Herbaria (June 27, 2012)

When I think back on the garden over this last week, the poppies are still dominating in a big way, although I can see that they are waning. Most of them are on their second or third bloom and then that will be it. The David Austin rose (that I am stubbornly describing as orange or peaches and cream) has surprised us with a wave of buds and blooms. I didn’t see that coming as the plant is new. I did not expect that sort of performance in its first season. As the season goes so far I am happy with how well I’ve managed to time it so that there is always something coming in as something is going out. I have to admit that my success so far may come down more to luck and the sheer volume of plant matter I have planted and less to impeccable planning. HA!

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Caraway Seedheads (Carum carvi) I wrote about the caraway more extensively back in May when the plant was producing flowers profusely. It is now the end of June and the seeds have ripened enough to consider their use in various culinary experiments. I’ve left most of that to Davin as I tend to consider caraway his herb — he loves it so much. He recently tried pickling the unripe, green seeds in vinegar as I do with many other herbs. And when the seeds are ripe we will toast them, possibly even use them in a home baked bread. 2. Breadbox Poppy (Papaver somniferum) This is another form of the breadth of poppies that are blooming in my garden this year. I adore its frilly edges and dark center. The poppies have not disappointed us this year, offering up something new and different to discover every morning. 3. Borage (Borago officinalis) I tossed out a packet of white flowered borage seed in the very early spring anticipating something other than the typical blue. And then I promptly forgot where I put them. When borage began to sprout up here and there around the garden I did not pick them out ruthlessly as I usually do, opting to remove the blue in favor of the white when they flowered and I could distinguish the difference. Sadly, nary a single plant has come up with white flowers. They are ALL blue. And now I have more large and prickly borage plants than you can possibly imagine.

Middle Row: 4. Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) I’ve had this plant a very long time; however, my identification of it is made with hesitation. I can’t recall where or when I purchased it. My best guess is that it was well over a decade ago, back when a friend with a beat up old TransAm used to take me way out into the suburbs to the annual “Ladies’ Day” sale at Plant World. As twenty-something feminists, we found the very notion of a ladies’ day to be delightfully antiquated and a little bit pompous. We wondered if we should wear white gloves and large hats to the event. As a pushing forty feminist, I still find that many gardening events are indeed both antiquated and pompous, but I can not refuse a plant sale, no matter what they call it. I’ll even wear the white gloves and an obnoxiously oversized hat for the fun in it, but I absolutely draw the line at a floral printed blazer. 5. Caraway Thyme (Thymus herba barona) I have often grown this particular variety as a treat for Davin, whom, as I mentioned above is a big fan of anything caraway. The leaves and flowers really do carry the scent and even the flavor transfers fairly well. My new garden’s sandy soil has been a remarkable boon for my thyme growing abilities, so I have been working to populate the garden with every variety I have ever loved but have been unsuccessful wintering over in the past. This one is a low-growing trailing variety that makes a really great ground cover. It blooms a little bit later than many of the others, which is nice since I am usually overrun with more than I can manage to use up at one time. 6. Radish ‘Candela Di Fuoco’ I bought a huge pack of seed at my local Italian greengrocer and proceeded to plant a large patch in one of the raised beds in the early spring. It’s the sort that grows into a very long tap root and I thought it would be exceptionally good for roasting. While I did enjoy a few thinnish roots fresh from the soil, none of my radish managed to thrive due to a strangely dry and hot spring. Even now at the farmers markets, I have noticed that everyone’s radishes are hard and woody. They’re okay for oven roasting, but not good fresh eating. Realizing that the roots would suffer, I opted to leave my radishes in for their greens. I left a couple of this particular variety behind to allow them to flower and set seed. We eat the flowers and I’ve been particularly excited to find that these produce flowers in a range of hues from near white, to pink, to purple. And now the seed pods have appeared and they too have proven to be good eating. They are exactly like the Rat-Tailed radishes that are grown exclusively for their edible pods. I honestly can’t find any difference.

Bottom Row: 7. Green Wave Mustard (Brassica juncea) I have had these seeds for years. I believe I purchased them on a distant trip to San Francisco, but never managed to open the packet or sow the seed until this spring, when I decided to make use of the neglected greens in my prolific collection. I have always put it aside in favor of ‘Giant Red’ mustard but it turns out that this one is very different and I am finding that despite the heat we can eat this one fresh, while the ‘Giant Red’ has to be cooked now for the most part. 8. Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ This fragrant rose is often described as yellow, but I’d say it is also quite orange. At least that’s why I bought it. That and the fact that like many David Austin roses it is extremely fragrant. Only fragrant roses are worth eating — I’ll never plant a rose on looks alone. We put this one in early spring and I can’t believe how well it has done, especially since I moved it twice in such short over. I really do seem to put my plants through the wringer. Anyways, it has recently exploded with new buds and blooms. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as the other three climbers planted at the back have just finished their first big flush. It’s nice to have some overlap. If its doing this well now, I can’t imagine what it will be like next year. God, I am impatient. Always thinking about next year and what certain plants will be like then. Gardening cultivates patience, but I’d swear it also breeds impatience in other ways, too. 9. Drumstick Allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) These conical shaped alliums were among the very first plants that I put in when we moved here in the late fall of 2010, well before there was a garden to speak of. Knowing that they loved sun and good drainage, I place them at the back of the garden, only to find out come spring that it was not the sunniest part of the space as I had originally predicted. Even still they have done very well, so much so that I was surprised by how many new seedlings had emerged this past spring. And now I am enjoying them in a range of sizes; from fully mature heads to the new ones. I should have plenty to dig up and give away this fall. I may also move some to the front part of the garden, where I now keep the bulk of my allium collection.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Herbaria (June 27, 2012)

  1. Taryn and Zoe: I appreciate your encouragement. I enjoy putting them together but I doubt many people make it through all of the text that I write!

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