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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Summer in a Garden

This summer the Garden Bloggers' Book Club has been taking it easy, reading a short and charming book by Charles Dudley Warner - My Summer in a Garden.

I am inclined to think that the substratum is the same, and that the only choice in this world is what kind of weeds you will have.

That quote sums up the book nicely. Warner good-naturedly chronicled his battles with weeds, marauding animals, and theiving humans - all attempting to thwart his efforts to grow good things to eat. His most vexing enemy was a weed he knew as "pusley". Nowadays we call it purslane, and Warner would be dismayed but not surprised to learn that it's now considered a nutritious crop.

Who can say that other weeds, which we despise, may not be the favorite food of some remote people or tribe? We ought to abate our conceit. It is possible that we destroy in our gardens that which is really of most value in some other place.

Warner gardened in the mid 1800s in the Northeast, but his frustrations and joys are echoed by many of today's garden bloggers. And late summer is a wonderful time to review the frustrations - creatures great and small are intent on consuming the products of our labors. In the present day, I think most of us are happy not to be chasing the neighbor's cow out of the garden, but Warner has nothing at all to say about deer, or Japanese beetles. Different combatants, same war.

The gardener believes that the struggle and toil is worth it. Apparently even in 1870, many things were not regarded as worth doing unless there was a monetary reward. Warner tries to calculate whether his potatoes were profitable, while wishing it wasn't necessary to justify himself in this way.

Shall I compute in figures what daily freshness and health and delight the garden yields, let alone the large crop of anticipation I gathered as soon as the first seeds got above ground? I appeal to any gardening man of sound mind, if that which pays him best in gardening is that which he cannot show in his trial-balance. Yet I yield to public opinion, when I proceed to make such a balance; and I do it with the utmost confidence in figures.

I like old books and clever writing, and this selection for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club seemed custom-designed to please me. I must admit that many of the political references were lost on me, but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book. I only wish I had the actual book in my hand instead of reading it on a computer screen. (My order didn't arrive.) I'm wondering though, if the reprint editions include all the wonderful old typographical ornaments that the original had. They really set the stage for the author's 1870 style of writing.

Thank you once again Carol, for bringing bloggers together to read and discuss great garden books.


posted by Entangled at 4:51 PM
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Monday, July 30, 2007

Ro Ho Ho

...and a bottle of rum. Thanks to Rosengeranium's comment on Carol's post about her new cultivator, I can't remove pirates from my mind. Actually, I'll need a bottle of rum for me, and a bottle of 3-in-1 for the cultivator in order to remove the grime and rust. I started to clean it up for its closeup and decided it was a bigger job than I wanted to take on right now. So here's my grandmother's Ro Ho cultivator, cleaned up just enough to be presentable.

I have no idea how long Grandma had this. This one is not exactly the same as Carol's - the paint colors are different (a fetching DOT orange and pale lime design), and I don't see any indication that there ever was any paint or stamp with the manufacturer's name on the wood.

After reading Natalya's comment, I'm thinking of putting this implement back into use. The soil at my central Virginia garden is a nice sandy loam - this might be just the thing to work up the potager in the spring.


posted by Entangled at 11:58 AM
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Things to Do While the Tomatoes Ripen

I really hoped we would have a ripe tomato or two last weekend, but.......not yet. In fact, we arrived to find all the tomato ladders more horizontal than vertical. There must have been a powerful storm while we were gone, because a small (dead) tree nearby was snapped off. (I was thinking of turning that tree into a bottle tree, or training vines over it, but never mind.) Last weekend we swathed the tomato plants in plastic netting, hoping to keep the tomatoes in and the critters out. The netting doesn't do a darned thing to keep out hornworms, but I still think we'll have plenty of tomatoes.

So then, while we're waiting for that day when we can get out the satin pillow, the rosewood platter, or the stylish tasting notes, what to do?

Cook with herbs. For the last couple of weekends, we switched from breakfast burritos (our usual weekend lunch) to herb omelette and toast.

Or make fried green tomatoes. I've been doing this for the last two weekends as well.

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posted by Entangled at 5:49 PM
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cooking from the Garden

Now that the garden is starting to produce some produce, I'm going to try to post a few things on my poor neglected food blog.

Last weekend I harvested the first chile peppers. I was hoping for more heat from the Chile Grandes and the Aci Sivris. I'm counting on the Serranos for salsa and Indian food, but they're just starting to form fruit. If they're not hot, I'll be very disappointed.

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posted by Entangled at 9:39 AM
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day + 1

A little late, but worth the wait? Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day snuck up on me this month.

Many of these are worth a post all to themselves.....maybe later.....
In the meantime, here's my bloomin' list (links are to my photos):

Thanks, Carol!


posted by Entangled at 6:42 PM
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tame Your Passion (vines)

Get more bunnies.

After they've finished the sweet peas, morning glories, dill, rudbeckia, and asters (a favorite), they'll turn their attention to the passion vines. But they're so cute when they're little.

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posted by Entangled at 7:38 AM
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Potager Progress

Just for the record, I want it known that the potager did produce tomatoes this year. Now, they're not ripe yet, and that's the issue. If the deer get to them before I do, at least I'll have the pictures of what might have been. Deer damage has been light, up to this point. They nibbled on a Salvia argentea and sampled a pepper plant, but that's it. This is still a work in progress, but I'm very pleased the with progress so far. The soil there is some of the best I've ever gardened. It's sandy and deep - a welcome change from all the clay I'm used to. Lucky, lucky, lucky. So far. Keeping my fingers crossed....

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posted by Entangled at 8:18 AM
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


This started out to be a post about what was blooming at the end of June. Then it was going to be a post about what was blooming at the midpoint of the year. (Did you know that the first half of 2007 ended on July 2 at 1 PM?) And now? Well, Happy 4th of July to those who celebrate it!

The first few days of July have been unusually cool, which is actually OK with me. I've had the windows open the whole time - airing out the house and saving on air conditioning. But we could use some rain. Plants, both wild and cultivated, are starting to take on that dry end-of-summer look.

Enough about the weather, what was blooming at the end of June? This is one of my more inspired plant combinations. Plain old shasta daisies with a big yellow daylily whose name I do not know. I bought the original plant long ago at the late lamented Chantilly Farm Market. (That was such a great place. There's a Mattress Warehouse there now.) I don't remember whether the daylily had a label even when I bought it, but I don't think so. I like the form of these old daylilies better than many of the new ones, which are so ruffled and heavy with short fat scapes. This one, to me, says "daylily". The new ones don't talk to me very much.

But if had to choose a newer ruffled one, I like 'Apricot Petticoats'. I would call the color cantaloupe, not apricot.

The annuals started from seed are looking good now. I'm still having fun with Cupheas. The one in the background here is from the Thompson & Morgan mix called 'Summer Medley'. They say the species is C. miniata, but I've just about given up on Cuphea taxonomy. The petunia is Chiltern's 'Giants of California', but only some of these are the size, shape, and colors I remember from the now unavailable Burpee's 'Giants of California'. Those were uniformly large plants with uniformly large ruffled flowers in mostly pastel shades. A few of these new ones from Chiltern fit that description, but many are just rather ordinary-looking.

Back in the woody and perennial category, the 'Blue Satin' Rose-of-Sharon is blooming blissfully beetle-free. I still can't believe my good fortune there.

I really should try to eradicate the Passion Vine - it's such an aggressive spreader. It's now escaped to the other side of the neighbor's fence, but I don't think she knows/cares. It will greedily take every inch of territory it can get, but when it's in bloom, I don't care.

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posted by Entangled at 10:02 AM
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