Archive for May, 2010

I didn’t want to tell the tree or weed what it was. I wanted it to tell me something and through me express its meaning in nature. ~ Wynn Bullock

Wynn Bullock was a photographer from the early to mid 1900’s. Here’s a link to some of his photographs.

Peanut greets the morning sun

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I went outside with my coffee and didn’t do anything else first. There was no coastal fog or clammy cloud cover, no phones ringing or office work calling me, no homework or housework that was urgent or tugging at my thoughts. There wasn’t even a neighborhood dude running a power tool, weed eater or lawn mower. Stepping out onto the cool grass in my bare feet into a peaceful enchantment accompanied by nothing but birds, bees and Peanut: pure unadulterated bliss. These are the mornings I live for and I haven’t had one in a looooong time…thank you Mother Universe.

Cilantro/Coriander blooming with Nasturtiums

Since the sun has finally been shining a little lately and it’s warming up at last, everything is growing in cosmic bursts. I look out the window one day and I have grape vines. Looking out the next day reveals that the grape vines are snaking out all over the back lawn desperately needing to be tied up. So, now that the Moon is waning and the planting is done, it’s time to do lots and lots of clean up work, starting with pulling out weeds.

Borage flowers decorate the grass

Normally, I’m not a weed puller. If it’s green or makes flowers, it’s a legitimate plant and can stay. Morning Glories are considered a weed in many places but I actually spend money on seeds so I can have them growing on my fence. A weed is a weed when I say it’s a weed! Dandelions make good tea. Weeds are good for decoy plants – if aphids are eating a ‘weed’ next to the roses, they’re leaving the roses alone and I’m leaving the weed alone. Some weeds get to grow just so I can have mulch.

things are getting crowded!

However, when anything growing begins to hamper the well-being of another plant, that’s when it turns into a true weed. Right now, I have squash and tomatoes that need Sun and space and WATER! – anything in the way of that is getting pulled or moved. Mostly, I have wayward grass instead of true weeds. It goes in the compost pile. The next thing to get pulled is the Evening Primrose.

Evening Primrose tumbling over the garden wall

It’s beautiful and I love it, but it grows very wild and will take over the garden completely if left to its own devices. At a certain point it goes from being “enthusiastic” to being “pernicious”. It needs to be picked as it spreads and I either put it into vases or the mulch pile.

Passionflower is finally blooming!

So, while this rare and beautiful peace in my life lasts, I will be outside pruning and trimming and pulling, caging tomatoes and make trellises, moving things around to get more sun – or less sun – and breathing slowly so this RESPITE can work its magic.

Agapanthus getting ready to open

Have a safe and happy, but mostly peaceful, Memorial Day!

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Evening Primrose

“Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.”
Kahlil Gibran


Well, here we are again at the cusp of a full moon. THe usual ritual of being mindful of what of was accomplished since the last full moon is proving quite difficult. There is simply too much to note. But, I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment deep in my gut and I intend to open a bottle of one of my favorite wines tomorrow night and share it with my man: 2007 Pinot from ZD Wineries, discovered in Napa on our last visit there.

Foxgloves (separate post for these another day!)

Along with the many goals finally reached, there is a garden full of success to enjoy. This is to be celebrated doubly since we lost quite a large number of seedlings to frost-bite (yes, even in California!) over the last month or so. It’s amazing how cold and cloudy it has been here lately, so some of the babies just up and withered and I all but lost the large rosemary plant. Maybe I can save it at the next new moon. No worries though, enough seedlings survived to cover every square inch of Earth under my care and keeping: I’m all out of dirt!

the Chives are blooming

The BIG item: I finished my first math class (Pre-Algebra!) and did well. Math has always been very difficult for me. Growing up in low-income schools and then struggling on my own at home for high school (home school sucks!) put me at a severe disadvantage in this department and I always thought there was no hope to catch up or ever “get it” – Well, I fixed that and I’ve signed up for more algebra during the summer to be followed by more in the fall…and you know what? – I love it! It’s great feeling confident now, despite the times when I was positive nothing new was going to get into my gray matter and take permanent hold. There were moments of sheer panic and dread, followed by pacing, and I will even confess to a couple of tears, but I pushed through it and am proud of myself. It was awesome to walk into class to take a math final, however remedial, and know what to do after a lifetime of just the opposite. (and special thanks to my fabulous Tom for helping me with my homework and for knowing just what to say and when to say it) It also feels really satisfying to know my parents were completely wrong in not believing I was worth any kind of education and to finally be undoing whatever damage that did to my ego and sense of self worth.

