How to Create a Low Maintenance Garden

dreamstime_xl_63837083For over 30 years I have been a passionate gardener, spending every weekend and evening creating a huge perennial garden of jungle-like proportions. I loved every minute of it for most of those years, but as I approached 60 years of age it started to take more time and energy than I had to give. So many people I have talked to, young and old, are also ready to create a low-maintenance garden — beautiful spaces they can relax and entertain in, have room to dine outside and grow a few fresh fruits and veggies, yet not be slaves to their garden.

                The key to creating a low-maintenance garden begins dreamstime_xl_41638536with design. Think of how you want to use your garden:

-Patios and decks where you can relax, dine and entertain

-Walkways to comfortably get around your garden

-A welcoming entryway

-An area for kids and pets to play

-A service or work area for compost bins, trash bins, wood storage and chopping area,  garden shed for tools

                Once you know what you want, you can plan your own 61eEzrm2V1L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_layout of how to fit those things in or consult with a designer who can help you with a plan. There is an excellent book by Valerie Easton called ‘The New Low-Maintenance Garden’ that can give you lots of inspiration but also magazines, garden design books and Pinterest can give you good ideas. Considering lawns are very high- maintenance, taking continual mowing, edging, watering, fertilizing, and weed control, minimize lawn areas by replacing some with generously-sized patios and decks, seating areas, walkways and raised beds. Replace lawn below the dry root-filled shade of trees with wide swaths of low-maintenance groundcovers.

                Evaluate the plants in your garden. Remove any plants that are creating problems. If a plant requires spraying for insects or disease every year, take it out. Do you have plants that are too big for their allotted spot, that you have to continually prune? Is it attractive or more of an eyesore? Once you have a clean slate, select plants that are easy to maintain and happy in the conditions in which you want them to grow. There are many beautiful NW natives well adapted to our drydreamstime_xl_5767342 summers and wet winters. Dwarf conifers in a wide array of colors, forms and textures require very little fussing. Many trees, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, perennials, ferns and grasses can be low-maintenance. See sidebar for some suggestions or see us for more options.

                Very few plants grow well in concrete-like soil so it’s important to improve the soil in whole beds or large planting holes for new plants to get a good start. Right plant, Right place means putting sun tolerant plants in mostly sunny spots and shade lovers in full shade or afternoon shade. Put wet tolerant plants in boggy spots and stick to drought tolerant plants in roasting hot areas, where it’s difficult to water or where you don’t want to water for years to come. Even drought tolerant plants need regular watering for their first year or two. We have many handouts with wet-tolerant, drought tolerant, NW natives, etc. to help you find plants for your situation.

                To lower water use, group plants with similar water needs together in beds. Use drip or soaker hoses to save water and reduce weed growth between plants. Mulching between plants conserves water, cuts down on weeds and keeps your soil in good tilth. Using weed barrier or a layer of card board or newspapers below mulch can cut down on weeding. If you have an automatic watering system turn it off on days we get sufficient rain and adjust  the amount of watering time as seasonal temperatures change.

                There is no doubt that vegetable gardens are much easier to maintain in raised beds. You can concentrate on improving the soil in beds instead of paths and better soil grows healthier vegies. Use drip irrigation to conserve moisture, lessen disease and discourage weeds between plants. Floating row covers of Harvest Guard placed over vegies like kale, broccoli, cabbage and other brassicas and spinach, chard and carrots keeps them totally insect free with no sprays. Close planting for complete bed coverage keeps weeds from moving in. Be sure to rotate your vegetable crops to prevent disease and insect problems.

                Gardening is such a sensual, life affirming pleasure when it’s not overwhelming. Whether you revamp your whole garden or take on a few improvements each year, you can reach the goal of a beautiful yet low-maintenance garden.

