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High Summer in the Gardens

chicago dyke's picture

Well, I said I would and here you go. Food and Fleur this time. Usual Warning to those on dial-up, this is a motherlode of pics. And, I'm going to share some failures as well as successes with you. What a funky growing year it's been for us here- too wet, too dark, too dry, to hot. Proving that farming in MI is as hard as it is to be an honest Republican in today's rethug party. Anyway...


Is there anything better to view and smell in high summer than phlox? Perhaps, but I'll enjoy the torment of trying to decide which of mine I love best.


I think this one is called "Sherbert."


I've spoken before of the wonders of close planting, and here's some proof. Squash, Nasturtium, Okra and (now harvested) Mustard Greens, and some Celosium "Cock's Comb" that just got crowded out, but was nice in the early part of the season while the rest were coming up. Weeding? Feh. That's for people with nothing better to do.


The neighbor has this ugly fence, and we've agreed to split the cost of replacing it with a greenbarrier next year or the one after that. In the meantime, I cover it with climing annuals. Like this Morning Glory.


But not all along its length; the fucking bunny rabbit who lives here made short work of the peas and beans that were meant to climb up the fence at this spot. Fucker.


Another failure. This just was *not* the year for Swiss Chard. I planted a lot, and to very mixed results. Oh well, some of it did well, as you'll see.


The "Tomato-Aramanth Clock" bed. These are beefsteaks, and despite a benighted attempt to kill them via too much fertilizer, I'm happy to report that they came back strong and set much fruit. I can't wait for them to ripen.


It's bigger than it looks in picture. Heh. Also- grown in fairly deep shade. So here's a veggie that can be grown seemingly anywhere (bush zucchini).


Just you nevermind that weedy reedy thingee and gaze longingly upon my wonderful Coreopsis.


More Phlox, this time in pretty deep shade. Which makes me very happy to know I can grow there. Yeah!


Say Hello to "Gayflower!" Heh. It's actually quite tall, this is a top down shot to get a better view of the bloom.


More Coreopsis, this time in a very attractive red. Also doing fairly well with less light than it's supposed to have.


Anyone know what this is? Don't say 'marigold,' it's not; it was some perennial seed I put in and then forgot about. Yes, this is one of the beds that got away from me, you can see the poor little Argiretum or however it's spelled just drowning in crabgrass. Fuck me, I hate that shit.


This is a funny story. Originally, this side of the veggie/potager bed was supposed to be rocks, marigolds and morning glories. I laid down some compost and set the marigolds in it. And...voila! A literal thicket of 'volunteer' tomatoes! I am not complaining, and amazingly, this is a rather shady part of the bed, but they are still making plenty of blooms and appear ready to set fruit. Composting: the gift that keeps on giving.


Ok, that pic didn't come so well, but I'm trying to show the proof of the theory that interplanting really works. Underneath all those tomatoes are some big, juicy carrots that came up with them. They seem to really love each other, just like the books say.


I love this stuff. It's Lemon Mint, but I love it for the bloom and smell. So lovely, and the plant is quite tall and makes a wonderful accent in the veggie bed.


I was hesistant to do this, but got talked into it and now I'm glad. Swiss Chard among "Wave" Petunias. They seem to like each other, and have crowded out all weeds, eliminating any need for maintainance on my part. Which, as a lazy person, I love.


There some movie I forget now in which one character is always saying about everything, "That's my favorite!" and I'm sort of like that with my flowers. My favorite flower at this instant is Delphinium. I've got five, sorry I didn't photo the deep purple one when I was blooming and before it got knocked over by a storm. It made you want to cry, the purple was so royal and vivid and towering. And this is only the second year, they just keep on getting taller. Also, all of mine are in less light than recommended, but it doesn't seem to be a problem.


Ya, I'm a sucker for cutsey annuals like the Dahlia, but I have had great success with cheap, bigbox store boughten breeds like this one in deep shade. Shade means a later bloom, which at the end of the season, can be very rewarding when everything else is done for the year.


