Tag Archives: sunflowers

Under the August sun.

On my outing to the beach last week I snapped some pictures of coastal neighborhood landscapes. The spot I visited is by a hilly village of cottages, and in former days we used to walk up from the beach and admire the unique houses and plantings. This time I drove around slowly and leaned out the window a few times.

Things have been heating up here in an atypical way, which is what I hear from people all over. It’s not unusual to have a heat wave, but electric storms, rain showers, high winds and a series of muggy days definitely are not what we are used to at this season. I do like 90 degrees better without the dampness. Still, warm evenings — if they are calm — make me feel happy and more at home on the earth. Our standard weather, being frequently chased inside by the cold and damp summer breeze, is the downside of this temperate climate, but we’re always happy to go back to it after a period of scorching.

In my own garden the sunflowers,
white echinacea and asparagus
are creating their usual jungle.

Until this summer I had eaten exactly one plum from my two Elephant Heart  plum trees, which are in their fifth season. This summer they bore five green-speckled fruits, and I doled them out to myself over last week. Each one astonished me. I know that sounds overly dramatic, and sadly it doesn’t even tell you a thing about the fruit, whose flavor deserves a poem. I’ll work on that, especially if I get a few more to do research on next summer. I must mark my calendar so I’m not away on a trip at the beginning of August.

At church there are new things the current gardener has done. I wandered around the other day when the Japanese anemones were being appreciated by a bee, and lizards ran joyfully about from one hot sidewalk to another.

I hope you all are prospering in your souls,
and that your heads are not hanging too low,
like this sunflower I saw in my neighborhood —
though it is beautiful. Have courage!

Sunflowers shine on my garden.

gl dragonfly 2 by JR 5-31-16

So many flowers are growing in my garden that I haven’t ever grown before, or not for a long time. The Kangaroo Paws are ever-changing and fascinating.  One of the three plants sent up a flower stalk months ago, and the blooms are opening now. I didn’t know that these little rising-sun flowers that have popped out were even part of the deal.

In May Mrs. Bread took this photo of a dragonfly who flew right to that plant that matched his own color. He knew, even though the buds were small then. >>>gl P1040891 k paws 7-25-16gl P1040891 k paws closegl P1040894 k paws





When I was in Monterey, on California’s Central Coast, I saw lots of Kangaroo Paws in different colors. Some plants were seven feet high.

Maybe next year all three of mine will bloom at the same time!


gl rice straw P1040853

I bought a bale of rice straw with which to mulch the vegetables and strawberries, and I did get the job done just before the heat wave rolled in. While I was pulling hay out of the bale I was swept back to my childhood when we used to play in the hay barns at the neighbor’s horse ranch. I had completely forgotten about what was a fairly brief, but special year or two of my life, but that hay smell….

My everbearing type of strawberry plants are producing their second crop, and I’m getting more than in their first fruiting. Every other day or so I pick a few to eat in the garden. I’m enjoying them more than I expected, now that they are responding to the summer weather and being healthier.

gl berries P1040889While most plants are growing taller, the fennel is getting fat. I’m growing the bulbs to roast as vegetables. It must be time to pick them, because flowers are beginning to form on the feathery tops.

gl fennel P1040851

gl P1040862 chamomile




Chamomile flowers are cute little skirted pom-poms. This is the German variety, which is said to grow to 2 ft., but mine is 27″ high 🙂 The short Roman kind is on the other side of the garden, covered now with tiny yellow buttons, and no skirts.






When I bought plants in the spring, for some reason I thought I was getting an orangey-brown variety of sunflower, but my giant specimens are lemon-yellow, and I do love them. They are nearly 8 ft. tall, and would be all of that, if they held their heads up just a tad straighter. But then they wouldn’t look quite right.

