The Song of Summertime Salad …

June 28th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Song of Summertime Salad

On long summer days —in order to beat the heat and burning rays of the noontime sun— I typically start my day quite early. There are many things to love about the daybreak hours, from birdsong and dew drops to shimmering morning light. If I’m working nearby, I try to come home at mid-day for lunch on the terrace. I love dining al fresco beneath the dappled shade of my two silverbell trees (Halesia tetraptera), and when I’m expecting to be very busy —particularly when the mercury rises— I like to make a garden-fresh salad and chill it in the fridge ’til I get home. Sometimes I make this feta and green bean salad (click here for recipe), but often I just mix up a simple bowl of arugula and leaf lettuce and toss it with fresh feta and homemade dressing. I call it the Song of Summertime Salad, because according to rumor, I hum when I’m out gathering the greens …

The Path to My Potager is Lined with Perennials and Herbs (Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ and ‘Patriot’, Valerian officinalis, Aruncus dioicus ‘Goat’s Beard’)

Vegetables, like this potato, also produce pretty flowers

Rounding the Corner to the Kitchen Garden Entry

A Basket of Zinnia Dresses up an Old Collapsing Chair

Fragrant Dianthus Attracts Butterflies & Gardeners Alike (Tiger Swallowtail)

Although I plant few red flowers, scarlet is truly my favorite color

Sweet, Sweet, Summertime Scent

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ with Dew Drops

Freshly Harvested Arugula and Leaf Lettuce…

A basket of herbs and potager posies {The pretty, “Everlasting Sunshine” plate is from Anthropologie; a gift from my good friend Mel}

With Freshly Harvested Greens, I Prefer My Dressing Homemade and Light

Coming Home for Lunch on the Terrace is One of my Favorite Summertime’s Pleasures

The Song of Summertime Salad

Salad Ingredients:

2     Cups Freshly Harvested Arugula Leaves

2     Cups Fresh Red or Blush Edged Leaf Lettuce

1     Cup Any Other Green (Spinach, Beet, Chard, Dandelion)

3/4  Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese

1     Cup Fresh Edible Flowers (I like Pansies & Nasturtium)

Fresh Herb Dressing Ingredients:

1/2   Cup Olive Oil

1/4   Cup Champagne or White Wine Vinegar

2      Tbs Fresh Squeezed Lime, Lemon or Orange Juice

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Basil

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Summer Savory

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Pineapple Mint (or any other mint)

2      Tbs. Fresh Chopped Lemon Thyme

1/2   Tsp Kosher Salt

1/4   Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Directions for Dresssing: Whisk oil, vinegar, citrus juice together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper and whisk more. Stir in the chopped herbs and pour into a lidded jar. Refrigerate.

Directions for assembling salad. Triple wash all greens and dry out the leaves in a salad spinner. Crumble the feta over the leaves while gently tossing. Shake the jar of dressing and slowly add while tossing to just coat the leaves. Save the extra dressing and use within a week. Transfer the salad into a large serving bowl and toss pansies and nasturtium on top.

Serve Chilled and Enjoy! xo M

So Pretty and Refreshing

Ferncliff Gardens & Kitchen Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina. For design inquiries, see my professional services page at left.

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

June 27th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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:


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


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

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