Penstemon, Rudbeckia and Veronica: An Easy, Breezy, Flowering Combination for Mid-Summer Meadow Gardens…

June 29th, 2010 § 2

A Sunny Combination of Meadow Flowers for a Long-Blooming, Informal Summer Garden. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bees buzzing in the garden, sun-tea brewing on the terrace, and books piled high beside the hammock; sweet summertime is here at last. I love waking up to early morning sunshine playing upon the warm, summery colors in my garden. Right now I am particularly smitten with the entry garden, where cool shades of blue and violet are sparked to life with bright flecks of yellow and orange. “Hello, and welcome home again”, they seem to say, as I pull my work totes from the car at the end of a long, hot day.

Bright and cheerful black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’), sky-blue speedwell, (Vernonica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’), and season-spanning beard’s tongue, (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’), perform beautifully together in a pretty trio that lasts throughout July and well into August, with little effort on my part. Bee, butterfly and hummingbird magnets, all three; these flowers delight the eye as they sparkle in the sunshine and sway in the warm summer breeze. What genius thought of this combination? Well, I wish I could take the credit, but only Mother Nature could come up with such a sensational mix. Although the grouping featured here blends three selected cultivars, these are all North American native plants. Meadow flowers tend to be drought-tolerant by nature, and once established, they need little care. Rudbeckia and Penstemon will self-seed with abandon, making them the perfect choice for a wildflower walk or naturalized planting. And delightful Veronica provides this low-maintenace group with a heavenly dose of mid-season blue…

Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ plays in poetic, harmony with bees – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’  with Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’, backed by Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’- Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ provides both blossom and stunning, purple-hued foliage to the meadow garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Hardy to at least zone 4 (Penstemon digitalis and Veronica spicata are cold tolerant to zone 2 and 3, respectively) all three plants pictured here are mid-sized perennials, with Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ reaching a variable 8- 24″, while Penstemon digitalis and Veronica spicata mature to a consistent 2′-2 1/2′ size.  I like this trio backed by all varieties of Miscanthus, but particularly the shimmering, light-catching cultivar ‘Morning light’. And as an added bonus with this group –  no matter the heat and blazing sunshine, there is nary a droopy bloom in sight. This trio of top summertime performers is a true dog-day’s delight…

A sunny, summertime entry garden at Ferncliff – Design and Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A bee visits Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

***

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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I’ve Got Blooms on the Brain: Tips for Snipping & Clipping Fresh Cut Flowers…

June 27th, 2010 § 3

Fresh cut, country-casual flowers on the kitchen island. Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Is there anything sweeter than waking up to the scent of fresh flowers? I love setting a vase of blossoms beside my bed every evening, and my kitchen and dining room table are always dressed for dinner with a fresh bouquet. Of course growing your own flowers in a cutting garden —and in my case this is simply part of the vegetable patch— makes indulging in the luxury of fresh cut flowers easy and affordable throughout the growing season. Flowers make great companion plants for vegetables, attracting beneficial insects and sometimes –as is the case with many herbs– warding off pests. Sweet peas, lily of the valley, peonies and roses are probably my favorite cut flowers for fragrance, but I also adore stock, and pinks for their spicy clove-like scent. For bold color arrangements I grow zinnia, dahlia, marigold, cleome and sunflowers. To cool things down I plant plenty of classic blue-violet saliva, daisies, bachelor buttons, Bells of Ireland and Queen Anne’s lace for fresh-cut arrangements. And recently, exotic-looking painted tongue, (Salpiglossis), has become a favorite cut flower…

Rosa de rescht, Valeriana and Cotinus catch the light in a vase by Aletha Soule. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Of course, when the garden is looking a bit picked-over, I am never above taking cuttings from shrubs and trees to fill out a vase. Raspberry and other brambles, complete with fruit –as well as all kinds of vegetables– always add drama to table-top arrangements. And foliage, including ferns and ornamental grass, are beautiful both on their own, or when combined with flowers. Bare branches and drift wood, picked up on long walks, can also add structure and character to floral arrangements. I try to keep my eyes open and experiment with found-objects – including rusty junk!

For more fresh-cut arranging ideas – travel back to last summer’s article on flowers just for cutting here.

Helianthus ‘Autumn Beauty’ in my cutting garden…

Tips for long-lasting, beautiful, fresh-cut flower arrangements:

Harvesting:

1. Cut when it’s cool in the garden. The early morning, just as the sun is rising, is the best time. I carry a florist’s bucket into the garden with me and I harvest just after dawn.

2. Use clean, sharp pruners and/or rugged household shears.

3. Cut flower stems longer than you think you need in order to give yourself flexibility when arranging later.

4. Immediately place the flowers in water.

5. Strip the lower leaves from flower stalks. Anything that might go beneath the water should be removed now.

Zinnias – Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Conditioning and Preserving:

1. Recut stems and remove any leaves that might be submerged beneath the water. Remove any unsightly foliage or faded blooms. Check and remove tag along insects or slugs (eewww)!

2. Sear sappy stems –such as poppy, artemesisa, and hollyhock– with a match or by dipping in boiling water for 30 seconds.

3. Although some say it isn’t necessary, I have found that pounding woody stems with a hammer to help with uptake of water actually works.

4. Support delicate stems in the vase with branches or wire, or bind groups of flowers together with rubber bands, wire or twine.

5. I usually add a few drops of bleach and sugar (or some use an aspirin) to vase water. Some people prefer to buy fresh cut flower ‘food’, which simply alters the pH, holds down bacteria and provides sugars for metabolism. A bit of environmentally-sound bleach substitute, and sugar stirred into the vase water will accomplish the same thing.

6. Check vase water at least every other day and add or refresh water as necessary.

7. Try to place flowers in a cool spot. Avoid hot southwestern windows.

Dramatic Floating Dahlia – Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Arranging:

1. Be experimental and creative with vases. Start out by trying old soda bottles and tin cans, canning jars, milk bottles or cartons, teapots, glass bowls, desk accessories -anything that holds water. I like to hunt around in old foundations on my property for long-lost medicine and whisky bottles. I think recycled items add charm to flower arrangements.

2. Pay attention to proportion. Flowers rising two to three times the height of the vase is a good ratio to shoot for. But again, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s a flower arrangement for heaven’s sake! It should be fun.

3. A single, dramatic vase or several vases filled with one kind of flower can make a space seem more dressed up. Clustered vases filled with informal ‘wild’ flowers grouped on vanities or consoles can make a room appear more casual.

4. Soften an arrangement of bold blossoms, such as sunflowers, by adding lacy flowers, ferns or ornamental grass.

5. Pair the mood of the flowers to the mood of the room. In general, I like sunflowers and zinnia in the kitchen, and roses beside the bed. But I don’t believe in hard and fast rules.

