The Sweet, Seductive Power of Scent: Garden Fragrance…

May 31st, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Lily of the Valley, (Convallaria majalis), fills my bedroom with a fresh, green scent…

“Smells  are  surer  than  sounds  and  sights  to  make  the  heartstrings  crack” ……………………………………………………………………- –………………………………………………………………………….rudyard kipling

Imagine stepping outside and into the garden on a warm spring evening. Close your eyes and breathe deep. Does the air smell sweet? Are you drawn down a winding path, lined by flickering shadows; lured deeper by the faintest whiff of perfume? What is that elusive fragrance drifting this way and that? White lilac? Fresh lily-of-the-valley? The lingering scent of a first rose?

Our sense of smell is powerful -directly linked to memory and emotion- and as gardeners, fragrance is one of our most seductive design tools. Delicately sweet mockorange beside the screen porch, spicy viburnum outside the bedroom window, and lavender edging the dining terrace; when fragrant plants are placed near doors and windows, they have a way of luring us outside. And have you noticed how roses, warmed by the afternoon sun, can literally stop you in your tracks, even on the busiest of days? I pay attention to smell when I am designing gardens and shopping for plants -even when they aren’t blooming- never underestimating the olfactory power of foliage. Herbs, such as rosemary and mint for example, as well as many deciduous shrubs and evergreens, add delightful fragrance to the air when brushed or stirred. When I’m out weeding in my front garden, the thyme planted between the stones in my walkway releases a delicious lemony scent, rewarding me each time I haul away a basket of debris.

The months of May and June seem particularly heady, filled with some of the most beautiful and nostalgic garden fragrances. I have collected a few of my springtime favorites, and I’d love to hear about yours…

Folded promise of potent fragrance to come – Rosa rugosa in bud…

Spicy and sweet, this favorite combination makes Rosa de Rescht a much anticipated flower in my garden…

David Austin English Rose, Rosa ‘Bibi Maizoon’ -a voluptuous beauty beyond compare- possesses the kind of old-fashioned fragrance I covet and fuss over every year…

Wild woodland phlox, (Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ )- this free seeding beauty lures me straight down the garden path in the still of early morning, filling the air with it’s delicate, powdery fragrance..

Fragrant abelia, (Abelia mosanensis), blooms late May through early June, and you have to smell it to believe it. I’d tape a bunch to my nose if I could get away with it…

Abelia mosanensis, sweetly fragrant with a touch of spicy clove

Fragrant tree peony, (Paeonia moutan x lutea, an  American hybrid (1952),  ‘High Noon’ )- Peonies of all kinds bring beautiful fragrance to the garden, and tree peonies possess some of the more exotic scents…

Tazetta-type daffodils are some of the most fragrant springtime bulbs…

Fragrant Star Azalea, (Deciduous Rhododendron atlanticum x canescens ‘Fragrant Star’), fills the air with a gorgeous, musky and exotic scent, and she possesses a beautiful form to match her perfume…

Rhododendron prinophyllum, our intensely fragrant native roseshell azalea, has a decidedly clove-like scent…

Powerfully fragrant, double white lilac, (Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’), is the only white lilac for me…

Korean spicebush, (Viburnum carlesii), and many other viburnum are prized for their uniquely spicy, highly alluring fragrance…

One tiny sprig of variegated daphne,(Daphne x burkwoodi ‘Carol Mackie’),  floating in a shallow bowl is enough to scent an entire room…

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Article and photographs © 2010 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…

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Gourmet Gardening: Springtime Adventures in Shiitake Growing…

May 28th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Shiitake and spinach fresh from my garden

Oh the delicious flavor of fresh shiitake mushrooms. I enjoy most fungi, but I have a particular fondness for the earthy, rich taste and firm texture of the shiitake mushroom. Early spring crops, such as snow peas, sprouts and bok choy combine wonderfully with shiitake in healthy stir fry dishes and soups. However until recently, limited supply made shiitake mushrooms a pricey gourmet delicacy. In the winter of 2008-9, I became curious about growing shiitake mushrooms after experimenting with a few wonderful Asian dishes in David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook, and I decided to do a bit of research.

Originally discovered in China, the shiitake, (Lentinula edodes), has been consumed in Asia since the beginning of recorded time. Although these delicious fungi were initially harvested from the wild, the Chinese soon began cultivating shiitake, for both medicinal and food use, approximately 1,000 years ago. At first, shiitake were eaten raw, but soon they were steamed and simmered, finding their way into a variety of Asian dishes including Chinese stir fry, Japanese miso soup and dozens of Thai, Korean and Vietnamese dishes. Eventually, as European explorers discovered the delights of Asian cuisine, the shiitake made its way across the globe, and into the ‘New World’.

