Dramatically Draped in Sequins & Lace, In Swept the White Witch of Winter…

December 28th, 2012 § 3

Christmas Tree in Snow ⓒ 2012 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comWinter Swept in Upon a Blue Velvet Evening …

Winter is a drama-queen. In she sweeps on her snowy chariot, with a chilly air. She bears little resemblance to her sisters; coquettish Springtime, carefree Summer, or even melancholy Autumn. Wrapped in sheer white lace and silver sequins, Winter certainly possesses bare-boned beauty and elegance, but she can also be cruel, cold and unforgiving. How will she treat us in the coming year? Let us hope she keeps her dark shadows to a minimum and her stormy drama light; enchanting us with blue velvet evenings, sparkling, moonlit nights and shimmering, sun-kissed mornings…

Snow and Sleet Blasted Window ⓒ 2012 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comWrapped in White Satin & Crystal-Coated Lace…

Snow-Bound Garden Chair ⓒ 2012 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comShe Danced & Swirled About the Garden with a Long, Heavy, White Cloak, Covering Everything in Her Path…

Kalmia latifolia with Snow ⓒ 2012 michaela medina - thegardenerseden.comSleep Well, Sweet Laurel, Cozied-Up in Winter’s Soft Blanket (Kalmia latifolia)

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Welcoming the Winter Solstice …

December 22nd, 2011 § 3

Winter began just after midnight today, December 22nd, and I like to celebrate the arrival of the new season with candles, bonfire and a toast to longer days and shorter nights ahead. Learn more about the history and science of the Winter Solstice by visiting EarthSky.org.

A Warm Welcome to the Wonders of Winter !

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

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Sparkling Texture & Dramatic Structure: Creating A Beautiful Winter Garden …

December 18th, 2011 § 2

The Entry Garden at First Light in Early December, After a Dusting of Snow

I often wonder why I bother to mourn the end of autumn when there’s so much magic and beauty to be found in the garden during this quiet time of the year. As we near the winter solstice, I find myself every bit as enchanted by the garden as I am during the spring and summer months. My morning walks are cold —no doubt— and my finger tips burn a bit as I run them over the frosty stone walls. But the rich, visual rewards of those nippy strolls at first light make every shiver worthwhile.

Frosted Viburnum setigerum (Tea Viburnum) Fruits

Some gardeners prefer to cut back the perennials in their beds and borders in late autumn and early winter. And there is an argument to made for this approach. Certainly, there are places within the garden where I fuss over tender plants; protecting them from cold with mounds of compost or blankets of evergreen boughs. But by and large, I prefer to leave perennials standing throughout winter; that I might enjoy both the bold and delicate textures and how they sparkle with snow and ice after storms. Vertical lines, relief and pattern, both in the garden’s hardscape as well as in the more ephemeral plantings, are key to creating structure and beauty in a winter garden.

Seed Pods Provide Food for Birds and Beauty for Human Eyes: Rudbeckia hirta and Solidago with Sparkling Frost and Snow

Textural Grass Catches Light, Snow and Ice in the Quiet Season. Switch Grass (Panicum virginicum ‘Heavy Metal’) with A Light Morning Glaze…

Climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris) Adds Texture and Color to A Grouping of Boulders, and Provides Nooks and Crannies for a Dusting of Fresh Snow…

I often talk about the “bones” of a garden when I discuss design with my clients. This framework, or skeleton, is what gives the landscape shape throughout the year. Walls, fences and arbors, trellises and obelisks, benches and chairs, sculpture and boulders are all examples of objects that add to a garden’s hardscape and structure. Living plants, particularly dramatically shaped trees and shrubs are also helpful in creating a season-spanning garden design. In terms of defining outdoor space, hedges —both formal and informal— alles, espalier fences, and other features are useful in building permanent trans-seasonal walls.

Sculpture and Lichen-Covered Stone Catch Snow: Here, the Guardian Stands Sentry at the Edge of the Forest

The Rusty Color and Grid-Patterned Seat Make this Bench a Valuable Winter-Garden Object

Perennials May Fade at Autumn’s End, but Dan Snow’s Stone Seat and Evergreen Conifers Remain (Young hemlock: Tsuga canadensis)

Here in New England, field stone has long been a popular material for dividing garden spaces, and it will always be my personal favorite. From retaining walls and steps, to formal and free-form sculpture, I am most fond of this natural and versatile material. Throughout the seasons —but especially during the quiet season of winter— Dan Snow’s stonework is the central architectural feature and design element in my garden. Because Dan’s walls are comprised of subtly colored and textured rock —often softened by blueish lichen and emerald moss— they seem quite alive, even though they are technically inorganic. Whats more, the arrangement of the stonework itself —whether stacked horizontally, vertically, or arranged in dramatic and shifting pattern— adds artistry to the garden’s bare architecture in winter.

