Sunday, December 30, 2018

Winter wonderland

It finally feels like winter here in the Arizona highlands: snow, highs in the 20s, wind chill in the negatives... good times. I love taking pictures of the garden in snow, because the snow hides the weeds transforms the landscape. I've been working on my annual report post (look for that one tomorrow), so I've been going through pictures of the garden throughout the year. It's hard to believe that this: 

Now looks like this: 

Or this:

Now looks like this:

One of the many things I love about gardening is that it makes me more attuned to the seasons: the subtle shift from spring to summer, summer to fall. Fall to... the sudden dumping of a pile of cold white stuff all over everything. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of winter. I do love the peacefulness and beauty of the garden in snow. Soon it will be time to start seeds, transplant, mulch, and wage war on the grasshopper horde. In the meantime, though, I'll savor the beauty all around me. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Another summer draws to a close

It's Labor Day Weekend, when traditionally we in the US have one last blowout to celebrate the end of summer. Buy some slabs of meat and throw 'em on the grill, or grab your tent or RV or boat and hit the road (or lake).

But I'm a gardener. I can't just take off for the long weekend, because there are green beans to be harvested and pesto to be made from all the fresh basil and ripe tomatoes to pick for salsa and... OK, this is Flagstaff. There are a handful of ripe tomatoes--maybe enough for a snack or two--and a ton of green ones sitting mockingly on the vines, taunting me with a promise that will likely never be fulfilled. Summers are short here in the mountains of Northern Arizona; our average first frost date is September 15, so most of those tomatoes will either end up on the compost pile or get ripened indoors. The last two years, the first frost came late--so late that I not only got ripe tomatoes, but I was harvesting them till November. But I know better than to count on that. The nights are already getting colder, and as of last week I've had to turn on my headlights on the way home from work. C'mon, tomatoes, get busy ripening. I need my homemade salsa!

The tomatoes may be slacking, but there's a lot happening in the garden. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been a slacker this season, so the garden is an unruly, unkempt jungle. Hell, there could be a long-lost tomb out there somewhere, and I'd never know about it. But despite my sloth, it's still pretty. So many things are blooming and bearing and burgeoning! And me being, well, me, I took pictures of most of it. Here we go:

Welcome to the jungle, part 1 - the pond

Welcome to the jungle, part 2. This is supposed to be my lovely little potager. Except that a) I was too lazy to finish putting down weed fabric and wood chips on the paths, so the paths are now overgrown with weeds, and b) when I was doing my spring planting, I developed early season amnesia, a disorder specific to gardeners that causes us to forget exactly how big pumpkin vines can grow. So my potager is now a pumpkin patch punctuated with weed strips.

And more jungle, this time outside the potager. Yep, that thing in the foreground is another out of control pumpkin vine.

And a few more views from the area outside the vegetable garden:

I put this here, not because it's pretty (it isn't) but to remind me not to plant tomatoes in front of my green beans ever again. It makes bean harvesting a major pain.

Garden amnesia strikes again. Surely that tiny little zucchini seedling won't turn into a huge monster, right? Ha! The poor broccoli has no personal space.

I mentioned in my last post that I'm growing a lot of new-to-me things this year. Here's one of them: birdhouse gourds. Why? Because I can. These are from those cheap American Seed packs you find at dollar stores and Wal-Mart. I got 'em last winter when the local Dollar General was clearing them out for a nickel a pack. I guess now I have to figure out how to turn these weird things into birdhouses.

They even have kind of pretty flowers, and they look cute twining across the top of the picket fence.

Another new-to-me plant: hyacinth bean. I thought it would get bigger and climb the trellis, but it didn't.

This pic has a cottage garden vibe (as opposed to my usual "mess" vibe). The zinnias are very happy, and I love the baby's breath in the lower right corner next to the fence.

And we're ready for Halloween--2 months early.

And here's one of my accidental plant combinations that kinda works: Hopi red and love lies bleeding amaranth with Shasta daisy. Too bad something is feasting on the amaranth leaves.

Here's more love lies bleeding. I love this plant! And it seems to do well here in spite of whatever is having its leaves for lunch.

4 O'clocks

And hollyhocks

And milkweed for the monarchs

And the giant sacred datura that survives anything and everything.

