Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Hockey Game

I am not typically a big sports fan, but OMG, did you see today's hockey game????  I sat down this afternoon to go through some of the papers I picked up at yesterday's symposium, and got completely sucked into the game on much so that we were late for dinner at a friend's house!

I have been torn for the last couple of weeks, since my natural inclination is to support the USA team simply because I'm an American, but really wanted the Canadians to do well in this Olympics since they are all just so nice.  I finally had resolved to just enjoy this last game, but never expected to do so on the edge of my seat!

As I sit here now watching the Closing Ceremonies, I can't help but get excited to see all of those people who are so driven to excellence by their passion for their respective crafts.  With all of the negative news we hear and see every day, the Olympic games always give me hope for the future of our world.

Perennial Plant Symposium in Atlanta

I spent most of yesterday at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, attending the annual Perennial Plant Symposium that is co-hosted by Georgia Perennial Plant Association.  (Is that a ridiculous number of very long words in one sentence, or what?)

Anyway, the first speaker of the morning (who turned out to be my favorite of the five speakers, I think) was Claire Sawyers, who is the director of the Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College.  I was fortunate to meet Claire at a small dinner the night before, so we had a chance to chat then, as well.

Much of Claire's program came from her book, The Authentic Garden, which was published in 2007.  Fortunately Claire's program was not an infomercial for her book, which is so often the case. 

The focus of Claire's presentation can be summarized in a quote from the dustjacket on her book, which starts, "American gardeners have tended to turn to other national traditions - such as Italy's, Japan's, or England's - for inspiration.  The unhappy result of this piecemeal stylistic borrowing has been the creation of gardens that bear no relationship to local landscapes and history, and that have no connection with our daily lives."  Claire elaborated in her presentation the need for American gardeners to emphasize our own styles, rather than creating (for example) a Japanese garden in Georgia.

Claire Sawyer's recommendations (that she goes into great depth about in the book), are:
1. Capture the sense of place. Have a garden that is appropriate to your locale.
2.  Derive beauty from function.  A driveway is a part of the garden at this point, so why do we ignore it as a necessary evil and treat it as an afterthought?
3.  Use humble or indigenous materials.  Gravel paths are appropriate for my humble Georgia garden;       marble is not!
4.  Marry the inside of the house to the outside.
5.  Involve the visitor!  When our garden is perfect and museum like for the visitors, they miss the  experience of the garden.

If you haven't seen Claire's book, check it out of your local library or go to TimberPress or Amazon and buy yourself a gift during this never-ending winter we're experiencing!  The incredible photos will remind you this spring really is coming!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


It seems like we've done nothing but prune at the Big House and in the Stepchild Garden for the past few weeks.  Even with weather being colder and wetter than normal, we're finally seeing some signs of spring, and it's time to cut back in anticipation of that growth spurt.  The Medusa-like growth on the Eleagnus has been pulled back into a somewhat contained form (if that's possible), the roses have been cut back and glued, and it feels like I've taken 35 truckloads of Sasanqua camellia trimmings to the green waste site.

February is also the annual time of "Crape Murder" in the South, when we gardeners look on in horror as so many landscape crews come out with the chain saws and "straighten up" the Crape Myrtles. Perhaps the only thing more funky looking in my mind are the hollies cut into lollipops in the supermarket parking lots!

At the Big House, the two ends of the circular front drive are marked with ENORMOUS Crape Myrtles, and in front of the house itself there is a cluster of exquisite "Natchez" Crapes, with that beautiful bark and white flowers in summer.  Since it's a pretty formal setting in front of the house, we do clean them up somewhat each year, and try to add a little balance to the overall scheme of things.

Once upon a time we used pruning shears and loppers.  Then it progressed to hand saws.  Now even the tallest ladders don't work!  Oh, well, it gives the neighbors something to talk about......."Can you believe what they're doing in that garden now?......"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Yellow Book Arrived Today!

As part of the English trip planning, I ordered the Yellow Book from the National Gardens Scheme a couple of weeks ago, and it arrived today!  What a perfect way to spend my afternoon after work!

If you aren't familiar with the National Gardens Scheme, it's a pretty awesome program which features gardens all over England and Wales, most privately owned, which are open on a very limited basis to benefit the charity of the owner's choice.  All told, there are about 3700 gardens included, and the NGS has raised 25 million pounds for charity over the past ten years.  The individual owners typically pick dates when their respective gardens are looking their best, and will open up the garden to visitors for a nominal price, which goes to charity. The book is divided by county and open dates, so it's a great guide to have in the car when traveling through England.