Fascinated by the history  and  seduced by the flavor of this freshly harvested, gourmet delight, I quickly developed “mushroom growing fever”. Late one February night -curled beside a fire on my blustery hilltop and connected to a world of information and commerce via satellite- with the click of a button, a kit was ordered, and my mushroom gardening experiment began. In the spring of 2009, the first crop of shiitake were planted, (hardwood logs inoculated with spawn-plugs -see details below), and with a rainy season ahead, nature simply took its course. Shiitake require one season to maturity, so there is a bit of a wait for the first crop, but after this delayed start the logs will produce mushrooms for many years – until the logs completely deteriorate. Fast forward to spring 2010, and I am now enjoying and sharing the fruits of my first shiitake harvest…

The first Shiitake – Spring 2010…

The Shitake Garden

How Shiitake are Grown

After doing a bit of research, I ordered my shiitake-spawn-plugs from a company called Mushroom People online. The shiitake spawn arrived in an express package from the USPS in the early spring of 2009. Looking at the tiny packet for the first time, it was hard to imagine delicious shiitake mushrooms resulting from such humble beginnings. When the weather moderated -above freezing- it was time to get started!


Hardwood logs with a diameter of 4-8″ were gathered from storm-damaged trees on the property -oak and beech work well- and cut to 40″ lengths with a chainsaw. After collecting the logs and assembling them in a production line on saw-horses, holes were drilled with a 5/16″ bit to a depth of 1″ to accommodate the size of the plugs. A grid pattern was used to maintain proper spacing -roughly 6-8″ between the holes- for the shiitake.


Next, all of the shiitake-spawn-plugs were set into the pre-drilled holes and gently tapped into place with a hammer.


When set, the top of each plug is flush with the surface of the log, ready to be coated with a warm wax seal …


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the cheese wax was melted in a recycled tin can set in a double boiler. Once liquified, the wax is stirred with a clean, natural-bristle paint bush and brought out to the logs to seal the shiitake-spawn-plugs…


Here, as you can see, the tiny plugs are sealed and the logs are ready to be moved to the shiitake garden in the forest…


As a final step, each log is tagged and dated. Here, a photograph of tags placed on the second set of logs, inoculated this spring..

The shiitake garden, 2010

The first shiitake mushroom emerging in Spring 2010

My inspiration: David Thompson’s Thai Food

Article/photos copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used 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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Front Yard Gardens: A Peek at the Design Process…

May 26th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Front Yard Garden Design Proposal – Early Autumn View – Drawing © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Just look at this sweet little house! It’s easy to see why my clients Laura and Dan fell in love with this place, isn’t it? I was instantly charmed by this classic New England home. From the slate-covered hip roof and romantic front porch to the spacious back yard surrounded by elegant old trees – including a knock-out old Acer palmatum alongside the drive- it’s the perfect small town residence…

The Front Yard Garden Before Removal of Hemlock and Yew

But although the house itself has both a beautiful interior and exterior, the lack-luster, green-on-green entry garden -pictured in the ‘before’ shot above- didn’t do the place justice, and the new owners knew that it just had to go. Laura and Dan are both enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers, however they lead busy, professional weekday lives, and want to keep weekend gardening chores to a minimum. When they called me to consult on their first landscaping project, Laura and Dan were more than eager to pull the ho-hum hemlock and yawn-inducing yew populating their front yard. From our earliest email communications, it was immediately clear that Laura and Dan both wanted to add color and life to the front entry of their pretty home.

Located on a busy downtown street, the front yard of this home is surrounded by a concrete sidewalk, two driveways, and a heat-generating asphalt road- but the side and backyard gardens are sheltered by the shade of mature, graceful trees. Owners Laura and Dan have modern, minimal taste, and their desire for a low-maintenance landscape made them ideal candidates for a combination of native plants and easy-care ornamental grasses with season-spanning interest. I instantly connected with Laura and Dan, and their clean aesthetic sensibilities, and I was excited when they pulled out a copy of one of my favorite gardening books,(see below for links), Nancy Ondra’s Grasses, (read my review of this book and The Meadow Garden, here in this week’s Garden Variety blog at Barnes & Noble online ), during our first meeting.

