In the gardens of my friends, final week

For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “The exile will be long; build houses and live in them and plant gardens and eat their produce.” —Jeremiah 29:28

We’ve reached the last day of August (can you believe it?), and we’ve come to the final virtual tour of my friends’ California gardens.

My husband and I feel very blessed to know the couple whose garden we’re touring today. We share much in common, and from the earliest days of getting to know us, they began sharing food with us. Fresh fish caught in the Pacific. Tamales at Christmas. Garden fruits and vegetables throughout the year. You get the idea. We’re blessed.

While our friends focus their efforts on vegetable gardening, they have lovely flowers, too:

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Beautiful pops of color for the back patio

Their hydrangeas always look great, and they’ve shared those from time to time for us to enjoy.

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A pink-tinged hydrangea

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A bouquet of their hydrangeas from earlier this summer

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A graceful, elegant greeting by their front door

They have hints of garden whimsy here and there, too. How can you not smile with this happy sun (or is he a sunflower?)?

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Sun or sunflower — happy either way

They haven’t let drought scare them away from planting a vegetable garden, perhaps because they make the most of a very small space. Cucumbers and cantaloupe vines grow over each other.

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Cucumbers and cantaloupes

Eggplant and peppers hide next to one another.

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Hidden eggplant

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A green pepper

Their new venture this year was corn. They asked me if I knew how to tell when corn gets ripe. I shrugged my shoulders, looked at the ears, and said, “They look big enough that they should be ripe.” Thank goodness I was right. Nothing beats fresh-picked vegetables, and their corn was deeee-licious.

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Silk makes the ears easier to find among the stalks.

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Beautiful corn and other bounty they sent home with me after their garden photoshoot.

The only thing better than fresh-picked veggies might be fresh-picked fruit. I opened our front door a few weeks ago to find a box from our friends loaded with corn, cucumbers, herbs and a cantaloupe. We could tell from its fragrance the cantaloupe was ripe and ready for eating.

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The best cantaloupe ever?

I’m pausing as I write this to remember how sweet and juicy it was. I really do think it’s the best cantaloupe I’ve ever eaten.

Visiting their garden truly is like a treasure hunt. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s tucked away under the leaves, but tasty goodness rewards the patient hunter.

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I appreciate their willingness to share from the bounty of their garden. What may be just as sweet is their choice not to share what they know we don’t love. For instance, they don’t give us zucchini or squash.

I’ve told them of the scars I still carry from childhood when my mom grew zucchini. I ate enough zucchini by age 12 to last a lifetime. Mom would try to pass it off as cucumbers in a salad (cucumbers are a favorite of mine; the faux cucumber always, always made me sad). Mostly we ate it with sautéed squash and onions. The one preparation of it I did truly enjoy was her zucchini bread, a too-rare treat when zucchini season rolled around.

Every now and then, I come across a zucchini dish that I sort of like (ratatouille, as an example). And I’ve bought a spiralizer. So maybe someday, I’ll ask to try a zucchini from our friends’ garden and see if I like it any better as faux spaghetti.

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A zucchini hides next to a basket of tomatoes and strawberries.

Before we leave, I want to thank all the friends who so generously shared their garden spaces with me. What a joy to wander through backyards and see what grows well here in California and learn new tricks of the trade. Perhaps, my thumb is a little greener than it was before I began the tour. If nothing else, I’ll be a bit braver about what I try to plant.

For all of you with green thumbs out there, I’d love to know your favorite garden veggie. Do you have a least favorite? Any of you have a fail-proof way I should prepare zucchini? I’d love to hear your garden stories in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “In the gardens of my friends, final week

  1. What a lovely blog you wrote here, Hope! We are so grateful for you and Chris and count our blessings every day for the gift of our friendship! So happy to have you here in beautiful California! Just let us know when you’re ready to take on that zucchini/squash! 😉

    Ron and I look forward to reading your next blog and learning of the new topic!

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