Saturday, August 13, 2011

Treasures in the garden



On the radio this morning I was listening to a gardening expert trying to deal with the collective angst of southern Vancouver Island gardeners over the dry, lackluster states of their gardens.

Count me in. I'm missing the dewy, lush freshness of the late spring and early summer. The heat is nice, but we haven't had any rain in a month, and I refuse to water the perennial beds any more than is necessary to keep plants alive. Which means the garden is a place of tough, stringy, crisp-around-the-edges survivors these days.

But August is also the month a few flowers finally come into their own. The pots and pots of echinacea I started from seed last year are flowering with slightly goofy purple abundance, and the lilies that are scattered in ones and twos throughout the perennial beds are finally unfolding.





The double bee balm is earning its name, with two tiers of petals. . .


. . . and the sadly neglected roses that I do nothing to except hack back every year are looking beautiful enough to make me reconsider my gardening priorities.


In the vegetable garden some stray onions I swear I didn't plant are flowering, along with the hollyhocks I started last year.



The globe thistles are turning from silvery green to purple, and then erupting in tiny petals which the bees just love. Me, too. There's something about these prickly, quirky plants I find really endearing. Maybe it's because they make me think of a plant Dr. Seuss would think up. Maybe it's because as someone who has spent my life perfecting niceness, I am fascinated by something that is so defiantly prickly. Or maybe it's sheer gratitude: the thriving communities of globe thistles growing in even the driest, scrubbiest looking perennial beds go a long way to help me preserve a few shreds of self-respect as a gardener this time of year.


But the best treasure in the garden? That's easy. My mom and dad, come from Calgary for lunch.

11 comments:

Holly House said...

I've been wanting to grow echinacea, I've heard all the health benefits and there are some wild ones growing a long a bike path near my house. How and when should I harvest a few seeds to use to grow some plants next year?

Natalie said...

Dear guests, and some beautiful blooms... love the Hollyhocks. I think despite the lack of rain that things look pretty at your farm. Of course I am accustomed to a parched summer, and have begun to long for rain too.

Miriam said...

Hi Holly House! Here's what you should do: choose plants that look robust and wait until the flowers are pretty well dried up. Then cut off the seed head and put it in a paper bag to dry out even more. After a couple of weeks, crumble the dried flower heads and the seeds should release - the hard part will be separating out all the debris! But be careful - the seeds will look like pieces of straw with a black pokey bit at the end, and it's the straw coloured part you want to keep. When you have plants, it's the roots you should harvest for their medicinal value, which always seems like a real shame to me, because then you lose the plant! The fall is the best time to harvest the roots. Have fun!

jeanives said...

What happens if you don't separate the debris and just chuck the whole mess into some dirt? Would the seeds germinate and the dross decompose or is there another arcane step that requires the separation?

Negerigeletschtempoit said...

How nice it must be to have your Mom and Dad for a visit!! My parents never saw where I live, never spent time with my husband. But, that's how life is.

Enjoy every second of your parents, Miriam!
xxxxxx

Miriam said...

Jean, there's a reason I always thought of you as a brilliant woman! I can't imagine there would be a problem. I think we should all try it!

Flartus said...

Lots of beauty in your garden. At least the dry weather makes lunch outside a lot easier!

Paula said...

Right now the whole perennial bed looks awful.

But i console myself with strawberries and zucchini, although not at the same time!

Holly House said...

thanks Miriam! I'm keeping an eye out on for a few flowers. If I harvest the heads for the seeds this fall, can I harvest the roots as well? For teas I heard the seeds and petals are best, what are your thoughts?

Miriam said...

Oh, Holly House - you're thinking I actually know something about medicinal herbs! I did a little looking in my books, and yes, leaves and flowers are best for teas, and roots for tinctures. If you want to make a tincture, you should use roots that are at least four years old. Dig them up, chop them up and dry them out a bit. Then cover them with as pure and strong an alcohol as you can find - many people use vodka - in a covered jar. Leave it on the counter for 3-4 weeks, shaking it up everyday and making sure the vegetable matter is always covered by alcohol. Then strain out the bits of root and put into a dark bottle, or otherwise store it out of the light. A dose would be 10-20 drops.

One warning about echinacea: don't use it for more than 2 weeks at a time, or it can have the opposite effect of depressing your immune system.

Holly House said...

you're such a wealth of knowledge! Instead of google from now on I'm mariaming when I need to find something out!

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