Tag Archives: Hepzibah’s Garden

May Flowers

From Hepzibah’s Garden

Being a gardener means taking what the world gives you. Last week our little corner of Oregon lurched out of chilly early spring weather straight into a blast of summertime. In the house, that meant melted cats and a kid who needed an emergency shoe shopping trip. In the garden, that meant I could finally stop worrying about the tomatoes and melons and watch them grow. (I think my pumpkin plant doubled in size last weekend.)

It also meant that flower season was really here and that summer fruit was close at hand.

The blueberries bloomed weeks ago, but now you can really see their fruit developing. Like many kinds of fruit trees, blueberries require a cross-pollinator to set fruit. We’ve planted four different kinds of blueberries around our house who are all supposed to bloom at the same time, but for whatever reasons, their bloomtimes don’t always overlap. You can see that this bush is fruiting up nicely:

But its buddy to the right didn’t do quite so well:

The little flat star-shaped spots are the remnants of unpollinated flowers.

In some cases, the surge of new flowers is very welcome. Bees love these sage blossoms, and if the plant actually produces seeds, maybe I’ll see some more sage plants next year.

But these turnip flowers are a bit disheartening. I pulled up half of the turnip crop when I saw it was going to seed. We enjoyed the delicious greens, but the spicy turnips themselves never got a chance to develop. (Behind the turnips, you can just see the nubbly top of a radish beginning to bud. No radishes? May salads just won’t be the same.)

On our last trip to the garden, I showed pictures of the apple tree in bloom and the great green expanse of the strawberry and clover bed. I’m not quite as in love with that bed as I was the last time I posted. The clover is incredibly vigorous, and I’m spending an awful lot of time cutting it back to give the strawberries more sunshine. The berries on the edge of the clover thicket are doing great. Here’s a beautiful berry enticing me with a hint of red:

The other strawberries are beginning to develop fruit, but are definitely lagging a little behind, and the plants are a bit smaller than the giants on the edge of the clover field. But on the plus side, the plants didn’t clamor for water even during our 90 degree heat blast. Strawberries have pretty shallow root systems that demand a lot of water, so that’s a major benefit.

I like to think of my garden as an experimental plot, so I’ll keep watching the strawberries and cutting back the clover to see how the fruit develops and tastes.

I’ll leave you with just one last shot. The garden is a place for people, plants, insects, and animals of all stripes. One of my favorite animals had to take a bit of a break from the garden after having a major asthma attack. Here he is studying the great outdoors and wishing he could spend more time out there:

Sic Parvis Magna

From Hepzibah’s Garden

Three years ago, I planted a bare root apple tree. When it came in the mail, it looked like a stick with some squiggly roots sticking out of the bottom, but planting it felt momentous. Someday–I didn’t know when–that stick, if I was lucky, would grow branches, take over my yard, and even produce delicious apples. It’s not there yet, but this spring it has produced its first blossoms.

But the apple tree isn’t the only thing bursting into flower in my garden! All the spring ephemerals are doing their thing. Many of the daffodils have already wrapped up their show for the year, but the muscari and bluebells are still going crazy, and the strawberries are beginning to get in on the action.

Here’s a picture of my new strawberry bed:

The strawberries in the foreground are easy to pick out, because I transplanted them this spring to an area that was freshly weeded. The other strawberries are hiding in the lush clover growth. Every few weeks, I’ll give the clover a smart haircut, which causes it to prune down its roots. Since clover is a nitrogen-fixer, every time it sheds bits of roots, it sends a flush of nitrogen into the soil that feeds my berry plants. I just leave the chopped clover on the ground, where it adds organic matter to the soil.

At the beginning of last year, this bed had suffered from terrible erosion, and the soil refused to hold water. I topped it up with compost and planted a mix of clover and flowering plants. After about three weeks of chop-and-drop mulching (cutting the leaves off the clover and leaving them on the soil surface), water stopped sluicing off the bed when I watered the plants. After three months, the soil was visibly deeper–the bed had gained about half an inch of height, and the top two inches of soil were now fluffy and dark, perfect for strawberries.

Since I’m a writer, I tend to think of gardening as “worldbuilding.” When I start a new story or novel, I have to sort out the relationships between the different plants, creatures, and people in the worlds I’m imagining, because nothing lives on its own. In my garden, the other plants have a real effect on each other, and I have to keep that in mind. My strawberries love living with clover, and last summer I accidentally brought a cucumber plant back to life when I planted a bed with wheat and vetch cover crops that apparently sheltered and nourished my withered cucumber. If I keep these things in mind, I can make my garden a far more vibrant place than if I just grow my plants in isolated, sad strips of dirt.

Here are some other pictures from the garden today:

This fern and this heuchera are native plants who have just found their way into my garden. When we first moved into this house, none of the plants you can see were here at the base of the birdbath (except the very stringy lavender plant that’s currently hidden under the fern). A massive (and massively needy!) rosebush covered most of this. I finally gave up on nursing it along this year and dug it up.

I just love our birdbath and so do the local birds! Squirrels really like to hang out in it, as well. I think the way the water is reflecting the cherry blossoms is just exquisite.