Tag Archives: lemon

My birthwort is modest.

I’m plant-sitting for a friend who is between lodgings, and one of the specimens in my charge is a pot of healthy nettles. The owner told me to be sure to snip and eat the leaves frequently, because she (the plant) likes that.

Yesterday I stayed home all day, and accomplished a lot of little tasks, including much puttering and pottering outdoors. Though at first I just sat in my corner by the guava and the olive trees, while eating a late breakfast, because the whole Creation had pulled me out of the chilly house into the garden to soak up its benefactions and warm my blood.

We have entered the season when I leave the garden hoses lying around untidily; it adds “human interest” I’m sure. All the lightweight collapsible hoses I invested in got leaks, and I have gone back to heavy and sturdy hoses that last. They are good for strengthening my arms, which is something Proverbs 31 tells us women to do anyway. The bushes with the new leaves that glow like the sun are dwarf pomegranates.

Nutmeg-scented pelargonium in greenhouse.

The day before yesterday, I had told myself, “You only have to do one thing after another — and keep doing it — and in that way you will make a dent in the disorderliness that represents a disheartening backlog of work. Even a little improvement will ease your load!” Of course it helped that I ran no errands at all and in that way avoided having any of those transition times coming and going, which seem to confuse my mind.

First thing: feed the poor lemon tree. I was taught not long ago that it wants feeding four times a year, and after I fed it only two times last year it gave me a good crop. Then I “paused,” and don’t know when it got its last feeding. Now I have set an alarm in my phone to remind me. After the feeding, I gave it a little trim, mostly on top. The photo is “After.”

Near the lemon tree is my little California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica, which I mentioned here recently. It is growing a lot and has several flowers and many new leaves. I read quite a bit about it last night and learned that it is native only to Northern California. It’s very modest compared to showier species of Dutchman’s Pipe, but it is exotic enough to me. I kept wondering what the flowers would look like when they open, but it appears that this is it! If you think it looks carnivorous, you are not alone; in the past people did think that, but it seems they trap but don’t eat:

“The flowers have an unpleasant odor which is attractive to tiny carrion-feeding insects. The insects crawl into the convoluted flowers and often become stuck and disoriented for some time, picking up pollen as they wander. Most eventually escape; the plant is not insectivorous as was once thought. Fungus gnats (Mycetophilidae) may prove to be the effective pollinators.”

They call this “pollination by deceit.” The flowers dry up and crumble and thereby let the insects out to do their bidding. There are over 500 species of Dutchman’s Pipe, known as birthwort, or Aristolochia. Equally exotic and gorgeous butterflies lay their eggs on pipevines all over the world. Do you have any growing wild in your part of the world? Here are some from Sumatra and Brazil:

The flowers are known to have a bad smell, but mine are few and hard to get at, so there is not enough scent for me to notice. It dawned on me that if a Pipevine Swallowtail laid eggs on my plant, and caterpillars hatched out and began eating, they would die of starvation very soon, and I would be sad about that. And if my plant gets so robust that it covers the fence and draws lots of butterflies because its many flowers are exuding stinkiness… well, that would be a mixed blessing. I guess I’ll just wait and see what happens.

Perennial Showy Milkweed coming up.
Yellow Bush Lupine background, lavender at right.

In the meantime, I took a whiff of these geraniums who are also in my temporary nursery section; they only smell delicious. For dinner I cooked up a modest mess of nettle leaves.

What any kind of pruning can do.

It’s surprising how much glory has bloomed and gone, in my garden and by the creek. Well before the end of July we’ve cut back the purple explosion of germander and forced the bees to move to the echium and salvias, which continue to branch out and lengthen their nectar offerings. The Jerusalem sage and lavender I always think of as long-lasting…. How can they be done? Santa Barbara daisies at least come again and again after each shearing.

By the creek, the Queen Anne’s Lace and fennel will continue for months more, and other insects feed on them. But I never see honeybees there.

Early on when the gyms first closed because of the covid-19 quarantine and more people were walking those creek paths, I saw that many of the fennel plants down there had been mutilated and dishonored. I wished I had clippers with me so I could cut them off neatly to relieve the humiliation.