Nancy Ondra’s Grasses is available online at B&N or Amazon

Two compact, deciduous shrubs, (Viburnum trilobum and plicatum ‘Newport‘), will soften the edge of the building, providing changing interest with foliage, pollinator-friendly flowers and bird-attracting fruit, while maintaining trans-seasonal garden structure with their attractive, contrasting forms. A gorgeous golden hops vine, (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’), will add a luminous, romantic touch to the seductive shade of the front porch. Other key plants filling out the front yard garden plan -designed with an emphasis on form, color and movement- include mass plantings of flame grass, (Miscanthus purpurascens), blue fescue, (Festuca glauca), low maintenance daylilies, (Hemerocallis ‘Entrapment’), and ground-covering stonecrop, (Sedum). This fall, I recommended that the owners add daffodil bulbs to the front beds, to provide early season color and fragrance to their garden. At the opposite, protected corner of the house beside the front steps, a pink flowering dogwood, (Cornus florida rubra), will provide balance to the asymmetric design, with a flattering horizontal shape to soften the edge of the house and break up the vertical line. Dogwood is a great small-scale landscape tree, perfect for framing a home, and this particular selection, with its pink flowers and red autumn foliage and fruits, will really light up against the charcoal-brown siding.

One of the key new plants in this desgin: Miscanthus purpurascens, aka ‘Flame Grass’

And for contrast: Blue Festuca Grass from Spring Hill Nursery Online

Also in the works, a shady side yard garden to compliment the gorgeous, mature Japanese maple on the property. I will be back soon with more details on this fun, upcoming project, including a report from the owners on the do-it-yourself installation process. For more information on ornamental grasses and their use in the landscape, travel back in blog-time and see my earlier post on the subject here. See you with more on this easy-care garden design project soon…

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Article and photographs © 2010 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…

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A Tall, Cool Drink for the Eyes: Quiet, Calm Camassia – Wild American Beauty of the Marshland and Meadow…

May 24th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Camassia quamash, North American native Camas Lily, © 2010 Michaela at TGE

A few years ago, at the low edge of my garden where open meadow meets slow transition to cultivated borders, I planted a handful of native camas lily bulbs, (Camassia quamash). The first spring after planting, an orphaned fawn wandered into my life, and he nibbled the tops off my camas lilies before they could bloom. Did you just gasp? I probably would have too, if I’d never met “L’il Deer”. My reaction may surprise you. I’m not denying that I winced -loudly- when I caught my voracious guest browsing my garden – but I quickly fell head over heels in love with that fawn, and his presence in my life was more than worth the sacrifice of a few blue blossoms. Funny how that works…  isn’t it?     (I promise to tell you more about my friend the fawn another day.)

Beloved by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, camas lilies have a long and interesting history as a food source for many creatures – including humans. Before the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent, sweet camas bulbs were harvested and eaten raw by Native Americans. Although I have never tried them (it’s hard to pull them up when they produce such beautiful flowers) the flavor is described as chestnut-like, with a creamy, pleasant cooked texture…

Camassi quamash © 2010, Michaela at TGE

Camas lily species are all useful garden plants. Some, such as Camassia cusickii and leichtlinii, are stunning in perennial borders, and others, such as C. scilloides, (wild hyacinth), and C. quamsah, (common camas lily), are perfect for naturalizing at the edge of a pond, meadow or forest. Camas lilies are difficult to propagate from seed -and also challenging from divisions- but they are easily grown and readily available from most bulb companies for planting in fall. C. cusickii, (Cusick’s camas), as well as C.leichtlinii, (Leichtlin’s camas), and variously colored cultivars, from white to lavender and deep violet, form beautiful, well-mannered clumps in the garden.

Native to North America, from Canada to the southern plains, camas lilies range in hardiness from 3-9, depending upon the species. These beautiful and graceful flowers prefer locations with ample moisture in springtime, and later, as they go dormant in summer, they like for their soil to remain a bit drier. Position Camassia species and cultivars where they can be enjoyed blooming in late spring-early summer, and where other plants can fill in for them as their foliage dies back in dormancy. Once established, blue camas will create a soothing visual oasis in the garden, moving like water in a gentle stream with the slightest breeze. While they are blooming, I will forever picture a delicate fawn, drinking at a forest brook…

Camassia at the Edge of the Meadow © 2010, Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs © 2010 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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Hello Heavenly Spring Harvest! Pizza with Arugula and Fresh Asparagus…

May 23rd, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

Pizza from scratch with fresh asparagus, tomatoes and goat cheese…

Although it’s been nearly a decade since my last visit to Italy, I used to travel to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast every summer. During that time, I fell in love with the simple peasant-style pizza, (no red sauce or gooey cheese), I found along the coast. Fresh local cheese sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with barely wilted arugula or other greens, was all the deliciously chewy, crispy, hot crust needed to make pure magic for the taste buds.

