of saplings and limbs clear back when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. Somewhere I have some photos of the elaborate trellises I hauled in my pickup to Washington, DC in 1992 to serve as the entryway into an Inaugural Brunch for the Clintons I was involved with. Over the years I've given programs and demonstrations for a lot of State Master Gardener conferences, herb festivals and so forth. In other words, I love making bent wood trellises!
My second bentwood book, this one from Store Publishing.
My first little book, Tea and Cakes Under the Trellis netted a mention and review in the New York Times, which led to Storey Publishing offering me a contract for this book, above. It's available on my website, as well on Amazon.

The fun thing about making trellises is how useful they are in the garden. Roses, beans, clematis, all grow well on trellises. They are the first vertical gardens! You don't have to build stuff on walls in order to make a vertical garden, just use a trellis and plant upward.

"Bentwood" is simply any green wood that will bend. Limbs left over from ice storms or tornadoes, all work. Saplings cut from fence rows, saplings thinned from the woods, even wood from back alleys, all can be turned into fantastic trellises.

Currently I'm working on designing a new cover for my 3rd book on bentwood - Romantic Bentwood Garden Trellises. That one's been on the market for several years and has always been a good seller but in order to list it as an e-book, I think it needs a new look and new cover. It has the basics for making trellises, but not the amount of projects and designs of the bigger book from Storey.

$5.95 from my website.
This trellis is made from bent cedar saplings.
Any kind of wood works for trellises as long as it bends. The one above is long, slender cedar saplings. I also use birch, hickory, elm and others but my favorites are willow and cedar. Willow is easily renewable, cut it off and it grows back with more good trellis wood!
Adam, our garden intern last year, made this handsome trellis and planted gourds on it. Clematis loves trellises, too. This trellis will easily last several years outside.
This is one of the trellises I made some years back. The photographer thought it would look good in this spot where a gate was so we stood it up for the photograph. The posts kind of overpower the trellis and you can't quite tell that it's actually an arbor you walk through.
This is Adam, making another trellis a couple of years ago.
The method is the same, whether you are making a gate, arbor, trellis or fence. (My book bigger book gives the steps as well as variations on how you make other projects).
Here's the little arbor on the left (where the photographer stuck the trellis for the photo). Notice the bentwood arbor on the right side of the photo. Our friend George and I built that years ago. If you see me and the garden in reruns of P.Allen Smith Gardens, this is the view you see in the show where Allen and I are strolling and talking.
Now would be a great time to build a trellis for your garden! It's a great way to recycle trimmings you might otherwise throw away.


Herbal Affair Festival Sand Springs

View to the south from the music area.
We've had a booth at the Herbal Affair in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, since the beginning of the festival 26 years ago. The very first year of the festival, thanks to the hard working women who put it together, and the excellent publicity they generated, they attracted almost 10,000 people. Over the years since then, attendance has held at around 20,000 to 24,000.
Buying plants.
Why do people come? To buy plants, specifically, herbs, and goodies for the garden. Everything at the festival has to be herb and plant related.
Vendors set up after 5:00 p.m. on Friday, to be ready for the crowds on Saturday morning. The festival is always the 3rd Saturday in April. To welcome the vendors, the organizers host a buffet of herbal foods, all homemade and donated, for the vendors. It's always such a kind and welcome evening after you've traveled for hours (4 hour drive each way for us), to get to sit down and visit with folks you only see once a year.
Kids of all ages come.

Then on Saturday the crowds start at 8:00 a.m.. They bring their kids, their dogs and they're ready to shop.
Husbands serve as mules, toting the wife's purchases.
They bring their husbands to carry the goodies, too. Or to tend the kids.
 I don't mean to say it's a lady's event. No, it's a great day of family entertainment. Lots of music and dancing on the stage in the middle of the triangle (town triangle rather than town square). Lots of food and activities for the kids. Even kid-sitting while you shop, provided by the city. Plant sitting, as well, so you can leave off your plants and go shop for more.
Food court.
A variety of foods are for sale including Amish (chicken and noodles, homemade chicken salad, lots of pies); Greek foods, and of course, corn dogs (mustard is made from an herb, thus the connection).
Mustard, it's an herb.

A day of family fun.
This is one of the best herb festivals anywhere, attracting thousands of people from many states. People come to buy plants, eat, visit, and have a great day. We here at Long Creek Herbs are always proud to be part of this outstanding event. What do we sell? My books and my formula, Herbal Nail Soak. We have customers who come just to see us and see what we brought this year. Some come to tell us how well my formula worked on their nails.
Our best-selling product with lots of satisfied customers.
See all of my books on my website.
We look forward to the Herbal Affair all year long and it's always an exceptional herbal event! Happy spring.