Here are some suggestions of plants:

Low-Maintenance Plants:

Perennials:

Acanthus

Arabis

Astrantia

Aubretia

Bergenia

dreamstime_xl_30885869Candytuft

Hardy Geranium(avoid self-seeders like Claridge Druce)

Heuchera

Hosta

Muckdenia

Nepeta

Pulmonaria

Sedum

Sempervivum

Solomon’s Seal

Also most ferns and ornamental grasses (avoid self-seeders and running types)

Shrubs:

Barberry

Daphne

EuonymusFine_Line_Buckthorn

Fine Line Buckthorn

Flowering Currant

Fothergilla

Itea

Japanese holly varieties

Mahonia

Nandina

Osmanthus Goshiki

Spiraea

Winter Hazel

Witch Hazel

Viburnum

Also most dwarf conifers

Posted in Gardening | Tagged | Leave a comment

Gift Ideas: Christmas 2015

IMG_1379Let me be honest from the start, gift buying is not my favorite activity.  I either spend too much time trying to come up with the perfect gift and I get frustrated and buy a gift card or I wait until the last minute and what I want is sold out.  Not to mention that I find one thing for me for every gift I buy for someone else.  I really need a personal shopper.  So why am I writing a blog with gift giving suggestions, you ask?  Well, I am a gardener and a cook.  I know what I use and like.  I’m one of the owners and co-buyers  at Garland Nursery.  Plus, my sister, Erica, is helping me out.  She’s a great gift giver and she doesn’t hesitate to offer her opinion on our products.

Following are a few of Erica’s and my gift ideas from Garland Nursery.  (At the end of the article is a link to the complete list on Garland Nursery’s website.)  If you’ve been a customer for a while, you’ll notice that many of the items have appeared on our gift list for a number of years.  We like to call those “Tried and Atlas_glovesTrue”.  Just because you’ve seen them before doesn’t mean they’re boring or shouldn’t be included.  A good example is gloves.  Most gardeners use gloves.  Most gardeners own gloves.  Depending on what kind of gloves they own, most gardeners can always use a new or extra pair of gloves.  Think of gloves as the gardening equivalent of socks.  I am astounded at how many people get up at 5 in the morning on Black Friday to buy socks for Christmas presents.  (Maybe they are stocking stuffers.)  If you or your recipient are sick of socks (and gloves) move on to the next idea.  If not, think about giving a new pair.  They could be inexpensive, colorful, fit for a specific purpose like rose pruning, or a more expensive pair of leather or leather-palmed gloves.

Dramm-Compact-ShearsAlso on the tried and true list are pruners, sickles, and the hori hori japanese soil knife.  My take on pruners is that every gardener should have an excellent pair of pruners and possibly a cheaper pair that they can stash closer to the garden, that they won’t regret losing or running over with the lawnmower.  The excellent  brand, in my opinion, is Felco.  They’ve been made in Switzerland since 1945 with high quality materials.  They are built to last.  For most models, all parts are replaceable.  You can sharpen the blades.  There are holsters to hold them that attach to your belt.  Their models include ones for small hands, left-handed people, and rotating handle pruners that ease the strain on the wrist.  Sickles are a small tool that are a huge seller.  This is one that I started using only recently.  Erica raves about them.  When I realized that some of the garden club members I know bought them in multiples, I decided I better try using one.  Sickles are great for pruning down perennials and grasses with a multitude of soft, fleshy growth.  I use mine on Iris, daylilies and small grasses.  We have a Maiden Grass  that is 5Sickle feet wide.  I will sheepishly admit that my husband cuts that one down with an electric hedge trimmer, although a sickle would definitely work and be easier than pruners or loppers or even shears (which I find difficult to use).  The hori hori japanese weeder knife is a tool that does multiple jobs.  It works as a trowel, a scoop, a weeder, a bulb planter, and for cutting roots.  I like it because it is super cool and makes me feel like a ninja.  If my husband gets to have all the tools he needs to feel  like Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, then I ought to get to feel like a gardening ninja.

