Native Beauty of the Forest Understory: Our Graceful, Flowering Dogwood …

May 31st, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) Photograph ⓒ Tim Geiss

In my work as a garden designer, I am constantly singing the praises of native plants to my clients; encouraging them to soften the edges of their landscape by blurring the boundary between the wild and tame. As an unofficial PR agent for our beautiful  native trees and shrubs, I have to say that Cornus florida (our North American native, Flowering Dogwood), is one of the super-stars in my book. All I need do is show photos of this graceful beauty in blossom, and she’s in…

Horizontal Branching Pattern Gives this Native Tree a Graceful Presence in the Forest Understory or Garden Edge. Tim Geiss

Beautifully Formed, Delicate White Bracts. Tim Geiss

Dogwood Tim Geiss

Part of Cornus florida’s timeless appeal can be attributed to her poetic, horizontal branching pattern. When positioned in her preferred location —a semi-shaded spot with evenly moist, woodsy, acidic, well drained soil— Flowering Dogwood’s natural structure and springtime bloom is truly stunning. And in addition to her fine April/May show —which also provides sustenance to pollinators of all kinds— Flowing Dogwood shines again in autumn, when she produces colorful red fruits (attractive to many birds) and scarlet foliage. Once mature, the graceful, tiered branches of Flowering Dogwood catch snow and ice in winter, adding beauty to the barren landscape.

Native to the understory of moist, deciduous, North American forests from southern New England all the way down to Florida, and west to Ontario, Canada and the Texas/Mexico border (USDA zones 4/5-9), Cornus florida is a perfect landscape-sized tree; reaching an average height of 25-35′, with a 20′ spread. This isn’t the right species for hot, dry places in full-sun or windy, barren sites. When positioned in such a location Cornus florida will struggle and suffer; never achieving her full glory. When under stress, Flowering Dogwood is more susceptible to diseases; including borers, cankers, powdery mildew, anthracnose. In more exposed spots —or marginally hardy zones– I prefer to plant C. florida x C. kousa hybrids; including cultivars ‘Constellation’ and ‘Ruth Ellen’.  The more durable —and equally lovely, though non-native— Cornus kousa (Kousa Dogwood is native to Asia and hardy in USDA zones 4b-8) is an excellent choice for four-season landscape interest as well. Our other native, flowering dogwood, Cornus alternifolia, is also quite hardy (USDA zones 3-7), but with a distinctly different look.

Given the proper site —as pictured here at the shady edge of a clearing— Cornus florida is a stunning landscape tree. Photo ⓒ Tim Geiss

Special Thanks to Tim Geiss for All of the Beautiful Cornus Florida Photographs in This Post

Original Zone and Cultural Detail Resource: Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants

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

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Arnold’s Promise of Springtime…

March 16th, 2011 § Comments Off on Arnold’s Promise of Springtime… § permalink

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is stunning against the blue sky on a late winter day

Though it’s a bit grey and dreary here today —melancholy low fog and freezing drizzle— the promise of spring is in the air. A sure sign? Sweetly scented Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’. This gorgeous shrub literally lights up the pathway on a moody afternoon. Reliably hardy to -20° F (USDA zones 4b/5a – 9b), H. x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is one of the more sensational and reliable hybrid witch hazel cultivars for softly fragrant, early springtime blossoms. Producing generous quantities of large, bright yellow flowers and excellent, golden fall foliage, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ is a great choice for the four season garden and a favorite of early season pollinators like honeybees. If you are tempted to try a witch hazel in your garden, this is a good cultivar to begin with. Earlier and more prolific in bloom than my other favorites —including Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (pictured with profile & plant source link below) and H. x intermedia ‘Jelena’— ‘Arnold’s Promise’ takes its name from one of my favorite horticultural destinations —Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts— where the cross between H. mollis and H. japonica was discovered in 1928.

The witch hazels are a tough group of woody plants, tolerant of many locations and conditions. Given the choice, they prefer slightly acidic, moist but well drained soil that is rich in organic material. Positioning this large shrub or small tree (12′-20′ high and perhaps 15′- 20′ wide at maturity) in a protected spot (near a wind buffering, dark green conifer or warming stone wall) will increase the likelihood of a brilliant spring display and prolonged autumn foliage. Never much enchanted by the dingy yellow of the ubiquitous forsythia hedge, I much prefer the bewitching blooms of springtime Hamamelis. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’ and other witch hazels are available online (here) at Wayside Gardens.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (click on photo above for plant profile post) Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and other beautiful witch hazels are available online (here) at Wayside Gardens

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The Living Garden: Crow Feasting Upon Staghorn Sumac Berries…

March 13th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Living Garden: Crow Feasting Upon Staghorn Sumac Berries… § permalink

Crows feasting upon native staghorn sumac berries (Rhus typhina) in my garden this morning…

This morning while lingering over my breakfast, I heard some loud caw-caw-cawing coming from the edge of the back garden, and then noticed a pair of American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) enjoying an early meal of fruit from staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). With its velvety branches, brilliant fall color and bright red fruits, North American native Rhus typhina will always be high on my list of favorite four-season shrubs (read my detailed plant-profile post about this under-appreciated plant here). And beyond its value as a large-scale, landscape ornamental, sumac is an important source of food for birds and other wildlife. In late winter and early sping —when natural sources of sustenance are becoming depleted— sumac fruit and seed provides food for many returning and over-wintering birds; including crow, raven, robin, thrush, cardinals, vireos, catbirds, warblers, juncos, grouse and others.

Interested in learning more about how to attract birds to your yard with landscaping? Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great site called All About Birds, with all sorts of great tips and resources. I love their free and easy to use sound-library and identification guides. Living here in the wilds of Vermont (happily without television reception) bird and wildlife watching is one of my main forms of visual entertainment, and I am particularly fond of the dark, beautiful and intelligent crow and raven. Click here to listen to the call sounds of the American Crow and take a tour of the fantastic Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Staghorn sumac fruits (Rhus typhina) persist through winter, offering sustenance to hungry over-wintering and migratory birds.

Read more about Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) here.

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The Sweet Scent of Springtime: Bewitching Hamamelis Vernalis…

March 7th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Sweet Scent of Springtime: Bewitching Hamamelis Vernalis… § permalink

Sweetly Fragrant Hamamelis Vernalis: North American Native Vernal Witch Hazel, Cut from My Garden and Forced Inside

Copper-Orange Tassels of Witch Hazel Glow in the Afternoon Light

March, much like November, is a different month every year in New England. Some seasons, March skies are grey and late winter winds are cold; heavy snow falling long past the vernal equinox. And then there are years when March is soft; weeks of misty skies, melty temperatures and warm sunshine dancing on snow banks as they slowly disappear. This morning, I awoke to yet another ice storm —a quarter inch glaze coating trees and threatening my electrical supply— and a firm reminder that the chilly season of winter yet reigns.

