Isn’t it wonderful the garden gives us magical, colorful treasures in the grey cloud, cold of Winter? Phillip and I have enjoyed looking out our bedroom window every morning to see California wildflowers and irises blooming around our patio. And walking through the garden opens daily discoveries of plants showing their most incredible beauties.

In the previous post, I mentioned the baby plants of Borage that have started themselves by seed in the garden. Borage is a lovely plant to have in any garden: the leaves are edible and offer a taste of cucumber, adding a spike of freshness to salads and soups, and the lovely purple/blue flowers are edible as well–I use them to adorn desserts, soups and salads. Just imagine a rustic orange colored butternut squash soup garnished with a single, lovely borage flower (I think this is on the menu for tonight…). Borage is also a fantastic plant for bees and other pollinators (as you will see in the photo–double click on the photo and it enlarges beautifully, there is a bee in midflight approaching a flower).

This is our first year to have an asparagus crop! Isn’t this photo so cool? This past summer I planted 2 rows of tomato plants with a row of asparagus in between (my planters are 4′ x 20′, so I can fit quite a bit of vegetables/fruits per planter). Asparagus and tomatoes are “companion plants”, they help to repel one another’s pests, as well as promote each other’s growth. Tomatoes grow in the summer, and asparagus in the winter/spring; hence no space or water competition. The asparagus spears just shoot right out of the soil and continue to spread throughout the bed, with years and years worth of growth. Yesterday, I snipped off a small bit of spear and there is NOTHING like the taste of fresh asparagus! A couple of years ago, Phillip & I were vacationing in Tuscany just as the wild asparagus was growing near his sister’s (Penelope) house. She took us on a walk to help us be able to find them growing amongst the thickets and stone walls, we picked handfuls to eat with pasta that night–I thought nothing would ever compare again. But here we go, we, too can have this underground gift arrive just in time for the spring–anyone up for some pasta tossed with just picked asparagus and local olive oil?!

Irises, and any other bulb flower for that matter, are my favorite flowers to have in the garden. Courtesy of my friend Tony, I dug out of his garden (while he wasn’t looking, I might add) 2 large boxes of overcrowded iris plants (Phillip kept him busy while I madly pulled and hid them). I transplanted them all around the house, under our olive trees and lining our walking paths. Irises have the most amazing depth of color, and color pairings. I’ve often thought every room in our house should mirror these combinations: deep rust-red with bright orange or soft purple with an even softer yellow, etc. Bulbs are a no-effort plant, they just keep themselves going in our gardens (we are blessed to not have to dig them up in this area) and produce magnificent displays even on the coldest days of January!

I discovered this little delicate flower yesterday. As I was pruning the dead stalks from last year’s asparagus, I could hear a very definite hum of bees, I searched to see what they were being attracted to and I was so pleased to see this California native flowering! (Our landscaping is dedicated to natives–when I planted them a year ago, none of them were bigger then 8″ from the ground. Phillip and I have been amazed to see the tremendous amount of growth in these plants without ANY water from our last rains in March of ’09 until October of the same year. Why more gardens aren’t dedicated to California natives, when we have drought years, I don’t know…). I’m not sure what this particular native is (anyone?), but growing from the base up, it has these precious little flowers dangling from it’s branches. And there are all sorts of pollinators enjoying the flowers–native bees, honeybees, even some butterflies were visiting yesterday.

Today I’m planting broad beans from seed and then I’m starting the 2 month task of hand-weeding…Help!!!