Category Archives: my garden

Pink flowers are not all she gives.


It may not have been fellowship exactly, but my time today with my fellow creatures the plants was intimate and  lovely, and I spent hours pruning three of the trees. That is something God does to us, and maybe that’s why it makes me feel particularly tenderhearted toward my horticultural “children.”

First the plums, for which I had to move up their solstice pruning a week because I won’t be here at the summer solstice. Lots of other weeding, feeding, planting — and naturally, trying to take pictures of insects. I was eating breakfast in the garden when I noticed syrphid flies on the toadflax, and wondered how I could ever have confused them with bees. They don’t have the same flight pattern at all, and they even buzz more like flies.

 

The last thing I did was to spend an hour with the manzanita bush that I’d named Margarita a few years ago, about the same time I told her history. (You can see more pictures of her via that link.) It was this task that brought me into the sweet communion with the plant that is enjoying her 15th spring on the property! I can tell she is happy because she’s putting out lots of new green leaves, while the berries are still mostly green, too. I must never have paid much attention to this tree in other Junes, because I hadn’t seen the contrast of the new growth with the old leathery leaves, many of which are turning brown, which is normal.

In order to survey the wandering branches and find the dead wood and make decisions about how to thin Manzanita while keeping her twisty and graceful form, I must have walked around and around her a dozen times, noticing and snipping twigs and whole branches that were revealed as needing removal, one by one with each changed view. I mused about how she has grown and changed; countless parts of her have died and been cut away, but she gradually has become a little taller. Since her youth when I realized that she wanted to grow northward, time and again I have helped her to do it in a nice way, and every year she gives me pink flowers for Valentine’s Day.

She is a dear.

I sip nectar with the tiniest.

I sat in my garden reading Penelope Lively, who when writing about garden fashions that come and go, kept using the word “rill.” I picked up my phone to look up that word and see what the British might mean by it, and quick as a wink a tiny fly, almost too tiny to see without reading glasses, lit on the screen, with its wings open for about one second, a flash of shimmering rainbows.

Then it fell off, on to my book. Was that the fly, merely a black gnat? I got him to crawl on to my finger and back on to the screen, where he was kind enough to display his bright wings again for a moment, and then took flight.

On my walk yesterday I saw just one insect in a sea of catsear blooms. And I worked hard to get a picture of a flower with him on it. Not like most years of my photography, when I tried to avoid bugs on blooms, and would be disappointed if my flower were spoiled by a spider or something I hadn’t noticed when I clicked. But most of those critters had come out blurry anyway. No, getting a sharp image of an insect is not easy with a little phone camera. But I have time, don’t I? And a lot of digital storage, too, in case I don’t get around to deleting all those blurry pictures.

I started looking for flowers with insects, and of course, there were bees! It was so warm by this time, they were flying fast and furious, and couldn’t decide which of many privet or blackberry blooms to drink from, like kids in a candy store. The best shot I got was of one flying away with her loot. And I found a near relation to catsear beetle closer to home, descending a wide staircase of rose petals.

Obviously, I also am a kid in my own candy store, and can’t choose just one or two pieces of ambrosia to gaze upon or aim my camera at or share with you. If the temperature were constantly mild when I sit out in that paradise, I think I would fill to bursting with the joy of the place. But usually I get too hot or too chilly or find a task to do, so I don’t get dangerously stretched.

In my front garden many insects are buzzing back and forth and not lighting on any flower. I think they are just hanging around, or more precisely, swooping around — coming back to check every few minutes, so they can be the first to drink at the ocean of teucrium flowers that are going to start opening any minute now. I’m not sure that walkway will be wide enough for human feet to walk without colliding with honeybee wings.

Many of the cistus, Jerusalem sage and helianthemum already need shearing! Alejandro my sometimes gardener was here yesterday and we moved one of the big pots that hold olive trees, and found two salamanders underneath! How they ended up in this droughty place I don’t understand, but I didn’t think about that at the time.

I grabbed the two of them, who looked like Mama and Baby, and put them to swim in the fountain for a minute while I ran into the house for my camera. Then I released them near a faucet with good luck wishes. Maybe I should have carried them to the creek? (Which reminds me, a rill in a British garden is a water feature.)

 

Back to the insect kingdom and their food… The word nectar carries a heady meaning. Drink of the gods – delicious. But the origin of the word is also pretty tasty if you like words: The first step back is to the Greek nektar (we’re talking about Greek gods, after all), “which is perhaps an ancient Indo-European poetic compound of nek- ‘death’ + -tar ‘overcoming,’ ‘cross over, pass through, overcome.'” No one used this word for the sweet liquid in flowers until about 1600.

