Thursday, June 30, 2016

Opium Poppies

Compared to the last two it has not been a very good year for opium poppies (Papaver somniferum) here, perhaps because of the roller-coaster weather we had all spring. A few plants have developed nicely though, and they are at the brief, blink-and-you-will-miss-it peak now:

The Slovakian heirloom 'Elka' produces fat white poppy seeds for culinary use - if only I had the space to grow enough of it to use for cooking and baking!

The more ornamental 'Danish Flag' produces two variants - one with even petal edges...

... and one with dramatic frills

In future summers I am going to have to add a few more varieties to my repertoire.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Planting Chrysanthemums and Other Progress

We finally got some rain yesterday morning - though we could still use some more! - and in the afternoon I did some tidying up in the garden. I took out the largely spent garland chrysanthemums (Glebionis coronaria), which, while lovely, somehow did not last as long this year as they did last year. On the upside, the space they vacated in one of the raised beds allowed me to finally plant out the first of the fancy and heirloom chrysanthemums I got in the spring from King's Mums and had been growing on in pots on the balcony. I got 'Seaton's J'dore', 'Samson', 'Lili Gallon', 'River City', and 'Kokka Bunmi'. I took cuttings of all of them as they were growing, so I will have more transplants to go into the garden as more space opens up.

Fancy chrysanthemums in their new home

Lots of things are blooming in the garden at the moment, some at their height or approaching the end of their season, like the 'Cupani' sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus 'Cupani'), the red hot pokers (Kniphofia uvaria), and the Shirley poppies...

'Cupani', the original sweet pea

One of the seedling red hot pokers blooming for the first time

 A particularly double Shirley poppy (Papaver rhoeas cv.)

... while others are just getting started:

The fragrant Iranian heirloom rose 'Rose de Rescht'

An orange horned poppy (Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum)

One of many Asiatic lilies beginning to open

Now back to work...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Interesting Reading

Here are two lovely pieces on planting, cultivating, and starting over in two parts of the world that rarely receive any attention:

How Green Was My Valley

A Tree Grows in Karabakh

More summery updates from my own garden to follow soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Green Harvest

Some hungry bunny rabbits just nibbled most of my chili plants - which had been doing wonderfully so far - to itty-bitty bits, along with some newly planted heirloom roses, seedlings of two annual Hibiscus species, and quite a number of my rice seedlings, already behind because of other pest issues and the rather cool spring and early summer we have had. However, in positive news, my broad beans and peas have come along, and today's lunch consisted primarily of these ingredients from the garden:

'Windsor' broad beans

Peas, and a bit of parsley and marjoram used to flavor them and the broad beans

Now if only the rabbits to not wreak any more havoc so that eventually I can harvest a few things in other colors as well.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sadness and Fury and Pride

I do not very often post things on here that are not garden- or plant-related. However, yesterday's horrible events in Orlando - the senseless massacre of forty-nine innocent people at a gay club, and the wounding of fifty-three more - weighs heavily on me, and while I have shared several comments by other people more eloquent and incisive than anything I have been able to come up with on Facebook, I felt the need to write something of my own here.

I am heartbroken about the lives lost and families, friends, and loved ones left to grieve and mourn and pick up the pieces, and about the fact that the vast majority of the victims were not just queer but also Latino and/or people of color, thus already all too often doubly marginalized and discriminated against in this deeply troubled society of ours and in our horribly toxic current political climate. I am sad and scared for my Muslim friends and teachers and students and fellow citizens and fellow human beings here and elsewhere in the world who will be subject to even greater scrutiny and suspicion and distrust and prejudice because the monster who did this happened to be Afghan American. I am sad because I cannot comprehend so much of this, and it leaves me feeling unsafe and powerless.

