Friday, August 21, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I truly believe that everything we need to know about ourselves, our lives, and our place in the universe can be understood by looking in the garden. Plants and how they grow, the insects and animals that they bring, each provide a very simple model for our own lives and how we live them and even where they will bring us. Preparing the land, sowing some seeds, and then weeding said garden is a lot cheaper and less invasive than visiting a shrink and becoming a slave to antidepressants. Seriously.
I am in love with flowers in the visceral sense, and respond to this through the production that takes place, in my case, through floral arrangements. Much like painting for me, my combing flowers (like paint colors) is an emotional response. It is only after an acceptably pleasing arrangement has been made, that i realize that science was also at work. It is easier for me to go to the flower market and pick out the specimens I desire for a final product than actually growing such things in my yard. That is a much more difficult task. But a task that I yearn and strive for. It is sometimes painful to look at my pathetic weed-torn yard, with amazing visualizations of perennial borders and english-style cutting gardens, and savory herb patches and vegetable rows throughout, spanning through my mind. One can only dream, and hope that all of that dreaming might bring one closer to a full-on palpable realization of garden salvation.
So I sort of tended my weeds this summer. Lack of funds meant lack of new plants. Some people graciously donated some starts of perennials from their yards- some delicious ground covers, and a nice start of some long coveted spiderwort from my friend Theresa. My mom took pity on me and brought some elephant ears, dahlia tubers, and planted a couple of symmetrical annual borders for me to flank our new brick steps in the backyard. She gave me some more hostas, and some lily of the valleys- a plant that had started from a piece from her great-aunts garden (i lovvvvvvve heirloom plants!!). I planted some tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, squash and zucchini. The tomatoes and cucumbers have been successful. It is very hard to garden with a new baby, because the problem arises that there is no where to put the baby while you garden. I tried at first with the new native carrier, but she kept almost tumbling out. And the baby bjorn carrier kept her secure, but then she was hanging right on the front of me and it was hard to use my hands and even see what I was doing. I would have kept her in the playyard, but she screamed. I would have put her on the ground, but there was a multi-fold attack of first: mayflies, early to late spring, then giant cicada-eating wasps, early to mid-summer, and then a horrible proliferation of mosquitos- now. So, I did the best I could. The squash and the zucchini succombed to an early death from some kind of a powdery mildew rot. I found a good home remedy for this, but time got away from me. Everything else did well. (not mentioning the round-up debacle of 2009- oh wait, i just mentioned it....)
So yes, I'm obsessed, and looking forward to next year when I can let Henry and Annie run off and play in the sprinkler while I really get down to business. In the fall Mike and I are going to build our long-awaited outdoor fireplace so that we can properly roast our oysters and drink beer outdoors on cool fall nights and cold winter ones grounded in a set space; instead of just hovering around the grill. This will dictate a new hardscape that I look forward to tackling. Above are some pictures of my giant elephant ears (some grew four feet at least in length...), Henry bringing me handfuls of premature cherry tomatoes... and my sunflowers. You can sort of see my morning glories in the background. Note: plant your morning glory seeds with your moonflowers, next to your sunflowers (and maybe throw in lots of nasturtiam seeds). You will have color all day by easy to grow seeds (and you can eat the nasturtiam flowers with your salad and feel all fancy and whatever).
When your vegetables start growing, combine them with whatever else you like from the farmer's market, simmer them on the stove in some olive oil with some chopped up garlic (hopefully the giant elephant variety that maybe a dear neighbor gives you) on low, toss them together with some cooked extra wide egg noodles, maybe some capers, or crumbled feta or goat's cheese, drink a glass of chilled pinot grigio with it, and taste heaven. next night- chop and repeat. and then, chop and repeat.
Even if you are indifferent to these little creatures, but want nice hardy perennials that are prolific bloomers, you can't go wrong with all varieties of the butterfly bush or lantana. Every summer I can count on both returning, each year with more ferocity than the last. I have a few different types of both plants. Lantana ranges in color from vivid oranges, to yellows, to yellow/pink, to a beautiful lavender with silvery foliage. The latter variety is a bit more compact in my garden, and trails low to the ground. I had a lovely whitish/lemon colored lantana last summer (called "lemon sorbet" it was gorgeous...), but it fell victim to deadly round-up- my husband is round-up crazy, and sometimes fails to ask before he sprays. Beware of this systemic killer!! But seriously, if you are on a budget and want fail-proof plants, lantana it is. Some of my orange and yellow/pink varieties have grown into full-on shrubs. It would be most cost-effective to buy them when they are on clearance in the garden center at the end of the summer, and plant them then or in the fall.
The butterfly bush will quickly grow in to a tree if you let it. With flower clusters ranging in hue from deep purple with brilliant orange throats, to silvery lavender clusters with yellow-orange centers, these plants are practically indestructible. One year one of mine was invaded by a pest mid-summer. I treated it and then chopped it down to the trunk. By fall it had grown back and was producing blooms as if nothing had happened.
Two of my favorite plants, creating a gorgeous summer spectacle.