6. Keep the option of ‘floating’ blossoms in glass bowls in mind. And never underestimate the power of a single flower…

Dahlia in the cutting garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bachelor Button (Centurea cyanus) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Painted Tongue (Salpiglossis) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Marigold (Calendula) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Dahlia in the cutting garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Zinnia ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Zinnia ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Dianthus in the cutting garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Audrey Hepburn with blooms on the brain – Photograph – Howell Conant

***

Article and photographs, with noted exceptions, © 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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It’s Time for the Great Scape: Harvesting And Enjoying Flavorful Garlic Greens…

June 24th, 2010 § 3

Scapes forming on hard neck garlic in my potager…

Curious looking things aren’t they, the garlic scapes? In fact, whenever I look at them, I can’t help but think of ET. You do remember ET, don’t you? The friendly little alien flying around on a bicycle, trying to phone home? Of course you do. I loved that movie when I was a kid. And, who could forget such a beautiful-homely little creature? Well I think garlic scapes are a bit like ET. They are freakish, but you can’t help loving them. Look closely. Do you see a scrawny, curled little finger in there? OK, so maybe my way of looking at things is a bit odd, but I figure if you are reading this blog on a regular basis, you are getting used to it. You don’t really mind, do you?

Garlic Scape Harvest in June…

ET Phone Home...

Elliot… ?

Alright, back to the scapes. Last fall, I wrote a fairly lengthy article on how to grow garlic. And shortly after I published it, my friend John emailed, curious about why I didn’t mention garlic scapes. Well, there were two good reasons actually. Garlic scapes are a gourmet delight; found at Farmer’s Markets and specialty grocers, usually during the month of June. First of all, I wanted to wait until scapes were actually in season, so I could include a recipe for garlic scape pesto, (which I tried last summer and loved). And the second reason had to do with a matter of horticultural opinion.  As hard neck garlic, (Allium sativum) matures, it produces a straight green stalk which then forms a loop or two at the top. This loopity loop -which reminds me of ET’s finger- is the budding garlic flower; more commonly called a ‘scape’. That knobby spot is where a bulbis will form if left on the plant. Some growers remove the bulbis and sell the scapes at market. In theory, the plant’s energy is redirected toward underground bulb production. Other growers prefer to leave the bulbis intact until autumn harvest, later drying and propagating garlic from the bulbis’ themselves. I decided an experiment was called for on this one…

I enjoy eating garlic scapes. So, I usually harvest them in June. But last year I left a group standing, as a little horti-science project. I know – geek. And interestingly, I noted no difference in bulb size between the plants with bulbis left standing, and the garlic with scapes cut in June. So, there you have it, my little scientific report on garlic scapes. Others may have differing results, and I am interested to hear about their experiments. But for now, I will feel completely guiltless eating all the scapes my heart desires. And now that we are finally on the subject of eating them, I must say that one of my favorite ways to enjoy garlic scapes is in a pesto sauce. I tried several recipes last summer, and my favorite is actually a hybrid between one I found on Adam Roberts’ Amateur Gourmet and another referenced on Adam’s blog from Dorie Greenspan. I actually like the pesto with almonds, as Dorie prepares it, but I rarely have them in my house. Pine nuts are always in my cupboard, and I use them frequently in all kinds of pesto.

Garlic scapes are cut off just below the first or second set of leaves, and once harvested, can be prepared many ways. In addition to serving them in pesto, as pictured here, I also enjoy them blanched, roasted or sauteed with a bit of olive oil. If you’ve never had them… do seek these curious curlicues out at the farmer’s market. The scape season passes quickly, and it’s important to harvest them just as they form their loop-di-loops, or they become tough and bitter. Of course, if you grow your own garlic, (see super easy instructions here), then you will have a ready supply every June to enjoy in season, or freeze for later…

Garlic Scape Pesto Rotini – With a Garnish of Calendula Blossoms ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Garlic Scape Pesto

(From the collective wisdom of Dorie Greenspan and Adam of Amateur Gourmet)

Ingredients (makes 2 cups +/- of pesto):

12 Garlic Scapes, chopped fine in food processor

1/2 cup grated parmesean

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Rotini or spaghetti or other pasta, cooked al dente and rinsed

Directions:

Put washed scapes, cheese, pine nuts, salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a food processor  with a metal blade. Blend the ingredients and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust cheese and salt to suit your preferences. If you want a very smooth pesto, blend until creamy. If you are looking for a more rustic paste, then remove from the processor when just blended.

Use immediately as an appetizer, such as a spread on warm bread, a topping or layer on pizza or lasagna, or my favorite way: mixed with rotini pasta and chilled for lunch. If you aren’t using the pesto right away, place it in an airtight container, covering the top with a sheet of plastic wrap to protect the beautiful color from oxidization. Garlic scape pesto can be refrigerated for a few days, or you can freeze it for 2 – 3 months and use it later in the summer…

Garlic Scape Pesto – The Color of Summer!

Mmm…

Curly, twirly garlic scape – a beautiful freak of nature…

ET The Extra Terrestrial on DVD


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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Dreams on a Midsummer Night’s Eve & Fragrant Bouquets Beneath Pillows…

June 23rd, 2010 § 1

A Midsummer Night’s Bouquet for Beneath the Pillow ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”

- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act ii, Scene 1

Gathering the Ingredients for a Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Tonight is Midsummer Eve, originally a pagan holiday celebrating the Summer Solstice and fertility. In Scandinavia, it is traditional for young women to gather bouquets of flowers, (herbal blossoms of seven different species, according to some sources), and place them beneath their pillows before bedtime. According to legend, if a maiden falls asleep on Midsummer Night with blossoms tucked beneath her pillow, she will dream of her future husband…

Calendula – Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany

With these kinds of stakes in mind, I would suggest choosing your bouquet wisely. For sound sleep I would include fragrant valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and perhaps some other flowering, traditional mid-summer herbs; particularly mythical marigold (Calendula officinalis), lavender, (Lavandula dentata), bergamot, (Monarda didyama), sage, (Salvia officinalis), thyme, (Thymus), and of course a red rose, (Rosa) for passion – just be sure to cut off the thorns!

Blossoming, fragrant sage, (Salvia officinalis) ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Two of the herbal flowers I’ve chosen for beneath my pillow tonight: Valeriana officinalis and Rosa de Rescht ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Sweet Dreams Ladies…

Today is also known as St. John’s Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers! To learn more about this day in history, I recommend visiting the Writer’s Almanac June 23 page, (you will have to hit the Prev. button if you are reading this after June 23rd), with Garrison Kiellor (then click on the audio link at the top of the page).

***

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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Restful Rodgersia: A Tall, Dramatic Beauty for Secret, Shadowy Nooks and Damp, Dappled Shade…

June 22nd, 2010 § 2

Rodgersia aesculifolia in the Secret Garden with Matteuccia struthiopteris and Heuchera – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Although you will usually find Rodgersia hiding out in dappled corners, boggy nooks and shadowy glens, it’s not because she’s exactly shy. In fact, when you stop to consider her dramatic foliage and statuesque size, Rodgersia is really quite bold. But she’s definitely not the kind of flower you find screaming for attention in a common, suburban lot in blazing sunshine. Oh no. This exotic-looking beauty prefers moisture and protection from the heat of the day, or she begins to look disheveled- wilted even.

