A Warm Welcome to Sultry Summer …

June 21st, 2011 Comments Off

A Warm Welcome to Summertime with Pyrotechnic Flower Bouquets

Summer begins today at 1:16 pm EDT, and I’m welcoming her with open arms. After a long, cold winter followed by a wet, drizzly spring, I’m more than ready for hot and hazy, hammock days and sultry summer evenings. There are so many things to love about summer: picnics in the afternoon before a night filled with fireworks, leisurely days spent skimming stones on the river, strawberry shortcake for supper and picking homegrown tomatoes straight off the vine to eat with juice running down your chin, dancing barefoot on the terrace to Cachao with a chilled glass of sangria, and dining al fresco beneath a canopy of stars…

What are some of your favorite summertime pleasures?

Romantic Weekend Picnics
Cool Dips on Hot, Hazy Days
And Strawberry Shortcake for Supper (click here for recipe)
Afternoons Filled with Music and Al Fresco Dining on the Terrace
And Cool Sangria on Sultry Evenings (click here for my not-so secret-anymore recipe)

Here’s To Summer, My Friends … Cheers!
xo Michaela

Words & Photographs ⓒ Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reposted, reproduced or reused in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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A Visual Feast: Beautiful, Edible Flowers

May 23rd, 2011 § 1

Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana) are lovely atop cakes, in salads and especially when floating in cocktails…

Or Cocktails, Like this Sunset Mangotini (click here for recipe)

(Viola × wittrockiana ‘Matrix Purple’)

Candied rose petals, lavender ice cream, hibiscus tea, chocolate cupcakes laced with violets; some flowers are more than a visual feast, they’re actually good enough to eat. It’s fun to decorate food with colorful blossoms, and it always feels a bit naughty too —eating something so pretty— when I pull the tiny flowers off a slice of cake and gobble them down. “Don’t eat the daisies“, they say… But that’s part of the fun, now isn’t it?

I grow flowers in my potager for a wide variety of reasons —to support pollinators, provide fresh bouquets for the table, and add beauty to the vegetable patch— but one of the best reasons to grow flowers in the kitchen garden, is to eat them! I enjoy spicy nasturtium and chive blossoms in salads, scarlet runner bean and rosemary flowers in soup, and many other blooming beauties as both ingredient and garnish to dishes from spring to fall…

Bright Orange Calendula Brightens this Garlic Scape Pesto (click here for recipe)

Nasturtiums Add Bold Color and Spicy Flavor to Salads

Fresh From the Potager: Nasturtium, Lettuce and Radishes Make a Colorful Salad with Zing

Never tried eating a flower? Think again. Broccoli and cauliflower are two of the most popular edible buds! Some other, commonly consumed edible flowers include nasturtium, dandelion, violets and pansies, geranium (Pelargonium spp), daylily, squash blossoms, calendula, chamomile, lavender, chive, mint, sage blossoms and of course rose petals. But many other flowers can be grown and used in a wide variety of dishes. Try citrusy bee balm (Monarda didyma), fruity red bud (Cercis canadensis) and apple blossoms, spicy anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), fresh red clover and scarlet runner beans.

Thinking of adding a row of potager posies to your backyard garden? If you’ve never grown edible flowers before, I’d recommend stopping at an organic nursery or farm stand in your area to shop for plants. Do a bit of research before you collect your six packs and ask a knowledgable staff member at your local garden center for a bit of guidance. Two of my favorite edible flower gardening resources in print —by Cathy Wilkinson Barash and Rosalind Creasy— are listed below. Both books contain great cultural and culinary information; including recipes and tips for storage!

Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash

The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy

And although it should be common sense, I must emphasize that not all blossoms and buds should be consumed. In fact, some flowers —and many berries, leaves, roots and sometimes entire plants— are quite toxic. So, never eat a flower or any plant unless you can positively identify —with 100% certainty— that it’s safe for human consumption. If you have very small children frequenting your garden, or as members of your family or household, never grow anything toxic in your potager. In fact, I recommend  that all gardening adults keep a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants in an easy to locate place. If you are growing your own food, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with both edible and inedible plants, and it’s never wise to grow anything poisonous around small children.