SloggersThen there are the “Tried and True” items with a new design or a new brand.  Gardening shoes are a must.  I have a pair I can easily slip on by all three of the outside doors of my house.  I’m more of a solid color girl, but colorful, patterned shoes and boots are popular.  This year, Sloggers introduced the chicken pattern in either a yellow or red background.  These are the cutest shoes and boots  I’ve seen in a long time and they’re Made in the USA.  For about a year, we’ve been carrying a new brand of tools, DeWit.  Handmade in Holland since 1898, they are guaranteed for a lifetime.  They are quality tools with a price to match.  We carry the most popular of their extensive selection.  Things like:  sporks,  T-grip spades, half-moon pull hoes and a disc weeder.  In the category of

wind chimes, we have bamboo wind chimes from Cohasset Gifts.  There are some with funny bobbing birds on top, beach themed chimes and simple ones.  Bamboo chimes  offer a softer, more natural sound.  The sound is soothing and bamboo is eco-friendly.

New items to make the gift giving list include an herb stripper, terrariums and recylced plastic Adirondack chairs.  I enjoy cooking and I love to use fresh herbs.  I’m a slow, zen chef and I lack knife skills.  (Actually there are two non-nursery gift ideas: cooking classes focusing on knife skills and Hello Kitty band-aids).  Back to topic:  the herb stripper from Chef’n is efficient for getting those little-leaved herbs like Thyme and Rosemary off the stems.  The receptacle is a measuring device.  So now when the recipe says I need 2 tablespoons of fresh Thyme, I know when I have the needed amount.  I know most cooks just eyeball it.  Not me, I prefer to be precise.  That’s a curse unless you’re a baker, but I figure I’m not the only one that herb_strippermeasures when they cook.  Chef’n has a lot of other cool cooking gadgets.  We sell quite a few of them.

Terrariums are hot this year.  There are so many styles to choose from: hanging, sitting, cloche, jar lid, retro, and molded glass on wood.  You can plant them up or set an air plant inside.  If you wanted, you could even create a non-living, miniature garden in one.  That would be perfect for someone with a black thumb that still wants to garden.  For the DIY person, there is a kit to build your own.  Just add plants.  We looked for quite a while for a high-quality, good-looking, non-wood adirondack chair from an easy to work with company.  This year we finally found it.  CR Plastics out of Canada makes beautiful, comfortable chairs from recycled plastic in a range of UV protected colors.  Kathy4They’re awesome.  They have other furniture, too.  We have a good selection of chairs in stock for Christmas gifts.  Thinking ahead to next year, we can special order anything in any color.

There are so many more ideas and I didn’t even mention plants, bulbs and seeds.  Check out the complete list on our website: http://www.garlandnursery.com/gift_ideas_2015.html. Still stuck or have someone on your list that is particular?  I can relate.  A gift card still works.  Attach it to an inexpensive pair of gloves, a bar of soap, a package of seeds or a hand tool and it’s just a little bit more the card alone.  Or create a fun gift wrap with kraft paper, fresh leaves, and/ or flower stencils.  Write a poem about nature and include it with the gift card.  Not a poet?  Find one you like that someone else wrote.  Whatever you do, have fun and be at peace.  Life’s too short, gardening should be enjoyable and Christmas is about love.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Avant Garden

Kathy6Wow, what a year we’ve had so far. More sun than rain which means more time to spend outdoors in our beautiful gardens. Now that most of the labor intensive work getting the plants in the ground is almost over we can start focusing on enhancing our outdoor spaces with eye catching and unique garden décor. I find nothing more uplifting and gratifying than relaxing in my own outdoor oasis filled with endless colors and textures. Todays’ gardens are all about personalizing your private outdoor abode with adornments of all kinds. There are some things like furniture and umbrellas that are a must in our garden space and then there are other things like outdoor wall art, solar art, statuary or unique pottery that really make it spectacular! Lucky for us, Garland Nursery is the perfect place to find such one-of-a-kind treasures.