Still —in spite of the relentless cold, freezing rain and mountains of snow— I know that spring is slowly coming. And during this time of transition, my anticipation always reaches a fever-pitch. I stalk the woody plants in my garden, watching for hints of color and swollen buds. And this year —with so much snow on the ground— I am especially grateful for the maturing shrubs and trees in my garden, rising above the frozen terrain…

In warmer years, Hamamelis vernalis —vernal witch hazel— blooms in early to mid-March. In colder years, this harbinger of springtime may be delayed past the equinox

Many of my favorite garden plants have two stellar seasons: spring and fall. And among my favorites, the family of Hamamelidaceae (the witch hazels) ranks very high indeed. Hamamelis vernalis —sometimes called Ozark or spring witch hazel— is native to the south-central regions of the United States and hardy in USDA zones 4-8. This is a tough, colonizing shrub; tolerant of poor, scrappy soil and a wide range of moisture levels. Vernal witch hazel is a great native plant for informal hedging, naturalizing along a woodland boundary or even for something as mundane as stabilizing a steep bank. Although her flowers aren’t nearly as large and showy as those of her more flamboyant Asian and hybrid cousins (read my post on Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ here), the perfume of her early, coppery-orange blossoms is so sweet and delightful that their petite size is easy to overlook. She’s also a glorious sight in autumn, when her softly mounded form turns brilliant gold; shimmering against the blue autumn sky.

When warm temperatures arrive early in Vermont, the bloom of vernal witch hazel sometimes coincides with, or even precedes the spring equinox. But winter seems a bit tenacious this year; unwilling to loose her grip on the sleeping green mountains. Feeling a bit weary, I decided to give myself a spring prelude —as I often do— by forcing the branches of a few early blooming favorites. Late last winter, I pruned my Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ rather heavily; bringing a large armful of branches indoors for forcing. The scent was intoxicating. This year I allowed myself but a few wayward twigs from the delicious bodnant viburnum, and instead harvested a mass of Hamamelis vernalis (read more about how to force branches here)…

Freshly harvested branches of Hamamelis vernalis cut for forcing indoors

Once harvested and prepared, I placed the bundle of witch hazel branches in my cool cellar. Slowly, I am bringing branches upstairs to enjoy their honey-sweet fragrance —strong enough to scent an entire room— and delightful, sculptural form. By month’s end, various species of witch hazel will begin unfolding their blossoms outdoors, in my garden. But for now, I can enjoy a bit of spring here inside my home…

Wonderful warm color, festive form and intoxicating fragrance: who could ask for more than a visit from the good witch on a drab-grey day

Forced witch hazel branches fill my bedroom with the delicious honey-scented fragrance of springtime

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Leaving So Soon? I Wouldn’t Hear of It! Winter’s Latest, Icy Message…

March 7th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ (Red Leaf Japanese Maple) After the Storm

With chilly fingers firmly gripping my hilltop, Winter made it clear last night that she’s nowhere near ready to go. And the entire forest —every last evergreen needle and bare twig— humbly bowed beneath the weight of her message.

Oh Springtime, where are you now… Can you hear us? Will you ever find the Green Mountains, encased in Winter’s icicle kingdom? When will you throw open the door, bringing your sweet warmth to our frozen woodland palace?

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge) Remnants, Coated in Ice

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Still Looks Lovely at the Icy End of Winter

Like Frozen Coral, the Red Twigs of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ are All Aglow Beneath a Clear, Thick Glaze After Last Night’s Ice Storm

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The Scent of Homemade Bread on a Honey Drizzled Morning…

February 26th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread and Farm-Style Butter

I Keep Dried Ornamental Grass —Miscanthus sinensis cut from the Garden– In My Bedroom Through Out the Winter Months. I Love How the Feathery Plumes and Golden Curls Catch Morning’s First Light…

Of course, I also enjoy looking at ornamental grass in the garden throughout the winter. This Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ always springs back, even after the heaviest of snow and freezing rain.

I admit, it’s tempting to jump on the anti-winter bandwagon at this time of year —seems that’s all the rage right now— but I’m not going to do that today. There’s simply too much to love about the pace of late February and early March in New England to rush things along. I enjoy watching the freeze and thaw process, and subtle changes in the fields and forest surrounding my home. Slowly now, the trees are beginning to wake up; sap running on warm days and sluggishly retreating to winter slumber each night. February snow squalls are often illuminated by bright, golden sunlight and sunset’s afterglow lingers long past five o’clock on the hills. Spring is drawing nearer every day. So, I’ll enjoy the last few weeks of hibernation from the world —weekends of sleeping in before the springtime rush begins— with homemade bread and cozy fires, and moments that linger like sweet, thick honey on a spoon.

And speaking of bread and honey… Lately my favorite spin on Jim Lahey’s famous, no-knead bread —you may remember this post about no-knead rosemary bread from last year— is a rustic, whole wheat loaf; adapted slightly to taste —at the author’s suggestion— from his fabulous book, My Bread. I like whole wheat bread served warm in the morning; fresh from the oven with farm-style butter (and by the way, I love this easy, homemade, organic butter tutorial from one of my favorite blogs, Kiss My Spatula) and a drizzle of golden honey. The scent of baking bread fills my little house with a scent I can only describe as love…

The Sweet Smell of Whole Wheat Bread Fills the House with the Most Incomparably Warm and Cozy Scent. If Unconditional Love Had a Fragrance, I Think the Scent of Homemade Bread Just Might Be It…

Whole Wheat Bread

Based upon Jim Lahey’s no-knead method from his book: My Bread

Ingredients: (makes one loaf)

2               Cups all purpose flour

1               Cup all-natural, whole wheat flour

1 1/4        Tsp salt

1/2           Tsp yeast

1 1/2        Cups cool water

Olive oil for coating bowl

Cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

First Afternoon: Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large working bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, (room temperature), and blend to a shaggy looking mix. Use olive oil to lightly coat a second large working bowl. Transfer the dough to the second bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm room, (70 degrees fahrenheit is ideal), for 18 hours. Bubbles at the surface of the dough signal that it is ready to rework.

Next morning: Dust the work surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Gently fold over a couple of times. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Once again, dust the work surface and your hands with a bit of flour and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Sprinkle a plain, smooth cotton towel with cornmeal and place the dough on center. Cover with a second cotton towel. Allow the dough to rise until double in size, (about 2 hours).

After an hour and a half of final rising: begin preheating the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. While preheating, place a  2 3/4 – 8 quart heavy, lidded pot (such as a classic Cast Iron Dutch Oven) in the center of the oven. Heat pot for 1/2 hour. Very carefully remove the hot container from oven with heavy mitts.

Slide dough into the hot pot and shake to evenly distribute. Cover the pot, return to the hot oven, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Oven temperatures will vary, so observe very carefully the first time you bake bread.

Remove bread from the oven. Roll the loaf out of the pot and cool on a wire rack. Homemade bread will stay freshest in a bread-bag, loosely wrapped or a paper bag. Wrapping a loaf of bread tightly in plastic will make the surface soft instead of crusty. It’s best to eat fresh bread the day it is baked. Smear with farm-style butter, a drizzle of pure honey and enjoy !

Late February light is different…


Promising us something a little bit softer on the other side…

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Getting Rooted: Pretty Potatoes, Colorful Carrots, Radiant Radishes & Beautiful Beets…

February 23rd, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Now that I have enlarged the potager, I’m planning a bumper crop of colorful potatoes!

Radishes and carrots make great companions, not only in salads, but in the potager as well (see pelletized carrot seed planting tip/velvet carrot recipe here, and read a carrot/radish companion planting article here)

Colorful Salad of Red and Gold Beets Arugula and Feta (Click here for recipe)

I’m getting back to my roots this week… My root vegetable roots, that is. The first carrots of the season were sown in the hoophouses last week, and I’ve just finished ordering a half dozen colorful varieties of seed potatoes from Ronnigers/Potato Garden and the Maine Potato Lady (potatoes are planted when the soil temp. reaches about 50° F, approximately 2 weeks before the last frost date. Usually that is early May here in southern VT).  I’ve been enjoying summertime produce all winter —potatoes, carrots and leeks in particular— pulled up from my cool root cellar. This year I plan on planting even more earthy jewels —in every color of the rainbow— to enjoy throughout the summer and harvest in fall for winter storage. Most root crops are planted early in the season, and some can be repeat-sown for a second, autumn harvest. So, I like to plan out this part of my garden very carefully.

