June is whizzing by, and before memory fades, I want to record many of the “good things” that are happening in the garden, whether a result of careful planning or happy accident. The beautiful elder above is a happy accident, that just appeared near the utility pole between the garage and the deck garden a few years ago and just keeps getting bigger and better. It is loaded with delicate white blooms, fragrant as one passes or sits on the deck. Since there are still jars of elderberry jelly in the pantry, I feel free to harvest many of the clusters to make elderflower syrup, so I can enjoy “Hugo” cocktails (elderflower syrup, Prosecco, mint, a slice of lime and ice) throughout the year! The syrup is delicious on pound cake or gooseberry tart, too, or just added to a cup of hot tea. So far I’ve made 5 quarts of syrup and have dried 5 cups of flowers for tea.
All in all, there’s not much I would change about the new potager. I’m really happy with the design and the raised beds. The plants seem happy, too, which is definitely a good thing. It’s really filling in nicely.
Sprinkling the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce on the snow in February was exceptionally good, because their frilly chartreuse leaves have definitely hidden the ugly ripening tulip foliage from view in the interior borders, as well as providing dozens of salads. Anyone who happened to stop by went home with a big bag of lettuce as well. It is getting tall now, so many plants are being pulled to allow their neighbors to thrive. As you can see, the tips of the garlic are already beginning to brown, and the scapes are forming. Looks like the harvest will be earlier than usual, but the stems are nice and thick and the bulbs are forming nicely in all nine varieties.
Planting peas between double rows of shallots was a happy accident that I will definitely repeat. The shallots make great supports and also slightly shade the peas roots, resulting in a bumper crop of snow peas, “Little Purple.” And speaking of shallots, they are terrific! Most single bulbs have produced 5 shallots, with some like the one below, forming 8! I planted over 8 pounds, so the expected harvest could be 40 pounds!
The “Tom Thumb” lettuce (above) and the mini-Romaine, “Little Gem” have both been terrific, performing well despite our unusually early hot weather. Don’t they look adorable in the garden? I almost hate to harvest them, but they are so tasty we can’t resist.
This Red Deer Tongue lettuce is beautiful, too, and really is outstanding in the garden and adds color to salads. Note the thickening cipollini planted to its left, along with Merlot peppers, which are already forming fruits.
“Gangbusters” spinach (from Renee Shepherd Seeds) has been the outstanding performer of all the spinach varieties planted, with huge bigger-than-my-hand leaves, resistance to bolting in our heat, and great texture and flavor. I’m definitely planting more this fall.
“Bon Bon” Calendula have always been a favorite, so I planted them liberally throughout the interior borders of the potager. You can see them in some of the earlier photos in this post. Their edible petals are added to salads or sprinkled on canapes, but mostly I use them to make a soothing salve or dry them for a tea blend (orange mint, cloves, dried orange peel, and calendula petals.)
“Lady Like” Lilies were planted in groups of three and five, and they look terrific popping up here and there through the lettuce. I admit I haven’t eaten any of the petals, because they are just too pretty to pick. They are not quite as pink as they look in this photo, but a bit more apricot in tone.
These gorgeous “Liberty Bronze” snapdragons are also planted liberally throughout the edible interior borders. I had momentary panic when the buds first showed color because they were very, very pink. I feared the seed company had sent the wrong color! But, fortunately when the flowers open, they are various shades of oranges and bronze and I just love them.
I’m also thinking I was very clever to choose the adorable peach alyssum to pair with “Little Hero Orange” marigolds to edge the central paths. The alyssum is more peach than it looks (also from Renee Shepherd Seeds.) I think I need a better camera to really capture the colors. I’m also thinking now that the rabbit eating so many flats of violas was a happy accident. Remember last winter I’d planned to edge most of the beds with hundreds of violas? Well, I can tell you that will never happen. Keeping the violas that I do have deadheaded every three days takes me far longer than I want, but it’s a necessity if I want to keep them blooming. It is worth it, but I definitely don’t want to have more.
Of course, it’s not only the beauty of the potager that is good, but the bountiful harvest. Besides bushels of lettuces of all types, there has already been aspa-broc, snow peas, shelling peas, arugula, kale, spinach, mizuna, pak choy, mustard and beet greens, loads of radishes, shallots, scallions, strawberries, and lots of herbs for seasoning and edible flowers for garnishes. The freezer is beginning to fill, and every meal is based around healthy, homegrown, organic produce. Can you tell that I’m loving my new garden? It’s all GOOD!
This is beautiful! You have inspired me again. I have a large garden of raised beds, but was a bit overwhelmed this year. We got it planted and things are growing, but the art and joy just aren’t quite there. You’ve reminded me of the sheer joy of browsing Shepherd’s catalog and trying new things and making a beautiful garden of useful things. Thanks so much.
It can be overwhelming. This morning I pulled the first planting of peas and replaced it with French beans, all the while feeling depressed that the season is flying by so fast; the hot weather is here; and before I know it the frost will come and end it all. Then I saw the butterflies flitting, realized that the zucchini actually did grow over 1″ last night, and saw that the number of tomatoes set on has nearly doubled in three days! Growing is a miracle that I need to observe and relish every time I visit the garden, rather than worrying over what needs doing and did not get done. Just grasp those current joys….there are enough of them to sustain us if we just look.
Carolee, your garden looks really good. The produce looks pest-free – how do you manage that? Do you get slugs and snails, or is it just too hot? I know you have other pests to protect from – and it looks like you’ve done a superb job of that! Question – what do you do with all that garlic? 9 varieties…? I had only 40 cloves last year and they’re still going, despite giving plenty away. Perhaps I just need to eat more?! Lovely to read your post thank you! Simone