Irises Come to Life Again

Dark red maroon iris.
Two years ago, in early spring, in order to build a bathroom for Josh's mom, we had to remove my oldest garden in the upper yard. New water lines, new power and a handicap-accessible entry had to be built. As part of that process, my iris collection had to be moved. Late summer is the best time to move iris, but these had to be carefully yanked out ahead of a back hoe and concrete trucks, in the wrong season. For the most part, it turned out to be a good move. When I had first established that garden it was in sunshine, but over the past 32 years it had become a shade garden as trees grew up around it and the irises had ceased blooming.
Golden flame iris.
The irises sat "temporarily" for a year under the old pear tree in the back yard, awaiting new places to grow. Still shaded under the pear, they had no inclination toward blooming. Then last fall, before our friend and intern, Adam, left for his next gardening assignment, he rescued the iris collection and spread them around to every available bed (some in places I am only now discovering).
Finally I'm getting to see my irises bloom again, most that I have not seen in many years. It's like a family reunion because some came from friends, some I bought on trips, others I ordered. If you haven't noticed by sticking your nose into irises lately, each color has a slightly different fragrance. I wish there was a way to record the smells to recall later.
Peach iris, from our friends Olee & Sharon Jobe at Spring Fever Greenhouse.
This one's been hiding in the shade for at least 10 years.
As each one opens, I'm excited to see the blooms again. Some I thought I'd lost, others I'd forgotten I had.
This is a new one I added from last year, found at Lowe's.
This one re-blooms again in late summer.
Another welcome sight are the roses which are just coming into their prime. This one, below, is an old Rugosa variety that my mother always grew. The fragrance in outstanding, use it in salads, ice cream and cakes.
Mom's rose, from her yard.
Old-fashioned shrub rose.
The red and white is an old fashioned shrub rose that I found at the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas last year. The fragrance is so good you can almost float on it. (See my book How to Eat a Rose for recipes for roses; you can also view my YouTube video on roses, too).
Planting tomatoes.
We've begun planting tomatoes today. Aaron and I put up cattle panels attached to fence posts and the tomatoes will be tied to the panels as they grow. It's the best method I've found for growing tomatoes.
Lower garden beds.
You can't tell from the photo but that's Aaron at the end of the row on the left. The beds are all tilled and most are mulched heavily with straw. Brown gravel covers the pathways between. In a few days the beds will be green with corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes and sunflowers.
View of part of the upper beds.
The upper garden is beginning to take shape, as well. All you can see is straw-covered beds, but those, too, will be green in a few days. Hooray for spring!


Dripping Springs Farm, Berryville, AR

Post and beam house next to the creek and gardens at Dripping Springs.

Our WWOOFer, Aaron, has a goal of seeing as many different kinds of gardens as he can this season. He wants to learn different methods of growing, not just for a home garden but also on a commercial scale. Basically he wants to learn everything he can about producing food and gardening. On Sunday I drove him down to visit our friends Mykul Crane and Mark Cain, who have Dripping Springs Farm. They grow both for the extensive farmers market in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and for their own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, where farmers take subscriptions from customers, and furnish the customer with weekly baskets of in season produce).
Mykul had just made a bouquet to send home to Josh's mom, Barbara. Aaron on the right.

Their farm is remote, even more so than Long Creek Herb Farm. Far, far back in the woods, next to a crystal clear stream which furnishes the water for their irrigation of the farm are their fields and greenhouses. Dripping Springs Farm hosts garden interns throughout the growing season like we have here at our farm, although they usually have 4 to 6 interns for the entire season, often from South America, Japan or other countries and work through a completely different organization than WWOOF organization ( the letters stand for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

