Benton Reports Garden Looks “Awesome”

Have you ever been so excited by your garden—or even the first bloom of a new variety—that you wanted to shout it from the rooftops or issue a press release? Me too.

Benton Reports Garden Looks “Awesome”

For Immediate Release

BONSALL, Calif. – May 5, 2022 – Christine Benton today announced that her garden is looking awesome.

Located in a sunny inland valley 12 miles off the coast in San Diego County, Benton’s garden resides in Zone 10a, affected by coastal fog on some days and warm, clear sunshine on others.

Formerly an iris breeding property where tour buses would stop to gaze at award-winning varieties, the garden is now home to several vegetables and flowers. This is partly because Benton loves all sorts of vegetables and flowers and partly because she dug out and tossed a lot of those pesky iris bulbs, given she didn’t like them or know they were important.

David Austin English Roses grace the garden with beauty and scent.

A rough start

It wasn’t all excitement and exuberance at the start of the season, Benton notes.

“I made the rookie mistake of seeding tomatoes in December,” she says. “I mean, I had the equipment: the heating mats, the grow lights. So I figured, ‘Why not?’ ”

The problem came when those seedlings outgrew their seed-starting trays and needed to be transplanted, taking up more room and eventually occupying tables in her bedroom, where they could stay warm. By February, she was bringing seedlings into the sunroom for light by day and back into the bedroom at night.

Surrounded by seedlings, her husband asked where Benton had moved the massage table and the bureau.

“I blame the seed catalogs,” explains Benton. “They came in the mail in November and enticed me with their new varieties and claims of disease resistance. I felt I did pretty well holding out until December to get those seeds into the soil.”

Particularly at fault were the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog, Benton notes, and conversations with her friend at San Diego Seed Company.

Feeling vindicated

Now, however, Benton feels somewhat vindicated as she looks at her tomato plants, many of which are nearly three feet tall and issuing multiple sets of fruit.

“I probably won’t start seeding tomatoes in December again,” she admits. “Because it was a total pain. But I already have a new plan. This fall, I’m going to start cool-season flowers in December so I can plant them out in February without shuffling them between the sunroom and my bedroom.”

A home-grown/seed-saved Apricot Strawflower cuddles up next to the Borage.

Some new learnings

Like most gardeners, Benton is an optimist. Sitting under a pergola surrounded by David Austin English Roses, she looks like a queen and humbly reflects that this has been a year of learning, as have all years in the garden.

Benton is particularly excited about several new flower and vegetable varieties growing strong, including Potomac Lavender Snapdragons, Apple Yellow Tomatoes, Zephyr Summer Squash and several sets of dahlia bulbs from Eden Brothers.

She’s also pretty proud of varieties she’s growing that she saved from seed, including Apricot Strawflower and Bix and Marjorie Carrier Sweet Peas.

“Those varieties always sell out fast,” Benton notes, “and it was impossible to order them last fall. So I saved my own. Now I get to enjoy some of my favorites without worrying about seed shortages, which makes me kind of amazing. And they’re helping my garden look pretty darn awesome.”