The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site (with noted exceptions) is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Winter Dreams and Frosty Fantasies: Magical, Snow-Covered Tree Houses…

December 16th, 2010 § 1

Treehouse by Amazon Tree Houses – UK – This UK-based company designs and builds some of the most beautiful treehouses I have ever seen. They are truly fuel for fantasies and fairytales…

Imagine being awakened by a gentle rocking sensation as wind sways your nest; watching snow flurries dance, high up in the treetops. Could there be anything more magical than a holiday spent in a treehouse, nestled in the snow-covered boughs of a deep-green conifer? Childhood fantasies were re-ignited this morning when, after a bit of inspiration from Lace and Tea, I toured the fantastic websites and blogs featured here {click on attached image links or text directly below). If you’ve ever entertained the notion of building a treehouse in your garden, these web-resources and books {linked below} will help get you started.

Building a treehouse is a long-standing dream; one I share with many, no doubt. And wouldn’t a homebuilt nest —cloaked in icicles in the limbs of an ancient tree— make a great guest-house? {sigh}. For your winter-garden dreams and frosty-forest-fantasies…

Treehouse by Takashi Kobayashi – Treehouse People –  Japan – Organic and extraordinarily beautiful, the treehouses designed and built by this Japanese artist seem at one with both nature and the imaginary world…

Treehouse by the Treehouse Guy – Peter Lewis – USA – I could spend days on Peter’s wonderful blog. Both the author’s story and his beautiful treehouse studio are utterly captivating…

Treehouse by Baumraum – A German-Based Design Firm. This is the website that initially launched my research. Baumraum has built a solid, international reputation for gorgeous, innovative design and beautiful treehouses…

More Tree House Resources & Gift Books…

New Treehouses of the World by Peter Nelson

Treedom: The Road to Freedom by Takashi Kobayashi

Treehouse Chronicles by S. Peter Lewis

How-To Build a Tree House: Home Tree Home by Peter Nelson

A new book is also now available from Baumraum, but not yet available through Amazon.com. Please see their website for details.

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All photo-links in this source list and review are copyright as noted. Please visit respective websites for more information.

Article ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy Debut Sparkling Holiday Horti-Couture At Last Night’s Spectacular & Exclusive Secret Garden Icicle Ball…

November 26th, 2010 § 6

An Explosive Night of Decadent Elegance at the Chilly, Secret Garden Icicle Ball     (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’ and Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’)

My old friends Jack and Sugar were here again last night with their chilly and fabulously chic entourage. As usual, they danced and partied ’til dawn. From the look of things in the garden this morning —dozens of popped corks and champagne sprayed everywhere— they really outdid themselves. Countless scantily-clad ice-nymphs must have been in attendance; traipsing carelessly in and out of the flower beds and dropping their sequined underpinnings. When the sun rose, fashionable bits and pieces of attire could be found here and there —crystal-studded trinkets, sparkly shawls and brilliant baubles— flung far and wide. Shocked? Never. This happens every year {you do remember last year’s inaugural evening of excess, don’t you?}. Of course, the exact date and time of this exclusive nighttime debauchery always remains somewhat amorphous —just as the horti-couture fashions change from year to year — and those cold-hearted party-goers always seem to misplace my invitation…

Glamorous Holiday Gowns and Jewel Encrusted Accessories (Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’ and Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’)

The Icicle Ball began around midnight, and it lasted ’til sunrise; spilling out of the Secret Garden and into the wild forest beyond. And this year, those naughty and elusive frost-fairies must have lingered a bit longer than usual —tempting daylight in the shimmering tree tops— for in hasty departure they left behind some of their most beautiful accessories, jewelry and hand beaded gowns. Oh they’ll be back to reclaim their belongings -no doubt. You see, Jack and Sugar are regulars around here in the late autumn. They like to raise a wicked ruckus in the garden with their frosty-chic friends while waiting for the White Witch of Winter to arrive in her icy chariot.