The goldfinches have been hanging around a lot. This morning six goldfinches and one house finch were having a drinking party at my fountain, and taking baths, too, while I sat in the garden eating breakfast. Later on I surprised one that was pecking at a sunflower leaf, and last week as I was walking around in the evening I came upon a goldfinch perched quietly on a bachelor’s button, enjoying the air a bit before retiring.

gl garden sunflowers

I wonder if it was birds who ate my green beans…. Well, I consider everything experimental this year. It will be interesting to see which things want to come back next spring. In the meantime, I have learned how not to plant tomatoes in a box, and that if aphids show up on my kale, I better wash them off quickly. The sunflowers are trying to convince me — and so far it’s working — that they are a success.gl P1040874

If we would all break out into such glory when the summer sun shines!

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.

bees, butternuts, and ribes

GL 10 IMG_0791I just came in from working in the yard where if one is digging, toting and harvesting under the sun, it is hot.  My last sweaty session of gardening was in the mid-afternoon, this week when the temperature has been in the 90’s; that workout made me resolve to take the first morning available and head outdoors early to get my seedlings into the ground.

GLY P1020151
baby collards



Of the seven packages of old seeds I tested, three have sprouted up thickly: collards, kale and parsley.



GLY bee on mum 10-15

I’ve been intending to plant them for over a week, but every time I get started I enGL 10 P1020110 sunflowersd up doing something else, only occasionally preparatory. This morning I spent a while trying to take pictures of the bees drinking from the mums. Last week I accidentally included a bee on a sunflower.

A gardener friend gave me sunflower seeds in the spring, and I bought some plants at the same time. The varieties planted from seed were mostly eaten by birds when they were little, but I do like the few that survived, better than the tall plants that bloomed earlier in the summer.

Lacking a back yard to garden in this summer, I had tucked the sunflowers and some vegetables into the borders of the dead lawn, where the irrigation emitters oversprayed anyway. In the middle of the lawn where this doesn’t happen,  big cracks have opened up in several places. I poked a yardstick into one and it went down 30″ easily. That’s a crevasse measuring 36″L x 4″W x 30″D.

I didn’t figure out the volume, but I started filling it with whatever organic material I could find, including flour left over from Y2K, old coffee beans, and a pile of dirt that had been sent over by my Landscape Lady from another installation. I topped it off with some old planting mix, and am thinking of planting some Rainbow Chard seeds in a jagged row.

Rainbow Chard bed in foreground.

Another task I’ve worked on out front is harvesting my butternut squashes. These are the ones I picked last week, on the patio table where I had been transplanting things into and among pots. The total weight on those was 15#.P1020149

(In the blue bowl is a sunflower head from which I will save the seeds.)

Today I picked the remainder of thGLYP1020148e fruits, and brought them in when I was too hot to work any longer. That’s never happened to me before noon before! I set them on the counter and then pushed them aside to make a smoothie with frozen blueberries to help me cool down.

This second picking yielded 22#. The prize-winner weighed 7 1/2 pounds. This was my best butternut crop ever.


Last week I found a fountain for the back yard, and yesterday when she came with the installer to talk about organizing the upcoming transformation, my Landscape Lady brought along a few plants that she had bought, with apologies for me having to babysit them; they are California natives that she had to get a little early before they sell out. I don’t mind babysitting at all — I am jazzed to have these promises of good things to come, right here on site.

Ribes and Festuca


We discussed the most efficient sequence of the various steps, preparing beds, laying paths and irrigation, planting; who will build the vegetable boxes and how to prepare the greenhouse floor — Did you even know that I am planning for a greenhouse??

The two months during which I have been staring out at a sea of dirt seem like two years, but luckily I have had plenty of other work and fun to occupy my mind while I’m waiting. Now things are starting to happen.



This Yerba Buena grows in the wild in our area, and will like the soil and shade under my pine tree where it can trail around. It’s edible and minty and good for making tea if I want. Lots of things in my new back yard will be edible, including the ribes, also known as Pink Flowering Currant. The Native Americans used to harvest the berries to eat, but I read that they are not that tasty to modern humans, so I plan to enjoy watching the birds feast on them while I relax on the bench nearby. As soon as it is sittable, I hope you will come and watch with me.

IMG_0364 s.f. a.m.