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Vine-ripened

tomatoes-basketWe returned from a four-day trip to Chicago to find that Nature had been kind to Nashville gardens all week. A visit to Farm in the City this morning resulted in this basket full of vine-ripened tomatoes – ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Black Krim,’ ‘Mister Stripey’ and ‘Mortgage Lifter’ — all of them heavy and full and quite a

Ripe and ready! That big 'Mortgage Lifter' tomato weighs in at a pound-and-a-half.

Ripe and ready! That big ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomato weighs in at a pound-and-a-half.

few already ripe on the vine. I harvested those that were ripe and a few that have started to turn. A few of the large tomatoes had cracked, some to the point that they weren’t worth saving, but there were enough perfect tomatoes that I was able to share a few with a couple of garden neighbors and bring the rest home.

Back at home in the kitchen garden out back, I found cucumbers ready to cut off the vine, green beans ready to pluck, two yellow squash* and a handful of ‘Black Cherry’ tomatoes.

Tonight’s dinner: gazpacho!

*This year’s experiment: growing squash two ways — in the ground and in a large pot — to try to deter squash vine borers. So far, the potted vine has produced more squash.

The chainsaw crew prepares to remove the second downed limb.

The chainsaw crew prepares to remove the second downed limb.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote here about the massive limb that split from the giant American elm that we share with our neighbor, falling squarely into their back yard. The limb was one-half of a heavy V-shaped trunk that grew from the main trunk over the back of their lot.

About 3:30 this morning, we woke to a loud crunching sound, got up to investigate, and found that the other half of the V had given away. This time, the long, heavy limb had twisted slightly and fallen along the fence that separates our properties. Most of the downed canopy had fallen into our yard.Tree-downOn its way down, the elm sheared off several branches of a large silver maple that shades their yard and some of ours. Its heavy branches took out a span of their six-foot-tall fence, and a portion of the six-foot cedar fence that creates a hideaway for our recycling bins. The elm’s top branches covered the hydrangea/azalea bed that I planted along the hideaway fence, landed on the large oak-leaf hydrangea between the neighbors’ fence and our driveway, and broke off several branches of the tall, slender magnolia that is growing there.

Tree-Break-3As I write, the chainsaw crew is removing the downed branches, and I may discover that the redbud and the dogwood, both of which have been growing from volunteer seedlings and had made it to a nice size, may be damaged, possibly beyond repair.

Fortunately, again, no houses suffered any damage. As I wrote in the earlier post, we had our side of the tree relieved of much of the weight of the canopy over our roof, and the arborist assures us that the stately tree is still healthy, and better now that it’s load has been lightened. But now we have to wonder if the tree is sending a signal, laying down its large, heavy limbs as gently as it can, one by one, telling us that it’s an old tree, and tired, and that someday soon we may have to let it go.

Tree-fence

With the branches cleared away, we have a temporary view of the neighbors’ landscape full of hydrangeas in full bloom.

Summertime

sunflower

A sunflower growing at Farm in the City welcomes the first day of summer to the community garden.

The solstice, rising so quickly out of Father’s Day this year, allows me to think even more about my Dad, who died more than three decades ago.

I have an early memory of him singing, as a lullaby, “Summertime,” from the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. Daddy’s voice could never have been called operatic – in fact, it was pretty weak, and he was generally a quiet man, so it’s a wonder that he sang at all. But when I listen quietly I can still hear it: “Summertime,” he warbled sincerely and without embarrassment, “and the livin’ is easy.” And so, in the days when troubles could be soothed by a lullaby, it was.

*

Susan, our yoga teacher, reminded us this morning that this June solstice falls on the same day as the full moon – a rare event. We acknowledged the full moon solstice with a Sun Salute, and I left the class to head downtown to Farm in the City, where I could continue celebrating the first day of summer by digging out weeds and tying up tomatoes.

Ansha-potatoesAnsha, my community garden neighbor, was also there, and her summer celebration began with the discovery of several ready-to-harvest potatoes in the loose soil at one end of her garden plot. She’d been fretting about the yellowing potato plants that hadn’t bloomed, and I suggested she explore the soil under one of them to see what she could find. She unearthed a large, perfect potato right away, and by the time she finished exploring, she had dug out, with her hands, about five pounds of ‘Yukon Golds,’ which she graciously shared.

The tomatoes in my community garden plot are plump and heavy enough to break their branches, but haven’t begun to turn red. It seems a good time to celebrate the garden anyway, so I brought home two green tomatoes that are large and firm. Back home, in the kitchen garden out back, I picked about a pound of ‘Blue Lake’ and ‘Kentucky Wonder’ beans, and a couple of cucumbers.