Potato Hills in My Spring/Summer Potager: Here Planted with Early Crops & Flowers (incluing chard, nasturtium, peas)

Root vegetables grow best in deep, loose, sandy loam. I plant my potatoes in trenches and then hill them with soil as they grow. Potatoes may also be planted shallowly and mulched up as they grow with clean straw or other materials, or they can be grown in containers; including barrels, wire cages and bags. Other root vegetables —such as carrots and beets— are best grown directly in deep, loose soil or in raised beds. I like to grow my vegetables in wide, earthen mounds (similar to constructed beds, but with sloped sides, exposed for extra planting space) which give my crops an extra 8-12″ of depth at the root zone. There are many ways to grow vegetable crops, and how you choose to plant your garden depends largely upon your site. Raised beds offer many advantages for gardeners struggling with limited space and/or poor soil. Some vegetable growers choose to adhere to a strict ‘Square Foot Gardening‘ planting plan —popularized by Mel Bartholomew in his book by the same name— while others continue to grow crops in straight, narrowly hoed rows. My approach to potager design is a somewhat looser; closely resembling French vegetable gardening in style, with cultural methods similar to those of garden author Ed Smith (I am a fan of his classic, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, and always recommend it to my garden clients). I like to encourage gardeners to experiment with their space and adopt methods of cultivation that work best for them. Necessity is the mother of invention, and some of the most interesting horticultural innovations have come from creative, experimental growers.

Colorful vegetable crops delight the eye and jazz up the dinner plate

Last Year’s Delightful Potato Crop

I have two, somewhat overlapping careers. In addition to designing gardens and gardening professionally, I am also an exhibiting artist. And as a painter, my eye is naturally drawn to the full spectrum of color, form and textural possibilities in vegetable gardening. Sure, I grow orange carrots, red radishes and brown potatoes. But I also love electric yellow and rose-colored carrots, pink and white striped radishes, gold and ruby-hued beets, and potatoes in every color from yellow and pink to red, purple and blue. And why not? If I’m growing my own food, I might as well have fun with it. And with many colorful cultivars, the tastes are as deliciously varied as the hues.

This year I am planting Adirondack Blue and Red standard potatoes, and Peruvian Purple, Red Thumb and French fingerlings; among other varieties chosen for color, flavor and texture. As for other roots, I’ll be growing Atomic Red, Purple Haze, Deep Purple and Yellow carrots, in addition to the usual orange. And planned radish crops include French D’avignon, Watermelon, Purple Plum and Cherry Belle. As for beets? I am growing Golden, Chioggia and Merlin this spring, but if you know of something beautiful and tasty, let me know and I’ll put it in as a fall crop! I buy the bulk of my vegetable seed from several east coast companies; including High Mowing and Johnny’s and  I also order herbs, greens, flowers and gourds from Renee’s GardenBurpee, and Botanical Interests.

Pasta with Potatoes, Rocket and Rosemary (click here for recipe)

Getting the maximum productivity out of a vegetable garden’s usually-limited space is a goal most gardeners can relate to, and with a bit of creative planning, it is possible for a well designed vegetable garden to be both efficient and beautiful. If you haven’t visited this site’s “Potager” page in awhile (over to the left), you may want to click on over for a visit. I have been updating the page —and will continue to do so throughout the season— with links back to vegetable gardening articles and recipes for all of your beautiful garden produce. If you are looking for more potager ideas, I highly recommend the two excellent vegetable garden design books linked below, which I personally own and absolutely love…

Jennifer Bartley’s Designing the New Kitchen Garden is one of my favorite vegetable gardening resources. I highly recommend it. Bartley has a new book out, The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook from Timber Press. I have not seen it yet.

Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping is a title I chose to review for Barnes & Noble. This is a wonderful new book, filled with fantastic ideas for building a pretty potager all your own.

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The Early Bird Catches the Arugula… And the Chard, Spinach & Lettuce too!

February 19th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

Arugula in the Hoophouse, January

Let’s start out with a bit of honesty, shall we? The four season harvest isn’t for wimps. Winter gardening  —growing plants in temperatures below freezing to sub-zero, beneath plastic sheeting— isn’t a natural act. And although I enjoy a good game of woman vs. wild, sometimes winter gets to be a bit much around here. Shoveling decks, terraces, walkways and woodpiles is a lot of work. And now that I’ve added potager path-clearing and hoophouse roof-raking to the list, I’ve created quite a snow-removal burden. So why do it? Because the taste of fresh arugula and the smell of damp earth on a cold February day is —as the people at Mastercard say— priceless. And I think a jump-start to the short, northern growing season is worth a little extra work (OK, so it’s a lot of extra work).

Look at that delicious earth! Would you believe this photo was taken just yesterday…

Inside this unheated hoophouse the smell of sweet, springtime soil fills the moist air!

Raking out hoophouse soil to prepare for late winter crop sowing

Over the past three years —cooking more at home and experimenting in my kitchen— I’ve become more and more interested in four-season vegetable gardening. And although I haven’t made the leap to a heated greenhouse yet, I’ve found that with proper timing, I can keep some crops going in my hoophouses year round. Greens sown in late fall will germinate and then continue to grow (albeit much more slowly) throughout the short, cold days of winter. Tender crops are out of the question of course, but tasty root vegetables sown in early autumn can be harvested from cold houses straight into the new year. Seedlings require light to grow —10-12 hours of daylight is a good rule of thumb— so the sowing of seed is suspended during the weeks leading up to —and about a month and a half after– the winter solstice. But come late January, February and March —when the days are getting longer, and sunlight is getting stronger — I can begin sowing cold-hardy, late winter crops in my unheated hoophouses, for early spring harvest. Yesterday I planted a variety of greens in house #3 (arugula, chard, spinach, lettuce and mesclun mix), and I pulled spent crops and turned soil in house #1 to prepare for more planting (carrots, radishes and other crops) on my next free afternoon. If you are interested in learning more about the four-season harvest and winter vegetable gardening, I highly recommend Eliot Coleman’s books. And if you’d like to build a hoophouse of your own this spring (I now have four, with three currently in use) click here for basic plans. I’m hoping to upgrade to a larger, walk-in cold house this year.