This year's compost pile. I leave the food exposed to encourage the lil beasties to eat that, instead of stuff on the vine. It's working out fairly well, except for Br'r Rabbit under the Cedar trees. He is the very devil, I swear. But the deer and black squirrels seem happy I share dinners with them.


I like "interest" such as the finished Gaillardia seed heads. And- seeds! Gails are really easy to grow from seed; give 'em a year and then they'll come up and perform for many weeks. If you want some seeds, just let me know, I'm happy to send you some when the season's over. Because I have about 1,000,000,000,000 of them.


A Tale of Caution. So I planted about a brazillion beans this year and they all came up, strong and productive. And then I realized: I don't really like beans. Anyone got some good bean recipies? Seriously, it's that or they get traded at the farmer's market for something I like better. I'm almost sorry they are taking up so much prime gardening space, but then I remember that are nitrogen fixers and I don't mind so much.


More close/interplanting wonder. Swiss Chard, Parsely, and a stray wild carrot as the brave weed who fought out a spot where none else could. The Swiss Chard seems to really want a) a lot of sun and water and b) a raised bed. Only in such did the Swiss Chard thrive for me this year.


This herb is proof there's no need for heaven in some mythical afterlife. It's right here, underneath your nose. "Bronze Fennel" is the most wonderful, delicate, fragrant thing I've planted this year. And, it tastes's hard to describe. Like chocolate kissed with honey eloping with mint and anise following hard on the heels. Seriously, tasting it is like tasting fine wine, there are so many flavors. Try it, I say this someone who "hates fennel" normally.


Eat me, grad students at the Bot Garden! Proof that even if you don't 'start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before planting' you can still get a nice, phat bloom. Aramanth. Tall and Stately.


The lowly potato. Another volunteer I decided to let come up in its bed of mulch compost around another plant. We'll see how many potatoes it makes; two years running I've failed to grow a lot, and goddammit I'm part Irish. WTF?


Hidden underneath the above potato. Again, BIO would be intimidated if he knew how large this one is. Don't worry, baby, I'll use lots of lube on you. ;-)


Sort of a mixed year for peppers. Hot and Chili varieties did well; green and yellow sweet, not so much. I'm not at all sure why there was such a difference.


Some interplanted Dill and Broccoli. That head is the second from that plant, I've already harvested one from it a little while back. I grow dill just because I like the way it looks; I'm not sure anyone could use as much as I've got in regular cooking.


Close planted herbs including hyssop, stevia and sage. Standing over them and taking a deep sniff is just fabulous. Esp after a light, nighttime rain followed by a bright morning sun.


Maiden Pink, doing well again this year and getting bigger all the time.


Starbies in August! You can do it too, just put some in deep shade and it'll take them that long to fruit. This is the alpine variety.

...whew, that was a lot of pics! I guess I really do have a fairly big gardening project going here. OK, it's your turn to show me yours in the comments.

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gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

I feel your pain about the rabbit/s. Although I have three outdoor cats who keep them somewhat at bay, last fall the small goon population around here went out and had one of their periodic coyote shooting parties and killed off a lot of the coyotes, with the result that the rabbit numbers have exploded. (Thanks a lot, goons!)

Although I had no problem with direct-sown seeds for most things last year, this year most of them got nibbled off quickly. I reseeded in peat pot trays and transplanted when they were 4 or 5 inches tall, and those have survived rabbit nibbling around the edges very well. So you might try that next year for vulnerable plants/areas.

There's really not much of anything you can do with beans if you don't care for them, unless you drench them in something disgusting like cheese sauce. One thing you might try is to throw some toasted sliced almonds on them (just toast them carefully in a pan with a little butter until they're a nice light brown but not dark). I do that with the very blah winter supermarket beans and it does perk them up.