Even though outdoor furniture seems like one of those more practical purchases it doesn’t Kathy4have to be. It can have function and fashion all wrapped into one. This year Garland Nursery brought in a new furniture line called C.R. Plastics. They are extremely durable, extremely swank, very comfortable, come in a multitude of colors and styles, and are made from recycled plastic. What more could you ask for? Well how about a ten year color fade warranty! If you want a product that is going to stand the test of time then this is the product for you. They even have head rests for the chairs that come in a variety of fun chic prints and can be purchased separately. Of course, you’ll need to be shaded while sitting in the comfort of your well-made C.R. Plastics furniture, so how about being shaded by one of Treasure Gardens well-made umbrellas? These are without a doubt one of the best made umbrellas on the market. How many times have you purchased an umbrella and had fading of color within one season, or had poles warp and bend? Not with these babies. They are made with Sunbrella™ fabric and have a 4 year warranty against fading. The frame is made from extruded aluminum which makes them light weight but incredibly durable. Now that’s my kind of umbrella!

Kathy5So let’s say you’ve already got the basics for your home’s exterior, but it just seems like something’s missing. Well that’s because maybe something is missing, something that can turn your garden from drab to fab. When it comes to outdoor wall art, Garland Nursery has done its homework to bring consumers original, unique, and inspiring pieces. One of my favorites is the recycled oil drum art from Haiti, where each piece is hand-carved and designed by the Haitian people. There are many designs to choose from and what’s best of all, is that they withstand the elements all year round. I personally have a couple of these pieces and have had them for quite a few years now with no sign of weathering at all! Now that’s the kind Kathy1of art I want to invest my money into. Another one of my favorites, adding drama to the outdoors at night, are the hanging solar lanterns from Allsop. They have a Japanese influence in their design and come in several colors and styles. I recently purchased a couple for my own yard and couldn’t be happier with them. At night they look like amber floating globes and the light lasted for several hours after dark. They are definitely one of those items that will wow you and your guests.

Statuary is so fun in the garden! It makes a great conversation piece and invokes inspiration and happiness in the gardener. Garland Nursery has a plethora of statuary to choose from, but one of my favorites are the stone carvings from StoneAge Creations. They come in the form of owls, hedgehogs, turtles, birdbaths and more, but what’s best of all is that they are au naturel. Carved from real stone these creations will make an excellent addition to any garden. Now when it comes to finding pottery that fits in perfectly with your color and scheme, Garland Kathy2Nursery is the place to look. Careful thought goes into having a wide range of styles that range from modern to classic to natural, Asian, concrete, ceramic, lightweight and more. Of course nothing makes a more grand statement than a beautiful pot planted up with stunning plants, however, there are many styles that make a fantastic water feature too.

Maybe you already have in your mind what you want or maybe you need inspiration, either way come on out to Garland’s because more than likely you will find the treasure you’re looking for. Also, save-the-date for July 25th & 26th. It is Art & Wine in the Garden at Garland Nursery, where you’ll have over 30 local artists displaying an array of unique, beautiful and whimsical art. You’ll have great time and there is surely something there that will go very nicely in your garden.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pollinator Spotlight: Bees

Happy Pollinator week!

What exactly is a pollinator and what do they do? Pollinators include birds, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, bats and some other mammals.

PollinatorBlogButterfly

Pollinators, such as bees, move pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit, so pollinators are pretty important. In the United States the pollinators we rely on the most for pollination are bees.

Both my sister and I grew to love bees throughout our childhood at the nursery. With all the beautiful plants and flowers around us the bees were never far away. Luckily I was never stung. My sister, on the other hand, was stung more times than I can count and now has to carry an epi pen around with her. She hasn’t let that dull her love and appreciation of bees though. We both love learning as much as possible about the wonderful pollinators that keep the nursery and our own gardens bright and beautiful.

