San Diego: A Secret Garden

August 4, 2015

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

I don’t think any of us realized the magic of the backyard as children. We played loud rambunctious games by day and louder, wilder games after dark, by the light of just a few flashlights. Meanwhile, despite the risks posed by more than a dozen small feet and curious helping hands, my grandfather patiently cultivated the yard. Growing, growing, growing – while the small people that terrorized the yard grew, the garden grew too.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

Tomatoes, zucchini, nasturtiums, sunflowers. I’m sure Grandpa grew other things through the years, but those four were permanent watchmen of the house and the Pacific ocean shining behind them in the distance.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

And then, as all great art does, the backyard garden outlived its artist’s hand. Surviving the perils of small children, changing caretakers, unfamiliar neighbors, new freeways, building traffic, ever-expanding congestion – it’s still there, just behind the wooden fence. A few fruit trees have been added. Plants have been moved around. But little of substance has changed.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

Tomatoes, zucchini, nasturtiums, sunflowers – the old guards are still there. And the Pacific ocean shining under the San Diego sun is still just down the street. Maybe there’s a metaphor buried here, a tale of art or beauty or time. But to me, the garden just means I’m home.

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

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An Apartment Patio Garden.

April 13, 2015

 Patio Garden | The Orange Slate2

Patio Garden | The Orange Slate3

When we moved south and into our current apartment, I was particularly excited about trying a potted garden. I’ve tried to grow the occasional potted herb, with varying and unexciting success.

When we lived in our last house in D.C., we planted a few ground plants, but I kept my potted herbs inside on the windowsill (where they didn’t flourish in the least) because, although we had a small yard and porch, we lived in a very urban area with a lot of foot-traffic at all hours of the day and night. The idea of eating herbs that had been exposed to our street always made me a little nervous.

Patio Garden |The Orange Slate1

Patio Garden |The Orange Slate2

This year, I was excited to give gardening a real effort and eat the fruits of my labors. We have a narrow catwalk  and I knew that growing anything in the space would require a little bit of space strategy.

It warms up early in Texas and so a weekend afternoon in March found me in the garden department of Home Depot. After a lot of brainstorming and help from Pinterest, and arranging plants in pots and then rearranging (and with a lot of help from Miles) I ended up planting two flower-pots and three herbs. They fill all of the extra corners on our catwalk, but there is still room for a bench and so now we have a mini patio area.

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Patio Garden | The Orange Slate4

Even though garden is tiny, we’re already using the herbs (basil, rosemary, and oregano) in our meals on an almost daily basis, which makes me way too excited.

The flowers (impatiens, mums, and a Gerbera daisy) seem to be doing great*. Our catwalk has a nice full view of the sun for about 1/3 of the day and nice shade for 2/3, so I think I just lucked out with an ideal location (although sometimes the impatiens seem to get a little wilty in the afternoon if I don’t remember to scoot them back into the shade), but I’ll credit my black-thumb-turning green, my obsessive hovering, and the “magic soil” that the Home Depot staff convinced me to buy.

Here’s to gardens and eating what we plant! Tell me about your gardens. Do you have space for a big garden or do you have a patio garden? What do you like to plant?

*Some of these photos were taken on the day I planted and some were taken a few weeks later.

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Weekending And An Herb Garden

July 15, 2013

We enjoyed every ounce of hot sunny summer-ness this weekend. We spent all day on Saturday boating, tubing, paddleboarding, and eating with lovely friends in the general Annapolis vicinity on some small delightful lake. 

I have sunburns to prove how sunny and wonderful the whole day was. It was one of those fun gatherings of intelligent happy people in which all sorts of random important information comes to light in the midst of vigorous debates, such as the best methods for eating watermelon and how a tomato should be diced for the perfect salsa.


We concluded our Weekending by planting my new baby herbs in their little chalk-painted pots. This DIY project has been basically consuming my consciousness for a week, so I think Mark and I were both relieved to have it completed.


It was so easy and gratifying and now I have Cinnamon Basil, Oregano, and Curled Parsley to toss into every dish. Even someone who can't garden, like me, can grow herbs (supposedly).

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Potted Herb Garden


3 small herb plants (from your local gardening store or Home Depot

3 small terra-cotta pots

Chalk spray-paint (You can be really creative and pick a bright shade of chalk-paint)

A sheet 

Some extra soil

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Spread the sheet ouside on a lawn or dirt area. Ensure that the three pots are reasonably clean and then place them upside down a foot or two apart on the sheet. Using the spray paint as directed, coat the pots with one layer of spray paint. Allow them to dry for an hour or so. Turn them over so that they are right-side up and coat inside and out with another layer of paint.

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Allow the pots to dry for another hour and then move them to a dry, safe place. Allow them to dry for another 24 hours. Place a 1/4 cup of soil on the bottom of each pot and then place the herbs in their respective pots. Fill the remaining space in the pots with soil and water thoroughly. Chalk the names of the herbs on to the pots for a delightful final touch.


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The Adventures of the Crepe Myrtle

July 2, 2013

Have I mentioned that we are the parents of plants? Not that I have any respectable experience with plants. I have killed so many herbs that the ghosts of gardens past will probably haunt my sleep one of these nights.

Mark is apparently more experienced with this sort of thing. He claims that he helped grow tomatoes as a child. I've heard tomatoes are a lot of work, so hopefully his past experience will prove beneficial to our yard.

But neither of us knows what to do with The Crepe Myrtle that we adopted one sweltering afternoon. It's become a bit of an obsession. After Mark leaves for work, I head outside and stare at it. Is that a brown spot on that leaf? Is that ant just on an exploratory jaunt or is he going to take a bite of that lucious green branch? Is it my imagination or is the entire bush falling over? 

I leave The Crepe Myrtle to its fate and head inside to send out more emails. Today, one of my responses to a Craigslist ad resulted in a  phone-call that smelled mildly of a scam.

I am 25 and have two respectable degrees in English, I tell myself. There are legitimate jobs that value my knowledge of 19th century British literature and correct comma usage. Also, I can always sell cookies on the sidewalk and call it a startup. Then maybe Google will discover me and buy the startup and hire me. 

A downpour starts outside and my mind returns to The Crepe Myrtle. Thank goodness it's raining. I can skip watering it. Then I remember those brown spots. Maybe I've already watered it too much and the poor plant is now drowning. Or maybe the brown spots are evidence of acid rain (whatever that is). 

Mark comes home and promptly heads outside to stare at The Plant. I follow. The two of us, both reasonably sane, fairly successful professionals (unless you count the fact that I'm unemployed), stare in silence at The Crepe Myrtle. Our neighbors probably think we're crazy. Or that we're part of some weird religion.

On the other hand, they probably aren't paying a lot of attention. Most people have better things to do than spend their entire evening staring at a plant. 

Mark gets bored and decides to assassinate the weeds that have managed to make their way into our yard. I sit on the steps and continue to stare at the plant.

Me: "You know, we really should be able to keep a plant alive before we try parenting."

Mark: "Yep."

Me: "What if it dies?"

Mark: "It better not. You said it was a symbol of our marriage."

Me: "I take that back."

Mark: "Too late. Why aren't you helping me weed?"

Me: "They make products for that. We shouldn't have to weed. There's spray we can buy."

Mark: "Why don't we have any?"

Me: "Because it can kill your plants and I feel like we shouldn't add any more variables to the situation right now. At least if the weeds are surviving, we know the bush can."

So this is marital bliss. I don't remember what Mark and I used to do for fun but I don't think either of us saw a daily War with Nature in our future.

It's a good thing we only bought the bush intead of the tree. I've heard that trees require a lot of attention and care. 

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