Rogersia is a knock out garden plant when you give her what she wants. And since it’s difficult to find a well-mannered, delicate presence in such a big, bold plant, I am more than happy to satisfy her modest demands. I love how her palmate, horse-chestnut-like leaves contrast with the texture of ostrich fern (Mettecuccia struthiopteris), in my shady Secret Garden; her creamy blossoms rising above an elegant skirt of bold and starry leaves. Later, in autumn, she burnishes to a bronzy-gold, combining beautifully with her stunning, near-by neighbor, Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamillia), as she blazes in all her vermillion glory…

Gorgeous, horse-chestnut-like foliage and tiny, star-shaped white flowers in June. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rodgersia aesculifolia in the Secret Garden – late June. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rodgersia combines beautifully with Stewartia in the Secret Garden – here again in mid October. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

A genus of six species native to the woodlands and moist mountain stream-side banks of Asia, Rogersia is hardy in zones 5-9. R.pinnata, the toughest species in the group, is reportedly cold-tolerant to zone 3. After my successful experiment with Rogersia aesculifolia, I will certainly be adding more shady ladies -perhaps bronzy-leaved, pink flowering Rogersia pinnata ‘Superba’, and elder-like R. sambucifolia- to my garden this year. Of course I would grow this beauty for her knock-out foliage alone, but her sweet-cream flowers are also a lovely addition to the Secret Garden -even when dried-out brown in winter, and dusted with new-fallen snow…

Rogersia aesculifolia in June ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Rogersia aesculifolia dusted in snow ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

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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Welcome Summer! Greeting the Solstice: Sweet Memories, Beautiful Dreams, Stylish Cocktails and Festive Sparkles…

June 21st, 2010 § 3

Sunset Mangotini – The Perfect Drink for the Longest Day of the Year…  Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Solstice memories. It was the longest day of the year -and I was eight years old- when I snuck out on a stylin’ new, metallic-orange bicycle for my first unauthorized ride. Off, down the long bumpy driveway I went; coasting out onto the main road with the wind in my hair. The freshly coated pavement, patched with tar and gravel, made my eyes water… The smell of freedom. A little plastic flower basket, carrying who-knows-what, bobbed up and down on the front of my bike as I cruised past cornfields and cows, crackling power-lines and abandoned pickup trucks, and the newly-arrived summer residents, their windows trimmed with flower boxes and their yards filled with the scent of smoking bar-b-ques. School was out and time stretched before me like a warm, open ocean…

Summer. Seduced by the length of the day, I veered off the pavement onto a dirt road and ditched my bike along a familiar path where shadowy, fern-covered banks wound down to an inky brook. Running breathless, I kicked my hot sneakers to the rocks and waded knee-deep into chilly bliss. Before long I heard familiar sounds; the squeak of bicycle breaks and the laughter of friends through the pines. As I squinted in the blinding light, I made out the blurry, flickering silhouettes of my partners in crime as they sprinted down the hill. Oh the sweet taste of  forbidden-rendezvous success! We giggled and gossiped and splashed for hours, ’till the light began to fade, and then we peddled back out to the main road together. Drunk on the sweet elixir of liberation, we dawdled; gathering daisies and tiger lilies, and tasting tiny, wild strawberries along the side of the road. By the time we parted, the sky had faded from deep blue to violet, and fireflies lit the road. For a moment the world stood still, and the summer night swirled around us like a luminous, green blizzard… Frozen in time.

Oh yes, I caught hell for that naughty joy-ride -and understandably so- but it was soooo worth it. Sometimes a little bad tastes awfully good, wouldn’t you agree?

Welcome warm temptress Summer – the season of sweet memories and beautiful dreams. Here’s to wildflowers, bright red strawberries, glowing sunsets, and sparkling summer nights….

Pure White Daisies…

Beautiful Thunderstorms…

Sweet Red Strawberries…

Warm, Sunset Kisses…

And glowing mangotinis…

The Sunset Mangotini


Ingredients for one cocktail, (adjust quantities 1:1) *

2 ounces of fresh, ripe mango puree (peeled and processed in cuisinart)

1 ounce of ice cold vodka

1/2 oz of Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)

Freshly picked, deep violet-colored pansy blossoms

*a non-alcoholic version of this drink may be enjoyed by combining the mango puree with 1/2 ounce of orange flavoring as a liqueur substitute, (available in fine grocery stores). Skip the vodka and prepare according to directions*

Directions:

Chill martini glasses in the freezer well ahead of time. Prepare ripe mangoes by peeling, pitting and placing wedges of the fruit in a food processor with a metal blade. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled half full with cracked ice, pour the vodka, orange liqueur and mango juice. Replace the top and shake well. Strain the contents into a frosty, chilled martini glass and serve garnished with at least one -or better yet two- violet colored pansies.

Enjoy the glow of the summer sun as it sets in your glass…

Cheers! Wishing You a Glorious, Sparkling Summer!

xo Michaela

Strawberry Flirt (click here for post)

Search for other summer cocktails with garden-fresh ingredients by clicking here…

***

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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Father’s Day Post Leads to Old Fashioned Push Mower Shopping… Thanks Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

June 20th, 2010 § 2

Detail from a Schlitz beer ad, circa 1950

It all started innocently enough. This morning I wanted to publish a quick ‘Happy Father’s Day’ post for all the dads out there. My dad has always been a fabulous gardener, expert berry grower and lover of native plants and trees… But he hated mowing the lawn. HATED. And can you blame him? Lawn mowing is loud, smelly and invariably fraught with mechanical troubles. My father lives in a condo now, and he no longer mows his own lawn, but I will always remember him parked in a plastic lawn chair, clutching a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, legs stretched out, glaring at the frequently broken-down lawnmower. Poor dad! Laughing at the memory, I immediately began searching for an image to capture the feeling. I couldn’t come up with anything good from 80s, but I did find this old Schlitz beer ad from the early 50s – and I love it! Get a load of that fabulous push mower!

Well, no sooner did I crop the photo and scan it to this draft post than an obsession with old fashioned lawn mowers overtook me. My clunky Sears Craftsman model -inherited from my dad when he closed up the country house a few years back and moved into a condo with my mother- has seen better days and it has been sputtering and moaning ever since I made the mistake of overfilling the oil-well last summer. You could say I killed my mower with kindness, but that would be too kind.

As much as I support the ‘un-greening’ of the American suburb -replacing grass turf with low maintenance ground covers, native plants, vegetable patches and other ecologically friendly options- I am not completely anti-lawn. Grass is beautiful, and I believe that a modest lawn, in an appropriate climate, is a wonderful garden feature that needn’t be an environmental hazard or drain. I live in Vermont – the lush, Green Mountain state – but I don’t have a large lawn. There’s just a petite patch of sod for lounging ’round Dan Snow‘s fire sculpture, and a few verdant paths leading to outdoor rooms. It’s not much more than a postage stamp, really, but I still need to cut the grass if I wish to maintain my tiny emerald carpet…

My petite lawn, surrounding artist Dan Snow‘s beautiful Fire Sculpture

Of course I considered an electric mower; quiet, efficient and ultra-modern, the newer models are very tempting. And I also weighed the possibility of a more economical gas model, but I dislike the smell of fumes and all the engine noise -never mind the obviously wasteful use of fossil fuel. So what to do? Well a modern reel lawn mower has always been at the back of my mind. And thanks to Mr. Schlitz at the top of the page, I’m all over the idea – like a dog rolling on freshly cut grass. So for the past few hours, I have been researching and reading reviews. Here’s what I’m looking at…

Scotts 2000-20 20-Inch Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower

With 242 five-star and 168 four-star Amazon reviews, the model above is currently at the top of my list. Retailing for a very reasonable $99.99, it’s clearly quite affordable and popular. The only negative I really see is the 6″ side-clearance, which makes a clean edge difficult and string-trimming mandatory (with my current mower, string trimming is not necessary).

