It is now winter, 2013, January 7th. What is lacking in color in the landscape surrounding our house in its dormant, twiggy clothing of browns and greens, was smashed open by a sunrise in brilliant orange and pink fading to every shade of lavender and salmon. There was no other world besides sky. The dark outline of the hills served only to frame the stupendous show. The unaccustomed color brought back memories of summer, which was a brilliant one indeed. Below are some highlights of the areas of expression:
The Melissa Garden The garden is so different each year. The main Melissa Garden determines its own future by what annuals decide to seed themselves between the perennial plants. This year the wild annual sunflower, Helianthus annuas, the Delta sunflower sprouted magnificently on one side of the garden, small sprigs becoming 6-10 foot explosions of the sun- and attracting native and honeybees all summer. No shirking beauties these, they bloom from mid-summer until the fall rains begin. In the other side of the garden, cleome in pink and purple shades hovered like colored mist.
In the former lawn garden, the annual sunflowers also created a domination of yellow. We thinned out a number of them, so they wouldn’t take over the garden, leaving enough to create an overcast hue of yellow over the delicate blues of lavender, nepeta, caryopteris, and the white froth of calamentha. Huge spires Verbascum olympicum and Helianthus giganteous and Helianthus hirsutus add to the uplifting feeling.
Lyn Mar Winery This year was deeply hued, with smears of orange cosmos and tithonia, deep burgundy amaranth, purple, frilly, redbor kale, purple cabbage, yellow sunflowers, bronze fennel, purple cleome, orange quinoa, and as an accent, white cosmos. The whole composition was a perpetually singing opera outside the tasting room doors. The planting was filled with honeybees, native bees, beneficial insects and finches all summer, almost every plant contributing to the profusion of life.
Stone Edge Farm The borders of Calamentha are one of the main summer attraction for honeybees there, the visitation of them easily audible. This engaging and giving plant in the mint family has copious nectar production from mid-summer through the fall, and requires no care of deadheading until winter.
Shokawah Casino in Hopland We renovated the landscape at the casino this summer turning it into a six-month long explosion of color greeting guests- from the highway on 101 around the sign, to the front entrance of the casino.
Our House We had several projects this summer at our house and nearby at Terra Savia Winery. We planted 200 hop plants there to test them for possible production. Hopland, until the 1930’s was a local center of hop production in the fertile river valleys until economics drove production mostly up to Eastern Washington.
We also planted a large garden of winter squash and pumpkins, using many heirloom varieties from Baker Creek Seeds. Some of the highlights were a number of varieties of Japanese pumpkins, small pumpkins with yellow flesh, delicate flavor, and the most exquisite sculptural form. Banana squash also did extremely well, growing to gargantuan size. Spanish pumpkins and Italian rugose butternut squash, the most delicious of all, also did well.
In our home garden, we grew giant pumpkins for our grandson, Jace. He wrote his name on his in his finest script. He also helped us harvest our giant cabbage. The greens continue to be a mainstay for us- Japanese, Italian bitter chicories, a kaleidoscope of chard, kales, spinach, and collard greens.
The borders and plantings continue to grow in size and floriferousness. This year we have begun clearing out some over-mature roses, invasive Heliathus giganteous and fruiting mulberries.
Chickens This spring I ordered chicks from Murray McMurray. We now have a beloved flock of a number of mixed varieties of hens: cuckoo marans, wyandottes, cochins, golden campines, lakenvelders, araucanas, ever evolving. The chickens have the run of the vegetable garden this winter and are de-snail and slugging it. They eat some of the greens but there is plenty for all of us. Their favorites are the pac choi, broad leaf chicories and orange chard. Their eggs are deep orange and extra good.