I’d like to share this celebratory photo of the first California poppy in my garden ever. For many years I’ve admired this sunny, prolific flower from afar, but I’ve never grown one. This spring I planted some seeds. Yesterday I found the first bud, and this morning it bloomed for admiration. Already it’s attracting pollinators. When I first saw it, a tiny, iridescent insect was crawling in the cup.
I have limited space for gardening: one raised bed under the living room window and a few barrels. For the past three summers since we moved to this house I’ve grown as much food as possible in the available soil. However, I missed having flowers. We can buy an abundance of fresh, local produce from St. Jacobs Farmers Market every week, but flowers feel like a luxury we can rarely afford. Besides, vegetables demand lots of water and maintenance, becoming problematic when I want to escape to the cottage for a week.
This year the garden focus has changed to include mostly flowers for colour, fragrance, feeding pollinators, and even feeding us. Many are edible and delicious: violets and pansies, calendulas, begonias, and California poppies, to name a few.
I haven’t given up my favourite plants: the culinary herbs. Mediterranean herbs are well adapted for the hot, sunny exposure of the front yard. Their foliage adds a handsome, varied texture from big, shiny, lush-leaved basil to glaucous sage and the delicate lacework of thyme. A native herb, wild bergamot, has taken well to being let loose in the garden and will soon provide a profusion of light lilac blooms. Herbs do well in barrels, too.
But perhaps my favourite plant this year is my old boyfriend, ‘Abraham Darby’.
This is a popular variety of David Austen rose. I’m partial to yellow roses, emblems of friendship. It starts with apricot hues and opens to a soft yellow, with a light, delicious fragrance. I had one of these in a garden many years ago, and it’s nice to have him back again. I had qualms about planting it in the hot, dry soil at the foundation of the house. After an initial battle with opportunistic leaf-chewing bugs, the bush appears to be flourishing. This week the Abraham Darby rose opened a second wave of blooms.
A newfound benefit of flowers is they keep me enamoured of the garden. I don’t take the hot, humid summers of Ontario well. With vegetables I would perform my watering duty and then disappear inside as early as possible. This summer as delicate blossoms open their gentle, aqueous answer to the ravishment of fire, they persuade me to linger and admire. Might as well pull some bindweed while I’m there.