Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guest Garden #2 – Waste Not Want Not


Did you know that you can eat arugula flowers?  And they are totally yummy?  This is what I learned at this months meeting of the garden club hosted by Lisa in her garden.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, and her roses were in boisterous bloom, giving her garden a rollicking color backdrop.  The ever practical Lisa pointed out that the roses were there when she moved in, two years ago.  Since then, she has removed some of the roses to make room for her vegetables.

In this garden, nothing is wasted.   Against one wall near the table where we sat eating nibbles and drinking Lingonberry punch (a drink from Lisa’s homeland –Sweden), a wrought iron frame held shelves full of pots of blossoming annuals giving the immediate area a lovely Mediterranean feel. 

Lisa has used her imagination by planting pots in unusual ways, e.g. succulents in strawberry pots.

Here she has planted herbs in pots and grouped them together into eye pleasing displays.  Notice the lettuce in a plane white basin letting the variety of colors in the lettuce leaves ‘pop’!


I think what I loved most about the Garden Club this week is what I learned about blossoms and seeds.

I noticed that Lisa’s arugula (we call it rocket in Ireland) had all blossomed.  Mine had bolted too and are also starting to blossom, and I was sad because I figured that was the end of it, in the same way that once lettuce bolts it’s not as nice to eat.  Apparently, not so for arugula.  Lisa told me that you can eat the flowers, as she picked one and popped it in her mouth.  I followed her example, and was astonished at how nice they tasted – they are sweet – probably from nectar – with a delicious peppery aftertaste, similar to that of the leaf.  I love it when my food looks pretty and being able to eat these little flowers made my day!  It also means that I don’t have to pull out my arugula – it can still be eaten, flowers and all!  Later that day, I had a salad from my garden topped with arugula flowers.  Not only does it look great, it tasted so good that I didn’t even need to use any dressing!


Lisa also showed me how to gather seeds from broccoli – seed saving is something I’m keen to learn about.  Here is a broccoli seed batch being dried out for next season.


I love that Lisa uses every part of the plant, nothing is wasted.  Anything that she can’t eat or save is composted.  She even has some compost presents to look forward too.  Here are some potatoes growing out of her compost bin.

 I know from personal experience that these spuds will be the tastiest she will ever eat! 

Her strawberries, in a small raised bed at the side of her garden, look lustrous and healthy – always a great plant to photograph as the leaves alone are so pretty.
Lisa has a profusion of oregano and is starting some rosemary in pots. 

She tends to keep her herbs either in areas where they can’t take over her garden , or in pots.

Her vegetable garden has beets, lettuce , carrots, broccoli, onions ( the latter two not in this shot) and in the picture of the roses at the start of this post you may have spied the garlic planted between the rose bushes.

Here is the arugula in its full glory. You can just see the onions peaking up in the background.


In the corner, the peach tree is starting to form fruit.  Lisa was complaining about how the birds take a bit of each fruit before she can get to it.  She figures it would be fine if they would just choose a fruit and finish it rather than sample all of them!


The apple tree in the other end of the garden doesn’t produce fruit.  Too hot we reckon, thought it is a lovely tree and provides a nice shade.

Lisa showed me a mystery plant she got in a plant swap.  Actually, it was piggy-backing in a pot that held another plant, so it is probably a weed, but she planted it, and it looks pretty.  Does anyone know what it is?  Please leave a comment if you know - we’d love to find out.


We left the gardening club with the determination to start seed saving and looking forward to keeping a beautiful crop of arugula, flowers and all.  Of course, as is the way, we had a great time eating drinking and being merry – all in the name of good gardening!  Well, ultimately, that is what a garden is for – isn’t it?

Byddi Lee

7 comments:

  1. Flowers look good, and eatable - That is what I call a bonus!

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  2. My first guess would be a geranium of some kind, though not one that I recognize. Have any of the flowers gone to seed? Seeing what the fruit looks like as it develops and matures might help identify it.

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  3. I know exactly what it is, Drew is right, it is a geranium, Geranium robertianum. It is a weed of the woodlands and partial shade at Jasper Ridge and Arastrodero.

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  4. That was my first thought too, but (both here and in MI) I’m not used to seeing Herb Robert with dark stems like that, and I’m used to seeing it with more finely dissected leaves with narrower and more rounded segments (see attached, from Michigan), which led me to wonder if it might be some other species or maybe a hybrid or selection of some kind. The calphotos page for G. robertianum does have examples with comparable leaves, and some with dark stems, but others have light stems and leaves more like what I’m used to… given the questionable IDs that sometimes appear on that site there could be multiple similar things lumped together there. Plus there are a couple other species that are comparable… G. aneminefolium, now referred to as G. palmatum at Jepson Online and considered a garden weed rather than a truly naturalized species at this point… and G. purpureum, know accepted at Jepson Online but with a comment indicating more work is needed to determine if it’s truly distinct from G. robertianum. My conclusion would be that Herb Robert is a reasonable guess, and certainly in the ballpark, but it’s still not 100% certain.



    The new Jepson keys are not available yet (and one could debate if they’re applicable if this is only a garden plant), but at least some of the new species treatments are. Comparing G. purpureum and G. robertianum, about the only significant difference I see is anther color… yellowish for the former and purplish for the latter… pollen for both is presumably yellow so I guess you’d need to see the anther sacs themselves before they open… can’t really tell from Byddi’s photo (and don’t know if it’s a reliable, keyable characteristic anyway).



    Interestingly, the MI flora describes G. robertianum as circumpolar and presumably native in MI, while the new (and much more recent) Jepson treatment describes it as introduced in North America, and native only in Europe, N. Africa, and W. Asia.

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  5. Thanks so much to all the feedback from our Edgewood Weed Warriors (link in right side bar to Edgewood Natural Preserve) - these guys are responsible for anything I know about California's native plants and ecology!

    Drew, I couldn't get your photos posted so I'm putting them up in the left side bar.

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  6. Such lovely photos, Byddi. I'm happy to live vicariously through you (though I have to say my blue-eyed grass is rather impressive this year).

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  7. Ohhh - I love blue-eyed grass - I want that in my native plant garden...does it put out runners? :-)

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