Art Inspired by Nature – Raku Masterworks by Artist Richard Foye

September 30th, 2009 § 10

R Foye, Raku metallic glaze vase

~ Large raku vessel with bronze metallic glaze ~

R Foye pot firing~ A raku urn with lid during glaze firing ~

R Foye at studio~ Artist Richard Foye at his South Newfane, Vermont studio ~

I caught up with my friend, artist Richard Foye, on a beautiful September afternoon while he was busy at work in his South Newfane, Vermont studio. Last month, I featured one of Richard’s beautiful raku vessels in my post, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors”, and I received a number of emailed questions about his work. Richard’s vases and vessels make stunning centerpieces for the table, where they function as either a solo act or center stage for floral arrangements… and his dramatic urns make intriguing ornaments and focal points for the home or seasonal garden. Many of us are as eager to bring the beauty of nature indoors as we are to enhance it within our gardens, especially at this time of year. In light of the interest, I gave Richard a call and asked him if he might be willing to give us a tour of his studio and share some of his inspiration and creations on The Gardener’s Eden. Richard very generously allowed me to observe and photograph him working in his studio while he turned pieces on his wheel, and later fired several urns, vases and vessels. As he worked, the artist took the time to explain how his beautiful, naturally inspired pieces are created. I have collected Richard’s work for a number of years, and while I thought I understood his technique, after spending the afternoon at his studio I realized there is so much more to this artist’s work than meets the eye.  I couldn’t wait to share his amazing process with you in this third installment of “Art Inspired by Nature” on The Gardener’s Eden…

(click to enlarge any photo in this essay for a closer view)

Ninebark,(Physocarpus) 'Diablo', False Indigo, (Baptisia foliage) Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana),Queen Anne's Lace'(Anthriscus sylvestris Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)

Richard Foye began making pottery in 1969, during his senior year at The University of Vermont. A philosophy major, Richard accompanied his friend Ken Pick to pottery class one day, where he discovered his life’s passion. Watching this artist at his wheel in the late afternoon light, it was easy to see why his vessels are so spectacular. Richard is in love with his work. His hands move in a steady yet fluid motion, instinctively molding curvaceous lines and sensual forms from the clay. Throughout the 70’s, Richard worked primarily with stoneware and porcelain when, after nearly a decade, he began to experiment with raku. From that point on, Richard found himself focusing on this Far Eastern technique he has come to favor for both its immediacy and serendipitous results. The word raku loosely translates to ‘unexpected, joyful surprise‘. My conversation with Richard naturally turned to philosophy at this point, discussing the difference between what Westerners might call ‘accidents‘ and what Easterners refer to as ‘incidents‘.  The raku method was originally developed in Korea, and later adopted by Japanese artisans. In raku, a pot is drawn out from the fire while still hot and then allowed to cool quickly, producing unexpected, often dramatic results. The ‘incidental’ finishes found on raku pieces are inherent to this quick cooling process. Over time Richard developed his own fascinating techniques and signature glazes, (inspired by ancient Near Eastern and Japanese methods), to create the exquisite works of art shown here.

Although he describes himself as impatient, Richard is in fact very methodic in his process. The white stoneware clay he uses is a proprietary mix he creates with rainwater in his studio. After working his pieces into sensual forms, influenced by travels to Southern Spain and Andalusia among other places, he sets them aside to dry-cure before he begins the bisque firing and finishing process. The time to complete a series of pots, from start to finish, is generally six weeks…

R Foye clay~ Richard’s white stoneware clay is hand mixed with rainwater  ~

R Foye hands at wheel 2~ Richard working at his wheel ~

R Foye uncured, unglazed pots

~ Unfinished clay pieces will dry cure for before bisque firing ~

After curing, Richard’s vessels and urns are bisque fired to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit and then coated with a hand mixed glaze. His signature metallic finishes are a combination of naturally occurring minerals, (including feldspar and calcium borate), inspired by those used in ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Once they are dry, Richard’s pieces are glaze fired to 1,600 degrees fahrenheit, and quickly removed with tongs while still hot. The process makes for a dramatic show…

R Foye pot firing~ Glazed pieces are fired at 1,600 degrees fahrenheit ~

R Foye firing pot

~ Richard monitors the urn, gauging temperature by time and color ~

R Foye removing fired pot

~ According to the Far Eastern raku technique, the piece is removed while hot ~

From here, Richard’s process becomes positively fascinating to anyone inspired by nature and her beautiful botanical world. While still red hot, Richard places his vessels within a nest of hand harvested straw and wild grasses from his field – he also tosses pine cones into this smoking, combustible mix. When a lid is placed atop his make-shift ‘double boiler’, the resulting heat, smoke and flame put on quite a show. Meanwhile, inside the vibrating pot, the straw fuses with the glaze to form exquisite, unpredictable patterns on Richard’s shapely vessels.

R Foye natural materials, pinecones~ Richard adds natural materials, including pine cones, grass and straw ~

R Foye materials before and after

~ Natural materials help create the one-of-a-kind finishes in Richard’s work ~

R Foye Raku process

~ The white-hot piece is placed within a pot of natural materials ~

R Foye Raku process 2

~ Resulting combustion makes for dramatic smoke, vibrations and sound ~

Once the pot cools down from the secondary glazing process, Richard removes the lid, and brushes away the burned botanical remnants to reveal what are always delightfully inexact results. Raku – the art of joyful surprise…

R Foye Raku process smoking kettle

~ At last, the lid is removed to reveal raku’s surprise… ~

Raku process emerging pot

~ A finished piece, still hot, surrounded by the natural, burned remnants ~

R Foye Raku vase

The cooling vessel, (note the grass still attached where it has burned in lines)

Richard uses the raku method to create a wide range of extraordinary pieces – from large metallic-glazed urns, (works of art suitable for the indoor display of flowers, branches and grass), to statuesque crackle-glazed vessels, ( I envision them beckoning at the end of a garden path or shady corner), to smaller pieces, including beautiful table-sized vases and ewers. Richard also continues to work with stoneware, creating garden-art such as the all-season lantern pictured below…

R Foye urn, metallic glazed

~ A large, metallic glazed raku urn ~

R Foye Raku urn, turquoise crackle glaze

~ A large, crackle glazed raku urn ~

R Foye Raku handled vessel

~ A metallic glazed raku ewer with handle ~

R Foye Lantern~ One of Richard’s very popular stoneware lanterns, here in his garden ~

Richard Foye shows his work in galleries and craft exhibitions throughout New England, and at home in Vermont. The Rock River Artists group holds an open studio tour every summer, and to many a gardener’s pleasure, Richard’s studio is conveniently located one door down from Olallie Daylily Gardens. The combination is more than tempting to this nature lover on an autumn day. If you would like to make a visit to Richard’s studio, be sure to call ahead, as he participates in a wide variety of craft shows and artisan exhibits throughout the year. But if you tell him you read about his raku process on The Gardener’s Eden, I am sure he will be more than delighted to give you a tour when he is back at his studio home.

Thank you Richard, for generously sharing your time and your work with us, and always for your deep understanding of natural beauty…

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*Richard Foye does not have internet access at his studio, but he may be reached by calling 802-348-7927, (Richard’s South Newfane, Vermont studio is open by appointment, please call for directions). He is represented in New England by the Rice/Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

* Richard Foye’s pieces are currently priced at $35 -$410 *

The artist’s work may also be seen at the following craft festivals in New England this October:

October 2, 3 and 4, 2009, Hildene Foliage Art and Craft Festival,  Manchester, Vermont

October 9, 10 and 11, 2009, Stowe Foliage, Art and Craft Festival, Stowe, Vermont

October 17 – 18, 2009, Roseland Cottage Annual Arts and Crafts Festival, Woodstock, CT

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~ Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~

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Behold the Beauty in a Technicolor Dreamcoat: Rhus Typhina, our North American Native, Staghorn Sumac…

September 28th, 2009 § 6

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wow. Will you take a long look at Lady Rhus typhina? Isn’t she beautiful ? And she is such a keeper. What gardener wouldn’t welcome this stunning, autumn beauty with her technicolor dreamcoat? But there is a catch. I am afraid this lady has a bad reputation. It’s not her fault, mind you. She hasn’t done anything wrong herself. It’s just that she comes from a long line of toxic relatives. It’s sad really. I hate to say it, but her kin will really burn you if you don’t watch yourself. They are beautiful, but only from a distance. Up close, they are quite a nasty group. Perhaps you know the type? Maybe you have met them – I am certain you would remember. A close encounter with her two most famous cousins, Poison ivy, (toxicodendron radicans/rhus radicans), or Poison Sumac, (toxicodendron vernix/rhus vernix), will likely produce an unforgettable, blistering rash. Thankfully, botanists have taxonomically separated these nefarious relations from Lady Rhus, and this has helped to clear up confusion in horticultural circles and classrooms. But word on the street is little changed – the Sumac name still gets a bad rap.

staghorn sumac, september, fruit and early hint of colorRhus typhina, North American native Velvet/Staghorn Sumac, in September ⓒ Michaela at TGE

So lets see what we can do to help her out. In case you haven’t been properly introduced, this is North American native Rhus typhina, better known as Velvet or Staghorn sumac. And as you can see, she is drop-dead gorgeous. All summer long, Velvet sumac charms us with her tropical looking foliage. In fact, as you will observe in the photo below, she almost looks as if she came from a distant jungle, or perhaps an exotic South Pacific island. But she really is just the proverbial, beautiful girl-next-door. In the Northeast, when days shorten and nights chill in the latter part of the year, Rhus suddenly pulls out all the stops when she dons her autumn finery. Her cloak is quite a knock-out. Chartreuse, gold, vermillion, scarlet; impossible hues all blend together to form the most magnificent tapestry you have ever seen. She is quite the fashionista. I think she almost puts the Paris runways to shame. Rhus typhina also produces clusters of hairy fruit that turn a beautiful, dark crimson – a stand out feature in the gray days of mid November and early December. Even in late winter, her velvety stems are worthy of notice, when they catch the hoar frost and glimmer in winter light.

staghorn sumac, up Rhus typhina, looking more Bali than Boston, but a North American native all the same ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Like most wild-things, Rhus typhina must be properly understood to be fully appreciated. A North American native shrub, (or small tree), Velvet Sumac is hardy in zones 3 – 8, (some cultivars have a wider range), and can reach a height of 15-20′ or more, with a similar spread. I think she prefers to be positioned at the outer edge of a garden; perhaps alongside a drive, or a natural boundary. Although this is a suckering plant, and perhaps a bit coarse in winter, she is easy to please and quite benign. Only her name, not her human-compatibility, has been tarnished by the poisonous members of her family. Fantastic cultivars, such as the featured Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’, and hybrids, (often crosses between R. typhina and R. glabra), like ‘Red Autumn Lace’, have proven to be fantastic garden plants. Just imagine the beautiful color combinations in an autumn garden. Violet, magenta and cerulean Asters; deep purple monkshood, (Aconitum); golden Amsonia; ornamental grass – the possibilities are limited only by imagination.

I think it’s high time we put out the good word for our native beauty, Rhus typhina. Autumn just wouldn’t be the same without her…

Rhus typhina, (Staghorn Sumac or Velvet Sumac) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Close up of Rhus typhina’s technicolor autumn wardrobe ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ begins its autumn alchemy  ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written consent. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow…

September 25th, 2009 § 5

A basket of mixed narcissus bulbs, ready for planting

The first member of my family’s next generation was born a few short weeks ago. His name is Morgan; my sister’s first child and my first nephew. When I met Morgan on the morning he was born, August 13th, my heart felt like a swollen dam, barely containing a flood of emotion. My love for my nephew is for him of course, but it is also for tomorrow – for the future. From the moment he arrived I realized that, simply put, this new member of my family embodies my faith in a world beyond myself. The name Morgan has two meanings, but in this case, my nephew’s parents took his name from the Germanic word ‘morgen’, meaning tomorrow. The poet in me delights in this choice – and lately, because of Morgan, I have been thinking a great deal about the future.

To plant things in the soil is to believe in a new day; perhaps not my day, but another day, for another generation. Gardening has never been an instant gratification activity. Sometimes when I walk beneath ancient trees in city parks, botanical gardens and cemeteries, I think of the hands that placed them there. Unlike works of nature, gardens planted by those who came before us were not created by chance. They were imagined into existence by hopeful souls, dreaming of a future; dreaming of our future. Can you feel love for tomorrow? Can you feel love for people you have never met, and will never meet? My answer is yes, I can and I often do fall in love with tomorrow. That love is called hope. And although we never met, when I touch the weathered bark of a tree planted in a park 100 years ago, I can feel the love someone else felt for the future; for me, and for everyone else enjoying the tree today. One day my nephew and the rest of his generation will inherit this great garden we all share. And when I am long gone, I hope Morgan will still walk the paths I have made here in my garden. Maybe he will pick the daffodils I plant every year, or rest his back against the tree I wrestled up the hill. And in time, perhaps his child will play in the secret garden I created, and discover the tangled rose hidden at the foot of the wall.

The word ‘garden’ can be defined in many ways. In the most basic sense, a garden is simply a place where things are planted and grow. I garden because I like fresh produce and flowers… I love nature and being outdoors. I also garden for the feeling of peace and connection it gives me. I am inspired by botanical beauty, and I enjoy expressing myself  by creating living art. I garden for many reasons, but most of all I garden because I take great pleasure in time’s power. I anticipate and delight in the coming seasons, and I look forward to the changes they bring over the course of years. I believe in the future, and my garden is a collection of hopes and dreams rooted in the earth.

The natural world is inherently hopeful. Seeds break free and blow in the wind; scattering far and wide, carrying with them the promise of a new forest or a new meadow. A robin lays eggs and warms them, instinctively waiting for her chicks to hatch. The future takes flight on hope. When we garden, we connect to that natural expectation and desire – the hope, that life will go on. Like the gardeners of generations past, I am a part of the natural world, the society of humankind, and history. I am also a part of the future, and it is a part of me. I believe that I am a part of something much bigger, much greater than myself, and this belief gives me strength and comfort. It gives me hope. I believe in that hope, and I believe in the promise of tomorrow…

And so I set forth, into the garden; bulbs beneath my arm, trowel in hand, basket full of dreams…

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Very early blooming Narcissus ‘February Gold’

Crocus tommasinianus emerging from Ajuga and Heuchera in early April

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’

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My garden, Ferncliff, is filled with the beautiful promise of spring…

For many years I have purchased unusual varieties of narcissus and many other early-season garden delights from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. The Heath family bulb farm is located in Gloucester, Virginia, and it has been in operation for many generations. In fact, the Heaths trace their involvement in daffodil farming all the way back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Brent’s grandfather Charles Heath began growing daffodils near their present location in Gloucester.

I have purchased hundreds and hundreds of bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. And although I have never met the Heaths, I think of them every fall when I am planting, and every spring when I am enjoying their beautiful flowers emerging magically from the thawing earth.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing more about planting bulbs. But for now, if you are new to bulb planting, or looking to add some excitement to your garden for next spring, I can recommend a couple of books to help expand your knowledge. The first is  Rod Leed’s The Plantfinder’s Guide to Early Bulbs, published by Timber Press. And for Daffodil enthusiasts, I suggest Brent and Becky Heath’s book, Daffodils for North American Gardens, published by Bright Sky Press, and available at their website: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

I think planting bulbs is a great fall activity to share with kids of all ages. Beyond the pleasures and rewards of a day spent outdoors working with the earth, the simple act of planting bulbs can help to create a connection to the future, and to instill values like patience, forethought and respect for nature, (to name but a few). Fall planting is wonderful tradition to share with younger generations, and a love of gardening is a value I certainly hope to pass on…

Scillia siberica, early spring at Ferncliff

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

* All products and books recommended on this site are based upon my own personal experiences. I receive no compensation for mentions of any kind *

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used for any purpose without express written permission. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

***

Art Inspired by Nature – Ronald Cowie Portrait of a Flower…

September 23rd, 2009 § 2

Ronald Cowie Poppy

Photograph © Ronald Cowie

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“Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven’t time -and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time”  – Georgia O’Keeffe

For this, The Gardener’s Eden’s second in the weekly series, “Art Inspired by Nature”, I present to you the extraordinary work of Ronald Cowie. This series of botanical photographs is more than beautiful – Ronald’s images explore the very essence of each exquisite flower. He has created what I can only describe as portraits: works of art capturing individual identities. The delicate, ephemeral nature of the poppy, fluttering in the wind; the beautifully transparent quality of cosmos petals; the magnificent, swirling geometry of a hibiscus blossom; the frilly romance of a floribunda rose; the exotic, luminous presence of a water lily floating in a darkened pool – all have been brilliantly captured and poetically expressed.

The first time I saw Ronald Cowie’s work, I was stunned by it’s emotional power. There are no tricks here. There is no artifice. In order to portray the unique characteristics, the individual personalities of your subjects, you must first discover them. It is clear that Ronald spends a great deal of time seeing. And in a world where so many human beings rapidly gobble up everything put before them, it is rare to encounter the opposite. Ronald Cowie takes the time to taste and savor the world, and to express the beauty and mystery he discovers.