Hoophouses protecting early fall-sown crops in late December, just before the snow (automatic back vents help moderate temperatures)

Sowing crops in hoophouse #3: Mid-February

Gardening in winter is all about science, but it sure feels like magic when you can reach your hand into sweet, sun-warmed earth on a cold and windy day. And it’s even more spectacular when you’re enjoying your own salad greens and root vegetables —harvested from an icy, snow-covered garden— at dinner in January and February. Winter pasta with fresh arugula, root-cellared onions and olive-oil preserved, sun-dried tomatoes —all from the garden— now that is priceless…

Arugula harvested from the hoophouse

Pasta with freshly harvested arugula — plus caramelized onions, braided & stored in the root cellar and sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in olive oil— all from the garden…

Here’s the potager, with house #1 and #2 buried by nearly 3′ of snow and ice. I still can’t believe they didn’t collapse. And yes, I shoveled them out all by myself. Sadly, Alfred hasn’t left Batman for me yet. I can’t figure out why…

Mountains of shoveling…

Followed by more shoveling…

And bringing in wood…

But who wouldn’t appreciate the beauty that makes it all worthwhile…

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Winter’s Quiet Beauty: Soft, Powdery Mornings & Misty Mountain Tops…

February 12th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Mist Rising in the Snow-Covered, Green River Valley

Try as I might, I can think of nothing more peaceful than the quiet stillness of Vermont’s misty, snow-covered mountains at first light…

White-Coated Conifers Frame the View to the North

The Snowy Still at Woodland’s Edge

A Dusting of Snow Traces the Outline of Every Tiny Branch

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Here Comes the Sun, Doo’n Doo Doo: Gettin’ Started with Seed Starting…

February 10th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

On your mark, get set…

Twenty degrees fahrenheit. Ow… That’s nippy! Yes, the outside temperature still says ‘winter’ loud-and-clear, but the good new is that the days are getting longer, and the sunlight is getting stronger. That means it’s just about time to get a jump on the growing season by starting seed indoors. At this time of year in Vermont, I’m already sowing chives, onions and hardy herbs indoors. Cold crops like lettuce, spinach and arugula are now growing within the spring-like climate created by the hoop houses in my vegetable garden (click here for more information on how to build your own). I’m looking forward to an even more productive potager this year, with more home-grown gourmet vegetables started from seed.

Why start seed indoors when you can just pick up vegetable six-packs in early spring at the garden center? Well, first of all, it needn’t be either/or. Even though I still buy organically-grown vegetable starts from Walker Farm (by the dozen), I have plenty of reasons to start some seed here at home. Starting seed indoors gives me a jump on the growing season; allowing me to plant certain crops outdoors, and harvest before the local garden centers even open. When I start my own seed, I also have the option of experimenting with unusual, gourmet vegetable crops. Seed catalogs (and Seed Saving exchanges) offer far more variety than any local greenhouse can possibly supply (see sidebar and links below for some sources). And if you don’t have an organic grower nearby, starting your own plants from seed insures that your produce will be raised to your own high standards: you control the quality right from the start. Although there is an initial investment in grow lights and other gardening supplies, starting your own seed indoors can save quite a bit of money over the long haul. But the best part? I get to see the entire, magnificent process of life right from the beginning. If you have children, this is a great opportunity for teaching, and a wonderful experience to share.

A fine-textured medium (growing mix) is essential for seed starting. Regular potting soil is too heavy, and won’t drain efficiently. Buy or make your own seed starting mix for best results.

Seed Starting Basics

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Start your new plants the right way: Purchase fresh seed from a reliable, organic source, near your region. Seed collected close to your own geographic area tends to perform best. Farmers in my area (New England), almost always buy their seed from New England sources. And although I do buy seed from elsewhere (some from as far away as California) I purchase the bulk of my vegetable seed packets from suppliers in nearby Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. And when choosing germinating mix, remember to always use an organic seed-starter with very fine, loose particles. Never use regular potting soil to germinate seeds. Why? It’s much heavier and it won’t drain well. Seedlings need moist, but not water-logged soil.

Select your containers and trays: Many garden centers and online suppliers have plastic or peat cell-packs available for purchase. These packs are handy, because they usually come with plastic tops to keep the starter mix moist while seeds germinate. But, you can always use plastic wrap for ths purpose if you make/recycle containers. Some of my gardening friends like to make their own biodegradable starter pots from newspaper. You can also recycle old plastic six-packs or other containers, but you must sterilize those reused pots properly with warm, soapy water and a bit of disinfectant (bleach) to prevent the spread of disease. You will also need leak-proof trays to place beneath the seeds, in order to water them from the bottom (prevents washing the tiny seeds to the side of the pots and/or disturbing delicate roots). Whatever you choose to use, get everything ready —in one place— before you start.

Set up grow lights: While it’s true that you can start seed in a brightly lit window (I do this with some windowsill herbs) you will get much better results (stronger root systems, stems and overall growth) if you use grow-lights positioned close to the seed trays. You can use regular florescent shop-lights, or you can purchase grow-lights (available at many garden centers and online suppliers). If you are serious about starting seed indoors (or growing tropical houseplants) grow lights are a great investment. If you already own grow-lights, clean them and check bulbs and timers before you start your seed. Most vegetable seeds do not require heat-pads for germination. But it’s always a good idea to check the back of seed packets before you start, to be clear on requirements. Grow lights work best when they are raised up as the seedlings develop, keeping them close to (but not touching) the leaves. Crafty gardeners can try to construct their own systems, but grow-light systems —either floor or table mounted— can be purchased at all price points. Aim for durable, quality construction – with stands built to last.

Quality grow lights (like the one above, from Gardener’s Supply Company) are a great investment if you are serious about getting a jump-start on the growing season.

Time your starts: Check the back of your seed packets for the number of days to germination, and the start date. Usually the packet will list the start date by referencing the number of weeks prior to the last frost date. Do you know your last frost date? Check with your local USDA cooperative extension service (click here for interactive map) or, the awesome, easy-to-use table for common vegetable start dates on The Farmer’s Almanac website (Just enter your city and state in the pace provided – love the Farmer’s Almanac)! If you live in zone 4 or 5, February is a good time to start onions, leeks, chives, celery and hardy herbs. Later this month (or early March) you can begin cool-season crops like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and brussels sprouts. Unless you are located in zone 7 or warmer, wait to start warm-season crops (like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant) until mid to late March, or even early April.

Moisten the starter mix and fill containers: One the best ways to insure that your seedlings have plenty of moisture is to soak your germinating mix overnight prior to planting. I like to wet the mix in a big tub the night before planting; adding enough warm water to make it damp, but not soupy. I know the starter medium is ready to use when all of the water is absorbed and the mixture is moist like a fresh cupcake, but not wet and gloppy like mashed potatoes. If you try to form a ball it should crumble apart, but still feel moist to the touch (just like natural garden soil at planting time, remember how great that smells?)

Hello baby!

Plant your seeds in the containers: Plant two to three seeds per cell (you will thin the plants later) Not sure of how deep to plant? The back of the seed packet should list planting depth. But if it doesn’t, aim to plant the seed three times as deep as it is large (measuring by diameter).

Cover the seeds and wait for germination: Once all the seeds are planted and set in their trays, cover them with the plastic tops, or loosely with plastic wrap (to contain moisture and raise humidity) and place them in a 60-75 degree (fahrenheit) room. Be sure that the catch trays are filled with water, and check the seed starts daily to insure that the soil remains moist. A plastic spray-misting bottle can be useful in the early stages of seed starting to insure that the surface of soil remains moist. Seed trays can be placed beneath grow lights, but you won’t need to turn them on until the seeds pop out of the soil. Again, unless the seed requires warmer germination temperatures (or if you are starting plants in a cool/dark spot like a cellar) you won’t need heating pads for the trays.

Sunflowers are an exciting and easy crop for youngsters to grow in recycled milk cartons. But wait a bit longer on this crop. February is too soon to start sunflowers in New England…

Light up their life: As soon as the seeds germinate, they’ll need at least 12 hours of light per day (and for many vegetables 14-18 hours is even better) In these northern parts, this is where grow-lights come in. Remembering to turn lights on-and-off can be tricky at first, and an inexpensive timer can really be your best work-buddy!

