The first thing I noticed when I got home was how much better my soil is here - things had really taken off! My last place had soil so poor that Verbena bonariensis was even hard to convince to grow... Salvia sclarea turkistanica was one of the few things that always performed well no matter what. Now everything is going great guns. One fun surprise - my Hermodactylus tuberosus had set seed. Also known as snakeshead iris, this iris family member has long been one of my favorite plants - what it lacks in blatant showiness it makes up for in form and just plain weirdness. The seed pods are odd as well - unlike actual iris pods, they hang down, and are open before the seeds actually ripen.
Oh...and Verbena bonariensis is doing great...do I really want to inflict that plant upon Istanbul?
I could mention something about the wildlife here. I haven't heard martens yet but they must be around. The scorpions in my garden are different from those in my last place - they are a lot larger and nearly black. I found this one my first day working in the garden. I know it's a Euscorpius species but I don't know which one. But like the others, the large claws and small tail is a good indication that it's not a dangerous one.
I seem to have a "mystical connection" to scorpions. When I moved into my last place, I wanted to see a scorpion and searched around but no luck. So I just let it go, and the next morning one had fallen into my sink. That summer, I told the story to a friend in Greece. "I've lived on the island for 6 years and I know we have them here, but I've never seen one," she said. Two minutes later she went to the bathroom and I heard her gasp. "What is it?" I asked. There was a scorpion in her sink; the same kind, same size, same colors, as the one that had slipped into my sink. What are the odds? Since then, they've seemed to pop up on special occasions - a visit by a good friend, a fun party at the house... So when I see a scorpion, I like to think of it as a sign that that the serendipity mechanism of the universe is in good order. When I was in Seattle, I showed a friend, a professional entomologist, this picture and he told me he'd love a specimen. He told me how to put it down mercifully (death by Frigidaire) and preserve it in alcohol. So I wasn't too surprised when one came out as my housemate was hosing down the steps. But I did not like the way I felt as I put the jar into the freezer. The American Indians thanked the buffalos when they made a kill. So I'll thank the scorpion spirits and ask their forgiveness...it will be the last one I kill!
Back to plants. One plant that was in full bloom when I got back was Campanula rupestris. This is a plant I've grown for many years. I've collected seed a couple times in Greece, where it tends to grow in the cracks in stone walls, plastering itself flat on the wall, with tightly spaced flowers. It grows well in garden soil too but when the soil is good, it has an entirely different habit - wide and rangy. It's pretty that way too but not nearly as nice as the vertical carpet. So when this one goes to seed, I'm planning to see if I can't seed it into the holes in the retaining wall behind the garden.
One common complaint about gardening here is the lack of interesting plant material on the market. On one hand it's a challenge the spurs me to grow more natives (and now that I have a laptop, I hope to be able to do more trips and keep up with my work). But sometimes I'm still just surprised at what is absent from the markets here. Certain plants are really popular here because of color (petunias, geraniums, impatiens), fragrance (jasmine, african jasmine, stocks) or both. Some plants seem to fit local tastes perfectly but have never been heard of. One of those is Nicotiana alata, or "jasmine tobacco." I'm determined to get more people growing this, and since everyone I've given it too has gone crazy over it, it should not be difficult. It's beautiful, it's fragrant, and it grows on balconies as well as any petunia. And, in Istanbul at least, it's firmly perennial. While people in much of the US are nursing along seedlings, my Nicotianas here are already in full bloom. A second-year Nicotiana can be an amazing sight - last year one came through the very mild winter unscathed, formed a steadily growing pyramid a meter and a half high, and when it finally came into bloom, there were easily several hundred blooms open on any given night. It even seeds about, though very sparingly. Not like Verbena bonariensis. I still have my doubts about that one...is it destined to become the knapweed of Turkey, covering the roadsides in a purple haze for miles? I did see seed of it the other day in the garden center of a local Home Depot-style store, so if it does, at least it won't be my fault!