Blueberry blossoms in the rain.
The farm had originally been a blueberry farm with about 2 acres of blueberries. We've made annual berry picking trips there for years. But blueberries are labor intensive and finding enough pickers has been a challenge over the years to make the bushes profitable. They've removed most of the berries and planted more profitable crops such as cut flowers and vegetables. The farm has several acres of vegetables, some herbs and a lot of cut flowers.
A greenhouse with mostly spinach and salad greens.
Greenhouse growing extends their season considerably. Because they live in a valley, they have a shorter growing season, with later frosts in the spring and earlier in the fall then we do here on the upland area. Hoop houses such as the one above don't require heat but can extend their growing season by as much as 2 months.
Aaron, Erica, Mark Cain, Mykul Crane, inside greenhouse while it was raining.
Dripping Springs also sells produce to the Ozarks Natural Foods store in Fayetteville, AR. ONF has been around for as long as I can remember, offering organic foods and produce. In recent years they've been using local sources of fresh produce as possible.
Snapdragons and other flowers for cutting.
At farmers market on the downtown square of Fayetteville, if you look for a long line of people at a booth, it is likely people waiting for Mykul or one of the interns to make a bouquet. Their method is to take dozens of buckets of freshly picked flowers and as a customer walks up, they order a bouquet by price. Mykul pulls individual stems of flowers from each bucket and creates a custom-made bouquet for each customer. People love it and will wait in line for Mykul's creations.
Deer fence, 10 ft. high.
Deer have been a constant problem at Dripping Springs. A few years ago they put up a double electric fence, one low so the deer couldn't get a run at a jump, and another fence a bit higher. Over time the deer learned how to get over the electric fences, so last year with a agriculture grant, they built this high fence around the gardens and this one is working well.
Bamboo in background.
Two years ago we had an especially hard winter freeze in January. Mark said they got -17 degrees, colder than we had at Long Creek. The photo on the right is of the bamboo in the background. They have about an acre or more of 30-40 ft tall bamboo and that freeze killed it back to the ground, the first time in 30 years. We have the same variety here at the farm and we didn't get nearly that cold and ours wasn't hurt. But look at the photo on the left, the line of brown at the top is all dead bamboo, with new coming up from the roots. They use bamboo for plant poles, constructing projects, etc. but grow way, way more bamboo than they can use. You can only eat just so many bamboo shoots!
Bamboo arbor.
Above is a simple bamboo arbor our intern, Adam, and I made from bamboo we brought from Dripping Springs about 4 years ago. Bamboo is tough, makes excellent trellises and garden projects and will last for several years. I grew achocha on it several seasons.

Dripping Springs received a good rain while Aaron and I visited. They needed the rain, they've been dry like we are at Long Creek Herb Farm. Happy spring.


Long Creek Herb Gardens

Flame azalea blooming in front of the Herb Shop porch.
Without a doubt, spring is my season. Everything that was asleep, comes to life. Above you can see the flame azalea just about to burst into full bloom in front of the Herb Shop porch. When it blooms, it looks like the burning bush of the Bible. Next to it, on the right, is a little yellow flame azalea. When it grows into the orange one, it really will look like it's ablaze.
Grancy graybeard (Chionanthus virginicus)
Grancy graybeard, or old man's beard, is in bloom. This small, native tree is a welcome addition to spring. Our friend, Billy Joe Tatum, first introduce me to this plant in her woods many years ago and it's a start from one of hers. Her name for it, which seems more appropriate, was "Grandady graybeard."
Lunaria annua, or money plant.
Money plant (Lunaria annua) is in full bloom this week, as well. Also known as silver dollar plant, I have both this dark purple one at left, and the more common lavender colored one. Both produce the silvery, translucent pods that people like to gather for fall bouquets. If you forget to gather them, you'll find they come up in unexpected places, like mine here (it's in the Ozarks native medicinal bed).

Lunaria annua, another variety of money plant.
Hesperis matronalis, or dame's rocket.
Hesperis, or dame's rocket, always blooms when the money plants are blooming. Mine came from my Grandad Long, back when I was a child. He brought the seed from wild (or escaped) ones when he visited  his brother outside of Colorado Springs in the 1950s. Missouri Botanic Garden warns this is a potentially invasive species but I've never seen it being a problem. I like it in my garden.

Note the red arrow at top, pointing to the bent-over asparagus top.

You may not be familiar with the tall plant (above). It's a Russian asparagus and I don't remember where I bought it, but I assume it's as edible as regular asparagus. Sold as "decorative" I have enjoyed it every year as it makes a larger clump. This is the first year I've put up bamboo poles to see just how tall it will get. In the past I've woven it in and out of the fence. As you can see by Aaron, our garden intern standing next to it, the plant is more than twice his height. The red arrow shows where the wind is bending it over his head.

Speaking of Aaron, his job today is cleaning the old straw out of the goat barn and mulching rows and rows of berries. He also has taken over responsibility for feeding the two most recently born goat twins. Their mother isn't giving any milk so 3 times a day Aaron bottle feeds the pair. 
Anytime we walk near the goats, these two come up and think they are going to be fed.
Every human that approaches is thought of as a source of food.
Native columbine in bloom.
In the medicinal plants bed, the naturalized red columbine (Aquilegia sp) is blooming. There are several medicinal uses dating back to Native American uses. Said to have come from Europe about 2 centuries ago, it is sometimes considered a native plant.