Posts Tagged With: gardening

Wild Ones and Volunteers

African Daisies still going bonkers in a few spots.

African Daisies still going bonkers in a few spots.

My wildflowers reach the end of their life cycle this month. MSH keeps insisting I just need to water them. To appease him, I have drenched the poor worn out plants with copious amounts of the precious resource, to no avail. Well, that’s not exactly true. The weeds appreciate the extra moisture and show their appreciation by growing a foot in a day, or at least it seems they do.

No, sad to say, my wildflowers have simply reached the stage in their life cycle where they produce seeds and then let the winds scatter their progeny willy-nilly. By time a healthy seed head appears, the plant itself has given its all, nearly five months from peeking out of the ground to now.

This seed head looks promising.

This seed head looks promising.

Now’s the part of the wildflower process where the hard work kicks in. If I want to share any of the seeds, which I like to, then I gather the puffs of seed heads into a bucket and distribute them into Ziploc bags. These little guys, African Daisies, will grow in almost any climate, even in a regular garden bed during late spring and summer, as long as they get the full sun.

It’s a little trickier gathering the California Poppy seeds. They form in long pods after the flower bloom ends. The seeds aren’t much bigger than a grain of sand. I gather the pods before they open and let them dry out in a container. When the seeds are ready the pod splits open on its own and releases the seeds where they fall to the bottom of the container.

The other much harder part of wildflowering in my rock covered desert landscape is that every plant must be plucked from the ground and disposed of. Usually I pull a few plants a day as they slowly die off, which isn’t too difficult. But this year, there are more plants than ever and we had a really hot patch of weather last week that sped up the process of end of life.

So I’m faced today with the task of cleaning up the dead and dying. It’s a little sad. The yard starts to look bare and desert-ish again. My flowerpots in the shade of the front porch provide my only color fix out there.

Yet in this undertaking (excuse the pun) I have hope, because hundreds or probably more like thousands, of seeds have fallen among the rocks and next years bloom looks promising.

I suppose what I love about wildflowers lies in their self-propagating properties. They voluntarily show up, without any work on my part.

If you aren’t familiar with gardening terms:

“a volunteer is a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or a gardener.” ~ Wikipedia

I once had a tree seed blow in and grow in the middle of a series of garden beds. Turns out it was a Brazilian Pepper Tree that grew very quickly. In a matter of three years I had a tall, full tree that provided shade for a south-facing kitchen window. Another time, in the middle of a compost pile, I had a cantaloupe vine grow that gave out the sweetest fruit I’d ever tasted.

Unplanned, yet perfect, colors in my garden.

Unplanned color in my garden.

All winter I had meant to plant vegetable seeds in the open spaces of my back yard flower bed; combine utility with beauty for a perfect combination. I set in a few tomato plants, but that’s all. The deliberate planting never happened. Life and death and illness took hold for a while and got in the way of my good intentions.

And yet, almost miraculously, my back yard flowerbed overflows with nearly all volunteers this spring. Some flowers simply survived the very mild winter, with only one night of below freezing temperatures covered by a sheet. The red Penstemon apparently throw out seeds because they’re spreading and blooming proficiently. A few Sunflower seeds planted themselves from last years batch and have made themselves comfy among the Romaine lettuce and Petunias. Marigolds reseeded themselves as well and threaten a yellow takeover once they start blooming. And Cosmos, with their feathery stalks have already flowered in neon pink, the children of last years few seeds I tried for the first time.

Looking out the back window provides a view of this unplanned but stunning flowerbed at all times of the day.

Not being in too much of a gardening disposition this past winter, I’ve been lucky to have so many plants volunteer to brighten my life. Sometimes, in spite of lack of attention, or maybe because of it, nature sends surprises to delight and lift and cheer.

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Categories: Gardening, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Recipe for Spring

We didn’t get much of a winter around Phoenix this year. I think I covered plants to protect them from freezing one time. I’m not complaining. Flowers still bloom and in fact thrive from last fall’s plantings.

Today’s post is in homage to spring, or what few weeks we have left of it here. It’s not long before the heat locksteps itself into its summer encampment. So I’m reveling in what I can.

If you’re still cabin-bound with snow and ice and freezing temps, maybe this can give you hope of things to come.

Here’s this year’s version of my recipe for Spring.

To one small plot of ground add the following:

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Fresh jalapeno’s

Fresh jalapeno’s,

Cilantro

Cilantro

Cilantro

Tomato plants. (These have some petunias nearby for a dash of color and interest.)

