summer at last

Summer finally arrived last week. A humid mass of high pressure from Mexico hopped the border fence and gave us some hot days and tropical-looking morning clouds that lit up brilliantly as the sun rose.

After almost four months with a total natural rainfall of .05 inches much of the garden has been heading into its defensive dormancy. But a few plants seem to be reveling in the arrival of some real summer heat. Top of the list is this California fuchsia, the ‘Route 66’ cultivar, which opened its flowers to coincide with the hot weather. Some Epilobium species and clones have fairly small, gray-colored leaves, but this is one of those where the leaves a smidge larger and greener, a bright contrast to the screaming orange flowers.

Desert marigold, Baileya multiradiata, has been blooming away with the help of a little additional water, but not much.

In the bed that gets some irrigation the gingers are the current stars of the show. Coinciding with the California fuchsia was this kahili ginger, Hedychium gardnerianum, a plant that I’ve been growing since my early teens, a hand-me-down plant from one of my mother’s gardening friends. Sitting in the back yard after sunset is a treat with this insanely fragrant ginger nearby.

Of course summer isn’t all about the flowers. The fig tree is hitting its peak fruit production this week. It’s the variety ‘Brown Turkey,’ which is supposed to do well with less heat than what most other varieties require. This has been one its best years ever for me. I’m trying to figure out what went right this year, and I’m thinking the success has something to do with water. This past winter and spring actually delivered a slightly-over normal rainfall that was spaced evenly throughout several months. Also, last year I applied some water-conserving woodchip mulch over the bed that contains the fig. And John’ has made a point of watering the zone around the fig every other week or so. I hope to be able to repeat the success next year, which according to the prognosticators could be a drier than average La NiƱa year.

The garden herbs are doing well. A sixpack of parsley several months back is turning out to be way more than two people who use parsley once or twice a week. At least it’s a pleasantly textured plant for the front of a border.

A sixpack of basil, however, hasn’t seemed to produce nearly enough. Maybe the basil will pick up with the warmer weather.

Surprisingly the tropical lemongrass plants (both the East- and West-Indian versions) haven’t been sulking and are overproducing just like the parsley.

Adding to the pile of edibles, our neighbor Olinda stopped by with her grandson. It was all she could do to carry this giant watermelon. John was impressed with its size and suggested I weigh it: 30.8 pounds.

It’s one of the with-seed varieties that stores these days don’t seem to stock much anymore. Stunning rind, don’t you think? One of the many things we’re losing in part because of big agra.

I was hoping to save the watermelon for a day or two, until we had room in the fridge, but I was a little clumsy photographing its cool rind in detail. Now I know what a melon dropped 3 feet off a table onto a brick patio does. It stays in one piece, but you have to deal with it right away.

High summer also means the best cantaloupes of the season. This is Scooter helping us out by finishing a couple of half-melons we had for breakfast. The melon came from the local hybrid grocery-farmer’s market.

And so our summer begins: a little too much melon and a garden peaking with fruit and herbs. Life is good.

10 thoughts on “summer at last”

  1. So glad to hear you are finally getting a little summer! We’re on a temperature roller-coaster. From 98 to 68 and then back up to 90. It’s a little crazy.

    Your basil looks good in the picture…if it’s usually better than that I guess mine is truly pathetic!

  2. About time summer came to California. We got our first warm weather in a long time too. You might want to try parsley pesto if you have too much parsley. You make it with the same recipes as basil pesto. It has a really nice fresh flavor.

  3. EE, the majority of the cats I’ve had have enjoyed cantaloupes (muskmelons). No other melon will do, but this one has something that drives them crazy.

    Loree, my northwest friends are confused, but being northwest people they generally prefer things on the cooler end. These basil plants are pretty new, so I think my expectations of them are a tad too high.

    Ryan, I read about various parsley pastes but haven’t gotten around to making any. The pesto version sounds like a good place to start. Anything with parsley and garlic and pine nuts and cheese and olive oil I’m sure would taste amazing–and like summer.

  4. Ah, yes, looks like we’ll have 2 days of summer here, then it will get cold again. Love the watermelon, I think the seedy kind often is much more flavorful (same with grapes).

    Maybe next year I’ll do some herbs myself. Everyone is so encouraging about it, and I could sure use them in the kitchen.

  5. I’ll have to try sharing a cantaloupe with my cats to see if they like it as much as they do chicken, cheese and shrimp. The hardest part this time of year is choosing between all the melons at the farmers market, although as often as not, I wind up with good old cantaloupe despite all the more exotic choices.

  6. Mmmm…figs. We watched our one fruit on the Brown Turkey with great anticipation, then shared it ceremoniously at the peak of perfection. Perhaps next year there will be one for each of us.
    Our cat likes vanilla ice cream.

  7. My kitty Hazel likes melon, too. She licked away at a piece of watermelon last night until she wore it down to a crater. I was surprised to realize this several years ago but seeing the picture of Scooter with the cantaloupe makes me think, perhaps she’s not that odd.

  8. I second Ryan’s suggestion for parsley pesto, perhaps with hazelnuts instead of pine nuts. Amazing and keeps its color better than basil. Your post is making me sigh contentedly- what a lovely time of year!

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