But three months later, those same plants are most beautiful! For all they cared, the breakage of their stems might have been expert pruning by loving horticulturists. Now those specimens have branched out gracefully to outshine their fellows that shoot straight up. The ladybug above is posing on one.

Last fall I planted a few begonias in pots on the patio, but so far only this older one has opened:

In the vegetable boxes many of the things I planted rather late and experimentally did not even sprout, but currently collards are coming along. And in the greenhouse, moringa! I bought the seeds two years ago at an event I blogged about: here. (I also had a bunch of little amaranth plants from that source growing nicely, but something ate them off at the stem.)

This spring I managed to keep three of the seeds warm and moist long enough for one of them to sprout. If the seeds had not been so unusual, I might not have invested in the project, but who knows… and whether I will ever use it, no one can predict that, either!

I plan to grow my little tree in a pot, and then a bigger pot if I manage to keep it alive long enough for it to outgrow containers. The leaves can be used like spinach, or for tea. It’s supposed to be one of those “superfoods,” which I’ve noticed become fads and then after a while you don’t hear about them anymore. I’m more interested in this species because it’s not a sweet fruit to add to the carb load of a diet.

My fruit trees are looking good. The plums and fig got their solstice pruning to keep the size down. For the fig, that mostly meant taking a foot or two off the top. I’m keeping them at a size where I can pick the fruit without a ladder, and take care of the trees on my own. The fig tends to grow horizontally, which makes it easy for me; it’s a dwarf species also, called Blackjack. But it doesn’t seem particularly dwarfish in its fifth season of bearing! It’s loaded with fruit. Yum.

I have four Elephant Heart plums on my two trees, which this morning I thought I better take pictures of, because in previous years they have not only started out few but mostly disappeared. My lemon tree I have in the last year or so been more diligent than ever to feed regularly, and it has responded by producing a score at least of little lemons that are getting big fast. They will be ripe next winter.

Must leave you now and go see what else needs pruning!

The heat makes me glad.


Today was one of the hottest days of the summer, at least 97° in my garden at the peak. But after a week of my being indisposed and then out of town, there were piles of yard work that needed to be done. Piles to be made, of pine needles and trimmings of spent flowers, and wisteria vines. I was able to plan my day so as to work (or walk) outside until 11:00, and then again at 3:30 or 4:00. When the sun is slant, the heat is not so unendurable and long-lasting.

The Apple Blossom penstemon is at its peak right now, so it doesn’t need trimming – only admiring.gl-27-lemon-p1050606



Last month I gave the lemon tree another iron treatment and some extra food, so the new leaves are looking healthy. And the lemons are growing, too – yay!

Some things are a little out of sync with the seasons – a couple of the lavender plants are in full bloom, almost three months late. By next spring I expect they will be on track with the rest.

Rudbeckia with toys

In the greenhouse, some greens and hollyhocks are coming along – and on the front right, those are the little lily plants that I managed to start from the black jewel-like seeds I collected at church.


Strawberry Tree – Arbutus unedo – fruit with pine needles


I pulled all the remaining leeks to make room for planting those greens, and lots of pea seeds. I hope later this week.

In the afternoon I chopped the roots and the upper tops off the leeks, standing at the patio table in the shade. It was still very warm, but since I was not exerting myself very much I could just bask in the balminess, and remember periods of my life when I lived in places with less coastal (brrrr!) influence.

I was a little worried when I noticed that about half of the leeks had started to form tall stalks. I wondered if they would be the woody and unusable parts that happen when flowers are forming.



But I read online that if that is the case, there will not be layers of flesh. And if you do find a hard and tough core, they say you can just discard that part and use the remainder of the leek. These stalks had no signs of flower buds, and inside they looked normal. So I cleaned them and added them to the pile ready to chop and cook.

Today was probably the last hottest day. Tomorrow won’t likely get above 90°, and the next day the high will be in the 70’s. As I type, at 7:30 in the evening, it is still 80° outside. 🙂 This weather is too late to ripen the tomatoes, but comes at the perfect time to warm my soul.


