Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In Full Bloom

It's funny how, being from North Dakota, I always look forward to the change of seasons. In the spring it's like torture waiting for that first 60 degree day to hurry up and arrive. At last, hibernation is over! Shedding the sweaters and opening up the windows, running to the greenhouses weeks before the ground is ready for planting, soooo excited for the sun and warmth and, of course, the flowers.
Now, as fall is well upon us, I'm totally over summer. I'm ready to welcome the crisp dry air of September again, the pumpkin carving, the smell of soup on the stove, my favorite blanket on a cool night. I'm restless for that change in the weather that always brings a new set of things to look forward to.
Having said that, I'm posting some pics of my favorite flowers from this year. While some of these blooms have faded now, when they were at their peak they were gorgeous and really brought a lot of beauty to our yard. As I prepare to prune back and dig out, it's fun to look at all the color that summer brought. I'm sure by next April I'll be just as eager to watch it unfold all over again.

As anyone who knows me will attest, these verbena are my pride and joy. They're so reliably stunning and reseed themselves like nothing I've ever seen. There's not a flower in the garden that the monarchs and bees go to more often. I shared some seedlings with my neighbor across the street, who is now equally as much of a fan.

This Raspberry Wine Monarda was sooooo amazing! A gift from my friend and fellow gardener, Beth, it is by far my favorite of the Monardas that I have. Unlike my other 2 varieties (lavender and darker lavender) this one seems much more resistant to mold. Also, the bees were nuts about it. Lots of questions about this guy from passersby.
Johnnny took this picture of our vegetable garden zinnias in early August. They were so fantastic and are still blooming like crazy even now. The butterflies and bees really liked them, but now they have stiff competition from 2 very territorial hummingbirds. I've loved having the bouquets of cut flowers all summer. That I will miss for sure.
These 2 perennials are so fun together...on the left, the Globe Thistle is such a different bloom. It's fun to watch it flower with those lovely blue frond-like petals. On the right, the Rudbeckia was a big punch of color that was much needed in this bed. These flowers have stayed on and on and are still quite dramatic.

Finally, a favorite new find - also from Beth! (Note to self: find cool flowers to share with Beth next year). In the front of this pic are California Poppies grown from seed. They're great because they love to grow in the worst possible soil. Don't we all have some of those spots? These were super prolific until I got a little lazy and fell behind on my dead-heading. I'll definitely be using them again, though. Their neon orange-yellow color is an awesome pop anywhere you put them!

I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer and that you're looking forward to fall too. I think part of the reason I welcome the cool and then the cold and then the frigid is because at the end of that frozen tunnel there is the inevitable light of spring and gardening season once more. I think I appreciate it more because it never lasts, and that's part of what's so great about living in North Dakota. Yeah, call me in February.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Harvest Time

Well, the literal fruits of our labor have finally ripened. After tending to our new garden for a couple of short months, we're really getting to enjoy loads of produce! It's been so fun looking forward to fresh veggies just about every day and finding new ways to prepare them.

In addition to the great chow coming out of the dirt, the zinnias have developed into quite the lovely border. I'm still so blown away that these all came from one seed pack! Also, the morning glories in the back are like something out of the rainforest...a super-fast growing vine with tons of blooms every morning.

Here's another shot of that morning glory - I planted 3 seeds of the same mixed variety, and we're getting this pretty blend of pink, purple and periwinkle. Johnnny the knot expert constructed a very sturdy homemade trellis out of twine for them to climb on and they've definitely taken to it.

The first veggie we got to eat were these glorious green beans. They're just unbelievably tender and so delicious. Talk about bang for the buck. I would guess we've had at least 6 meals consisting of giant mounds of beans and something small on the side. Although they're great just steamed, I'd love a good recipe to change things up!
Next came the beets, and wow are they sweet and awesome. I even got Johnnny to eat some of the cooked greens, which is amazing since he despises cooked spinach. I think growing them ourselves gives us the feeling that we don't want to waste one leaf...Respect the Veggies!
These zucchini didn't actually come out of the garden, but were grown in one of our Earth Boxes (a cool growing box with built-in root watering system). In them we've got zucchini, tomatoes, basil and poblano chiles. I'm not sure I've ever seen zucchini as a plant. If I have, I probably mistook if for a Jurassic Park prop. The leaves on this plant are seriously over a foot wide and there are dozens of them. Despite its gargantuantism, this is one heckuva producer. These guys below were our first pick and the biggest one was about 10 inches long. Dang, they're good on the grill and, BONUS, another great vehicle for getting parmesan cheese to my mouth.
Ok, for lack of a better phrase I will resort to using 13-year old text lingo...OMG! The Earth Boxes come through again with these fabulous grape tomatoes. I probably pick about 10 or so a day and we love them mixed with mozerella, avocado and a little balsamic vinegar. After eating these, it seems like grocery stores should be fined for calling what they sell tomatoes.
I think one of the best things about growing our own food is the sense of self-sufficiency that it brings. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about some of my ancestors and how they knew how to grow everything, make everything, do everything as it related to their lives. It's such a cool feeling to be able to capture even a fraction of that knowledge and see it bring something real to bear. The learning part of gardening really is half the fun for me.
Thanks for checking out my blog! I hope you're having a great summer and enjoying some great fresh harvests of your own!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Joy in July

After a strange start in the spring (cool, rainy and, oh yeah, the Flood) this last month has really been pretty ideal for everything to get revved up and blooming. My good old standards never seem to disappoint, and a few new experiments are proving well worth it too.

