Today is a red letter day. Actually, make that a green letter day. Mount Washingtonians may be welcoming summer but my shaggy back yard just got a major spring cleaning.
The Artemisia has been trimmed. The Pyracantha got pulled. We’re rid of the rampant Red Apple ground cover.
It’s starting to look like a garden instead of a semi-abandoned vacant lot.
Instead of Diamonds ...
Some women may yearn for jewels, but I’ll take our new drip irrigation system over sparkling earrings any time. Ditto the stairs that will replace the buried-brick slip ‘n slide that is currently my only path down the slope. I’m in the euphoric/planning state of mind where anything and everything seems possible in the back yard.
I’m trying to tamp down my enthusiasm for a life-sized pagoda.
The Curse of the Black Thumb
Some readers of The View From Jack’s Smith Street may recall my confession that I’m a --or at least a thumb that’s a bilious green. My best efforts as a gardener have been the basil and the year-round tomatoes of my balcony garden this past year.
So it will probably come as no surprise that I am not hands-on responsible my garden's transformation.
To The Rescue
I do, however, know Alec Christensen, who did a long stint at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum before graduating from UCSC with a degree in biology and a focus on plant science. Alec has recently returned to Mount Washington with “a slew of business ideas” including a landscaping operation with a focus on “edible, native, Mediterranean, and ethnobotanical plants.”
So in addition to the imminent raised vegetable bed, Alec and I are discussing a gazebo shaded by fruit-bearing vines such as kiwi, passion fruit, dragon fruit, and grapes.
Bring on the hanging fruit salad!
The Garden That Pays For Itself?
The fruit-laden shade vines are in sync with another of Alec’s entrepreneurial ideas: an ultra-localized produce market based on fruit grown in people’s yards and subsidized by food that Alec will either "grow or collect from the wild." Accordingly, we’re discussing additional fruit trees to add to the lime and xapota (sapodilla) trees currently hanging on in the back yard. (Hurray, incoming drip irrigation!)
I daydream about a brisk business of exotic fruit that will pay for ever grander garden improvements. Rustic benches. A solar fountain. An espaliered walkway. More vegetable beds.
I’ve firmly crossed the pagoda off the list.
Bring on the Prickly Pears
When they ripen to a bright red, Alec has also offered to harvest the prickly pears from our ancient-looking Opantia; the cactus seems to have been here since the 1930’s, at least when the slope of the former vacant lot was shored up with ancient bed frames and discarded ice boxes. Even now, digging will often unearth rusty iron artifacts like Machine Age dinosaur bones in the ground.
In honor of the future prickly pear bounty, I have unearthed a prickly pear cactus cookbook that I got ten years ago and have never opened. What better way to celebrate the new garden and Alec’s fine work than with a prickly pear cocktail?
Well, maybe sipping it in a pagoda with dragon fruit falling in my lap.
Prickly Pear Sombrero
½ c, pineapple juice
1 ½ ounces rum
½ oz. Triple Sec
½ c. crushed ice
½ oz. prickly pear juice
Combine pineapple juice, rum, Triple Sec, and ice and blend at high speed. Pour into a glass and top with prickly pear juice. Serve with a swizzle stick speared on to a chunk of pineapple.
(From The Prickly Pear Cookbook by Carolyn Niethammer, Rio Nuevo Publishers www.rionuevo.com)