-Cali Powell*

PollinatorBlogBee

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live” – Einstein

 Whether this is true or not, the message is still the same: bees have a huge impact on our ecosystem. Since it is national pollinator week it seems appropriate to talk about honeybees, because, you guessed it; honeybees are one of the biggest pollinators in the world. Most people don’t realize or appreciate the extent to which bees impact our food systems and our diet. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating over 90 crops including apples, mangos, plums, broccoli, raspberries, coffee, and kale (yes, KALE!). They also pollinate all of the beautiful flowers that we love so dearly. They are a social insect and work diligently to keep a clean and well-stocked (with honey, of course) hive for their queen. Bees are always on the move pollinating crops, making honey, and keeping each other warm. There is a reason for the phrase “busy as a bee.”

PollinatorBlogBeeHive

Bees pollinate our food and give life to amazing flowers such as calla lilies and hydrangeas, but what do they get in return? Sadly, they don’t get much from humans. Although many of us appreciate this fascinating little insect we don’t know how we can contribute to their well being.

Where are all of the bees going?

It is a sad truth that these creatures that bring us so much joy are actually declining in population. Beekeepers in the United States first reported the mass disappearance of bees in 2006, when their seemingly healthy hives were abandoned. Researchers have given this phenomenon the name Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The number of  hives in the US is the lowest it has been in 50 years. CCD is caused by an accumulation of interwoven factors: global warming, parasites, pesticide use, and habitat loss. I was also told by a local beekeeper that bees are just physically exhausted. They get trucked around the world to pollinate different crops at different times and don’t get a rest in between. The bees are dying young and with a multitude of problems. A study conducted in 2011 (NRDC), predicted that the global economic cost of bee decline could cost us as much as $5.7 billion per year.

What YOU Can Do

There is so much to learn about bees and I have only scratched the surface! It may seem like a lost cause fighting for the well being of the bees but there is always hope. Here are a few things you can do to protect the bees and encourage rich habitats for them.

  • Eat produce that is in season (so bees don’t have to travel to pollinate crops that are not meant to be eaten at that time)
  • Buy LOCAL food! Especially honey (much more ethical and pure)
  • Don’t use harmful pesticides.
  • Plant flowers that bees love (And we love too!) List here: http://www.beverlybees.com/planting-bee-garden/

– Madeline Powell*

flowers-garden-colorful-colourful

Learn More

www.pollinator.org/

https://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/files/bees.pdf

Or you can watch “The Vanishing of The Bees”. This is an amazing documentary about bees and colony collapse disorder.

*This blog post was written as a collaborative effort by Cali and Madeline Powell.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Feed Me Seymour-A Blog

FeedMe“Feed me Seymour. Feed Me!!!”  That’s what many of us think of when presented with the subject of carnivorous plants: a giant, alien-looking  plant that feeds on flesh and blood.  In the animal world a lion feasting on a gazelle, while unappealing, can be chalked up to animal nature but a plant that eats insects, that’s too strange.  In reality, carnivorous plants are actually not as weird as we’d like to think but infinitely more fascinating than the common Petunia or Marigold.  I, for one, find anything about insects interesting and entertaining.  Spiders don’t bother me (unless they startle me) but snakes do.  One of my favorite classes in college was entymology.  I thoroughly enjoyed sorting the insects into families and classes; capturing, identifying and mounting many for my insect collection; and dissecting a cockroach to see its inner workings.  Okay, I get that I’m probably in the minority here.  But I’m not entirely alone.  And I’m guessing most of you enjoy plants.  So for me, when you mix insects with plants (my most favorite subject),  it’s magic.