American Lawn Mower Company 1705-16 16-Inch Bent Reel Mower

Running neck-and-neck with the Scott’s mower is the American Lawn Mower Company’s model pictured and linked above. I have read that both mowers are made by the same company. This model is four inches narrower, so it will cut a smaller path through the grass and get into tighter spaces. At $98.49, it’s also quite reasonably priced and although there are fewer reviews for this product on Amazon, they are mostly quite favorable, (69 out of 83 reviews are 4 and 5 star). In the end, this may be the one that wins out, as I am leaning in the direction of a narrower path. Like the one pictured above, this mower is made in the U.S. – important to me with the tough economy we are in.

Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower

Then there is the Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower, pictured and linked above, which is both lightweight, cute and well-made. It’s comparable to the American Mower Company model above, with the same width and blade height, but it has the advantage of a more comfortable looking handle and safer-looking guard. It’s more expensive at $199 – but from the photos and reviews I have seen, it is both popular and well-made.

Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower

The final contender is at the high-end of the price scale, ($299). Also from Gardener’s Supply Company, the reel mower above has received great reviews and also looks comfortable and easy to maneuver and use.

So what will I do? Well, I’m not sure yet. I’d like to try a couple of mowers out to see which model is easiest to lift and fold for winter storage. But there is, without a doubt, a push-style mower in my near future. Do any TGE readers own modern reel mowers? What do you think of them? Do you have a model you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you.

And for all the dads out there: Happy Father’s Day !!! I sure hope you avoid the lawn-detail this Sunday! Go find yourself a comfy hammock or lawn chair and a cool bev. Enjoy your day – you deserve it. Thank you for all you do! xo Michaela

***

Article © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Hammock Dad image is the property of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, (aka Pabst Brewing). Mower images courtesy Amazon and Gardener’s Supply Company, respectively.

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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Quickie Dinner? Fresh from the Garden? Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli…

June 19th, 2010 Comments Off

Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I have been stalking the broccoli in my garden for more than two weeks. The weather in New England at this time of year is prone to wild mood swings -one minute it’s hot and humid and the next it’s cold and rainy again- and late spring temperature fluctuations can force crops like broccoli into maturity faster than anticipated. The minute yellow color begins to show up in the florets, the heads are over-ripe and losing flavor. When eaten straight from the garden, at its peak of freshness, the taste of home grown broccoli is one of the best arguments for retiring yet another stretch of lawn. So, early every morning I’ve been obsessively checking to see if my first broccoli crop is ready. And guess what? Here it is!!! Those dingy, yellowy heads of broccoli at the grocery store can never compare to this!

For a great initial harvest, and continued production of smaller side-shoots for weeks, be sure to fertilize your broccoli plants with fish emulsion or another organic product once a month. Broccoli performs, and tastes best when grown in compost rich soil with even and ample nitrogen content. Warm temperatures, full sun and steady moisture will give the fastest and highest yield . Spring planted crops usually mature right about now and summer-yielding crops will continue to produce florets even in the hottest months. A fall crop may be direct sown in the garden anytime in late spring or early summer. Although broccoli starts transplant well, this must be done with care as the seedlings do not like root disturbance. I plant my broccoli a little more than a foot apart in a compost and leaf mold enriched bed with companions such as radish, carrot, lettuce, and nasturtium. Mulching roots will help keep them cool, and prevent accidents with a hand weeder or hoe…

Oh so fresh…

Freshly harvested blue-green florets…

Steamed, blanched, sauteed or baked; I love broccoli just about any way, including raw, straight from the garden. I have tried many broccoli recipes , but one of the tastiest I have found is Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli from her Back to Basics cookbook. Since trying this garlicky-parmesan seasoning blend, I have taken to adding the cooked vegetables to pasta for a quick and satisfying early evening meal, or as a cold pasta salad dish at lunch. As is usually the case with Ina’s recipes, there’s nothing time consuming or complicated about this method of preparation. This dish is fast and easy to make, and the simple flavors of lemon, basil, pine nuts and parmesan perfectly enhance fresh broccoli, but never overpower it’s wonderful fresh flavor…

Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli and Parmesan

Based on Ina Garten’s Back to Basics Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli Recipe


Ingredients: Serves 4-6

8                  cups fresh broccoli florets, washed and prepared

4                  cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

1 1/2           teaspoons kosher salt

1/2              teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2                  teaspoons lemon zest

2                  tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4              cup pine nuts, roasted to golden brown

1/3              cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

2                  tablespoons chopped basil leaves

1 lb              dry, packaged penne

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees while preparing broccoli. Arrange the broccoli florets in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a pan. Sprinkle garlic on top of the broccoli, then coat with olive oil, (about 5 tablespoons) salt and pepper. Roast in oven 25 minutes or until cooked and a bit brown on the tips of the florets.

While broccoli is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the penne according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Remove broccoli from oven into a skillet or pan and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan and fresh basil. Add a bit of pasta cooking water to the pan and slowly add the penne, stirring as you go, tossing well on low heat to combine flavors. Remove and serve in shallow bowls with extra parmesan.

Roasted broccoli may also be served as presented by Ina Garten in her Back to Basics cookbook -without pasta- as a simple and delicious side dish.

Almost High Summer…

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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From Verdant Shades to Violet Hues: The Potager is Beginning to Look Beautiful, Bountiful and Very, Very Veggie…

June 18th, 2010 § 7

Beautiful Broccoli © 2010 Michaela at TGE…

Every morning now, when I stroll through the vegetable garden on my early rounds -coffee in hand and pets in tow- I am astonished by how much the summer crops have grown in just one short month since planting. And no matter how groggy, or harried, or pressured I may feel on any given day, the garden never fails to both invigorate and calm me; stimulating my senses, and soothing my mind. The potager is planted for utility, and of course there are always chores, but like all gardens, it is also a wonderful place for rest and relaxation. Vegetables are beautiful, especially when viewed up close in the early light of day, covered in dew. Everywhere I look, there are radiant reds, vibrant violets and deeply saturated blue-green hues. Getting up close and personal with your garden is a great idea for many reasons. And as I go through the potager each morning, pulling tiny weeds and removing pests from plants, I am also richly rewarded with fresh scents, tasty nibbles, buzzing bees and the sweet sound of birds. Hey – why can’t the practical also be the luxurious? I think it’s all in how you look at things…

Red Leaf Lettuce © 2010 Michaela at TGE…

Sage Blossoms © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Snow Pea Blossom from the Second Sowing © 2010 Michaela at TGE…

Antago Lettuce © 2010 Michaela at TGE…

Sage Leaves © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Green Leaf Lettuce © 2010 Michaela at TGE…

Edible Flowers – Red and Purple Pansies © Michaela at TGE

The Western Corner of the Vegetable Garden in Early-Mid June…

***

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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Isn’t She Pretty in Pink? A Peek at a Few of June’s Blushing Young Beauties: Mountain Laurel, Lupine, Indigofera, and More…

June 16th, 2010 § 4

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ with Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland’s Gold’ and Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’ in the background, and Rudbeckia hirta and Miscanthus in the foreground… Garden Design and Photo © Michaela at TGE

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’ in the Entry Garden – Design and Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

There’s something of a pink-fizzy-explosion going on in the main entrance to my garden right now. From bashful blush and shocking rose, to coral, crimson, and pale petal; the garden is looking very pretty in pink. At this time of the year, my wildflower walkway is filled with the lighter shades of red, including two-tone-pink lupine, pale penstemon and other cerise colored flowers. This spring, the wild roses have really taken off, clamoring over the big ledges, and spilling out from the juniper edging into the gravel path. But the reigning queen of the moment in the entry garden is Kalmia latifolia ‘Pink Charm’; a gorgeous pink selection of our native mountain laurel. I am very fond of Kalmia, and I grow both the native and various cultivars. Mountain laurel has developed a reputation for being a somewhat tricky plant to grow, but I have had great success with the genus. In my experience, proper siting and soil are key to pleasing this beautiful, native evergreen. For more information on Kalmia latifolia, including how and where to grow and use this plant in the garden, travel back to last year’s post on Mountain Laurel here.

