Wednesday, July 13, 2011
July 7, 2011
When last I wrote to you, my fellow gardener’s, the 2011 gardening season was just getting under way. Since then, in the ongoing tug-of-war between actual, “hands-in-the-dirt” gardening and “writing’ about gardening, the “actual” has taken precedence over the descriptive. As evidence, there are at least four dozen Hefty Cinch Sacks worth of weeds atop the compost pile to show for our efforts.
So far this year, Nature has blessed us with a sufficiency of sunshine and rain, to facilitate a bountiful harvest of flowers and vegetables. May it always be so! That said, the Spring Peas (Progress # 9), our first crop of the season, planted back in March, is finished now, replaced by garlic bulbs for Fall harvesting. Bush Beans (Blue Lake), and Snow Peas (Oregon Giant), are beginning to come in, and Zucchini and Tomatoes are ripening by the day.
Meanwhile, we accepted the challenge (once again), of participating in the Bucks’ Beautiful Summer Garden Competition, the judging for which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 9th. With this in mind, we devoted a portion of almost everyday for the last month to preparing the garden for the judge’s assessment. HRH Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and her ‘swellegant’ friends are not the only ones for whom hats and gloves (of the gardening variety) have become indispensable accessories to nearly every costume! As luck would have it, the judges came a day earlier than originally scheduled, on July 8th, (we were informed of this change of plans), however, we are optimistic that they enjoyed what they saw.
In May, the nascent gardening season shifted into high gear when John and I, accompanied by his brother Merrell and his wife Anne, who were visiting from Minnesota, went to see the extraordinary moss and wildflower garden of local horticulturalist Dave Benner. Now in its 49th year, there is no better example of a rare and native plant and shrub garden to be found, attracting appreciative visitors from far and wide. The most distinctive feature of a garden filled with distinctive features, may be the total absence of grass in preference of a variety of mosses that have naturalized the hillside landscape. Thus, we have dubbed Dave the Moss King, for his use of moss in his own garden, as well as selling it through the company Moss Acres. The unexpected outcome of this visit is a 67 minute film (shot in one “take”), The Patient Dream, in which Mr. Benner, occasionally aided by his wife Sue, takes us on a tour of the garden and it’s many highlights. Stay tuned for more on this “must see” film.
June brought the fulfillment of a longtime desire, to visit friends and gardens in California. Highlights of that trip included a stay at the Los Angeles home of my dear friend Vanoy Aikens, the longtime partner of dance legend Katherine Dunham, in the heart of old LA. Not surprisingly, Van’s terrace overlooking the city is the most lushly planted of any in his building, and a wonderful example of the vegetation that thrives in LA’s weather. I retrieved a twig of a succulent, that broke off while being watered, and have since rooted it, (in a pot), here in our Buck’s County garden. I can only hope that it will grow here as well as it does there. Another bonus of that visit was a snippet of Cyperus alternifolius (Umbrella plant), found on a nearby street corner in Los Angeles, now rooted in water on our back porch. One mans’ weed is another man’s desirable exotic, what can I say? Following Los Angeles, I was the lucky guest of friends’ Malcolm and Kiki B-R, and their family, Campbell and Xia (two legged) and Boudreaux and Lucille (four legged), in Oakland, California. It was a restorative experience to be in their company. While there, I got to fulfill a long held wish, to visit the Richmond, California home of Annie’s Annuals, which I and thousands of others know through their extensive online plant offerings. As good as the website is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the bricks and mortar, or, in this case, chain link and open air, display of an extensive variety of beautiful plants. Despite the challenges of traveling with fragile plants, (airport security checks were particularly daunting,) it was impossible to come away without a few of their plants. That said, I scooped up pots of Salpiglossis (Chocolate Royale), Calendula, Nicotiana (Only the Lonely), Linum (Flax), Geranium “Bill Wallis,” and Artichoke “Violetto and Zucchini Costata Romanesca. All made it home safely and have brought new color, shape, texture, fragrance and flavor to the garden.
I know that on the Chinese lunar calendar, this is the year of the rabbit. Still, does that really explain why our garden is overrun with bunnies this year? From the herb garden to the potager, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter are proliferating and taking unfair advantage of this old softie, who hasn’t the heart to play farmer MacGregor, chasing them with a hoe. Fortunately, so far, there is enough Kale and Swiss Chard for us all, but if the rabbits continue their onslaught, tougher measures may be called for.