The weather has been unspeakable, and it has been hard to tolerate being outside for longer than it takes to keep things alive via watering. So I can’t say I’ve been enjoying the garden much lately. But, tonight it was ever-so-slightly cooler, so we had a little poke around at evening watering and discovered these modest news items.

The other clematis, which had protested its first location by trying to die, has revived in its new pot and is flowering.


Some purply pink flowers whose names I forgot have done all right in the heat.


Some late basil seedlings did not bake to death and are ready to go in the ground shortly.


The wisteria has developed a plan for itself. It has decided to blow off the grape arbor and go straight up the power line. Day by day it has been getting closer to its goal, and it looks like tomorrow or the next day it will reach the top.

Wouldn’t it be cool if it survived the winter up there and then blossomed in the spring?


Finally, the moonflower is producing its huge, nearly pornographic blossoms.


I’m particularly pleased with this number since it came from one seed I found this spring in a dried up flower on last year’s vine. These blossoms open in the evening and twist up again in the daytime. So very secretive…



they come in purple

July 10, 2011

This year I tried some bush beans that said they were purple. I stuck the seeds in the ground at the end of May, and up they came. The flowers are purple:

And, lo, the beans are purple!

They have a green heart (insert politically snappy simile) and they turn green when you cook them. The taste, for the record, is normal, not purple flavor.

first fruit

July 9, 2011

On June 25 the blackberries looked like this:

Today we pulled off the first ripe ones.

They are gigantic, and when they are warm from the sun, they taste really special.

Shared some with the gurus at Crest. Got some sun-tea out brewing for later.

death tolerance

July 3, 2011

One of the worst things about growing stuff is having to deal with the fact that some things die. It might be something you did, but just as often it’s the conditions or the location. If you’re going to enjoy the miracle of things making it through a winter like this:

Then you have to deal with things that you love failing to thrive. I do not like dealing with this. I think it is a swiz.

One of the most vigorous, prolific plants in my garden is the grape vine. M planted it as a little stick from Crest Hardware a few weeks before he died. Last summer it moved up onto a pergola some friends built for me.

Even in the burning heat of July 2010, it produced over 35 pounds of grapes–green, seedless, sweet, crush-against-the-roof-of-your-mouth.

This spring and summer, it has continued to go hog-wild, despite strong pruning.
Grapes appeared everywhere, to the point that I began to feel a little panicked about how I would harvest them all. Finally I decided I would have a grape-picking party and invite everyone I knew. People could bring containers, clippers, ladders, beers, whatever. Everyone would get grapes, and I wouldn’t have to do all the work. Now all I had to do was wait for the grapes to ripen. Problem solved!

Except two weeks ago I noticed that a few grapes had shriveled. I began to feel a deep secret dread that my grapes had some kind of rot. It took me almost a week to make myself go out there and actually examine them. Sure enough, they have a fungal problem.
Trying not to freak out, I consulted the internets, but most of what I read was targeted towards vineyards and thus was overkill for a one-vine home grower like me. Finally, I consulted the gurus at Crest.

Should I cut off all the infected grape bunches?! I asked. Guru Vincent didn’t think much of this idea. He suggested I just leave them alone and salvage what I could at harvest. It was the warm, damp weather, he said. Even if I cut off every bit of fungus I could find, there was nothing saying more wouldn’t grow if conditions favored it. But maybe, he said, the weather would improve, and then some grapes would make it. I’m a pretty lazy gardener, he confessed. I’d just leave it.

I consulted Guru Regina, and she concurred. You can’t fight the weather, she reasoned. I stood with Regina beside the gaffer tape and summarized: So, I said, you’re saying I should just let the grapes be, watching some die and hoping death won’t overcome all of them?

Pretty much, Regina said.

So, I clarified, this is a DEATH TOLERANCE exercise?

Pretty much, Regina said.

If I had know my garden was going to give me a Death Tolerance exercise this summer, I woulda… well I woulda told it where to go! I woulda kicked it with my boots and showed it who was boss! And then…! I guess it woulda done what it was going to do anyway.

garlic harvest

July 2, 2011

This was one of those ignorant experiments. Last fall I took a clove of garlic from the grocery store, broke it apart, and planted the cloves in the ground. This March, the garlic came up with the early bulbs and chives. I had forgotten what I’d planted there, but after a while it came to me.

I more or less ignored it. People said “you’ll know” when it’s time to harvest it. Eventually, I consulted the world library and watched a video on harvesting garlic and so decided it was time now.

The cloves are pretty small, which I think is because I didn’t water them. To be fair, it was a very wet spring here, but still there were lots of times they needed water and didn’t get it. I have no idea how they’ll taste compared to supermarket garlic or how long they’ll last, but they are hanging up to “cure” now.

Next spring, I will water.

(Click on any image to see all full size.)



in the middle of things

June 25, 2011

Few things in life have a definite start. As for chronicling a garden, where can you begin? Late winter, probably, with the garlic and chives that poke up even before the bulbs. But then, the things that come up in March had their start the previous autumn. Even the seeds you put in the pop-up peat pellets came from another year’s plant. As for the garden itself, what state would you consider tabula rasa?

When I first moved here in 1994, the backyard had no exposed soil, but the previous tenant (longtime, owner, lately deceased) had grown tomatoes in large wooden containers. It’s an Italian neighborhood, and the yard has a hot, Mediterranean southern exposure. At that time, some of the upstairs tenants (Poles) were growing flowers in boxes out back. They used to call in my kitchen window to me when they were out watering which was…friendly, if slightly invasive. A few years later, my husband and I bought the building and renovated the yard by digging up some of the concrete. The exposed soil was rocky, urban, and unpromising. My husband (M) tested the soil with a ph kit from the hardware store next door and announced that we had to wait a couple of years for the soil to rinse. When it finally came time to plant things, I thought it looked like some vacant lot. “Nothing is going to grow in that crappy soil!” I told him. He gave me his stern, English look and said: “Shush. Wait.” That season we had tomatoes, herbs, beans… was that the start?

I could narrate the evolution of the garden all day (and maybe in a later post I will), but we are living here in today. Today is the 25th of June, 2011. Today my husband has been dead 1,137 days. Today there are fifteen hours and five minutes of daylight. Today I ate the first tomato of the season, a yellow cherry. Today is the day the Lord made; in the middle of things, a kind of rejoicing, a shoot perhaps of glad.