Lord have mercy, who knew these mammoth sunflowers were so heavy? I am resisting staking these giants and watching the natural maturing process of the seeds. I fully expect the massive stem to break and come crashing down. If not, I will harvest these giants soon and dry the seeds for the birds and squirrels to eat.
I am an accidental gardener. I plant something and it accidentally grows. Or grows accidentally. Whatever. This year I had two plants that went completely nuts in my Texas back yard.
I grew sunflowers. Mammoth Russian Sunflowers. Now you may be thinking , ” What kind of knucklehead would grow sunflowers in north Texas when they sprout in every pasture by the droves?” Well for the seed for the birds of course. And because I love watching the flowers follow the sun. Hum the Beatle song here. (If you have to ask what Beatle song, you’re too young to read this.)
I planted these from an old package of seeds from at least ten years ago. I had twenty-four seeds. I have two sunflower plants left, but as you can see they make up for their small numbers in size. The deer and rabbits ate the rest. It went like this. I was excited when the seeds all sprouted and the seedlings seemed to grow two inches a day. Then one morning I went out to look and I had stubs. Somebody likes the taste of sunflower leaves it seems. While I never saw the carnage happen, I did see my rabbit friends avoiding my gaze. Anyway, the two plants I have left are about six foot tall now and one bud looks as if it will open soon. We had to fight the ants for these two. Ants like to burrow into the stalks. They killed my okra plants that way last year. I was ready for them.
The second of my garden champions of a sort is the Moonflower Vine I planted from seed at the same time as the Sunflowers. I planted them on the north side of the cage we have placed on a berm to keep the deer away from our tomatoes. I had about the same amount of seeds and every one of them came up.
The first picture is the Moonflower Vine in early June.
The second picture is August.
To say that they are vigorous is an understatement. I’m kind of afraid to get to close for fear they will say “Feed me Seymour, Feed Me! (If you don’t know Little Shop of Horrors you have led too sheltered a life.) We still have no flowers, which I fretted about until my very wise sister told me the plant has one job. Make more Moonflowers. It will bloom when it is darn good and ready. If we get the same amount of blooms as we got vine, it ought to be pretty spectacular. I’ll post.
Note to self: Don’t plant Moonflowers next to the gate next time unless you like uncurling ten thousand little Moonflower tendrils every day.
A scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. “This tilling of the soil can become compulsive, you know.” Suzanne Pleshette’s dirt-smudged face and sultry voice sticks in my mind as I wander the aisles of the local garden center, accompanied by a multitude of sparrows chirping in the metal rafters overhead. Mental headline reads, “Woman Pecked to Death by Sparrows at Local Home Depot.” I smile up at them thinking “Not enough of them for an attack and they don’t look like the angry crows in the movie.” Not yet anyway.
I love shopping for plants. How can you miss the slow joy of wandering through a humid wonderland filled with flats of colors and scents, envisioning the English garden soon to appear in your back yard? How can you hurry through that experience? I see ample evidence of how all around me. The cloyingly sweet perfume of the frantic gardener next to me slaps my nose as she piles her plants onto a wobbly orange flatbed. I move over an aisle to get away from her. She clops past me all red lipstick and ridiculous spiky heels. Rushing her treasures to the check-out.
I take my time to breathe in the surroundings; the smell of fertilizer,wet potting soil, spicy tomato plants. I had made a list of plants I wanted the day before, which I know I will never stick to because plants I have never seen will call me and end up in my cart. I’m what you call an accidental gardener; I accidentally get a plant in the right spot in my garden and it grows. I love to grow things from seed, and currently Alyssum, Zinnias, Dianthus and Cosmos are the tiny seedlings making their presence known in my back berm. It’s cheaper to plant from seed and you get to know the plant foliage as it develops I reason. But today, while my sweet husband is looking at chain saws and weed eaters, he has turned me loose in the garden center to buy bedding plants. Heaven.
I’m practically mowed down by a plant vendor with a sweaty red face pushing a six-tier cart of tender young plants ready to be pushed onto the shelving. ” What the hell are you doing?” she says to the pimply faced worker she spots ahead, who is evidently not moving fast enough for her. “Get that stuff on the tables!” Sigh. I move over another aisle.
