Solstice Season in the Secret Garden

December 11th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Solstice Season in the Secret Garden

 First snow. Powder swirls about the Secret Garden, dusting peaks, tracing lines and filling every crevice. The forest, enchanted, drifts softly off to sleep . . .

Winter bares her beautiful bones

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. At no additional cost to you, a small commission will be paid The Gardener’s Eden, to help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Calamondin Orange: Sunshine in a Pot

December 9th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Calamondin Orange Tree in the Kitchen

As we move closer to the shortest day of the year, and the long, dark nights of winter, sunlight begins to feel like a rare and precious commodity. During the cold, colorless months, I find myself seeking out warm hues —bright yellow, orange, lime green— and all things tropical. Something tells me I’m not the only northern gardener dreaming of a far-away paradise.

Last year, my sister and my nephew surprised me with a beautiful Calamondin Orange tree (Citrofortunella mitis), for my birthday. With its glossy-green foliage and abundant, golden fruit, this tree is a total knock-out. But the real surprise? Insect and disease resistance. Not a single battle has been waged with scale or spider mites. Of the three citrus trees growing in my home —which include an Improved Meyer Lemon and a Lime Tree— the Calamondin Orange has proven easiest and most productive, by far.

Calamondin Orange Tree in the Kitchen Today, with River Stone Mulch

If you’re new to growing citrus trees as houseplants, I highly recommend starting with an indoor-tolerant Calamondin Orange. And if you happen to be looking for the perfect gift for the gardening gourmet in your life, this tree could be it!

Small but abundant, bright-orange fruits appear at regular intervals on this cross between a Kumquat and Mandarin Orange. Calamondin oranges are quite tart and a good substitute for Persian limes in most recipes. Their tangy juice and sweet zest is delicious in many drinks, desserts, savory dishes and condiments; including salad dressings, marmalades, salsas, chutneys and pickled preserves. I love adding tart Calamondin juice to cocktails and spicing up a simple crème brulée with a bit of the sweet & tangy zest. Imagine the creative, culinary possibilities!

Freshly Harvested Calamondin Oranges

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Tips for Selection & Care of Indoor Citrus Trees

Selecting: Ready to begin growing your own crop of tiny, golden oranges? Choose a two to three-year-old specimen from a reputable nursery for the earliest showing of blossoms and fruit. Look for healthy, green foliage and a well-pruned, full framework. Avoid trees with spindly growth, curled or yellowing foliage, and suckers at the base. Online, you can find beautiful Calamondin Orange Trees at White Flower Farm and Four Winds Growers.

Potting: When potting your newly acquired citrus tree, choose a ceramic, clay or plastic pot with adequate drainage. Ensure that the selected container has several holes at the bottom, and fill the drainage dish with gravel or stone to allow good moisture release and airflow. Well-drained soil is also critical. Buy pre-mixed potting soil specifically blended for citrus, or choose a slightly acidic, loamy potting mix with a pH of 6-7.

Placement: Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of sunlight per day. During the fall and winter months, place your Calamondin in a draft-free, south-facing window with even temperatures (55-85°F is ideal). Avoid locating the tree where temperatures fluctuate radically: such as near wood stoves, ovens, radiators or exterior doors. Calamondin Orange Trees may be moved outside in late spring (after the last frost date in your area). Be sure to slowly acclimate your tree to outdoor conditions by placing it in a protected spot. Try to find a dappled nook, shielded from high wind. After a couple of weeks have passed, the pot can migrate to its summer home in full sun.

Watering: Water your tree regularly (using a meter helps tremendously), and cover the soil with decorative river stone, moss or other mulch mulch to help reduce evaporation and temperature fluctuation at the root zone. Soil should be kept on the drier side during winter months to avoid root rot and fungal infections. Like most tropical beauties, Calamondins enjoy humidifiers and/or regular misting as well.

Feeding: Citrus are heavy feeders. Fertilize your tree every three weeks using a citrus-specific fertilizer, like this one from Jobe’s Organics, throughout the spring and summer months. During the fall and winter months, fertilize once every six weeks.

Harvesting Calamondin Oranges from My Tree

Harvesting: Calamondin oranges take about one year to ripen from the time blossoms appear. However, because the tree will produce flowers and fruit at the same time, harvests can happen over a period of weeks or months. Snip bright orange fruit from branches with sharp pruners (I use Felco 8s) to avoid tearing the tender skin. You’ll know the oranges are ripe when they are just soft enough to give slightly under the pressure of your fingertips.

Pest Management: Calamondins do seem to resist insects and disease, however all houseplants are vulnerable to infestations and stress increases the risk, so be sure to meet your tree’s needs as listed above. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, tiny insect pests hitch a ride on newly acquired plants or on fresh produce and flowers from the grocery store. Insects will also set up camp while potted plants are living outside during the summer months. Once the trees come inside, away from predatory insects —boom— bug explosion. Should your citrus tree become host to spider mites, scale, mealy bugs or aphids, try treating organically with insecticidal soap and horticultural oil, or neem oil for tougher pests like spider mites and scale. The key to success is repeated treatment at regularly scheduled intervals (see manufacturer’s recommendation by pest), until the infestation is under control.

