Ryan Trares: Planting something special

Wrist deep in rich black soil, I was just a kid playing in the dirt.

There are many ways that I can tell spring has arrived and summer is closing quickly behind it.

But none make me as giddy as when our garden finally bursts into color.

Greenery dominates the plots set up around our home. Daylilies have exploded with spiky green fronds. Hostas are about to unfurl their massive leaves. The delicate white blooms of lily of the valley have emerged.

And those are just the perennials that come back year after year.

Very little of it would be possible without the help of Hall’s Greenhouse in Bloomington. Owned by my wife’s aunt and uncle, the greenhouse is filled with annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruits and more. Taking a trip through the plastic-covered tunnels is like going on brilliantly colored shopping spree for a plant lover like myself.

Each year, we try to make the drive to pick up hanging baskets, potted plants and more to fill out the areas around the perennials. Like a kid in a candy store, we envision the perfect colors and blooms to make our yard the ideal outdoor oasis for the next five months.

We returned home with a bounty. There were baskets of pretty purple-blue torenia hybrids known as Summer Wave. Smaller pots were filled out with a similar plant, a torenia in midnight blue called Catalina.

The back patio was overseen with large pots of pink and red geraniums. For our largest pot, Anthony picked out the centerpiece of it all — a tropical orange bloom known as Sunpatiens that brings a fluorescent glow to the yard.

Since Anthony was born, he’s been my garden helper, particularly in decisions on what to plant in our raised-bed vegetable patch.

This year, he wanted all of the usual selections. We picked out three Super Sweet 100 tomato plants for one side of the plot, as he’s become a fan of plucking the juicy, kid-sized fruit off the vine over the course of the summer and nibbling on them.

His goal for the past few years have been to grow carrots, which we’ve had limited success on in the past. But we’ve set aside a nice patch of garden and made sure to carefully space each seed. They were the first thing we planted this year, and so far, they’ve grown well. We’ll see how it ends.

The crown jewel of “his” garden, though, is a new addition. As we were walking through the greenhouse, one display caught his eye.

“Strawberries!” he shouted. “I want to grow strawberries!”

The tag he spotted was for a different kind of plant, a kind of flower with strawberry in the name. But with some direction from the greenhouse staff, we were pointed towards actual strawberry plants. He picked out two hardy looking ones, and when we got home, he planted each right at the front of our raised bed.

Anthony has a vision for his crop: batch after batch of strawberry shortcake, with sweet berries he raised himself.

I’m not sure if his dream will come to fruition — or “fruit”-ion. But even if we don’t get berry one, I’m satisfied just being able to play in the dirt with him.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.