Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunshine's substitutes

I realize the days of summer are numbered as I stroll through the evening garden aware of a slight chill in the air. The sun dips down sooner than this gardener is ready for and I find myself even more drawn to the brilliant yellows and warm golds outside my windows. Sunflowers are even more appealing now and I find myself with a silly grin plastered across my face whenever I see them. This season I let a few germinate from bird seed scattered on the ground. They've been a welcome accidental addition to the yard.

Another "huh" in the garden is a pumpkin plant that sprung up where I believe I may have "stored" last year's jack-o-lantern. This one is rambling along the fence between our house and the neighbor's. After consulting my fellow SAGBUTT's, I've decided to let it do its thing and see what happens.

Crocosmia that survived the backyard renovation. I dug some up and added it to the catwalk bed but there's more coming up along the lawn's edge and even in the wood mulch near the rain barrels. Clearly this is a hearty addition to the garden and one that I don't mind one bit.

This dahlia, a cactus variety I believe, was in the side yard when we moved here. It gets well over 5 feet tall and some of the blooms are as big as my hand. I had transplanted it a couple years ago but I think the dogs got the best of it. Thinking all was lost I had husband install a raised bed over its original real estate. Then earlier this year it shot up among the corn and tomato plants. If it's going to be that determined it can stay right where it is.

Rudbekia, or Black Eyed Susans, are spread around the front garden to mingle with daisies. I enjoy their bright yellow faces with dark centers that play off the Chocolate Cosmos I have growing nearby.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Exploring Life on Tiger Mountain

We're often presented unique opportunities to explore the unknown, unfamiliar or unusual. Whether we leap at such a chance is a personal decision. I myself couldn't be happier that several months ago I stepped out of my comfort zone to meet a complete group of strangers whom I'd only known through pictures and blog posts. By doing so, I discovered wonderful friends who share a common love of gardening and bring so much more to the table.
Over the weekend, and after a long absence, I joined this welcoming clan of gardeners for the monthly gathering of SAGBUTT. This particular outing was at Molly's from Life on Tiger Mountain, where she hosted a tomato tasting and treated us to champagne and some yummy berry dish that I must get the recipe.
This was only my third meetup, having missed one, but it was like seeing old friends as everyone eagerly chatted about their gardens, traded tips and techniques, and oohed and ahhhed over Molly's lovely patch of land where she has chickens, ducks, a dog and until recently goats.
Despite my extended absence from gatherings and blogging, I was welcomed back into the fold and immediately felt at home as we toured the gardens. I also brought along my friend Cheryl, who was visiting for a meeting of Isis Initiative. She and I had a bit of fun hiding among the pumpkins and squash that hung suspended from a pitch back of sorts. They added a bit of whimsy to the garden and were a major attraction for the group.
Adding to this enchanted structure were the borlotti beans that snaked between the gourds and along the rope. Such lovely colors and they were perfect for drawing visitors deeper under squash.
Bright zinnias mingled with chard and asparagus in one of Molly's many, many garden beds. She has tons of techniques for protecting her garden, including draping fleece over the beds to protect tender seedlings.
Look closely and you'll notice the squash plants growing out of a second compost bin. Never would have thought of this but think it's brilliant. Molly clearly can grow anything anywhere! And this is a spectacular way to camouflage an unsightly bin.
It was great seeing everyone again. Especially the woman who started it all, Karen at greenwalks. And how fun to finally meet Kit from Gardener's Roost, as well as Aaron, a self-proclaimed newbie urban gardener at erasei's page. I look forward to next month's gathering. Oh wait, I think I'm on the hook for that. Well, we're hoping to snag space at Washington Park Arboretum on Sept. 20. so watch for further details!
Until then, check out Petunia's Garden and Weed Whackin' Wenches for more fun on Tiger Mountain.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paying it forward

What a wonderful feeling to help someone.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm a board member for Isis Initiative, a nonprofit that works to help send women to college. Tonight we chose our first candidate, Marethel Guinsayao, who will start school in October.

We had four candidates total, and we struggled to decide who could benefit the most from our financial backing. In a country where a school uniform is $10 and flip flops run you $2, a little currency can go a long way. Yet these women often must decide between caring for their family and furthering their education. Usually it is the former that wins out.

So our humble nonprofit is a dear help to them and an opportunity to gain respect in their community and realize a future that before was a dream.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Late summer workout

Who needs the gym when you can spend hours muscling weeds out of the ground. Thanks to a childcare trade off, I got to spend the entire afternoon in the garden. I did a bit of planting: some Sweet Flag between pavers, a Gardenia by the back gate ... but mostly I pulled grass that has been trying to turn one of my front beds into a prairie. It was bound to happen. Most of my garden attention is on the backyard where I earlier planted some eye catching beauties like this Echinacea 'Big Sky.'
Another Echinacea in the the catwalk border but I don't recall the name. I think I'm going to try seed collecting this year, and this is one I'd like to duplicate around the garden. Especially out front where after pulling weeds and grass today I have so much more space! The grass in our front yard has long been my most formidable opponent. It's slowly losing it's hold in the garden beds, but it's not quick enough. Still it was good to be out there for such a long stretch; talking to myself, arguing with the weeds and constantly hiking up my shorts.
Astilbe snuggled up against the west side of the house where it enjoys a bit of shade. I love it's fluffy plumes which have great staying power. They dry nicely, too, providing a bit of fall interest.
First daylily bloom of the season. This was taken last month and at the time was the only flower. The plants were divided up during the backyard renovation so must be taking their time to settle in. I noticed today many more flower buds have appeared.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I think I "can"

It's been a long two months of life happening. Things don't always work out how they should, or at least how you want them. We lost my sister-in-law in June. She died of brain cancer at the age of 39 and her absence is a heavey weight on the family.
Yet with her passing many of us have been spurred to do things, big and small, that we may have put off until tomorrow. She always pressed for people to live in the now, and even during her darkest moments she was a wonderful source of encouragement.

So today I branched into an area of cooking I've never visited before: canning. Many dear readers may remember the tremendous amount of apples that our lovely tree gave up last year. Well, this year's showing is off to a similar start. Now my little guy still enjoys them as much as ever, but there's no way he can keep this bounty under control. So can I did, starting simple with a bit of homemade applesauce. This childhood snack has never been a favorite of mine, but I've also never had homemade applesauce. Now I'm loving it after making my first batch from scratch (all of four ingredients: apples, water, sugar and cinnamon). From there I tackled canning. Two whole jars, and they sealed on my first try! I know, a pittance compared to what our grandmothers did, but this was all mine!