Steps and stairs —though they can be constructed from a wide variety of materials— must safely function and enhance a garden throughout the seasons. What we call “hallways” in our homes are the “pathways” in our gardens. These frequently-traveled spaces are as important outdoors as they are inside the house. Stepping stones, pea stones and gravel all add texture to the garden throughout the year. And in winter, walls, pathways, steps and other architectural features become highly exposed design elements. As crazy as I am about plants (and we all know that’s pretty crazy) my primary focus when designing a garden is always on the underlying structure. Build your garden before you decorate it with plants –and build it well, for it will hold, protect and exhibit your botanical treasures as your house contains, shelters and displays all of your worldly possessions! In winter, outdoor rooms are as stark as an empty house. And usually, the more attractive the garden’s architecture, the more beautiful the winter garden…

Stone Wall and Juniper Line the Winter Garden Walkway. Dan Snow Added both Candle Niches and Seats within the Wall, Creating Opportunities for Rest and Display Throughout the Seasons…

Stone Steps by Dan Snow Look Beautiful with a Dusting of Snow, and the Varied Height of the Sloped Setting Makes a Lovely Display for Frost-Proof Pots and Evergreen Plants…

Winter is a Fine Time to Enjoy Works of Art —Both Large and Small— in the Garden. Dan Snow’s Fire Sculpture Looks Particularly Beautiful in the Snow…

Structural elements and textural interest provide nature with a three-dimensional canvas for wintery works of art. And although it’s possible to spend a fortune on architectural details and plants, keep in mind that even the humblest cast-aways —flea market benches, unwanted boulders, simple fences and wire cables, twig teepees and homemade works of art— are just as effective when it comes to creating spaces and adding tactile elements in the garden. The rusty surfaces and cracked edges of second hand and found objects often enhance a snowy landscape. Set things out in the garden and move them around until you find a spot that feels right. Begin by using what you have on hand and playfully experiment with the beauty of the winter garden…

The honey-colored remnants of Golden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’) add beautiful texture to a simple cable rail along a deck in winter. Be on the look-out for perennials and vines with persistent papery, dried flowers and seed heads -these textural elements are key to winter garden detail…

A Mass Planting of  Flame Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ ) Forms a Season-Spanning ‘Screen'; Adding Texture and Color to the Garden Throughout the Seasons, in Addition to Providing Enclosure and  Natural Transition to the Meadow and Mountain Tops Beyond

Old wire chairs, even if they are no longer functional, provide endless interest in the garden throughout the seasons. In winter, this ivy-patterend chair casts a gorgeous shadow in the snow…

At the Garden Entryway, the Texture of Juniperus horizontalis and the Natural Stone Ledge Both Stand Out with a Dusting of Snow and Create a Backdrop for Other Plantings Throughout the Seasons…

Boulders —Remnants from Site Excavation— Make a Pretty Vine-Covered Grouping at Garden’s Edge (Hydrangea petiolaris)

Dan Snow’s Stone Steps Dusted in Snow

This design article was adapted from a previously published post which appeared on The Gardener’s Eden 12/2010

All Stonework Featured Here is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

Garden Design by Michaela Medina

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

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Wishing You All Things Merry & Bright

December 23rd, 2010 § 5

P E A C E   on   E A R T H

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Celebrating the Winter Solstice: Welcome the Season with a Sparkling Ode to Krampus…

December 21st, 2010 § 6

The Ode to Krampus

As the final hours of Autumn slip away with the low sun, and Winter arrives in her frosty chariot, I’ll be celebrating the Solstice this evening with friends and family. Marking the Winter Solstice is one of my favorite holiday traditions. And this year, while searching for a special cocktail to serve at a holiday party, my very resourceful friend Mel happened to send me a fabulous list of libations from the New York Times Online. Jackpot!

Being an Alpine-kind-of gal, the very first recipe on the list immediately caught my eye (although Mel and I both agreed that the name didn’t do it justice, so I immediately re-named it The Krampus). This pine and elderflower-essence-infused, sparkling drink honors Krampus: a mythical, demon-like, pagan character from familiar childhood tales. According to Alpine legend, St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) travels with the rusty-chain laden Krampus from house to house, warning and punishing bad children (sound familiar?). Krampus is one of those hold-over pagan elements —much like the decorative evergreen tree, yule log, and other little bits of holiday cheer— that accompany Christmas. I think this Alpine-influenced story and recipe make a particularly appropriate cocktail to celebrate the longest night of they year, don’t you? Have you been naughty or nice? I think a visit from Krampus would be exciting either way!

