Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let Us Not Forget the Veggies

You may be asking yourself "Nikki, what's with all these flower pictures? What about the vegetable garden?" And I would have to sheepishly respond...

Peas climbing and flowering

Thyme going to flower

Blackstem Peppermint starting to take over its pot

Italian Parsley bushing-out

Kale almost big enough to start harvesting

Rocky Top Lettuce mix looking just gorgeous

Beets adding deep crimson purple hues

And tomatoes staked and happy

So there, do you feel a small sense of relief? I have not abandoned my beloved vegetable garden, it's been getting just as much love as the rest of the yard. I guess I've just been caught up in my yearly perennial planting frenzy.

All of this rain and sun lately has really made the vegetables and herbs start to take off. Today I spent an hour or so weeding, staking tomatoes, planting peppers, and harvesting the last of the white Icicle radish and Saxa II radish. If you can't grow anything else, at least give radish a try, it's pretty hard to mess them up.

So now that I've updated you on the veggies, I feel like posting some more flowers - deal with it!

Annual butterfly weed

Foxglove Apricot Beauty

Angelina sedum

Lavender about to flower

Pink Echinacea flower bud

Pink butterfly bush

Evening Primrose

Purple Speedwell

Can you blame me for being so distracted?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Operation Peony"

I've decided that I have a penchant for rescuing abandoned or neglected plants. Last year I had a blast whisking wild tigerlilies away from an old railroad line. This year I had my eyes set on another orphan.

Every day on my way home from the gym I drive past an empty lot on Ridge Avenue where an older cape cod has recently been torn down to make way for business development. I hate seeing cute, historic, old homes being razed to the ground all in the name of rampant capitalism. Every time I pass this lot I think of all the families and generations that lived in that house, raised children, laughed, cried, and of course, tended flowers. I love the tangible connection to the past that plants can give us, especially stately plants that can live for generations.

This week while driving home from the gym and waiting at the stoplight, my eye was drawn to three deeply pink balls of color huddled alone and deserted on the edge of this empty lot. It's that time of spring where peonies are starting to bud, swell, and explode into silky petals of pink, white, and magenta. I've been on the hunt for a peony this year - I ordered a Festiva Maxima from
Old House Garden Heirloom Bulbs for fall delivery - so my mind was already there. Similar to my love for rhubarb plants, I love that peonies can last for generations, even a century, all the while growing fuller and more mature.

With some squinting and rolling down of the window, I was able to tell that these three lonely plants were indeed peonies, most likely the only thing remaining of the former house and its owners. At first I just said "ohhhh, that's too bad" and kept on driving. This happened for a few days in a row until I started to develop a soft spot for these brave little guys. They no longer had a house to adorn or an owner to love and coax them, but they were still going to bloom and do what they do best, year after year. I started to think to myself "wouldn't it just be crazy if I pulled over on the side of Ridge Avenue with shovel in-hand and dug up these plants and sped off?" It started out as one of those "haha" kind of thoughts, but quickly morphed into a "I think I could really do this" kind of thing.

Well, today was the breaking point. Work was slow, the rain has finally slacked off, and I was itching to get out into the yard. I packed up the shovel, a few junky plastic pots, threw on some mud-duds, and headed out. If you know anything about Ridge Avenue around the Oakley/Pleasant Ridge area, you'll know that it's a very busy street with lots of traffic. My target area is right across from the Steak and Shake before the entrance ramp to 71. Yes, I know, I'm crazy.

I did a few drive-by passes to scope out the area, where I could pull my car in, etc. Finally I decided that I was going to go for it - I pulled my little Honda over on the side of the road, popped the trunk, took shovel and pots in hand, and dug like my life depended on it. Within three minutes or so I had unearthed all three peonies, plunked them into pots, packed everything up in the trunk, and sped off like a bat out of hell.

Flush with adventure, on the way home I stopped at the infamous railroad tigerlily patch and dug myself a couple more clumps to plant alongside the new peonies. When I got home, I unloaded my fugitives and gave them all a nice new home around our back deck, which has been an eyesore since we bought this house. Now these adopted peonies and tigerlilies will once again have someone to ooo-and-ahh over them and appreciate the beauty they bring to this world.

It's hard for me not to laugh when writing this, it sounds so ludicrous. I guess there are plenty of other unsavory ways to get my kicks in life. If rescuing a few orphan plants can ring my bell, then what the heck. Just as long as I don't get myself arrested...

Monday, May 16, 2011

And it rained all night and then all day...

And it rained all night and then all day
The drops were the size of your hands and face

The worms come out to see what's up

We pull the cars up from the river
~ Thom Yorke

And the rain has continued...and continued..........and continued.....................

I can't ever remember such a soggy wet spring. Plants that are in raised beds, such as the vegetable garden and the front beds, aren't faring quite as bad as plants that live directly in the ground, which is so soaked with water that it's having trouble draining, turning the soil into compacted, hard, muddy clay. I can just imagine all of the little roots that are suffocating right now. Such is the nature of good old Mother Nature...

Despite the gloomy weather, there are pockets of gorgeousness in the yard - speedwell, coral bells, miniature roses, budding heads of yarrow, and my first apricot foxglove bells.

I raised the foxgloves from seed last year - they are a funny plant, producing only foliage their first year, blooming the second year, and then dying.

In other news, I harvested the first goodies from the garden this year - white icicle radish and plump little saxa radish. Crunchy and zippy!

A couple weeks ago I was quite disheartened when I discovered that the groundhog had eaten his way through the netting protecting the veggies. A nice palm-sized hole had been sheared away and half of my plants had been nipped to the root - kale, peas, swiss chard, and greens were all decimated. Slightly furious, I rotated the netting to hide the hole and have been praying for the best ever since.

While the furry marauder hasn't been back, the damage has been done and the garden's growth has been stunted. Couple that with all of the water we've been getting and I'm not feeling too optimistic about this year's "harvest". Just something us gardeners have to learn to accept I guess.
Thank goodness we're signed up for the CSA with Eaton Farm again this year. We just got an update that our first pick up day will be May 29th - can't wait!

And lastly, I leave you with my latest culinary creation - a rhubarb custard pie with a latticed top. I've never baked a lattice top on a pie before, only because I didn't realize how easy it is. Pretty boy!