Summer Comes to a Close

September is here and the gardening season is ending. Each year, our garden brings happiness, beauty, successes, failures and serendipity to my life. For the past four years, we have entered the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s City Garden Contest. Three times, we won third prize for best individual combination garden. This year, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to enter, but we had a new patio installed with salvaged brick and slate. A huge project, but in the end, beautiful.

Anyway, last Friday we learned that we won first prize! Even though the prize is the same as third place- tickets to the flower show, I’ll admit, it feels good.

Here’s a loose run-down on what we tried this year:

I tried and failed at moss painting my house. I was inspired by these and other images:

I think that I didn’t paint in a place that was wet enough. Oh well.

The early mustard greens and purslane gave us tart and spicy cleansing salads during springtime. The kale was eaten by aphids, but this was an amazing tomato year. Each one, tasting better than the next. The Persian cucumbers were thin skinned and delicious. Eric chose not to make pickles this year, so we ate them (endlessly) in salads and soups. The dragon beans were a total flop, so I replaced them with wax and green beans, which are just yielding now. Of course, in a city garden our size, we get about four beans a day. Not enough for a meal, but enough for a nice snack. The fig tree has been in overdrive and so has my dehydrator trying preserve the harvest. The passion vine bloomed its crazy outer space flower and then proceeded to grow and choke everything in its path. Ditto the morning glories. I think I’m over them.

We were successful with our purple potato planter, getting enough for 3-4 meals. The chard and lovage went into a succession of frittatas. The beets and eggplant just didn’t work out this year.

The most magical garden event this year wasn’t in the vegetables. We planted burgundy sunflowers. In the past, we tried the giant girasols, only to have them beheaded by the squirrels, leaving us with 12-foot high stalks. These only grew to about 8 feet, and then, two golden finches established residency, feasting on the seeds daily. We’ve had a cardinal for years, but the sight of these sweet yellow birds filled me with joy every time they reappeared.

The pleasure of the birds has lead me to re-think my priorities in the garden: I only want vegetables that will grow enough to make several meals. It seems silly to spend so much time and water to barely harvest more than one meal. I want more flowers: Sunflowers so that the finches return. Red ones to attract hummingbirds. Flowers that leave seed heads and dried foliage to create winter interest.

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