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Vertical bed of lettuces, flowers and herbs at the 2009 Festival of Flowers.

Take heart, all you northern gardeners. Even though your vegetable beds may be slumbering under six inches of fresh snow this week, those sweet spring days are just around the corner. 

Here in south Alabama, we flirt with winter but the relationship never lasts. We’re already well into our growing season, with pea vines waving overhead and tomato plants racing to put on some size before the arrival of the rowdy insect hordes who show up to party all summer.  We know that by July, when the mercury rarely dips below 90 degrees, gardening will be bearable only before sunrise or during a steady rain. But in April, anything is possible.

I try to attend the Festival of Flowers every spring, to soak up some gardening inspiration. The event provides a sprawling patchwork of blooms from around the world — plus locally grown orchids, landscape architecture installations, a whimsical tablescape competition, a gardening vendors’ marketplace and a slate of expert speakers and demonstrations. Fun!

Among the usual ikebana arrangements and displays of backyard reflecting pools, this year’s exhibit tent was populated with a surprising number of edible landscape elements.  There were hedges incorporating kumquat trees and rabbiteye blueberries.  Windowboxes were artfully arranged with herbs and edible flowers. One local company advertised a 4×4 foot raised bed  (the finished product, all dark stained wood and spindles, looked almost like a piece of furniture) installed and planted with your favorite seasonal veggies.

The advice booth, staffed by members of Master Gardeners, was all about the kitchen garden this year:

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And I couldn’t help lusting after this beautiful 1955 Ford pickup, all covered in locally grown food crops. (Sigh.)

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At the container gardening display, a repurposed kitchen sink becomes a home for lettuces and garlic chives:

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And the usual displays — the ones that dealt with flowers or landscape design — were as beautiful as always. So here, for all my snowbound gardening friends, is a little bit of spring. Enjoy!

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