I hope that you will also take the time, not only to look closely at these beautiful photographs, but to explore Ronald’s website and his other work, (I am also moved by both his haunting “Leaving Babylon” series, and the spiritual power of “The Inside Ocean”). It takes time to really see the amazing world all around us. But when we do stop to deeply observe, we are rewarded handsomely. Thank you Ronald Cowie, for making the time, and for sharing what you have found…

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Ronald Cowie Cosmos

Photograph © Ronald Cowie

Ronald Cowie Hibiscus

Photograph © Ronald Cowie

Ronald Cowie Roses

Photograph © Ronald Cowie

Ronald Cowie Water Lily

Photograph © Ronald Cowie

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All photography featured in this article is the sole property of Ronald Cowie and may not be downloaded, copied or otherwise used without his written consent.

For further information about the work of Ronald Cowie, or to purchase one of his beautiful prints, please visit his website linked here: RWCOWIE.COM

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Article copyright 2009 , Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (exclusive of notion), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used  or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by what you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It is a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Welcome Autumn…

September 22nd, 2009 Comments Off

The first golden leaves. American Beech, (Fagus grandifolia).

Thought I would take you along for a stroll through the woodland path on the first day of autumn here at Ferncliff. Early morning fog lifted briefly to reveal a slice of heavenly blue sky and a season’s worth of kaleidoscopic color just beginning to develop in the forest. Welcome to Autumn…

A backlit branch of beech leaves stands out like a stained glass masterpiece by Henri Matisse…

Sky blue hues of Aster oblongifolium, ‘Raydon’s favorite’, brighten the woodland edge at Ferncliff…

Leaves shed early by two nearby maple trees stand out against the gray stone in a washout…

Hay-scented ferns, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), just beginning to turn gold along the forest path…

A red maple leaf, (Acer rubrum), settled into new moss along the edge of the woodland…

A common puffball mushroom, (Lycoperdon perlatum), brings to mind a sea urchin when viewed up close on the mossy forest floor.

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~ Click to enlarge photos ~

To learn more about American woodland gardening, and North American deciduous forests, I highly recommend Rick Darke’s beautiful book, The American Woodland Garden, published by Timber Press. Although we have never met, Rick’s gorgeous photography, insight, and the beautiful woodland garden he created in Pennsylvania with his wife Melinda, has been a great inspiration to me. To learn more about Rick Darke and his work, please visit his website by clicking here: rickdark.com. Thank you for your many fine books Rick.

cover

Rick Darke’s The American Woodland Garden from Timber Press

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by what you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. Link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

***

A Vintage Rose Cocktail to Celebrate The Last Day of Summer…

September 20th, 2009 § 1

Vintage Rose Cocktail from The Bubbly Girl – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

We may be kissing Summer a sweet goodbye on Tuesday, but you didn’t think I would let her slip away for the year without a little celebration, now did you?  Of course not. She is far too loved to be easily forgotten. As I was strolling around my garden the other evening, dreaming up a suitable send-off for our beloved season, a sweet answer came to me on the breeze: Rosa ‘De Rescht’. Sometimes inspiration strikes like a bolt from the blue. I sprang to action…

If you have been following my journal entries for awhile, you may recall that back in early July I mentioned a new late-night hobby, (devouring food blogs), in my post, “Stop! Put down that hoe, and let’s eat”. Well, as the weeks passed my newfound interest in cooking, and the vibrant online community of foodies, led me to a few intriguing wine blogs. While some of these websites turned out to be bit dry and formal, I recently made a more effervescent discovery. A few weeks ago, I chanced upon Bubbly Girl, a wonderful website and blog written by Maria Hunt. Maria’s lovely book, The Bubbly Bar, is a collection of cocktail recipes made with champagne and sparkling wine. Many of her beautiful and festive drinks use fresh ingredients, including berries, herbs, fruit, and my personal favorite, flowers! While visiting Maria’s blog, I discovered several cocktails calling for rose petals and/or rose water. In fact, her Moonwalk Cocktail, and her signature Love in the Afternoon, (featured on the cover of the book), both contain rose water, among other ingredients. Everything on her website looked delightful, but when I stumbled upon Maria’s recipe for a Vintage Rose Cocktail, I knew I just had to try it. Unfortunately, with autumn’s first frost right around the corner, time was running out. By the time I found this recipe, the last day of summer was less than a week away. In order to share this with you, I had to move quick. So after taste-testing this delicious, rose-bubble potion, (you can not imagine the sacrifices I make for this blog), I wrote Maria a quick email explaining how I thought my readers might appreciate her rose-infused champagne cocktail, and asking permission to reprint her recipe. Maria graciously responded with a warm and generous note, kindly offering to share. What a lovely, talented lady. Thank you Maria!

No doubt, many of you have an ample supply of roses. But it is getting late in the season, and some of you may need to borrow a few petals from a friend, or pay a visit to your local florist in order to make this drink, (carefully read the recipe below for other key ingredients). Fortunately, the antique Damask roses in my garden have decided to provide me with the key ingredient, (petals), by producing a last wave of late-season, heavenly-scented bloom, (remember that bolt from the blue inspiration I mentioned above?). In fact just yesterday, I brought several deep fuchsia rose blossoms up to the table beside my bed in order to revel in their fragrance for a few more nights. I will miss them. After reading Maria’s recipe, it seemed more than appropriate to harvest some fresh petals from this, my Portland Damask, Rosa ‘De Rescht’, in order to create a special cocktail marking the Last Day of Summer, Monday, September 21st, 2009.

I hope you will enjoy the Vintage Rose Cocktail, and beautiful memories of summer, for many years to come…

So Long Sweet Summer. We’ll see you again next year. Cheers!

rose-infused simple syrupHomemade Rose-Lavender infused Simple Syrup – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Vintage Rose Cocktail

From the Bubbly Girl, Maria Hunt

Ingredients (makes one cocktail):


3/4 ounce rose syrup *

4 – 5 ounces chilled sparkling wine or champagne **

lemon twist, (Meyer if possible)

organic rose petals (we used fresh petals from Rosa ‘De Rescht’)

Directions:

Add the rose syrup to a chilled champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine or champagne. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to release the oils and then drop it into the flute. Garnish with fresh, organic rose petals…

Cheers !

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Some additional notes from The Gardner’s Eden:

*You can buy rose syrup at many specialty stores, however we made our own:

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To make rose syrup: mix 1/2 cup of rose flower water, (dilute with water if necessary), with several sprigs of French lavender, and the fresh petals of one organically grown rose, (we used damask Rosa ‘De Rescht’, see cultivar notes below). bring to a quick boil in a small sauce pan, slowly adding 1 cup of sugar. simmer for 5-8 minutes to thicken, (you may add a couple of drops of organic red food coloring if you so desire). remove from heat. Strain through a filter to remove herbs. Allow syrup to cool, or chill in your fridge. Seal in a small bottle and store refrigerated for approximately 2 weeks. (This recipe may be doubled)

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** I also made this drink as a “mock-tail” for a friend. Use a good quality, non-alcoholic sparkling wine to replace the champagne, (available in many specialty stores and online).

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Rosa 'De Rescht' Portland Damask Perpetual:Repeat flush of bloom 3.5'highx 3' wide, pure, intense sweet Damask scent, hardy zone 4 (protected)-8Petals of Rosa ‘De Rescht’, an Antique Portland Damask Rose ⓒ Michaela at TGE

And now, a few notes regarding the source of our chosen ingredient, the petals of Rosa ‘De Rescht’  …

Star of the summer to autumn transition in my entry garden, the scent of Rosa ‘De Rescht’ has stopped many a guest in their tracks. She is classified as a Portland Damask rose, and her tidy growth habit is quite similar to a Gallica. Although her complete history was lost and remains unknown, this antique rose was reintroduced to the west in the mid-1940’s when she was ‘discovered’ by an English woman traveling in Persia, (now modern Iran). The family lines of this mysterious rose have been traced back more than one hundred years, although her exact lineage is unclear. I have always been intrigued by a lady with a bit of a past, haven’t you? Damask roses are known to have some of the finest fragrance in the entire rose genus. The oil and water of the Damask are key ingredients in many fine perfumes and cosmetics. Of course there are many fragrant Damask roses, but to my nose, this one is truly exceptional. As an added bonus, Portland Damasks, (also known as perpetuals), are reliable repeat bloomers. In my garden, Rosa ‘De Rescht’  is in the habit of producing several waves of flower, (especially when I remember to deadhead), pausing just long enough between blooming cycles to make her absence felt. She likes to finish the season with a grand finale, brushing us with a kiss of sweet fragrance on the final days of summer, just before the frost. Rosa ‘De Rescht’ has gorgeous, deep fuchsia buds and a classic, old-fashioned pompon flower. Clearly she has become one of my favorites. Yes, it does help that this rosebush is easy going and reasonably sized, (3.5′ high by 3′ wide), making her a fine addition to the perennial border. And unlike many antique roses, Rosa ‘De Rescht’ still remembers her good breeding and remains very well mannered; she doesn’t sucker, or threaten to encroach upon the rest of the garden. She has dignity. Grace. The foliage and wood of this cultivar has proven relatively disease free, and quite hardy in my garden. Although Rosa ‘De Rescht’  is listed as USDA zones 5-8, in my experience she is much sturdier. I live at the edge of zone 4, (and Ferncliff is an exposed, rugged site), where she has performed very well for the past 5 years without any winter protection at all. I think she is quite happy here, and I am more than delighted to be rewarded with her deliciously fragrant petals…