IMG_0549

Venus Flytrap

Probably the first carnivorous plant we think of is the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).  With its clawed leaves, it looks fierce and scary, if you’re a fly.  Hard to believe the Venus Flytrap is native to sub-tropical wetlands in North and South Carolina.  The Venus Flytrap, and most carnivorous plants, grow in poor soils, in this case-bogs.  Most of their nutrients come from gases in the air and nutrients in the soil.  However, they supplement their diet with nutrients from the insects they catch.  Normally, the flytrap leaves are open.  When an insect lands on them, their trigger hairs sense the insect and close, usually in less than a second.  Eventually, the trap closes completely and the digestive fluids break down the insect, except for the exoskeleton which blows away once the trap reopens.  If the insect is too large, the trap doesn’t ever close completely and the bacteria and mold on the insect cause the leaf to turn black and fall off.  Non-insect objects, such as a rock, are spit out after twelve hours.  Venus Flytraps prefer live insects.  Please don’t feed them hamburger meat, no matter what you’ve read.  Venus Flytraps are relatively easy to grow although particular about some things.  They actively grow from May through October.  They go into a dormant state the rest of the year, dying back partially or completely.  Many people think the plant is truly dead and throw it out.  During their growing period, they prefer being kept moist.  It is important to use distilled, soft well, or rain water.  Chemically treated city water is not good.  They will grow indoors in medium to direct sunlight.  In direct sunlight they can be set in a tray of water.  In lower light, simply keep the soil moist.  Repotting should be done in the spring before vigorous growth begins.  A special mixture of 70% peat moss and 30% perlite or pumice is an ideal potting media.  (Garland Nursery sells a Carnivorous plant potting mix). During the dormant stage, they should be kept slightly damp.

IMG_0204

Darlingtonia californica

Oregon, too, has a native carnivorous plant: the Cobra Lily, a type of Pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica).  It looks like the snake it is named after.  Near Florence is the Darlingtonia Wayside, “the only Oregon state park property dedicated to the protection of a single plant species” (according to the official state parks website-just Google “Darlingtonia Wayside”).  My husband and I enjoyed visiting it in September of 2013.  It was a drizzly, mid-week day and we were alone in the park.  It was truly other-worldly.  Although they are available for purchase, Garland Nursery has them very rarely.

Another fascinating carnivorous plant is the Sundew (Drosera). The name “Drosera” translates to mean “glistening in the sun”, which perfectly describes it.  The trap portion has many gland-bearing stalks that secrete a sticky, dew-like substance.  This sticky droplet traps insects like flypaper.  Both the Sundew and the Venus Flytrap attract insects by a sweet, nectar-like odor.  Once trapped, the insect is pushed toward the center of the leaf by tenacles.  Doesn’t that sound scary?!

IMG_0550

Sarracenia

Besides the Darlingtonia, there are other Pitcher plant genuses.  The other most commonly available in our area is Sarracenia.  It is super cool.  The pitcher, a specialized leaf, often has unusual coloration.  I think some of the most colorful, common carnivorous plants are the Sarracenia.  The insects, once lured down the pitcher, cannot escape and drown or die of exhaustion.  Beyond the color of the pitcher, is the unique beauty of the flowers.  They flower over a 2-3 week period in April or May.  The flowers look like upside down umbrellas, with the stigma color often contrasting the petal color.  Other beneficial insects transport the pollen to make more Pitcher plants.

Many carnivorous plants have been over-collected from the wild and are now endangered.  It is important to purchase these fascinating plants from propagators rather than collectors.  At Garland Nursery, we are proud to sell carnivorous plants from Cook’s Carnivorous Plants in Junction City, Oregon.  There are other carnivorous plant genuses not covered in this blog.  I hope that you find carnivorous plants as fascinating as I do.  If you don’t, at least feel welcome to come view them, now, while they are in their glory.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Made for the Shade

Bears_Breech

Acanthus ‘Bear’s Breech’

As the heat of summer approaches I take great pleasure in the cool sanctuary of my shade garden. Here lush foliage makes a verdant backdrop to jewel-like flowers. The emphasis on fabulous foliage keeps this garden looking lovely through every season. Evergreen plants with bold foliage like Japanese Aralia (Fatsia), Bear’s Breech (Acanthus),  with its polished oak-shaped leaves and Hellebores contrast with the arching fronds of ferns and the many-colored Heucheras. Shrubs like Pieris in green or variegated forms bear hanging lily-of-the-valley-like bells followed by colorful new leaves. Rhododendrons and azaleas come in a rainbow of flower colors and offeryear-round structure. Fragrant Daphnes and sweet box (Sarcococca) fill the garden with delightful scents in spring while star jasmine and gardenias perfume the area all summer. Camellias add height and glorious flowers in spring or winter. Azara forms a small evergreen tree with green or white edged airy foliage

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

and fragrant tiny yellow flowers.

