A Garden in Bloom

Upon my return from a work trip to Tulsa I found that the weather was finally starting to shift for good from blustery to sun-shiney. This, of course, encouraged me to make an outing to the local garden supply locations. I had some of the seeds from what we plan to grow this year, but there were a few other items I knew I wasn’t going to start from seed…zucchini, borage, and marigolds, for starters.

I don’t generally buy or plant a lot of flowers in my garden pots. I’m much more a fruit/veg/herb grower, which means I primarily plant things that make tasty meals but rarely look as picturesque as, say, the lovely rose bushes or tulips I see adorning other houses. This doesn’t mean I dislike flower gardens. I just usually have to make a choice for which plants I want to devote my spare weeding and tending time to, and vegetables usually win out for the sole reason that I can eat them.

Plus, I admit to being particularly fond of the kinds of flowers you happen to stumble upon in your yard, instead of the kind you plant. Hardy little beasts that look beautiful, even if (maybe especially if) you didn’t plan for them to be there in the first place.

White bugleweed

White bugleweed

For instance, I am much enamored of these lovely beauties, which take up a significant corner of the backyard each spring. I’ve been carefully treading around the patches as I do some work around the new raised bed – though, honestly, they hold up pretty well when you step on them. I’m not the only one who seems to like them, either. Robert asked if we could just make the whole yard those flowers. I heartily agreed, but I’m of the mind that they have to make that conversion themselves. It seems they are well on their way.

[I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember what theIMG_0013 name of this plant was. I plucked two sprigs, one white and one purple, and Mom, Robert and I all searched online. We knew it was in the mint family because of the square stem, though it doesn’t have the typical mint scent when you pick it. After a bit of searching, we narrowed it down – bugleweed, also known as common bugle, carpet bugle, and ground pine. We also happen to have a lot of dead nettle growing around the yard – generally around some of the container garden sections – but I think the bugleweed is prettier. Sadly, our flower identification takes a little longer now…we used to just point something out to Dad, and he’d tell us what it was, how it could be used, and about five other names for each of them.]

This year, I’m actually making a few concessions to flowering plants within the garden plan. This year’s main experiment is companion planting. I’ve been paying closer attention to plants that do well together and am implementing some of these pairings in the garden this year. The main impetus for this decision was the desire to find natural ways to deter some of the pests that have been laying waste to my crops of late. In the interest of protecting my peas and green beans, I’m planting nasturtium and marigolds, and my two new borage plants should help fend off unwanted beetles who are burrowing into the squash plants. Yarrow has found its way to the garden this year, as well as some more lavender.

Of course, in keeping with my tradition of growing purposefully, each of these flowers also have another reason for their inclusion within the garden. While the marigolds are often remarked upon for their ability to keep out unwanted pests, they are also tremendously useful as a dye plant, and can be eaten in salads or used in tea. Yarrow, in addition to being pretty (I picked up both pink and yellow varieties), also attracts pollinators, has medicinal uses, and is used in natural dyeing. Borage tastes like cucumber, and the flowers make lovely, tasty additions to salads and refreshing water jugs. The leaves feature in some cuisines, and are also sometimes used in tea. Nasturtiums are often used in companion planting, to repel a number of pests, and can be eaten and used medicinally.

These will all join the ranks of the lavender, mint, rosemary (which flowered this year!) and stevia I already grow, rounding out my vegetable and herb gardens with additional color. The marigolds and borage have already found their place in the first raised bed.

IMG_0009Knowing I needed something for the sugar snap peas to climb this season, I set to work building this year’s trellis. In the past, we’ve used extendable plant cages, long sticks, and twine to hold everything up. They all did the job well, but didn’t necessarily look all that appealing. Inspired by my flowers’ dual nature of being beautiful and functional, I set to work building a new trellis. I cut three long sapling poles from some kind of tree-ish thing that keeps regrowing in the front yard (despite us cutting it down each year). These would form the three main supports along the back end. The same unknown tree thing also grows in two places at the back of the house, right next to the new raised bed (and outside my window, which means it scrapes against the glass when there are winds). I lopped young branches off of those ones, too, to form the other “walls” and supports.

A good deal of the trellis is actually held in place just by tension – different poles leaning against each other, and holding each other up. However, in the interest of making sure nothing collapses later in the season, I went ahead and used twine at all of the important joints.

I built most of the trellis by myself over a few hours on Saturday, while Robert was at work, but I went back and added a few more horizontal twigs on Sunday. This time, Robert watched as I braided the willowy ends of some of the sapling branches around the other supports. He is of the mind that we should try to build next year’s trellis without the aid of twine. I think I shall accept the challenge.

Everything has been planted in this bed...now we're just waiting for the seeds to germinate!

Everything has been planted in this bed…now we’re just waiting for the seeds to germinate! And yes, my little plant labels are made out of plastic spoons and forks.

This is where the different skill sets Robert and I have work together beautifully. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t build something as even and straight as the garden beds he built – especially the second bed he’s building…that thing has to make all kinds of different concessions for the wonky slope of the yard on the side yard. However, you can hand me a bunch of random sticks and poles and I will weave you a trellis like nobody’s business.

Of course, I’m not going to claim that the first trellis is necessarily beautiful and perfect…It’s not entirely symmetrical, and there are one or two things I would do differently for the next one. But for a first try, I’d say it’s not too bad. It’ll do the job well and it gave me an opportunity to make use of materials that would otherwise find itself into a lawn refuse bag.

I am looking forward to making two more trellises for the remaining garden bed. They will each span a smaller area, since the other bed will be divided in half, but I’ll still be building it to go around corners. My green beans will go on those ones.

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