All things garden: Gardeners, cooks treat participants to lunch, laughs

TUPELO – About 60 women filled a dozen tables in the reception hall at the Link Centre on Tuesday to hear six hours’ worth of gardening talk.
“Mississippi Gardening,” presented jointly by the Itawamba Community College Continuing Education Department and the Link Centre Culinary Arts program, featured renowned gardener and author Felder Rushing; floral designer Tracy Proctor; Mac McAllister, director of the Link Centre Culinary Arts program; and Master Gardener Joan Ball.
Rushing, dressed in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt, kicked off the program with a talk titled “Put the Pizzazz in Your Garden,” which included a slide show.
“Gardening is not a production; it’s not a race,” Rushing said. “It’s therapy. It’s breathing in and breathing out. Horticulture is not the same as gardening. Horticulture is crop production, perfectly manicured lawns. When it comes to gardening, it’s just for the fun of it.”
Rushing drew laughter when he opined that gardeners should have their own rights, such as:
“Gardeners have rights to as many wind chimes as they can afford.”
“Gardeners have rights to mispronounce plant names.”
“Gardeners have rights to plant as many tomatoes as they want way too early.”
“Gardeners have rights to plant any color flower next to any color flower.”
Rushing showed slides of his garden in Jackson along with images of meadow gardens, water gardens, green walls, compost bins and pass-along plants, such as daylilies.
“Pass-along plants tend to grow well locally, and pass-along plants are easy to share,” he said. “My thinking is if you don’t have any daylilies, you don’t have any friends.”
After Rushing’s presentation, McAllister and Ball gave a cooking demonstration on how to prepare a meal using herbs and vegetables from the garden. They made gazpacho, tarragon chicken, penne pasta with brie, a caprese salad and lemon mousse for participants during the lunch break.
The two used a portable table with a large mirror over the top so the ladies could watch them dice, chop, sautampé, puree and plate food.
“The longer it sits, the better it gets,” Ball said as she and McAllister prepared gazpacho that was served in small glass votive candle holders.
Audience members showed their appreciation for the food by clapping and cleaning their plates.
Proctor took the stage after lunch. His backdrop was tables filled with buckets and containers holding an assortment of flowers, foliage and grasses from local gardens.
“Think about how flowers make you feel,” Proctor said as he deftly made a colorful nosegay out of hydrangeas, Japanese boxwood, Sweet William, spirea, arborvitae, sweet peas and Queen Anne’s lace.
At one point, Proctor was handed a large vase, about 18 inches tall, and covered in bright hues of red, orange, yellow, blue and green.
He took one look at it and turned to his assortment of offerings, which included roses, magnolia blossoms, sweet peas, hydrangeas, spirea, yarrow and larkspur. He passed over all the flowers and reached instead for a large bundle of simple green and white variegated cane.
He plunked the cane into the vase, took a small bow, and said, “Enjoy,” his signature phrase meaning, “This arrangement is complete.”
The audience oohed and aahed as Proctor completed one arrangement after another, about a dozen in all, in containers ranging from Mason jars to silver urns to wheelbarrows.
At the end of his two-hour talk, and with a voice that was fading, the room was filled with color and fragrance.
“My voice is not strong today, but my message is,” Proctor said. “Love flowers.”
Contact Ginna Parsons at (662) 678-1581 or ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal