Posts tagged Jennifer Salazar

As autumn officially arrives later this month, I’ve begun taking stock of our summer kitchen garden and the lessons learned in tending to its needs. I measure success by how close I’m able to provide a feast such as this aspirational bounty. It might be a lofty dream, but I retackle the challenge each spring with optimism.

Alas, I’ve fallen short yet again. Tis the fate of the kitchen garden of this landscape architect! But yet, there were many lessons learned, and even a few successes:


Right now my geraniums – potted flowers rooted in memories of my Grandmother’s backyard in San Bernardino – are blooming profusely. This plethora of deep color pollinated with nostalgia keep these flowers in my backyard near the kitchen garden.


Only one tomato plant thrived to provide a number of sweet cherry tomatoes this season. And even now, though there are still plenty of fruit on its vines, the leaves have begun turning yellow. The other three tomato plants grew lovely green leaves, but also sprouted fruit with blossom end rot, producing inedible fruit. Ugh! Seems cherry tomatoes are less susceptible to this rot (and are full of delicious flavor!).


A summer garden mainstay, our towering drying sunflower blooms continue to provide food for local birds and squirrels.


The marigolds add some spots of bright color in the garden, while the watermelon continues to flower and set fruit. And what tasty fruit they have produced on their long vines! I will definitely plant more again next spring.


Though notably early in the season, some pomegranates fruiting on our huge shrub look ready for harvest already.


I’m pleased to report of a small, yet notable victory: I finally got a basil plant to flourish! Usually it’s dead within a couple of weeks. But I think I found a semi-shaded spot next to the French and Mexican tarragon plants where the basil seems to thrive. Each of these herbs provide a renewable culinary resource to cut to use while cooking – adding fantastic flavor and aroma to every dish – growing back again and again.


This was my attempt to get a creative shot from underneath our dwarf Meyer lemon tree looking up into its canopy. Periodically, I’ve been able to harvest fruit from its branches this summer, but I’m expecting an even bigger harvest this winter.

I’ve also come to the pragmatic conclusion that I need to install drip irrigation system on a timer to keep everything watered sufficiently. By the end of summer, I undoubtedly grow tired of dragging around the hose every very hot morning!

All photos by Jennifer Salazar

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.

Rosemary with sunflowers

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.

Meyer Lemon panoramic

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.

Single sunflower

Eaten sunflower leafThere 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.”

Eastern beds

From ground level Missing or dead tom seeds Only-surviving-pumpkin-sprout Tom seedlings with sunflowers Toms_sunflowers plan

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.