I have been planted here in an old house on a standard city-sized lot that’s nearly on the shores of the Salish Sea for nearly ever. I wish I got out more. I’d love to explore grand, quirky, and historical landscapes, but travel funds always seem to get consumed by more practical matters. See: old house.
No shade on remarkable gardens near and far, but my heart belongs to my plot. But before you call sour grapes (more on that in a bit), I am constantly traveling in time in my garden, weighing the past, assessing the current growing season, and planning for the next. And waiting—so much waiting.
Merriam-Webster defines waiting as staying in place expectantly, looking forward for what’s to come. Sound familiar? I planted the seeds of ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory last May, tending the young vines indoors until the weather settled into a reliably warm spell. Spring is damp and chilly up here in the far Northwest corner of the county. All summer, I waited in vain for those sky-blue blooms to appear. One more disappointment on a long list of garden discouragements in the 2022 growing season.
Wait can also be used as an interjection or startlement, as in: WAIT, what do you mean I have to dig out my raspberries just as they’re producing their first good crop. Apparently, I, or rather my berries (over identification with my plants is not uncommon) contracted bushy dwarf disease, a virus spread via pollen that causes ripe fruit to crumble rather than hold itself together in a characteristic hollow cone of delicious drupes.
Likewise, the blueberries did their best but ended up defeated, with shriveled berries chastising me for my lack of attention (read: irrigation). I don’t want to talk about the strawberries, but I’m sure the birds and bunnies could attest to their sweetness.
We need to talk about the grape. ‘Booskop Glory’ is a staggering beauty with vibrant coral, scarlet, and burgundy fall foliage. Typically, in a warm summer like the one we just had, the fruit is deeply flavorful and heady. However, if you’ve planted the vigorous vine over a pergola that requires hauling out a ladder to effectively train and thin summer growth, you can expect powdery mildew to turn the foliage crispy and brown, the grapes mouth-puckering sour—again this year, just like last year, and the one before that.
I planted my food-forward back garden nearly 10 years ago, shortly after the publication of my book advising Pacific Northwest gardeners on how to grow bountiful, healthy, and delicious food. So clearly, you can add imposter syndrome to my list of summer maladies.
Sometimes I like the idea of a plant more than I actually like the plant. Along with alllll the berries, I knew I wanted a fig tree. I planted a ‘Lattarula’ fig, also known as the Italian honey fig—as a writer who loves language, I’m a sucker for a beautiful named anything with the word “honey”. A good fig recommended for Pacific Northwest growing conditions, ‘Lattarula’ has grown vigorously, maybe even a bit too much so, reliably producing one if not two crops a year. I have no doubt the crows have enjoyed the bounty, but I’ve always found the plump fruits to be a bit bland and insipid, certainly not worth getting that ladder out to prune and harvest. The fig is coming out this fall.
As with so much in the garden—and life—the reality of my edible paradise fell tremendously shy of the vision in my head. So I’m revising my plans — looking for disease-resistant raspberry plants, replacing the blueberries, and once again trying to devise a way to harvest the strawberries before resident wildlife have their fill.
Waiting can also mean in service to. Don’t get me wrong, I love my garden with my whole heart, but we’re going through a rough patch. A garden can be a relentless task master, or it can foster a sense of reciprocal tending. We’re working things out and have agreed to keep on keeping on.
Those morning glories I planted in early summer in anticipation of a “glorious” display throughout the growing season? The first bloom appeared on the last day of September, a balm and a benediction to a strange growing season. And well worth the wait.
Oh my, I could have written this myself but the Southeast version! Right down to the non-flowering morning glories. I had HUGE vines that covered everything within a 6 ft radius, but not one single bloom. Finally pulled them out. I too have a fig tree (mine is in a container) that has produced a small number of figs, and I too found them quite bland. Worse — I failed at the easiest vegetable ever, zucchini. Didn’t get even one. And the visions of “edible paradise”? Me too. But hope does spring eternal — my winter veg garden is lush with colorful lettuces, mustard, kale, and chard. My broccoli and cauliflower plants seem to be growing well, and I’m going to plant peas by the same trellis where my zucchini let me down. Fingers crossed! Good luck to us both!
I feel seen. Good luck with the winter garden. Me? I’ll always have kale.
Morning glories. The same.
By late September I began wondering what the hold up was. Nary a bloom on a pergola covered in a tangle of morning glory vines. Mid-October brought a hard freeze. That was the end of that.
The alarming Morning Glory failure of 2022!
The alarming Morning Glory failure of 2022.
Don’t hit me, but morning glories grow as weeds here SE of Asheville NC. Heavenly blue, pinks, white, and combos. They come up as volunteers, and I let them. Start to flower in July. Take over everything by Aufgust, and i have way too many cell phone photo close ups of them, wishing I was Georgia O’Keefe.
Could my Zone 7 be that different from Pacific NE? Try letting them go to seed and sow on their own.
Figs however… ‘Celeste’ has given me maybe three in six years.
Sounds glorious. I know some gardeners in the Bay Area who consider this plant to be a noxious beast, swallowing entire chain link fences and arbors. Note: I’ve seen those fences and arbors – they were anything but noxious! I too, have 100 million photos of my Heavenly Blues – I try and shoot at least a couple every day and will continue to do so until the season shuts down.
Maybe at your house but a little further west, I haven’t had much luck. Even the few blooms I’ve had over the years didn’t self seed (zone 6, near the TN line)
love your writing style
That’s very kind, thank you!
Here is one idea for strawberry protection from birds. I received a huge metallic garden spinner for Mother’s Day one year. I thought I would hate it, but I put it in the strawberry garden just as the first berries were ripening. It seemed to scare the birds enough I didn’t need netting for the first time ever. Of course, you need to live in a windy area.
Reflective tape, whirligigs, netting – my anti-bird arsenal is exhausted. But, always one to overcomplicate matters, I have visions of crafting bespoke split bamboo cages that fit over the bed. We’ll see how that goes.
A ‘real rant-. Thank you. Really enjoyed this one.
Love this! beautiful photos! You also demonstrate that it’s location, location and probably the year, too that make such a difference. My morning glories went crazy here in Maryland – so much so that I’ll be weeding the seedlings for years. Would have been worth it if I’d gotten photos like that out of the experiment!
Thank you! That blue is everything!
In my cold climate garden ‘Heavenly Blue’ never bloomed before September, and frost came two weeks later. I now look for morning glories that specifically say they bloom early, otherwise there’s not much point. Well, more point than there used to be, as we now typically get our first frost in October.