Those links to the thought of overcoming of death could lead to an intellectual/writing exercise about how it’s all connected, but I’m not willing for that kind of workout today. I just want to join my fellow creatures in imbibing the sweets.

 

Fava beans, and moving on.

It’s convenient that my next-door neighbor has gone camping this weekend, because I need his yard waste can. I forgot to ask him but I am pretty sure he will be okay with me using it to load up with all of the garden clippings I’ve collected in just two days. He has his dragster parked long-term and rent-free on a few inches of my driveway so he likes to feel that he is doing things for me, too.

The fava beans were a big job! Yesterday I cut all the pods off the 30-something plants that grew from two packets of seeds I’d bought online. I might have started the harvest earlier if it hadn’t been so rainy. As it was, I got caught in a surprise shower in the  middle of the process. Before the last week of rain the beans were overflowing their planter, thus:

But by the time I got to picking them, they had grown a few more inches and were  getting infested with insects and maybe disease, and were just a mess generally. Here are a few shots showing how the project developed over the day. By the evening I was sitting under the wisteria shelling the creamy green beans out of their pods, which I dropped on to the patio at my feet. Just the plants and the pods of these Vicia faba — also known as broad beans or horse beans — filled most of my own large green waste bin.

It was slow going, but I shelled a couple of quarts of beans. That didn’t make much of a dent in the tubful, and I needed to do some other kinds of work still before bed; the thought occurred to me that I could offer them on a county freesharing Facebook group I belong to, so I took pictures and posted them, and this morning  a woman came and took half of the remainder. Tomorrow another member is coming and maybe she will clean me out. I could eat all the beans myself eventually, but I have so many things needing doing right now besides shelling favas… like cooking the ones I did shell!

While I was waiting for the lady I thought I’d do a little deadheading – ha! I ended up spending hours on the front garden, yanking out the poppies that want to cover every other plant, shearing one wallflower bush, cleaning up the irises, weeding. Oh, yes, and taking pictures of pretty flower pairings, or trios, and the asparagus in its ferny state with Johnny Jump-ups. I dragged the neighbor’s can over to my driveway and started piling in the green and flowery trimmings.

A Painted Lady butterfly was drinking at the chive flowers, and making me think that she was showing off for the camera. Unlike most butterflies, she did not flutter away as I drew near, but did pirouettes, and flew from bloom to bloom striking different poses. Perhaps the strong drink was making her lose all inhibitions. All the while I slowly came closer…  and then she came closer to me, spread her wings on the flower right in front of me and let me watch and admire her at her work.

Her wings are a bit tattered, I can see now in the closeups. I wonder if a bird tried to make lunch out of her… Speaking of birds, I think I may have made friends with a certain chickadee. I will tell you about him later; right now I have to head to rest and sleep so that I can tackle more garden tasks tomorrow.

 

Sometimes both useful and easy.

When I posted about borage two months ago, half of the commenters said they also hadn’t had luck growing it. For some it didn’t reseed itself; for others, the summers were too hot. Kim said, “I have always thought it to be easy,” though she doesn’t have any growing right now.

bee drinking from oregano

The uses of borage was the subject of several comments; a couple of people said they didn’t know what they would do with it if it did thrive. But Cathy wrote, “It is such a captivating plant which attracts bees and creates curiosity from human garden visitors.”

And it is primarily for the bees that I thought to grow it in my Pollinator Garden, and so that I could behold that pretty sight of borage with bees buzzing happily around it. I let the insects make use of the plants, such as the oregano I always grow, but rarely use myself. The bees drink their fill of its nectar and last year I got good pictures of them doing it. So I guess I would use borage as material for my photo art. 🙂

I want the borage for its pretty, often gorgeously blue, flowers. I would like to have a few of those flowers to put in salads or in cold drinks in the summertime. Martha asked if I would be making tea with it — perhaps I would! They say that tea made from the leaves tastes like cucumber. Here is a picture from the Internet of one way I can imagine enjoying those blue accents, come August.

A young friend dug four borage plants from her garden and brought them to me at church just this month. Then the weeks of rain began, so they are still sitting in their pots, but looking very healthy.

I have come to suspect that borage is a bit thirstier than most of the plants in my garden, and that previously it has died from drought. The one I bought and planted this spring is looking good after the recent season of bounty, during which its little roots were surrounded by as much water as they could drink, day after day, no matter where they reached. Once the rains stop — as of this evening, there is no rain at all on the forecast — I may just have to squirt a little extra from my garden hose on the borage, beyond what it gets from the drip irrigation.


It won’t be long before this flower cluster opens, and the bees arrive!
To do their work, to get their sweet drinks, they will find to be the easiest thing.