I won’t lie, it’s disappointing to be left off Jack and Sugar’s guest list. But in spite of the fact that they consistently give me the cold shoulder, I never mind their outrageous hedonism. After all, they always leave me with the most delightfully decadent displays…

Blue-Black Saphire Solitaires, Suspended from Saffron-Silk Cord (Viburnum lentago ‘Nannyberry’)

Diamond-Studded Brooches (Rodgersia aesculifolia)

Ruby and Diamond Cluster Pendants (Viburnum setigerum)

Hand-Beaded Lace Shawls (Erica carnea and  Calluna vulgaris ‘Multicolor’ with Juniperus horizontalis ‘Bar Harbor’)

Sparkling Gold Tassels (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

Shimmery Red Sequins and Gold Stitching (Cotoneaster and Deschampsia flexuosa)

Chrystal Seed-Beads and Delicate Lace Detail (Heuchera americana)

Bright Coral Cuffs (Acer palmatum)

Exquisite Emerald Velvet with Luminous Silver Embroidery (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ aka ‘Blue Rug’)

Sleek Honey-Colored Silk Wraps with Sparkling Fringe (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ Switch Grass)

Flocked Velvet Bodices and Bronze Lace Collars (Microbiota decussata and Wooly Thyme)

Sequin-Studded Satin Apliques (Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’)

Glittering, Burn-Out Detail in Red Velvet Ribbon and Metallic Lace (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’)

Dazzling Diamante Decadence  (Rodgersia aesculifolia)

Crystal-Laced Corseting (Acer palmatum)

Delicious Champagne-Colored Feather Puffs (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

Delightfully-Cut Diamond Danglers (Heuchera americana)

Shoulder-Grazing Chandeliers, Jammed with Gemstones (Viburnum setigerum)

Shimmering Lace Shawls (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

And Brilliant Baubles, Strewn All About (Crataegus {Hawthorn} Berries)

Yes, the Party-Goers Made Quite an Entrance…

In Fact it Seems that Some Careless Little Ice-Nymph Left Behind Her Fluffy, Golden Puff at the Secret Garden Door (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

And After Partying All Night, They Made Quite an Exit As Well

Au Revoir ’til Next Time Jack and Sugar {Please Don’t Stay Away Too Long}…

Paper Birch Trees (Betula papyrifera) in Ice at Sunrise

The Icy Hilltop and Fog-Filled Green River Valley at Dawn

After-Party – The Gleaming Green Mountains

All Stonework is by Vermont Artist, Dan Snow

Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Like this post? Travel back in time to the place where it all began by clicking on the image above…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Festive Autumn Centerpieces from Garden to Table…

November 20th, 2010 § 4

Curious Dinner Companions: Dried Leaves of Sago Palm Add a Light, Golden Touch to Traditional Gourds and White Pumpkins

At long last, it seems that the season of feasts and festivities is finally upon us. And like many of you, I am looking for ways to bring the garden’s bounty to my dinner table: pumpkins, squash, carrots and potatoes from the root cellar; peas and berries from the freezer; and fresh greens and alpine strawberries from the hoop houses in my potager. But the garden offers endless delights for the eye as well as the taste buds, and I always like to dress up the house, holiday buffet, and even everyday place settings, with arrangements from the natural world.

From bittersweet-twined jars and low bowls filled with floating candles and cranberries, to luminous hurricane lamps surrounded by pinecones, crabapples and seedpods, I continue to bring a bit of nature’s beauty indoors throughout the late fall and winter. And in creating a few new festive, table-top scenes, it occurred to me that I should pull up some of last year’s photos and decorating ideas from the blog archive. Though many of us are living on tight budgets these days, with a little creativity, a beautiful centerpiece for the dinner table is always within reach. Autumn walks along riverbanks, train tracks and woodland paths last week revealed tangles of bright orange bittersweet, resin-tipped pinecones, bright red hollyberries and a jumble of seedpods amongst the tawny meadow grasses. Bring a bag or basket along next time you take a stroll through the park or walk the dog through the wastelands. You may be surprised and delighted by the natural curiosities you will find. And while it’s possible to spend a fortune on holiday decorations, I often find that bits of twine, recycled jars and old wine bottles topped with candles are just as pretty as more expensive ornaments.

Here are some free and inexpensive ideas from the archive, and you can bet there will be more to come! After all, I always find that getting ready for the party is half the fun!

