After seeing an enchanting spray of this plant, previously unknown to me, at a garden club meeting several years ago, I immediately determined I needed to grow it for myself and draw it. Research revealed that the name of the plant, which had sounded at the time like a direction in the back court from a tennis partner: “Lob! lob!” was in actuality Lablab, or Hyacinth Bean Plant. Fast forward several failed horticultural attempts later and finally this season I managed to get the dratted thing to bloom but it’s a pale imitation of what I remember as a gently downward arcing blossom spray with several deep pink blossoms measuring 2 inches across set against deep green heart shaped leaves. All of the blossoms I have are borne on upright stems as you see and they are quite small, barely an inch across, with the admittedly heart-shaped leaves being a bit of a sickly looking green. Hm. Well, I am still going to draw this in my journal after all that work, but if I ever attempt to grow this again I will need to rethink the requirements of this plant and check to see if there are some cultivars with showier flowers. I’ll update this post when the journal drawing is done.
As promised I’m adding a Zinnia blossom to this month’s sketch.
I planted the California Giant Zinnias with the express purpose in mind to use them as subject matter for this project and my own personal journals as well. They’ve taken over the back corner of my yard with their cheerful exuberance after a very slow start. The first batch got mowed down immediately by either slugs and snails or earwigs. A second planting was more successful. Perhaps too successful.
And you can also see that I’ve been doing some embroidery at my drawing table. See the little green origami ort box and my tool block at the back. It’s dangerous when I start mixing metaphors and artistic pursuits. You never know what might happen next. I could put stitches in my artwork or paint on my needlework. Simply shocking!
Adding to this beautiful initial sketch and title page from Ellen Blonder made me very nervous at first, but then one of my botanical illustration buddies mentioned that if my sketch was, well, sketchier, that would actually help the person who comes after me on the exchange list. I think it was Lee McCaffree who said this. Thanks Lee! That simple thought was a game changer for me.
Remembering that while people had 2 months to create their initial pages, we are more likely to have just 2 weeks to get future sketches done and in the mail if we are to keep this project on time has helped me get back to basics and do what I love to do: walk out in my yard and sketch something that’s there that no one would notice if I didn’t sit down and draw it.
So here’s a branch from my Crape Myrtle that’s setting seed. Next I think I will add a zinnia blossom. I grew California Giants this year and they are giants! Here are a few posing with my vintage Kamaka Ukulele.
Of course the true giants are my 12 foot tall sunflowers! But they won’t fit in a 4″x 6″ sketchbook.
The garden continues to grow well. In fact, this photo is about a week old and now you really can’t easily walk between the tomatoes and the cucumbers or the cucumbers and the squash. Trellising cucumbers has its advantages, but it’s a lot of work to set up a trellis system and then keep training the plants up constantly, so the decision was made this year to let the cucumbers sprawl as Gary’s dad used to do. The pumpkins are also creeping into other rows in the back. I’d thought to train them into the back 40 there behind the garden, but they have a mind of their own and will not be trained.
We harvest daily and are getting crazy amounts of squash and cucumbers but nothing else so far. I did see one reddening tomato today and an eggplant that’s ready to stuff. I expect to pick that first garden-ripened tomato some time next week, making this a late year for tomatoes. But once they get going, watch out!
Here’s what I’m doing with the excess zucchini and cucumbers:
Cream of zucchini soup, hold the cream. This soup has only 4 ingredients: one onion briefly sautèed in olive oil, gobs of cubed zucchini, and salt. I throw all that in my largest stock pot and cook it down until the zucchini falls apart. Then after it cools for a bit, I purèe it with the immersion blender I borrowed from Laura and freeze it in my Souper Cube Trays before I vacuum pack it:
Come December I’ll be glad of these little reminders of summer deliciousness! For Gary, I’ve made traditional bread and butter pickles:
I personally am a dill pickle fan and I don’t know how to make those. But this recipe calls for 10 pounds of cucumbers and that pretty much cleared out the excess cucumbers from this week, so HOORAY! Maybe I will make one more batch this year. We’ve planted a second row of cucumbers so we’ll be in cucumber heaven until the end of September if no gophers hear about it. Mum’s the word.
Those first few barely mature zukes and summer squash are so wonderful just steamed and that’s on the menu for lunch today with a shrimp, avocado and cucumber salad for dinner. Tomorrow is the ultimate slow comfort food: stuffed vegetables featuring that round 8-ball zucchini you see in the basket, upper right.
Technical difficulties resolved so I give to you a portrait of my gardening overalls. With me in them. At the garden. Overalls are are having a fashion moment, actually, but possibly not these railroad stripe overalls from Duluth Trading Company with the neoprene knee pad inserts installed. Nothing is more comfy than a slightly too-large pair of overalls.
Comfort food and comfort clothing. I’m all in.
Five weeks after planting the corn is not as high as an elephant’s eye, but it’s growing! Notice some seed got dropped in a clump there in the middle. Thinning has never been my strong suit in gardening. Every seedling deserves its chance.
