Carrot greens for breakfast

We’ve been fortunate to have a community garden plot up near the Frelinghuysen Arborteum through the Morris County Parks System.  Even though there’s now a community garden within walking distance of our home in town, we can’t bring ourselves to leave the wonderful community where we’ve been tending seasonal vegetables and cutting flowers.

We’ve been doing this for about 10 years now, and this year we were given the opportunity to move to a sunnier location within the garden. Moving a 20 x 20 plot full of plants was a project — especially in the damp early April weather.  And we were greeted with a welcome gift, a nice surprise from the former gardener, who had moved to California over the winter– some asparagus. Not too shabby.

Last weekend, we took home quite a harvest, including some very tiny carrots with their greens and yellow squash.  Neither were any larger than a lady’s finger. This harvest made for a really wonderful breakfast this morning.  I simply washed the greens and gently scrubbed the little carrots (no peeling necessary).  After some fine slicing, these were sauteed with the squash and a bit of olive oil and fresh herbs.  On the other side of the pan, eggs.  Grated some pepper on top, and there was a simple, delicious, one-pan meal. You could grate a little cheese and add toast, if you wished.

What could be an easier, prettier dish on a Saturday morning? Colorful, fresh, flavorful… and maybe even healthy. You could exchange other fresh green for the carrot fronds – spinach, kale, chard or beet greens. Why not give it a try?

Speaking of great food, there are so many inspiring sites! Turntable Kitchen is a recent fave. Food and music, what could be better?  Their savory rye waffles are the great base for a Sunday morning breakfast. I have also long been a fan of Zoe Francois.  Zoe Bakes is always inspiring. And Will Cook for Friends is both yummy and gorgeous — her food photography is amazing.

New discoveries

Better half is working late (NYC agency life), so what better way to pass the time than take in the garden — and a glass of wine — from our porch?  Took a quick walk around with hose in hand, and noticed some promising, yet not-so-typical things:

The oak leaf hydrangea, which had grown large over the years, suffered an unusual dieback this past winter. I’ve seen this with the macrophylla variety, but not with something woody like this. I did a dramatic pruning in late spring and it has finally done something I had only read about:  grown shoots all around the main plant. Nothing to look at, so no photos, but it gave me hope!  Pruning directed the energy to the good stems and this renewal.

The inkberry hollies, which are kind of loose looking by nature, have become huge this year. This is also kind of unusual, especially as they’ve taken a beating under snow and ice these past two years. I don’t think they can be shaped, so turning around what to do with them in my head. When all else fails, leave as-is.

My stepdad shared an old gardening adage with me long ago that has proven to be a gardening truth:  The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.

The hollies have been in for donkey’s ages, but they’ve finally leaped.

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This blog is dedicated to people who are interested in gardening, so I really must provide some inspiring and practical advice. Next time!  Happy gardening, L.

 

 

 

 

Design

 

Okay, just in case you think this is all about putting a bunch of stuff in the ground and seeing what happens, it’s not.  It’s not about digging in the dirt, buying a carload of annuals from the garden center (inspired by those ads that promise “lots of color!”), or adding everything you see or want.

It’s about design.

Well, yeah

It’s what makes this fun – or a big part of it. What other creative endeavor grows and changes with time?  How the planting relates to the structures around it — and the ways in which you use the space — makes it even more interesting.

Garden. Love.

Plants made an impression on me from the start.  I recall bright purple pansies with yellow faces in a place where we lived when I was just three years old.  But one of my fondest, earliest garden memories involves my mother and a little gardening project.

We had moved to a large, old house with a a big piece of property. Young and full of energy, our family established a vegetable garden — it seemed massive to me!

My  mother, prompted either by my prodding (I’m tenacious), or perhaps hoping to have a project to do together (there was always something creative going on), decided to set aside a few rows for me, where we planted a variety of flower seeds together:  bachelor’s buttons, marigolds, painted daisies.

I waited what seemed like forever, but flowers were nowhere to be seen.  Then one day, they appeared… but where were those painted daisies?  Nevertheless, I was enchanted.  The seeds of garden love were planted.

