Gardening: Season of Appreciation

persimmonBy David McMullin

We have olives in our garden. They don’t fruit, but they have been growing for a decade. They have taken on the twisting, gnarled form that everyone loves about olive trees. Their silvery leaves shimmer in the heat of the day.

There are bananas, too – old ones that fill the summer sky with their big, wavy leaves. If we’re lucky and the frost comes late, we get trusses of little green fruit.

There are two persimmons – a native one that is tall and thin in the canopy of the old oak. It dresses the ground with squishy little orange fruit in the early winter. The other, an exotic Japanese variety, planted several years ago has apple-sized, deep orange fruit that hang like lanterns on the bare winter branches. We eat them in December.

There is ginger and cardamom, loquats and guavas and apricots. I meant to make jelly from the apricots, but the birds enjoyed them first. The guavas, we eat off of the branch when they’re candy-sweet and tart.

At my farm, we have blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and figs. We made several nice quarts of strawberry and raspberry jam. The figs are brilliant stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon for the grill. Yum!

Soon the ground at the farm will be deep in pecans. Mimi, who lives in the old house, collects the pecans for her yankee friends and relatives. Her porch is transformed into a process center with mesh bags, piles of shells and a “rocket” that breaks the nuts and makes shorter shrift of the work. I love her pecan rolls with hot coffee on early mornings. There are hickory nuts too, but they’re mostly left for the squirrels. The “rocket” is no match for their heavy shells.

The herbs I grow are mostly in our big gravel garden – English thyme, Greek oregano, summer basil for light pasta and several varieties of rosemary for baking savory scones, roasting chicken or skewering pork. There’s just enough sage for the Thanksgiving turkey.

Our little vegetable garden is a feast or famine sort of thing, with the famine coming mostly in the summer months. In the cooler months, we feast on a rainbow of lettuce, chard, kale and assorted Asian greens for stir-frying. We will have broccoli and cauliflower for Thanksgiving, turnip greens for Christmas and sweet Georgia collards to prime the prosperity in the New Year.

The garden still symbolizes abundance. Its break-the-bank and break-the-back hard work is soon forgotten when the pot liquor is poured over the cornbread or the jar lids are popping after a hot water bath. This is the season for appreciating such things.

David McMullinDavid McMullin, an acclaimed garden designer, has owned New Moon Gardens design firm for 20 years. His gardens have been featured on tours, in magazines and on television. For more information on his design services, contact David at newmoongardens@gmail.com or 404-593-0996.

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