The Times West Virginian

April 11, 2012

Gardening just clicks

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — So many flowers. And only so much room.

Although Sue Haddix grew up on a farm near Spencer, she never had what you’d call a lifelong love of gardening.

“I did not like it at all,” she said, laughing. Her mother would grow house plants but the big vegetable garden just took too much work.

Then, much later, someone gave her some hostas to plant. And the seed was sown.

“I love to play in the dirt,” she said with a laugh.

Since she retired from the Department of Agriculture in 2003, she’s created a paradise for flowers in her yard.

A Master Gardener since 2006, she grows flowers. Plants. Berries. Vegetables. She even has two apple trees.

It’s easy to tell daylilies are her favorite flowers: She’s got more than 100 varieties blooming in various stages from spring to fall.

If she doesn’t like something she’s planted — or has just plain grown tired of it — she replaces it with a new flower. She keeps track of what she’s planted where in several notebooks.

Planting, watering, weeding, feeding, deadheading ... that sounds like an awful lot of work. But not for her.

“It’s relaxing. I can go out and play in the dirt. I forget everything. I love to go out in the morning and pull up weeds. It’s therapeutic.

“Gardening just clicked with me. It was something to do other than working and cleaning the house all the time.

“It grew on me slowly until after I retired. I’d get out the catalogs and buy this, buy that, buy something else.”

Her passion for daylilies began as a project for the Master Gardeners.

“There are so many different varieties. Some are ever-blooming. They bloom and quit, then bloom and quit. Some bloom one time.”

She’s got them in just about any color you can think of. And when she’s tired of one type, she just plants new ones.

For most nongardeners, daylilies are those tall orange flowers you see growing alongside the road. You won’t find these in her garden.

“I don’t like them. They spread too fast.”

Daylilies are hardy little sprouts.

“They will grow just any place,” she said. “The soil doesn’t have to be just right. Here, my soil isn’t that good. There’s a lot of clay in it. I’ve amended it some but still it’s not that good. But daylilies do just fine. They’ll even grow in partial shade.

“I had one plant that I put in a bucket and left it there outside in the winter. It had maybe just a little bit of water off and on, and it stayed there all winter and grew.”

Even her granddaughter, little 22-month-old Brailey Alvarez, is learning to love gardening. The Easter bunny brought her a tiny plastic shovel and rake, which she immediately used on the carpet, crowing, “Dig! Dig! Dig!”

Haddix also grows helleborus, poppies, clematis, larkspur, bleeding hearts, roses, peonies and more.

“I just love flowers,” she said. “They have become my passion.”

She’s partial to perennials.

“I don’t like to have to buy flowers every year,” she said. “And part of it is the excitement of going out one day and you don’t have something, and the next day you go out and it’s blooming.

“That’s one reason I have so many different things. I don’t always have full beds but I usually have something blooming.”

She finds those new flowers by digging through her seed catalogs in the winter.

“That helps me get through the winter,” she said.

She prefers raised beds for growing her veggies.

“The soil warms up sooner and because it’s smaller, I can put good soil on it and not worry about clay and sand. And instead of trying to spread compost over the whole yard, I just put it in the raised bed.”

This year she’s growing blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. She’s thinking of trying her hand at growing cantaloupe and watermelon, too.

“I dearly love watermelon in the summer,” she said.

She has tomato plants already started under grow lights. She plans to grow just enough tomatoes, beans, squash and cucumbers for her to eat.

No matter how many blooms are in her garden, there’s always still just one more flower to try.

“I like to do something new to keep me excited,” she said.

So she just keeps making more flowerbeds “every place I can,” she said.

“I have no idea how many flowers I have in this yard,” she said.

Whether it’s fruit, vegetables or flowers, “Gardening is a fun thing to do,” she said.

Every Wednesday through June, Take 5 will be strolling through our readers’ lush gardens. To have yours featured, contact Debbie Wilson at 394-367-2549 or dwilson@timeswv.com.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.