Bittersweet Vines Wrap Around a Glass Jar to Create a Floating Candle Centerpiece

A Minimalist Centerpiece: Floating Cranberries and Candles in a Low Bowl

Gathered Pinecones and Crabapples Make a Festive and Elegant Centerpiece, Indoors or Out (shown here on a table near the entry to my studio)

Golden Amsonia shimmers in a hand-blown glass vase I brought home one year from Italy

Winterberry Holly Branches Fill an Old Urn (Ilex verticillata)

Ornamental grasses (like this Deschampsia flexuosa) catch the light beautifully, indoors as well as out

A Homemade Terrarium Filled with Native Plants (See more terrarium ideas and step-by-step tutorials here)

A Vase Filled with Dry Hydrangea Paniculata Dresses Up a Stack of Books at the Foot of the Stairs

See More Garden Remnant Ideas from the Archive By Clicking Here and Here Too!

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Shadows Lengthen & Darkness Falls: Illuminate Autumn’s Velvety Nights…

September 26th, 2010 § 1

Simple Tin Buckets filled with Sand and Tea Lights Line the Stone Steps at Ferncliff

Twilight in the garden: dusky violet skies and long shadows brush the horizon. Night falls, and the silhouettes of flowers and feathery foliage sway dramatically in the fading light. This is my favorite time to walk through the garden, watching as evening’s dark beauty unfolds. Wrapping myself in a sweater, I stroll the dimming paths; stopping to sample the sweet perfume of fairy candles and to admire the unfurling datura beside the Secret Garden door. Barred owl, coyote, moth and bat; I listen and watch as creatures of the night cackle, cry and flutter in the gathering gloom. Finally, it’s time to settle in to my front row seat on the terrace —candles lit on the stone steps— to enjoy nature’s evening show…

Quick, Inexpensive and Lovely. Tin Buckets filled with Tiny, Twinkling Tea Lights (Set of 12 Galvanized Tin Buckets – $18.99 at Amazon)

 

Tiny Tin Lanterns Glow in the Twilight…

Luminous candles, tiny twinkling string-lights and subtle, automatic landscape lighting all add to the beautiful, evening ambience in my garden. When I’m expecting company, or if a romantic mood strikes me, I use tea lights to illuminate inexpensive, sand-filled tin buckets on my stone steps and walkway at night. Perfect for a wedding or party, these impromptu tin lanterns can be used over and over in the garden all season long.

Glass hurricanes, candelabras, iron chandeliers, hanging lanterns, string lights and solar globes can all add subtle light to the nighttime garden with a minimum investment of time and money. This week, I collected a few lovely lanterns and lights, with price points under $100, to share with you here (see images and links below). For more mood-lighting ideas, check back on previous posts by clicking here.

Landscape lighting —particularly in private residences— is an oft-neglected aspect of garden design, and as the daylight hours decrease in autumn, it becomes ever-more important. Not only is garden lighting beautiful, but it’s also a serious safety consideration when navigating stairs and pathways at night. Although I enjoy candlelight, solar lanterns and sparkly string lights, my garden is also hard-wired with low-voltage Malibu landscape lighting —set to a seasonally adjusted timer— and remote-controlled task lighting (floods and spots set up for everyday chores like unloading the car at night). I will be covering more on do-it-yourself, hard-wired lighting features in part-two of this post later on this week. For now, have a look at some of these inspiring ideas. Pick up some inexpensive lights, or make your own lanterns as described above or in this post here.

Terrain Hanging Garden Lantern ($35 – holds a pillar candle or tea light)

Terrain String of Pear Lights ($34 – ten lights per string)

Terrain String of Pear Lights (detail. $34 – ten lights per string)

Terrain Zinc Candelabra ($58 – holds three candles)

San Simeon Lantern from H. Potter ($100 – Copper finish on stainless steel w/brass accent)

Terrain Wood and Glass Lantern ($88 – 20″x 12″ x 7″)

 

 

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Article and photos (excepting product links as noted) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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The Art of Fire: Creating a Glowing Garden Atmosphere on Chilly Evenings…

