I began this draft to gloat & to tease our family & friends in the East & Midwest a bit, because we still had the gift of numerous lingering blooms to show off even at winter solstice in our soggy garden.
We had rather warmish weather last autumn, even as we have slogged through a very soggy December, but even that did not completely squelch the gift of lingering blooms at Solstice in our garden.
A bit earlier the leeks began to bloom a bit contorted under the overhanging kale & we continue to enjoy this “arrangement”
Perhaps it visually exemplifies the chaotic times in which we’ve been living for the last three late summer/autumnal months while we were enduring the maddening schedule of the painters, whose blithe ignorance of civility left us stranded inside their messes during the season we would ordinarily most enjoy our outdoor living spaces, and share them with Covid-protected friends.
We are finally liking the result of radically changing colors & tone even as it has altered the character of our house with its previously rather raw yellow, more weathered, cedar siding story. It has become something more “stately” & certainly more grounded. Which welcomes this soggy season.I’ve been fantasizing adding a stripe on the foundation of the same blue as the rocking chair Stephen prepped to live on the deck of his writing cottage:
Impulsively, as he does, Stephen planted sunflowers quite late… with a prayer which was answered, if a bit raggedly in December.Calendula, a visual cousin, is a long-time edible favorite. But… a new variety grown this year is too raucously colored & spiky in configuration for my taste… I will have to weed it out… or learn to love it!
Another golden colored bloom with which we hope toward a similarly eventual problem of proliferation… the California poppy which reseeded this year in an unlikely shady spot on the north side of the house… In the Northwest our seasons are less a deterrant than in the rest of the country, our climate being distantly touched by the Japan current out in the Pacific… albeit a hundred miles away… & with the Cascades, a fair mountain range, protecting the benignity of our in-between… deep in the lower Puget Sound, which is a fjord, whose jagged shoreline follows the topography of another submerged mountain chain wallowing in a backwater… all on a rather grand scale!Below the dead stems in this photo is the new growth of Cardoon, a French relative of the artichoke which blooms a striking blue-purple thistle not really edible. The stems of the leaves can be cooked… but they are not a favorite on our table.Blooms of light reflected on the windows of the city across the water are favorites during sunsets…Such blossoms are also treasured in our garden!
Various varieties of kale will feed us through the winter, even though they are almost a year old, being all spring-planted & having survived the summer heat. I might have acquired later, younger plants from the nursery when they were available, but that was right when we were beginning to become involved with the painting project which was supposed to take only 3 weeks instead of 3 months.Lacinato is one of our favorites, sometimes marketed as “dinosaur kale;” it has a gorgeous deep green color & a texture with rich flavor.
Mache is an early green which can begin to sprout from seeds I try to get sown all around the garden to grow wherever it wishes. It has a unique nutty flavor & is a favorite addition to salads… but, even better all alone when there is enough.
The last & most dramatic harvest from the Solstice period is mashua, a variety of nasturtium which is a Peruvian root crop. It becomes a beautifully vigorous vine with small late blossoms, all of which are edible, but the tubers are spicy & fun to eat raw & sliced thin, like a “winter radish’, but some folk do not like it at all! When cooked in a stir-fry or roasted it becomes soft & almost sweet. It is another unusual favorite I came to know in Sonoma County.
Solstice is the true holiday I celebrate at the year’s turning. It punctuates the gardening season with a sigh of closing & a new breath to begin, or continue, the annual cycle, so I leave this to share in the second part the beginnings of spring in the garden…