Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Late Summer Flowers in My Garden

I love this time of year!  The days are getting cooler, the flowers are more colorful in my garden, and the hummingbirds amass at the nectar feeders and flowers to put on some more weight for their journey south to Mexico for winter.  My tomatoes are finally getting ripe.  I walked outside this morning and took stock of what is blooming and what has gone to seed.  I live in the foothills of Albuquerque, New Mexico at 5900 ft. elevation.

I finally identified the oregano that has tiny white flowers and pungent leaves for my cooking that was planted by the previous resident of this house.  It is Syrian Oregano (Origanum Maru), also called Bible Hyssop referred to in this passage: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7).  
Syrian Oregano flowers

This herb, a member of the aromatic Mint Family,  is used in many Middle Eastern spice blends and is key to the making of Zatar :    

"In the Middle East, Origanum maru is often used, along with Conehead Thyme and Pink Savory, as an ingredient in the spice blend Zatar. While it is tempting to label a single herb Zatar and while, like the recipe below, a single herb may be mixed with other ingredients, Zatar is an herb and spice blend. The herbs in the mix vary from region to region, similar to curry. Zatar is often spread on bread or pita with a little olive oil and baked something like an herbal pizza. 

"In Carol Saville's excellent book Exotic Herbs, she gives this simple recipe for Zatar:
1/2 cup dried Syrian Oregano
1/4 cup imported edible ground sumac

Syrian Oregano growing in my garden
(make sure to get the edible kind from a Middle Eastern market)
2 tablespoons roasted Sesame Seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Black Pepper to taste
Pita Bread
2/3 Cup Olive oil
In a small bowl add the first five ingredients and stir together to combine. Seal in a glass jar and store out of the light. Makes about 2/3 cup.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Brush pita with olive oil and sprinkle with Zatar and warm in the oven. Or mix equal parts Zatar and Olive Oil and spread over bread and then warm."    (from: Mountain Valley Growers website)

Other herbs growing in my garden include Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender and Sage.  The Rosemary bloomed in the spring with its delightful blue flowers.

The Rosemary was already growing here when we moved in in 2014.  I have had to cut it back as it had spread so extensively.

Talk about spreading, I planted Spearmint from a cutting of wild spearmint from Juan Tomas Road in the Manzanita Mountains.  The Spearmint (Mentha spicata), also called Yerba Buenamakes for a good tea and is a key ingredient for Rum Mojitos that I occasionally enjoy.  The Spearmint has been blooming all summer and has delicate white flowers. I love the smell of the mint when I walk on it.

Spearmint flowers

Spearmint is very invasive spreading by rhizomes

A hardy ground cover that I also love to walk on for the smell is also a useful herb: Thyme.  I have  three kinds of Thyme growing in my garden.  The most hardy and fragrant is the English or Garden Thyme (Thymus vulgaris).  It survives winter freezes, insects and infrequent watering and makes for a lovely green carpet of fragrant leaves.  I often use this thyme for cooking.

My English Thyme grows into a luxurious carpet of aromatic green

White flowers of Garden Thyme
My garden has two types of creeping thymes,  Mother of Thyme  (Thymus praecox) which has tiny light violet flowers blooming now and Elfin Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) which I like to grow among walkways, steps, and rocks.  It tends to mound and has deep pink flowers. 

Elfin Thyme

Mother of Thyme
 I also have several lavenders growing with more or less success   They are at the end of the flowering season and beginning to go to seed.The flowers range from blue to pinkish white. The heartiest for this elevation and cold freezes is English Lavender.

'Elegance Pink' English Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
 I have many Sages or Salvia.  They spread by seed and new meadow sages pop up all over my garden. They attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds all summer.

Salvia or Meadow Sage

Texas Sage or Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)  has red or magenta flowers .

Meadow Sage

Last summer I gathered the seeds from the spent Zinnia flower heads  and this spring I scattered them pell mell throughout the lower garden.   Now they are all blooming with a ferocious spirit to maintain their life force.  Colorful and abundant, my husband especially likes the Zinnias. 

I have Dianthus and Cat Mint, Butterfly Bush, Tickseed, Marigold, Rose and Gaura that are all blooming right now.  The bees and hummingbirds have them to themselves since the butterflies are all gone.

Butterfly Bush and Texas Sage

Dianthus smell spicy like carnations

Coreopsis | Tickseed

My 'Anna's Promise" Rose
 A few volunteers I did not plant are popping up, including Morning Glory and Sunflowers.
Wild Morning Glory

Sunflower from bird seed feeders.  The birds are eating the leaves.
I also have some vegetables: tomatoes, chiles, and squash.  I have a little game going on with the ground squirrels who get the tomatoes as soon as they start to redden.  I have to pick them just when they get a hint of pink to beat the squirrels to their sweetness.

Squirrels got to this one before I did.

Better pick this one before the squirrels get it..

Finally, some tomatoes for my salad,

 I am pretty happy with my little backyard garden now.  I've put a lot of labor and love into making it into a backyard retreat to enjoy the out-of-doors in the city.

Three years ago when we bought this house, this is what the backyard looked like: