Monday
Nov092009

hot peppers, forever in memory

I am blessed to have stayed in the same home for almost twenty five years, for my garden echoes with memories.

Today the sky was was drab and laden with moisture. The temperature was in the sixties, but for the first time this year I felt the glorious days of autumn shriveling up and blowing toward the cold edge of winter. There is a tropical storm south of us, and I expect we will get a lot of wind and rain from it, which will strip the trees of their molten colors and leave them naked.

Even now, there are a few summer plants bravely blooming, and the flowers seemed luminous against the gray atmosphere. The vegetables are all gone, except for the peppers. which will produce madly until frost kills them. I never cared to eat peppers, until I began to grow them in my garden. Like tomatoes, peppers are much tastier when home grown and picked at the peak of ripeness. This year my bell peppers have been huge and blocky, with thick crisp walls.  I planted red, yellow, and orange varieties. All of them taste fine while still green, but I like them best when fully mature. I also planted yellow banana peppers, and they are still producing heavily, also.These banana peppers don't know winter is coming.

I did not plant hot peppers; I do not like hot peppers. But when I look at my sweet peppers, I always remember the year I planted one hot pepper plant for the novelty of it. That one plant (it was a habanero) must have produced a thousand little fiery fruits.

One day, during the summer of the habanero pepper plant, my family attended a picnic in the park sponsored by our church. My youngest son Mark, who was about age thirteen, was with me as I started through the long line to get a hamburger plate. 

"Mom," he said, "Why don't you go find a seat while I get your plate?"

"Why, thanks, Mark. That's a good idea."

My friends looked at me enviously. "What a fine young man," they said. "Not many kids his age are so thoughtful."

I tried not to seem prideful, as I puffed out my chest and congratulated myself on the obviously good job of parenting I had done.

I sat down at one of the long tables set up under the pavilion. Mark brought our plates and eased onto the bench beside me. Again, my friends marveled.

"Why, Mark, you are so sweet," they gushed. "Not only do you get your mom's plate for her, but you even want to sit with her." 

I smiled at my darling son and then bit into my hamburger. Immediately I gagged as my face turned deep red and my tongue ignited. Mark laughed at the smoke pouring from my mouth. While I gulped water to douse the inferno, he grabbed his own plate and headed for the hills, where he joined his buddies and entertained them, no doubt, with exaggerated descriptions of my reaction to the habanero enhanced hamburger.

So, I don't plant hot peppers. But, oh the memories, when I look at the other ones.

Here are a few of the persistent summer blooms I found today. I hope you enjoy them.probably the last 'Endless Summer' hydrangea bloom this year.Knockout roses are great landscape roses.This butterfly bush attracts butterflies and also has a nice smell.This little wildflower is a form of oxalis.

Tuesday
Nov032009

rose hips, among other things

It was another fabulous fall day here in Alabama. I went out to tackle my overgrown, half dead wildflower garden. It is a forty foot long, steeply sloped area, and so far it has not lived up to my vision. I planted the hillside with easy care, self seeding plants with the philosophy the fittest will survive and I won't have to do much work. Hmmm - I'm beginning to wish I had planted junipers or pine trees. The problem is that the ones that are surviving are lanky and weedy looking. Asters and cosmos are everywhere, and they grow straggly and so tall they hide other nice plants, like the butterfly bush. I know it's a matter of them being in the wrong place. Come early spring, I am going to give thought to rearranging things. The fact is, even natural areas need guidance from the gardener.

After an hour of working in the wildflowers, I was ready to grab my camera and go looking for prettier things to see. I like to look close, to really see a garden, and a camera brings focus on details that are easily missed when just passing by.

I planted a Penelope rose this year. It has creamy blossoms and a nice smell. And rose hips, I discovered today. Most of the flowers are gone, but the rose hips will stay to add color to the bare stems.

Rose hips are edible, and quite tasty when fully ripe, but I have to give a warning about them. I once plopped a plump, red rose hip in my mouth. I had bitten the thing and half swallowed it when I realized the taste was all wrong. I spit it out and discovered it was full of tiny, living ants. I couldn't get all of them out of my mouth and ended up ingesting a number of them. Actually, ants are also edible. I have heard that some cultures consider them a delicacy. Truly, they weren't terrible. They had a peppery flavor, and I have eaten worse. 

Here are some photos from this afternoon. I hope they will inspire you to stop and look close next time you are in the garden.Berry beautiful - these burford holly berries are just beginning to turn. By Christmas they will be bright red and ready for decking the halls.The holly tea olive "Goshiki" has variegated leaves.This gorgeous Japanese maple, 'Shishigashira', has green lacy leaves that turn red-orange in the fall.The "alien" rose. The lighting was bad and this is what happened when I tried to fix it in the computer.

Here are the Penelope rose hips, of which I did not eat any today.