Garden Variety Fun

A few years ago, my partner and I decided it would be good for us to have a garden – someplace to putter, to plant, to dig in the dirt and grow pretty things and salad things and mostly, serve as an excuse for us to get outside more often. We’re still not really good at it, but we learn a little every year, and I’m always tickled when we manage to not kill something. So here are a few garden things that have made me happy this year.

This was the first bloom on the clematis vine this spring. I planted it just last year and it stayed very small and bloomed just a couple of times. This year, it went crazy (not long after I took this photo), but I neglected to take a picture when it had a gazillion flowers. My mom always had one of these in her garden, and I always thought this color was the most awesome shade of coolness.

My partner and our youngest son love fried okra so she wanted to grow her own this year. They were the only plants in the garden that didn’t wilt during the wicked heat and dry spell in July. And now they’re producing okra quicker than I can harvest them. These things grow fast and are hard to kill – my kind of plant. It makes me feel like I know what I’m doing. I do, however, think okra in any form of food is revolting, but look what pretty flowers they have!

As I was hovering over the okra plants with my camera, a bee flew by my nose, landed on a flower, stuffed himself inside it, and didn’t come out. This is him. I think he went into some kind of pollen coma or something. He just stayed there kind of buzzing under his breath.

Thai basil. Also easy to grow and hard to kill. And it has pretty flowers that attract fun insects. This came up all over the front of the garden a few weeks ago. I thought it died over the winter.

Portrait of a tiny, tiny flower.

Sunflowers make me ridiculously happy. These are my first. They’re of the giant variety and so are taller than me and just started blooming a couple of days ago. I went out to take a photo of one and this Spicebush swallowtail was considerate enough to flutter up and plant himself (sorry, can never resist an awful pun) on my flower.

He really, really liked the flower but got irritated at my clicking at him and sailed off over the house a moment later.

Anybody else have fun stuff going on in your garden this year?

Leave a comment


  1. Beautiful!! In South Florida, I’m all about the natives… Or as I like to say, “hard-to-kill.” πŸ™‚ Basil’s always wonderful to have around, too – and who knew… When I was bit by a recluse last year, that steeped basil was an old remedy to help draw out the poison? So happy I had some nearby!!

    • Did it help? Our middle boy was bitten by a brown recluse when he was little and spooked us for a bit. He was so little and we didn’t know he had been bitten until we found a huge welt on his leg. No necrosis, though. I never knew until then how damaging the venom could be.

      • Eeeks… How scary. There was no avoiding my bite. My entire calf blew up β€” red, swollen β€” from ankle to knee. I know I’m sensitive, but WOW. What’s so frightening about these bites is that antibiotics don’t address the venom AT ALL. Apparently, basil does… Or at least, it’s a VERY OLD remedy (even listed on Web MD as such!). I drank my basil tea like it was going out of style… To this day, that leg gets sore quickly (it was last July, the bite). Slight tissue damage, perhaps. Ah well… Can’t blame the spider! She was just doing her business. πŸ™‚

      • Wow. If recluse bites were more common, you could bet some pharmaceutical company would be researching basil to find the venon-fighting ingredient or mechanism and market it. Glad you recovered without obvious tissue loss. Maybe the quick-to-
        soreness will abate over time?

      • It’s funny how the pharmaceutical industry avoids ALL natural solutions… But it’s a commonly known antidote, and has been for hundreds of years. Sigh. Well, they can’t make money off of basil, can they?

        I’m not sure about the soreness… I’ve heard that tissue damage can be permanent, but it’s not awful. Just sore when overworked (like the 12-hour day at Disney this weekend). GASP!

  2. Love the “when we manage not to kill something”…ha, ha. My mother kills things with rapid speed. I planted okra as well this year and it does have plenty flowers. A plus was it also liked my cruddy dirt in the garden.

    • Cruddy dirt – hee. My dirt is actually decent because my mom lectured me on how to prepare it. It sounds like our roles are opposite of you and your mom. I tend (or used to) to kill things and my mom is uber-gardener.

  3. Paul J. Stam

     /  August 17, 2012

    I don’t have a garden or even decent sunlight to grow anything, so thank you for sharing your garden. Really blooms to make one happy.

