Happy Halloween

This is me, dressed up as a polyphemus larva!

Just kidding. Yesterday, Matt found this caterpillar on our hike. It is Antheraea polyphemus (I had some ID help from a professional). If it hurries up and pupates for the long winter, it will turn into a beautiful, brown giant silk moth in the spring.


Long, tall, and purple: Three fabulous flowers

Ageratum, probably self-seeded from 'Dondo Blue'.
Grows to about 24" high.
I pretty much threw a temper tantrum this year when my tall cutting ageratum seedlings all got damping off and croaked. I maintained my funk for two months, and then all of a sudden, little baby ageratums starting sprouting in the garden! One, two, ten, two hundred! The freakin' things were everywhere, having (apparently) seeded themselves quite successfully the year before. They waited to germinate until July, and I feared they wouldn't mature before frost. But they took off gangbusters and made a pillowy blue-and-purple late summer display.

Ageratum, probably seeded from 'Red Sea'

This honeybee passed away on a blue powderpuff, in the night.

During my extended conniption over not having tall ageratum, I searched at local nurseries. This caused much cussing and stomping of feet. Five inches may be a fashionable height for spike heels, but it is an abominably dumpy height for ageratum, if you ask me.

Instead of ageratum, I found something I'd never grown: Lavandula multifida. It's the lavender that smells like a skunk! Who wouldn't want one? It has soft, ferny, blue green foliage, and rather unobtrusive flowers that go on blooming forever. I really like it.

Lavandula multifida
Also during my ageratum anxiety period, I dug up little Verbena bonariensis volunteers with their clods of soil and poked them in the garden hither and thither, like a mad squirrel-woman caching her snacks. I am at a point in my life when I have to have tall, skinny purple flowers everywhere. Or else my garden is all for naught.

Verbena bonariensis blooms, bobbing high above
a patch of purple sage and dark purple nicotiana.


I heart garlic

I planted garlic this week - 15 different kinds, about 120 cloves altogether. Not nearly as many as in years past, but this year space is limited. All of the garlic is our own seed, except for the purple Italian, a gift from a friend.

To read about how I plant garlic, see Garlic Harvest 2010.

Above, Laika lords over the strawbale. I mulch garlic beds with six inches of straw for a few reasons... First, without mulch, it is very convenient for a squirrel to yank out a garlic clove and pop in a peanut (and a squirrel can do that approximately 120 times in half as many seconds). Mulch also keeps cloves from heaving out of the freezing and thawing ground over winter. And mulch will keep weeds down next summer. Here are all the kinds we keep.

Brown tempest
Chinese red and white
Colorado black
German red
German white
German extra hardy
German porcelain
Purple Italian
Romanian red
Garlic makes the heart grow fonder.

(For further good instructions on planting garlic, see Curbstone Valley Farm's Planting Garlic post.)


The vespertine

I first started datura from seed for the garden at the Summerhouse, a restaurant my boyfriend, Matt, was then an owner/chef at. The trumpet-shaped flowers unfurl in the evening, when late diners enjoy a dusky supper on the patio, or when kitchen staff unwinds at the firepit in the after-hours.

That first year's datura seedlings were dispersed between my own garden, my mother's, and the restaurant's. Every year thereafter, seedlings germinate in the garden of their own accord. This one sprung from the edge of Mom's compost pile, and didn't begin blooming until just before frost.


A bouquet was composed

I told Matt he had to be the first to look out the window this morning. If it had frosted, I was not going to get out of bed to see the crystal-rimed wreckage of the world I once knew, loved, and frolicked in. I was not going to get up today, tomorrow, or ever again until my doom and gloom had come full circle and things actually seemed more bleak on the dark side of the down comforter.

Matt looked out the window and gave a non-committal report, something like, "well a little bit maybe or not at all a tad, shall we have scrambled eggs now?"

Clearly I was going to have to do the deed myself, or risk rotting under the blankets for no reason at all. So I stumped out of bed and down the steps and into the garden.

And infuriatingly, Matt was right. It had frosted... Well, a little bit - maybe. Or not at all. A tad?

The morning glory leaves were slumped and black and wet looking. But as the day bloomed and the dew wore off, nothing important had been damaged. My two swallowtail caterpillars went all the way from inanimate to lethargic in the course of a few short hours, which meant that they weren't dead, which made me happy.

I spent the rest of the day sort of ricocheting in slow motion around the garden, becoming absorbed in a task for a moment and then inexplicably propelled away and in a diagonal direction, to smack into something more engrossing down the line a bit. So most of the tomatillos were harvested, and some of the jalapenos, tomatoes, and eggplants. Cotton blossoms were admired. Tobacco budworms were plucked and flicked. The little lemon tree was carted back outside for pollination purposes. And a bouquet was composed.


Black swallowtail on a bruised day

It stopped raining for a bit, and I wanted to be free from the house, to feel the autumn air, to take pictures of the dill, and to sniff it...

And I noticed amongst the drops someone cold, and clinging.

And then another someone.

Black swallowtail caterpillar on dill


The rain gauge runneth over

Rain: sweet, clean, thrumming saturation. I've lost track of inches, but we're well past five this last week.

'Kolibri' kohlrabi

While the tomatoes and eggplants seem small and hard, stubborn and scowling, others in the garden are positively glowing in this cold, wet weather. We direct-seeded kohlrabi in July, and they are now tennis-ball sized, crisp, sweet, turnipy and tender. Much improved over the earlier batch which was sown indoors and set out in the spring - those languished. Next year I plan to direct seed all the brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli) earlier (end of March), and then some of them again in July, so that they're never trying to size up in the hottest part of the summer.

Carrots, July-sown for fall harvest

It has been a beautiful rain - teeming at times, misting at others - always perfectly vertical. And in it, the carrots seem to be muscling each other about, shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder. Do they make a popping sound as they plump... or is that them, squealing in expansion?

Arugula, white Russian kale, and bronze fennel for salad tonight

The cold frame beds are their own lush little arugula pastures. There is no green I like better, which is a good thing, because nothing else germinated quite so well. There will be chard, lettuce, upland cress, mustard and baby kale to cut eventually, but not in great bowl-topping mounds like the arugula.


Candy-Striped Leafhopper

This is Graphocephala coccinea, the candy-striped leafhopper, wearing its amazing technicolor dreamcoat (click to enlarge).

Matt found it in the mustard greens whilst cutting salad mix for dinner. When I pointed the camera at it, it stuck that orange spike out its back end and squirted fluid!!! This caused me to squeal with delight.

You can find a more informational report on this insect at Urban Wildlife Guide.