When All Else Fails, Buy Plants

I don’t know about you, but when I am sad, I go buy plants. At one point in my life, I did an inventory and realized I had over 100 different kinds of herbs. Ok – maybe that wasn’t all sadness – some of that was just pure compulsion.

BUT – I have seriously cut back to what I still can’t handle and learned to somewhat focus, which means I look at the yard through squinted eyes so it looks kind of like a series of splotches – kind of like a Monet Impressionist painting – the weeds kind of flow from one disarrayed patch to another in a peaceful blur of color, shape, and form.

I focus with open eyes, hard labor, and position of control, however, on three things: the garlic, the berry patches, and the veggie beds. The rest of the garden plots bring me great joy, but they do so by more-or-less fending for themselves. Mostly more.

The garlic, of course, is my main passion. Much more than the herbs, which are hardy survivors without my help. Much more than the veggies and berries, which I can buy from dedicated local growers if I need to.

I don’t mean to play favorites, but the garlic is my “thing.” It has become my identity (seriously – people call me “the garlic lady” – which is ok – Blythe isn’t that easy to remember). When I tell them I grew over 1300 bulbs last year and around 25 varieties, their jaws drop. “I had no idea…” is the common response of someone who knows of 3 or 4 kinds of garlic or maybe just the white blobs that pass for garlic in the supermarkets.

I have grown garlic for over 30 years, always carrying my seed from one year to the next. Building up the varieties and the seed stock to grow on a commercial scale has taken me years. To buy that amount of seed stock now would be rather spendy, to say the least.

So if something wipes out my garlic crop, I would have to seriously reevaluate whether after all this time, I should even continue. Certainly, from a business perspective, the labor required to grow something that takes as long as a human bean in utero, does not make a lot of sense.

No one ever said gardeners had to be sensible.

Which is why yesterday I purchased things I would normally not even consider, considering I have a zillion seeds I could still put in the ground, have a yard full of assorted garden plots that all need weeding,  and seriously do not need more herbs, flowers, and least of all, zucchini.

I can’t resist wandering through greenhouses. That dense, sweet smell when you first walk in the door …  shelf after shelf of assorted leaf shapes and colors … baskets heavy with blooms reaching down from above ….

I seriously showed some restraint when I passed up the root-beer scented plant (what is that thing?), but I admit to a little weakness in the herb section. After all, I didn’t get around to planting the dill or the cilantro – and I spotted some that were obviously crammed into their 6-paks and desperately needed to spread out their roots.

I normally don’t plant a lot of flowers, this year being an exception – and then I came across these coleuses. They were just so striking! Seriously, though, why do I need an outdoor houseplant? For color, of course! Come to think of it, I DO need colorful leaf patterns to enrich my life! I need LOTS of them!

And it’s time to plant summer veggies for fall. Squash plants should be well underway, but I have to admit, my pampered starts are looking rather dismal. (The unknown things sprouting out of my compost pile, however, are obviously on steroids. Hard to say what they will be. Gardens are, after all, like life – full of uncertainties.)  I could not resist the “Sweet Mama” squash plants and the images of the rave reviews I would get when I bake that “Sweet Mama” squash pie come fall. And me in my apron, smiling down at those seated around a finely set table, with their cleanly scrubbed faces smiling back up at me, spotless cloth napkins tucked neatly under their chins, holding up their plates and cheering, “Seconds, please!” And I would be saying, “Would you like freshly whipped cream with a little dust of nutmeg with that?” And they would be saying, “Yes, please! You’re the best!” Oh Yes, I had to get the Sweet Mamas.

And after last year, you’d think I’d be insane to buy zucchini — but what can I say. These obviously needed a home. At least I know I can grow them.

I was obviously not in my right mind.

My garlic failed.

There. I said it.

It’s the worst crop ever.

I am still investigating the reasons why. These things are usually a combination of factors, not just one. Gardening is, after all, always a learning process.

I am going to finish the harvesting, which due to our very cold wet spring, is later than usual. I will finish counting the losses and will get back to you.

Suffice to say, it’s a sad day at Barbolian Fields.  The reality is, it’s the middle of July in the middle of the day and only 57 degrees out. The wind is doing its usual thing, blowing like crazy. For now, yes, the coleus will add a little needed color to an otherwise very gray day. That is a sure thing.

Everything else? Not so sure. Maybe its time to reconsider going into the kite-making business.

2 Comments

  1. Don’t give up! I think you may be the last of the great garlic-passionate growers on the peninsula! After that guy who had the 100+ varieties passed away and his stock all disappeared, I thought it was over!

    After living in Alaska, I don’t know how to grow squat so I have just a couple pots out back with some herbs, a couple green beans and bell peppers. Meager start for sure with this cold weather. Just trying not to kill them now that’s its sunny – I must remember to water so they don’t scorch! I know nothing about fertilizing or soil though so I’ll be lucky to get anything out of this.

    1. Aww, Nicole – thank you so much for your kind words – but seriously, there are many good growers in the area – and I am already seeing cured garlic in places like the Sequim Locally Grown and the Red Rooster Grocery, so somebody’s getting it right. I guess this year will tell me which ones can handle the wind and rain in our back acre – and maybe I should just concentrate on those. Course, it’s so hard to pass up all the interesting varieties out there. I could never find time to grow them all. I, too, sadly missed meeting the gentleman with all the garlic. I have often considered whether I might find a scape or two of a survivor in the field where he used to farm. (BTW– I also used to live in AK – sure miss those long days of sunshine that seemed to help everything grow super-size if you were in the right spot for it!)

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