Saturday, June 27, 2009

Catching Up!

I've been lazy just lately, not only because I've been distracted by politics and duties, but also just because it's been damn hot, and I've felt more like sitting around drinking cold things than doing garden stuff!

In Seattle, June and early July were the real peak times in my garden. Here it's earlier, and now that things are getting good and hot; the ephemerals are done, and I'm mostly keeping busy just trying to keep up with watering.

In the flower garden, the Lavatera I call "ex-Barnsley" is going great guns, and is considerably taller than I am. I say "ex" Barnsley because I bought Lavatera "Barnsley" years ago in my Seattle garden and for two or three years it produced the pale pink, dark-centered flowers. But sometimes this variety reverts back to it's original form, a much more uniform pink. I got my start early in the spring and didn't know it had reverted until later, but no matter, I still like it even if I probably would never have actually bought it. The pink flowers keep coming for a weeks and weeks, standing out against the small dark green leaves. It's quite drought-tolerant to boot.

The sweet peas are on their last legs now. This is the first year I've ever been really successful with them and it was worth the extra effort. I grew two old varieties: Cupani, a bicolor pink that was among the first to be grown in Europe, and Matucana, reputed to be the closest to the original species. Both are known for their exceptional fragrance. They certainly lived up to the hype; I brought a few flowers of "Matucana" (L), and they soon overwhelmed me on the table where I was working, so they went across the room! Now there is one forlorn pink flower left, and lots of seed pods. The stink bug can't be getting much of a meal from the almost-dry pods, so he must just be here for the exposure.

The big old magnolia tree is in full bloom, and though it's a bit scruffy and the old yellowing blooms still hang on, but a newly-opened magnolia is a beautiful thing to behold.

Down below, an enormous old canna is in full bloom. I used to hate cannas. With their banana-like foliage, they just seemed not to fit anywhere in Iowa where I grew up. The real problem was what they were planted with, or not planted with. Ours is a variety of the "indian shot" canna, named for its rock-hard seeds. It's not as flamboyantly showy as some of the hybrids are, I like it. They are incredibly easy to propagate from seed, you need to scarify them (I use a steak knife to get past the hard black seed coat) and soak them in water overnight. Once they sprout they develop very quickly. I started a few this spring, and out of eight, one came up with red leaves so it was a keeper.

The other thing in full bloom is the sunflowers. They have an interesting personality, there's somethign old-fashioned about them, and they always make me think of a bunch of old pioneer women standing around gossiping. I don't remember what the variety was, but it's a mixture of various colors with branching stems. There were supposed to be pinks and whites in there but mine all range through yellows to reddish browns. The other thing they don't do is face the sun; they look any way they feel like. I didn't plant a single one on purpose; they are all volunteers from the ones I grew last year.

Just like last year, I had a crowd of five-foot ones, and a single very tall one (as in about 8 feet) with a very dark center and smaller petals in relation to its large center. It has a slightly different habit than the others as well; while the shorter ones tend to set new buds close together, this one makes more of a "boquet" of flowers each on its individual long stem.

It's really a little late for Nigella but for some reason mine got off to a late start. So they are blooming all over the place and I'm humoring them with water, but the tallest one is a foot or so tall. Next year they'll volunteer on their own time.

The Daturas are some of my favorite night-bloomers. Not sure which one this is, either metel or wrightii. The plant is perennial here, coming back from the roots each spring. The enormous white flowers open just before dusk, and when several open at once, the fragrance fills the entire garden.

Last on today's list is Amaranth "Hopi Red Dye," which I've been growing for several years now. I abuse it, otherwise it would a lot larger. When it's happy, it can get up to five feet tall, but when they grow in the flower garden with mostly drought-tolerant plants, they rarely get over two feet tall, and grow in nice mid-sized clumps. Like most amaranths the leaves are edible, though I prefer the local wild green one for eating, and will talk about them in the next post.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On a Non-Gardening Subject

It's been a while since I've added anything to my blog; the reason is that though my garden has not gone anywhere, my thoughts have been elsewhere, namely in our neighbor to the east, Iran. I've had good friends from and in Iran ever since the 70s, witnessed how they have been affected by an oppressive government, a revolution, a war, more oppression, renewed hope and bitter disappointment. It has been with a mixture of fascination, horror and hope that I've followed recent events there. In this spirit I share this open letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, and hope you will consider signing it as well.

To: To the people of the world!