Feed me Seymour!: Once the seedlings have a set of “true” leaves (as opposed to the tiny seed leaves, which emerge first), give them their first meal: a bit of dilute, organic fertilizer (I use a very weak fish emulsion solution, diluted in water).

Biodegradable pots allow room for root development, and can be popped right into the soil (no struggling to remove tiny plants without damage!)

Transition time: Once spring closes in, seedlings will begin to really take off. As certain young plants grow, they will need thinning and perhaps later, transplanting to larger pots before being “hardened off” (process of bringing seed outdoors for short periods of time to adjust to outside temperatures and light). We’ll talk more about this process later. In meantime, If you are starting many seeds, it’s also wise to invest in a fan for air circulation. Check with some of the seed supply sources linked here for more information, or visit your local garden center. It’s also helpful to have some larger sized pots and regular potting soil on hand for later. Peat pots (or other biodegradable containers) are particularly good for the purpose of transplanting, because they can be placed directly into the soil. This reduces root-disturbance and makes for a swifter, stress-free transition into garden soil.

And although we are all anxious to get back out in the sweet earth, resist the urge to rush tender plants into a cold garden. Unless you have hoop houses, row covers, cloches or other protection for your crops, it’s too risky to push them out before the recommended date (again refer to the links at the top of this post). I’ll be writing more about the process of seed starting over the coming weeks and months.

For more information and seed sources, please visit previous posts, linked here!

Here comes the sun! It may still be a little early for most vegetable starts, but growing windowsill herbs (like chives and cilantro) is fun and easy anytime…

Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his fantastic seed starting photos. Visit Tim’s site here.

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Article and noted photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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The Wonderful Wizard of Winter: Native, Snow-Draped Canadian Hemlock

February 10th, 2011 § Comments Off on The Wonderful Wizard of Winter: Native, Snow-Draped Canadian Hemlock § permalink

Tsuga canadensis – Native Canadian Hemlock

I try very hard not to play favorites with the plants growing in and around my garden. In fact, you may have noticed that I’ll refer to a preferred species as ‘one of my favorites’, as opposed to ‘my favorite’. After all, I truly love each and every one of them, and I wouldn’t want to hurt any of their feelings. Still, there are a few stand-out, four-season beauties that I can not imagine living without. And in the great world of conifers, I must admit that I am quite partial to our native Tsuga canadensis, commonly known as the Canadian or Eastern hemlock. Though graceful and verdant year-round, Canadian hemlock is a true stunner in the winter garden. After a snow storm —when Tsuga canadensis is cloaked in a fresh coat of powder or ice— it’s impossible not to think of the enchanted forests of fairy tales. I absolutely adore this feathery, magical evergreen.

A few years ago —when I was planting an informal hedge of Canadian hemlock at a private residence— one of my garden clients told me that the shape of the hemlock tree reminded her of a wizard’s hat. Well I already liked this woman, but as soon as she said that, I knew I was going to love working with her. For long as I can remember, I’ve always thought of the Canadian hemlock as a Winter Wizard or even a Warlock (a masculine witch). And as a child, I loved playing beneath the tent-like boughs of hemlock stands; draped in heavy, sparkling white robes after a snow storm. Hemlock is a magnificent native tree; one I never grow tired of praising.

The pliant boughs of Tsuga canadensis are less likely to break when covered in heavy snow and ice

The outer branches of hemlock trees, as well as the tip or leader, are narrow and flexible. The pliant boughs give hemlock the distinctly cascading, somewhat melancholy appearance I find so enchanting. But more importantly, the springy quality of the outer wood gives this native tree an ability to shed snow and ice, avoiding winter breakage –a common problem for other conifers, such as white pine. Hemlock needles are softly rounded; blue-green on the top and silvery on the reverse (the shiny-whitish color is created by tiny openings along the backside of the needles called stomata, which —for lack of a better word— allow the tree to ‘breathe’). When breezes blow through a hemlock’s bows, the pale undersides of its needles are exposed to light; creating a subtle, shimmering effect. Growers have worked with this trees beautiful cascading habit and needle coloration, developing cultivars with mint-tinged branch tips and weeping forms. And because it responds well to pruning, eastern hemlock offers four-season privacy screening when grown as a soft, ever-green hedge in semi-shaded, moist sites. The feathery, deep green needles provide a lovely contrast and sensual backdrop in many of my garden designs.

The Tops of Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) boughs are covered with dark, blue-green needles

On the reverse side, Tsuga canadensis needles have a light, almost silvery-green color. And when wind blows through the branches, lifting and exposing the undersides of needles to flashes of light, the Canadian hemlock takes on a subtle, gorgeous, two-tone appearance.

With a North American range spanning from Nova Scotia southward to the mountains of Alabama and westward to Minnesota (USDA zones 3 – 8/9) Tsuga canadensis is commonly found in moist, shady woodlands; often along forest streams or cool, north-facing ridge lines. Because of their wide-spread but shallow-root tendency, hemlock are vulnerable to drought, but are less likely to be knocked down in high winds. Here at the northeastern crest of my ledgy site, substantial stands of native hemlock provide a safe haven and nesting habitat for local birds as well as food (seeds, twigs, bark and needles) and shelter for various mammals (including squirrels, porcupines and deer). Although hemlock can grow over 100 feet in ideal conditions, they typically reach 40-70 feet within their native range. When grown as a specimen tree in the open —or planted in small groups—hemlock will develop a soft, full, conical shape (yes, shaped quite like a wizard’s hat).

Because hemlock trees produce acidic tannins, they are quite disease and insect-resistant. However, there exists one recent and notable exception: the wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). Closely related to common aphids, this invasive insect pest —introduced from Asia— has the potential to wipe out native, eastern hemlock populations (read more about this pest and how infestations are treated at the UMass Extension Service website here). Although I have not seen the wooly adelgid in my immediate area, I am constantly on the lookout for this destructive insect when pruning hemlock hedges for my clients in early spring. Currently, the only effective, organic treatment for wooly adelgid is thorough, repeat applications of horticultural oil. Entomologists continue to search for natural, biological adelgid controls, and I have high hopes for the tree’s survival. I simply can not imagine the northeastern landscape without my beloved Winter Wizards…

This Canadian hemlock trio forms a soft, four-season screen at the northeastern edge of my garden

Here in late November, the Tsuga canadensis trio provides color and textural contrast and backdrop to the red-twig dogwood, birch and ornamental grasses in the foreground of the entry garden

This beautiful, weeping hemlock (Tsuga candensis ‘Pendula’) —pictured here at The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts— is one of the finest examples, and uses of the pendulous form, that I have ever seen. See more photos, and read a bit about The Bridge of Flowers by revisiting this post (click here).