With proper attention and care, a Calamondin Orange Tree will provide many golden harvests of fruit and years of beauty, inside and out.


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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale, at no additional cost to you, will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden to help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Gardener's Supply Company

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Cranberry-Basil Margarita with Homegrown Citrus & Herbs

December 8th, 2017 § 4 comments § permalink


Cranberry-Basil Margarita

Tis the season for entertaining, and for many of us, that means welcoming guests with refreshing, festive cocktails. At the moment, I’m planning a Winter Solstice get-together for family. This will be more of a roam-about the room and chat party than a sit-down dinner, so I’m dreaming up tasty libations to set out in punch bowls and pitchers, or perhaps even prepare —at least in part— a day in advance. I’ve been trying out a few different twists on favorite cocktail recipes and this fresh take on a classic Margarita definitely fits the bill.Don’t you just love cranberries? They glow like ruby beads and they’re so willing to wait around in the fridge! As a life-long New Englander, I always make my own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and an extra batch or two for using on sandwiches, later. While they are in season, I pick up a few extra bags of fresh cranberries whenever I’m at the market. I freeze what I can’t use and thaw them when I need some bright color in the dead of winter.Calamondin Orange in the Kitchen

I’ve always used cranberries in baked goods and savory sauces, but more recently, I’ve been experimenting with them in cocktails. Cranberry juice is one of the most popular mixers, so why not put the whole fruit in your drink? Cranberries combine well with so many things. Citrus —especially oranges and limes— is an obvious choice, but the tart flavor and bright red color of cranberries practically begs for fresh, green herbs as well. Hello windowsill herb garden and potted citrus trees, what do you have on offer today? Basil? Ripe calamondin oranges? OK, lets play.First, I make up a basic cranberry sauce, aka cranberry “jam”, (see recipe, below). This tart, multi-use condiment will keep well, covered in the fridge, for a few days. Obviously, cranberry sauce is great on sandwiches, but it’s also delicious when swirled into plain, Greek yogurt or dabbed atop warm oatmeal with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup. But wait! Don’t eat it all! You’re gonna love using this jam in cocktails —especially this Cranberry-Basil Margarita!

Cranberry-Basil Margarita

Single recipe serves 1, Pitcher recipe serves 8

Ingredients

Cranberry Sauce

1       12 oz. package of fresh or frozen cranberries

1       cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

½     cup sugar (add more for sweet-tooths, up to 1 cup, to taste)

1        tbs fresh orange zest (optional)

Sugar-Salt 

¼       cup kosher salt

¼       cup granulated sugar

Single Cocktail 

sugar-salt mixture for rimming glass (recipe above)

1       calamondin orange or lime wedge

2       fresh basil leaves

1 ½  ounces blanco tequila (100% blue agave)

¾     ounce fresh squeezed calamondin orange or lime juice

½     ounce orange liquor, such as Cointreau, or triple sec

1       ounce cranberry sauce (recipe above)

½     ounce agave syrup (or simple syrup), or ¾ ounce, for sweeter taste

¾     cup of ice cubes (about 6-8 cubes, plus more for glass)

Pitcher of Margaritas 

sugar-salt mixture for rimming glasses (recipe above)

16     fresh basil leaves

½     cup agave syrup (or simple syrup), or ¾ cup for sweeter taste

1       cup cranberry sauce (recipe above)

4       calamondin oranges or 1 lime, cut into wedges

¾     cup fresh calamondin orange or lime juice

½     cup orange liquor, such as Cointreau, or triple sec

1 ½  cups blanco tequila (100% blue agave)

6       cups ice cubes, plus more for glasses

Directions 

For Cranberry Sauce

Heat a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice and stir in ½-¾ cup of sugar on medium-high. When the mixture begins to boil, stir in 12 oz. of cranberries. Continue stirring and allow the mixture to bubble for a minute or two. Lower the heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes. When cranberries begin to pop and juice starts to foam, turn off the heat and crush the berries with a potato masher. The sauce should be chunky, with bits of fruit and some whole berries. Consistency will become more jam-like as it cools. Cover and refrigerate (up to 3 days), until ready for use.

For Sugar-Salt

Combine sugar and salt in a small container with lid. Shake and pour onto a small plate (be sure to choose one wide enough to fit the overturned rim of your cocktail glass).

For Single Margaritas (up to two servings will fit in a standard sized cocktail shaker)

Moisten the rim of an Old Fashioned or Margarita glass with the citrus wedge (a wide-mouth, stemless wineglass will also work). Turn the rim down on the plate of sugar-salt and give it a slight twist while digging into the mixture.

In the bottom of a standard-size cocktail shaker, crush the basil leaves with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon. When coarsely mashed, add the tequila, citrus juice, orange liquor/triple sec, cranberry ‘jam’ and the agave syrup. Stir. Add ice. Cover and shake for at least 30 seconds. For a rustic cocktail, pour (or, for a more refined cocktail, strain), into the sugar-salt crusted glass and serve immediately with a citrus wedge garnish and/or sprig of fresh basil.

