I have to stop apologizing for how my garden looks at the end of summer. Sure, it's not at its most colorful, but, you know, it doesn't look too shabby either.
Purple-black globes dangle from my native grape--the hybrid 'Roger's Red' to be precise. My coffeeberry bushes (Rhamnus californica) sport petite red and black orbs. Goldfinches are feasting on the seedheads of cosmos, but delicate pink blooms continue to emerge.
I planted two of the grapes to cover a large arbor over our backyard patio. They're lovely. And they're helping us reduce our energy use. The broad green leaves provide shade in summer, cooling both the patio and my office. In winter, the leaves blush, then drop, allowing sunlight to warm the patio and house.
We're now contemplating what to do with the grapes, which are small, seedy and sweet. My two-year-old loves to eat them, but we have more than even he can pillage. Our friend Eric Callow, a board member of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, says he plans to make jelly. We hope to follow his lead. My copy of Edible and Useful Plants of California offers a recipe. I'm told others have made wine. Hmmm.
Back to the cosmos for a minute: I've grown them for years because they adapt well to our climate. These Mexican plants are fairly drought-tolerant and self-sow readily (i.e. sprout up year after year without replanting). You can also snip some for indoor arrangements.