“That Plump Thing with a Navel”

How it all began: Tomatoes are thought to originate in Peru. The name comes from the Aztec “xitomatl,” which means “plump thing with a navel”. ~~  Fun Facts

combine

When I first began this blog I thought it would be easy enough to find things to write about all year round.  After all, this is California, where bearded iris bloom in January and roses flourish all year round, but I’ve found out that there is almost too much happening at the peak of a season. I appear to prefer the change-over months, the in-between times — the times of beginnings and endings.

The flowers were abundant this summer — maybe too abundant — it proved difficult to focus on any one thing when there were color and pattern everywhere.  I loved spring, when the new plants were set out and enjoyed following the drama when an unusual late frost threatened the new seedlings.  The vegetable garden quickly took most of my attention once I recorded the promise of newly set fruits on the autumn bearing trees (they are coming very close now!).

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.~~ May Sarton 

tomatoes

The tomatoes became the story of the season. They flourished.  They became ridiculous! They threatened to take over the entire vegetable section.  The quickly outgrew their cages and escaped their plots and exploded across the disappearing pathways.  They grew so wildly that it was work to find the actual tomatoes in the center of the plots.

But Autumn is here and the vines are dying back.  Most of the leaves are gone now and the remaining tomatoes glow like fairy lights strung through the naked vines.

cherry

naked

mix

I love the color spread in that last photo.  And speaking of color, these below are the current stars of the garden:

black

Their bottoms are finally turning red, which means they are ready to eat.  They are a sweet-tasting fruit — nice but nothing special in flavor.  Just an ordinary tomato, despite their exotic appearance.

Heaviest tomato. The heaviest tomato on record weighed in at 3.51 kg (7 pounds 12 ounces). A “delicious” variety, it was grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986. Gordon sliced the tomato to make sandwiches for 21 family members. ~~ Fun Facts

While this baby  doesn’t begin to compete in actual pounds, it does look more like a small pumpkin than a tomato —

pumpkin

I think we all have a dream of what it would be like not to work and grow heirloom tomatoes, and I do have that dream. It would be lovely. I do love gardening and all of that, but I do love my work. ~~ Helen Mirren 

I’ll end today with my favorite out of this current batch of quotes.  Happy October, all!

Just when you’re beginning to think pretty well of people, you run across somebody who puts sugar on sliced tomatoes. ~~ Will Cuppy 

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Green, Green, and More Green

“It’s not easy being green.” ~~ Kermit the Frog

Well, with all apologies to Kermit, it seems it really is pretty easy to be green.  A walk through Ray’s Garden today shows me a seemingly endless variety of shapes and and shades of green.

junipery

I am not the gardener here — I am simply the chronicler of this lovely piece of earth where I am blessed to work.  I can’t tell you the names of most of these plants but I am endlessly fascinated by the colors and especially, the textures.

While not a domestic gardener, I do possess a Peterson’s Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers which is my bible for all wild things green and growing.  It is tattered and worn and scribbled in from being carried around in a backpack for years.  My favorite part is the back end-pages and the charts of leaf shapes.  Such a wonderful litany of Shapes:

Ovate, Delta, Lance, Heart, Kidney, Spatula, Elliptical, Pinnate, Palmate

and Textures:

Mealy, Rasplike, Smooth, Glandular, Hairy

and Arrangements:

Whorled and Basal

henchicks

agapanthus

The one had leaves of dark green that beneath were as shining silver, and from each of his countless flowers a dew of silver light was ever falling, and the earth beneath was dappled with the shadows of his fluttering leaves.~~ J.R.R. Tolkien

lily of nile

anothersedum

greennwhite

tiny ground cover

light thru stripes

(Oh, I do love green …)

sedum2fuzzy

yucca

greennyellow

“ ‘Green fingers’ are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed — green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.” ~~ Russell PageThe Education Of A Gardener

Grow a Rainbow

Red and yellow and pink and green,  purple and orange and blue — I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too. ~~ Arthur Hamilton

I don’t know about anyone else, but when the temperature outside is hanging out at over 100 degrees, I am inclined to leave the garden to get along on it’s own for awhile (except for watering, of course) while I stay inside at my computer.  So this week I am sorting and categorizing the photos I’ve been taking for the past few weeks – and I have been struck – as I think I am every year – by the sheer profusion of colors to be found in one small garden.

There’s golden yellow:

rubeckia

and a charming peachy-orange:

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and a profusion of purple:

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The garden doesn’t really need a lot of words from me — it’s enough to just look …

There’s a heavenly blue:

blue

and pink “naked ladies”:

naked ladies

and more purple:

purple1

and a small but present dahlia in an eye-piercing yellow:

yellow dahlia

And that doesn’t even begin to include the dozens of colors represented in the various roses around the place.  Next week I’ll be featuring the vast profusion of greens to be found when you look past the vivid colors.