Krampus and Nikolaus Visiting Children in Austria (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, one of the main ingredients —pine liqueur— proved impossible to locate on short notice, (though it can be found online and in specialty liquor stores). However, I did find a good piney substitute —rosemary liqueur— to use in its stead. And with a sprig of fresh white pine (Pinus strobus) tucked into the glass, this drink is tasty, fragrant, horticultural and festive.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice, and the stark, white beauty of this spectacular season. Cheers!

Pinus strobus -Eastern White Pine

Winter’s Stark, White Beauty

Ode to Krampus

(From the New York Times “For Every Holiday Party, the Right Drink”… with a teensy tweak)

Ingredients: Makes One Cocktail (multiply for a party)

3                ounces of dry white wine

1/2            ounce dry vermouth

1/2            ounce elderflower liqueur

1/4            ounce pine liqueur (or sub rosemary liqueur)

1                ounce club soda

1                ounce dry, sparkling wine (a brut prosecco is perfect)

1                slice grapefruit peel garnish

1                sprig fresh eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

Here’s the mix…

Add ice to a large cocktail glass and combine the wine, vermouth and liqueur. Stir and top off with the prosecco and club soda. Twist a grapefruit peel over the cocktail and stick it in the side of the glass. Garnish with a small sprig of white pine.

Cheers !

From Winter’s Dusk

To Winter’s Dawn…

May You Find Beauty and Happiness in this Sparkling Season. Happy Holidays!

You may also enjoy the Persephone. Click here or on the image below for story and recipe from last Winter…

The Persephone

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Article and Photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Starry, Starry Night: A Festival of Light…

December 3rd, 2010 Comments Off

Fire and Ice

December evenings are often incomparably beautiful; the big, black sky serving as an endless canvas for celestial works of art. Last night, as I stood outside in the frosty quiet, I must have counted fifty shooting stars. The air was so crisp and clear, so still and cold, that every luminous dot in the universe seemed within finger’s reach. From the moment I stepped outdoors, stars began falling like heavenly, glowing raindrops.

December is a great month for star-watching (be sure to bundle up!). The Geminid meteor shower will peak December 13-14th. For more inforamtion, visit: Earth Sky online, and in Europe: Image via IMCCE Observatoire de Paris

Inspired by nights of starry, starry showers, I’ve begun filling heavy, glass bowls with clear, polished chips and tiny candles; bringing the magical glow of December’s sky down to earth. These fire and ice bowls are beautiful grouped on a mantle —surrounded by winterberries and greenery— or simply spaced on a dining table for a festive meal. But my favorite way to enjoy this bit of sparkle is on special nights out in my garden, when I tuck the shimmering bowls within stone walls and scatter them about the walkway…

Fire and Ice in the Stonewall

To create this look, fill glass containers (round, square, or any other shape) with glass chips (often called lustre gems). Choose clear glass bits, as I have, or go bold with imaginative color combinations. You can find all of the inexpensive supplies you need at craft stores, florists shops, and many large department stores (or follow the links in this post for online sources). I used rounded candles for the displays featured here (like these, intended for floating in water) but you can just as easily use tea lights or samplers. I also like to use the glass bowls/chips indoors for floating arrangements, like the ones I featured here in summertime (click back here to check them out – winter arrangements with twigs and berries are equally beautiful). When using fire and ice bowls outside for special occasions, it’s very important to bring them back indoors after the party. If water collects, freezes and thaws inside the glass bowls, you will likely end up with a shattered mess on your hands. So, be sure to place your decorations in protected spots during inclement weather, and enjoy them indoors between parties.

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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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Shelter Me: Keeping the Kitchen Garden Warm and Productive as Temps Drop…

October 11th, 2010 § 3

Basil and Calendula cozy up beneath a misty dome in my garden…

The first frost of autumn sparkled on my lawn when I awoke Saturday morning. And although it wasn’t a true ‘killing-frost’ —the morning glories slipped right through Jack’s chilly hands— a few things were nipped here and there in my potager. Most of my tender crops are now covered with hoop-house cold-frames —mainly tomatoes, peppers, basil and other herbs— and later, the cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce will be covered as well…

Tomatoes, ripening inside the hoop-house cold-frame in October, are safe from Old Jack Frost

Beneath greenhouse-grade plastic, purple and green basil, tomatoes and other herbs are protected from chilly nights, and given a ripening-boost during the day

I will be enjoying these ‘Lemon Boy’ tomatoes soon —not fried and not green (though that IS an excellent way to use them up!)