For Pitcher of Margaritas

In the bottom of a large pitcher, crush basil leaves with muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, until coarsely mashed. Add tequila, citrus juice, orange liquor/triple sec, cranberry ‘jam’ and agave syrup. I like to throw in a few decorative wedges of citrus when using a glass pitcher. Cover the pitcher and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until well chilled.

When ready to serve, pour the sugar-salt mixture on a small plate. Rub the rims of 2 Old Fashioned glasses with a citrus wedge (a classic margarita glass or stemless wine glass will also work, in a pinch); dip and twist the rims in sugar/salt mixture.

Stir the pitcher of margarita mix. Fill a cocktail shaker ½ full with ice and pour in 1 cup (plus) of the margarita mixture. Be sure a bit of muddled basil gets in! Shake until chilled and pour (unstrained for a rustic drink or strained for a more refined cocktail) into two of the sugar-salt crusted glasses. Garnish with a citrus wedge and basil leaf. Repeat for remaining guests or servings.

C  H  E  E  R  S   !  ! 


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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale, at no additional cost to you, will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden to help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

Plow & Hearth

Gardener's Supply Company

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Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America

December 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

A curving, dry stream at the Hoeschler Garden. Design: David Slawson. Photography: David M. Cobb, courtesy of Tuttle Publishing.

The calming nature of Zen gardens and the allure of Japanese-style has been enchanting and seducing landscape designers and gardeners throughout the wider world for well over 150 years. Stepping into a Japanese-inspired courtyard is the perfect antidote to a day spent in crowded subways, noisy streets and stressful work environments. We crave quiet and order —two areas where traditional Japanese garden designs excel— as a counter balance to our increasingly chaotic lives. But how can a North American gardener successfully integrate elements of the Japanese design aesthetic without feeling forced or veering toward kitsch?

Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America, Kendall Brown’s latest book —featuring the work of five contemporary garden designers; Hōichi Kurisu, Takeo Uesugi, David Slawson, Shin Abe and Marc Peter Keane— addresses this question. Filled with beautiful and inspirational photographs by David M. Cobb, Brown’s book highlights Japans’s design influence upon North American public and private gardens in settings ranging from urban corporations and penthouse rooftops to community hospital gardens and secluded forest clearings.

Sculptural ranges and serene expanses: a garden of stone at the Education First Building in Cambridge, MA. Design: Shin Abe. Photography: David Cobb, courtesy of Tuttle Publishing.

Shin Abe’s work (pictured above), which may be seen in many public spaces, including The United Nations’ Peace Bell Courtyard in Manhattan and the Education First building in Cambridge, MA, is striking in its natural, calming-effect within urban hardscape. The designer’s sculptural use of natural stone shapes and textures, paired with disciplined plant selections, creates a sense of serenity in noisy, chaotic, city environments. It is within these urban spaces where the Japanese design aesthetic often works so well; bridging the hard-edged and the man-made to the balancing, grounding forces of nature.

Although all five designers push Japanese-inspired garden design forward —distilling and fusing Asian inspiration into the North American landscape— the work of David Slawson (top image), and Marc Peter Keane (image below), seems most successful in the more natural environment.

From a design perspective, I often find it more difficult to successfully introduce man-made elements to nature, than to introduce natural elements to man-made environments. Knowing which aspects of Japanese garden design will translate to natural, North American environments demands a solid understanding of both. Marble chips, clipped azalea and lanterns? Risky. Moss-covered paths, local stone, artfully-pruned, native trees and reflective water bowls? Right on. Lawson and Keane have found a contemporary balance.

The sensation of movement, captured in stone. Bridge view: Tiger Glen Garden, Ithaca, New York. Design: Marc Keane. Photography: David M. Cobb, courtesy of Tuttle Publishing

Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America is an excellent introduction to the history and art of blending Japanese-inspired design ideas into urban and rural gardens on this continent; a beautiful book and a great gift for the gardener on your list who is looking for a bit of contemporary, Japanese-style landscape inspiration.

Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America. Kendall H. Brown, with Photography by David M. Cobb

A copy of this book was provided by Tuttle Publishing in exchange for independent, un-biased review. No other compensation was received. The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Tuttle Publishing, but is an affiliate of Amazon.com.

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

Plow & Hearth

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Late Autumn Hues in the Garden

December 2nd, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

Late Autumn Hues in the November Garden

December may have arrived, but as usual, I’m not quite ready to let go of autumn. Apparently, I’m also not quite ready to let go of blogging. Hello, friends. It’s been a long while.

Outside in my garden, it’s a world filled with rust-gold remnants and brilliant-colored berries. Some mornings, frost and snow cap the stonewalls, but by afternoon the water bowl has melted. Inside, I have been catching up on a bit of garden reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a new book review. It’s nice to be here again. How have you been?Dancing Light and Color in the Icy Water Bowl

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

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

Plow & Hearth

Gardener's Supply Company

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