Gardening is how I relax. It’s another form of creating and playing with colors. ~~ Oscar de la Renta

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”

Home Territory

 “The sun had already set behind the mountains, and the sky had been drained of color. The trellises of sauvignon blanc flowed down the hill in even rows toward the valley floor. Whatever I was looking for, it wasn’t outside. As far as I could tell, the grapes were minding their own business.”  ~~ Frederick WeiselTeller

While running errands this week I was reminded once again that this place we live in is incredibly beautiful.

valley scene

While this is a blog about the happenings in one particular small garden, the temperate climate here virtually guarantees that every otherwise unoccupied inch of earth will have something growing in it — so I decided to broaden the scope of this one post — to some of that beauty outside Ray’s garden.

This is wine country — premium wine country.  Our particular mix of valley heat and coastal fog is, they say, the perfect climate for wine grapes.  Some of the biggest names in wine originate here so we live and work in the midst of mile after mile of vineyard.  Whether we have have any direct connection to the wine industry or not we live in its midst.  It’s the language we all unconsciously speak.  Our year is marked with the rituals of the vineyard – new berries, “will it rain?”, sugar-content and especially The Crush.  Right now we look at  the new grapes and speculate on what kind of year it will be …

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. ~~ Galileo Galilei

close-up

“What I aim to do is not so much learn the names of the shreds of creation that flourish in this valley, but to keep myself open to their meanings.”  ~~ Annie DillardPilgrim at Tinker Creek

We tend to be a monoculture, but that does mean that we are always green and lush.  The vistas never get boring because all of this happens in small valleys divided up by rolling hills. We lie at the juncture of oak savannah and coastal redwood forest so the hills carry a variety of tree life, as well.  Grapes aren’t all we have here.  There are rolling hills for long walks…

hills

and a river runs through it all …

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And on top of all that, the ocean is only one short hour drive away…

beach scene2

“It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. ‘I am watching you — are you watching yourself in me?’ ~~  Lawrence DurrellSpirit Of Place: Letters And Essays On Travel

Given all this, it is a natural thing to want to continue and add to the beauty within one’s own patch of land — gardening becomes inevitable…..

But it is difficult, sometimes, to compete with Nature.

G'ville

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall …

I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; What a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again.  ~~ Arthur Freed

Into each life some rain must fall (at least according to Longfellow) but around here that has been a VERY little rain, lately — but we did get a nice shower a few  days ago.  It washed the leaves and cleaned the air.

full one

rain

Rain has been a largely absent commodity this year.  We’ve just left behind one of the driest winters I remember in awhile.  I fear it is going to be blisteringly hot this summer — the seasonal creeks that usually have water in them at least until July are already almost dry. That’s why it was so nice to spend some time in the rain-sweet garden –just breathing in the clean,sweet air.

When it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow. ~~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

lilies in rain

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.   ~~ Langston Hughes

full two

This rose looked unearthly in the overcast light- an eerie beauty … and no, it’s not photo shopped.

rain rose

I don’t expect more rain for quite sometime, but — oh — it was a lovely gift while it lasted!

full three

A Rainbow of Iris

In Greek mythology, Iris is one of the messengers of the gods, though less well known for this attribute than her masculine counterpart Hermes/Mercury.  She is more commonly known as the goddess of the rainbow — all the beautiful colors of the rainbow.

Mauve w-poppies 2

Once again, we haven’t a lot to say about Ray’s Garden — just a collection of photos of the plants that have been bringing us joy lately.  Hope you enjoy them,too.

“Thou art the Iris, fair among the fairest,
Who, armed with golden rod
And winged with the celestial azure, bearest
The message of some God.”
–  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Iris

apricot

blue two-tone

two-tone

“Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages.  Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields.”  
–  Hana No Monogatari: The Stories of Flowers

blue

bronze

As usual, we have no names for each particular variety here — since most Iris home-growers trade for colors rather than name.  [Oh, I don’t have that shade of blue.  Maybe when you thin them out I could have one?  I have a particularly gorgeous bronze I’ll trade you…..]

When I first moved to Sonoma County years ago I met an older woman whose Iris garden was the talk of the town.  On hearing that I was just starting my garden in a new home she offered me a few rhizomes when she thinned out the next day.  “Just come on by and I’ll give you a few.”   I went home that next day with three large shipping boxes filled with Iris!  It took me a week working full time to get them all into the ground.

One more photo …  This little guy does not have a  particularly large or showy blossom– though it is a lovely color.  It is most interesting for its wonderfully striped leaves.

variegated