We’re growing corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash (8-ball for stuffing, Black Beauty and Yellow Summer), green beans, Thai eggplant and another variety of eggplant that was on hand when were at the nursery, 2 surviving shishito pepper plants and some struggling sunflower seeds. Please be aware that if you live nearby you may find orphan zucchini on your doorstep in a few weeks.
Our first pumpkin. Check back around Halloween.
That first tomato seems to take forever to ripen. These are Beefsteak. We also have Ace tomatoes in a nod to my gardening Grandpa Corbett and 2 Celebrity plants to replace some of the Ace plants that withered and died inexplicably. Come July Caprese Salad will be on the menu. Homemade Mozzarella might be in order. Excuse me while I go over to New England Cheesemaking Supply and read up on making Mozzarella.
You can find me in the early mornings in my red gardening shoes, gardening gloves, sun hat and railroad stripe overalls (birthday present to myself–with padded knees) wearing my gardening tool belt on a weed seek and destroy mission. I am particularly focused on ridding the area of the dreaded puncture vine. The weeds always win, but the battle must be joined nevertheless. Why is there no picture of me in my overalls? Technical difficulties. Really technical. Honest.
Setting out tomato plants and attending an A’s game on Mother’s Day are two of our favorite family traditions for celebrating the day. This year we decided to follow the gardening tradition.
As you can clearly see, Ryan wears 2 hats: berm raker supreme plus watering in expert.
Logan gets some expert gardening advice:
When not supervising, grandma carried water for everyone:
Water, dirt, kids and kids at heart. Nothing could be better to celebrate Mother’s Day!
Connor helps out:
As the song says:
Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow!
Assuming the gophers can be kept at bay. Stay tuned.
This is the view from my kitchen window. It’s a lot of unrelieved green and gravel and the roots of the shrubbery are so thick there is no planting anything under it, so I decided to add a little interest with pots. This project started last spring with bulbs. Ranunculus foliage is irresistible to whatever pests are lurking in those Cherry Laurels and the bulbs were mowed down as soon as they popped up. Next up: bacopa plants. They were not eaten alive, but neither did they thrive. Round 3: our one remaining helpful local nursery man says “I know just what you need.” And he may be right! Poppies, violas and Carex grass. That sparkle of white is just what I wanted. It makes me happy to look out and see this view.
This year I somehow managed to get a few more illustrations done in the spring section of the Nature Poetry book. This first page was done a while back in Three Rivers, if not in a covert then certainly in a meadow after walking over a clear stream strewn with mossy stones. And there were birds singing. 2 out of 3 spring-ish poetic allusions covered, not bad. Unlike Christina Rossetti, I am averse to sitting in coverts and lingering near mossy-stone stream beds with the ticks, mites, fleas and mosquitos. Decidedly unpoetic of me, I know.
The second is of our olive trees in bloom. There will not be follow-up illustrations depicting the development of the fruit since we (again, most unpoetically) sprayed the trees shortly after I finished the drawing below to prevent a crop from setting.
Like most commercial orchard crops, olives grown in a backyard are not properly cared for to produce anything that will rival what a pro who knows how to control the critical variables can grow, but that doesn’t mean the crop won’t be abundant and cause no end of nastiness come fall. If you want to press olive oil, you must withhold water for 3 weeks prior to harvest. I expect some similar admonition applies if you are trying to create olives with interesting flavor profiles for curing whole. Well, the rest of your landscape would not appreciate the stress this watering strategy causes and your HOA association might call on you to make sure you are not neglecting your landscape in violation of the CC and R’s. So, no olives are to follow the bloom.
Many years ago, I had an old olive tree situated between my garage and the adjacent orchard that must have been treated with just the right amount of benign neglect because come fall, the elderly Armenian ladies I didn’t even know would come knocking at my door toting buckets and asking to collect the olives from my tree. Silly me, I didn’t even think to request a lesson in the processing of olives from them back then and now, of course, they are all gone and their descendants never learned the fine art of home curing olives. There just might be a poem hiding in that situation.
Any road, the olive drawing really belongs thematically (for me) to the poem on the facing page where it would not fit visually: In a Spring Still Not Written Of, by Robert Wallace. So, at “double nickels,” I guess I have become one of those he mentions who has time for poems that really are not written for me, sigh.
Why do I refer to these illustrations I’m doing here as “cartooning?” One of my instructors in the Filoli Botanical Illustration Certificate Program refers to the linework in drawings like these as “cartoon lines” in a very dismissive way and points them out as something to avoid at all costs. That certainly doesn’t stop me from doing work in this style of colored drawing I enjoy so immensely, it only stops me from showing any of the work to them, ever again.
One of the requirements of any new home was that it have a place to grow violets. I guess the new house passes muster. This is the second display of this magnitude we’ve had since we moved here in February and some of these plants are still sending up new blooms stalks!
Check, check, check, check and check. As you might guess, there are a few other things to check off the list, but vegetables and violets are a very good start. We got the white raised planter boxes from New England Arbors. We’ll see come July how they perform for raising vegetables. We know the Tomato Boxes can raise great tomatoes because we’ve used them before. And there’s always the Farmer’s Market in case of crop failure on any front, but I do love putting vegetables on the table at noon that were still growing on the vine at half-past 11.