In my filing cabinet of garden topics from A to Z, the letter of the alphabet that takes up the most space is P. From pansies to praying mantis, there is a great amount of information, and I will delve into some of those topics today.
Pansies deserve a whole column to themselves when spring arrives, so I will just say I ordered seeds and planted them a couple of weeks ago, and they are about an inch tall. The tough little seedlings can go into the ground as soon as it can be worked and will tolerate light frost.
Parsley is one of my favorite herbs to grow and to eat. The seeds are reluctant to germinate, and the last few years, I have bought those little pots from the grocery store - one each of curly and flat-leaved Italian parsley - and they spread quickly, providing a supply all summer.
I prefer the curly parsley for sentimental reasons; my grandmother used to eat large quantities of it and, if our plates held a sprig as decoration, the word spread around the large dining table of our extended family: "Give it to Nan!"
I don't remember seeing the flat type in England, although I am sure it was available. It is said to have a better flavor.
I like parsley sauce with fish, just a plain white sauce with a liberal addition of the fresh chopped herb.
Parsnips are one of my favorite vegetables, and I have grown them the past two or three years with limited success.
They do not grow very big and are inclined to be woody, so I will probably depend on the produce counter this year
For success in the garden, the soil needs to be deeply spaded and rich with organic material. My family is not keen on parsnips, so I sneak them into vegetable roasts with carrots, onions, turnips, winter squash and sweet potatoes, and they rarely are identified. If caught, I mumble something about whitish carrots and go on eating.
Peonies are lovely flowers and very long-lived. Along with lilacs, they frequently can be found as the last survivors in a spot where a garden once flourished. There was a long hedge of red and white peonies all down the side of the yard when we moved here some 54 years ago, and I gradually have done away with them except for one survivor kept for sentimental reasons.
The peonies took up a lot of space, and the flowers only bloom for a short while, usually meeting a premature ending with a spring storm that flattens the stems and scatters petals far and wide.
This is one of those plants I prefer to admire in someone else's garden.
Peppers are rewarding to grow but require some patience because their fruits don't ripen until late summer.
There are many varieties to be found, and every year I order the seeds of something new and interesting. I just grow the sweet, blocky kind that can be used in so many ways in the kitchen, and
they come in green, yellow, orange, red and even chocolate brown.
My grandaughter's husband, Tom, grows all kinds of hot peppers - jalapeno, habanero and more - so if I feel the need for something spicy, I know where to go.
And that is all I have room for.
But looking through the file folders has reminded me I should write about new perennials as well as old favorites, and a column about pesticides is brewing in the back of my brain.
And then there is penstemon and some explanation of pH in the soil.
I just wrote a column on picea (spruce) and need to write one about pines, and I have been planning one on plant families, so the P's will be around for a while.