Tomato plants. (These have some petunias nearby for a dash of color and interest.)

Tomato plants

Basil, comes in handy for more recipes than this one.

Basil, comes in handy for more recipes than this one.

And don’t forget Basil

I used Romaine, but any will do.

I used Romaine, but any will do.

Newborn tiny lettuces, which hopefully grow quickly before the heat makes them bolt could liven up the flavor of your spring.

Newborn flowers, also known as seedlings if you forget what kind you planted there.

Newborn flowers, also known as seedlings if you forget what kind you planted there.

Add some newborn flowers of various types. (Hopefully, unlike me, you mark which kind you planted where so you know what they are when they sprout.)

Time, patience, kindness, love, they're interchangeable, really.

Time, patience, kindness, love, they’re interchangeable, really.

Mix well and water often and gently.

Bake for a little bit of time and with some patience thrown in for good measure.

Grapefruit, still a few unpicked on the tree, and  their blossoms, bring a particular sweetness to this recipe.

Grapefruit, still a few unpicked on the tree, and their blossoms, bring a particular sweetness to this recipe.

Top off with some fragrance as well, like grapefruit blossoms, which in the evening become particularly intoxicating on the cool air.

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Serve on a platter of surprising wildflowers, this pink one showed up among the yellows and oranges, all by itself and makes a sweet addition.

Gnome 1

Gnome 1

What garden is complete without a gnome?

Gnome 2 (they won't tell me their names)

Gnome 2 (they won’t tell me their names)

I added two as a nice garnish.

Bird. This one's pretty quiet.

Bird. This one’s pretty quiet.

Although real birds will visit, I also garnish with a little bird of my own.

Some new leaves on a tree add a nice touch.

Some new leaves on a tree add a nice touch.

Serve alongside anything else you might want to add: new leaves, penstemon, or even a bird bath.

Penstemon comes in many colors, choose your favorite.

Penstemon comes in many colors, choose your favorite.

I think you’ll enjoy this recipe, or any variation you decide to make of it.

Note the bird bath in the corner, attracts birds and toddlers alike.

A bird bath attracts birds and toddlers alike.

You can never go wrong with Spring. It’s fresh, lively, invigorating, and full of hope.

Dig in and enjoy as soon you can!

Categories: Gardening, Hope, Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rocking Things Up Around Here

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“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” This one let me know that sitting quietly for long period of time was perfectly okay.

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

(If you’re new to my blog, or don’t follow regularly, this all makes more sense if you know that my best friend passed away at the beginning of January.)

A multilayered message.

A multilayered message.

Have you ever felt like you stumbled on to a treasure hunt? I have, just recently in fact. I’ve been finding these gems around my yard this past month.

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Whoever did this for me is amazing!

And by gems I mean rocks.

Not just any rocks though.

These rocks ROCK!

These rocks speak to me.

Okay, I admit, that wasn’t very descriptive. So I’ve included photos.

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Beautiful, yes?

Someone, with an artistic flair and a bunch of love, painted words on rocks and tucked them in little hidden spots around my yard and garden. I’ve found one in every flower bed, another under the bird bath, another on my porch swing and yet another tucked in a ceramic pot filled with flowers.

Each one appeared on a day that I needed that message or idea.

Each seemed infused with care and compassion.

I’d call that magical, or serendipitous, or simply really nifty.

I’m not sure if I’ve stumbled on them all yet, either. So I find myself noticing things more as I pull some weeds, tuck in some seeds, water plants, or clear some frost damaged leaves. Whether I find more or not doesn’t matter, for what I find as I pay better attention to yard tasks is a kind of mindfulness that I need right now.

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Psalm 46:10

Rushing through tasks isn’t in my nature lately.

I’m trying to give all I can to the moment I’m in. Less multitasking and more one thing at a time. Enjoying now.

It’s a new idea for me.

From words that directly let me know something, to words with layers of meaning. From the simple to the profound. Anyway you read them they speak of love.

The combined rock messages have helped me see things in a new light and reminded me of things I needed reminding of.

So, THANK YOU, rock painting person. Your kindness is noted, appreciated, cherished and smiled at often. YOU ROCK!!

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You’ve succeeded in making me feel loved! Thank you!

Categories: Gardening, good ideas, Gratitude, Love | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Planting the Green, Green Grass of Home

October is spring time for me and I don’t live in the Southern hemisphere.