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Stolen Moments with Sleeping Beauty: Wintry Gardens & Morning’s First Blush

February 7th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Drips Frozen in Motion: Ice-Glazes the Branches of this Halesia tetraptera (Mountain Silverbell)

Setting aside my busy-work for an hour this morning, I found myself wandering along the garden’s ice-clad pathways; camera and steaming teacup in-hand.  With pink sunlight illuminating glassy tree-tops, I couldn’t resist a peek at Sleeping Beauty —the garden deeply slumbering— in all of her blush-tinged, glistening glory…

Ice-Pink Dawn

Cornus kousa’s Spectacular Branches

The Studio Balcony in Winter

Deceptively Beautiful Danger – With heavy, ice-laden branches crashing to the forest floor, I enjoy this stunning winter spectacle from safety of my woodland clearing…

Morning Sunlight on the Ice-Covered Hills…

Blushing Birch Bark (Betula populifolia x Whitespire ‘Royal Frost’)

Icy Globes: Frozen Viburnum bodnantense buds appear suspended in unfurling motion

Ice, as delicate as tissue paper, clings to stone in the morning light

These ruby-red branch-tips (Acer palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’) are a pretty color-contrast to the lovely moss-clad stone

As if reaching from beneath the rock-walls, Winter’s icy fingers emerge from every nook and cranny in the garden

Lichen and Moss Warm Winter’s Stone in Fuzzy Green and Rust Tones

The Secret Garden Door Stands Open to Winter’s Gusts and Freezing Showers

And the Skeletal Blue-Green Dragon Catches Sunlight on Her Lacy, Red-Tipped Branches

I Wonder, While She Sleeps, Does the Garden Dream of Spring’s Sweetness?

Frozen Droplet (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’)

Hole in the Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’)

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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A Warm, Sweet Welcome for February: Forcing Narcissus Indoors…

February 1st, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Hello February – Golden Greetings in the Entryway {Forced Narcissus}

A Bit of Golden Color to Brighten Stormy, Grey Days…

Welcome February…

It’s the first day of February, and outside my front door, snow is falling steadily and the sky is a gloomy, powder grey. Overnight, a winter storm swirled in, and the forecast warns of a wintry mix with more than two feet of new snow. For those of us living in northern climes, this can be a long, tough month. Dingy snowbanks, endless shoveling and bitter, cold days can take a toll on even the sunniest of dispositions. And much as I love the spare landscape, winter sports and cozy nights by the fire, I always crave a bit of bright color at this time of year.

Every fall, while ordering and planting my bulbs, I plan a little indoor extravaganza to help me through the long winter months. Many spring flowering bulbs can be forced indoors, bringing a bit of April’s garden to my world in February. Most bulbs require a cool, dark period prior to blooming in spring (exceptions to this rule include paper white narcissus, which may be purchased, planted and forced right away). And with a bit of planning, it’s possible to mimic those natural conditions and enjoy a little prelude to spring. I pot up left-over bulbs in all sorts of containers, water them well and cover with black plastic and an elastic band. Store potted bulbs in a cool dark place (a garage, basement, root cellar, outbuilding, etc), and check on them in about a month, watering enough to keep bulb roots moist, but never soggy. After 8-10 weeks, you can begin bringing the bulbs into your living space (cooler rooms are best). I like to bring them out in waves, saving the bulk of the show for the dreariest New England months: late February and early March.

Pre-Chilled Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or and a Glass Bowl filled with Decorative Stone/Charcoal for Drainage.

But even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still enjoy the pleasure of forced bulbs. Pre-chilled bulbs and paper white narcissus —purchased and potted up now— will begin to bloom in a month or two; ushering in spring a little earlier! With prepared bulbs, the forcing process is foreshortened, but the first few steps are quite similar. Practice this way, and next year, write yourself a forcing reminder for late fall. This is a fun project to share with kids, and a great make-your-own gift for Valentines Day, Passover or Easter. A pretty container will make the arrangement extra special, and it can be recycled after the blooms are spent. Remember not to expect bulbs forced in gravel to grow and bloom the following year. Compost these plants and start again next year, as you would with annuals in your outdoor containers.

Many garden centers, florist shops and online retailers offer pre-chilled bulbs and paper whites. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has a fantastic selection (click here for link). Think of these bulbs as you would annuals: meant for growing and enjoying for this season only. Some good choices (among many) for forcing in gravel, include: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or (pictured above: produces sweetly fragrant flowers with golden petals and bright orange trumpets 6-8 weeks after planting), Angels in Water, Craigford and Chinese Sacred Lilies. Keep in mind that some narcissus —including the delightful miniature Tete a Tete— perform best when potted up in soil as opposed to gravel. When in doubt about how to force a particular cultivar, check with the retailer for advice on proper growing mediums/procedure. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is a great online resource.

Pre-Chilled Grand Soleil d’Or Settled into a glass container filled about 1/3 full with a base of pea stone and a few pieces of horticultural charcoal (for freshness).

How to Force Narcissus in Containers Filled with Gravel

Materials:

Bulbs specifically prepared for forcing (pre-chilled in a dark place) or paperwhites

Horticultural charcoal

Decorative pea stone, gravel, rocks or glass

A bowl or other container without drainage holes (glass is lovely if you like to look at the stone). Size will depend upon the type of bulbs you have chosen to grow. Using a deep container can be helpful in supporting taller bulbs.

Green wire plant supports for taller bulbs (available at florist or craft supply stores)

Instructions:

Wash the container and stones thoroughly and dry. Fill the base of the container with a small amount of decorative stone. Add a handful of charcoal bits and then fill the container about 1/3 full. Make planting space for bulbs, and nestle them in; packing them tight together for support. Add more decorative stone or glass until the bulbs are about 2/3 concealed (leave the ‘shoulder’ and green tips free). You can use all one kind of stone, or get creative and mix it up.

Fill a jug with lukewarm water and fill the container about 1/3 of the way up. You want the water at the roots, but not soaking the bulb itself. Eventually, the roots will extend down toward the base of the container. Even prepared bulbs grow best when given a bit of darkness (exception: paperwhites). Place the container in a basement or cool closet for 2-3 weeks, checking the water level every few days as the roots extend. IMPORTANT: Never let the roots dry out.

When watering, rumor has it that adding a bit of vodka or gin to the mix can assist with stronger stem and leaf growth. But keeping the bulbs in a cool, dark place (for a 2-3 week period before forcing) seems to work just as well if you lack a stocked liquor cabinet.

Forced bulbs last longest in cooler rooms. I keep mine near the entry way door, where they provide a cheerful welcome and never mind the drafts. If the stems begin to flop, it can be helpful to hold them up with green florists stakes and tape (discreetly position the supports toward the center of the container and pull up slightly – a bit of droop looks natural and relaxed). Be sure to keep thirsty bulbs well-watered but never swamped.

Enjoy!

Forced Narcissus Tete a Tete, Beside the Entryway Door

A Prelude to Spring

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Ruby-Gold Cake & Silvery Snowflakes: Warm Cranberry-Apple Buckle, with Sweet Vanilla Crumb, Kisses the Dawn…

January 15th, 2011 § 8 comments § permalink

Cranberry-Apple Buckle with Vanilla Crumb – Lace Plate by Virginia Wyoming

Why pine for springtime when winter mornings arrive with sparkling frost and sunlight pouring across the hillside like sweet honey? I savor the slow, quiet days of winter, and I’m in no rush for spring. For now I’ll linger in my cozy chair, indulging in garden fantasies, verdant catalogues, leisurely breakfasts and steamy cups of tea. Instant gratification has its place, but waiting can be exquisite pleasure. In fact, I truly believe that anticipation is one of life’s greatest delights.