I am also, however, very very angry. I am enraged that this happens again and again and the death toll keeps rising every time and yet we cannot have reasonable gun control like any other civilized society. I am furious that my community can be attacked and brutalized like this and sanctimonious, immoral right-wing politicians can abuse Bible quotes to imply that we deserve this horror; that they try to use this tragedy to vilify another vulnerable community and pit us against them, when it is their homophobic rhetoric and policies, their insane anti-trans bathroom bills and never-ending fight against common-sense non-discrimination ordinances, that fuels this hate and violence more than anything; that people will erase us LGBT people even from their supposed "condolences" on a tragedy affecting OUR community, a hate crime committed against US; that the father of the mass murderer who did this to us can refer to our identity dismissively and disdainfully as "hamjinsbāzī" or "same-sex play" and claim that it is up to God to punish us even as he tries to absolve himself of his son's horrific actions. I am angry at all the hate and stupidity that makes it so hard not to hate as well.

And I am proud. I am proud of the resilience and strength and joy and beauty of the LGBT community in the face of the horrific abuse visited upon us time and again simply for existing and loving as God made us. I am proud of all the people who are still human, who are decent, who are good, and responded with the same pain and the urgent need to help and heal and protect. I am proud to be an out gay man, proud of the man I love and hope to marry, proud of the family and friends who support us.

I will always be proud to kiss him and be kissed by him. I will always be proud to love.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Garden Developments

As one of the positive outcomes of the seemingly never ending construction work on the roads and sewer system in our neighborhood, a new sidewalk bump-out on our corner has blessed us with a sizeable new strip of land to plant. Good soil it is not - the city just put a few inches of top soil over the clay, gravel, and crushed up concrete that had been under the old sidewalk - and, facing southwest, it bakes in the sun all day long. Consequently I have been working on filling this new border largely with heat-loving and relatively drought tolerant perennials and some shrubs. I started out with a bunch of Eastern prickly pears (Opuntia humifusa) that had been living somewhat unhappily in pots on the balcony and a tiny Agave havardiana rescued from the Michigan garden as well as a whole lot of threadleaf giant hyssop (Agastache rupestris), balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), and lion's ear (Leonotis nepetifolia) seedlings started indoors in February. Then came lavender to line the garden edge and some more perennials from a garden center nearby and red hot pokers (Kniphofia uvaria) grown from seed last year and overwintered in one of the raised beds in the garden, and then orders of more perennials and antique roses from Annie's Annuals, Select Seeds, Joy Creek Nursery, and Rose Petals Nursery. The plants are young, of course, so even as they are starting to take off there is still lots of empty space, which I have been filling in with annuals - different varieties of African and French marigolds, zinnias, strawflowers (Xerochrysum bracteatum), Persian and Eritrean basil, and roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), and some gladioli.

The new border in the evening light

In the older part of the garden, meanwhile, many things are still a little bit behind compared to the last two years, but many of the cool-season annual flowers are doing beautifully.

Peas, garland chrysanthemums (Glebionis coronaria), and Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas)

The historic 'Cupani' sweetpea beginning to bloom

This is currently my favorite color among the stocks that are beginning to bloom

The first pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) since December

On the deck my bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla 'Otaksa') which overwinters on the backstairs landing is coming along beautifully even though it looked rather sad when it came out of its winter quarters, and a few days ago I took cuttings of my new fancy large-flowered chrysanthemum babies in hopes of getting bushier plants and an extra set of saplings to set out in the garden.

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Otaksa' beginning to color

Young chrysanthemums and fresh cuttings

Otherwise, too, the plants on the deck - most of which are not in the best condition in the spring after having had to spend the winter inside, plagued by low light and spider mites - are beginning to fill in again, and hopefully the green of new foliage and the colors of flowers will predominate over the orange of terracotta pots and the brown of the wood.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Red and Pink

As we transition to early summer, the garden is filling out with greenery and more and more flowers. The stars right now are definitely the Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas), which are doing particularly well this year.

One Shirley poppy form ...

 ... and another ...

... and two more

Otherwise, too, there are a lot of reds and pinks at the moment:

A seedling Canna indica grown from seed collected last year in New Orleans

Red valerian (Centranthus ruber)

Firecracker plant (Dichelostemma ida-maia)

There are still a few more seedlings to plant out and some more seeds to sow, but by and large now things just need to grow. Hopefully we will get enough rain in the coming weeks, and lots of warmth.