You know the vegetable garden is in business when things are climbing and they are. The Chinese Long bean or Asparagus bean has climbed to the top of the poles and the tomatoes are halfway there. The bean is something I know well, in fact its my favorite bean much nuttier and crunchier than regular beans. We've actually grown it here before, a few years ago I found some plants for sale in Chinatown. The seeds I grew them from this year are also from Chinatown from a few years ago.

The fastest growing tomato is as predicted the one from Noah both plum tomatoes but the others are starting to really get going, they are - Striped German, Japanese Black Trifele and Sweet Horizon. I got them all from Trina at Silver Heights farm at the Union Square market- she made the choices. I told her I really liked the Black Krim we grew last year from her and asked what she would reccomend to try this year given what she had at the time. I just love going to her stand and poring over the huge variety of things that she has and eavesdropping on all the recommendations she makes to her customers.

Speaking of Noah, I went back to visit his garden and this time he was there to tell me himself what was going on there, I'll have a post next week all about that. We came away with a large basil and a lemon grass he just happened to have extra lying around which went straight into the beds. Can't go up this week but when I do the following week it should be really something.

+ Occasional Oasis:A Tray of Plums

Black and Blue

This is a nice combination thats working out this year - a black Sweet Potato Vine and a Geranium Johnson's Blue. The photo doesn't really do it justice, the purplish hue in both of them makes the harmonious pairing very pleasing to look at. I've flipped between the lime and the black potato vines over the last few years and I'm not going to bother with the lime one again, there just too much of it when it gets going and the color is a little too strident. I'll be attempting to store the tubers over the winter this year after reading this post.

Golden Summer Fennel

I mean Bronze Fennel of course. I've been watching clips of old surf movies and some old video footage of a vacation I took in Big Sur many years ago - I've got golden and summer on my mind. When I saw that this photo had a huge lens flare in the upper left corner I decided to do a number on it tweaking the knobs until it sort of captured that vintage California light.

It wasn't so far removed from the truth here on the East Coast today, it was a beautiful summer day. We had a barbecue, ice cold wine and a salad with some of that fennel in it.

Garden Produce

Finally. I brought home a small bag of produce last week from the vegetable beds. Last year around this time I was complaining that things were still very green. This year things are a little more colorful. From the left red stemmed chard, next up golden sage and finally bok choy. The Chard and Bok Choy are the results of ongoing thinning and I also had a handful of young arugula leaves, one green Chili Pepper and they were all delicious. And did I mention that I grew them from seed. OK not the golden sage (although it did return of its own accord) but everything else - I'm verklempt, this is a moment of virgin accomplishment.

It started out as a disaster of dead seedlngs but I persevered and sowed seeds directly into the beds. I've kept it all quiet until now fearing the worst but here I am - eating seeded, grown vegetables. I'm now confident to declare more 'from seed' accomplishments - there are Chinese pole beans wrapping themselves merrily on the bamboo stakes and a row of okra doing pretty well too. Last week I planted three chitted yukon gold potatoes and sowed two rows of French Carrots.

Last week the workmen cleared out of the potting shed and Jim tells me that the old sink from the kitchen will be going in. We talked about putting in movable shelves and grow lights. A strange green supermutant power tingles and stirs in my fingertips.

Gone to Seed

My eyes always stray to the wilder edges of things in Central Park, where the mower can't reach or where things are purposefully left to just be. My stroll this time on a muggy cloudy day was rewarded with these two glorious sightings. In a blur of tall grass on the edge of a thicket, exquisite seed heads perfectly formed, like tiny little armadillos. Then, set against the dark backdrop of a wooded stream, these delicate plumes like white spiders.

What also interested me about them was how large and showy they were. Not your usual non descript hedgerow variety. Seed for thought for a garden situation. I've not really used any grasses only because I know so little about them but seeing this makes me want to put a little effort into learning a little more.

Update: image on left is Chasmanthium latifolium or Northern Sea Oats

+ Occasional Oasis:Down by the Water

Warmed up Gray

Orange Daylilies, crimson honeysuckle and achillea, bronze fennel seed heads, young lime hydrangea florets and dark bronze leaves from an unknown tree. This is what I found in the garden, and like the barbecue coals, and colorful array of dishes on the table, were a nice warm contrast to the gray drizzly day. Thankfully the weather left a dry window just big enough for Heidi and Jim's July 4th bash to happen as planned outside on the brand new patio. And then it poured and the kids donned rainwear to play with sparklers and watch the fireworks.

Through a Window.

Sometimes it takes a rainy day to make one aware of some of the other ways a garden is viewed. A wet Saturday spent intermittantly gardening and finding refuge in the house from the occasional shower is what led to the view you see above of the Hydrangeas distorted through a sheet of old window glass. The hydrangeas, after sulking last year are spectacular this year and intensely blue. Then I went upstairs above the walled beds and shot this image looking down through the screen with the climbing roses in the foreground.

There's one more window to contend with that had me hard at work on Saturday. The new kitchen/dining window that looks squarely onto the vegetable beds. Now that area has to look really, really good not only because the newly added window is there but a huge shrub that was in front of it has been removed. I was figuring out adding some pots and things- more on that when it looks a lot better than it does now.

Pastel Pretty

It's difficult not to associate pastels with pretty as in pretty in pink or Gertrude Jekyll's pretty pastel drifts. Or classical or romantic, so not surprisingly in my own efforts at color schemes I've been drawn to the more unusual. It was actually at Sissinghurst that I first encountered the idea you could color a garden in quite a radical way, and it wasn't the White Garden, it was the Cottage Garden.

It was particularly radical because it was a 'cottage' garden - traditionally a dreamy romantic, pastel picture. Instead, Vita used pungent, spice colors, oranges and yellows contrasted with dark yews, bronze fennel and the verdigris of a huge copper container. It was irreverent and genius. I saw it at the end of the day when the light darkened and softened everything. It glinted off the cottage windows and cast a dark and golden magic spell that I carry in my head in vivid detail to this day. If the rose garden started me off on the notion that gardening was really something I wanted to get into, then the cottage garden is the one, of all the gardens I have visited, that I have tried to emulate the most.

Not that I don't enjoy looking at pretty pastels in a garden in fact here are three great images from the past few weeks, a drift of pink achillea and a cloud of lemon yellow santolina billowing onto a path, both at Wave Hill. In Mamaroneck powder puff pink spirea and porcelain blue hydrangea greet visitors at the front of the house.

Adventures in Microgardening

OK microgardening may be a tad trendy to describe 'sprouting'. I like bean sprouts but I'm always wasting them- they perish so quickly, to the point I've avoided buying them. Why not I thought, it's all in keeping with the homegrown movement and the perfect activity for an urban apartment dweller.

There's a gazillion resources on the web, in particular youtube on how to do this so I'll just share with you the lessons learnt. Firstly bean sprouts are slightly bitter unless you grow them in the dark. Secondly eating bean sprouts along their path of development makes for interesting variety - just sprouted on day one is different from the long tailed version on day three. I'm on my fourth crop of Mung beans now and I love it.

I tried adzuki beans and failed miserably, erratic sprouting, some stayed hard and some got really mushy. I blame it on the beans- I need to get to a resource that sells them especially for sprouting. I'll also try other things like cress and sunflower seed then. In the meantime this and my window ledge 'produce' (more on that later) is surprisingly prolific and truly rewarding.

+ Occasional Oasis:Desire Path

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