Since the post on the tree collard continually gets a surprising number of hits, full disclosure is in order: I’ve composted the tree collard. It is a defiantly ugly vegetable. My hat is off to fellow tree collard growers who manage to overlook this fact. Long and tall may their tree collards grow. There’s an inherent contradiction built into growing a cool-season brassica year-round, and by mid-summer this contradiction is etched into the few mangy leaves remaining on an absurdly naked and gangly stalk.
A few days ago I took this photo of a flower of Solanum marginatum, which I didn’t know at the time would be the last. (The fruit has been saved for those who asked about seeds.) The encrustation on its stems and branches by keel-backed leafhoppers, Antianthe expansa, aided by their ant buddies, had reached critical mass, and no amount of hose spray or pruning was making a difference. This morning’s exasperated scene of ripping out a member of the solanaceae family at the end of summer has been repeated many times in my garden. With the solanum vines like jasminoides and crispum ‘Glasnevin,’ on related shrubs like iochroma and cestrum. Typical of my garden, like an elevator filled to capacity, when the solanum made its final exit other plants surged forward in relief to stretch their limbs and fill the gap.
The solanum back in early September, hovering over a potted agave.
The solanum was already getting pruned into a little tree rather than the 5X5-foot shrub it would prefer to be.
Salvia madrensis and the castor bean plant are sending me off into fall with the knowledge that nice things do happen in the garden from time to time. Sure, Musschia wollastonii, so promising all summer, mysteriously collapsed late September without having bloomed, and Lobelia tupa, though still alive, never bloomed either. The salvia and ricinus are matched in height, both over 7 feet, and together are flying the colors of autumn as though I had planned it all along.