Rosa 'De Rescht'Rosa ‘De Rescht’, a Portland Damask Rose at Ferncliff ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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~ Vintage Rose Cocktail Recipe, courtesy of The Bubbly Girl, Maria Hunt ~

Maria’s book, (pictured below), would make a lovely gift…

bubbly_bar_cover-largeYou can buy Maria’s book, The Bubbly Bar, by clicking here.

Thank you Maria … Cheers !

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009 – Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (exclusive of noted material and book photo), is the property of  Michaela and The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reproduced, copied or otherwise used without written permission.  All Rights are Reserved. 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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Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ ….. The Late Blooming Perennial Toad Lily

September 18th, 2009 § 3

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

The first time I encountered Tricyrtis formosana she had been stripped of all foliage and was displayed dramatically with coppery toned twigs in a Japanese vase. It was lust at first sight. I was standing at the front desk in an elegant hotel lobby, and although I had plenty of things on my mind, I was driven to distraction by this flower. I suspected this was no orchid, but I could not identify her. Completely possessed, I had to know everything about the plant immediately. I peppered the hotel manager and staff with questions, and of course, no one could help me. In fact, I am certain the concierge thought me quite mad. He was busy and completely indifferent to my horticultural distress.

So I lurked about the first floor of the hotel, lingering in the bar with a late afternoon libation until the uncooperative employees departed. When the hotel staff changed shifts, a sympathetic face appeared behind the long slab of marble and I seized the opportunity at hand. This time I carefully tempered my enthusiasm so as not to appear too odd, and I simply inquired about the hotel’s florist. Much to my delight, after disappearing around the corner, the rather dashing fellow returned with a business card. “They are open tomorrow until noon”, he said. It was then that he must have noticed my aching gaze toward the vase, for he said… “Wait here just a moment”, and he disappeared once more. “Here…”, he smiled conspiratorially and presented me with three gorgeous stems, “These were on my boss’ desk”, he said, “and she has gone for the weekend”. I offered him a tip but he waved his hand. “My mother is obsessed with flowers, I understand”.

When the florist’s shop opened the next day, I learned that the object of my infatuation was a cultivar of Tricyrtis formosana. And although she may look like a member of the orchid family, she is not. Her swollen buds and speckled, waxy petals do bear a striking resemblance to Cymbidium, or perhaps Phalaenopsis, but her alternate lance-shaped leaves and hairy stems are a dead give away. This dappled beauty is actually a lily. A toad lily, in fact. And although I do find warty amphibians quite charming, I think this name is completely unsuitable. Other than Tricyrtis’ preference for a moist location, there is nothing toad-like about this elegant plant.

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’ and Uncinia egmontiana, (orange hook sedge)

This initial introduction to Tricyrtis formosana was some years ago, before I finished college. When I finally had a garden of my own I was back in New England and Tricyrtis formosana was nowhere to be found. Although I heard there were hardier cultivars, (most range-out at zone 6), I could not find one to match the beauty I met in the hotel that day. Time went by, and I moved on to other botanical loves, but I never forgot my “orchid-lily”.

I shop around quite a bit for plants every year, and I try to keep an open mind when it comes to sources. You never know. Sometimes the most unusual things will turn up at a garden swap, or even a yard sale. I am no shop-girl snob, and I am certainly not above looking for botanical treasures in the most common of places. But I have to admit I was taken aback when I ran into my old love at the Home Depot. Of all the box stores in all the towns in all the world…

There she was, Tricyrtis formosana, the ‘Dark Beauty’.  Needless to say she came home with me. Native to Japan, this lovely lily brings a touch of exotic, Asian elegance to my shady northern nook. Much to my delight, this cultivar is hardy in zones 4 – 8.  She likes partial shade and constant moisture, and when happy her rhizomatous roots will spread out to form 2 to 3 foot colonies. Best of all, the ‘Dark Beauty’ blooms in early to mid fall, when few other flowers remain in my garden. I believe she likes taking the stage all to herself in the late show. And I am more than happy to supply her with a vibrant supporting cast.

The bold orange tones of Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’, strike a beautiful, contrasting chord when positioned beside the violet hues of Tricyrtis formosana ‘Dark Beauty’. A similar effect may be achieved when she is combined with orange hook sedge, (Ucinia egmontiana). Although you might not expect a dramatic late season finale when the pair are viewed throughout the quiet days of summer, ‘Dark Beauty’ will stand out in bold contrast to the orangy-gold autumn color of  our native cinnamon fern, (Osmonda cinnamonea), in fall. Tricyrtis formosana reaches a height somewhere between 18 and 28″, and she combines beautifully with other perennials. I might choose coral bells (Heuchera), for the foreground and perhaps position her beside a dark violet monkshood, (Aconitum, various cultivars), to create a dramatic autumn vignette. Her glossy green leaves play nicely against the feathery foliage of Astilbe, or the statuesque Goat’s Beard, (Aruncus dioicus), who backs up ‘Dark Beauty’ particularly well.

So here we are together again. Me and my old flame Tricyrtis formosana. So why not play it Sam? This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship …

Tricyrtis formonsana ‘Dark Beauty’ with Orange Hook Sedge

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Article and Photographs 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 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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Art Inspired by Nature – Tim Geiss “Looking at You, Looking at Me”

September 16th, 2009 § 2

BWfrog Geiss 2009.05.22.13.03.21_frog.macro_0005

Frog, 2009, Tim Geiss

Welcome to the first installation of what I hope will become a weekly series, “Art Inspired by Nature”, on The Gardener’s Eden. As a gardener and nature-lover, I constantly find myself face to face with the beautiful, strange, and awe inspiring world around me. Sometimes I am moved by the beating wings of a butterfly, other times I am drawn in to the color of stone and then stunned to find a perfectly preserved, paper-white snake skin. I never know what I will find in the garden, and this unpredictable aspect of my work thrills me. I am also a visual artist, and recently I visited The Clark museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts to see ‘Through the Seasons, Japanese Art in Nature‘ and ‘Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence‘, (more on this show later). What I saw at the museum that day inspired me to connect with other artists, (photographers, sculptors, painters, potters, and more), in an effort to share their amazing work with you here on The Gardener’s Eden.

Looking. Looking very closely at the world around me has taught me a great deal. What better way to begin this series than with a collection of photographs focused on eyes? I present to you, “Looking at You, Looking at Me”. Meet photographer Tim Geiss. Tim is a natural observer. What I love most about his work is the instinctive way he approaches photography. There is a spontaneous, child-like quality to Tim’s images. To me, this is art in its purest form. Curiosity. Observation. Appreciation. Repulsion. Fascination. Expression.

Enjoy Tim’s work. May it inspire you and move you, as nature has inspired and moved human beings for all of time…

2009.09.09.17.21.07_frog.maine.camp_0008

Eye, 2009, Tim Geiss

dragon fly eyes

Dragon Fly, 2009, Tim Geiss

2008.06.22.11.06.53_cicada_00025

Cicada, 2008, Tim Geiss

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All photographs copyright 2008-2009, Tim Geiss. These photos are the property of Tim Geiss and may not be used under any circumstances without the artist’s consent. To contact Tim Geiss, please visit……  www.poltergeiss.com

Like this series? Please leave your comments here on the forum by clicking on the title bar and then scrolling down to the bottom of the page. I am sure Tim would love to hear from you!

Stay tuned. Every Wednesday, The Gardener’s Eden will feature the work of a talented artist inspired by nature !

Are you an artist inspired by nature, or do you know one? Would you like to be featured here? Send your information/links to The Gardener’s Eden – See “Contact” at left…

*All content on this site, (exclusive of guest photography), is the property of  The Gardener’s Eden*

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

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Calling all Bargain Hunters: It’s Time To Scoop Up Great Deals On Shrubs And Start Your Fall Planting!