Another thing you might do next year, if you haven't tried this already, is plant the delicate little French filet beans, which you can get in both bush and pole varieties (Renee's Garden has both kinds, Johnny's has I think only the bush beans). They're much less beany and wonderfully tender, sort of the filet mignon of beans. Can't freeze 'em very succesfully, though, because just blanching pretty much cooks them through.

I share your passion for phlox, btw, although their thirsty ways are a pain in the neck. My late mother had a magical long, thick row of them along most of the length of the fence between her large yard and the neighbor's, all of them "volunteers" from long-dead (like 20 years or more) older varieties she'd planted way in the past. Every single plant was a different shade and pattern of pink or pinky-white, and when they came into bloom it was like an enormous pink billowing cloud on one side of her garden.

I have a couple of nice patches here of ones I dug up (by invitation!) from someone's garden and I'm happily letting them go to seed and multiply themselves. It makes me very happy to look at them.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

dayum, that would be spectacular. i'm working on it, G. tell me what you know of how phlox can 'reseed,' as i'm not even sure i know what the seed looks like, as much as i'd like to harvest some when they form.

i agree with you about bean recipies. drench in cheese, sauces, what have you...that's about the only way i like them, and at that point one might as well just eat the cheese or sauce alone. i don't really care for almonds with anything else, but thanks for the idea. one way i used to cook them for my nephew, when he was first learning to love veggies, was to sautee them in garlic and olive oil, add some lemon juice right before the finish, and dress with a touch of soy and melted butter.

it's just that i've got so many. i've already served them three times at the table along the above prep method, and now...i'm sort of sick of them. but the plants don't know that, so they just keep on keeping on, and i'm fairly sure i will be able to fill a bushel. i suppose i shouldn't bitch: this much food from what was less than a 10$ investment in seed will likely come in handy as inflation keeps eating away (heh) at the dollar's value. my great grandmother fed her family (of 9) during the Depression with her garden; i suppose she had to eat a lot of shit she didn't like either, but was filling and wholesome and keeping her brood alive. i will look into the other varieties, thanks for the idea.

gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

Hey, you've got me. I've never paid any attention, just let 'em fall where they may. You could try making a paper funnel collar around a couple of the blooms and see what they catch eventually. I think I remember reading that some of the modern strains are very nearly sterile, though.

By the time I moved into my mother's house to look after her in her last years, which was when i started gardening, she had single stems of Phlox pretty much scattered all over her yard here and there, in addition to the cloud row. (Oh, it was really glorious!)

As for beans, there's no way not to end up with too many, no matter what you do. They count it as a point of personal honor to outproduce whoever planted them. I just eat what I can eat (and I do love them), freeze as many as I can, and toss the rest on the compost without worrying about it. If there was a good food pantry that took fresh veggies anywhere within reasonable driving range of here, I'd donate them because it is a terrible waste.

Your garlic and soy method sounds great, too. I may well try it tonight!

You're so right about having to eat stuff you're not wild about if you're gardening for financial reasons, but I draw the line at turnips, something your g-grand probably didn't have the option of doing.

Swift Loris's picture
Submitted by Swift Loris on

that look delicious to me, but then I like beans.

One site:

Greek green beans in tomato sauce? Bean salads? Casserole with mushrooms, fried onions on top?

There's a recipe on that site for roasted green beans. Dead simple: toss in olive oil, salt & pepper, spread on a pan, roast in preheated 450 oven for 10 minutes, redistribute, roast another 10-12 minutes "until the beans are dark golden brown in spots and have started to shrivel."

Didn't know you could roast 'em. "Wrinkles aren't always a sign of overzealous cooking. For roasted green beans shriveled exteriors indicate a successful transformation from bland and stringy to tender and flavorful."