This Scabiosa is definitely one of my top favorites. It starts blooming in June and just keeps right on rolling well into the beginning of August. I deadhead these guys quite a bit which keeps them looking perky. The above picture is from my front flowerbed, which has considerably less compost in it than the below pic. I like the variety of having the 2 shades for cutting, but it's crazy how much deeper blue the flowers get in more fertile soil.

This Daisy plant (ok bush) is in its 6th year in the same spot. This spring the new growth was so late coming up that I was sure it had finally died over the winter and almost took it out. Sooo glad I had a little extra patience that day! Even though I love the Scabiosa, Daisies are still my all-time favorite. When they're in their prime it's just magical to watch them flutter in the breeze.
A couple of weeks behind their cousins in the garden, the sidewalk Zinnias are finally going strong. I planted these from the same pack of seeds that lined the entire perimeter of our garden. Unbelievable output...and they were all a gift! Thanks again, Kris...talk about great cut flowers all the time!

Finally, I had to include this cool picture that Johnnny took of one of our experimental flowers this year. My mom told me that Sweet Peas were my Grandpa's favorite but he could never seem to get them to grow in his yard. I decided to give them a try when I found a little plant on sale at a West Fargo greenhouse. I now understand why he liked them so much...they really are beautiful and so delicate, with hot pink, purple, and white flowers. I will say that at first they seemed a little "challenged", having an inordinately difficult time finding the fence 2 inches behind them, but a little nudging did the trick and now they're full of blooms. Grandpa Chub, these are for you!

Thanks for visiting! I hope everyone's summer is going great!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vegging Out

During the spring, I looked into joining a vegetable co-op so that we could have fresh, organic veggies throughout the summer. Unfortunately, the cost was a little prohibitive and I really questioned whether or not we could eat a crate of mixed vegetables every week. As a result, Johnnny and I decided to plant our own veggies in our own garden. The only problem was that we didn't actually have a garden to put them in. Well, thanks to Johnnny's unwavering dedication to digging out chunks of sod (we coined our own "strip and jab" technique) and the ultimate free compost from the city...voila! Our newest addition!

The whole process was actually really fun, albeit a lot of work. We ended up settling on a size of about 10 feet by 11 feet to sort of nestle the whole thing under our deck. The huge rock in the front is called "Big Boy". We think it kind of looks like a pendant on a necklace. Johnnny did a great job erecting the fence to keep out not only our very hungry rabbits, but also the neighborhood dogs and curious toddlers next door who for some reason believe that I am growing pizzas in and amongst everything else.

This shot was taken from above on our deck. I put two rows of zinnias (thank you Kris Boland for the seeds!) around the perimeter. Inside are beets (top), green beans (middle), and carrots (bottom). Interspersed are also some different kinds of onions. We've already had one meal of beets with their greens...not only super delicious but sooooo rewarding!

Here's a shot of the zinnias as they are just starting to get going. They make a nice support system for the other plants and I love the way they bring so much color to the garden. Also, I figured if the veggies were a total flop at least we'd have something pretty to look at! Luckily we have full sun and that wonderful compost so we're getting a really nice crop. Can't wait to taste everything else when it's ready!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Blooms That Were

Because I've been Madame Lazy Bones about updating my blog, I thought I'd dedicate at least one post to the flowers that came up so beautifully this spring. Although it's July, I couldn't resist highlighting a few of the ones that really brought wonderful color to our back yard early on.

This Iris was given to me by Johnnny's aunt Grace from Fort Collins, CO. Actually, she gave me 3 different bulbs, all of which have spread like crazy, but this pink and purple combo has to be my favorite. I've never really been an Iris grower, but I have to say I now understand why people get so gaga for them. This guy was just incredible, and came up in a clump of about 20 flowers. Soooooooo welcome after our cold & wet spring.

Hello again, my insane chives. After growing for a good 20 years in sandy soil at the lake, this plant never really reached adulthood...always weighing in at about 12 inches tall by 6 inches wide and kind of scraggly. Transplanted into the rich compost of my back bed, it seems to be what my husband would call post-cocious...thriving like a weed now with these giant lavender blooms in the spring.

Finally, I have to pay homage to these columbine. They were so vibrant this spring and just bloomed and bloomed forever it seemed. Although they are gone now, they were the stars of the show a month ago...take a bow, columbine! Also, a BIG thank you to Beth for telling me to center-justify these pictures...made everything so much easier!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lake Trees

Since I don't have too much going on in my flowerbeds right now, I thought I'd post some pictures I took at the lake one beautiful fall day. The woods on the property are made up of mostly Maple trees which become so amazingly gorgeous as they start to turn colors...like they're just begging to be photographed!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Winter landscape

Isn't it amazing that in a few months there will be flowers blooming here?