Surely spring is just around the corner! To celebrate our March Outdoor Living issue, we’re debuting a series of guest bloggers every Wed. this month. Today, gardener Leigh Wilkerson of Northwest Arkansas whose blog, A Larrapin Garden, is truly larrapin (which in old Arkansas dialect means yummy, delicious, good, as you’re about to learn).
I live a few miles outside of Fayetteville in a country neighborhood surrounded by the rolling cattle fields of a neighboring farmer. The site is rocky and often dry. The thin topsoil is a poor pallid clay and gravel mix, not the well-drained loam every gardener wants. Yet despite the soil, the site is rich with large white oaks, red oaks, wild cherry, black-jack oaks, sassafras, sumac, hickory, pine and cedar trees which dot these three acres. The previous owners added several redbuds, a mountain ash and a lovely tupelo.
As I began to garden here four years ago, I realized I wanted a new theme for the yet-to-be landscape I would plant. I wanted a garden that meant more than a pretty vista or even just healthy vegetables. I wanted to move beyond organic, beyond art, and right into generosityâan expression of love for life and the earth.
The theme of my garden is âLarrapin.â Larrapin is an old hill term that I first heard from my Arkansan father-in-law whenever he ate a particularly great meal. âThat is Larrapin!â heâd announce with a big nod of the head in culinary appreciation of his wifeâs legendary cooking. In other words: Yum! Delicious! Wonderful!
Larrapin became the guiding principle and name of the new garden. I set out, with the help of my ever-patient spouse, to cultivate a landscape that was larrapin for everyone: the birds, bees and butterflies; the plants, the wildlife, the soil live and yes, the gardeners! Each tree and plant I considered was judged by one criteria: Is it Larrapin?Â Does it give shelter, shade, rest, comfort, food, nectar, nesting material,Â protection and/or deliciousness to someone? The more generous it is in these endeavors, the more Larrapin it is!
Today, organic vegetables grow lush in raised beds amended with loads of compost.Â New flowering and fruiting plants cover a once barren bank of scraped clay. Bees and butterflies confetti the many blooms. The river birches we planted are beginning to cast a patch of refreshing shade over the sunny patio. A tiny new apple orchard of tough, disease-resistant trees stands shoulder-high and growing heartily, along with young peaches, mulberries, persimmon and plums. With the work required to amend the soil with endless compost and deep mulch, itâs a slow work in progress. But itâs joyful work accompanied by songbirds and butterflies and the knowledge my labors are making this hilltop come alive. Itâs more than prettyâ¦itâs Larrapin!
Leigh Wilkerson blogs at www.ozarksalive.org/larrapin and will be teaching Organic Veggies & Herbs for Beginners as well as a class on Edible Landscaping at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks starting this Saturday, March 6th. For information on all three classes, see http://ozarksalive.org/larrapin/?page_id=513