I can explain.

I grew up with four seasons. The traditional ones. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Three months, more or less, of each. Winter was the brutal months. Walking to the bus in the near blizzard conditions made me question my desire for an education. The first few weeks of sledding and tubing and snowman construction got old quickly when the snow melted and pooled around my toes in galoshes. I did not like the cold. I still don’t.

Umpteen moves later we’ve temporarily settled, for the past 15 years, in the Phoenix area. Two seasons exist here: hot and warm.

Because of the southwestern desert heat during the summer months of April through September, I stay inside with air-conditioning keeping me cool and sane. Sure, I venture outdoors in the early morning hours before the sun comes up, and after the sun goes down. When the sun’s visible, I try to avoid being out there. It’s brutal. One hundred ten, one hundred fifteen, and that’s in the shade. I get cabin fever stuck inside so much.

If we had a pool I’d be out there more, but that’s a luxury, even here.

By time the temperatures drop below a hundred and the evenings cool into the seventies I feel like a bear that’s been hibernating all winter. Finally, I get to go outdoors, breathing unprocessed air, walking, biking, gardening, swinging kids at the park, picnicking, hiking, living.

I often and mistakenly call the fall months springtime here. Weird, but that’s how my brain processes finally being able to escape the indoors.

photo-18 copy 11I just spent four hours outdoors overseeding my winter lawn with rye grass seed in my backyard. If I don’t do this the cooler temperatures force the Bermuda grass into hibernation mode and I look out on three hundred square feet of dead looking grass until April. It’s not much fun to play on or lie on, or walk barefoot in. Not to mention the dead stuff gets tracked into the house and makes a mess. So, environmentally irresponsible or no, I scalp the lawn, spread the perennial  rye  grass seed, layer on the topping mulch or, (gross) steer manure, and then water faithfully three or four times a day for a week or so.

The end result?  A lush, living, breathing carpet of green as a foreground to my raised vegetable and flower beds.

While spreading the dirt over the freshly scattered tiny seeds, I thought of all the seeds I’ve planted over the years. Vegetables, flowers, grass. Some grew and some didn’t. Some shot up tiny seedlings and then died off. And some took off and grew into incredible plants with a yield that would do any master gardener proud. I just never know what results to expect.

That’s so much like my life.

photo-17 copy 17I’ve put effort into things I thought would produce happiness and satisfaction. I’ve spent time with people I believed I could help or who needed what I had to offer. The various seeds I’ve planted boggle my mind if I think about it much.

And just like the vegetables, flowers and grass, some of my seeds have done nothing. Some looked promising and then died off. And some became a rich and stunning plant that gave back more than I ever put in.

I’m afraid I might have planted too much meaning and hope among my grass seed today. I get a little antsy when I do that. Putting myself into something scares me every time. Over-investing myself in anything feels particularly risky.

Oh well.

I throw the seed out there. I water, I fertilize and I hope.

Categories: Gardening, Hope, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Open the Windows

My flowers are loving the cooler weather, and so am I.

My flowers are loving the cooler weather, and so am I.

Guess what?

It’s gardening season!!! Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!

Yessirreebob! In the desert climate of Arizona, it’s time to put those seeds in the ground. I get tingly all over just thinking about it.

Tingly might be overstating things a little.

Who wouldn't rather spend time with this beauty than a pile of laundry?

Who wouldn’t rather spend time with this beauty than a pile of laundry?

There’s just something about getting my hands in the soil, helping Mother Nature with her tasks, watching the little nothings of seeds become shiny orange carrots, rich red beets, curly green spinach. Sure, I admit that it’s work, but anticipatory work. Work with an outcome you can see and that lasts. It’s nothing like doing dishes or laundry or mopping or any other sort of indoor chore that already needs  redoing within hours, if not minutes after finishing.

I’d almost always rather be outside than inside. If I were rich I’d pay a glorious someone big bucks to keep the housework under control so I could frolic in the garden, mow the grass, plant bushes, trim trees, map out square foot plots of wonder and green stuff. I’d eat outside every meal I could, with a big shady umbrella for day time and candlelight in the evening.

Oh wait. I could do part of that now, without a house helper. Nothing’s stopping me from taking breakfast out to the patio table and breathing in the (finally) cool morning air of fall.

Surely I can ignore a few chores indoors and let my feet take me outside more often, to clean up the summer’s detritus and prep a spot for some waiting fall plantings.

