Gardener enjoys ‘mosaic’ approach

Published 4:51 pm Thursday, April 23, 2020

It’s been a lovely spring.

Birds are chirping in dogwood trees and around feeders. Lawns are luscious and green. And honeysuckle bushes are bursting with sweet aromatic flowers that are buzzing with bees.

This spring many people have been forced to stop in their tracks because of severe COVID-19 restriction, but they have been able to take walks on sunny days and enjoy the spring.

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It’s been a good time to stop and smell the roses, clean out closets, rearrange family rooms and plant a garden.

Sara Lamb planted her several gardens a few years ago, and she continues to add plants every spring.

“Gardening is just a hobby, a side thing,” Lamb said. But now that she’s confined to staying home from her jobs where she teaches reading and math groups at Toliver Intermediate School, and is a substitute teacher at Montessori School, she has lots more time to tend to her garden patches, she said.

Lamb lives in a handsome brick home on Maple Avenue with her husband, Kevin, and sons, David, 16, and Andrew, 13.


Lamb said it doesn’t take much space to raise a garden. If someone wants to try their hand at raising herbs, flowers, and vegetables, she said to go online and look up 4×4 raised bed gardens. “You can see all the things you can grow.”

For example, her modest vegetable garden is only about two and a half feet wide and a few feet long. It’s tucked between her family’s home and the neighbor’s. There’s where she and Andrew are raising peas, spinach, lettuce and a few herbs.

Andrew also helps his mom by hauling debris out of the gardens in a wheelbarrow. And he uses his artistic abilities to paint rocks to decorate the gardens with and even modified a chocolate chip cookie recipe to include peppermint they’re growing. (See recipe below)

Another spot where Lamb created a garden is in a tear-shaped area in the middle of their drive-around driveway behind their house.

When they first moved in, she said the spot was full of overgrown weeds. Now, the center of it features a large Indigo Bush surrounded by an herb area and butterfly waystation. She’s planted onions, oregano, thyme, sage, horehound, cilantro, orange mint, parsely, peppermint, bee balm, dyanthis, cone flowers, goldenrod, peonias, mountain mint, catmint, several types of basil, goats beard, lambs ear, ironweed, and autumn joy sedum — just to mention a few.

“I have lots and lots of plants,” Lamb said laughing.

Her gardens are described by a friend as being a mosaic-style, she said, not a formal one.

Once it’s a bit warmer, she’ll add marigolds and petunias that she already purchased online through the Boyle County Future Farmers of America to fill in where there may be empty spots.

Then she points to another area where she’s raising blueberries, blackberries and raspberries and mint. Ironweed, a native plant, grows along the fence row too. Yes, it’s a weed, she said, “but the pollinators love it.”

Even if you have just a little bit of space, you can have tons of flowers that are good for birds and for pollinators.”

In a fenced in area underneath a magnolia tree behind their garage, is where the hen house sits. They lost their hens earlier this year, Lamb said, so now they’re raising four chicks inside the garage. They’ll scratch and peck around outside once they’re a bit older, she added.

“I come out to get eggs from the hens. And lunch with a little thyme, oregano, onion, eggs and Swiss chard, and be able to season my food from things grown here.”

Past the hen house on the left and a small replica of an old-fashioned band stand on the right and behind a small fence, is her wildflower garden. “I love all plants. I love the herbs. I love the flowers. I love the vegetables,” Lamb said. “But my heart is with the wildflowers.”

Lamb has also discovered another purpose for wildflowers — natural dyes.

She spins wool for yarn to use in her weaving and knitting projects. “So I like to have some plants that help.” Goldenrod is a multipurpose plant she explained. The pollinators swarm to it and she uses the flowers for dyeing wool. Even the old walnut tree in the back yard is useful. She uses the walnuts “To make a really beautiful brown color,” Lamb said.

Earlier in the spring, a friend, artist and neighbor across the street asked if Lamb had grape hyacinth in bloom, which she did. Her friend used it to dye a silk scarf into a pale blue shade, and Lamb dyed some wool yarn into a pale bluish-gray shade. She said she didn’t know grape hyacinth could be used as a dye.

Lamb comes from a family of gardeners, and learned from then. She earned a BA degree in biology, where she also learned about wildflowers, she said.

“I just love learning, so I’m always learning new things,” she said, by reading articles, and from the Danville Garden Club members too.

With her time off from school this spring, Lamb said she’s concentrating on putting down some mulch, straw under strawberries and tidying up her gardens just a bit before the weather turns too hot. “Later in the summer the garden will do its thing.”


Andrew’s Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

In a bowl, beat together:

1 stick soft butter

1/3 cup oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla


In a second bowl, mix with a fork:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda


Slowly add dry ingredients to wet.

Mix in 1 cup chocolate chips and 3/4 cup chopped fresh peppermint, loosely packed.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes