Summer is here and with it comes a beautiful ever-changing roadside garden. Look about you and see the shiny yellow Common Buttercups, Hedge Mustard’s stiff stems with a mass of tiny yellow blossoms, lavender and white Phlox, and right now bright orange Daylilies, a garden escapee from Eurasia. Queen Anne’s Lace enhances any bouquet whether on the roadside or in a vase.
A display of Chicory’s true blue flowers mixed with Queen Anne’s Lace flat white heads is one of my favorite roadside sights. The common daisy or Oxeye Daisy nods its head and I am still tempted to pull the petals off one at a time: “He loves me, He loves me not.” Tall Cow Parsnips blossom with flat white flower heads–Queen Anne’s Lace on steroids. Mullein’s tall stalk, covered with small yellow blossoms, rises from its big velvety gray-green leaves. Yarrow, also popular in home gardens, produces flat white flower heads from its fuzzy gray-green stems and fern-like leaves. Musk Mallow blooms with five pink-lavender or white delicate petals in each blossom.
I spot large white flat blossoms of Elderberry bushes. They will later dazzle me with red-purple berries that form on tiny stems from each of those blossoms. Many birds choose them for fine dining. Some people gather the berries for Elderberry jelly, pie, or wine if they get there before the birds, but I find picking the little berries from their tiny stems too tedious.
Soon Sheep Sorrel will show tiny red blossoms. As a single plant it is barely noticeable, but millions in a field produce a pink glow. Black-eyed Susan, a daisy-like flower with deep golden petals with a dark brown or black center comes front and center along the road. A foreign invader, Purple Loosestrife is pushing out many native species, but a large cluster of its blossoming purple spires, is a great sight along a creek.
The Bull Thistle, with its leaves too sharp to touch has rosy lavender blossoms that feel like silk. I love the striking contrast of a Goldfinch, a bright yellow black-winged bird, sitting on the soft blooms, perhaps waiting for the blossom to produce its favorite seed.
In mid-summer some plants manage to blossom and set seeds without being noticed. Cattails in the roadside ditches and marshy areas started blossoming in early summer, but they don’t come to my attention until they become the distinctive brown spires. The reddish flowers of Dock escape my notice until the seeds form on the stiff stalks. I don’t see Teasel when it is green, but only after the lavender blossoms have dropped and the seed heads stand taller than the grasses around it. In the early fall I put on gloves to collect stems of Teasel to highlight arrangements of greens in my window boxes.
When Asters and Goldenrod begin to show their colors, they announce the grand conclusion to the season’s wildflower display. New England Asters, New York Asters, and Small Flowered Asters are but a few of the wild varieties in pink, white, and purple. The many varieties of Goldenrod, often falsely maligned for causing hay fever, shine and nod with the wind. Ragweed, the true enemy, hides from detection.
In the cool days of early autumn, trees prepare for winter, their leaves changing to red, gold, orange, and brown. With the fading of the colorful blooms of summer, the fields and roadsides turn a mixture of neutral tan, brown, and gray. White silk umbrellas explode from their enveloping milkweed pods, brown seed heads of Goldenrod sway, and plumes of Giant Reed wave to me as I drive by my roadside garden as if they are saying good-by.
Winter brings its own beauty. A fresh snow shimmers like quartz crystals in the sun. Only stalks from the past summer’s blossoms protrude through the earth’s blanket. Most deciduous trees stand black and naked for me to admire their structure. Only oaks refuse to let go of their leaves and wait for developing buds to push them off. Evergreens call out, “We’re here!” Just when I think there is no color, Winterberry bushes show off their bright red berries.
“As the days begin to lengthen the cold begins to strengthen,” my father’s adage, remains true. However, the world around me is preparing for spring. New leaf nubs grow and the trees appear fuller, less stark than last fall. Willow trees begin to show bright yellow twigs. I wait for the Coltsfoot to surprise me in my roadside garden and bring the promise of a whole new roadside garden that I don’t need to tend, but only appreciate.01-anniversary 5863


IN my children’s novel, A Long, Long Summer, Jeanne is surprised to discover that her aunt and uncle grow the vegetables which they eat all summer and prepare for the winter.

An excerpt:
One mid-July morning, Aunt Belle said, “There are enough peas ready for canning. I’d like you kids to help me.”
“What do we do?” Jeanne asked following Sally out to the woodshed.
“First, we take these buckets and pick peas, and then we shell them.” Sally picked up two clean gray metal pails from a pile on the corner of the woodshed porch, and handed one to Jeanne.
“I’ll be down after I change,” Aunt Belle called as they went out to the back porch and down the knoll behind the house.
The large garden went from the edge of the dirt driveway to the raspberry bushes and the red hen house. Jeanne hoped she wouldn’t have to go in there again.
They passed the green spires of the sweet corn, now grown taller than the day they’d been in the hen house to gather eggs.
“Where are the peas that we have to pick?”
Sally reached down and lifted a plant so the green pods hung down. “We pick all the pods that look kind of fat. Leave the real skinny ones. We get to pick them another day.”
Aunt Belle wore a pair of brown trousers and a large straw hat over her wavy brown hair. “It’s going to be a hot one today,” she said, “and maybe another thunderstorm.” She knelt down and began humming to herself as she worked quickly. She soon passed them with her bucket already half full. Aunt Belle had started on her second row when the girls finished their first. Their pails were full.
“You girls have been out here in the sun long enough. Your faces are red. Go up to the back porch where it’s cool and begin shelling,” Aunt Belle said. “There’s some orange Kool-Aid in the icebox.”
On the porch they found that Aunt Belle had left bowls for the shelled peas and a large basket for the empty pods. They sat on the porch floor with the bowls in their laps, their unshelled peas to one side and the empty basket between them. “Are these bowls big enough for all these peas?” Jeanne asked.
“That’s what I hate about peas. You start out with a lot, but you don’t get much.”
“Mama buys vegetables from a man with an old truck who comes around every Friday, but I’ve never shelled peas before.”
The basket of empty shells piled up quickly, but the bowls filled slowly.
“What will Aunt Belle do with all these peas?”
“We’ll have some for dinner this noon, but she’ll can the rest of them.”

Many people, like Jeanne, have neither grown nor picked their own vegetables. In the store they reject those that aren’t perfectly formed and without blemish. They have no idea what it costs in land, seed and fertilizer, labor and taxes to grow them. Now, with the developing “natural and organic” markets, some people are beginning to understand.

Growing up on a farm, my parents had a large garden where we grew all our own vegetables. Some appeared on the table fresh from picking, but the bigger portion went into jars, which were processed in a canner. Peas, green beans, carrots, beets, corn, Swiss chard and tomatoes all came to the table throughout the winter and until the next growing season began. In addition Dad grew a large patch of potatoes which were aLso stored in the cellar for the winter.

Why didn’t they freeze them? That technology only became viable financially for stores and families after World War II.
Helping Grandpa dig potatoes