Gardening has felt a bit like archaeology lately. Earlier this week, I was unearthing long-forgotten perennials from beneath the out-of-control catmint. And, just before that, I found a watermelon amongst the cosmos.
Now where did that come from? I didn’t plant any watermelons this year!
Years back, I tried to grow watermelons, but that was pretty much a failed project. I managed one fruit the size of a softball.
This watermelon is more of a volleyball, really, and seems to be doing really, really well.
So – here’s what I think happened. I practice “cool composting”, which means I just toss everything into my compost pile and call it good. I don’t worry about getting the right ratio of “brows to greens”, and I don’t stir things up very often. Because of this, I don’t kill any seeds that get into the mix. And that’s okay. I try to keep weeds that have gone to seed out of my compost pile anyway, so it’s not a big deal. But it does mean that from time to time surprise plants pop up in unexpected places – plants that come from the seeds of other vegetable matter that does go into the compost pile – usually kitchen-scrap-related. This is what likely happened with Mr. Watermelon. Somehow, a watermelon seed from the mountains of watermelon we ate last summer survived the compost pile and made it into a flower bed. Once there, it found conditions acceptable and got down to business. Well done, Mr. Watermelon!
But will it be any good to eat?
I don’t know. Tomorrow, I plan to check to see how ripe it has gotten. In the meantime, I’m saluting Mr. Watermelon because he managed to do effortlessly what I, in all my previous watermelon tinkering could not. That is, grow a watermelon.
From the dining room table, realizing it’s starting to get dark very early here now (when did that start happening?),
I started a new garden this week. It’s basically the dumping ground for everything that has been overtaking my flower beds – things like mint, lemon thyme, and spiderwort – wonderful plants, all of them, but so…explosive!
Just look at this catmint!
Sometime during the summer, it jumped its rock border and attacked the grass. It clobbered the bee balm on either side of it. When I finally took it out this afternoon (after giving it a good shearing), I found all sorts of plants I’d forgotten, including an azalea bush and one sad little aster.
Conspiring with the catmint are the ornamental grasses.
They’re crazy. I love them, but they bury everything. And, I’ve already moved things out from under them once this year.
Note this poor, smothered phlox. No wonder it’s mildewing.
And here you see sedum and another phlox…or maybe you don’t see them, which is my point.
All of this reminds me of a passage in Barbara Damrosch’s book, Theme Gardens – one of the first gardening books I ever read and the one that got me hooked on the hobby.
When a garden is new, you want it to fill up quickly. Perennial gardens, especially, tend to be sparse the first year. You wait eagerly for your plants to get bushy, for the bare earth to disappear, for the spots of color to turn into masses. In subsequent years you are more concerned with holding the garden back. The phlox has leaped out of control. The oenothera has established an empire. The bee balm is dispatching underground shoots like guerrilla bands through the jungles of five-foot-tall asters. Instead of building your garden, you seem to be forever taking things out of it.
And that is exactly where I am – in full-on subtraction mode. When I first read that paragraph, years back, I thought it sounded like the ideal sort of problem to have. I could only imagine what that would be like. Now, suddenly, I’m there, scouring the yard for new places to put old plants that have outgrown their confines. And, while it is, indeed, a pleasant sort of problem to have, I’ve been doing an incredible amount of digging.
From the dining room table, knowing I should probably divide those grasses, too, (but shrinking from the task),
I had meant to take more pictures while on vacation in Idaho. I had meant to blog about the things we did and the sights we saw, but, in the end, I never got around to it.
And, I can’t blame it on the wild excitement of travel. My parents live in a small town in southwest Idaho. We spent a lot of time just hanging around the “old homestead” doing things like looking at my mother’s garden – a patch of land she’s been working on for about eight years now.
Every time I visit, it’s changed. I always enjoy seeing what has taken off. This year, it was blanket flowers and milkweed.
And, it was just fun being in a farming community again – somewhere where seeing tractors on the road is an everyday thing.
Onion harvest was in full swing, and we saw a lot of trucks piled high with onions thundering down the roads. Often, the trucks were so full, they’d spill onions when they rounded corners or ran over bumps.
Of course, you can’t just leave onions on the side of the road to rot….
We also enjoyed seeing all of the farm animals. My parents have cows on their land.
And, across the street, there are chickens and goats. The goats are hilarious. They scream. They sound human. They don’t sound at all like you’d expect goats to sound.
My mother says that one night, she and my father thought they heard someone outside calling, “Help me! Help me!” They rushed out the door…and then doubled over laughing when they realized it was just one of the goats.
When we weren’t watching livestock, we were watching sunrises and sunsets.
Ginger tried to get outside to see them all. Where we live in Massachusetts, trees obscure the horizon in most places, so it’s rare to see the sun come up or go down. Not so in southwest Idaho.
That clear horizon made for good moon viewing, too. Here you see the moon (though tiny) just as it was coming up on the night of the eclipse.
My father brought out binoculars and spotting scopes, my mother put on some music, and we all settled in for a nice couple of hours.
Pepper was even able to get a shot of the moon with my phone camera – taken through one of the spotting scopes.
And though southwest Idaho isn’t a location many people would describe as a top vacation spot, for us, it really was. We had a wonderful time. There was peace and quiet. There were people we hadn’t seen in far too long. There was so much love and a ton of laughter. So, for us, it was the perfect place to be. We’ll treasure the memories for years to come.
From the dining room table, realizing it’s awfully easy to get used to having your mother cook for you again,
With travel comes new experiences. For Pepper that meant hanging out in a hammock last night with Jack – my sister’s nine-month-old boxer. Fun stuff!
(That’s a lot of dog for a hammock!)
From my mother’s dining room table,
The girls and I are spending the next couple of weeks with family out West. Hoping to manage a few posts from our adventures.
Stay tuned…(can you guess which image is which?)
From my mother’s kitchen table,