September 9th, 2010 § 4

Dan Snow Fire Sculpture – Peter Mauss photo courtesy Dan Snow

Though September’s noontime hours may still be warm and humid, the clear, cool nights of late summer hint at things yet to come; glowing embers, wool blankets, and velvet skies filled with stars. On chilly evenings, my garden comes alive with pops, cracks and sparkles from Dan Snow’s beautiful fire sculpture, pictured below. Radiant heat from flame-shaped backrests makes this dramatic garden-feature the perfect spot to snuggle up with a glass of hot mulled wine (or cider) and a good storyteller…

Dan Snow’s Lit Fire Sculpture at Ferncliff – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A handmade fire-feature, such as a stone sculpture or bowl, is of course the ultimate way to experience the art of fire in a garden setting. Vermont artist Dan Snow has created many spectacular dry-laid stone installations —including remarkable fire features— for his clients over the years. This word-renowned master craftsman and author also offers popular workshops —throughout the US and occasionally abroad— for those interested in learning age-old, dry-laid stone techniques. Building a fire pit of your own would be a wonderful early-autumn project; a work of art to be enjoyed throughout the year. Earthy and natural, stone is the perfect material for creating safe, beautiful fire features in the landscape. Adding sculptural drama to my garden by day, Dan’s fire feature becomes a warm and luminous gathering place by night…

Dan Snow’s Dramatic Fire Sculpture Still Manages to Conjure Flames, Even in the Daylight Hours at Ferncliff – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

For situations where inset features are impractical, carved stone fire-bowls and vessels, such as the ones featured here by Stone Forest, are a great alternative to permanently-installed fire pits. Stone Forest —based in Santa Fe, New Mexico— offers a wide variety of movable fire features in carved stone and steel/stone combinations. Lovely surrounded by gravel, and spectacular when combined with water, these hand made pieces make a stunning focal point – night or day…

Helios Fire Vessel – Available at Stone Forest

Saturn Fire Bowl available at Stone Forest

Suspended Fire Vessel available at Stone Forest

Taking the idea of portable fire one step further, is the chiminea. The Blue Rooster company manufactures dozens of chiminea models. The three shown directly below (priced from under $200- just under $400) would add a touch of the medieval, or perhaps even a bit of Tim Burton-inspired fantasy to the garden…

Blue Rooster Charcoal Gatsby Cast Aluminum Chiminea

Blue Rooster Prairie Cast Aluminum Chiminea in Charcoal Black

Blue Rooster Etruscan Cast Aluminum Chiminea

Movable fire pits and bowls are available in a wide range of prices and styles. Options linked below start just below $80 (some of the linked online retailers offer free shipping) and vary on upward with prices usually based upon material type and fabrication. For a modern style garden or patio, I would choose a minimalist fire-feature design, such as one of the three pictured below. The revolver fire pit (second and third photos below) transforms from garden cocktail/side table to fire feature in a flash. Then, once the ash has been emptied —just like Superman— it goes back to its mild-mannered day-job. I love multi-purpose pieces like this one – particularly on steel balconies and small terraces…

Terra Outdoor Fire Basket

Solid Base Revolver Fire Pit w/ Wooden Table-Top

Solid Base Revolver Fire Pit w/ Wooden Table-Top

Blomus Outdoor Fire Pit (free shipping)

For a rustic garden setting or country atmosphere, I might choose one of the more industrial/farm-style fire bowls. Screens and grills offer protections from sparks, but all fire features should be surrounded by a wide buffer-zone of inflammable material, such as stone, brick, steel, concrete or gravel. When considering a fire-feature for a garden design, always check on local zoning and codes in your city or town before proceeding with your plans. Some areas may prohibit fire features entirely, and others will require permits, both for installation and for burning…

Savannah Black Firepit

A New Day Large Fire Dome Set

For a classic, elegant garden design or stone terrace, I might choose a copper fire bowl with iron accents, such as this one…

Copper Fire Pit and Screen Set – 40″

Portable Outdoor Fire Bowl (24″ diameter) from Exterior Accents – See Link Below

See more affordable freestanding fire pits, sale-priced between $79.95 (model above) and $399.95 (plus free shipping) at Exterior-Accents.com…

Special:  Click here to get 10% OFF

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Article and photos (exceptions as noted and linked) are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Dan Snow or Stone Forest. Product image links to these sites are provided for reference and reader convenience only.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links.This site receives no compensation in any form (monetary or material) for editorial mention. However, The Gardener’s Eden is an advertising affiliate of Exterior Accents, Bellacor and Stacks and Sacks, and any sales generated through links here will net this site a small commission, which helps pay for costs associated with this site and its maintenance. Thank you for your support!