Open letter to Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations


To the leaders of the Free World

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Noble Ladies and Gentlemen; heads of the democratically elected governments of the world,

Over the past few days, following the fraudulent Iranian presidential “elections”, the entire world has been witnessing the uprising of the freedom loving people of Iran against deception, injustice and tyranny of the rulers of the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian people have been demonstrating their outrage against their repressive rulers by the millions and in epic levels throughout Iran. After 30 years of oppressive and despotic rule by the clerics, the great and heroic people of Iran are now determined not to allow their intelligence to be insulted any longer and have decided that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and are unequivocally calling for an end to the tyrant rule of the clerics in Iran. The Islamic rulers and the clergy not only have no respect for the will of the Iranian people, but have demonstrated their truly fascist essence by resorting to the most barbaric and inhumane crack downs on people’s peaceful demonstrations.

In their quest for achieving their goal, which is for a free, democratic and secular Iran, the Iranian people are being confronted by the most brutal and barbaric attacks by the state police, security forces and armed thugs organised by Ahmadinejad’s government. Thousands of protestors have been brutally assaulted and beaten up and many have been killed in the most vulgar manners during the peaceful rallies in Tehran and other major cities.

There are hundreds of pictorial evidences recorded on still and movie cameras showing the barbaric behaviours of the Islamic Republic’s security forces, which in time shall be presented to the International Courts of Law as hard evidence in order to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. The ultimate responsibility of these crimes will be put upon the rulers of the regime, in particular, Mr. Khamenei himself; the so called “Supreme Leader”!

We, the undersigned, draw your immediate attention to the following:

• Any State with such measures of brutality and savagery against its own people can not possibly be tolerated and hence be worthy of recognition by the world community.

• At these critical moments, the Iranian people need the support of the world community who have been watching the ongoing events in Iran with dismay.

• The free and democratic nations can not possibly tolerate such barbaric behaviours of a repressive state against the will its own people.

• The Islamic Republic of Iran has been and continues to be in gross and intolerable violation of all international conventions to which they are party to and have been signatory to adhere to.

• After the recent events in Iran, and the barbaric response of the Islamic government to the protestors in the aftermath of the rigged “elections”, the world community can not possibly consider the Islamic Republic’s government as the true and legitimate representative of the great Iranian nation.

• We demand the United Nations to expel the Islamic Republic of Iran from the United Nations and void its membership in protest for its blatant violation of human rights in Iran. There are hundreds of undeniable pictures and video clips to substantiate this fact.

• Equally well, we ask all the Free States and governments of the world to expel the Islamic Republic’s so called “Diplomats” from their countries and to close down its embassies in their respective countries to show their denunciation of Islamic Republic’s inhumane behaviour against its people and to support the legitimate demands of the freedom seeking people of Iran.

We expect the free world community to stand beside the Iranian people during these critical times and to show their support for their freedom seeking struggle during these decisive moments.


The Undersigned

To sign the petition, click here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lost and Found! / Kayıp Eşya Bölümü

Finally, a post on something that smells good!

Fragrance is one of the most important elements to me in the garden. I grow plants based on lots of merits - color, form (I don't much like double flowers), leaf form and habit, but I'm always a sucker for something that smells good!

In my Seattle garden, one of my favorite plants for fragrance was Night-Scented Stocks (Matthiola bicornis). I'd read of this plant several times and thought "that sounds interesting, I ought to try it some time," but for years never did. When I finally got around to it and the first few flowers opened and filled the garden with a sweet-coconutty fragrance, I decided I'd never be without it again. The only downside is that while the plant is not outright ugly, it's insubstantial and straggly, and the flowers droop during the day. But I really should get some more seed of it nontheless.

Several years ago I was visiting my friend Souzana on the island of Naxos in Greece, and we took a trip up to the northern coast. On a bank by the sea there was a huge stand of a Matthiola with substantial light purple flowers atop robust plants with heavily wavy gray leaves. There was not even a trace of scent, but I suspected they might be night fragrant, and asked a local girl who was collecting them if they smelled at night. "Nope" she said. I didn't believe her, so I collected as many of the matured seed pods as I could find, and we also got a boquet of the flowers for good measure.

As soon as it got dark, they poured out a sweet, candy-like fragrance that literally filled the room. I got to work splitting the long seed pods and scraping the seed out onto a sheet of paper, collecting the seeds in a shot glass. It was slow work and I was the last to bed.

In the morning I got up and went into the kitchen. The shot glass was gone. Souzana had been tidying up and unaware of the treasure the glass held, she had dumped the seeds out. Aaaaaaaarrgh! There was no chance of going up and collecting more; we didn't have a car and there was no public transport.

However there was some good news - Souzana had not dumped the seeds into the garbage, but into the container where she put all the peels, cores and old leaves destined for her compost pile.

The next spring, the seeds came up all over her vegetable garden, and she recognized them and let several plants grow, then sent me seed from those. I suspect that they may have hybridized a bit with other stocks there, but they have the same night-only fragrance and grow beautifully in Istanbul. Though they don't fill the air quite like the homely little night stocks did, the remain an important component in the general fragrance of my evening garden.