Indigofera kirilowii on the terrace edge. Photo © Michaela at TGE

And on the northwestern side of my garden, Indigofera kirilowii -which I also posted about last summer in an article linked here- is producing an outrageously romantic display at the edge of the terrace. This gorgeous small shrub is literally covered with lilac-pink panicles, spilling in dramatic fashion on to the thyme-laced stone at her feet. Indigofera is putting on her show earlier this year, as are many other plants in my garden. What’s the hurry ladies? We have all summer. Why not slow down and stick around awhile?

Still, in spite of the early rush to bloom, I must say I am loving the profusion. When my garden gets to blushing like this, I can’t help but think of girlish things like prom dresses and bridal showers. I suppose it’s just that time  of the year  – when everything is pretty in pink….

A closeup of our native North American mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, in bloom. Photo © Michaela at TGE

A natural wonder, smothered in blooms – Kalmia latifolia – native mountain laurel. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lupine put on a reliable yearly display in the wildflower walk. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lupine hybrid – Bicolor pink in the Wild Flower Walk – Entry Garden Design and Photo © 2010 Michaela TGE

A wild rose in the entry garden – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Budding Beauty – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Pretty in Pink in the Rain – Photo © Michaela at TGE

Seashell Pink Colored Coral Bell Blossoms (Heuchera sanguinea) Dance in the Morning Breeze. Photo © Michaela at TGE

Lavender-pink Indigofera kirilowii edges the north facing terrace, planted here with wooly thyme. Photo © Michaela at TGE

You know I was thinking about it when I typed the words. I had to pull out the Molly Ringwald for this post…

Pretty in Pink Molly Ringwald

Pretty in Pink on DVD

***

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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Time Standing Still: The Immortal Beauty of Duchesse de Nemours and the Pleasure of Peonies in June…

June 14th, 2010 § 2

Creamy white Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ picks up some blush from pink-tinged ‘Mother’s Choice’ and an unidentified rose-red cultivar. Vase by Aletha Soulé.

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oh, Victorie Augusta Antonia de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha -better known as the Duchesse de Nemours- you must have been an extraordinary woman to have such a deliciously fragrant, beautiful blossom named for you. Was your skin the color of luminous cream… Was it smooth and silky to the touch? Were you quietly seductive; luring your admirers from all corners of the room with your languorous beauty and intoxicating perfume? You must have been dangerously voluptuous; teetering right on the edge of outright sexiness, but far too elegant to ever step across the line in society. Of course you were well-mannered and Victorian, with an air of mystery and a hint of sadness. Then, suddenly, your life was cut tragically short when you died at the age of 35, shortly after the birth of your fourth child; a daughter named Blanche. The Duke, it is noted, was dazed and lost without you; left to grieve with four small children – one just a tiny babe. And after your cruel and untimely departure, your childhood friend, Queen Victoria, spiraled into a deep, dark melancholy. Soon, as the sad news quickly swept across the sea, the people of France joined England in mourning your loss. More than just a figurehead, you were deeply loved, and greatly missed. And in time, the French named a gorgeous, fragrant blossom in your honor: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’, a luminous, creamy-white, sweetly perfumed peony. Your namesake flower was well chosen, for garden peonies are one of the longest lived perennials. And in spite of your sad misfortune, the memory of your spirit lives on when, each spring, your flower blossoms in gardens throughout the world; conjuring your great beauty and rekindling the passion you inspired…

This is a portrait of Victorie, Duchesse de Nemours, with her friend, Queen Victoria in the foreground – Franz Xzver Winterhalter – 1852

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Image via Walker Art Gallery, National Museum of Liverpool

“Here lies Victoria Augusta Antonia de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Duchesse of Nemours, by whose death one more sorrow was added to so many doleful burials of the House of Orleans. She was of excellent soul, brilliance and great beauty, equally admirable both in fortune and of kindly and humble heart, devoted to her God, and a most loving wife and mother, lamented by her relatives and all notable people. She died suddenly at Claremont in Britain, an untimely death, on 10 November 1857 at the age of 35. May she rest in peace.” – From the inscription on the tomb of Duchesse de Nemours

As you can see, I am obsessed with the Duchesse. The peony is my favorite flower… But you will almost never observe it blooming in my garden. Why? Because I am greedy. Well, OK – most of the time, I am a generous person – but not when it comes to my peonies. I am greedy about peonies. I won’t even share them with the rest of my garden. The blossoms never stay outdoors long enough to open. Impatient by nature, I always cut the buds and bring them inside just as soon as they begin to swell and unfurl. I don’t mean to be selfish. Really I don’t. It’s just that the peony season is so short, and the entire experience can be wiped out with one heavy rain. A thunderous downpour, which almost always happens at the peak of peony season in June, will easily snap the delicate neck of an open flower. Double peonies are so fragile, that in fact even the slightest shower will cause their voluptuous, top-heavy blossoms to droop down into the mud. Well, I can’t have that. Not a chance. So the ‘Duchesse’ -as well as the pink bombshell ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, and that fiery, rose-flecked swan ‘Festiva Maxima’, among my many favorite peonies- is quickly whisked indoors where she can linger, mingling with the other blooms and extending my pleasure for weeks.  I like having them all around me; lounging beside the sofa, propped up in the powder room, spilling from stools in the studio; and of course, filling every available space in the boudoir. Why practice restraint? Life is short -as the Duchesse always reminds me- and no matter how much we might like to, we can never truly make time stand still. But we can learn to drag it out a little, can’t we? Of course we can…

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Raspberry Sundae’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

When cut in early morning, just as the petals begin to curl open, each peony can last more than a week in a vase. I also like to tuck a few buds and blossoms in my refrigerator, pulling them out slowly for arrangements as others fade. By planting peonies with staggered bloom times, it’s possible to enjoy picking them, at least in cooler climates like mine, from late May straight on into the first few days of July. The tree peonies are first to flower in my garden, followed by the singles and early doubles; all of course setting the stage for the late arrival of those bodacious beauties, the ultra-feminine, big-bomb-types. Is there a bombshell-type peony named Marilyn? Delores? Sophia? Ava? Well there should be. What are those hybridizers thinking? Plant names can be so boring. Surely they could come up with something better than Big Red? Come on… Call a peony Rita Hayworth, for heaven’s sake. Why not use some imagination…

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kansas’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Mother’s Choice’