Last year I posted a tutorial on building hoop-house style cold frames, and if you have a free afternoon and some basic carpentry tools, I encourage you to give them a try (click to here to see tutorial post). I now have four hoop-houses in use, and although these miniature-greenhouses are unheated, they actually get quite toasty inside during the day, and the temperatures stay well-above freezing overnight. To keep things from getting too hot, the temperature inside each of my hoop-houses is moderated with a easy-to-install, automatic back-vent. Of course later in the autumn, unless I provide supplemental heat, these tomatoes will eventually succumb to overnight cold. But other crops —including lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, chard and broccoli— can make it straight through the Winter Solstice in an unheated hoop-house (and even beyond in some years)!

There are many other ways to extend the vegetable growing season in cold climates, and I will continue posting ideas on how to stretch that post-frost ‘Indian Summer’ for as long as possible. Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t fancy the idea of a building project yourself, you can easily purchase cold frames, kits and other garden shelters from companies like Gardener’s Supply Company online.

Have you had a killin’ frost in your area? Do you try to keep things going past the freeze?

Sungold and bright red cherry tomatoes will continue to ripen beneath the plastic, well past the hard-frost

A hoop-house protects tender vegetables in my fall vegetable garden, while cold-weather crops remain uncovered.

Still Glorious – ‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glories in the Potager, October 11th

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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…

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Peace on Earth…

December 24th, 2009 § 3

Wishing you all things Merry and Bright !

Happy Holidays !

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*Bright red cranberries and candles make a lovely, quick and natural centerpiece for the holiday table. To make one like mine, (I snapped the top photo last night while wrapping presents):  fill a shallow glass bowl, (midway to the top), with water. Add fresh cranberries to cover the surface, and float a few candles here and there. The cranberries can be rinsed and re-used later, (you can also scatter them outside for hungry birds…). Please be sure to keep an eye on candles, and never leave them in an unattended room. Have a warm, safe holiday !

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All photos copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? 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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A Beautiful and Symbolic Cocktail to Celebrate the Winter Solstice and Enjoy Throughout the Holiday Season…

December 20th, 2009 § 10

The Persephone – or Lava Lamp by Maria Hunt…

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My, oh my – where has the year gone? Here we are on the eve of the Winter Solstice, with 2010 right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but for me this year has been a complete whirl-wind. Looking back at the months gone by, I am truly grateful to have so many wonderful, familiar people in my life and so many beautiful new faces and memories. It’s been a tough year for many, with lost jobs and personal struggles, but there have been many joyful moments and happy occasions as well. This year has been a particularly special one for my family, as my delightfully sweet nephew Morgan arrived this past August. There is much to celebrate! I am also thankful to have all of you in my life. Your wonderful comments and lovely emails have brightened my life and propelled me forward. I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. And in this season of celebratory giving, I have a special little gift in mind to share with all of you…

I have to tell you that I have been barely able to contain myself for the past few weeks, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would share this special Winter Solstice cocktail. Yes I know, I am as silly as a little kid – it’s true. But this really is the perfect drink to celebrate the season. Why, why, why – You ask? Well, it’s because this champagne cocktail contains three seeds from the pomegranate, the mythical fruit of Greek legend, explaining the seasons. But before I get into the story, let me tell you the most exciting thing about this drink: when pomegranate seeds are dropped into a glass of champagne and pomegranate liqueur, they become suspended by bubbles rising in the sparkling wine. They float up and down; lifting, dipping and swaying, as if dancing to music. How festive is that? I love watching the ruby red seeds float around like lively party-goers in my champagne flute, and I know you are going to get a kick out of it too. Of course you know this drink deserves center stage at your next holiday party.

I had a champagne-pomegranate seed cocktail a long time ago, and when I saw it, I dubbed it The Persephone. I still can’t believe that I forgot all about it until I recently discovered a new spin on the recipe in Maria Hunt’s fantastic cocktail book, The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion. Maria adds pomegranate liqueur instead of juice to the basic recipe and she calls this drink The Lava Lamp - (it’s fanatastic, as are all of her recipes, and it does bear a striking resemblance to that retro-fab design). But for the holidays, I prefer to go back to my old moniker, The Persephone, (I sure hope Maria won’t mind), and here’s why…

(*if you are as impatient as I am, you can scroll down to the recipe below and come back for the story later…)

According to Greek myth, Winter is explained by the grieving of Demeter, goddess of earth, fertility and the seasons. Many, many years ago, Demeter lived an idyllic life with her beautiful daughter Persephone, child of her union with the highest god, Zeus. Their days were spent tending to earth’s fertility, and their long, lovely evenings were passed enjoying the harvest and song. Then, one day Persephone went out into the fields to pick flowers with a group of nymphs. Suddenly, the earth cracked open, hissing and shaking them to the ground. Hades, god of the underworld, had been observing Persephone from the shadows, and in a moment of jealous desire, he reached out and dragged her beneath the soil into his kingdom of death – claiming her as his bride. Unaware that her child was abducted, (swept beneath the earth by Hades), Demeter desperately wandered the forests and fields for months. While searching for her beloved daughter, the goddess of fertility unintentionally allowed the earth go to waste. Finally Helios, the sun god, found the courage to tell Demeter that he saw her daughter taken – snatched by the dark king of the underworld.

With the crops going to ruin, and an earth trapped in endless winter, Zeus finally stepped in and demanded that Hades return Persephone to her mother. Hades agreed to return her, but with the stipulation that she must fast, along with the suffering earth, during her time in the underworld. Persephone dutifully abided by the rules, in spite of the great temptations placed before her by devious Hades. However, just before she is to be released, Persephone is tricked into eating a handful of pomegranate seeds by the crafty Hades. After starving for months in the underworld, the beautiful, plump fruit proved irresistible. Persephone let three pomegranate seeds pass her lips.

When our ill-fated heroine finally returned to her mother, there was a small catch. On the longest, darkest night of every year, The Winter Solstice, Persephone returns to her Hades in the underworld, where she remains for three months, (one for each seed), until she is allowed to return to her mother on the Vernal Equinox – Spring. Every year when Persephone departs, Demeter goes into mourning. The leaves begin to fall from the trees in late autumn as her melancholy mood returns. Then, when her daughter inevitably departs, the earth turns cold and dormant until Persephone returns again…

Juicy, Ruby-Red Pomegranate Seeds…

The Pomegranate, (Punica granatum), also known as the Chinese apple or the “many-grained apple”, is believed to have evolved in the Middle East, near modern Iran. Some believe that this, not the common apple, is the fabled fruit of The Garden of Eden. The pomegranate has been cultivated by mankind since the very beginning of recorded history. In the United States, pomegranates were introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the late 1700’s. Today the pomegranate tree is grown throughout the world in dry, warm climates similar to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions where it was originally found. In the U.S. it is commonly raised in California, Arizona and other southwestern states.

If you have never tried this fruit, you don’t know what you are missing! Pomegranates are delicious, and they are used in many dishes and drinks in cultures throughout the world. The juice of the pomegranate is high in vitamins and anti-oxidant properties, and it can be enjoyed fresh or cooked to create delicious sauces. Seeds of the pomegranate, encased in waxy chambers of pith, can be eaten straight from the fruit, tossed in salads, or used in a wide variety of recipes…

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The Persephone

From Maria Hunt’s Lava Lamp recipe found in : The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion

Ingredients to make one Persephone/Lava Lamp cocktail

1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pomegranate juice

3 pomegranate seeds (fewer for optimists or more if you are pessimistic)

5 ounces of brut champagne or dry, sparking wine*

A tall champagne flute

Follow instructions below…

Three Symbolic Pomegranate Seeds, Placed in a Tall Champagne Flute…

To make this delicious and festive cocktail, begin by selecting a dark red pomegranate, (Punica granatum) from the market, (deep red, leathery skin is an indicator of ripeness). Tear open the leathery skin and remove the juicy red seeds from the pith. Opening the pomegranate may require a bit of effort. This is a fun-messy job, so get near a sink and towels – it helps to begin with a sharp knife. Once you get through the tough skin, simply rip the shell open.

Drop three seeds into the bottom of a tall champagne flute. Add 1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pure pomegranate juice. Fill the glass with 5 ounces of dry, sparkling wine or brut champagne.

Enjoy watching as the pomegranate seeds rise and fall delightfully in the bubbles !

* Let youngsters, and those unable to drink alcoholic beverages, in on the fun by using non-alcoholic, sparkling white grape juice or any other bubbly substitute…

Happy Holidays Everyone – Cheers  !

When sparkling wine is added to the flute, the pomegranate seeds are lifted by the bubbles, rising and falling in the glass – Magic !

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardner’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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