Summer flowers or summer blooms? Could I include a blooming cucumber plant in my “flower” list? What about blooming basil, thyme or mint? The mood, and objective, of our backyard has certainly shifted this year. I was aiming at creating working city garden for a while now, but this year gave me the final push. Halfway there model no longer worked. When spring turned into summer backyard turned chaotic, completely lacking any colorful annuals unless self sown, veggie producing container garden jungle. Here are some of my favorites, all grown from seed this year, most saved from last years plants. I am missing names on many of them. What started as an ambitious seed farm with neatly arranged labels, turned into planting frenzy one damp day in May. Just because the conditions were right! Names were misplaced, zinnias mixed up. I can name only two now – the purple brown yellow colored Aztec Sunset, that produces cascades of small, cheerful flowers and neatly drapes itself with its curly branches over the ceramic pot. The other is Queen Lime Orange, the name says it all. Regal, tall, and a chameleon of lime and orange hues currently peeking through cherry tomato plants. I have been careful not to deadhead any of them too early, after observing bumble bees talking their time luxuriating in the pollen of the mature booms. Bumble bees win, every time.
Spider plants, or cleome, have been with me for years. I always gather seeds, then forget to plan them, but nature still takes care of them for me. They overwinter in the soil and pop up when decide it’s warm enough. This year there are pink and some pure white ones. Always fun to watch tiny insects swarm them and slide on their “whiskers” like acrobats.
August brings sunflowers. This year I am growing Ruby Eclipse. We have a mini forest of them right outside the windows, gently bouncing in a wind. Occasionally, the bounce turns out to be not wind, but yellow finches, who take to them with gusto, as if they were woodpeckers. The sunflowers, as well as zinnias, make great cut flowers. Mine stayed fresh in a vase for almost two weeks. I tend to mix them with whatever I can find by the sidewalk, or whatever I prune out in the garden. Entire tomato branch in the arrangement? Why not?
The end of gardening season is almost here. Sure, there is still baby spinach and red mustard that may or may not bring harvest before the frost, and a lone Tuscan kale plant, that I am half heartedly guarding against the critters…The days are short, shadows are long, and there is only enough warmth and direct sunshine to sustain less than an hour of sitting in a garden with a good read.
Before the backyard disappears into a soggy and eventually a frosty, entangled mess, here is a reflection of what did well, and what was only a tease in our city backyard this year. I now strongly believe that documenting is the only way for growth and progress, and it has certain, almost soul nurturing, quality. Teaches patience, and makes the home grown food, when it eventually reaches the table, feel so special. Also, and that is a huge part of why we grow food in containers and even the tiniest of city plots, makes it almost impossible to let the food go to waste. After so much wait and effort (watering by hand with rain water) would you really allow it to spoil? The garden also feels like an extension of our home, generously lending space to alfresco meals, (for us and the neighborhood bees) and offering what is seems like an attractive stopover to occasional dragonfly. Which happens to be my favorite insect of all times!
Winners this year:
- – Pepper Bianca
- – Eggplant Fairy Tale
- – Japanese cucumbers
- – Tomatoes: Sungold, Sweet 100, Black Cherry
- – Garlic German Red
- – Basil Genovese and Thai that were, and still are in late October, an absolute delight
- – Cilantro: both as a fresh plant and dried seeds it produced.
Only a tease category:
- Any large heirloom tomato, maybe with exception of Green Zebra
- Zucchini that only produced gorgeous flowers