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Sweet September Sangria…

September 4th, 2010 § 1

Sweet September Sangria

The Colors of Early September – Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ Along the Terrace

The Colors of Late Summer

Celebrating the end of summer?…What? The autumnal equinox is September 23rd (3:09 UTC)… That’s still more than a fortnight away! Call me a pagan if you will, but as far as I’m concerned, September is a summer month. And this year September has twenty two days of summer -only eight days of fall. So hey now… You needn’t be a cock-eyed optimist to see that the glass is still way-more than half full. And yet for many, once Labor Day has come and gone —children packed up and loaded into bright yellow buses— summer is suddenly forgotten. People can be funny like that. Some seem to need rules and order. They waltz. They square dance. They polka through life. But, have you noticed? Nature has her own rhythm. And myself… I prefer it. At this time of year she always puts on a sultry bit of jazz… A spicy mambo… A lively cha-cha-chá. September is dancing to Cachao. Can you feel it? Now floating like the monarch, then buzzing like the bee; late summer swirls with color. These days are golden-orange, fire-red and rich wine. And the nights? September evenings are velvet maroon and deep violet, inky blue and blackberry brandy. Late summer is more a musical range of feelings than words. Listen to it. Pick up your feet. Toss off your shoes. Wiggle your toes in the grass. Don’t leave the party too early my friends… Let’s close the place down. Pour a dark-red glass of sangria; spin the ice with your finger and savor the sweet citrus as you sway to the music. Make the moment last…

Daylily ⓒ Tim Geiss

Hawkweed (Hieracium gracile) in the High Meadow

Dewy Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Sweet September Sangria

I’ve been serving this classic sangria at summer soirées for as long as I can remember. Everyone wants the recipe… So, here it is. Remember, the secret is in the simplest of ingredients, and the long, slow chill…

Ingredients (makes one large pitcher to serve 8):

5 large, washed valencia oranges. Three sliced and two juiced

3 large, washed lemons. Sliced.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Triple Sec (you can use more expensive orange liquor, but I think Triple Sec is just right)

2 bottles of chilled, inexpensive, fruity, Spanish table wine *

*Sangria is a traditional drink made with inexpensive Spanish table wine. Using more expensive wine defeats the purpose. Aim for a price tag under $5. You can substitute Merlot for Spanish table wine if necessary.

Directions:

In a large pitcher, add most of the sliced fruit (reserve a few slices for serving; garnishing glasses and/or pitcher) and sugar. Mash with a wooden spoon (gently) for a minute, or until some juice is released. Try to retain the fruit shape (do not totally mash). Stir in the Triple Sec and the juice of the other oranges. Pour in the red wine and stir well.

For best flavor, refrigerate for 8 – 12 hours. Never, never serve sangria unless it has had time to mellow – it must sit and chill for at least 4 hours before serving… and longer is better.

When you are ready to serve, add a dozen or so ice cubes to the pitcher and stir well to mix pulp, juice and wine. Serve cold, pouring each drink into a glass garnished with fresh slices of citrus (either floating in the glass or on the rim).

Enjoy! xo Michaela

Savor the time-mellowed flavors…

Here’s to Sweet September – A (Mostly) Summer Month

Sunflower and Bumble Bee (Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and a Hoverfly

Golden Spider on Rudbeckia ⓒ Tim Geiss

A Little Bit of Sweetness…

And a Lotta Cha-cha-chá…

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Barnes and Noble

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Barnes and Noble

Candlelight, Cachao and Sangria… And a Beautiful, Late-Summer Evening in the Garden…

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Photographs of the Daylily and Golden Spider on Rudbeckia appear courtesy of  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Article and all other photographs are ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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