Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Growing for the Table

         I can describe my visit to Gail Witter-Laird’s garden briefly as follows:  I trailed after her while she and her son Maxwell dug potatoes, harvested onions, garlic, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, and rosemary.  We came indoors and Gail prepared a lunch from the morning’s harvest: Ratatouille, potatoes sautéed with rosemary, a green salad, cheese from a local farmer, bread from a re-located pastry chef, and two beautiful wines. 

Gail and Maxwell

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garden Sheds

There are few outbuildings as appealing as the garden shed.  Small, eminently affordable, totally functional, lacking in frivolity -- a purchase one could easily justify.  All gardeners know that the accumulation of tools grows faster than the growth rate of plants.  Just this year alone I’ve ordered a fine left-handed knife, a hand rake, a potato hook, a kneeling cushion/bench combination, several pairs of heavy-duty gloves, an extra trowel or two, and a new clippers.

I don’t lack storage space, but that has not kept me from wanting a small outbuilding, just for the garden.  I’ve looked at shed kits in every conceivable style, from configurations for cozy cabins with window boxes, to Zen retreats, to cabanas with Palladian gables.  There are hip-roofed styles recommended for California vineyards, austere slant-roofed sheds for tool minimalists, sheds with faux-Tudor rooflines, and five-sided numbers with French doors.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Visiting Gardens

      Gardens rarely outlive their owner. If Monet were to walk into Giverny today, despite the best of intentions of his successors, he would be lost. A garden, if left unattended or looked after marginally after the death of the gardener, will maintain its character for a brief time, but soon nature or new owners take over and it will be lost. Or a garden is opened to the public and increasingly more attractions must be offered to appease repeat visitors.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August Calendar

August always brings a brief moment of vegetable envy.  Luckily, it doesn’t last long.  The basil we’ve grown in raised beds is enough to dress the tomatoes that more ambitious friends deliver.  As their vegetable gardens threaten to overwhelm the ability of the owners to freeze or can, we can sit back and contemplate the quiet of our garden. Often, it’s too hot to work outside, but the earlier work completed in cooler weather is paying off.   Most of the garden weeds are gone by now.  Assiduous weeding and heavy mulching are giving us a few weeks of rest, interrupted only by watering and expeditions for cutting.  

As August winds down, it’s hard to miss the tall stands of bright yellow flowers spilling over a fence or splayed against a wall.  Paler colors fade in the brilliant light of August, but yellow and orange hold their own as they seem to be direct by-products of the natural light.  If you are within city limits, you will most likely see Black-eyed Susan and citified, diminutive versions of the more rampant natives.  If you are anywhere in the countryside in August you will be in danger of running off the road trying to name six-to-eight foot stands of unidentified daisy-like yellow flowers. 

Common sneezeweed