May Day is like Christmas for gardeners except all the packages are opening themselves simultaneously. There is so much to fall in love with. Here are a few of my heartthrobs this month.
The compost thermometer jumping up to 140 degrees… when compost is built right, it heats up so hot that on a cold foggy morning in the garden, you can warm your hands on it. If you dig in a little way, steam starts to rise in the cold air. Every single time, this generous miracle of fertility blows my mind. Thanks to Sir Lawrence and the intern crew for building such a great pile.
The spring mix lettuces standing erect and gorgeous like Carnival marching bands, each group with different costumes on… snip, snip, snip, go the harvest volunteers, and the lettuces fluff into a bag of salad mix for our harvest box. Off they go to feed salad to youth at Larkin Street Youth Services.
California wild lilacs (Ceanothus) blooming in the Native Backyard and buzzing with a dozen different pollinators and beneficial insects… Garden for the Environment nestles under Mt. Parnassus in the watershed coming down through Laguna Honda reservoir from Twin Peaks. We are contiguous with some of the last remaining native chaparral in San Francisco. So we have some cool, weird insects that even insect enthusiasts have trouble identifying.
The Beschorneria yuccoides (Mexican Lily)… three years we’ve been waiting to see it bloom. It is an unusual agave relative, which produces one gigantic and dramatic flower. It’s worth a visit to GFE just to see it blooming behind the big Ceanothus in the summer dry area.
Orchid rock rose (Cistus purpureus)… I’ve always loved this summer-dry shrub, which explodes with big pink flowers marked with dramatic dark splotches in each petal. The tissue paper fragility of the flowers belies the toughness of the plant. It stays neat and green all year long when out of bloom, whether or not it receives any summer water.
Bearded iris... so beautiful that the ancient Greeks named the rainbow goddess after them. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and they are named after the goddess. Anyway, these guys also do fine without summer water, simply resting after bloom until next year.
Roses! I know it’s old-fashioned of me, but I love roses. GFE features several climate appropriate roses. (In this case, I mean that they can tolerate our cool foggy summers, not that they need no summer water.) My favorites are Altissimo and Mutabilis, both single roses… old-fashioned, like me.
Happy May, and see you in the garden.