Yellow and White Gladiolus

In yoga practice, I finally figured out how to properly do the King Dancer pose (Natarajasana) without falling on my big ass or wobbling like a clumsy dork. (Well, ok, I still wobble a tetch) It makes me feel strong and light at the same, like I could fly or knock down a wall if I needed to. For the first time in a long time I feel a little graceful. Not an easy feeling for me: I have never EVER been comfortable in my skin. There, I said it.

Natarajasana - King Dancer Pose

After several years of nursing the artichoke plants along, we finally have real live artichokes that we actually got to EAT! NO JOKE! here’s their exciting journey:

Artichoke - the first year or so

Artichokes after 2 years - March 2010

an actual Artichoke! April 2010

Ready to eat Artichoke!

To prepare them: wash well, chop off the top inch and leaf tips if they’re sharp, steam in an inch of water with some lemon-garlic-bay leaf type stuff, eat with some mayo into which you’ve stirred a little saffron – delicious! Don’t forget to eat the heart which is at the very bottom after you’ve scooped off the wooly parts.

Trim the top inch off your artichoke before cooking

Aromatic Artichoke Bath

Artichokes waiting in line. I'll be right there....

Yesterday, I finally put every single seedling planted since February into its permanent home. Next year, I will not do so much seed planting and I will use peat pots so I don’t have to do the “pricking out” either – so time consuming! I never expected so many seeds to sprout and live, so when the last of them (mostly tomatoes and leeks) needed permanent homes I was having difficulty finding Earth-space. The “I’ve run out of dirt” statement is NOT an exaggeration! The good news is I’m starting to harvest big lettuce and all the basil. Just in time to plant seeds for the next batch! And YES we are making pesto!

Endive and Basil

Italian and Sweet Basil 5-25-10


what's left of my radishes

It also appears that there will be squash and beans to harvest in the next day or so. That will be keeping me busy, along with bunches of deferred maintenance; caging up all the tomatoes that have run wild and putting the grape vines on the trellis, pulling weeds and trimming/pruning, fertilizing and lots of watering, harvesting and eating it all up. Hopefully, I’ll have a lot more done before I go back to school June 22nd, when I’ll have to stop gardening for a while. sigh.

Grape vines searching for home

So now, I’m off to FINISH things that aren’t quite finished yet – there are always lots of those! In the garden, I’ll replant seeds for the herbs that have already finished their cycle and I want more of; basil and arugula, tarragon, and more seeds for what didn’t live; morning glory, moonflower, anise etc…By tomorrow night when the juicy swooning moon rises to remind me of the absolute truth of my nature, I will be ready.

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Feverfew: Tanacetum parthenium or Chrisanthemum parthenium is also known as Bachelor’s Buttons, Featherfew, Featherfoil, Febrifuge, and last but absolute favorite: Flirtwort!

The name comes from the Latin word febrifugia or “fever reducer”. It is a perennial in the daisy family that re-seeds itself quite prolifically and will grow and bloom heartily in most gardens. Mine seems to bloom all year round, demands little to no attention and will take over any space if left alone for a few years. It has a strong and very bitter “camphoric” odor when crushed and insects don’t like it. I grow some under my rose bushes for that reason.


The lore and history of this plants goes way back as an herb of protection against accidents or “mishaps” while traveling and was included in love spells and tussie mussies, being considered a plant of Venus. It was taken as tea to remedy fevers, headaches, trouble sleeping and arthritis, and was considered a “woman’s herb.” Nicholas Culpepper (an English botanist from the 1600’s) said it cured those who were “troubled with melacholy and heaviness or sadness of spirits.”

Modern science has decided that the active ingredients to be credited with all these miracles are “sesquiterpene lactones” and I found quite a lot of modern literature on its recent comeback as a reliever of migraines and arthritis. The only major negative side effect I could find was that chewing the leaves fresh could cause mouth ulcers. I figured this was common sense you should know just by smelling the leaves – this is pretty strong stuff. Thanks, but I’ll stick to drinking the tea!