So now that I have -once again- revealed my hopeless hortimania, you are probably wondering where this peony-obsessed gardener goes to find the most delicious cultivars? Well online, White Flower Farm always has some beauties, and then there’s peony grower, hybridizer and resource extraordinaire, Klehm’s Song Sparrow Perennial Farm. {Warning: peony collecting is addictive}. Although these perennial garden favorites are available as potted plants throughout the growing year, peonies are really best planted bare-root in fall. Set these long-lived plants in a sunny spot with well prepared, humus-rich garden soil (amended with good compost). Take care never to plant the “eyes” of the peony root too deep (1.5-2″ below the compost, at most). Hardy, reliable bloomers  in zones 3-8, when properly planted and cared for, herbaceous peonies and their woody relatives, the tree peonies, are some of the longest lived garden plants. Once established, they resent division and dislike relocation. But when handled with care, they will adjust to change, although they may refuse to bloom for a season or two following a move. Below are some classic garden favorites – but why stop at a few, when there are oodles more to choose from? I am ordering an entire box of peonies this fall, because I can never get enough of their sweet fragrance in June…

Paeonia Duchesse de Nemours at White Flower Farm Online

Paeonia Raspberry Sundae at White Flower Farm Online

Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’ at White Flower Farm Online

***

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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The Strawberry Shortcake Facial – A (Mostly-True) Country Girl Story, Where Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest Meet Fruit Mush. Plus, a Really Great Recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. I Swear…

June 12th, 2010 § 6

Strawberry Shortcake with Homemade Butter Biscuits…

I grew up in a strawberry patch. Yes, I mean that literally. My family grew and sold organic berries, and when I was a kid, my sister and I spent many hours in the strawberry fields picking and tending the crops. Once you’re a grownup, this sounds pretty idyllic. However for a couple of kids, it’s kind of boring to pick berries for hours and hours on a beautiful summer day. You have to use your imagination to break up the monotony. And since my sister and I were always pretty inventive, we found plenty of creative ways to entertain ourselves…

If you’ve ever grown strawberries -or spent time picking them on hazy summer days- you know that there is a point in late June when the berries ripen so quickly, that you can’t keep up with the harvest. Add humid weather -which we often get in New England- and a few days of steady rain, and soon all of the over-ripe berries start rotting right on the plants. My dad instructed us to pick off these mushy, often slimy berries, to protect the rest of the crops from mold. And sometimes, after a particularly wet week, we would have as many throw-away berries as market-worthy fruits. Usually we would fling these slimy rejects as far away as we could; aiming for distant trees, clanging tin pie plates, wooden stakes or the odd scarecrow. Sometimes, we would collect the mushy berries and pile them on rocks for hungry chipmunks, or toss them into the meadow for birds. But then we got another idea…

This was the 1980’s and, as country kids, we were pretty fascinated with the glam city-culture beyond our reach.  T.V. Shows like Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest, mostly airing past our bedtime -though our mom was pretty lenient about those kinds of things- were populated with sexy characters who sauntered around in puffy-shoulder pads, silky robes and high heeled mules. Talk about another world. Things like sports cars, cocktail parties, private jets, exotic spas, pedicures and facials were a big part of those fictitious women’s lives. In fact, much of their scheming seemed to take place during conversations on their boudoir telephones, while (unbeknownst to their male love-interests) goopy masks of one sort or another were smeared upon their pouty pusses. At the time, our mom was also into beauty treatments, though her’s didn’t come in Borghese or Chanel jars like those we saw on Alexis Carrington’s dresser. My mother of course made her own facial concoctions from what we thought to be truly gross ingredients; mostly things you would eat -but usually not in combination- like yogurt, eggs, cucumbers and lemon juice. Definitely NOT glam. But somehow, we must have been influenced…

I’m not really sure of how it all started. Maybe it was our mom’s idea, or maybe it was something we came up with. Maybe it was an accident, and maybe it was on purpose. Anyway, one hot afternoon, certainly following some drama, a handful of smashed berries ended up on someone’s face. And then another handful… And another… And another… Until our faces were completely covered in mushy strawberry goo. Of course this reduced us to gut-splitting giggles, and we thought it was all pretty hysterical -and outrageous – but somehow we decided it was also very, very glam. This ‘spa treatment’ came to be known as the ‘strawberry shortcake facial’, and it was all the rage that summer in the field. Yes, I know we weren’t the first -and definitely won’t be the last- kids to smear strawberry mush on our faces… But it sure is a sweet summer memory…

Strawberries are still my favorite fruit, and although my berry patch is quite small when compared to the one I grew up with, I do grow several different varieties in my garden. This year the early-bearing crops are fruiting a bit ahead of schedule, and even the alpine strawberries are beginning to turn red. Strawberries are easy to grow, and I will be posting more on the subject soon. But if you are just starting a patch for yourself, you may want to skip ahead and check out the post “Strawberry (and Blueberry and Raspberry and Kiwi) Fields Forever” I wrote for B&N’s Garden Variety earlier this week, featuring a review of Barbara Bowling’s great guide to raising small fruit, The Berry Growers Companion.

As soon as they are ripe, the first thing I always make with my fresh strawberries is shortcake. To me, this treat signals the unofficial start of summer. And to this day, whenever I pluck ruby ripe berries in the field, and slice them to make strawberry shortcake -my favorite summertime dessert- I think of my sister and our glamorous fresh-fruit facials. And you want to know a secret? Sometimes, when I am by myself, I still sneak a bit of the strawberry shortcake mash on my face as a special ‘treatment’. Truth be told, on rainy days, I might even do it while scheming on the phone. Hey, it’s like I always say: who says a gardener can’t be glamorous… ?

Freshly Washed Strawberries from the Garden…

Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4           Cups washed and sliced strawberries – plus extra for garnish

1           Tbs sugar, (adjust to tartness of berries)

1           Pint whipping cream

1/2       Tsp vanilla

Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Biscuits

2            Cups flour

2 1/2     Tsp baking powder

1            Tsp salt

6            Tbs unsalted, chilled butter, plus extra for serving

3/4         Cup whole milk (plus extra for brushing biscuits)

Directions:

In order to get a juicy bowl of shortcake, you need to start at least an hour ahead. I don’t hull freshly picked berries, but if you prefer to do this, hull right before you slice them, or they will dry out. Wash and pick over the berries, and slice them, (not too thin… gross), into a bowl. Mash about 1/3-1/2 of them, but don’t turn the whole bowl into mush, (again, gross). Add sugar, tasting as you go, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or so. You can whip the cream and vanilla ahead of time too, if you like, and refrigerate. Some people prefer sugar in their whipped cream. I like mine unsweetened in this instance, to create a contrast between the tart/sweet berries and the vanilla-tinted cream.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together well. Cut the butter into thin slices, (about 10), and mix into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender. Work the dough until it’s crumbly and resembles cornmeal. Add the milk and quickly mix it together, blending well. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it just a bit.

Roll the dough out 1/2 inch thick and cut into 3 inch round discs with a cookie cutter or pastry form. You should end up with about 8 biscuits. Place the biscuits on an unbuttered cookie sheet and brush with milk.

Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove promptly. Split hot biscuits in half and place them in bowls. Spread with fresh butter. Once the butter has melted, add a generous amount of berries and whipped cream to one biscuit, then top with the other biscuit, and repeat. Garnish with fresh mint and a whole berry, and serve warm.

Dallas on DVD !!!

Dynasty on DVD !!!