Dinner tonight will include fried green tomatoes and fresh-from-the-ground Yukon Gold potatoes, green beans in a recipe inspired by a fellow blogger @judyschickens, and fresh cucumber soup, all gifts from the garden to celebrate Summertime on the full moon solstice.

(According to the astronomy site EarthSky.org, based on Universal Time, the last June solstice full moon in the Northern Hemisphere was in 1967, and the next one won’t be until 2062. You can read more about it here.)

veg-basket

This morning’s harvest, tonight’s solstice dinner.

Out on a limb

elm-tree-prunedWe share a massive American elm tree with our neighbors to the west, on the fence line between our two back yards. A week ago today, with a terrible popping and cracking, a large, tree-trunk size limb split from the main trunk and came down in the neighbors’ back yard.

They were incredibly lucky. It’s a small back yard, and the branches came down across the power line and ripped the electric meter from the house, but they barely brushed the back of the house, and fell squarely onto the patio between a lush bed of boxwoods on one side and a full-blooming bed of Annabelle hydrangeas on the other. It seems to have broken a few branches on a line of small oak trees they had planted for privacy, but they avoided major damage to the house and backyard landscaping.

Coincidentally, a couple of weeks earlier, we had met with an arborist, Cabot Cameron, the owner of Druid Tree Service, to get his advice on maintenance on our side of the tree. This elm is truly a majestic tree, but its giant limbs hung heavily over the second floor back bedroom of our house. In strong wind the branches whipped ferociously, in heavy rain they drooped over the house, and last winter’s snow bent them down to the roof. There were also several dead limbs, and a couple of “widow-makers” – dead, broken-off branches hung up in the canopy – that needed to be taken down.

elm-tree-guys

Look closely to see the tree trimmer out on a limb in the canopy of the elm tree.

Cabot had suggested a dramatic pruning to lighten the load, and last week’s break lent urgency to the job. The crew came this morning, threw their lines and hoists over the limbs, climbed up into the canopy and got to work with chainsaws and pruning saws. By early afternoon, the big tree – still a majestic giant — had cleaner, safer limbs. You can see the newly groomed elm in the top photo. Bonus: the lightened tree canopy allows more sunlight onto the garden beds below.

Unfolding

un-coneflower

Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, a cultivar called ‘Pixie Meadowbrite.’

Out in the garden this afternoon, I began to notice so many things that are about to unfold, unfurl, and burst into bloom.

un-hydrangea

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’

Un dillDill head about to flower.

un-monardaBee Balm, or Monarda didyma ‘Pardon My Cerise.

un-cilantroCilantro, just before it flowers and goes to seed.

un-snapdragonTall snapdragon that wintered over from last year.

What’s unfolding in your garden this weekend?

 

Rooted

tobin-sculptureI recently visited Washington, D.C., a district full of grand monuments and important buildings and impressive museums, and my first stop on a bus tour of the city was – naturally – the United States Botanic Garden. In the entry courtyard was something I might just as easily have seen at home: a massive, sinewy sculpture by Steve Tobin, whose exhibition called Southern Roots is installed (until Sept. 4) at Cheekwood Botanical Garden.

Tobin’s work in this series is unmistakable — giant, sprawling sculptures in steel and bronze that seem firmly rooted to the earth even as they reach skyward. The sculpture in D.C. is only one notable example. At Cheekwood, the exhibition encompasses five areas in the West Gardens. Even more: Tobin’s newest series, using wood from fallen trees in Costa Rica, is exhibited in the Museum’s third floor gallery.

I haven’t seen the Cheekwood exhibit, but it’s on my spring to-do list. It should be even more dramatic at night. The sculptures will be on display during the inaugural First Thursday Nights in the Garden, when Cheekwood is open until 10 p.m.

The story of my tourist adventure in D.C. ran in The Tennessean last weekend, and you can read it here. I didn’t have much information about the U.S. Botanical Garden in that story – there was so much else to see! But I’ll show you a few of the images here.

Walking through the Conservatory at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C., is like visiting a tropical jungle.

Walking through the Conservatory at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C., is like visiting a tropical jungle.

Garden buddies

Olivia 1Most weeks, my granddaughter Olivia stays with me three afternoons while Momma and Daddy go to work. When she arrives, we usually take a stroll around the garden to see what’s blooming, but today was the first time we tackled a garden task. My job was to sit in the garden path and pull grass, wood sorrel, sprouting elm seeds and chickweed out of the gravel. Her job was to sit in the purple-flowered playpen and listen to the chickadees and the bright cardinal, hear the wind chimes and feel the breeze, and babble happily to a collection of some of her favorite toys, and to me. We make a good team.

Olivia 2

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