To Plant a Tree

“One day is not enough to watch a tree, one life is not enough to love a tree.
I wonder when I see a new leaf, it was like a new born baby come to meet the world.” ~~ Karthikeyan V

It is high summer now and usually I would be writing about the floral offerings of July — and they are there — but this year all the interesting stuff is happening in the new mini-orchard area and in the expanded vegetable garden and in all the new construction that supports this growth.

Several new trees were planted last winter and I love to follow their growth.  This Italian Prune was nothing but a bare stick when planted in January and it is now taller than my head.

PRUNE x2

“The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.” ~~ George Orwell

The new Fig (sorry, not a good photo) is establishing itself nicely.  These are not fast growers but will one day be bearing like its already established neighbor.

NEW FIGFIG

The Nectarine is growing nicely (that’s a Fuji Apple behind it).

NECTARINE

“Plants are nature’s alchemists, expert at transforming water, soil and sunlight into an array of precious substances, many of them beyond the ability of human beings to conceive, much less manufacture.” ~~  Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

Persimmons, Pears, Pomegranates are all bursting with new fruit.  And, in one of my favorite moves, the strawberry bed that was ruthlessly evicted from the garden area to make room for more tomatoes and peppers, was relocated in part to the corner of a flower bed nearest the office door — right where we can graze through each time we walk past!

STRAWBERRY x2

“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” ~~ Old Spanish Proverb

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And Suddenly…It’s Spring

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”  ~~ Anonymous

We’ve been away from Ray’s Garden for quite awhile.  I was called away to other tasks, and besides that, the weather has been just too bizarre this past whatever-it-was-that-passed-for-winter.  Those of us who live here have been befuddled and I think the garden has been pretty confused as well.  Shorts and sandals in January, freezing temps in February, and drenching rains in the middle of a declared drought in March.  The garden plants very wisely just sat quietly and waited for someone, somewhere, to make up their mind.

The best thing to do in such conditions — it appears — is to clean up neglected areas and plant trees — and that Is what has happened here.

fuji apple

This is the new Fuji Apple.

A grape was made to grow on a vine, An apples was made to grow on a tree.  As sure as I know there are stars above, I know, I know you were made for me. ~~ Sam Cooke

mission fig

And the Mission Fig.

italian prune

And the Italian Prune.

They join the Nectarine …

nectarine

and the White Fig …

white fig

the Pear …

pear blossom

and the Persimmon that were already here …

persimmon

and most exciting of all, the old, established Grapefruit which was dug up and moved to make room for the others is showing every sign of flourishing in its new location — Yay!

grapefruit

 

This is our brand-new mini-orchard.  Already, the leaves are bigger than these photos show … and it is going to be a great joy to watch these trees progress throughout whatever else this very strange year chooses to bring us!

“…every year one day comes, when, although there is no obvious change in the appearance of trees and hedges, the Earth seems to breathe and it is spring.” ~~ Elizabeth Clarke

Blessed Spring, All!

Looking to the New

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.” ~~ Vita Sackville-West

It has been — it is still being the strangest of winters.  We had virtually no rain through all of December and January.  We had several weeks of freezing weather, which is most unusual around here — we get scattered nights with below 32 degree temperatures but they are few and far between..  We soft-living Californians were like hot-house plants suddenly thrown out into the cruel cold.  These freezing weeks were immediately followed by two or three weeks of such balmy warmth that we walked around in shorts and flip-flips. While that might be somewhat normal for southern California, this is northern California — no sandals here in January! On top of that we are now officially in a drought — yet it is raining outside today — glorious rain! — the first real rain we’ve had this long winter.  Last weekend we even had snow in the hills around us!  Again, a pretty unusual happening — something that comes maybe once every four or five years. ….. A very strange winter!

Here in Ray’s garden, almost nothing is blooming — the paper-white narcissus and the old-fashioned purple iris are the only winter faithfuls doing their job right now.  And so, clean-up and planning for future additions is about all that’s going on here, but goodness knows, that’s plenty.

cutting corners

Here they are “cutting a corner” — actually repaving a spot that a delivery truck destroyed one day.  While the location is often mistaken for a home, this is a business, and very large trucks come through making deliveries.  After the third or fourth time this corner was flattened, Ray wisely decided to cut it back and give the trucks more space.

The major remodel however is happening in that back area where things get dumped that you don’t want seen — every garden has a space like this.  This one has been cleared out and has some lovely new paving in place.

mud path

IMG01094-20140106-1054IMG01093-20140106-1053

“Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday’s dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow.”
~~ Nelda Hartmann, January Morn  

The grapefruit tree once stood where the paving now lies, and the persimmon and pear trees are just around the corner.  The grapefruit, which was always in an awkward spot, has been moved to a back corner and we are all anxiously watching to see if it will survive.  The existing trees are now to be joined by a Mission Fig, an Italian Prune, and a Fuji Apple.  (That’s the heavily-pruned grapefruit under cover in the back corner.)