Article and almost all photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Photos of Messy Michaela by an Anonymous Accomplice

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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Un-Flower Pots: Modern Ideas for Low Maintenance Container Gardens…

June 10th, 2010 § 4

Sempervivum ‘Purple Beauty’ (Hens and Chicks) and Haworthia in a Glazed Pot with River Stone Accents, Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Although I have an unabashed love of colorful, fragrant blossoms, flowering plants aren’t ideal in all garden situations and circumstances. At times, I reach for the color, texture, form and/or movement of other plants -such as ornamental grasses and succulents- when designing a garden. Container gardens, particularly in dry, windy locations, can be very high maintenance unless the right plants are chosen for these challenging locations. Often, before I plant containers for my clients, I experiment with the design’s durability in my own garden first. This is an outrageously fun process of course, and a fine excuse to purchase annual plants for the steel deck outside my studio…

Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima in a Modern Deck Arrangement, Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

The hot, dry, windy conditions on this sunny deck make it the perfect test-lab for low-maintenance container garden experiments. Over the years, two of the more successful annual combinations on my deck have been ornamental grass arrangements, and the succulent containers pictured here. This year, after reviewing Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Container Gardens for Barnes and Noble’s Garden Variety blog (“Sweet Succulent Sensation – Ready for Some Outrageously Beautiful Container Inspiration”) I was inspired to take my easy-care succulent containers to a whole new level. But do I miss the flowers? Hardly. I find the jewel-like colors and textures so fascinating that I think adding flowering plants to these dramatic containers would be gilding the lily. Many succulent plants do in fact blossom, of course, and an number, such as Sempervivum and Echeveria, produce sensationally beautiful flower-like rosettes. Their shocking beauty is more than enough for me…

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a Pot with Stone Accents, (this frost-proof container is left outdoors year round). Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Close up of Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum – The Rock Rose – Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a permanent, frost-proof outdoor container. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum and Stone-Accent Mulch. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Over the winter, you may recall my experiments with indoor container gardening, including dry-terraria arrangements, such as the one pictured below, (featuring three different plant forms: tall and spiked, mounded and trailing), and cactus bowls. Now that the warmer months have arrived, I have relocated these plants to larger-scale pots -accented with natural river stone- to my rusty steel deck. So far, the transition has been quite successful, with only one minor loss due to the well-known, ‘rambunctious labrador retriever effect’. If you too have a hot, sunny deck or terrace to landscape, and little time for maintenance, consider adding some easy-care pots to your seasonal arrangement. A large vessel, filled with tall ornamental grass works well as a backdrop for smaller containers filled with herbs or flowers. And small clusters of pots in a uniform color, such as the oxblood containers shown here, combine beautifully when grouped on terraces or arranged along the edges of steps. I will feature more container gardening ideas in the coming weeks, but if you are serious about creating a succulent oasis of your own, I suggest checking out the two fantastic books linked below…

Plants from an indoor succulent bowl, (read article here), can be moved outdoors to fill containers in warmer months. Pictured here: Echeveria ‘Pearl’, Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’ and Portulacaria afra variegata from The Old School House Plantery. Container Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE…

In summer, the indoor cactus bowl goes on summer-deck-ation…

Order Thomas Hobbs’  The Jewel Box Garden from Amazon online…

Order Succulent Container Gardens from B&N or Amazon online.

***

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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Setting the Pace of the Stroll with Stepping Stone Paths and Walkways…

June 8th, 2010 § 3

Stepping stone path designed and installed by artist Dan Snow, in a garden of my own design at Ferncliff. Photo © Michaela at TGE

We’ve all heard that the beauty and meaning of life is usually found in the journey, not in the destination. I’m a great believer in this way of looking at things, and I find that the philosophy generally holds true in the landscape as well. Paths and walkways are almost always central features in the gardens I design, and right now I am working on three projects that include stepping stone paths. The way in which a path is designed is key to how a garden will be experienced. Is the purpose of the walkway utilitarian; moving traffic quickly and easily from one point to another? Or will the path be designed to slow visitors down; inviting travelers to linger, pause or sit down and rest for awhile? Are there structural elements to highlight or conceal, views to frame, secrets to reveal? There are many things to consider when designing and installing a walkway or path…

Photo © Clive Nichols, Garden Designer: Anne Dexter

Daria Price Bowman’s Paths and Walkways, (in which the the Clive Nichols photographs above and directly below appear), is a lovely source of inspiration to seek out when searching for stylish garden design ideas. Formal and informal walkways are featured, including paths constructed from every imaginable material, including natural stone, brick, bark and gravel…

This pathways sets a pace to match the stream, with a wide span designed to accommodate two people walking side by side. Photo © Clive Nichols

Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone, is another excellent design resource for planning a new pathway. With an entire chapter devoted to the subject of stone walkways, there are both practical instructions and tips as well as countless inspirational photographs to stir a gardener’s imagination. Widely spaced stepping stones laid along a curving line tend to slow the pace, requiring attentiveness on the part of those walking along the path. If stones are placed tightly together along a wide, sweeping path, visitors will tend to move through a space more quickly…

Image © Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

A few weeks back, I mentioned an ongoing project, The Museum Garden, a space I designed for The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Brattleboro, Vermont. This public garden connects BMAC to Marlboro College‘s downtown Brattleboro campus building. Once completed, the sculpture park will be filled with three dimensional art, benches, tables and relaxed, native plantings. In order to slow traffic down as travelers pass through the park, I designed a wide-spaced, stepping-stone pathway, set within a sweeping lawn. Landscape contractors Turner and Renaud constructed the walkway from large slabs of smooth “Ashfield stone” from a regional quarry, and then filled the spaces surrounding the pavers with loam, to prepare for a seeded lawn. As you look at these pictures, think about the spaces in your own garden. Do the paths and walkways in your landscape slow you down or speed you up? I will be writing more about the museum garden pathway, and similar, connecting gardens in the coming weeks. Life begins in the garden, and it’s all about the journey, isn’t it? …

“Ashfield” flat stone placed on a base of fine, crushed stone. Installation: Turner and Renaud, Design/photo: Michaela at TGE

The Turner and Renaud Landscaping Team Carefully Backfills the Walkway with Loam

The Walkway Prepared for Seeding

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Article and photographs (with noted exceptions) © 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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Seduced by the Charms of Old Fashioned Flowering Weigela…

June 6th, 2010 § 4

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ tumbles over the wall at Ferncliff, spilling blossoms into the Secret Garden below. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

To look at the voluminous cascade of crimson blossoms spilling over my Secret Garden wall this week, you’d never guess that this Red Prince (Weigela florida) is positioned in the toughest, most exposed corner of my blustery, ledgy site. Bearing the full force of the northwest wind as it blasts across the ridge straight from the Green Mountains, I fully expected my Weigela to perish in its first winter. Five years later, in spite of sub-zero temperatures, snow drifts, thick sheets of ice, and the doubts of a rather pessimistic mistress, the prince of my garden is once again greeting June cloaked in the most glorious red robe I have ever seen. As you can see, there he sits; sprawled out in the sun, high atop the Secret Garden wall, where his funnel-shaped flowers attract legions of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and countless sighs.

