The Joys of Gardening
Something Extra Gardens (Jardins du lagniappe)
As a Cajun-American, I'm aware that most people aren't familiar with the word "lagniappe" (pronounced lan yap). Those who are familiar with this French noun, may only think it is defined by the small gifts that are presented to a customer with their purchase in certain parts of Southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
However, whether you are a Master Gardener or just someone who wants to master your own idea of a garden, I'd like to challenge you to practice planting gardens of "lagniappe".
First, this can't be ordered from a seed catalog, nor can it be found in your local nursery or garden center. There are many varieties, but there are no known scientific names for them. It can be grown in any planting zone, in any soil or environment, and it thrives in sun or shade. Additionally, it requires no water or fertilizer. Furthermore, no two lagniappe gardens will be alike and all are as preciously unique as the gardener who planted them.
The origins of the "jardins du lagniappe" or "something extra gardens" were one of many gifts the Acadian people received from the Spanish. The French word "lagniappe" derives from the New World Spanish word "la napa" which means, "to give."
Ultimately, the word mutated and propagated itself from another word, the Native American Quechua word "yapay" a word that is closer to what the French lagniappe actually embodies, which is "to give more." By now, you are probably wondering exactly what is in a "jardin du lagniappe" or a something extra garden? So let's take a walk down my nostalgic garden path while I share what I know.
Make Time to Share the Joys of Your Garden
Here in my garden, you'll find old world roses:
My Great-Grandmere, Hirma Robichaux - best exemplified this type of gardening, when each time her roses bloomed, she took a bouquet to a nearby nursing home.
She placed it on the bedside table of a blind woman, so that the patient could enjoy the delicate scent of those blooms.
Hirma didn't know the woman and didn't know how to speak English and the woman only spoke English. However, it was enough to for Hirma to see the smile this frail elderly woman had, the moment she sensed the roses.
Knock Out Roses - Container Roses
- Inexperienced gardeners can easily grow and care for roses.
- Proper selection of location and type of soil will lead to success with roses.
- Climbing roses bloom year after year.
- Rambling roses usually only bloom once in their lifetime.
- Miniature roses are very easy to grow.
- It will be about two years before a rose has its first bloom.
Creatively Teach New Ways to Look at the Beauty From Your Garden -- Both Visually and Through the Taste Buds.
In this garden, you'll find edible and native plants:
My Tante, Sue Navarre - -demonstrated this type of gardening by sharing the results of her secret recipe for beauty berry jelly roll cakes, each time her book club met.
If it were a special occasion, like someone's birthday, she'd decorate her cakes with the likes of marigolds, carnations, cornflowers, elderberry blossoms, Johnny Jump Ups, or violets.
Often, the ladies of the book club would beg Sue to make her lemon verbena custard. Here are two of her recipes:
Sue's Pots de Crème au Citron et a la verveine
Not usually found in most people's gardens, fresh lemon verbena can be found at large nurseries and farmer's markets. This recipe can be made with dried lemon verbena.
- 1 cup water
- Dozen fresh or dried lemon verbena leaves
- Yellow part of lemon peel in strips (about ten)
- 6 tablespoons raw brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Combine first 3 ingredients in medium saucepan. Boiling until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes.
- Add brown sugar; simmer until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in heavy cream.
- Whisk yolks in to blend in medium bowl.
- Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture.
- Whisk in lemon juice.
- Strain custard through sieve into 4-cup measuring cup.
- Place in ramekins and cover with foil.
- Place ramekins in 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
- Bake custards until just set, about 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven; let custards cool in water in pan.
- Transfer ramekins to refrigerator.
- Chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.
Sue's Beauty Berry Jelly Roll Cakes
- 5 large eggs, separated
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 15 ½" x 10 ½" jelly-roll pan and line with parchment paper.
- Beat egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
- Gradually beat in ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
- Continue beating until thick, about 6 minutes.
- Mix in flour just until blended.
- Gently fold egg yolk mixture into beaten egg whites. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
- Bake for about 12 minutes or until cake top springs back when lightly touched.
- To remove cake from pan and cool, sift confectioner's sugar over a clean kitchen towel. Loosen the edges of the cake from the sides of the pan with a small knife.
- Invert cake onto the prepared towel and carefully peel off the parchment paper.
- Starting from one short edge, roll up the cake and the towel together, like a jelly roll. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- After cooling, unroll cake and spread with beauty berry mixture (below).
- Roll up from the short side, without the towel this time and transfer, seam side down, to a serving platter.
Beauty Berry Filling:
- 2 cups beauty berries (washed and drained)
- 1 cup sugar
Combine and boil down this mixture until it becomes a jam like mixture. Cool and serve immediately.
Don't Let Physical Challenges, Medical Handicaps, or Lack of Space Prevent You From Participating in the Joys of Gardening
There are container gardens within the garden:
My Tante, Victoria Navarre typified this kind of gardening, by not letting her physical challenges or medical handicaps prevent her from participating in the joy of gardening.
The fact that she lived in an apartment did not dissuade her either. Long before accessible gardening became a popular trend, Victoria's container strawberries delighted everyone and so can yours.
Follow Your Passion in Gardening
This garden would not be complete without a specialty garden:
Noncle Claude illustrated the determined passion a gardener can have when on a quest to grow the perfect variety of a plant, in his case, the pepper plant.
Perhaps more importantly, his search to the find the hottest pepper known to humankind drove his pursuit.
Claude had once worked on Avery Island and had saved seeds of the Capsicum frutescens peppers, that Edmund McIlhenny had originally gotten from either Mexico or Central America.
