Garden Report: November 20

It's been a while since I showed you what's happening in the garden.

In the winter, the ripening fruit is mostly citrus. Our citrus trees have been slow to mature because I mistakenly thought they were xeric once established. In fact, to fruit they need a lot of water, and they have been doing much better since I set them up with their own excessive irrigation.

Lemons on the variegated lemon tree

This year our variegated lemon is finally heavy with real fruit. This is a non-issue for us since about every other yard in California has a lemon tree planted in it so we almost never buy lemons, anyway, but it's nice to have our own. Plus, these are not Meyer lemons, which are terrific for lemonade but not as sour as I'd prefer for other cooking.

Asian pears

We have the tail end of Asian pears right now; they come in about the same time as apples but last better on the tree, so we store them there, where they just get sweeter and sweeter.

Passionfruit ripening

And the passionfruit are just starting to ripen; the skin of the oldest fruit is turning purple. They stay on the vine until they fall off on their own, at which point we bring them in and let them sit until the skin wrinkles, which is when they are ready to eat. Cut them open, scoop out the seedy goo in the middle. Num. And we have more of them this year than ever before.

Alpine strawberry

We get alpine strawberries all year round. I am kind of confused by this because I assumed they were a more primitive strawberry, and thus of the type that bears one crop a year. But they just sit there and flower all year round, no intervention from me. The fruit is tart and sweet and floral. Amazing. I am very very slowly saving them in the freezer to make one perfect cup of jam.

Flower buds on the viburnum

The thing that surprises people who garden in more traditional climates is that now is one of the two times of year when things come into bloom. When it doesn't rain (usually) from April to November, there's not much a plant can do in the interim other than hunker down and try to make it through. This has been an exceptionally wet year, so things bloomed most of the summer, but that's unusual.

Airy bachelor's buttons and salvia semiatrata

The Gomphrena decumbens ("airy bachelor's buttons") is going kind of mad out front, lots of little tiny bright purple flowers. More subtly, you can see a single flower stalk from the Salvia semiatrata coming up behind it (at the center top).

Chinese houses

I went to Annie's last weekend and picked up some California natives and poppies -- the sort of thing it's good to plant in the fall, when the ground is wet and they will have months of chilly weather to put in roots and get ready for spring. This is one called "Chinese houses," presumably for some racist reason, though they are very pretty flowers. You can see the self-sown California poppy coming up in the lower right. Those are everywhere right now.

Poppy area

I made a poppy area for the more traditional "oriental" poppies (garden names are just filled with casual racism, aren't they? Sometimes it's downright embarrassing to be a gardener). They're planted around the base of the crabapple tree, and I hope they get nice and big and make a good show in the spring. Poppies are often a little disappointing if not planted in great masses, because they are such tall flowers they they sometimes look a little out of place alone.

Salvia 'Orchid Glow'

Right next to them, the 'Orchid Glow' salvia is doing very nicely. This one is very popular with our hummingbird population, and should be more so as the winter progresses. Salvias will keep at least a few blooms on all year here, so I try not to prune them until the big floral show starts in the spring, the better to ensure our year-round hummingbird population has good food.

Pathway plants

And this is the recently-planted Veronica repens 'Sunshine', alongside a volunteer lupine. I planted lupines ages ago, and after they died they never seemed to reseed. Until now. Maybe they were waiting for fancy brick edging or something.

There are some other changes afoot in the garden. I planted daffodils, but of course that's a patience game: you spend hours and hours digging them in and if you did it right, nobody will see a thing for months. And I've been working on the swath between our house and the neighbors', a project which is nothing but subtle so far, so more on that later.

posted by ayse on 11/20/11

8 Comments

A Chinese friend of mine says it's ok for things to be oriental, but people are Asian. I think you're ok with oriental poppies.

The main issue I have with it is that China is actually occidental.

"Oriental" is an old term used for things from the Middle East, which is likely where those poppies originated.

I'll bite - China is occidental?

Can you tell me about your Passion Fruit? I live in NE Ohio and have Passion Flower vines planted along my pool fence. Every fall I cut the vines back and pitch the fruit not knowing if mine is edible. They always stay green but then we have a shorter growing season. They are cut back before the first frost here, (usually the middle of October). Do you think that I'm wasting fruit? I would harvest it if I knew that they were in fact edible.

Thank you for your time.

Lori Ryan

China is occidental because it is to the west. To the east (oriental) is Europe and Africa.

Lori, your fruit is probably edible. Some decorative passiflora varieties don't produce pulp in their fruit, but you probably have a maypop, as those are more hardy; their fruit never turns purple, but they are very tasty. To be really ripe, you let the fruit fall off the vine, then wait until it wrinkles up (that just helps it get less watery). I know people who go out and pick the fruit off the vines; it's just more sour that way.

We've been spending week ripping out rampant oxalis in the back garden, and tending to the raised beds. My San Francisco Fog tomato plant is still sending out new growth, but the long legs that had crept across the yard have died back, and I'm not finding any viable fruit at this point as it's gotten much cooler lately.

No citrus trees on my block. More's the pity! I love Meyer lemons. We're so close to downtown that there just don't seem to be as many gardens here.

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