The shutter on my camera clicked just as a car pulled up in front of the house.
“I hope you don’t mind,” I said to the gentleman who stepped out of the vehicle. “I just took a photo of your box of nasturtiums. They’re lovely.”
“Come see my calendula,” he said enthusiastically.
That is why I love taking walks after dinner, as the days grow shorter and I find myself tucking a small flashlight into my fleece jacket. I’d brought along my camera to take photographs of some of my favorite town gardens before the frost, the snow, the darkness and ice, the misery, the bleakness and the parade of snowstorms the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting for this winter for the Rocky Mountain West. Oh goodie.
I am sure there are many, many Jackson Hole seniors who adore the snow. Me, my spirit is waning a bit. But not today, when flowers abound.
“All of these calendula reseeded themselves,” my new gardener friend boasted.
There’s something about calendula. There are so many species, but I like the types with edible flowers for soups and stews. I’ve heard of cheese makers using calendula blossoms to add a golden color to their fresh fromage, a replacement for saffron.
I toured the garden, admired the hops and gasped at the nasturtiums.
“They’re kind of peppery, you know,” the gardener said. “I put them in salads. Last night I put one on my hamburger.”
What a lovely idea. Maybe I’ll make a freshly ground burger made of chicken and garden herbs and topped with a nasturtium.
I love nasturtiums. On February in Sausalito, California, I saw nasturtiums growing in heaps over walls and trellises. I just stood in awe: the blue sky, the sea, the golden nasturtiums. What a paradise.
I said goodbye to the gent in his garden along Willow Street. As I departed he gave me a precious just-ripened cherry tomato plucked from its stem. I popped that burst of summer into my mouth and headed to my favorite town garden, hidden in an alley. There an old barn has sat for generations, now lovingly restored and converted into the perfect Jackson Hole log home.
On the corner of the cabin grows purple clematis climbing to the rafters. The cabin is lined with hollyhocks, far taller than I am, in shades of pink and rose and deep, deep burgundy. They cover the windows and almost touch the eaves. There are three deep-blue pots of pink petunias and maybe impatiens, I don’t know for sure. But I do know there is a welcome sign in the shape of a heart by the front door, and, on the side of the house, a surprising hand-sculpted clay face peeping from the hollyhocks. There’s a screen door and windows that open to bring in the fresh air and the scent of blossoms. I took a few snapshots as a summer remembrance.
I began heading home via Kelly Avenue, past the park toward two cabins nestled beneath a mature growth of spruce. It is there the golden coreopsis thrive, filled with nectar for the butterflies. There is a path of river rock lined with lilies. Each of the cabin’s front-door steps is laden with pots of cosmos, begonias, impatiens and petunias. Next door there is a fountain that bubbles water from moss-covered rock, where the birds sing and troubles seem to fade away. A garden will do that.
Almost home, I pass an old cottonwood tree stump several feet high topped with a meringue of white petunias surrounded by several artemisia, a crabapple, spruce and a patch of daisies.
On Aspen Drive, nestled among the cottonwoods is the most glorious work in progress. A cabin quaint and unassuming is being transformed into a wonderland of aspen trees and hollyhocks, foxgloves and nepeta. Again I took a few snapshots and talked to my friend Sara outside her cabin as the sun set and leaves rustled in the soft, late summer night breeze. We stood by the low fence lined with the pink sky-high hollyhocks.
“Sometimes,” Sara told me, “in the mornings I’ll look and see a bumblebee asleep inside the hollyhock blossoms.”
Can there be anything better than that?
Sara turned and plucked a cherry tomato just ripened, still warm from the afternoon sun and placed it in my hand. Into my mouth it went. It tasted like summer and more like heaven.