These days, it seems like everyone I know has their own preferred method for baking pizza, and some even have a secret recipe for dough. One of my longtime friends regularly makes pizza on the grill for summer gatherings, and another adventurous pair I know went so far as to actually build a wood fired pizza/bread oven, (yes, their pizza and bread are both killer). But as far as I am concerned, homemade pizza with garden fresh toppings is delicious no matter how you bake it – and I never seem to get tired eating it.

In springtime, arugula, spinach and asparagus are plentiful in my backyard potager, as they are in most parts of the country, and right now, the leafy greens are particularly tasty and productive. Given the abundance, I have been enjoying fresh pasta or risotto with wilted greens on a near-nightly basis. Still, with my hectic gardening schedule -and all of the intense physical work that goes with it- I have been craving something a bit more substantial for weeks. Finally, I found a couple of free hours to make two of my favorite springtime treats – arugula topped pizza, and an asparagus topped twin- a little bit of Italy, just in time for the weekend…

Pizza with fresh arugula, tomatoes and goat cheese. Pizza this light pairs nicely with a chilled sauvignon blanc, pale ale or, alternately a lively, classic chianti…

Homemade Pizza with Fresh Greens

Basic Pizza Dough (Makes two 14″ pizza crusts)

2 1/4           teaspoon active dry yeast, (one envelope packet)

1                  teaspoon sugar

1 1/3           cups warm water

3 1/3           cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4           teaspoons kosher salt

3                  tablespoons olive oil

3                  tablespoons corn meal for stone/pan

Directions:

Add warm water to a liquid measuring cup and combine with sugar and yeast. Allow mixture to stand approximately 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, add flour and salt and combine. Pour yeast mixture through the liquid feed tube and combine for approximately three minutes. Pour olive oil through feed tube and process for five more minutes. When dough forms a ball, without sticking to sides of the bowl, remove to floured surface. If dough continues to stick to the sides of the bowl, add small amounts of flour, (no more than a tablespoon at a time), until the dough forms a moist ball.

Preheat oven, with a pizza stone if you have one, to 450 degrees fahrenheit, (with pizza stone in place if you have one)

Roll dough on the floured surface, kneading and turning until smooth and elastic. Coat with oil and set in a covered bowl to rise 30 minutes.

Press and roll out and rotate each dough lump until 15″ circles are formed. I like to form a ridge with my thumbs to define the edge of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the pizza pan, sheet or peel with cornmeal. Drizzle the surface each crust with olive oil and a bit of parmesan. Place in the hot oven.

Bake pizza crusts for 8-10 minutes, and remove from oven to cool while you cover with toppings, (crusts may also be refrigerated for later use).

Topings

1/2 cup fresh washed baby arugula

1     dozen or so lightly steamed asparagus spears

1-2 thinly sliced tomatoes

1/4 cup caramelized onions

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, (or sub feta cheese)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

good quality olive oil

balsamic vinegar glaze

(this pizza is also great with any other fresh from the garden topping, be sure to lightly steam or blanch tougher veggies before baking, since the oven time is short).

Directions:

While pizza crusts are baking, gather toppings for one or both pizzas. I like to steam asparagus lightly and cut into thirds for topping pizza. With arugula, the heat of the pizza is usually all you need to release the intense flavor of the greens. Allow crusts to cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with olive oil and about a table spoon of fresh grated parmesan cheese per crust.

For asparagus pizza, arrange tomato slices across the crust. Sprinkle with 1/8 cup goat cheese, caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar or vinegar glaze, and olive oil. Arrange asparagus evenly across the crust and sprinkle with remaining goat cheese and a bit of parmesan.

For arugula pizza, follow directions above, (or optionally remove tomatoes and onions, it’s all flexible with pizza). Evenly spread the arugula atop the crust. Reserve a bit of arugula for final topping. Lightly drizzle and toss these remaining greens in a bowl with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Return pizza to hot oven for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Upon removing, add remaining tossed greens to the arugula pizza and serve with fresh parmesan.

Mid-May Daffodils

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Words and Pictures copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used 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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