IMG01130-20140204-1010

Now we wait.  These are the waiting weeks.  Clean-up has been done.  Pruning is finished for the moment.  The beds have been cleared of excess growth.  Everything is clean and bare — and now we wait for what this very strange weather-year will bring us.  And we dream of bright blossoms and fresh new fruit.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.” ~~  Andrew Wyeth  

One Year Ends …

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be. ~~ Douglas Adams

This seems the perfect quote for a gardener.  In spite of all our plans and hard work, a garden has a tendency to go where it wants to go.  I know that I have never once achieved the garden I saw in my head as I did my winter planning.  Sometimes it’s fallen short of my image and other times it has turned out to be much better.  It is always it’s own thing.

Things are quiet now in Ray’s Garden.  We have been having strange weather.  Much too dry — we are starting to worry about another drought year — and unseasonably warm for December – even though the warm spells are interspersed with spells of freezing temps. lower than anything I can remember around here.  A very odd year indeed.

Looking back over the year that is now passing, it has been a profligate year in the garden.  The flowers never really stopped last winter and really exploded in spring and summer.  In the fruit and vegetable sections, the tomatoes bore more than anyone could keep up with, the strawberries were abundant, and the grapefruit were so plentiful they pulled the limbs down to the ground.  My favorite part of Ray’s garden each year is watching the full cycle of the fruit-bearing trees — from new leaf to blossoms to set fruit — to ripening and harvesting.

persimmons2

persimmons 5

Persimmons are an especial favorite because they not only provide delicious fruit, but a season-long display of changing leaf colors …

Persimmons leaves

But — as does all good fruit — this is where they finally arrive …

Persimmons in box 2

… harvested and ready — along with some equally beautiful pomegranates — for eating, out of hand, or baked as cookies or muffins or, in this case, Persimmon Chocolate Chip Bread!  Oh, yum!

Persimmons bread

Happy New Year, everyone!  And may your New Year be blessed with an abundance of green and growing pleasures!

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. ~~ T. S. Eliot

So Much Better When You Grow Your Own

“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” – Old Spanish Proverb

One of my favorite things about Summer is the anticipation of wonderful things to come…tomatoes

There are so far only a couple of actual small unripe tomatoes, but the plants are overflowing their plot and it isn’t hard to imagine the juicy red riches they are going to produce — any day now.

And, of course, you’ll need lots of basil and rosemary to go with them.

dual

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?” ~~ Robert Brault

It is ridiculously easy to wax lyrical about tomatoes — freshly made pasta sauce — the simple joy of a sliced tomato layered with fresh mozzarella and basil — or just a warm tomato straight from the vine– but I think the thing that provides the most anticipation in Summer is fruit.

This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal…. We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke.  ~~Jane Grigson

yum

Strawberries may be the perfect summer fruit — they are beautiful to look at, fast-growing, and best of all — delicious.  For real anticipation, however, you need a fruit tree.  You cannot hurry a fruit tree along — you simply have to wait for it to produce in its own good time — imagining pies and puddings and jam.

pears

persimmons2

pomegranates

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. ~~ Dorothy Day

Eating a piece of fruit that you have watched grow from a blossom must be one of the great joys of life.  Eating it fresh and warm from the Summer sun may well be heaven, itself.  However we enjoy it, homegrown food is a blessing to be treasured.

Despite eating more than ever before, our culture may be the only one in human history to value food so little. ~~ Barbara Kingsolver, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

The Tree of Life

What is this contradiction called a pomegranate? The pomegranate is sweet, but the pomegranate is tart. The pomegranate is tough and wrinkled, but when cut open it glistens with ruby-like seeds.  In the Greek myth of Persephone, the pomegranate is called the fruit of the underworld, yet in the Muslim Qu’uran it is called the fruit of paradise. ~ Diana Viola

There is a pomegranate tree in Ray’s Garden — not a big tree, almost more of a bushy shrub — but early  this past summer it became obvious that it was going to bear a very good crop this year if all went well.  Hard little green lumps at first, the fruits soon took on their traditional pomegranate shape.

  • Distribution: Native to Persia and the Himalayas in Northern India. It has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times, the drier parts of southeast Asia, the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe, and tropical Africa. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona.

They began to turn pink, and then red …

They became a topic for conversation as the whole staff seemed to monitor their progress … “have you checked out the pomegranates lately?”

Not only were they growing redder, but the small tree was, by October, filled with dozens of very large fruit — ready to burst with ruby-colored goodness.

The Prince:  I do not like pomegranates.  Farah:  What is wrong with you?   The Prince:  They’re messy, impossible to eat with dignity. SO much work for a few small seeds.   Farah:  But isn’t it the effort that makes them that much sweeter?     ~ quoted from Prince of Persia

Eating a pomegranate is definitely a task that is better accomplished in the kitchen than at one’s desk.  They take work, but they are most certainly worth the effort. There are options:  We can return to our childhood and just dig in and enjoy, not minding that we become a mess in the process.  Or we can do all the work at once, near a sink, gathering an entire bowl-full of glistening red seeds to eat tidily with a spoon at our leisure.

Or — we could try something like this: www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/kiwi_salsa/  — that sure looks good to me!

The inner beauty of the pomegranate has inspired design since Biblical times, and there are some who believe it may be the fruit on the tree of life. ~ Anon.