Only years later did I learn that my little garden had received a little bit of “divine intervention” behind the scenes. That year, there was storm that caused a historic flood. There was no chance the seeds we had planted would germinate. My mother kindly sought out each variety at a local greenhouse and planted them one evening, as to not destroy the enchantment of that first experience.  This truly reflects her personality — kind, loving and always looking to build others up.

Some may say it would have toughened me up to start again — an early life lesson.  But for a five-year-old, sometimes you need a little magic.  I’m convinced it fostered my love of gardening today. Thanks, mom.

San Francisco

I’m traveling on business to San Francisco this week, quite fortuitously avoiding the East Coast blizzard of 2015.

It’s been several years since I’d last been here, so I took a walk to clear my head and get a little bit of fresh air.  It’s struck me how a city can look so different each time you visit, whether it’s a place you’ve known for years or have only visited a couple of times.  The paths and edges you remember may have been completely transformed, or is it one’s perspective that has changed?  In any event, it reminded me of one of my first undergraduate reading assignments, Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City.

What does this have to do with gardening, you might ask? Our built environment is an interconnected whole — indoors and outdoors blur, intentionally or not.  Urban, suburban or rural, the landscape is just one element of the fabric of our environment. We move through these spaces and interact in them, and with them.  How many other elements can you spot?

Seasons

Who says the warm months are when the garden is the most interesting? I was perusing our photo archives of the garden, this photo of one of our roses reminded me of the beauty around us at other times of the year.  Even in the late fall, winter or early spring garden, there are lovely things happening.

The leaves are turning late this year in our neck of the woods, and I’m awaiting the magnificent colors of the Shishigashira Japanese Maple in our backyard. It’s known as the Lion’s Mane maple — perhaps you can see why!

Shirishigira~Autumn Garden Lincoln Ave

Respecting what has come before…

Part of the fun of a garden with any history is discovering what the original or former owners created. The grounds of our post-war colonial house were very much a clean slate when we arrived.  We had learned from the former owners that when they bought it, the house had an incredible, if overgrown, garden, which they largely removed.

There are so many reasons people take things out — whether they don’t know how to manage rejuvenating an old and overgrown garden, to needing room for children to play, to wanting the quick fix.  Bringing a garden back to its former beauty takes time, for sure.  In any event, it provided us with an opportunity to build something anew.

In the process of creating a back bed in an especially shady part of our yard where little could grow (save the pachysandra and hostas I diligently planted, and now many more plants over the years), I dug up an old plant tag.  Amazingly, it had a date on it — 1954!  Nearly a decade after the house was built. It was for “Cinderella” impatiens, and the close-up photo of the red bloom cheerfully peeked out, preserved by years of soil and darkness.  Of course, I researched this variety to no avail — probably the hybrid of the year, or such.  But it really sparked my imagination in what the planting scheme may have been.  Clearly, they liked to add annuals and liked hot colors. What a gift to find this piece of history.

There are remnants of these former owners, if you look carefully.  Thankfully, nobody has cut down the viburnums at the back, which I believe is something akin to a Snowflake variety — who knows for sure? The savable ones were absolutely lovely, but growing wild and the best they could at the back of this shady border.  I saved the ones I could (one or two were near dead or suffering under a towering evergreen).  I’ve carefully removed dead wood and opened up areas for new growth over the course of years, while maintaining their graceful habit (no chopping branches mid-way).  It seems to be working, but it takes time.

It is a joy in the spring with its while flowers, as well as in the fall, with its red leaves and berries.

A new tree

A guest post from my better half

Spring at the garden centre is always an exciting time. New plants arrive almost daily, and curious finds are around every corner. The Mugo Pine (pinus mugo) caught my eye as I was looking for some pots. A quick inspection revealed its interesting trunk and dense growth. Below are images of the tree as I bought it, cleaned of dead pine needles, and the tree as it starts to take shape after the first trimming.

Initially I intended for it to be displayed the other way, but looking at the photographs, I think the front and back could be swapped.

Let it sit for a while to adjust to the light pruning, then consider some hardier trimming in a week or two. Stay tuned as it takes shape!

 

I dig dirt