    • Glad you enjoyed the pics, Paul! I especially get a kick out of the plants that a) don’t die and b) make pretty flowers that attract cool bugs

  4. Great pics. How accomodating of that butterfly. That never happens to me. On this last vacation we found a dead butterfly that was still sort of open, and I was actually debating whether or not to place it on a flower and take a picture, because it would be the only chance I ever get. But I didn’t, because that would be cheating.

    • I love that you didn’t cheat and also that you considered it! Don’t feel bad about the butterflies seeming to not cooperate. I used to feel the same way but then I spent a ridiculous amount of time the last 3 or 4 years learning about when, where, and how to look for them. I became hyper-aware of them (even while I’m driving which sometimes really disturbs my partner). And I watch the garden for visitors. But this fellow was a happy surprise so a little luck never hurts.

  5. I don’t like gardening much. Harvesting is OK with me, but not the rest of the “work”. Now I’m wondering if I could do this simply to enjoy the beauty! …Maybe so πŸ™‚

    • I used to feel exactly the same way! I don’t know how or when exactly it changed, but I actually enjoy the dirty work now (except in July!). I think you could definitely start small, minimize the grunt work and still have fun results. That’s what we did. We actually just started with potted plants on the porch, then finally dug a small bed. Now we just keep expanding a little every year (partly because I’m tired of mowing the lawn so we’re gradually getting rid of it).

      • I like the idea of maybe starting with just a couple of herbs in pots. It has me thinking!

  6. Lovely! My “practice” garden hasn’t been so awesome this year. I am, however, very thankful for the return of rain here. My tomato plants have grown an additional two feet and can’t hold up all the tomatoes they are finally producing. I’m going to have tons of excellent paste and containers of chili in the freezer this fall!

    • Sounds like your tomatoes are pretty awesome! I had some success with tomatoes for a couple of years and got all full of myself. So last year I tried to grow heirlooms. They got 2 kinds of blight and tomato hornworms kept appearing quicker than I could pick them off. It didn’t end well for my poor plants. I’m still a little traumatized so decided to take a year off from tomatoes. Congratulations on your tomato success!

  7. Your photos are incredible! Suitable for framing/selling.
    Here’s mine πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks for the tour! Beautiful. My yard/garden are deer eaten and not at all suitable for framing!

    • Do you have deer photos? That would be fun. I see deer in our neighborhood about once a year. I think they wander out of the park down the street. Do you have woods near your house?

      • We are surrounded by deer. I never bother taking photos because they are ever present. The first one I saw had my blackeyed susans in her mouth. There are thousands of them. We have woods and fields and streams — and expensive plantings. My area is a veritable deer resort!

  9. Beautiful work-tell me about your camera.

    • Canon Rebel EOS XS with 2 zoom lenses: an 18-55mm and a 75-300mm. Very fun. It’s versatile enough to let me do almost anything I might want. Thanks for asking. I always like talking about cameras.

  10. You’ve taken some gorgeous pictures! And you have a lovely garden. Does Thai basil taste different from regular basil?

  11. Gorgeous shots – those sunflowers are amazing! And beautiful photos of the butterfly.

  12. “someplace to putter, to plant, to dig in the dirt and grow pretty things and salad things and mostly, serve as an excuse for us to get outside more often. ” – hihihi, you love gardening, against your will, haha. hey, your photos are wonderful, wonderful… πŸ™‚

    and, okra is just so masarap (that’s Tagalog for delicious). the regular-sized, freshly harvested ones are the best. i would grant though, it’s an acquired taste. ^^

    you are so sweet to B, pestering her with lovely photos, am sure she’s thrilled. πŸ˜‰ “These things grow fast and are hard to kill – my kind of plant.” – hahaha. πŸ˜‰

    hey, thanks for dropping by and the kind words… have a fun weekend, you and your loved ones.

    • Definitely an acquired taste! And I plan on not acquiring it. Ick. Youngest son eats it like candy, though. Go figure.Yeah, I supposed the gardening thing is growing on me. (Ha!) Kind of fun seeing what’s going to rise up out of the dirt. And yes, B is lucky to have me. She tells me so all the time. (I’m a lucky girl.) We did have a fun weekend. Thanks for the comments and well wishes. I always enjoy it when you stop by.

      • haha, the emphasis is not lost on me, fime… πŸ˜‰ okra belongs to the extreme department – either a person likes it to high heavens or detests it like his enemy subject in school. ^^ i grew up in the barrio and am really fond of planting and watching things grow. but i have more siblings who will not have anything to do with soil and earth and planting even if we grew up in the same place, ahaha. am figuring that one out… i guess, you and B are both lucky. glad to hear you’ve had a fun weekend. we just came from a long (4 days) holiday and yes, we also had fun and excitement, haha. btw, it’s always a pleasure to come by. πŸ˜‰

      • A holiday sounds fun. Are there photos? Will you post about it? B and I fantasize about buying a place in the country one day, maybe just a few acres with an old farm house and a barn, someplace isolated with enough room for our dogs to run where you can see the stars at night. We’d grow some of our own food, maybe keep a milk cow and some goats so we can make cheese and butter. So I’m practicing on the little garden. Maybe after the kids finish school. Who knows? It’s fun to think about, though.

      • oh, a holiday here isn’t a blast unless a family goes to an out of town trip. we didn’t, stayed home mostly, haha. we’ve been flooded two weeks ago and the cleaning part isn’t over yet (it may last past Christmas time, shocks). but we did get a chance, many hours to play with our terrible grandniece who’s 1 and 1/2 years old and everybody’s apple of the eye. we did go out twice to have dinner, though. the first was in a noodle house and the next was in a villa-styled dining place to celebrate my niece’s bday. the week ended with another niece being sick with gastro so we capped the holiday in a hospital’s ER, haha. ^^

        ahaha, that sounds hard work, fun and idyll, Tori. many people have that dream, i guess, that kind of retirement pakage, haha. but why not? when you’ve earned it and can afford it, why ever not? πŸ™‚ have a great weekend ahead… πŸ˜‰

  13. Anita Gallagher

     /  August 18, 2012

    Wow you finally got some tall sunflowers, they look beautiful especially with the butterfly.
    Love your shot of the bashful bee. Keep at it sweetheart. Love Mom

  14. Hi Mom! A front came in and is dumping a bunch of rain on us and two of my sunflowers just keeled over! I’m going to go out and stake them up. The bee was cute. Thanks, Mom. Love, #1 daughter

  15. Catherine

     /  August 19, 2012

    Oh my your photos are pure joy!

  16. Gorgeous images, Tori. We’ve got amazing zinnias, my favorite flower, blooming in our garden and tomatoes–tons of them!

    • I have no tomatoes this year but I did raise up some zinnia’s from seeds. Mine are kind of tall and gangly kind of like teenage boys with flowers on top. And I do not have tons. More of a scattering, really. Tons would be lovely. Do you have more photos of your garden? Are you planning perhaps another gardenish post before the growing season is over?

  17. Well your okra puts mine to shame. We saw some in a huge pot at a garden in Asheville years ago and it did have the prettiest flowers. We’ve only had a few. I wish it would produce plentifully. We love it. My son has always loved to squeeze the “eyes” out while he eats it. πŸ˜‰

    Lovely photos. I have been thinking this year of getting rid of some plants that are taking over and trying some new things next year.

  18. That last shot is particularly beautiful!

  19. Ah! Garden posts are such fun….esp when they coincide with a renewed zest for gardening in me. After a lull in enthusiasm, I’m happy to report that I’m back to tending the plants in my courtyard, and that they are responding by blooming! Also went to a nearby plant nursery today to add a bit of variety in terms of leaf colour and flowers πŸ™‚ It just makes me so happy! Can’t stop going out to admire them again and again.
    I feel a blog post coming on….
    Amazed at the okra flower….so pretty! And great shot of the bee….love the way you described it πŸ™‚

  20. I love love love Clematis. We used to grow it in Chicago but haven’t attempted it in Denver with the cool nights. Our garden here, planted eight years ago, keeps getting bigger and as it does, giving us more reasons to be outside. Good luck with yours…. =)


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