29 May 2012

Ripe was the drowsy hour

My excuse, as always, is that work is busy. I sometimes think that is not very satisfactory, as excuses go, but the sad truth is there are only so many hours in a day, some of which must be spent earning one's keep in the world, and when you have spent 9 hours reading documents, writing documents, and sitting on your hands so you do not roll up some of those documents and beat your colleagues with them, spending your off hours writing more seems less appealing than, say, poking yourself in the eye.

I hoped to catch up a bit over the long weekend, and had all kinds of plans for writing blog posts and taking pictures to illustrate them. Then summer landed on us like an anvil on Wile E. Coyote, and it turned out all I really wanted to do was sit in the cool dim glow of my computer and play Diablo 3,1 or nap through the midday heat.

I did try to take pictures of things in my garden, but most of them were unsatisfactory. Most were just out of focus, though the evening primroses seemed essentially unphotographable, perhaps as a result of the brilliant yellow, glossy insides of the petals acting as a reflector. I had lovely crisp photos of evening primrose leaves adorned with indistinct glowing yellow globs.

My efforts to photograph my bigleaf hydrangea, 'Nikko Blue,' were also not satisfactory. This irked me, because that hydrangea has finally ceased sulking and is starting to look ornamental.2

This is a nasturtium, 'Mounding Vanilla Berry.'

Nasturtium 'Mounding Vanilla Berry'

In my happiness, I snapped a picture the first bud to open; the basket is now almost full of creamy yellow and orange blossoms and I am pleased with myself for coaxing them into being.

I like nasturtiums very much, though I know not-very-much about their origins or history. They belong to the genus Tropaeolum, not the genus Nasturtium.2 This is the first time I've grown any, because for all that they look gloriously tropical, they're more of a cool-season flower. When I lived in Scotland I saw them in window boxes and garden urns everywhere, and I suspect they were popular for just that mix of qualities: they thrive in the cool damp summers and suggest hot, exotic climes. I've always been a little afraid that Maryland summers would be too much for them -- we'll see what happens when July and August arrive -- but for now at least they're doing really well.

Nasturtium flowers are edible and you sometimes see them added to salads. This strikes me as a manifestation of the having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too dilemma; if you eat the blossoms, they are not spilling joyously out of your windowbox. Perhaps if you are rich in nasturtiums you can afford the luxury of filling your salad bowl with them. I have heard that the immature seed pods of nasturtiums, when pickled, are similar to capers. I've heard the same about radish pods, but this year I ate all my radishes rather than let them go to seed.4

1Diablo 3 is very good, especially now that the launch-day kinks have been straightened out.
2This is a thing non-gardeners, and many new gardeners, don't realise: perennials and shrubs often take a year or two or three to settle in. There is nothing necessarily wrong with the plant, and nothing necessarily wrong with you as a gardener. It's just that these things take time, no matter what the 'landscape design' shows on television may say.
3The genus Nasturtium contains several species of cresses, including watercress, N. officinale.
4I like footnotes. Footnotes are cool.

John Keats

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