September 15th, 2009 § 2

Weigela florida ‘My Monet’ & Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Pst… Want to know a secret? I really must confess. I have been having a bit of fun lately with other people’s money. No, no. It’s nothing like those scoundrels on Wall Street that you have been reading about. Permission has been granted. You see, for several weeks now, I have been shopping for my clients’ new gardens. Day in and day out, I have been oohing and ahhing, ogling and caressing, row upon row of ornamental shrubberies. OK, OK, I know. Don’t roll your eyes. It’s not everyone’s idea of a guilty pleasure. But as you may have noticed, I am a little horticulturally obsessed. To me, wandering around nurseries for weeks on end is pretty close to bliss. And while I am shopping for all of these soon-to-be installed gardens, you know of course that I am also scooping some things up for myself.

So, I really must let you in on my pleasure. And do you want to know the best part? It’s the sales. Seriously. Get out there my friends! There are some shocking deals and discounts to be found at garden centers in late summer. And now is the perfect time to take advantage of slashed prices on trees and shrubs – during fall planting season.

September is usually a super busy time for gardeners. The weather has started to cool down, and there are things to divide, move and cut back. This is also the ideal time to fill in newly designed and renovated gardens with perennials like peonies and all of those gorgeous spring blooming bulbs. And best of all, if you are in the market for some garden structure, it’s prime time for planting ornamental shrubs. Other than very early spring, autumn is really the safest time to plant, (or move), shrubs in cold winter climates like New England. Fall planting should be carried out when temperatures have cooled, but at least a month before the ground freezes. In New England, I usually begin my fall planting in early September. I use September 30th as a cut-off date for planting most evergreens or conifers, and October 31st as a last planting date for deciduous shrubs, (some years, the temperatures are more flexible than others). In the more southerly parts of the United States, the planting and moving of shrubs can begin later in fall and continue throughout winter, (as long as the soil remains frost-free and workable). Why plant shrubs in fall? As temperatures cool down and the growing season draws to a close, woody plants begin to go into seasonal dormancy. Shrubs planted at this time of the year, (early autumn in the Northeast and longer, into early winter in other regions of the US), have weeks or months left to settle in before the ground freezes. With energy no longer directed toward above-ground growth, early fall planting gives shrubs plenty of time to develop strong root systems. And as an added bonus, many garden centers and nurseries begin to mark-down shrubs in September, in order to reduce stock before winter. The selection may be a bit diminished, but if you keep an open mind, there are fabulous deals to be found! So, if you have been coveting some new cultivar at the local greenhouse, or if you would like to add a bit of season-spanning interest to your garden design, this is the perfect time to consider a planting plan and to shop for bargains.

Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry viburnum)Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry viburnum), at a nursery, showing hints of fall color

Now that I have stirred up the pot, I should give some fair warnings. Before you run out the door with checkbook and credit card in hand, it is very important that you have a close look at your garden. Remember that shrubs and trees are more permanent additions to the landscape than annuals and perennials. Once a shrub is settled in, it is difficult to move. So, spend some time thinking about your available space, light and growing conditions. If you think you see a good spot for a new addition, take careful measurements of the space and stick a reminder in your wallet. Now is a good time to note other conditions as well. Is your garden protected from or exposed to wind? Is the site sunny, shaded, or somewhere in between? Do you know your soil pH, (is it acid or alkaline or neutral)? Make time to do a soil test if you are unsure. Are you familiar with your USDA hardiness zone, (see NGA’s map here)?  And last but not least, consider your garden design. What is your landscape missing? Do you want to add vertical interest to a relatively flat topography? Do you need to blend your garden into the edge of a woodland, or to create a background in order for your perennials to stand out? Is your garden lacking season-spanning interest, (in the form of flowers, fruit, foliage, bark, varied shapes)? Whatever your garden-design needs, shrubs have a lot to offer. It is easy to get overwhelmed in the middle of all those gorgeous plants. Thinking clearly about what you want and need before you head out to bargain-hunt is a really good idea.

Viburnum sargentii 'Onadaga'A nice Viburnum sargentii ‘Onadaga’ specimen at a local nursery

When shopping for woody plants, I would like to offer you some advice from years of end-of-the-season buying. I know all to well how tempting those slashed prices can be. But. Does the shrub should look healthy? Really check it over. Look for evidence of new growth, (shoots of soft wood from the summer), and healthy foliage. Of course we have to be a bit less critical in the latter part of the year. Some brown or dried leaves are to be expected on deciduous shrubs in autumn. However, a pot filled with weeds, suckers and exposed roots indicates that the plant was not well cared for at the garden center throughout the summer. Think twice about scraggly looking shrubs. Certainly, if you find a rare-gem at an absolute fire-sale, or favorite cultivar you have been seeking for years, you may want to gamble. (Full disclosure: I have found some great plants in compost bins). Just keep in mind that acquiring a diseased plant can bring trouble into your healthy garden, so proceed with caution. Any plant infested with insects or fungus isn’t worth the risk. Once you get your shrubby new treasures back home, it is important to immediately begin caring for them. Never leave your shrubs in a hot car or in the middle of your driveway. Place your new plants in a cool spot, water them thoroughly and try to plant them as soon as possible. When you are ready to begin planting, thoroughly water your plants one more time and set them aside while you prepare the site.

unteased root ball of shrub and planting hole dugDig a wide planting hole (at least 2 to 3 times the size of the root ball), as shown here

Dig a good hole for your shrub, (see photo above). You are preparing the ground where your plant will spend the rest of its life. Be sure to dig deep and wide. Remove rocks, roots and sticks. Never try to cram a shrub into an inadequate space. You want loose soil beneath the plant, and on all sides. I never add commercial fertilizer to planting holes, nor do I feed shrubs during fall planting. I like to add slow release fertilizer to my new shrubs in early spring. However, I do add a bit of high quality compost to the unearthed soil before returning a few inches to the bottom of the planting hole and the remaining backfill for the plant (I also top-dress the soil with a layer of compost once planting is complete).

Now you are ready to remove the shrub from its pot. Carefully examine the plant’s roots and ‘tease’ them a bit if they are exposed and matted at the edges of the soil (see photos below). If the roots are very dense and tangled, (pot-bound), you may need to cut (root prune), the roots with a knife. Make small vertical slits in the root-mass, (about 1/4-1/2″). This is very important. In order for the roots to move out and down into the surrounding garden soil, they must be unbound or they will strangle. Next, set your shrub into the planting hole. Be sure that the top of the root ball is even with, or ever so slightly below the top of the hole. If you are uncertain of planting depth, ask your retailer for guidance before you leave the nursery. Adjust the soil in the base as necessary.

unteased root ballA season’s worth of tightly bound roots. These need to be loosened by ‘teasing’

teased root ballRoots loosened with vertical slices, then ‘teased” free with fingertips

Once a plant is properly positioned and ready to be settled in, I like to add water to the plant and the planting hole as I back fill with soil. This helps to avoid hazardous air-pockets without compacting the loose dirt. When I reach the top of the hole, I create a low soil-berm around the plant, and I fill it with a water. If I have the time, I will allow the soil to settle for a couple of days, and then check for air pockets and add dirt if needed before I spread a thick, (2-3 inch), top-layer of mulch over the root-zone. Unless you receive regular (twice weekly or more), soaking rain, it is very important to water your new plants regularly (provide large shrubs with at least an 5 gallons or more of water, twice per week), until the ground freezes. I can not stress this enough. More shrubs die from dehydration than any other cause.  Protect your investment by installing a soaker hose on a timer if necessary.

planted viburnumNewly planted Viburnum plicatum ‘Newport’ in a hillside grouping

Check your plants regularly to be sure they are adjusting well to their new homes. Watch for insects and fungal infections and address any symptoms immediately before they grow into larger problems. If you live in a cold climate with long, harsh winters, it is wise to double check mulch at the root zone of your new shrubs and replenish if necessary. Some shrubs may also need protection from gnawing rodents, (such as wire-mesh base-collars for example). Your new shrubs will benefit from a slow-release fertilizer in spring (follow manufacturer’s instructions), so make a note in your calendar if you think you might forget. I hope you will take advantage of the bargains out there if you can. There is nothing like a great deal, and the memory of springtime’s magic, to inspire a fall planting-spree. Good luck, and have fun out there !

