Sunday, September 29, 2013

Let’s play,

“This was the Summer of________.”

     On the eve of our eighth year of gardening at The Potager at Penrose Bungalow, if there is any one important observation we have made about the garden, it is that it is never the same two years, or even two days, in a row.  New plants are introduced, 
                                 (Leonotus Leonorus)
while other plants are relocated.  Established plantings mature and spread, altering the profile of the landscape.  Color and texture materialize, then migrate from one border to another. One of the joys of a vegetable garden, is that one can vary its plantings and their location every year, and in different seasons, guaranteeing a rotating selection of treats for the eye and palate. It is in making note of these changes and this evolution, that we too are changed, and grow, giving rise to one of my favorite pastimes, namely, playing “This was the Summer of_____”
     Now, that as of September 23rd we have officially entered into the Fall of 2013, is the perfect time to engage in this exercise. To play, one fills in the blank at the end of the sentence, the point being to take note of achievements that occurred during this year’s summer growing season.  I enjoy this game so much every year, perhaps because there isn’t any competition. There are no “wrong” answers.  Rather, it is an opportunity to be conscious of, and give thanks, for whatever notable events that have occurred, plants that were grown, or, items that were acquired, but especially those experiences that contributed to a “successful” gardening season, (however one chooses to define success), given that - depending on ones’ growing zone - there is a limited “window of opportunity” when ones’ garden can be worked in. Now I think of it, even those of you without a garden can play, so long as your responses occur within the period of time between the end of Spring and the onset of Fall 2013.
     In making reply, one might offer the name of a vegetable that is enjoying special favor, like Kale, for instance. 

(Whether one has grown it, or found it with unusual frequency on restaurant menus doesn’t matter.) But, who knows, perhaps in your garden, some other legume has stolen the garden “limelight” this year?” Nor are answers strictly limited to plant materials. A few summers ago it was finding a vintage metal garden table and chairs at auction that topped our “Summer of …” list, and this year it was acquiring the vintage “Putto wrestling a dolphin” fountain that figures prominently in my remembrances of the seasons special finds. Not only is the fountain beautiful in its own right, but the unifying effect it has on the garden over-all, places it near, if not at, the top of my list of noteworthy 2013 garden events. For our neighbors it will no doubt be the completion of a paved patio, that took fourteen rather than four months to get done, that will no doubt qualify for their list of the summers’ memorable achievements. Thus, the “rubrics” for making this list are completely up to you, dear reader, to create, bearing in mind the theme of the 2013 growing season.  
     Also high on my list of exciting activities for this years growing season was the inclusion of two of my trellis designs in the exhibition, Artful Trellises, on the grounds of Morven, the historic mansion and garden in Princeton, New Jersey. 

It was very fulfilling to see these pieces evolve from ideas in ones’ head, and materialize into structures, which in turn evolved as the vines planted around them grew and matured.  The array of annual vines that were used- Asuarina, Thumbergia and Cardiospermum (“Balloon Vine”) among others - opened up a whole new world of gardening possibilities for me, and will be featured in gardens to come.
     This year, the Peach tree didn’t produce a single edible fruit – too much rain, apparently - while the (Bartlett) Pear has produced a bumper crop of fruit that we have transformed into some of our favorite treats. My mouth waters just thinking of a salad constructed of equal parts Pear and Endive, with Blue Cheese and Walnut crumbles, with a  spritz of Balsamic vinaigrette. It is simultaneously sweet and tangy, crunchy and smooth, crisp, creamy and nutty. Yum! This qualifies as a taste of Heaven, by the fork-full, right here on Earth.

     So, do you have a recipe that you enjoyed for the first time this season? Tell us about it.  Perhaps you grew a plant for the first time? Put it on your list and share it with your fellow gardeners. Perhaps you lost a tree to one of the powerful storms that have swept across the country, allowing sunlight to reach a previously shaded area? Such a change can permit  entirely new varieties of plants to thrive in an area where previously they would not have had a chance to grow. Let us know. Maybe you visited a garden for the first time, or, had a migrating bird visit your garden for the first time? ? Add that to your list! Any and all of these things act cumulatively, as inspiration for gardening in seasons yet to come!

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