In the fall of 2009, I visited Vermont artist Virginia Wyoming‘s pottery studio for a feature article here on The Gardener’s Eden. The moment I stepped inside the artist’s work shop, I was immediately smitten by her lace-patterned plates. They were sitting out on her work table, some still in progress. I loved everything about them: the color, the texture, the hand-formed shape. I wanted one desperately, but I made myself wait. I felt I needed to earn such a lovely reward. Of course, I thought about the lace plates quite a bit; stalking them online in her Etsy shop for an entire year. And then, just before the holidays, I returned to Virginia’s studio to collect a few treasures. Anticipation… Thank goodness, the lace plate was still there…

Impossible Geometry: Crystalline Lace on Barn Boards

Morning Light Silhouettes a Mountain Silverbell on the Studio Wall

The Tree Line Glimmers and Shimmers with Silvery Hoar Frost

Even From a Distance, Each Tiny, Frost-Coated Branch Stands Out Against the Hillside’s Blue Shadow

Morning Star Dust: Rustic Charm meets Sugar-Coated Glamour

Today —with the garden and surrounding forest covered in tiny, frozen ice crystals— I remembered that frost is what first came to mind when I saw Virginia’s lace plates. With their striking textural contrast —rough-hewn shape and delicate lace pattern— and wintery color, they recall the work of my elusive friend, Jack Frost. Delighted by the cool ice crystals and the warm morning light, and the similarity in Virginia’s plate, I decided to play with the theme in my kitchen.

Rustic Fruit Desserts by Vermont-native Julie Richardson, and co-author Cory Schreiber, is one of my favorite, recent cookbook acquisitions. Given my weakness for all things tart —as well as everything apple, pear and berry— I simply had to add this delicious collection of recipes to my kitchen library. The buckle I made today is actually a combination of two recipes from Rustic Fruit Desserts. In winter, I keep local apples in cold storage in my cellar, and cranberries in my freezer. I thought the two would combine well to make a nice breakfast buckle. Indeed. You really shouldn’t take my word though, you must taste for yourself. Mmmm. Anticipation…

Cranberry-Apple Buckle with Sweet Vanilla Crumb

From combined treasures found between the pages of Rustic Fruit Desserts

Ingredients:Cranberry-Apple Buckle:

1               Tablespoon unsalted butter at room temp

1 3/4        Cups all-purpose flour

2               Teaspoons baking powder

1/2            Teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2            Cup unsalted butter

3/4            Cup granulated sugar

Zest          Of one orange

2               Eggs at room temperature

1               Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2            Cup sour cream

2               Cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1               Cup apples (cored, peeled and diced)

Vanilla Crumb Topping

1/2            Cup all-purpose flour

1/4            Cup brown sugar

1/4            Cup granulated sugar

1/8            Teaspoon fine salt

1/4            Cup cold, unsalted butter (cut into cubes)

1 1/2         Teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Butter a 9″, square baking dish and set aside.

To make the vanilla crumb topping: combine the butter, flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer: Pulse or mix on low speed until coarse crumbs form. Slowly add the vanilla and and mix briefly. Cover and set aside in the fridge.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer w/paddle (or use a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar together with the orange zest on med-high speed until creamy and light (5 minutes). Slowly add each egg, one at a time –be sure to mix the sides in well– and then add the vanilla. Pour in about half the sour cream, then half the flour mixture. When blended, add the other half of the sour cream, and finally add the remaining flour. Mix well, making sure to stop and pull in all ingredients from the side of the bowl. Stop the mixer and stir in one cup of cranberries and one cup of apples.

Spread the mixture into the buttered baking dish. Pour the remaining cup of cranberries over the top of the buckle in one even layer. Remove the vanilla crumb topping from the fridge and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cranberries.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a wooden stick pulls out clean when inserted in the center of the buckle.

Cool for a few minutes and serve.

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Virginia Wyoming’s Pottery may be viewed and purchased online at her Etsy shop by Clicking Here

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Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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A Tough Broad for all Seasons: This Sulfur-Tipped, Ice-Blue Chameleon Really Knows How to Wear the Pants…

January 14th, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ atop the Secret Garden Steps in January

It’s easy to get gardeners excited when I talk about big stars like hydrangea, azalea and viburnum. And most everyone swoons over those voluptuous and intoxicating bombshells: the roses, French lilacs and tree peonies. But junipers? Why they’re a lonely and oft-neglected group of garden workhorses who’s only claim to fame seems to be gin. It’s sad really, because once you get to know them, they’re such a great bunch of broads to hang around with in the garden…

Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ atop the Secret Garden Steps the Morning After a January Snow Storm

Take single-seed juniper ‘Holger’ for example. What a stunner. Like all great broads, she’s tough as nails, a bit cool-looking and often prickly when you try to push her around. You’d best put your gloves on if you want to mess with her. But she has a soft side of course, and in this case it comes in a gorgeous shade of mellow, sulpur-yellow; which she shows off against her icy needles in the springtime sun…

Sulphur-Tipped New Growth Glows Atop Ice-Blue Needles – Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and a Carpet of Thymus

All the year round, Holger juniper offers stunning blue-green color; a gorgeous, cool and soothing contrast to almost anything planted nearby. A medium-sized, moderately spreading conifer (3-5′ high and wide), Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ is easy to care for and drought resistant once established. All this tough shrub (USDA zones 4-8) requires is full sun, well drained soil, and good air circulation. Useful as a ground cover, wind break, slope stabilizer and outdoor room divider, the design possibilities of Holger juniper are limited only by a gardener’s imagination. Looking for a way to enhance blue or violet hued flowers in springtime? The sulphur-yellow tips of this conifer are the perfect contrast. Want to show-off bold autumn colors in the landscape? Plant Holger juniper near deciduous shrubs and the icy-blue needles will bring out the electric orange and red of fall. Need a reliable, deer-resistant screen for a less-than-attractive air conditioning unit or other household utility? This year-round beauty could be the answer…

Holger juniper not only stabilizes this slope, but it also gives structure and soft definition to the lines of this hillside planting surrounding the Secret Garden Steps

The Ice-Blue Tips of Holger Juniper Stand Out in the Landscape, and Contrast with Other Warm-Toned Plantings Throughout the Seasons

In Autumn, Holger Juniper’s Blue-Green Needles are a Gorgeous Contrast to Red, Gold and Rust (Here with Hydrangea quercifolia and Solidago)

Sunny, cloudy, rainy or dry; Holger juniper looks clean, fresh and pulled together. Like all members of the juniper clan, Holger can be occasionally troubled by insects or disease —spider mites, scale or aphids, or perhaps cedar-apple rust, twig blight or wood rot— but such problems can usually be avoided when her humble requirements (listed above) are met. She’s got great style and requires only the occasional bit of pruning from artfully handled secateurs to maintain her shape here at the edge of the path. A great conifer like Holger juniper helps to give a garden year-round structure. Consider a grouping of juniper as an evergreen wall or low, living fence; a way to define the garden in addition to hard-scaping…

And later, during the quiet season, when most other garden plants have shed their leaves and withered to the ground, juniper carries on the show; shrugging off the ice, the snow and the cold. I have many juniper species and cultivars in my garden, but for season-spanning beauty, ‘Holger’ truly tops the list. She’s tall enough to rise above a drifting white blanket in winter, and interesting enough to hold her own beside the most vibrant of garden companions. Never underestimate the tough broads –they’ll never let you down…

Holger Juniper Holds Her Own, Draped in a New White Cloak on a Cold Winter’s Night

Holger Juniper Atop the Stairs with a Light Dusting of Snow in December

And Like Most of Her Cousins, This Tough Lady Can Carry a Heavy Load

A True-Blue Beauty Throughout the Seasons – Juniperus Squamata ‘Holger’

