All photos by Jennifer Salazar
I cannot speak for all landscape architects, but I think many of us found our way to the profession initially through a shared passion for plants. Large trees with their huge trunks and long branches are inspiring for their longevity – beyond so many human lifetimes. Tiny, dainty pansies, mere inches tall are so beautiful with their lively colors. And then there are all the plants in between: flowering vines with lovely smells, colorful orchids with stunning shapes, and my favorite – the ones that provide us culinary spoils – herbs, seeds, and produce.
Back in January, I posted about our backyard kitchen garden. Well, I am back with an update. As they say, it’s the cobbler’s children who don’t have shoes! My dreams were of a lush, overflowing garden of kitchen ingredients that I could use as an endless pantry all summer and autumn for backyard fêtes, like those seen in magazines.
My garden has since offered a few culinary treats thus far. My biggest challenge is keeping everything watered after planting while the roots are getting established. In the usual morning rush, I often leave the house without watering newly planted plants and seeds, causing them to prematurely perish during warm or hot days.
I remember joking one time with others in my profession that it’s not that landscape architects are superior plant people. Instead we tend to know which varieties are lower maintenance because we spend so much time at the office working on OTHER people’s plants and gardens instead of our own.
Since January the sugar snap peas have grown up the cages. I left them on the vine beyond their time to enjoy the shells too – shelled and frozen for a lovely, fresh, and crisp side dish for Easter supper with the family. After the peas, I planted tomato seeds on two different cage enclosures, caging two “wild” tomatoes that began to grow in another kitchen bed. I think some of the tomato seeds died because they were not watered, OR perhaps they were picked up by the small resident birds in our neighborhood that we see every morning foraging for food in our backyard.
There is also one wild sunflower that miraculously continues to grow upward. I say “miraculously” because the smallest birds perch on the plant’s lowest stems and eat the leaves! When I witnessed this behavior last year, I believed an aggressive worm or family of worms were eating the plant’s leaves. But, lo and behold, one day I caught sight of the little brown birds perched on the swaying leaf petiole, each picking away at the green leaf. I feel okay that these plants are being eaten by another creature that truly needs them if I do not get to them first. Thus, my culinary kitchen has doubled up into a wildlife food source, and it’s really not so bad (at least I am not feeding pigeons!).
There have also been so many other successes since January: more Meyer Lemons continue to ripen, fantastic for making fresh squeezed lemonade, whole lemon bars (recipe from the Smitten Kitchen), and generous amount for homemade lemoncello. A new single sprig of Mexican Tarragon survives amongst my other French specimens. A whole row of sunflowers have – despite bird nibbles – continued to reach upward to the sky, with a single pumpkin growing larger and establishing a couple of heavy leaves. We’ll always have the perennial rosemary, attracting the happy buzzing song of industrious bees, and oregano and mint contained in their containers, thank goodness. And the pomegranate has many promising blooms and flowers now, promising another autumn batch of homemade grenadine.
In thinking about my garden in part and in its entirety I am reminded of Alexander Pope’s famous poem, Essay on Man:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”
Like the unending cycle of the seasons, so too do my hopes and dreams of edible plants continue to evolve every year as I look forward to the coming seasons, aware that Mother Nature’s cycles do not wait for anyone. Not even a very busy landscape architect.