Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crazy for Caladiums

Every summer it's the same thing: I'm just delighted by my caladiums. I'm constantly admiring them and taking pictures of them and thinking about them, listing their lovely names in my head: Candyland, White Queen, Rose Bud . . . I become a little obsessed.

I've only been growing caladiums for a few years, but I've been fascinated by them for a long time. When I was studying horticulture in Atlanta, long ago, we students were required to keep binders full of information on the various plants we covered in class. We collected pictures and typed up our notes on growing requirements, etc. Well, I remember I had pages and pages on caladiums. I just could not stop adding pictures of the new cultivars I was discovering, and I'd often look through my binder and dream about the garden I'd someday have, filled with caladiums in all different colors and patterns.

Sometimes dreams are better than the real thing, but that's not the case with caladiums. They're heart-shaped. They glow. . . . They haven't disappointed me. Not at all.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Eggplant Effusions

This has been a great summer for eggplant. We have globe-shaped eggplant and cucumber-shaped eggplant in three colors: solid purple, solid white, and purple-and-white striped. The fruits are so bright and cheerful they look like balloons festooning the plants, and every day it seems as if the garden is decorated for a birthday party. Even if you couldn't eat eggplant, I think I'd grow it just because it's pretty.

But luckily you can eat it--and it's good for you too. It's low in calories and high in fiber, and the skin (of the purple varieties) is rich in disease-fighting phyto-chemicals. For the last couple months we've been enjoying eggplant all kinds of ways. My favorite way to eat it is in thin slices drizzled with olive oil, rolled in panko, and roasted in the oven.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Every summer I like to pretend that I enroll my cat Carl in vacation Bible school. You see, in my games and dreams he's my precious little son, forever four years old. Well, I mean, he's a cat, but he wears clothes and talks and walks on two legs like any human child. He's a cat, but he's fully accepted in human society. In fact, when I drop him off at vacation Bible school, all the teachers and the other mothers always tell me how cute he is.

"Oh, your son is so adorable," they say.

"Thank you," I say.

Once Carl's week at vacation Bible school is over, our summer days are less structured. Sometimes I take him to the city pool and he wears his water wings.

On quiet afternoons, we head to the library. I ride my bike, with Carl tucked into a little seat behind me. On the way home he sits in his seat and reads one of the books we've checked out while I pedal. He likes Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

Carl is so sweet--not just in my silly dreams but in real life. He's always looking at me and "talking" to me and following me around with his tail held high. He's my little sunshine.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fresh Awnings

Finally! We got some nice fresh clean awnings hung on the breezeway the other day. The old ones had gotten sooooo dirty. We need to take better care of them this time around and keep them clean. New awnings are expensive!

The inspiration for our awnings came from the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, whose many windows are shaded by canvas awnings in a red and white candy-striped pattern. Our awnings keep the breezeway cool, shady, and dry, and they add a little Old Florida charm.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Path

Two Saturdays ago, Rob and I built a path out of fieldstone between the Barn Garden and the Meadow Garden, replacing the old muddy trail that ran between those two beds. Rob used to call the old mud trail my "nemesis" because it bugged me so much. "Oh, gosh, this looks so terrible," I'd say every time I set foot on it.

He's taken to calling our new stone path "the Old Cobblestone Road" because it's so wide and grand (for a path). We wanted to make it nice and roomy so we can push the wheelbarrow down it and carry big bags of leaves and fertilizer to the vegetable garden.

I like to see Bernie, our stray-cat friend, making use of the new path, strolling between the thick stands of purple coneflowers and wild petunias. We often meet on the path, Bernie and I, headed in opposite directions, which I find comical somehow. Bernie is going about his Bernie business.

Rob and I worked so hard on the path, we finished it all in one day. When we were done, we went out to Decent Pizza to celebrate, even though we were so stiff and sore we could barely walk. I got a pizza with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, and Daiya cheese. I was in vegan heaven.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Copious Carrots

Our spring carrot crop has been stupendous to say the least. We've got carrots coming out of our ears. Rob feels a real obligation to our carrots and is always scheming about how we can put them to good use.

Yesterday he said, "So what should we make to eat tomorrow?"

"Hmm," I said. "How about chili?"

"Okay," Rob said, and I could see the wheels spinning. "Now I bet we could put some carrots in that and none would be the wiser."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wildlife Update

There's been some neat stuff going on in the yard lately:

Two cardinals have built their nest in the big satsuma by the screen porch. The nest is padded with Spanish moss and carefully hidden among the satsuma's dense branches. One day Rob had to weed under the satsuma, and he pretended not to see the nest. He went about his work as fast as he could with his eyes averted. He said it seemed like the least he could do.

Last week Rob and I were sitting by our little pond when we noticed three nice fat bronze frogs resting in different spots on the mossy stones that surround the water. Soon they started croaking, talking to one another. What were they saying in their ancient language? "Get out, get out!" . . . "No, you get out!"?

Yesterday I was weeding among the meadow plants along North Adams Street when I came across a young box turtle about the diameter of a biscuit cutter. Nestled under a purple coneflower, it had pulled itself neatly inside its shell, which was extra shiny from the recent rain. I picked the turtle up carefully and felt its weight in my hand. It was so small and perfect, like a keen little treasure box. But the box held something better than coins or jewels--it held a living thing.