It’s mid-August, and the garden is taking on its late summer look– a gorgeous, tangled, fruitful mess. I try to keep some things up: tomatoes trellised, beans picked, nasturtiums guarded against aphids. But some things I happily and intentionally let go.
I’ve been enamored of Imogen Cunningham’s photograph of Morris Graves in his leek garden ever since I first encountered the image over twenty years ago. I always let a patch flower into their magical orbs.
Our sunflowers are all for the birds, so I never pick the passing blossoms–chickadees and goldfinches have been abundant in our sunflower forest the last week or two, as the seeds begin to emerge and dry.
We have one big artichoke plant, and some of the heads are left to open, exposing the stunning purple-blue silks that never fail to stop us in our tracks. The dried heads will come in the house for seasonal centerpieces–they last forever.
This year we experimented by letting a giant burdock grow where it had seeded itself in the corner behind the chicken coop, just to see how big it would get. It’s about nine feet so far, and though it’s an invasive European weed, it’s beloved by native pollinators. Even so–next year it’s coming out!
Fennel! Oh, fennel. Tom and I argue about fennel. None of us like the taste of it, and it is such a ready weed–we spend half our spring pulling up its willful sprouts from the rest of the garden. Tom (sensibly) wants to eradicate it, but when it flowers and then seeds, it is covered by bushtits and chickadees; the birds weigh nothing, and the light stalks barely quiver under their tiny bodies. I think it’s worth it to keep just one fluffy cloud of a fennel plant. I always take a dried branch or two up on the deck in the fall, and the bushtits visit right by my table as I read and sip coffee. Between the bushtits in the fennel and the hummingbirds in my hair, it feels like I’ve fallen into the land of Faery.
When greens bolt in the lettuce patch, I let them flower and stay stay for awhile. The little yellow and white flowers attract more butterflies than anything else in the garden, and our native pollinators need all the help they can get.
I’d love to hear your own excuses for garden laziness!