Viburnum trilobum 'Bailey Compact'(American Cranberry Bush Viburnum)Viburnum trilobum (American Cranberry Bush Viburnum), ‘Baily Compact’

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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Romantic Love and Beautiful Surprises…

September 11th, 2009 § 1

bibi maizoon 2Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ (AUSdimindo, David Austin English Rose), and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ ⓒ Michaela at TGE

To be a gardener is to suffer the occasional disappointment… the inevitable loss. The Cornus florida crushed by ice. The Acer palmatum girdled by rodents. On the other hand, nature will give as much as she takes. And often, her gifts come when least expected.

Meet Bibi Maizoon. She is a David Austin English Rose. And just look at her! Look at that clear pink color. Oh how I wish computers could be click-and-sniff. A classic, cabbage-shaped rose of magnificent size, (much like the antique Rosa centifolia), Bibi has a beautiful, full cup. In the early morning, when I spotted her bloom, the air was filled with a delicious, slightly spicy fragrance. Some have criticized her delicate neck, scorning the droop of her heavy-petalled flowers. I find such nit picking ridiculous. Perfection is very boring. True beauty draws you in with a hint of wildness; something subtly strange and untamable.

I found Bibi cast aside in a late-season sale. Shocked by her voluptuous beauty, of course I fell in love. And in love we often throw caution to the wind. This is a marginally hardy rose, (pushing it at zone 5), and Ferncliff is a wild and rugged place, teetering on the edge of zone 4. But I was feeling bold and romantic, and against my better judgement, I snapped her up and drove home. I chose a protected spot just outside my secret garden wall, tucked her in for winter, and hoped for the best.

Fast forward through one of the toughest winters anyone in New England can remember, and a summer so wet and dismal that I feared the appearance of webbed-toes on my feet. Well, here we are, at the edge of autumn. Nature is fast preparing for fall’s arrival. Days are shortened by lengthening afternoon shadows and clear, chilly nights are filled with millions of stars. I did not expect Bibi to bloom. I was happy she even survived. But you never know what will happen in the garden. We aren’t really in control. And isn’t that the most wonderful thing, after all?

bibi maizoon 3‘Bibi Maizoon’ in profile, in front of the secret garden wall ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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For more information about David Austin English Roses, visit: www.davidaustinroses.com

You may also find English Roses at many of the retailers listed under “Roses”, linked at right…

* I always recommend buying zone-appropriate roses from a local grower, but rules are sometimes made to be broken. And as you can see, I occasionally partake in horticultural madness myself *

***

Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden. 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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Sephora.com, Inc.

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Gardening Beyond the Harvest Moon: Extending the Growing Season with Hoop-House Cold Frames…

September 8th, 2009 § 25

September’s Harvest Moon

It may seem a little premature to be writing about cold frames and frost on a beautiful late summer day, (sunny with daytime temps in the 70’s here in Vermont). But the gorgeous Harvest Moon this past weekend served as a reminder that we are nearing the end of the growing season in the northeast. Nights are getting cooler now, warning us that fall is coming and frost will soon be on the way. Although I am excited about the coming autumn, I am definitely not ready to give up my homegrown produce. So I won’t – at least not until December. I don’t have a greenhouse yet, but there are plenty of late-season, cool-weather crops to plant now and enjoy later. In order to extend my growing season last year, I began using hoop-house style cold frames in my kitchen garden to protect a few beds from frost. Unheated cold frames can save many vegetables from killing frosts, including tender herbs such as basil and rosemary, and mature warm-weather crops such as cherry tomatoes and peppers. Later, my spinach, chard, and broccoli will be protected inside the hoop-houses from harder freezes in late November and early December. By using hoop-houses to protect my crops, I was able to extend my growing season by more than two months last year.

Constructing a basic cold frame is a great two-person weekend project for early September. Cold frames are nothing more than unheated miniature greenhouses, and they are useful at both ends of the growing season. By protecting crops from frost with hoop-houses, cold-climate gardeners can still enjoy some vegetables into early December or longer. I now keep four hoop-houses installed in my potager throughout the winter. Although I am not able to make use of the garden in January and February, come spring the soil in these 4′ x 8′ beds will be warm and ready for planting weeks before the rest of the garden is clear of snow. Baby salad greens, spinach, broccoli and other cool-season crops can get a protected jump-start beneath the warm plastic of the mini-greenhouses. Hoop-houses are also a great way to protect and warm plants requiring extra heat, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the early part of the growing season.

Hoop house with baby greens and chardBasic hoop-house cold frame protecting baby greens and chard

For someone with a few basic carpentry skills, a hoop-house is a simple project. If you can operate a skill saw and a screw gun, the assembly will be relatively easy. If not, maybe you can offer to share some produce with a handy friend or neighbor in exchange for a bit of help. Although the tasks involved in building a cold frame aren’t complex, this is definitely a two-person job. The simple design of the frame takes advantage of standard sized lumber, (8′ length), and only one cut is necessary to create the base. The ends of the wood are butted and screwed together with coated deck screws. Plastic tubing is cut to length with a hack saw and attached to the inside of the frame with pipe clamps. Then, ( to build an open-ended house), plastic is stretched over the tubes, folded beneath the rectangle frame and stapled to the inside edge of the wood. I keep the plastic ends on my un-sided hoop-houses folded closed with metal clamps. A plywood back and vent can be added on one side of the hoop-house for greater function and durability. I use both styles. Cold frames are inexpensive to build, and when cared for properly, they can be used for years. With longevity in mind, it makes sense to seal the wood parts with oil to protect them from moisture. Maintenance is simple; occasionally, if you use your hoop-house throughout the winter in a snowy climate, the plastic may tear and need to be replaced. The cost of materials to create two simple cold frames in 2008 was about $74.50, (adding plywood and a vent to the back added an additional $25 per unit for a total of $62.25 each). Your costs may be higher or lower, depending upon where you live, where you shop, and what kind of bargain-hunter you are.

If you have some experience building things, and would like to make  a cold frame of your own, review the materials list below and read the instructions carefully before you get started. The series of photos here were taken at various points during the construction of two hoop-house sets; one set was made with a vented ply-wood end, and one set was constructed without. I would recommend starting with the basic hoop house first. If you feel comfortable with the building process you can always add a plywood back later. The photos below can be enlarged by clicking for a closer view of the frame. Keep in mind that these structures are very simply designed. They are only intended to protect your crops from frost and they do not need to be perfect. Go slow and, as they say, measure twice and cut once.

hoop house frame constructionBasic hoop-house cold frame

hoop house stage 1Simple hoop-house cold frame ready for plastic

hoop house plywood with vent, before installationOptional plywood back with vent for greater protection and temperature control

hoop house frame with vent installedVented plywood back installed on basic frame

Hoop house stage 2Covering ventless hoop-house with plastic; pulled and stapled to one end of the wood frame

hoop house with vent:plastic installedVented hoop-house with plastic, ready to set in the garden

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Materials List for ONE  4′ x 8′ size hoop-house cold-frame

Tools:

skill saw

hack saw

jig saw (for vent-back model)

screw gun

hardware staple gun

tape measure

Materials from lumber dept.

3  2”x4”x8′  spruce or pine boards

1  full size sheet 1/2″ plywood (for vented-back model)

2  1”x3″strapping (optional, prolongs life of plastic by protecting the stapled inside edge)

Materials from hardware dept.

4 PVC pipe, 1/2″ cut to 6′ lengths, (or slightly larger for a bigger cold frame design)

pipe clamps 1/2″ (can be found in electrical dept)

1/2″ screws for clamps

3″ coated screws for all-weather use, (one small box), for the frame

2″ coated screws (optional for installing vented plywood-back model and for optional strapping at base)

hardware staples

heavy weight 06 mil plastic (we purchased ours online from a greenhouse company)

1 foundation vent, ( optional : for vented back hoop-house, *automatic opening is best)

thermometer (optional, for monitoring temps inside hoop houses)

Instructions:

To construct one cold frame you will need three  2” x 4” x 8′ spruce or pine boards. Cut one board in half to create two 4′ length pieces. Set the short boards inside the two long boards to form a box, as shown in the photos above. Screw the pieces together well, using at least two, (3″ coated), screws at each join. This rectangle forms the base of your hoop house. Sealing the wood base with linseed, (or other), sealer is a good idea to preserve the wood. If you do this, you will need to wait about 24 hours dry-time before continuing with the next steps of the project. If you are planning on adding a vented plywood back, this would also be a good time to seal the plywood with oil or stain.

Next, measure and cut your PVC tubing with a hack saw, to approximately 6′ length pieces. Space the tubes evenly on the inside of the frame and affix to the frame with pipe clamps screwed, (1/2″ screws), into the wood. I prefer to measure and mark before attaching for even spacing, setting all the clamps in place first with one screw on each side. When assembling the hoops, it is easiest to affix all pipes to one side of the frame first and then affix the opposite side.