Many shade loving perennials add to the tapestry of plants. Hostas bear large, stunning foliage in blue, gold, green and variegated forms. Brunneras and pulmonarias offer slug-resistant foliage often sporting silvery patterns and blue flowers in spring. Fuchsias are humming bird magnets, bearing fairy-like hanging flowers all summer in reds, purples, pinks, orange and white variations. It is fascinating to watch the hummingbird’s acrobatic flights as they feast and defend their territories.

Hydrangea1

mophead hydrangea

Hydrangea2

lacecap hydrangea

For show-stopping summer blooms it’s hard to beat the amazing array of Hydrangeas. These stunning shrubs offer masses of flowers from late spring until frost on plants as small as 2-3’ up to large 6-8’  arching beauties. Most of us are familiar with the mophead hydrangeas with their round flower clusters in white, pink or blue. Another option is the lacecap, which carries flat-topped lacey blooms in the same color ranges. The panicle hydrangeas sport large cone-shaped flowers in green, white and pink shades. A popular new introduction called ‘Strawberry Sundae’ is a delicious looking confection of white flower panicles that flushe with rich pink as each flower matures on a 4-5’ shrub. The panicle hydrangeas will grow in sun or shade. Also sun tolerant is the oakleaf hydrangea, a beauty with white cone-shaped blooms aging pink above oak shaped leaves that turn rich red in fall.

The shade garden is a cool, inviting place to sit a enjoy the glory of summer.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A Kitchen Garden is a Work in Progress

KitchenGardenIt’s that time of year.  It’s finally warm enough to plant the heat lovers in the garden: squash, cucumbers, and melons.  I’ve finally made it to the Saturday Farmer’s Market and there is an abundance of locally grown, yummy produce.  My husband and I have been trying to further alter our eating habits to include two-thirds vegetables to one-third protein on the plate.  An easy way to reach this goal is to prepare a salad or have salad makings on hand, so that we have a cooked vegetable and a yummy, salad for each meal.  I am a pretty good cook, but in the past I have failed at salad making.  My sister, Erica, makes a great salad.  She tends to stick to the same formula but it’s always tasty.  Somehow when I combine leafy greens and other stuff, it just doesn’t come out right.  A couple years ago, a friend brought a simple, tasty salad to dinner that included watercress and a lemon vinaigrette.  So simple and so tasty.

RedandGreenCrunchyI want to use fresh made dressings, especially olive oil based ones.  If you make a large enough batch to last for several salads, it ends up getting solidified in the fridge.  So I was thrilled when Jan Roberts-Dominquez republished her vinaigrette base recipe in the Corvallis GT last fall. The nursery had Jan speak about cooking with heRedandGreenCrunchyCloseUprbs a few years ago and she mentioned the vinaigrette but I wasn’t able to listen to the whole talk. Preparing the vinegar/garlic base to the vinaigrette ahead of time and adding the olive oil and herbs at the time of serving saved me from having gloppy olive oil dressing that had to be warmed up to serve and cut down on the prep time.  Check out her recipe on her blog site:  http://janrd.com/blog/29314/homemade-vinaigrette-101.   I enjoy using herbs from my garden, especially tarragon, parsley, thyme and chives.  They’re easy to grow and it’s much more efficient to cut what I need to use for a recipe rather than buying a whole package at the store, half of which often turns black before I finish using it.

