Chives may be one of our most undervalued treasures. They come back year after year, adding a bit of green garlicky flavor to omelets and sauces, and every year around this time they produce dozens of little flower buds that burst into spiky, lavender-colored pom-poms. They brighten our path to the front door as we pass the herb garden. You can collect the blossoms and turn them into a delicious chive vinegar. Sometimes we tear the flowers apart and toss the petals into our salad.
Too often the vegetable gardener treats flowers as an afterthought. But flowers bring such joy and excitement, we really should give them more respect. This year I am trying. Behind the long bed where I’ve planted lettuces and carrots and beets and chard I reserved a strip of soil for Mexican sunflowers and colorful amaranth that will create a wall of interest from the street with the house as backdrop. In front of these, a long line of multi-colored zinnia. Zinnia are a vegetable gardener’s friend–they are so reliable and provide so much color and food for pollinators.
At either end of one of the tomato beds I sowed marigolds. The bright yellows and golds should bracket the tomatoes nicely by mid-summer and attract more beneficial insects. In front of the potatoes I will have nasturtiums trailing. For the sweet potato bed I searched through my seed packets and found daisies for one end and calendula for the other. Rummaging around the seed display at the garden center I stumbled upon delphinium and verbascum, which hold the promise of tall collumns of blooms. My wife says the delphinium won’t like the humid summers here in the District of Columbia, but the verbascum apparently are a perfect fit. I had to read the fine print, though, to discover that these plants won’t be blooming for another year.
Planting seeds creates great excitement. The gardener is energized with a renewed sense of anticipation. These last few days, between rain showers and a heat wave, I’ve planted bush beans and collards and more carrots and radishes. (And, yes, I did replace those tomato plants that had been stripped by birds.) Eggplants and peppers finally exited their seed trays and found a place in garden soil in front of the tomatoes. Likewise the little cucumber plants–three varieties this year–were carefully placed in the ground behind the Italian squash. (I came across a packet of borage seeds–the only place left to plant them was in front of the squash. With its star-shaped flowers iridescent blue, borage is pretty irresistible.)
I brought terragon and silver thyme home from the garden center and made them a home amongst the herbs. There I also found a place for my Genovese basil. Mixed with my packets of herb seeds were so many I have never even gotten around to planting. Rue? Angelica? Next to the rhubarb was one tiny patch that hadn’t been planted yet. I tossed in some fenugreek seeds and worked them into the soil. I’ve never grown fenugreek before. Sometimes the gardener has to cut loose and throw caution to the wind.