Old-fashioned in both form and habit, Weigela florida has gone in and out of garden style for years. Because of its sturdy nature -rarely troubled by pests and disease- certain Weigela cultivars have become somewhat over-used in municipal landscapes. Once again a victim of its own success, many designers now consider this shrub a bit common – perhaps even a garden cliché. As for this hortimaniac? Please… Give me a break! I find the whole notion of garden fads more than a little ridiculous. Every plant has its place. And as they say – a thing of beauty is a joy forever. A knock-out in bloom and a fine green presence throughout the growing year, Weigela’s flower-show lasts three weeks in my garden, with sporadic repeats later in the season. And as if this generous floral display weren’t enough, newer Weigela cultivars, including maroon-leaved and dwarf selections, have expanded this shrub’s three-season design potential with stunning foliage. My collection of ‘cardinal bushes’ -as they are sometimes called- now includes ‘Java Red’, (see photograph below), ‘Variegata’, ‘Alexandra’, ‘My Monet’, and of course the ‘Red Prince’, among others…

Weigela florida planted in a woodland-edge setting for one of my garden design clients 3 years ago…

Weigela florida on the far side of my client’s garden, forming a cascading, flowering boundary between hillside garden and the shaded forest beyond…

Hardy at least through zones 4-9, (certain selections offer a greater hot/cold hardiness range), and tolerant of many soil types, (Weigela prefers slightly acidic, moist, but not wet soil), this is a perfect shrub for gardeners in cold, moderate and mild climates. When positioned in full sun to partial shade, Weigela rewards the gardener with a cascade of flowers from late spring through early summer. Spectacular spilling over walls or embankments, larger cultivars are also perfect for the center or back of sunny borders and for creating informal hedges. Dwarf selections, such as ‘Minuet’ are ideal for smaller gardens and tight garden situations, including containers. With dozens of handsome cultivars to choose from, including many with spectacular, variegated and mottled foliage, (such as the knock-out introduction, ‘My Monet’), there is a Weigela suitable for almost any temperate garden climate. Yes, my ‘Red Prince’ Weigela may be old-fashioned, but he sure knows how to charm…

The ‘Red Prince’ Weigela florida Atop the Secret Garden Wall in June. Stonework by Vermont artist Dan Snow

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’s  bright fuchsia colored blossoms are a  favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees…

Weigela florida ‘Java Red’ takes center stage after Syringa vulgaris ‘Mme. Lemoine’s’ blooms have faded…

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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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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Clustered Vases Beside the Laptop…

June 4th, 2010 § 2

Clustered vases filled with Lupine, Phlox, Valerian, and Rosa de Rescht. Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Whew. It has been busy around here. Most days I am out and about in the field working with clients, gathering plants, making deliveries, planting gardens, and lately, helping out my friends at Walker Farm on the weekends by answering customer questions about trees, shrubs and perennials. But at least one day a week, I remain here at my home studio where I research new plant cultivars, draw up garden design plans and plant lists, and yes, write this blog as well as a weekly Wednesday post for Barnes and Noble’s Garden Variety. Some days I even find time to work in my own garden, or at least to pick a few flowers…

The home “office”

Right now my garden is a voluptuous tumble of color and fragrance. The long beds and borders are overflowing with indigo-hued baptisia, lupine, heaven-scented peonies, old-fashioned roses, wild phlox, delicate valerian, bluebells, romantic, wine-red weigela, and the list goes on. Sweet springtime! Oh how I wish I could bottle up all of the beauty and fragrance and save it for a blustery January day… But we all know that’s not possible, so I try to squeeze in every precious moment while I can. Sometimes that means snipping a rose here, and a handful of storm-damaged lupine there, to create a little table-top vignette. Over the years I have received many beautiful vases as birthday, thank you and hostess gifts from family, friends and clients. I love selecting vessels in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, to cluster on a table top, nightstand, or beside my laptop while I work. If I can’t be out in the garden, I might as well bring it, and all of its rosy splendor, indoors with me while I work.

Do you enjoy fresh cut flowers as much as I do? Try clustering a group of vases together to create a tiny garden atmosphere indoors. I like groups of 3, 5 or 7 vases, ranging from bud to bouquet in size. Vary the opacity and patterns to compliment the flowers you select. This time I chose light, greenish-turquoise tones to emphasize the cerise hues of Rosa de Rescht and two-toned pink lupine. Vases needn’t be expensive! Old glass soda bottles, spice or jam jars, tin cans and a variety of recycled containers make charming, impromptu vessels…

Rosa de Rescht, up close in a bud vase where I can enjoy her gorgeous fragrance and work at the same time…

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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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I Know They Are In There Somewhere! Companion Planting in the Vegetable Garden: Guest Post by John Miller of The Old School House Plantery…

June 2nd, 2010 § 2

Radishes and Carrots Together Again at the Market, (photo © Michaela TGE)

“They”, in this instance, being carrots and parsnips. In my previous post I mentioned how farmers use plug sown onion transplants to overcome the problems associated with the slow germination time of onions. Onions are not the only vegetables that exhibit long germination times, raw (naked or unpelleted) parsnips and carrots can also take six weeks to germinate. Unfortunately neither of these crops readily lend themselves to transplanting as the desired part, the root, can be easily damaged and result in misshapen or stunted growth. Transplanting can be done on a small scale but requires care and attention to precise handling to avoid damaging the root (in spring it also requires even more space in one’s probably already strained propagating area!).

Italian heirloom radish ‘Candela di Fuoco’ and Rainbow Mix carrot seedlings, (photo © John Miller)

Hoed row, (photo © John Miller)

Unless you have a sterile seedbed (a technique requiring foresight and a flame gun, clear plastic and sunshine or a herbicide) then your direct sown carrots or parsnips will be competing against weeds in your garden while they are germinating and emerging. However these same weeds are not concerned with your desire for that sweet first home grown carrot of the season or that wonderful roast parsnip with your Thanksgiving dinner- they want the space and the nutrients! In six weeks weeds can romp away in the race to germinate and establish themselves and leave you, the custodian of the crop, the time consuming task, usually on hands and knees, of delicately moving rampant weed foliage, probably covering the entire bed, trying to spot the still minute seedlings of that hoped for crop.

There they are! Parsnip and radish seedlings (photo © John Miller)

But wait! There is hope. No, it won’t stop the weeds germinating but it could make spotting the row a lot easier. It involves sowing either carrots or parsnips with a faster growing crop, such as radish, together in the same row. Radish are one of the faster growing crops, maturing in as little as 35 days, and will keep pace with even the most vigourous weeds, in my case Fat Hen and Galinsoga (I often hear that mis-pronounced as Gallant Soldier). The radishes are sown relatively thinly. I aim for one every foot, as you may pull the main crop by accident if the density is too great. The radish makes spotting the row quite easy, and I can quickly hoe in between the rows before the weeds get too big and require hand pulling. Hoeing all but a narrow row then makes hand weeding the crop itself a quick -dare I say it- almost enjoyable, task. Then I will reward myself with a freshly pulled radish, or two! Any fast growing crop that you prefer, arugula or Broccoli raab for instance, could be used instead of radish.

Radish and Carrot Bunches at Market (photo © Michaela TGE)

Article and photographs as noted in this post, © 2009/2010 John Miller

John Miller and his wife Diane Miller own and operate The Old School House Plantery in Brattleboro Vermont

Visit the Miller’s Etsy shop, Eclecticasia, for a selection of rare and beautiful plants.

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Market photos as noted are copyright 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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