Oh what an incredible and glorious fall it has been so far! Not only have the rains replenished our tanks, cattle and land but also perked all the gardens up and the fall blooms are abundant. The ‘Country Girl’ mums, the Mexican cosmos with their radiant orange flowers, the smellicious almond verbenas, the multi-colored zinnias and the ‘Ponderosa’ lemon weighing heavily with its abundant and heavy fruits are but a few enjoying the bounty of the rains. Butterflies still abound in the garden – especially on the various mistflowers, butterfly weeds, the zinnias, and the chaya. Caterpillars are busy munching away on the fennel and other plants in a hurry to metamorphose before the first frosts.
Speaking of Fall, now is the time to plant herbs and flowers. Culinary herbs such as dill (herb of 2010), fennel, parsley, caraway, coriander/cilantro, celery, chervil, and lovage. There are also many ornamentals such as bishop’s weed, Queen Anne’s lace, and laceflower. Vegetables such as carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips obviously belong here too. I also sprinkle in seeds of tri color swiss chard for their beautiful and edible foliage, sugar snap peas and baby lettuces for a quick harvest.There are also medicinal plants such as angelica – of which the Chinese variety (Angelica polymorpha var. sinensis) does best here (zone 9) - in part shade. It is biennial and can reach 8 to 10 feet when blooming! Angelica, by the way, is a historically important plant that was used to treat a variety of ailments and gives its characteristic flavor to the liqueur Benedictine. One member of this family which you should truly avoid growing is poison hemlock. It can be mistaken for parsley and is quite lethal – just ask Socrates if you don’t believe me. As a important and fun experience, most of these plants are great larval host plants for many butterfly species!Get on your gloves, get out your spade and get digging! The reward is far greater than the work involved….