Week 22: In the Vegetable Garden

Assembling the collage materials

This week I created a collage about our newly planted vegetable garden. I didn’t want it to just be a pretty view of the garden, but rather depict the more intimate experience of being in the garden- digging in the dirt, closely observing the plants, or hiding under a squash leaf (if you are a bug or a bunny.)  I began the process with lots of little drawings of all the plants in the garden: tomatoes, peppers, herbs, peas and beans, zucchini squash, marigolds, and sprouting seeds. I scanned the drawings and printed them on Gampi paper, making several copies to yield more plants. Then I tore each drawing out by hand and laid them all out. The panel was prepared with a nice rusty clay dirt color.

Drawings torn from Gampi paper

I painted a few rows of stones that divide the terraces into curving beds, in the spirit of my actual vegetable garden. Then I began laying in the plants. I was interested in playing with scale, so that the foreground plants loom large, and sprouting seeds are sometimes ridiculously gigantic, while other plants settle into the piece with more realistic relationships. I did this to express the garden from different points of view, whether human or critter. The really fun part was to then draw the critters and tuck them in amongst the rows. All the creatures were drawn with ink on thicker paper than the plants, so as to create little pops of visual surprise. Here is the final collage with favorite details:

In the Vegetable Garden, acrylic collage, 12 x 12

Detail: Bunny, sprouts and marigold

Detail: Olivia the Cat

Detail: The Mocking Bird

Detail: Turtle and pea shoots

Vegetable Garden

We planted the vegetable garden! On the south side of the house, we have a gentle slope with curved retaining walls that create a series of three raised beds.  After several years of gardening trial and error, and lots of compost, we are hoping for a bountiful garden this summer! Four varieties of my favorite tomatoes went in: the cherry-sized bright orange ‘Sungold’, the reliable ‘Celebrity’, the compact and delicate ‘Silver Fir Tree’, and the best-tasting ‘Brandywine.’ I also put in three new ones to try: the promising ‘Golden Jubilee’, a squat little ‘Husky Cherry Red’ (the name says it all) and a gangly specimen of ‘Cherokee Purple.’ The tomatoes are joined by three different sweet peppers: ‘Red Beauty’, ‘Golden Summer’, and ‘Carmen’.  The front half of the lower bed is the home of Zucchini ‘Cocozelle’ and a bush cucumber. They look pretty puny all by themselves in that big bed, but these guys require a lot of room to grow and can spill over the bottom wall by mid-summer.  One of my favorite things to grow is beans- I can eat them raw right out of the garden, unless the deer get to them first. We have two trellises of ‘Kentucky Wonder’ pole beans, and a little patch of ‘Sugar Ann’ Snap Peas. The whimsical names of these garden plants makes them seem like a motley crew of endearing family members that I can’t help but want to nurture.

My father generously contributed a carload of additional plants to tuck in among our vegetables after spending a fruitful day at the Herb Festival: Sweet Basil, African Blue Basil, Red Rubin Basil, Lemon Basil, Pineapple Sage, Italian Parsley, Lemon Balm, and Lemon Verbena.  We already have a flourishing patch of perennial herbs including rosemary, tarragon, various thymes, purple and green sage, Greek oregano, Orange Mint, Chocolate Mint, and Pineapple Mint. It’s a menagerie of flavors! We finished it off with an edging of French Marigolds, a splash of Orange Cosmos, Sunflowers against the wall between the trellises, and a row of lavender (also from Dad) along the stairs: French lavender ‘Provence’, Spanish ‘Otto Quast,’ and the English varieties, ‘Munstead’ and ‘Ellagance Sky.’ (That is the actual name, not a misspelling of elegance!)

This is always an exciting time of year, with so much anticipation and high hopes for a successful growing season. I have to remind myself to just enjoy the process, without being too attached to the outcome. The deer will munch, the squash bugs will nibble, and the tomatoes will topple their cages by August. (Every year I tell myself to invest in taller, sturdier ones!)  Maybe this year I will finally thwart the squash vine borer. Maybe this year I will convince my boy to start eating and enjoying some new vegetables. Neither is likely, but it will be fun trying.