* Note: If you are adding a plywood-vent end, draw a semi-circle outline on your plywood slightly larger than the shape of the hoops, (you can measure out the 4′ bottom edge end and then use one of the cut hoops as an outline for your circle). Cut the plywood semi-circle with a jig saw. Trace the interior shape of your vent in the upper middle of the plywood, and cut with a jig-saw. You may want to err on the tight side and test your vent fit in the opening. You can always make additional cuts with your jig-saw to fit the vent as you go. Finally, install your vent according to manufacturer instructions. Once set, slip the plywood wall inside one end of the hoop house frame, and then screw the plywood in place to the base,(using 2″ coated screws), as shown in the photo above. Clamp the plywood to the end hoops, (at least three points), and screw in place with 1/2″ screws. You are ready for the next steps below.

Once the hoops are evenly in place, lay out the plastic. Do a dry-run and stretch the plastic over the hoop house, checking to be sure that your length of plastic will fit evenly around the hoops with a few inches remaining to fold under the frame and staple. You also want to be sure the plastic is long enough on the open-ends to fold shut on both sides, (and to staple/fold and close the ends of a vented-style house). Be sure to allow some slack to spare before cutting. Once you have completed the dry run, lay out and cut the plastic and set the edge of one long-side, (8′ side), of the hoop house toward the end of the plastic with the remainder of the plastic trailing away from the structure. Be sure to leave a few inches to fold up under the wood frame. It is easier if one person holds the plastic in place while the other staples. Once the first side is secure, pull the plastic up and over the hoop house from the outside, and bring it around, lifting the other edge and setting down, once again with a few inches to spare for folding. This time you will be working from inside the enclosed hoop-house, so it may be helpful for the second person to hold up the finished end slightly for ease of stapling the other side. (Optional: For extra durability, it is useful to add strapping to cover the stapled plastic edge. To do this, cut a 3 1/2′ piece of strapping and lay it over the stapled plastic edge, and screw it in place with 2″ coated screws. This will help protect the plastic edge from tearing at the staple points).

If you have installed a plywood back with vent, at this point you will need to tightly fold or roll the extra plastic at the end and staple it to the plywood exterior. You can protect the edges with strapping, (wood, or recycled plastic as shown in the photos above).

The hoop house cold frame is ready to install!

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oli with bug sprayThough Oli is invariably involved in these projects, he can not be counted as a helper.

***

Article and 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 consent. 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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Autumn and Everything After……. Designing Beautiful Late Season Gardens with Ornamental Grass…

September 3rd, 2009 § 4

Autumn is a Second Spring, When Every Leaf is a Flower” – Camus

A Grouping of Miscanthus sinensis, ‘Morning Light’, ‘Variegatus’, and Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ in Mid-October at Ferncliff

Pennisetum alopecuroides, (fountain grass), with sedum and juniper in the entry garden at Ferncliff  in early September, just before the inflorescence appear.

Much as I would like summer to drag her feet a bit when departing this year, I find myself looking forward to the brilliant beauty of fall. Living in New England has its benefits, and the months of September, October and November are three of them. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, and in no place is my seasonal preference more evident than the garden. As the writer Camus once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. Indeed. I truly savor this second spring, for although I do love the early buds and bulbs of April, pastel hues don’t really excite me. Dark red is my favorite color, and bitter orange, rust, deep violet and burgundy aren’t far behind. The cerulean skies and stained-glass forest canopies of autumn bring a touch of heaven straight to my little paradise on earth. In September and October I feel as if I am living in a paint box, surrounded by a palette of colors so brilliant that simply going for a walk is all the inspiration any artist could hope for.

I cherish the fall gardening season. Some of my most treasured trees, shrubs and perennials reach their peak beauty in autumn. Of the many late-season plants in my garden, the ornamental grasses are high on my list of favorites. Grasses are useful though out the gardening season, of course. Beginning in mid-summer and continuing throughout winter, ornamental grasses provide dramatic foliage, texture and form to my gardens. But come autumn, the shifting hues of foliage and beautifully textured spikes, racemes and panicles of ornamental grass create the potential for a spectacular garden show that can not be beat. By early September, when many perennials and annuals have petered out in the garden, my ornamental grasses are just warming up for their crescendo. As the days shorten and nights cool, chemical changes are triggered in many deciduous trees, shrubs and other plants in the northern areas of the United States. Ornamental grasses also respond to these changes, and many begin to take on subtle tints and vivid hues as dramatic as the trees.

Miscanthus purpurascens, (close up), early fall color, (click to enlarge)

When I design a garden, I try to keep this spectacular late-show in mind. September blooming pepper bush, (Clethera alnifolia, a native shrub I featured here last month), sculptural spice bush, (Lindera benzoin), and and the lovely native paper birch, (Betula papyrifera), all turn brilliant yellow in autumn. I like to combine fall’s seasonal gold foliage with the purple-burgundy-red kaleidoscope-like hues of flame grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens), the brilliant orange of Japanese forest grass, (Hakonechloa macra, cvs. ‘Nicolas’, or burgundy tipped, ‘Beni Kaze’), for example. Witch alder, (Fothergilla gardenii), and many viburnum species, including the arrow wood, (V. dentatum), the American cranberrybush, (V. trilobum), and the European cranberrybush, (V. opulus), turn brilliant shades of red and orange in autumn. This makes them great companions for a wide variety of grasses including switch grass, (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy metal’, (a blue grass in summer, turning gold in fall), wild oats, (Chasmanthium latifolium), green in summer and red-bronze in fall), and again, flame grass, (Miscanthus pupurascens). Late blooming perennials, such as asters, rudbeckia, mums, sedum and monkshood  all make great companion plants for ornamental grasses.

Hakonechloa NicolasThe summer color of Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’,above, intensifies further in autumn

Unless you are a more experienced gardener, companion planting for autumn interest can be a bit difficult. How can you predict color-shifts and texture changes? Nursery tags are often stingy with clues. A good encyclopedia is useful for learning about ornamental grasses and their seasonal changes. And if you know the name of a cultivar, you can easily research information on a web-site such as Dave’s Garden. But for the true ornamental grass aficionado, Rick Darke’s The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses (see library) is a great asset. This book will help you to identify more unusual cultivars of sedge, rush, restios, cat-tails and bamboo as well as the gorgeous grasses native to North America and beyond.

Miscanthus purpurascens, (Flame grass) in late September

When I want to add texture and movement in a garden design, no matter the season, I often look to ornamental grass. The larger garden grasses, such as miscanthus, panicum, and calmagrostis, bring important vertical interest and essential structure to perennial gardens. From the fine, delicate foliage and sensual lines of maiden grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ to the bold geometric presence of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, can make a dramatic, sculptural statement in a garden. Grasses can be used to soften modern buildings and camouflage unattractive architecture. A natural choice beside lakes, ponds, streams and pools, grasses also bring a relaxed line to hard-edged water features. Many species of grass are drought tolerant, and a number will survive roadside conditions in even the most inhospitable environments. Alone or as a group, settled into a garden or spilling over a pot, placed at a juncture or to mark a final destination, ornamental grass can provide great focal points in many garden design situations. Ornamental grasses planted en mass can blur the edges of a garden, helping to ease the transition between formal and informal areas. Because of the dramatic stature reached by many large ornamental grasses, they are also very useful as living screens, helping to conceal unsightly necessities such as fuel tanks and air conditioning units. It is easy to understand the growing popularity of this diverse group of plants.

North American native, Bouteloua curtipendula (side-oats grasss), backed by taller Pennisetum alopecuroides in the entry garden at Ferncliff, early September

striped grass and juniperMiscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’, here used as a specimen and below, a different cultivar used in a large grouping at the eastern-edge of the garden.


karl f. backed up by viburnumCalamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, backed by Viburnum trilobum

Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’ grouped at the edge of the northwest meadow in August…

And again, in late September…

miscanthus morning light back lit from the eastThis two year old grass specimen, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning light’, catches the early sun as it rises to the east at the edge of the wildflower walk in early September

Although ornamental grasses have become quite common in sunny perennial gardens, they are still surprisingly overlooked in shade garden designs. This surprises me because grass exists naturally in all but the darkest of shady woodlands, and they can add tremendously to the subtle beauty of low-light gardens. In the shade, I often add fine textured ornamental grass to contrast with larger, broad leafed foliage, such as the leathery, smooth surfaced leaves of hosta. I also like to include bright colored grasses to shade gardens in order to illuminate dark corners and shadowy areas beneath trees. Japanese woodland grass, (Hakonechloa macra), is one of my favorite plants. The golden cultivars, ‘Aureola’ and ‘All-Gold’ are very useful in low light areas, and in contrast to violent-tinted foliage. Newer cultivars, such as ‘Nicolas’ and ‘Ben Kaze’,(mentioned above), are rich in bitter orange and burgundy hues. These are truly spectacular plants with enormous design potential. Sedges are also useful in partial shade. I count orange-hook sedge, (Ucinia egmontiana), among my favorite low-light grasses, although it is marginally hardy in New England, (I usually place it in pots for summer and move them inside for winter).  Sedges will also tolerate more sunlight, provided they are given ample moisture, and I like to use them in brighter locations as well, (see pots on deck below).