I like to cut mine and put it into bud vases around the house. The flowers are cheerful and last a long time. They can be propagated by seed (which they do wildly on their own) or from cuttings: chop of a chunk and put a good part of the stems and leaves underground. Once you have an established feverfew plant, you will always have feverfew. This is one of my favorite ‘go-to’ herbs and is like an old friend in the garden.


Disclaimer: I am in no way recommending this plant be used medicinally…I’m a gardener, not a doctor. Also, I found plenty of warnings that specifically stated feverfew should not be ingested by pregnant women, children or anyone taking blood thinning meds. As with any plant that you choose to ingest or smoke or cook with….do your research and pay attention to your body’s reactions. Amen.

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And now, my beauties, something with poison in it. Poppies…Poppies. Poppies will put them to sleep. Sleep. Now they’ll sleep!
-Wicked Witch of the West

May 14, 2010

Some years ago, my dear friend Lucie and I were walking through the San Diego Zoo. Over by the gargantuan bird section (I always want to set the birds of prey free!) we noticed these giant prehistoric looking flowers. They looked like poppies, they looked like fried eggs, and the blooms were bigger than our hands. We were very excited and vowed to find out what they were so one of us could grow them. As soon as we got back to my house, we told the family and looked them up: Matilija Poppies!

On the occasion of my very next birthday, Lori and Gina gifted me with a plant. (I am VERY LOVED!) I put it in a warm, dry place by the fence and hoped for the best, having heard they take a while to get established and can be picky. They bloomed a year later and have almost taken over their corner of the yard. They are about nine feet tall now and I’ll have to thin them out a bit this fall. They don’t seem to be any trouble at all as far as I’m concerned and every year we all look forward to the grand opening. Yesterday, I was on the phone with Lucie in the morning and I walked out to the garden and TADAAAAHH! they were open! How could the timing have been ANY better?!

Fried Egg Poppy

Matilija or Romneya coulteri poppies are a perennial and are native to California, so they survive a little dry and hot quite well. They are described as a “glabrous shrub”. Glabrous means “having a surface devoid of hair or pubescence”. They were supposedly named after a Chief Matilija of the Chumash Tribe, who was a leader in the resistance against the Spanish invasion of what is now known as California. There is a legend that says the flowers originally sprang from a grave where the Chief’s daughter was buried with her lover, both killed by the Spaniards. Some of the details of the legend vary, as legends do, but it’s quite fun to have a plant in my garden with such rich local history. Lucie, I miss you and I never pass by this plant without remembering fondly our trips to the zoo with the kids. 🙂

2009 Matilija Poppy (Mat-a-LEE-ha)

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Lily - May 2010

California by Amy Correia

I’m moving out to California
to find my place in the sun
beneath the lemon trees
and I’m living on
oranges and gasoline
hummingbirds humming
helicopters hovering
will you take me in
to your soft brown hills
tiger lily thrills
Palm trees
look like spiders in a starry sky
they look as strange as I feel inside
my suitcase is heavy
’cause I packed it full of childish lies
nowhere left to run
California here I come
I was born in a small town
Sunday school
grandfather pines
Saturdays my mother
didn’t bother me
making my mudpies under solitary skies

Lily - May 2010

Lilium lancifolium, columbianum, Stargazer Lily, Easter Lily…the list goes on and on, there are so many different types of Lily in the species. This orange one is not a true Tiger Lily since it has no spots but I love them because they are like a burst of sunshine in a sea of green.The white ones I have will open in another week or two. They get the sun a little later in the season. Fine by me, since the orange ones will be almost finished by then.

Lillies prefer rich and moist, well drained soil and to be left alone. I don’t even pick the flowers for vases because they don’t seem to like it much. I leave them alone to bloom and when their season is over I cut the entire plant down near the ground and wait for next year. That’s it! They seem to be pest resistant as well. One of the easiest plants I have.

Lily with Buddha - May 2010

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Thyme blossom

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still cleaning up the multitude of messes caused by the month we know as “April 2010”. There is no way I will ever remember exactly all that happened, but I think I accomplished a hellofaLOT! There was almost too much of everything; severe weather extremes, paperwork, taxes, people, ringing of the doorbell, firings and hirings, math tests, fights, love, heavy sighs and cursing, joy and despair. At least the moon is finally waning, which makes the clean up easier, and I got to spend some time with my family in between all the other crap.

