Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Day of Rest October 26, 2008

In (lazy) celebration of my 100th post yesterday, I am taking the day off for the first time since starting this blog back in early August. There is much to do around the house and we are heading over to my folks’ for another round of cider pressing this afternoon, so thinking up topic, fiddling with photos, and writing an even moderately interesting post is just not in the cards today.

Instead, I will wish you all a happy day either in the garden or doing something else that you enjoy (or at least the satisfaction of getting necessary tasks done, which can at least be enjoyable in retrospect once those things are crossed off the to-do list!), and offer you this photo of my last fennel flower of the summer. The green vase was an apartment-warming gift, many years ago, from a dear friend who is no longer alive. She had a fabulous garden and was one of the folks who got me started thinking how nice it would be to someday have one of my own.

Fennel flower in green vase


Fabulous Fennel September 5, 2008

Oh man, this might be the perfect parking strip plant. Tall enough to provide scale and structure, but easy to whack back and see grow again next year. Hardy as heck (in Zone 8), zero care required. OK, it’s classified as a weed in some areas, but just deadhead the flowers before they go to seed, and keep after any sprouting seedlings before they get too big and they’re easy enough to control. At least that’s been my experience! I had a great-looking copper fennel (herb) in my last garden; this year I’m trying a low-growing bulbing fennel (veggie) that doesn’t seem to have much in the way of bulbs yet, hm.

This beauty is practically a grove of trees, in a neighbor’s parking strip garden:

Tall fennel

I love how the flowers attract butterflies and bees. Plus you can eat the pollen, seeds, fronds and stems, all tasting deliciously of anise. Mmmmm.

Would someone please tell me if they ever see fabric with a fennel flower print? I think I need some pillows that look like this:

Fennel sky


Whidbey Island Garden August 19, 2008

We didn’t see any parking strip gardens on our vacation, but then again we didn’t spend much time in towns or near sidewalks. Mostly we were out in the countryside or on the beach, so the only garden we saw was planted and tended by the woman who kindly rented us her home for a few days. She has an organic “pick and pay” setup where folks stop by, take what they want, weigh it and pay on the honor system. It’s not a huge patch for a rural zone, but it dwarfed what most of us city folks can manage to shoehorn into our tiny lots.

Whidbey Organic Veggie Garden

She had a lot growing out there, nicely laid out and well fertilized with compost and chicken manure. Since we were staying there, she told us to help ourselves. It was great fun to head out there with a basket and pick a few things every day. There were a few blueberries and raspberries left, but mostly we homed in on the salad stuff, like edible flowers (borage and a variety of colors of nasturtiums) and fennel:

Harvest Basket (Fennel and Edible Flowers)

We hope she’ll let us return again – we had a great time and the garden was a huge part of the enjoyment.

Whidbey Pick & Pay Garden

If you are interested in her garden or the possibility of a stay in her lovely cottage, her name is Maggie Jacoby and she can be reached at 360-579-4238.


Slightly Oddball Plants August 11, 2008

Since I was ripping out the ugliest and most boring groundcover on earth (St. John’s Wort), I felt compelled to replace it with a variety of plants that would be more interesting to cultivate and would provide passers-by with a more enjoyable experience. It changes somewhat every year, and of course seasonally (I really need to work on winter/early spring interest) but here are some things that are growing out there at the moment (mid August):

Purple Beans!

Purple beans! My daughter requested these and she sprouted them from seed with my mom. I think they came from Seeds of Change – their catalog has lots of pretty pictures to ogle during the winter. We grew these beans last year too – oddly, they change color to a slightly sick-ish green when cooked. Very cool-looking when raw, though!

Red Marigolds, Shiso, Bulbing Fennel

Red shiso, otherwise known as perilla. I bought this as a plant from the Seattle Tilth spring plant sale, always a mandatory stop for my summer garden. I haven’t used the leaves too much yet, mostly used in Japanese cooking and sushi-making, but I just like how it looks. It tastes kind of spicy, like mustard leaves. It’s planted next to a red marigold, and some bulbing fennel (also purchased at the Tilth sale) which I hope will be ready to harvest before the cold weather arrives.

Alpine Strawberry

Gardening in the parking strip is a test of faith sometimes. What if I plant something that looks too tasty to resist for someone walking by? I’ve been pretty lucky so far, but I don’t know if I’d take a chance on something as irresistible as raspberries or blueberries. These Alpine strawberries are so low to the ground and mostly hidden by their leaves that I don’t think anyone even notices them. I try to plant them on the street side just to be safe. My daughter loves to pick and eat them, they’re like little gems. Also purchased from the Tilth sale, two years running. One variety is called Pineapple Crush (not pictured) and stays green, plus tastes at least a little like pineapple. Adorable and delicious!