Sunday, July 30, 2006


There are few events a gardener looks forward to more than the taste of the first homegrown tomato of the summer. It's the herald of things to come, of walking out to the garden in pajamas, barefoot, to pick a juicy ripe tomato and eat it on the spot, before coffee, even. It's even more exciting here on Tiger Mountain when that first tomato ripens in July.

Alas, the plant that offered up the season's first is one that was given to me this spring by a fellow gardener who was excited about the health benefits of a tomato with "50% more lycopene!". Sorry, but I eat tomatoes because they taste good, not because they are good for me, and I've had tastier tomatoes from the supermarket.

Compared to their decision to close the Heronswood Nursery this year, creating this tasteless fruit is a relatively minor crime on the part of Burpee & Co., but still. . . what were they thinking?!?!?
Let the gardener beware. 'Health Kick' from Burpee is not something you want to waste your time with.

Pollen Party

One of the hollyhocks fell over the other day, and the bees took advantage of the gravity assist to party on the pollen until they passed out. When I nudged one of them to see if they were even alive, it buzzed sleepily and burrowed even further into the flower.

Friday, July 28, 2006


There's just nothing cuter than a baby chick, even when it's not wearing a yarmulka.

Miracle in the hen house

Forget visions of the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, or Christ Himself revealing his profile on the surface of a tortilla. When a chick emerges from the egg wearing a yarmulka, that's gotta' be a sign of something, right?

Monday, July 24, 2006

This Melon's Life

Coming along nicely. A few other assisted melons made it, perhaps 1 in 10. Better yet, the bees showed up last week and are taking care of business.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Tomato Contest of Dr. Charles

Above: Health Kick
Below: Super San Marzano

Below: Brandywine
Not shown: Prudens Purple, which still hasn't set fruit

Dr. Charles has a tomato contest going, and I loves me some competition, even in contests where all odds are against me. Growing tomatoes, for example. I live in the foothills of the central Cascades. Even in July night time temps are typically in the 40s, low 50s. Getting even the short season, Siberian varieties to ripen takes constant vigilance and nurturing. And guess who forgot to plant any short season, Siberian varieties this year? I got too carried away with starting plants from some packets of seeds I had lying around, and one thing led to another and I ended up with a bed plus a planter full of paste tomatoes, and long-season heirloom varieties. Plus it's a good six weeks past the start of the contest. Still, any excuse to post pictures of my tomatoes, which are doing surprisingly well under the circumstances. I'll consider this my baseline against which my finish in future competitions can be compared. And if the good doctor considers adding an underdog category, I am so in!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

ART for melons

I'm trying to grow melons this year for the first time since moving to this chilly climate. As with my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, melons need to be grown under cover to have any chance bearing fruit. But the problem with the greenhouse is that bees are reluctant to enter, or at least bees are reluctant to enter mine, even with the doors thrown open wide, because they can smell the spray I used to take out a wasp nest in there, weeks ago. At any rate, I got tired of seeing female buds form:

And then shrivel and drop off:

I tried using a camel hair brush to transfer pollen gently from the male blossoms, but that didn't work. Clearly my reluctant melons needed a more aggressive approach, assisted reproductive technology, if you will.

Notice the tiny green stem protruding from the center of the female blossom in this photo? It's a male blossom, stripped of its petals and literally stuffed inside the female.

I feel like such a perv, doing this over and over. . .
But 48 hours after this adventure in fertility, this one hadn't shriveled up yet.

And 4 days later, it's looking real good:

Stay tuned. I'm off to breed more tasty little melons.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Happy Birthday E.B. White

It's the birthday today of the man who gave us Charlotte's Web and The Elements of Style. More personally for me, it's the birthday of the man who taught my daughters to read, and who taught me to write.

Charlotte's Web was how I introduced my daughters to "chapter books", as they called them, when I could no longer stand reading 20 2o-page books in a row as soon as I felt they no longer required pictures to hold their interest during our marathon reading sessions. They loved Trumpet of the Swan also (and both eventually forgave Mr. White for Stuart Little, which they hated) but it was their love for Wilbur that help motivate them to teach themselves to read at an early age. They literally wore out those first chapter books, and the tattered ones remain on their bookshelves alongside their worn, but less tattered, replacements, cherished souvenirs of that magical time when printed words first came alive for them.

E. B. White did not have a place on our bookshelves when I was growing up, unfortunately. I discovered Mr. White as the other half of Strunk & White, and I've been through as many copies of The Elements of Style as my daughters have of Charlotte's Web. And, come to think of it, TEoS has much of the same sense of wonder and beauty that made CW such a joy to read aloud.

How to honor the memory of the man who gave us Wilbur and Charlotte? I guess the least I could do is to refrain from eating pork today.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's not mock anything

Too pretty to be called "mock orange". It's real Philadelphus coronarius variegata.

And finally, the rose

'Pegasus' is a David Austin rose. It does horribly here on Tiger Mountain, sometimes losing 90% of its leaves to black spot and going into sulks over the least extreme of temperature and humidity. It's useless as a cut flower and not particularly attractive as a shrub. The fragrance is slight. In short, it lacks just about everything I expect from a rose. But on its good days, like this one, I can forgive every shortcoming.

Happy Returns

Like Stella d'Oro, but a softer shade of yellow.

Still Life with Daylily

This is h. 'Mexican Maid', trying out a new home with the alstromeria and heuchera.

You say Vera Bigelow and I say Vera Biaglow

My sister gave me this daylily. She calls it 'Vera Bigelow', but I've been unable to find any mention on the internet of such a cultivar. There is, however, a 'Vera Biaglow'. She still maintains it's Bigelow and I know enough not to argue with an older sister, especially not one who shares her daylilies and hostas with me.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I'll see your daylilies, and raise you a rose or two

Some of my favorite garden bloggers are posting pix of their favorite daylilies. While my flower beds are far too chaotic to show themselves to the public, I can do close-ups.

Siloam Double Classic.

Economics 101: The Price of Despair