The garden took a backseat. It had to for the sake of everything else but, if your garden cannot survive a little neglect when times are busy, it isn’t the right garden for you. It won’t be until next week that I can get out there again and put things back in order, or have time to write anything properly here. In the meantime, here are some photos I took of April’s activity in the garden (and Happy Friday!):

Hollyhocks are blooming

Happy Roses

Apple blossoms

Potato plants

Evening Primrose

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Fat Buddha eats too many avocados

A couple months ago, I was going through a list in my head of every plant or tree that fell under my care and keeping. It was a test to see if I could remember their name, or to think of something I needed to do but had neglected during the fall and winter. The first one I thought of was the oleander on the north-west side of the house. It was there when we moved in, is not visible from any of the house windows or doors and it’s HUGE! It must have been growing there for many many years:

Nerium oleander

This giant lump of ugliness never got any of my attention or thought, nor that of anyone else. This entire area was a dead zone. It suddenly occurred to me that this spot could be used much more productively growing an avocado tree, something the family has wanted for quite a while but thought we didn’t have room for. What a good trade: nasty toxic shrub for one of the tastiest foods that nature grows! It’s a perfect spot for an avocado; lots of sun, space and drainage. Our neighbor will be happy too, since I know they hated that oleander as much as I did but were way too wonderful to say anything about it.

On Saturday April 17th, our landscaper Cesar drove up to Riverside and got us a nine foot tree that was already fruiting. (He also dug out the oleander) Why feed and water a baby for 5 years waiting for the first piece of fruit?! If you’re going to buy a fruit tree like this, do it right and get one you can enjoy as quickly as possible. When he brought it, it already had about 5 large avocados that were almost ripe. We gave some to our neighbor (who also split the cost of the tree with us) and put ours in a paper bag. In a few days we ate them with a spoon and a little salt. They were the best avocados I had ever eaten.

Haas Avocado

For now, the tree is doing well, although it hasn’t produced any new fruit. This is normal as the tree adjusts and the roots settle in. We got a Haas, which are particularly acclimated to life in California and they produce year-round. My job for now is to get the water right, feed it a bit and wait.

My other job is to bring the earth back to life where the oleander was. There is no color to the dirt, no worms, no organic material or mulchy goodness. It’s a bleached out desert akin to the scenes in some of the Armageddon-themed nightmares I had as a kid after church, or that ‘scorched earth’ speech at the beginning of the first Terminator movie.

Post-Apocalyptic Earth

I planted some of my leftover bean and squash plants here for now. If they don’t do well enough to eat it will be fine because the plant and root activities will breathe a little life into this dirt for me, especially since I haven’t had the time yet to rake up and discard all the pieces of oleander. For now, I’m just glad the toxic thing is gone and the whole property seems to breathe a little easier.

random thoughts:

* I remember when avocados were considered an odd thing in my family – something other people ate because they were expensive and hard to get. We lived in Arizona at the time and it was the 80’s. Avocados were for those people who lived in California!

* When I first moved to Cali 20+ years ago, they were expensive and not as easy to get as they are now – Now you can buy big packages of avocado at Costco, already peeled and smashed.

* They are considered an aphrodisiac and the Aztec word for them is “ahuacatl” which means ‘testicle’.

* For nutrition facts go here.

* For oleanders, all I could remember was that it seemed like every school I ever attended as a kid was completely surrounded by monolithic walls of oleander. Maybe it was because of their ability to live under harsh conditions and my parents had an affinity for the living in the desert. Maybe it was that the adults were secretly hoping all the scrawny little booger eaters would poison themselves during recess. Whatever the case, it creeps me out that they grow so freely. Take a look around at the freeway or side of the road next time you’re out. I’m telling you – creepy!

* my favorite way to eat an avocado is with a little salt, and then on some chips or toast. if you MUST adulterate the purest of foods, it’s good chopped up with some fresh lime, jalapeno, cilantro, tomato, onion and garlic (which are already growing in the garden!) and then eat with some nice crunchy corn tortilla chips. throw in some shrimp and you have ceviche. It’s also a good replacement for cheese on a sandwich.

* I’m suddenly starving and gonna go eat!

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