OK, so we didn’t get many of those proverbial April showers, but thanks to the magic of sprinklers, May can be full of flowers anyway.
With that in mind, I’m taking a cue from the theme for this year’s Arkansas Heritage Month (“Arkansas Gardens: The Roots of our Heritage”) and devoting this week’s column to where and how to blow large sums of one kind of green in the sometimes frustrating pursuit of another.
And before you wrinkle your nose at the thought of all that compost and all those worms, have no fear — I’ll also tell you where you can buy the result of some other gardener’s labor, and touch nary a speck of dirt with your own pretty little hands.
Plant nurseries abound in Central Arkansas, of course, but I’ll mention a couple that I know are having sales and specials:
The Good Earth, at 15601 Cantrell Road, has a buy-two-get-one special on roses and a buy-five-get-one special on all perennials through the end of May. Even if you’re not in the purchasing mood, this is a great place to browse — its huge outdoor space is set up so you can almost imagine you’re in a park meandering along a nature trail. Except for the enormous planters, some so big you could literally take a bath in them.
I also walked by several large, copper window boxes pre-planted with lovely mixes of flowers and foliage — buy one of those and a copy of P. Allen Smith’s new container gardening book for the coffee table, and no one will suspect a thing.
The Good Earth is particularly user-friendly, too, with easy-to-read signs in front of every plant variety giving its name, cost, ideal growing conditions, etc. Among the plant names I came across: Coreopsis “Crème Brulee” and tiarella “Mint Chocolate.” There’s also a hosta called “Spilt Milk.” Mmmm.
Over on the north shore, just off I-40 at 3101 North Hills Blvd., is Lakewood Gardens. This nursery recently welcomed new managers, and they’re using that as an excuse to have a three-day open house this weekend, May 20-22. Look for bargains on what retail manager Becky Naylor called “last year’s inventory” — shrubs, trees, fountains, pottery and other stuff that no doubt works just as well as it did when it arrived.
If, like me, you find yourself staring at a blank piece of yard and have no clue where to start, both Lakewood Gardens and The Good Earth (and, I’m sure, many other nurseries) will help you figure out — at no charge, assuming you then buy some stuff from them — what to plant where if you bring in a diagram or a digital picture of the space you’re working with.
Of course, it’s not just plants and pots you’ll want to buy for your garden. As with a little black dress, it’s accessories that set the mood. I found a bunch I liked, from honest-to-God concrete gnomes at Lakewood Gardens ($55-$65) to brightly colored kneeling pads ($10) and floppy broad-brimmed ribbon hats ($16) at Hocott’s in Hillcrest.
Naturally, you’ll need a watering can, and no need to settle for dull green plastic. Target has a $10 chrome one that looks like the Tin Man’s oil can from “The Wizard of Oz,” and the Design Center in the Heights has a couple of whimsical, ’50s-organic-space-alien-looking ones for $78. They’ve also got some copper bird-feeders, in a beautiful abstract shape, for $65-$85. And if you like to pamper yourself after a hard morning’s work, check out The Thymes’ Gardener line of hand cleanser and lotion.
I’m leaving out the biggest local gardening bargain of all: the bulk compost and mulch sold by the City of Little Rock. It’s $25 a ton — in more practical terms, I got a pickup-truck full a few weeks ago for about $11.
OK, OK, enough about gardening.
• Heights merchants have had such success staying open late on the first Thursday of every month that at least half a dozen of them have signed on to do it every week — including Chameleon Art Glass (where, by the way, mosaic tiles are 20 percent off this month), Winterberry Home, Ozark Outdoor Supply, Thread, Attitudes and Latitudes and Bella Boutique. Abigail Davis, owner of Winterberry Home and VP of the Heights Merchants Association, said the official closing time is 7 p.m., but some will stay open until 8.
• Call me a sucker, but I can’t watch an episode of “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” without getting a little misty-eyed. And that Ty Pennington is even more attractive if I turn the volume all the way down. So I took the bait and went to Sears recently to check out his new line of home decor items. My verdict: Not bad at all. Lots of stripes, which, so-five-minutes-ago though they may be, I still really, really like.
• A sign in the window says the new Ten Thousand Villages store on President Clinton Avenue won’t open until May 27, but they’ve got plenty of inventory out already to please the early-bird window shopper: large baskets, small gongs hung from wooden frames, blue-and-white pottery in a mind-boggling array of shapes and sizes.
•If you somehow missed the ads in last week’s Times, Bella Boutique is now carrying the entire Keihls line of beauty and skin-care products. Hey! Go on Thursday!
Flowers? For me?