Patio lights

Patio lights! (Photo credit: life is good (pete))

And evenings, well, sure, they’re a bit busy for me, but still, I could light a candle or two out back and sit in a lawn chair, look up at the stars, breath out the days dusty worries and breath in some oxygen freshly exhaled from the nearby orange tree. Or I could head out front to the porch swing and watch the world wander past at the park, catch a glimpse of a hummingbird getting its last sip from the feeder before settling in for the night.

I could probably even read a chapter or two by candlelight, or patio light if I thought about it.

It’s that priceless time of year in the desert with only good things to anticipate and summer’s heat a fading memory. It’s open window season, music wafting out into the yard season, planting hope season.

Categories: Gardening, Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bit of Compensation

The heat is on.

Tomorrow is June. We’re set here in Phoenix to bust past the triple digits after a month of nineties that merely flirted with the hundreds. We were spoiled by that. But that little dalliance of sweet summertime romance is over. Reality is about to set in. Unrelenting, pounding, incessant, oppressive desert heat is about to clamp its fiery grip around our throats and lives.

Sounds melodramatic? Overdone? Silly? I invite you to visit for a week or two. Drive around with the AC in the car not working. Attempt a brisk morning walk with the sun peaking over the horizon, grill a few burgers in the blaze of the sunset, sweat a bit at midnight.

Oh, I know it’s not like Iraq, where my brother worked on an army base in an undisclosed location and the average daytime temperature was 124. No, it’s not that bad. But it’s not all that good either.

I wonder often why someone would settle in the desert. Of course there’s evidence all over the place in the desert southwest of native Americans settlements, canals, living spaces, communities, long before Columbus hit the coast of North America. When they had a choice of the entire landscape why here? Flat, hot, arid. I suppose it’s tough to have your enemy sneak up on you when there’s nothing but flat for a hundred miles in every direction.

I often wonder what we’re doing here. So does MSH.

Money brought us here. Family and friends keep us here.

But that’s not where I was going with this.

I meant to talk about my sunflowers.

Yes.

Sunflowers.

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Look at these babies! The cinderblock wall they’re planted next to is six feet tall. And they’ve rocketed into giant growing fortresses of greenery. The stems are bigger around than my hand can reach! They’re more like trees than flowers.

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And these! Happy yellow faces of bright sunshine on a stalk, all lined up and waving at me every time I glance out the back window.

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It’s like sunshine, compacted into a flower. Instead of the burning, gaseous orb of hydrogen and helium, with its eye-squinting, brow beating heat and light, it’s condensed itself into these massive, delicate, powerful bursts of golden petals.

An ironic gift, held out to somehow compensate for the meanness of the hundred plus temperatures and earth parching relentlessness of the next four months.

I’ll take it. I’ll take whatever relief and wonder I can get when it’s this hot.

It’s like being on the receiving end of a repeating phone message to a busy office where instead of music you hear, “Please enjoy the flowers while you wait.”

Fine.

I will.

Categories: Gardening, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Neon Purple Pansies Brighten a Bare Spot

Astounded at the depth of color with that little burst of sunshine in the center, I snapped this photo of some Pansies in my garden. There’s some slight variation in the purples, almost neon in some, bluer in a few others.

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Nature always manages to surprise and delight me.

Lately I’ve watched as the seeds I planted a week ago push through the ground, transformed into minuscule green leaves. Amazing! I understand it, but I don’t.

I’m also never sure why some spots I plant turn green and flourish, while others remain a blank landscape of soil. That’s a mystery, too.

Pansies appear just as temperamental as seeds. Not four feet away from these beautifully abundant blooms, struggles a similar Pansy plant, barely managing to put out a couple of pale blooms, the foliage equally pale. Why is one thriving and the other just hanging on? Both plants are in the same bed, same soil, same watering schedule, same sunlight. I’m clueless.

I find it fascinating to see children from the same family, like these plants, respond to the same conditions with completely different results. So too, can people respond to troubles and challenges that seem the same, with vastly different results. Every seed, every person, every situation, varies in subtle ways. Combine those tiny variances and the resulting differences can become huge.

That’s what makes a garden so delightful; the different shades of colors, heights, hues, patterns, textures, not just between species but within the same plant family. Those combinations can complement and play off one another in a spectacular way.

Gardens and people, two of my favorite unpredictables in life. Never sure of what’s going to pop up next. Always some nurturing required and some love given back in return. Anticipation and hope in every single day.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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