Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Successful Orange Garden

Pearl Crescent, Thai Hot Pepper, Starfire Signet Marigold. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.

Ellen at Spicebush Blog posted today on her garden success this year. Sounds good Ellen! I however have been holding off. The main reason is that the garden just doesn't seem to have been all that successful. We started off great with 50+ lettuces. As usual they were starting to go to seed before we could eat them all. But we did pretty well.

For a change this year I really leaned heavily toward nightshade family plants, mainly tomatoes and sweet and hot peppers. But they just haven't done all that well, other than the diminutive Thai Hot Peppers which survived and thrived even when completely buried by the wild arugula that I let grow and go to seed each year. When I finally cut the arugula there were 100s of tiny red Thai Hot Peppers.

Our Fortex beans are doing well, covering a 6-8 foot high a-frame bamboo trellis. I'm sure that they'll go until October or so.  But they just don't seem as flavorful as normal, perhaps because of the extremely mild summer. The peppers also may perk up in September and October, as they often do, so I haven't yet written them off.

But all in all it's been a disappointing year in the garden. Except for the orange garden!

We used to grow the very show Pinwheel Marigolds. But they get so tall and lanky that they take over more of the garden than I like. So this year I opted for a small marigold, Starfire Signet Marigold, an heirloom from Seed Savers Exchange. Though it's also gotten lanky because it starts off so small it hasn't really created a problem. Instead those bright yellow/orange/red blossoms have brightened the garden since June. Recently what I believe is Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass (I'm not sure because Jerene bought it years ago) has draped itself elegantly over the garden including some of the marigolds. It's just orange enough to creating a striking accompaniment to the Starfire Signet Marigolds.

Today I finally decided to take some photos. I'd been thinking about this for about a week. But as I was making coffee today I saw some fluttering in the marigolds. When I  checked in my binoculars I found the tiny but beautiful Pearl Crescent butterfly.  He added an unexpected orange accent to what was already developing in my mind as an orchestration in orange. When I finally got the camera and went out he had moved to the Thai Hot Peppers but their bright red peppers also fit into my orange composition.

As usual there was no way to get all  of this in one photo. And for me even individual photos always seem so lacking, at least mine. But I thought that I could take the various photos and my knowledge of flowers and butterflies and make a watercolor to illustrate the Orange Garden.

And that's what I've done. Like many of my works it's quickly done, certainly more of a sketch than a finished watercolor. But I've found over the years that it's often these quick studies, some much quicker and less fully resolved than this, that lead to my most successful prints and watercolor paintings. And, no surprise, I haven't stayed within the lines. My type of watercolor.


Ellen Snyder said...

Lovely orange garden Ken. My sister in Vermont has marigolds everywhere in her garden and was thinking the same thing. That the flowers were holding forth, but the veggies not so much.

I planted fortex pole beans too and was thinking that they just did not taste good. Such that I already decided not to plant them next year, but maybe it was just this year? It does seem like things underground did well and above ground veggies did not get enough sun.

I'm looking forward to planting some overwintering crops.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Ellen,

I still plan to post on your blog but wanted to respond. I do wonder if what has been a magnificently mild summer has actually been detrimental to the garden. Though you wouldn't know it from the quality of produce we get from our CSA.

We have grown Fortex for 4-5 years, maybe more. They are extremely vigorous and grow late into fall. But both Jerene and I have felt that their flavor has been lacking the last two years. Because they're so vigorous we sometimes get behind in picking them and I suppose it's possible that we're just eating them a little past their prime. They are a hybrid, developed by Johnnys Seeds, I think. I generally stay away from hybrids except for some I've really liked from Johnny's. But this is making me think about returning to older heirloom bean seeds. We used to love Violetto Trionfo though I think that was possibly for its rich purple color as for its taste!

I'm debating planting some chois to get in so I can put in cold frame for late fall/early winter.

Nice to talk gardening!