It’s a Eureka.

I am now the proud owner of a lemon tree, for the first time in my life. Unless you count my father’s ten acres of lemons that I helped to pick when I was about twelve; I also learned how to drive the tractor down the rows a few yards at a time to catch up with the pickers and make it easy to load boxes on the trailer.P1020744

When I tell people that I am planning for a lemon tree, without fail they ask me if it will be a Meyer lemon. No, it will not. I don’t know if Meyers are often grown commercially, but my father always showed scorn at the mere mention of a Meyer lemon, because they weren’t Real Lemons. All of my experience my life long has been with the old standard variety, Eureka, so that is what I wanted.

The Meyers are more frost hardy. If there had been a market for them, my father might have been wise to consider Meyers, because his lemon crop was ruined by frost so many times that he eventually pulled out those trees and planted more of the orange trees that were safer and more profitable. I’ve been living most of my adult life we don’t get a citrus-killing frost very often, but just in case, my tree will be planted under the canopy of my huge pine. If temps in the 20’s are predicted I can cover my baby, and/or put Christmas lights on it for a little extra heat.

This would be a good time to give you one of my recipes using (Eureka) lemons. I see I’ve already shared my favorite Lemon Poppyseed Sandwich Cookies, Lemon Curd, and Egg Lemon Soup. Here’s a different one, a recipe it seems I’ve never transcribed into a computer document, which is also one of my favorite savory dishes. Lemon juice is not cooked into the stew, but juicy lemon wedges are served alongside bowls of these beans at the table and squeezed over in the desired amount.

When I discovered this recipe and tried it for the first time — maybe it came from Organic Gardening magazine in the 70’s? — it reminded me so much of the beans I ate in Turkey that I wrote the Turkish word as the main title of the recipe copied into my funky notebook.


Greek Beans original-1

I don’t want to take time to type in the recipe right now because I have been so busy for several days, I am about to crash, and  hope to get sleep for another busy tomorrow. Much of the hubbub has to do with the garden project. At times four or five people have been working at once, on three different parts of the plan.P1020680

Soldier son came over again and finished the planting boxes. He also got the Craigslist playhouse off the driveway and into its final resting place, after building a foundation and floor and then moving it on to the spot that he had carefully leveled. P1020697

These pictures were taken a couple of days ago and already a lot more progress has been made; I hope that next week I can show you the paths all complete in their several layers.

Today the workers didn’t need me to make decisions or anything, so I caught up with some friends. First Elsie and I took a walk, which we’ve been trying for months to coordinate our schedules for. I took her on my favorite bike path loop which doesn’t require getting in a car to go anywhere.

When we got back to the house we stood out on the sidewalk looking up at the sunflowers and wondering why the birds haven’t eaten the seeds. Her eyes traveled up a little higher and spied a kestrel on the roof of my house! I am a great one for not seeing birds; if I had seen this one I wouldn’t have known what it was. But Elsie once saw a raptor like this grab a blue jay from her back yard so she read all about them. She also told me a story about an Australian woman she met who had lost her small dog to a hawk who swooped down and carried the tiny creature off.

I decided that today was the best day to cut the sunflower heads off, because if the birds don’t want them, I do, and I don’t want them getting rained on again and getting moldy. I went into the garage to get my loppers, and lop, lop, lop — the three plants with the seeds big enough to find and eat were down. I gave one seed head in a pie tin to Elsie — the seeds were falling out without us doing anything — and she went home to roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Mrs. Bread hadn’t seen my yard since the real landscaping has started, so I phoned her and she was able to come over. She helped me to harvest sunflower seeds, but we found the seeds toward the middle much harder to extract. We got tired of this digging and went to the store together to buy me  a handbag.


I am having an improved blogging experience tonight. Since last winter I have acquired a laptop and an easy chair, so now instead of sitting in front of the desktop in the corner of the house we call Siberia, I can sit comfortably and toast my toes by the wood stove. At first I noticed how much easier it is to think when I’m warm, but now….I’m getting sleepy…very…sleepy. I’ll be back another day.