This spring I ran across a recipe for a beautiful salad that featured watercress, radicchio and radishes.  (I think food should be attractive as well as tasty and color contrasts really appeal to me.)  The spicy, sweet dressing made it outstanding.  The spice came from cookbook-recipeschopped jalapeno.  I just planted a jalapeno pepper plant and I can’t wait until it starts producing.  It’s in a black pot against a hot wall, so I hope to get really good production.   I decided after making that salad that I really needed to consult a few cookbooks for salad recipes.  Winging it hadn’t worked in the past, so I turned to some of the numerous cookbooks I own.  One I checked first was Recipes From a Kitchen Garden by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff.  Renee is the owner of Renee’s Garden.  She is a heroine of mine.  I greatly admire her business acumen, knowledge and gardening ability.  She has a wonderful blog on her website, a great selection of seeds including heirlooms and a passion for gardening.  When Kitchen Gardens International named her one of the 10 Inspiring Women Moving the World’s Food Garden Needle (Michelle Obama was in the group), I couldn’t believe I have the opportunity to personally meet and talk to someone so well recognized.  I am a huge fan!  We stock 2 of Renee’s cookbooks at the cookbook-renees-gardennursery and as the seed buyer at the nursery, I was fortunate to be gifted a copy of Recipes From a Kitchen Garden.  I have made a few dishes from this cookbook and what I have made is delicious.  Renee and Fran concentrate on fresh produce from their gardens combined with other fresh ingredients.  What was the first salad recipe I tried?  I have to admit that I ended up combining 2 salad recipes because I didn’t have all the ingredients for one.  I had radicchio, arugula, and oranges.  So I made Island Sin Salad dressing with the greens and orange segments.  It was very tasty.  I now have the ingredients to make Crunchy Red and Green Salad (page 83) including frisee.  I’m excited to try it.  I wonder if I can grow frisee in my garden.  You can start that in mid-summer. On the Renee’s Garden rack at the nursery, I have watercress seed.  Wouldn’t it be great to grow that myself, too?  That might be a goal for the for next year.

TomatoTartWhen Erica suggested that this would be a good time to feature recipes again in the blog, I asked her if she would help me to select the recipes from Renee’s cookbooks.  As  I had selected a salad, she thought a meal would be appropriate: salad, entree and dessert.  Erica loves tomatoes and her entree selection was Tomato Tart, page 109 in More Recipes From a Kitchen Garden.  I have made tomato tart in the past, but not this particular recipe.  I was excited to try this version.  I bought Roma tomatoes, as I thought a meatier, tomato might be better.  I like using them for salsa.  My husband and I were just getting ready to plant our TomatoTartFullsecond garden at the nursery.  There isn’t enough room in my home garden to grow everything I’d like, so I share some space with my parents on the nursery property.  It’s still a great time to plant tomatoes, eggplant, squash and peppers.  So I picked up a paste and a beefsteak type tomato to plant plus more zucchini.  The tart turned out nicely.  It would help if I read the instructions through a couple times before I actually make a new recipe.  I put the chives in at the wrong time, but I don’t think it made too much of a difference.  I hate to admit I bought a pre-made crust.  I inadvertently bought a vegan crust.  It’s whole-wheat.

KitchenGardenPortraitFinally, dessert is needed.  The Renee’s Garden website (reneesgarden.com) has a number of recipes you can download.  One recipe featured is for Chocolate Zucchini Cake-Orange scented.  I have been meaning to try this recipe for a couple of years now.  So that’ s last on the list.  I was excited to see zucchini at the farmer’s market and I always have chocolate in the house, so I’ll try that one this week, too.  I really do like zucchini and this year I’m trying Romanesco.  It’s available on the Renee’s Garden seed rack, too.  Supposedly it has long-holding blossoms great for making stuffed zucchini blossoms.  I tried a recipe last year and they were pretty tasty.

If you would like to learn more about Renee’s Garden seeds, especially the heirloom varieties check out their website.  Also on the website are Renee’s blogs and some recipes. She has a wealth of information to share to help you be successful in growing and preparing your own vegetables this summer.  Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment