Easy Beauty For Weary Gardeners
After a cold dry spring, the warm summery weather we’ve been getting is very welcome. Sunny day after sunny day, it definitely has that endless summer quality, and the kids are thrilled to be able to go to the beach and swim in our cool coastal waters and not turn blue. However, without those cool, grey marine layer mornings to keep things damp, many of our English Border perennials are drying out fast, despite daily watering. In contrast, the sun lovers, annuals and perennials, are basking happily, drinking in sunlight as if it were water. My zinnias just keep producing bud after bud, and the charming little Lemon Drop Evening Primroses tumble in silvery-green cascades studded with endless golden blossoms. There’s a charming pink one too, from Mexico, but it rarely returns to my garden after a cold winter.
Among the best of the sun lovers are dahlias, tough, enduring and gorgeous. Dahlias come in so many tints and tones these days that you can choose them in almost any color but blue. Last week I visited a nearby dahlia farm with a Senior Center group and we explored fields of flowers in full, triumphant bloom. The farmer told us she had started out with 100 different varieties and now grows at least twice that many, in every size and shade and hue imaginable, from lacy white to deepest red-black. I picked an assortment that called my name and was tickled to find when I got home that I had created an arrangement that perfectly blended with both my cat and the beautiful ripe nectarine I was getting ready to chop up (add a little yogurt and some nut-rich homemade granola and you have the perfect summer no-cook meal).
Grow Your Own, The Lazy Way
Like tomatoes, dahlias like full sun and adequate water but not soggy feet or drenched foliage. My farmer friend dutifully digs up several fields full of tubers each year because they regularly flood in winter, when water tables are high. The largest field stands higher and never gets sodden, and there they only lift the plants every other year, and mostly because they sell tubers in spring as well as flowers in summer. At the local library, where I’ve been gardening with the Friday Tidies for nearly 30 years, we’ve got dahlias that have never been lifted in years, and they bloom as strongly as ever, providing plenty of cut flowers for our beloved librarians as well as casual passersby. People just can’t resist helping themselves and that’s fine with us, since the more you pick, the more buds the plants produce.
Similarly, at the Senior Center, half a dozen dahlia plants have braved freezing winter temperatures as well as sweltering sun and reflected heat off the parking lot for several years and they, too, bloom abundantly all summer. This year, they really stood up to the test, as I’ve been too busy (and overwhelmed) to do much watering and my most faithful (and fun) helper has been traveling (and broke her hand on her last trip), so the dahlias have had to manage on their own. They’ve done amazingly well with only a handful of organic fertilizer scratched in in May and a few inches of wood chips for mulch to lock in whatever moisture the dew might offer. You’ve got to love a plant that’s so giving and needs so little in return.
1/4 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, coriander, and ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup each walnuts, pecans and peanuts
6-7 cups rolled oats
Combine oils, sweetener and spices in a bowl and blend well. Stir in vanilla and nuts, then add oats, stirring often to coat generously. Spread the mixture into a rimmed baking sheet and smooth it out to the edges. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes and cool if you like softer granola, or stir the mixture and bake for another 10 minutes if you prefer crunchy granola. Cool and store in a glass container. Makes about 2-1/2 quarts.