And this whole section of jungle

Geraniums and rosemary in the container garden (Yeah, I know, for you garden snobs they're pelargoniums. Go find a British garden tour or something and leave us unsophisticated plant people in peace.) Pretty soon I'll have to haul these in the house for the winter. *sigh*

Another new to me plant: pumpkin tree. I also got this one through a seed trade. They're actually a type of ornamental eggplant.

Here you can see the whole pumpkin tree (big green thing to the right of the pink and red thing, otherwise known as a coleus)

The mixed border along part of the south and most of the west side of the house. I've been gardening in these beds for a couple of years now, so they look a little less out of control than the newer beds.

Blackberry lilies, winter sown in 2017 and nearly eaten to the ground by grasshoppers last summer. To my great surprise, they came back this year and are lookin' good. Hopefully they'll bloom next year.

Another accidental plant combination that kinda works: chrysanthemum and garlic chives.

Last year's cosmos self-sowed, and this is the lovely result.

Phlox and Japanese morning glory

Double Delight rose

And Ketchup and Mustard rose

Sacred Datura right after a morning shower

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (a wild cleome that is native here and fills the fields in our area with purple every summer). This one volunteered in the mixed border. It's way too tall for the front of the border and looks totally out of place, but it's beautiful, and the bees love it, so it stays. As the plaque in my kitchen says, Martha Stewart doesn't live here.

And I'll end on that rebellious note, because it sums up my approach to gardening quite nicely. "Rules" are more like suggestions. I want to learn from others, but ultimately, it's my garden. It will never be perfect, because I'm too lazy for that, but even in years when I neglect it terribly, it still has so much beauty and brings me so much joy.

Pictures from the end of July

I seem to be perpetually behind this year, as the days scoot by so quickly, and half the things I want to accomplish remain undone at the end of the day. I've always had more ideas than time to implement them, but that imbalance seems to be growing. Which is why I'm just now posting garden pictures from the end of July. *sigh*

My garden has thrived on neglect this year, as I've been busy with so many other projects and life events that I've had little time to do more than water, pull one or two weeds, and take pictures. So the garden is a big, messy jungle--but that's OK. Here's the state of the jungle at the end of July. I'll post updated jungle pix from yesterday after I get these up.

Here are wide shots, so I can remember what various parts of the garden looked like as a whole:

Often my favorite pictures to take are not the wide shots but the macro shots: the single flower in all its delicate detail, the accidental plant combination that charms me (Note: All my plant combinations are accidental. I have the artistic and design ability of a mud brick. So I take pictures to remember what worked so I can do it again.)

Bee in a squash blossom

Zinnias - nature's fireworks

Hollyhocks were one of the first flowers I learned to grow, and I still love them.

This year I made more of an effort to add flowers to my vegetable beds. These marigolds look right at home and add some much-needed color and cheeriness to the kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, and weeds.

More flowers in the veggie beds - borage and sweet peas

And alyssum pouring over the edge of the bed.

My first eggplant! I try to grow something new each year, and this year it's eggplant and ground cherries. I hate eggplant (too slimy!), but the fruits are pretty, and my co-workers like them.

Sacred datura, devil's trumpet, jimson weed... this plant has more names than Prince Charles. It's also native here, and the blooms are breathtaking. The rest of the plant is ugly, but a) the flowers are worth it, and b) you really can't kill it, which is a great advantage here in the land of drying winds, late frosts, and early frosts. It's seeding everywhere, so one of my fall projects will be to move the seedlings to the area where my property borders the road. I'm trying to get more wildflowers out there, and these should do well.

When planting out seedlings, I often forget how big plants get. Those seedlings are so tiny! There's so much bare ground! Then this happens. I do think the Love Lies Bleeding and Hopi Red amaranths look cool next to the Giant Pumpkin Vine That Is Threatening to Smother the Neighborhood though.

Another plant I'm growing for the first time this year: 4 O'Clocks. They seem quite happy here, even in our lousy soil. I'll be interested to see if they winter over.

And one more new plant I'm growing for the first time: marshmallow. I snagged this one at the Coconino County Master Gardeners annual plant sale.

Last year I planted some seeds for Japanese Morning Glory that I got in an online seed trade. They're just as prolific as regular morning glories, only with bigger, prettier blooms.

I hope that wherever you are, your garden is flourishing.