I think about my grandfather now, who was a real gardener, he kept greenhouses, widow ladies’ yards and knew plants. He had a true green thumb. I have red Begonias in my cart in his honor, he loved them. The riotous colors of the Moss Roses are for him too. The Spanish Lavender I chose is for my husband, who had never seen that variety until a landscaping company put one in our yard seventeen years ago. Now that I think about it, most of the plants I plant are about other people. Zinnias for my grandmother, the Cosmos, Larkspurs, Moonflowers and Morning glories are for my mother, who loved wildflowers, the Petunias, Dianthus, and Alyssum are for the characters from a book called “The Uninvited”, where a ghostly presence was heralded by floral scents.
I plant for animals too. Salvia and Cardinal vine for the hummingbirds. Sunflowers for the woodpeckers, mockingbirds, chickadees and titmice that populate our Texas yard. The Fountain Grass I choose because our kittens used to love playing hide and seek in the soft mounds of grass, leaping out to roll and tumble down onto our back patio. We no longer have the kittens, but just seeing this grass makes me smile inwardly.
And what new treasure did I find, just for me? A beautiful blue Lobelia. A feathery Yarrow plant and some Mexican Heather. New plants I’ve never planted.
And one old favorite, a Rosemary plant, for remembrance.
CC Image by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
Summer. In Texas. And the squash plants have lost their minds. Yellow squash are the Incredible Hulk of the garden world. Turn your back on them for one minute and they get angry. Very angry. And BIG..very big.
NEXT year, we vow we are not going to plant four yellow squash plants, even though we love yellow squash. Right.
But we just dug the last of the potatoes and have lovely little red onions to use. Potato salad! And devilled eggs.
So to go with, Dr. Smoky has brined and grilled bone-in chicken breasts.
But next year, two squash plants. Just two.
With the abundance of rain we had in late May here in Weatherford, Texas, the pickling cucumbers got a little ahead of us. Really, they got huge, it seemed like overnight. My practical husband said he would save the day and whipped up a batch of bread and butter pickles with fresh garden onions.
This time around he did not let the cucumbers sit in salt to drain for an hour. They produced a little more liquid, but did not dilute the pickling broth that we could taste and were just as crunchy.
- fresh pickling cucumbers
- 1 sliced white onion
Heat the following items to a boil. Pour over sliced cucumbers and onion. Let cool to room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate. Good to eat in a couple of hours, better if they sit overnight. He’s made these twice now and we can’t get enough of them.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup white cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (we did not have, so left this out)
Recipe courtesy of The Recipe Girl.
The strangest of color signs this morning. Our yellow lilies, which have been a frothy yellow tide this spring, suddenly added a cousin with blood-red hues.
Then as I was drinking my morning coffee, the neighbor’s peacock made a haughty appearance in the yard, complete with Edward Goreyish unearthly cries. Hmmm… a mystery is afoot.
We nicknamed this sturdy enclosure the deer garden. At ten by ten wide and six foot tall, our local deer have not yet been willing to jump in to eat our vegetable garden. I love our Texas wildlife on our little farm, but I love having fresh vegetables. The thick gauge wire panels have also discouraged the rabbits, raccoons and armadillos that frequent our back yard.
My husband spent yesterday topping off the garden with sweet-smelling pine shavings to discourage the weeds and when hilled will allow more potatoes to develop. A spring garden is a wonderful thing. I am looking forward to real tomatoes (not those horrid grocery store things), onions, strawberries, cucumbers, four different types of peppers, potatoes and yellow squash.
You may wonder how we came to have such an ominous looking pen as a garden enclosure. A few years back we adopted a stray dog; a full-blood Bassett Hound that we named Sweet Pea. She wandered down the street with our neighbor, who was looking for her owner. My husband, who was not prone to doing that sort of thing, said ” We can keep her.” She looked sweet. But beneath that sad-sack face lay a wounded psyche. Lord knows what mental scars happened to that dog before she came to us, but we found in a hurry that she hated thunderstorms. We had a great, warm dog house in our large back yard where she stayed during the day with our other dog. But if it thundered once, it was all over. Sweet Pea tore through every chain link fence we ever had. She’d either dig and slither under the fence or grab the thick wire and bend it up with her teeth. She’d make a bee line for our neighbor’s house, go in through their dog door and be in their house playing with their dogs. Our neighbors were very understanding. Have you ever smelled a wet Basset Hound?
So, the deer garden enclosure. Purchased at our local farm supply, they said you could keep a lion secure in this ten by ten foot enclosure. We put Sweet Pea and our Dalmatian Jasmine in the enclosure under a small shelter with their doghouses when it threatened rain. It did work, but it made me sad because she struggled so to get out. Even her strong jaws were defeated. When we finally lost Sweet Pea to old age, we buried her on our property just outside any fence. It seemed fitting. That was always where she wanted to be.