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Magnificent, fabulous, incredibly gorgeous, CD! Those plant thingies are a bit of alright, too ;-)

Most exciting is knowing you were wandering around barefoot while you snapped these pics; I like to close my eyes and think of your naked toes being softly tickled by the coarse grass, crushing leaves and herbs as you gently tread from blossom to bloom, your strong, supple feet taking up into themselves the scent of the earth-mother to mix with the sun-kissed perfume of your own heat-moistened skin, then....

Well, never mind; this is a family blog.

Ahem. Some days ago in a friendlier time there were reminiscences about Scarlett Begonia but I can't find it now, perhaps Lambert will remember and link. Here's my beauty; can't remember for sure how old now, 18, maybe 20 years in this same pot, a cheap clay thing that is starting to crumble. Time to transplant this winter when she dies back, and hope the shock isn't too great.


That's a potted lantana in the background.

Wandered off the reservation for a few days a couple of weeks ago, and the weather here turned hot and windy. The poor hydrangea dried out and panicked, started to set seed and the inflorescence began to age or, as we snobby gardeners like to call it, "antique". On this particular variety the individual bracts change from a brilliant pink, shown as it was a couple of weeks ago in the inset, to a variegated combination of pale greens, soft blues and a dusky pale pink that is to my eye most aptly described as ashes of roses.


I've cut them off, taking care to only go down the stem to the first major bifurcation with a new growth bud just below. That bud will grow to produce the next round of blooms; with luck it may happen again this summer. The cut stems, leaves removed, can be arranged in a wide-mouth vase and allowed to dry thoroughly. Best is a place where they are well ventilated, slightly warm and out of direct light (sunlight will bleach the colors) as here on top of an upright freezer.


The colors will shift slightly as the heads dry. The bracts turn stiff and papery, and hold their shape quite well enough to serve as a flower arrangement the whole winter through.

Now, about those toes...

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i was wondering if anyone would see my toe in that shot. heh, i'm such a dyke- i cut my nails down brutally, obsessively, actually, and never paint them. but i'm told they are 'well formed' /princess hair toss/

and thanks for the info on hydrangea. cutting back does work, even here in zone 5b. i learned that last year, and this year i had *astounding* beauty from, of all things, a mustard plant. i kept pinching it to prevent it from making fleur and seed, to better harvest the leaves, and then i just let it go, and bam! a huge yellow profusion that was shaped as if by a bonsai artist. so yeah, down to the first bud. sob, i have never been able to get my hydrangea plants to live here. i have no idea what i'm doing wrong. it's ok, the Dutch Bulb catalogue came today, and i'm salivating over some new allum varieties they are offering. altho, i'm a little put off by the prices. crap, is the dollar tanking or what? 14.95 for a single plant? yikes.

...i'm sorry our music tastes are so apart. i can tell you're like me and many of my friends, and think of a song for every moment. unfortunately, everything that is in my head right now is a little too, um, violent to respond in good grace to your song. i'm punk like that, or something.

FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

Now I guess I'll have to show you mine. I was wondering what I would post on now that I've finished the winemaking and seed starting series.

A few other comments: Phlox is very susceptible to mildew, you'll often see yellowing leaves at the base of the plant. Early in the year, thin the number of stems coming from each clump to increase air circulation through the plant. This helps reduce infestations. Phlox that self-seeds often reverts to the basic lavender type. I love the scent of phlox, but they make me sneeze.

After frost has killed the vegetation on your Dahlias, dig the tubers, store in a cool dark place for winter, and replant in the spring.

Any chance your mystery flower is a variety of Calendula?

Lovely post, CD. Glad you're sharing your passions with us.

Submitted by lambert on

... and I hate to even mention this, since it's August, for pity's sake, is that we'll need to prepare for winter.

For example, I've thought of returning a lot of leftover plant matter right to the soil. Does that make sense? And so forth.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

Cooler temps slow down decomposition so you may end up with lots of intact stems and leaves in the soil. And Don't leave tomato plants in the garden after season, or compost them for later use on new tomato plants as diseases can winter over in tomato debris.