The colors are muted earth tones, not the bright, primary and secondary colors of summer. But the textures and the edges stand out in winter. The space between branches and stalks assumes a new gravity, framed by the dessicated, dormant, gnarled architecture of past growth. An array of little song birds, hidden by foliage the rest of the year, reveal themselves if you stay still long enough. Do that for yourself if you visit. There’s so much to see here in the off-season. Behold.
Vitis californica (California wild grape) tendril wrapped around a supporting Viburnum opulus (tall bush cranberry) trunk. The USDA reports that Vitis californica “was used to save the European wine industry between 1870 and 1900 when most wine grapes (Vitis vinifera) were killed by grape phylloxera aphids (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae). Since that time, nearly all commercial wine grapes grown anywhere in the world have been grafted onto rootstock of resistant California wild grape cultivars.” Thank you, California wild grapes!
Oh, the things you see when you look closely.
Castanea sativa (chestnut) leaf in section D.
I didn’t expect to see a spider in the garden yesterday but…
Gardenus spiderius (garden spider).
I’m sorry to say I still know next to nothing about spiders and so I made up the Latin name. It managed to find a meal on a cold day in January.
And, can you believe it, the rosemary is flowering.
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) flowering in January. The flowers are sweet, fragrant and delicately beautiful if you examine them closely.
Aster linosyris (goldilocks aster) section C.
Silphium terebinthinacium (Prairie dock) leaf veins in section C…
…and whole leaf glowing with late afternoon sunlight
Cynara syriaca (wild artichoke) section C.
It never hurts to lie down and look up once in a while, especially on a sunny winter day.
Eupatorium purpureum (Joe Pye weed) section C
Nolina microcarpa (sacahuista, beargrass) section C. It flowered for the first time this summer and the stalk still stands. It has faded to a skeletal grey and black.
Prairie dock stalks and sky.
Beautiful in summer or winter, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to reduce swelling and stop bleeding, among other things, bai ji is dependable and easy to grow. The seed heads look they were dipped in bronze.
Bletilla striata (bai ji) seed pods in section E.
Penthorum sedoides (ditch stonecrop) has tiny, powdery seeds, light enough that when the seed capsules dehisce, the seeds can be dispersed by the least puff of wind. It is both demulcent and astringent and has been used in cough remedies as well as to treat diarrhea and hemorrhoids
Potentilla arguta (tall cinquefoil) section E. The tannins make this plant an effective astringent. Recent studies have also shown root extracts of Potentilla arguta to have antiviral properties.
Daucus carota (wild carrot, Queen Anne’s lace) section D. The fuzzy seeds, when ingested, have been and still are used as a morning-after contraceptive.
Cynara cardunculus (cardoon) section E. Though cardoon is perennial, as a food crop it is grown as an annual and its leaf petioles are harvested in the fall after blanching. They are relished by gourmands, rich and poor alike.
Helenium autumnale var. autumnale (common sneezeweed)
Smilax rotundifolia (common greenbriar) section B
Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower) section D.
When the esteemed geneticist Wes Jackson paid a visit to the UW Farm several years ago, I had the opportunity to ask what broad-leaved, herbacious perennials he and his fellow researchers at the Land Institute were working on. He told me that one of their experiments was crossing Helianthus maximiliani with Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke).
As our conversation that day meandered, we somehow strayed to the subject of poetry and the poet Gary Snyder. Wes then spontaneously recited from memory Snyder’s poem, For the Children, a poem we have taped to the UW Farm tool cabinet.
Wes Jackson and the Land Institute are national treasures.
Brickellia californica (California brickellbush) section E.
tiny blur of light
flickers through a brickellbush
See you in the garden.