A close-up of Hakonecholoa macra ‘All Gold’ in the shady Secret Garden at Ferncliff

hakonechloa in morning lightHakonecholoa macra ‘All-Gold’, (Japanese forest grass), catching the morning light in the Secret Garden at Ferncliff

hakonechloa macra 'aureola' with cimicifuga r. 'hillside black beauty'The golden color of this Japanese forest grass brings out the violet hues in the companion plantings of Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside black beauty’ and the young foliage of euphorbia on the left

Many ornamental grasses also make great potted plants. I particularly like sedge and stipa in massive groupings on decks and terraces, where they catch the slightest breeze. A sedge commonly known as fiber-optic plant, (Isolepis cernua), looks very dramatic in a pot. I like to allow this mop-like grass to spill over the edge of a planter, emphasizing its pendent form. Whenever I set a fiber-optic plant out on a pedestal, it becomes the focus of attention and conversation, like living sculpture. Personally, I have grown a bit tired of cleverly designed, over-planted pots. I prefer simplicity. Over the past few years, I have been limiting my planter-compositions to a few species of plants, and ornamental grasses are often featured in my current designs.

Stipa tenuissima, (Mexican Feather Grass)

Orange Hook Sedge, (Uncinia egmontiana)

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima Catching the Breeze and Afternoon Light

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ up close

Like many cold-climate gardeners, I try to enjoy my garden for as long as possible. And I consider ornamental grass and important part of the winter garden as well. Although some people prefer their gardens to be tidy, cut, and thoroughly mulched come winter, I like to leave my hardier grasses standing until spring thaw. Frost, ice and light snow emphasize the delicate patterns of ornamental grass, and for this reason I consider them a four season plant. I continue to enjoy the tassels and the rust, buff and wheat hues of bleached out grass well into winter. By December, when little color remains in the garden, ornamental grass continues to add subtle, creamy tones. I particularly like the way wheat colored pennisetum draws attention to the red berries remaining on my winterberry, (Ilex verticillata ‘Red sprite’. Because texture and color are so important in the winter garden, I prefer to cut many ornamental grasses back in spring. Why not enjoy all the beauty nature has to offer us, autumn and beyond?

Grasses remain beautiful well into winter. Above, pictured in the entry garden at Ferncliff, fountain grass and side oats look particularly magical in December when coated with ice or snow. Below, the tassels of Miscanthus sinensis, frozen with ice, catch the January light…

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Dr. Goof in the native meadow garden with rudbeckia and Deschampsia flexuosa, (hair grass)

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Article and all other photographs ⓒ 2009 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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!


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Tears of Joy: In praise of the Onion…. and my favorite French Onion Soup!

September 1st, 2009 § 7

Spanish Sweet and Stockton Red onions at Harvest

If the end of summer is bittersweet, then I will credit the humble onion for some of the sugar. On a chilly autumn day, I am a complete pushover for a bowl of French Onion soup topped with a thick layer of gooey, delicious Gruyere cheese, (see my favorite recipe below). I love cooking with onions, and I plant many varieties. Onions are tireless kitchen workhorses, adding sweet flavor to homemade pizzas, stews, tarts, dips, salsas and virtually every savory dish I love.

Onions are easy to grow, but they are a slow crop requiring months from seed germination to maturity. So in cool climates with short summers like mine, the seeds need an early start indoors. I usually buy my onion starts from local, organic Walker Farm. But if you live in a warmer climate, you can sow onion seed directly into the ground. Although onions do prefer a slightly sandy loam rich in organic matter, they are otherwise easy to please. In fact, over-fertilizing bulbs will result in lots of green but little onion, so be modest in applying fish emulsion, (once a month is more than enough in well prepared garden soil). Keep onions well weeded, and be very carefully when using tools, you don’t want to damage bulbs growing close to the surface. In late summer, you can tell when mature onions are ready to harvest by watching for the ‘flop’. When most of the tops have bent over, your onions are ready to pull. Of course, like most root vegetables, onions may also be harvested before maturity. Sometimes early-harvest onions are called ‘scallions’, but this is technically incorrect. Scallions, (or bunching onions), have a milder flavor, and are distinguished by their mature bulb-size. A true scallion produces a bulb no larger than the base of its leaves. Shallots, also a member of the onion family, have a mild flavor and are very useful in creating delicate sauces.

when the tops flop It’s time to harvest when the tops flop

When most of the tops have fallen over, carefully pull the onions from the soil and give them a good shake to remove some of the soil. When storing onions, it is important to carefully dry-cure them in a well-ventilated, low-humidity space. If the weather looks clear for a week, I will harvest mature varieties and spread them out on newspaper in a corner of the hot, sunny terrace. There I allow them to ‘cure’ for a week, rotating, shaking, and brushing them clean throughout the drying process. Walla Walla and some of the other poor-candidates for long-term storage will be braided and hung in my kitchen, while the shallots, as well as the firm red and yellow onions will be placed in nets and suspended from the ceiling in my cool, dry cellar.

onion harvest straight from the potager to the newspaper on terraceOnions are dug fresh from the garden, then spread out on the terrace to dry

herb shallots,(allium cepa aggregatum group)Shallots, (Allium cepa aggregatum group)

I use onions throughout the winter, so I grow a wide variety of easy-to-store types, as well as some for immediate use. I cook with shallots on an almost daily basis, (especially in egg dishes), and this year I have quite a large harvest of this favorite culinary herb. I am also a big fan of sweet onions. Walla Wallas have been popular for over a century; their mild, sweet flavor adding complexity to everything from soups to casseroles to steamed and grilled dishes. Spanish yellow onions and sweet Alyssas are also delicious. But the Cipollini Italian button onion (aka Cippolino) is my current favorite of the Allium cepa cultivars. Cipollinis are slightly sweet and wonderfully mild yet pungent. I love them roasted and grilled and used in panini. Cipollinis are beautiful onions, and I like looking at their flat tops displayed in braided bunches, hanging from my kitchen beams.

walla wallaClassic, sweet Walla Walla onions are one of my all-time favorites

cipollino button onionsThe deliciously sweet, mild Cipollini button onion – a gourmet favorite

spanish sweet onionsSpanish sweet yellow and white onions are both flavorful and mild

And now, for the best part of this post…

My  Favorite  French  Onion  Soup


Ingredients: (six small or four large servings)

6 good size yellow onions, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4″ chunks

3 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups dry white wine or sherry

6 cups homemade or high quality store-bought chicken broth (or high quality vegetarian substitute )

2 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1 baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices

A half dozen sprigs of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the onions in a covered large roasting pan or good sized Dutch oven. Coat onions generously with butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast 2 hours or more, turning occasionally, and scraping the bottom of the pan until onions are golden brown, tender and soft. Test with a fork.

Remove from oven. Move pot to burner and bring heat to medium high. Cook onions, stirring constantly with a flat edged wooden spoon, scraping the pot as you go. After onions are nicely brown and crisp on top, (15-20 minutes), raise the heat slightly more and add wine, (or sherry), 1/2 cup at a time. Continue adding wine as the liquid evaporates, scraping the pot to deglaze as you stir. Reduce heat and add chicken stock, herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture back to a boil for one minute, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, spread the French bread slices on a cookie sheet and brown in the oven, (set to 400 degrees), for a few minutes. Watch carefully. Rotate the bread to brown both sides.

When ready to serve the soup, ladle portions into oven-safe ceramic bowls. Float the bread on top and sprinkle with the Gruyere cheese. Place beneath an oven broiler until the cheese is melted, but watch carefully. Add more grated cheese if necessary. Cool the soup for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve hot


* NOTE: You may also save the broth for several days in a refrigerator to use for hot soup later. I actually find this enhances the flavor, and I often double the broth recipe to enjoy the soup all week.

~

Recipe adapted from many wonderful sources including Grandma and Cooks Illustrated Magazine


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basket of yellow, walla walla, spanish and small yellow onions


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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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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