It was Claude's life-long obsession to make a better Tabasco sauce, and market his own French piquante sauces that were hot, but didn't overwhelm the food.
Use Your Expertise in Gardening to Help Others
A critical part of this garden was the herbal remedy and medicinal plants:
Great-Grandmere Julienne Babin shared with a precious few of us, the gifts of her garden. She was a Cajun traiteuse. Practicing an important part of Cajun folk religion, she combined traditional Catholic prayer and medicinal remedies.
Often, she was called to treat a variety of ailments, including earaches, toothaches, warts, tumors, angina and bleeding. She believed her healing abilities were a gift from both God and her garden. She never would accept payment in exchange for her services in a community where there was no doctor within fifty miles. You don't have to be a practitioner of her folk profession, but you can make a difference by using herbal remedies and medicinal plants.
Eat Healthy, Organic, and Encourage Others to Do Likewise
Of course, this was part vegetable and herb garden:
Noncle Leonce didn't share his brother Claude's passion for peppers, claiming he'd burnt out his innards being Claude's taste tester. However, he taught and fed all of us from the bounty of his vegetable and herb garden.
He would tell us, "Only eat what Dieu (God) grows, not just what you pay for in a store." More importantly, whatever excess food was left over from his harvest was distributed among neighbors, friends, and the poor of the community. Nothing went to waste.
Plant Trees For Tomorrow
Replentish the Earth's Supply of Trees
The trees of this garden were essential and most necessary:
My Pepere Vernon Navarre was the youngest and physically strongest son, usually ending up being given the heavy work. After two successive hurricanes destroyed and wiped out everything the whole family owned, the entire family relocated to Arizona. Vernon didn't miss cotton farming and didn't have a love of gardening.
However, he did miss the sight and shade of trees in desert-like Arizona. He reckoned it was a message from God that he should plant every tree he could for the rest of his life.
After all, it was a Goliath elderly oak tree that he and his mother had climbed and lassoed themselves to during the second hurricane. It prevented them from drowning and blowing away.
Despite his good-hearted supposed disdain for the hard work of gardening, he embodied the spirit of a true gardener - betrayed by the little notebook he carried all of his remaining days. Found after his death, it tallied up of the number, variety, age, and placement of his trees.
Trees are crucial to mankind's survival, being the oxygen we breat, preventing erosion, providing us with food and shelter, and other materials for animals and man alike.
Be and Example to the Next Generation of Gardeners
- Be a Lifelong Student in Mastering Your Garden:
Finally, perhaps the crowning jewel of this garden was the carefully selected butterfly and wildlife plants, where a decorative bench faced. Sitting on that bench rested my Great-Grandpere, Emile Navarre.
He epitomized everything you could think of in a man who instigated, designed and created a family of something extra gardens and gardeners. As the patriarch of our family, it was Emile who taught us to look at the color of the soil as a good indication of it's value.
Teaching us, as children - that black and dark gray soils are nearly always fertile, red soils can be productive, reddish-yellow less productive, and that plain yellow, light gray, and white soils are positively unproductive poor soils. It was also Emile, who researched the new pests and diseases.
2. Consult the Experts and Share What You've Learned With Others in Your Community:
- Emile consulted the local Agricultural experts and agents. Then, he shared that knowledge with not just his family, but within his community.
- Today, this can be easily accomplished through the many truly great programs in every state -- by contacting your county agricultural agent. They are available for free consultation on plant diseases, plant selection, care for plants and trees, and so much more.
- County Extension services provide many free gardening classes and also sometimes give free trees and plants to county residents.
- County Extension services provide lawn care advice and sprinkler system assistance and education.
- Become a Master Gardener through your local County Extension program.
Bloom Where You Are Planted by Learning New Ways of Gardening Should You Find Yourself in a New Growing Zone.
Additionally, once in Arizona, Emile was the one, who quickly learned the local method of flood irrigation of our residential yards, using a system of lateral waterways connected via gates to the nearby canals themselves. Gardening in Louisiana had been very different than gardening in Arizona.
However, even in Arizona, he had his own Louisiana twist to the system. He'd send my Pepere Vernon out to do the chore, knowing that he had chosen the right man for the job.
Having zero interest in gardening responsibilities, Vernon would open the flood gates as his father instructed him to, saunter down to the end of the end of the first field.
There he would lie down to take a nap. When the water reached him and the wetness woke him, the garden field had the proper amount of moisture. From both of them we learn:
- If needed, delegate the work you physically aren't up to and;
- Relax and don't let your gardening chores overwhelm you.
SHARE THE MYSTERIES OF ALL OF MOTHER NATURE.
Practice the Harmony to be Found in Your Garden
Finally, Emile planted a place for the birds, wildlife, and butterflies and in that natural sanctuary lay his courtyard for teaching all of us, the beautiful mysteries found in observing and interacting with nature.
It was there where we also learned the peaceful stillness we all need to seek to have balance in life.
Butterflies From Around the World
Something Extra Gardens
So here at the end of my nostalgic garden path, I hope that you've taken in the true meaning of a "jardin du lagniappe" or a something extra garden. The design of the garden is simple and obviously, you don't have to Cajun to propagate a "jardin du lagniappe."
I challenge you to make those endeavors in as many forms of a "jardin du lagniappe" or something extra garden that are unique to your interests.
I further challenge you to adopt this approach to gardening to other areas of your life. Something more gardening, is really about giving something extra to every thing you do in life. It's about under promising and over delivering.