28 August 2011

I Heart Macro: Carrot-Tops

Carrot seedhead, Magdalena, NM, Aug. 2011
Photo-processing time has become rare lately, but tonight I am up very late (even later than usual) watching Hurricane Irene tear up the East Coast and awaiting news from my family and many friends around Philly and New York of how they're faring. So this week's I Heart Macro post is all about carrots -- the part of the plant we rarely see, which I had fun photographing earlier this week. In recent years I've started letting a lot of my root and leafy vegetables and herbs go to flower (despite traditional horticultural recommendations; no surprise there) because the flowers are often very pretty and unusual, they're attractive to good bugs, and the seeds help me keep the garden going on a tight budget. I find carrots especially fascinating, from the first fluffy flowers to the spiky, resilient seeds that can catch on a shirt cuff or a cat's tail and start a new carrot colony far from home.

Carrot flower, Aug. 2011
We all know that carrots have beautiful fern-like foliage that, sadly, is inedible, but when left to flower, a carrot also sends up a stalk that puts out a huge, showy white flowerhead that is busy all day long with all kinds of bees, wasps, butterflies and moths, and ladybugs. This may help explain why I never have to worry about low pollination or aphid infestations in my garden these days; in fact, I wonder if this is a bigger factor in "companion planting" (mixing herbs and flowers in with vegetables) than the specific plant combinations selected. Bring in more good bugs, and more good stuff happens in the garden -- how's that for horticultural good sense?

Pollinated carrot flowers turning into seeds, Aug. 2011
Developing seeds, Aug. 2011
As the flowers fade and go to seed, the head changes in fascinating ways, leading to the seed clusters shown at right and at the top of this post. They look so cool but also a little creepy, like a swarm of baby centipedes or something. I haven't bought carrot seeds in years, though, and having started with a non-hybrid variety I know I won't have to as long as I'm willing to "sacrifice" a few carrots every year. (Confession: it's pure neglect, or at least it was the first year I let some carrots go to seed; now I get to call it "seed saving" and feel all eco-conscious or whatever.) As you can probably guess from the photo at right, I have let more than a few carrots go to seed this year. I have had plenty to spare, though, and I just love watching the process unfold through the seasons, even all the way through winter as the seeds left out in the garden finally fall with the melting snow and plant themselves in the damp earth.

Carrot seedhead (the Mothership for part of this year's patch), Jan. 2011

11 comments:

hello gorgeous said...

it is nice to see things we wouldn't normally see because of "following instructions"... great shots, my fav is the top shot as it looks like a host town of aliens! ;o)

hugs

hello gorgeous xxx

Jenni said...

Stunning photos as usual Anna...I love them all but the last one is fantastic.
jenni

averilpam said...

Your photos are beautiful, I especially love the top one and the one with snow :)

T... said...

stunning shots....

Kym Hunter Designs said...

Cool pictures! I had never seen carrots go to seed before. they look a bit like dill. I like the shot with the snow on top.

Enjoy your week!

Marianna said...

oh my gosh that's beautiful! I had no idea that's what they looked like. Beautiful photos!

Holly said...

Oh, wow, I love this series of shots! Carrot tops are just beautiful, I completely agree ;)

Tracey N. said...

Thats so cool! Love the progression of your shots!

Nadege, said...

Wow that is amazing, never though that carrots flowers could be so gloriously beautiful. Love your shots.

Skye said...

Lovely! We've always called those 'Queen Anne's Lace'!

Regina said...

Fascinating, not seen this before. Have a great Sunday.