We’ve had a fairly mild winter this year in North Texas. No surprise, really, after the hottest summer on record. I was surprised to discover, however, that there are still a few rogue flowers trying to push out a few more blooms in the cooler temps. While playing with the dogs in the back yard the other day, a flash of golden orange appeared in the wildflower patch. I believe it’s Calendula, one of my favorite flowers from the summer.
Last spring I bought a packet of wildflower seeds and spread them out along a fence, along with some giant sunflower seeds. Of course it stormed a few days after I spread the seed, and a lot of them washed away. It was fun to see what flowers survived the deluge and would appear throughout the summer. There were quite a few Black Eyed Susans and Sweet Alyssum (which is also still blooming in January), but one of my favorites were the Calendulas. Their large, showy, dark green leaves are impressive on their own, and stand out amongst the more fragile wildflowers. The color of the flowers are a beautiful deep, golden orange.
The other flower that made a reappearance last week was a Blanket Flower, otherwise known as Arizona Sun. It’s trying really hard to bloom, but I think the cold nights were too much for it. It’s a little sad looking, especially in the rain.
This winter has been so mild, in fact, that I’m still able to grow lettuce in my vegetable garden. I’ve been covering them on cold nights with a sheet of clear plastic and, except for an attack of hungry caterpillars that nearly did them in, they’re growing splendidly. The bricks on the sides and down the middle are to gather heat during the day, but also to keep the plastic off the lettuce when it’s covered.
In my book, you can never have enough flowers in your life, so these unexpected rogue flowers were a real treat this week.
Michael and I are novice gardeners, living in the heart of the ninth largest city in the country. I like to call it kamikaze gardening at its best. Now that the weather has finally turned cool again and we can actually spend time outdoors without dying of heatstroke, my thoughts have turned to growing a winter garden.
In my continuing effort to eat healthier, last week I visited my local used bookstore for cookbooks. I was specifically looking for books on cooking vegetables. I found two really great books: Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables and Simply in Season. What I love about both books is that the recipes are set up by season, and go along with the things you might grow in your garden. I can’t wait to try out all the recipes.
After perusing both books, and realizing there are vegetables that actually grow during the cold months, I announced to Michael that we absolutely had to go to our local nursery and plant a winter garden. A few weeks ago we spent an entire day in the garden, cleaning up after The Hottest Summer on Record, and planting a row of loose leaf lettuce. Since we don’t usually have our first frost until the very end of November, we figured we might be lucky enough to get another crop of lettuce before it got too cold to grow anything.
In the spring we had planted a gazillion miniscule lettuce seeds, but a huge thunderstorm the very next morning washed all but seven tiny seeds away. I found seven little lettuce plants scattered around the garden a few weeks later and transplanted them back to their original bed. I nurtured them all spring like they were my children. Despite the dogs’ best efforts at trampling them to death (before we got smart and erected a fence), for a few weeks in spring we had the best lettuce I’ve ever eaten. Then the extreme heat took over and pretty much did them in.
On Saturday we went to the nursery and bought chives for the herb garden, three broccoli, three brussels sprouts, two spinach, and two arugula plants. Since we had done such a good job in the spring of mixing our own compost into the clay soil, planting the new vegetables didn’t take long at all. Hopefully we’ll have delicious winter vegetables from our very own winter garden a little later in the season.
I’ve always been somewhat of a “granola” type, but even I’m surprised by how much I love growing things. Flower gardening brings its own sense of fulfillment and creates beauty for the house, not to mention being good for the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, but growing our own vegetables and herbs is much more satisfying. I feel both self-reliant and Earth Mother-ish at the same time. Michael and I are making a serious effort to live more self-sufficiently, and this is a step in the right direction.