Come to think of it… If she were human, I think Holger juniper would be Katherine Hepburn. She’s a tough, bristly beauty and she really knows how to wear the pants. Photograph Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures via Lifetsyle.MSN.com

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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Golden Light & Glistening Gardens on a Frosty Winter’s Morn…

January 12th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Sunrise on the Frosty Tufts of Miscanthus sinensis

As a winter snow storm swirls about outside, my thoughts drift back to yesterday’s frosty morning, and the glistening, pink-gold sunrise. If today she reveals her wild fury, I am reminded that this tempestuous season more often shows us her beauty…

Morning Light on Humulus lupulus (Golden Hops Vine) with Frost Crystals

Silhouetted Branches of Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ at Sunrise

Frost Crystals on Rudbeckia hirta, Gleam and Glisten in the Golden Sunlight

Gilded Korean Dogwood Branches (Cornus kousa) and Luminous Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mohawk’ at the South-Eastern Edge of My Winter Garden

Silver-Tipped Twigs Strung Along a Chilly Cable-Rail (Humulus lupulus)

These Star-Dusted, Feathery Plumes Seem Fit for the Most Glamorous of Shoulders (Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens)

The Beautiful, Crystal-Flecked Tea Viburnum Berries Remind Me of Shoulder-Grazing, Ruby Chandeliers

In this Moment, Could January be Upstaged by June?

Perfect Prisms – The Delightful Geometry of Frost Crystals in Pink-Gold Sunlight

At the Edge of the Garden, Saplings Form a Crystal Curtain

The Frosty Red-Twigs of this Japanese Maple Glow Brightly Against the Native Hemlock Forest

The Stillness of a Frosty Morning and a Perfect Winter Sunrise

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Little Romance on a Winter’s Night…

January 8th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

Though the holidays have come and gone, snow-dusted landscapes continue to enchant. Twinkling, candlelit stairs, luminous paths and glowing, snow-capped tabletops greet the frosty evening. Meanwhile inside, a toasty fire crackles, and the scent of red wine & mulling spices warms the air.

A Little Romance on a Winter’s Night…

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Words and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Wishing You An Enchanted Evening & A Magical & Very Happy New Year !

December 31st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Cheers !   xo Michaela

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Photography ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Stonework is by Vermont Artist Dan Snow

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of Michaela and/or The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.  Thank you.

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Sparkles, Drifts, Patterns & Shadows: The Beauty of a Frosty Winter’s Morn…

December 30th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Frosty Holiday Decorations

Oh, the shimmering, glimmering glamour of a frost-covered garden! After days of howling wind, I awoke to a still hush and brilliant sunrise. I simply had to rush outside to greet the glistening morn. Of course, there was no time to change into snow boots and jacket. Oh no. So I grabbed my camera and ran, bundled up in my fluffy robe and fuzzy slippers, to enjoy the first light of day. If it was cold, I never noticed. Such is the power of beauty. Even in winter, the garden beckons her faithful servant with a seductive call. And even in the quiet season, she never disappoints…

Sparkles, Drifts and Shadows (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’, Juniperus sargentii and Rudbeckia hirta shadows)

The Frost Covered Fire Sculpture Awaits New Year’s Eve Celebrations

Rudbeckia and Solidago Dance in Sparkling Snow

Frost-Coated Furniture on the Stone Terrace

And Color? Oh Yes. The Garden Still Sings in Red, Green and Gold (Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ and Kalmia latifolia)

Golden Miscanthus sinensis Shines Against the Violet-Grey Mountains, Bare Tree Branches and Cerulean Blue Sky

The Delightfully Shiny, Bright-Red Fruit of Viburnum setigerum

Rudbeckia Hirta Seed Heads Soak Up the Sun

Two Paths Diverge – Dramatically

A Wind-Blown Patch of Bare Textured, Lawn

And Piles of Sensual, Sparkling Snow

The Tippy Tops of Hosta Seem to Rise from Winter Slumber to Greet the Shimmering Morn…

Winter Borders Gleam, Greeting the Wandering Gardener

A Beautiful Way to Begin the Day…

With Sparkles and Shadows on Snow Drifts

Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow…

December 27th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

The Ornamental Grass Border, Swirling with Snow Flurries (Miscanthus sinensis and Physocarpus opulifolius)

At last, Winter has truly arrived in New England… And it’s a beautiful wonderland! Out come the sleds, the snowshoes, the skis and the shovels. On go the mittens and hats, the long, woolen scarves and the tall, sheepskin boots. Fire up the wood stove and mix up the hot cocoa. It’s time to play………….. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Snow Flakes and Conifers

Blowing and Drifting Snow – Native Beech, Cherry and Maple at Forest-Edge

Glittering Gusts of Wind in the Hills

The Colors of Winter: Beech, Birch and Juniper

The Empty Garden

A Snow-Blasted Stonewall Laced with a Collar of Winterberries and Juniper

Secret Garden Door

Delicate, Blonde Fountain Grass in Snow (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

Flame Grass Holding Back the Snow Drifts (Miscanthus purpurascens)

The Lacy Web of Climbing Hydrangea (H. petiolaris)

Snow Blankets the Forest, and Miles of Woodland Trails

Stands of Ornamental Grass Swaying in the Wind

Winter’s Geometry: Snow Drifts and Ice Patches

Article and Photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Winter Dreams and Frosty Fantasies: Magical, Snow-Covered Tree Houses…

December 16th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Treehouse by Amazon Tree Houses – UK – This UK-based company designs and builds some of the most beautiful treehouses I have ever seen. They are truly fuel for fantasies and fairytales…

Imagine being awakened by a gentle rocking sensation as wind sways your nest; watching snow flurries dance, high up in the treetops. Could there be anything more magical than a holiday spent in a treehouse, nestled in the snow-covered boughs of a deep-green conifer? Childhood fantasies were re-ignited this morning when, after a bit of inspiration from Lace and Tea, I toured the fantastic websites and blogs featured here {click on attached image links or text directly below). If you’ve ever entertained the notion of building a treehouse in your garden, these web-resources and books {linked below} will help get you started.

Building a treehouse is a long-standing dream; one I share with many, no doubt. And wouldn’t a homebuilt nest —cloaked in icicles in the limbs of an ancient tree— make a great guest-house? {sigh}. For your winter-garden dreams and frosty-forest-fantasies…

Treehouse by Takashi Kobayashi – Treehouse People –  Japan – Organic and extraordinarily beautiful, the treehouses designed and built by this Japanese artist seem at one with both nature and the imaginary world…

Treehouse by the Treehouse Guy – Peter Lewis – USA – I could spend days on Peter’s wonderful blog. Both the author’s story and his beautiful treehouse studio are utterly captivating…

Treehouse by Baumraum – A German-Based Design Firm. This is the website that initially launched my research. Baumraum has built a solid, international reputation for gorgeous, innovative design and beautiful treehouses…

More Tree House Resources & Gift Books…

New Treehouses of the World by Peter Nelson

Treedom: The Road to Freedom by Takashi Kobayashi

Treehouse Chronicles by S. Peter Lewis

How-To Build a Tree House: Home Tree Home by Peter Nelson

A new book is also now available from Baumraum, but not yet available through Amazon.com. Please see their website for details.

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All photo-links in this source list and review are copyright as noted. Please visit respective websites for more information.

Article ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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