Thank goodness we'll be there in September!  The Baron & Baroness Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh are opening their home, Dunsborough Park, for one day while we're in that area.  I have no idea who they are, but how could I NOT visit somebody with a name like that!? (I might need to buy another hat......)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feeling like Tippie Hendron

Now I know that I'm dating myself by making reference to an ancient movie, but hopefully it's enough of a classic for people to know what I'm talking about.

The front of the Stepchild Garden, along the street, has a long mixed border that includes lots of different hollies.  As a result (I think) of this cold and wet winter, they are just overloaded with berries.  I think they are just beautiful, and clearly, so do the robins and cedar waxwings!

Yesterday's warm weather brought with it every robin and cedar wax wubg that is in the metro-Atlanta area, who have decided that the hollies are their new home (at least until the berries are stripped).  Sadie the Dog and I have been banished to the street for our walks, and it's beginning to feel like we live in Venice with the pigeons! 

Frank (an avid classic movie fan) looked out the window yesterday morning, and asked, "Are there supposed to be hundreds of birds on the lawn?"........he never dares ask about something he doesn't understand in the garden, since he doesn't want to offend me if it's part of the design.......

Hopefully the birds will eat their fill soon, since tomorrow is the first day in weeks I'll been able to work in the Stepchild Garden.  Perhaps I'll wear a raincoat.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Roasted Salmon with Smoked Paprika

Saturday was our turn to host supper club (when did I grow old and suburban?), and I managed to find wild king salmon for a price slightly less than the national debt.  Since it has its own distinct flavor, I was hesitant to do something frou-frou with it, and ended up with this painfully simple preparation.

For Three Pounds of Salmon Fillet:

1/2 c. orange juice
2 T. olive oil
1 T. dried thyme

3 T. brown sugar
1 T. smoked paprika
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. grated orange peel
1 t. sea salt

Mix together the marinade ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (i.e., glass), and marinate the salmon, covered and refrigerated for a half hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the fish from the marinade and discard excess marinade.  Place the fish on a greased and foil-lined pan.  Sprinkle the mixed rub ingredients over the fish, and rub in gently.  Roast 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute fresh spinach in a little bit of olive oil and garlic.  Serve the fish over the spinach.

We served this with a couscous done with orange juice, dried cranberries and slivered almonds.  The combination was pretty fabulous.

What made this particularly good for a dinner party is that I was able to have the salmon completely "oven ready" before people arrived.  Same for the couscous liquid.  Just before we sat for salad, I was able to combine the couscous ingredients and let them sit.  The salmon went into the oven.  When it was time for the main course, it literally took me three minutes to saute the spinach and put this together. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Next Hundred Days

The sun is shining brightly, the snow is melting quickly, and things seem to be returning to an Atlanta winter, at least for the next several hours (they're forecasting more light snow tonight).  I'm still holding out hope that in 100 days or so, my garden will be back to what it was at that time last year.

A Repost of Sadie the Dog

Since Sadie was not feeling photogenic in the snowstorm, I thought I would post this better shot of her, in one of her regular positions.  At the time this was taken, I had the flu and was napping on the sofa.  This was her guard position for that entire week, taking full advantage of my right hip.  Her best photo so far is probably the one from the post of February 19 of last year. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Not the Kind of Weather I Moved South For!

This view out the window of my office is  much more like the view I chose to leave behind in New England several years ago, and definitely not one I would have chosen for my view in suburban Atlanta.  Fortunately this only happens once every few years, so I guess I can handle it. 

Since "The Stepchild Garden" has really not seen snow (at least during my ownership), it was fun to take a few photos this afternoon while the white stuff is still coming down.
The Daphne Odora is definitely not a plant that's liking this weather, but the contrast of the blooms about to open and the heavy snow covering was pretty at the bottom of the front steps when I went outside. It's been here for four years, so it's probably about ready to drop dead soon anyway.  (It's one of my favorite miserable plants).

The Hinoki Cypress shows its form far better with a little "icing," as does the Doublefile Viburnum, below.

At the end of the day, however, Sadie the Dog is definitely a Southern Girl.  She managed to keep her legs crossed for the first few hours of the snow, but finally relented and went  outside in a complete snit!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds

Today was the perfect day for getting some seeds started. It couldn't decide if it was going to rain or not, so it was great weather for mixing up some starter mix and filling those tiny little pockets with seeds of promised plants to come......burgundy okra (nasty vegetable in my mind, but beautiful flowers), cup-and-saucer vine, Japanese eggplant, bush basil, nicotiana, and ambrosia were planted today. The mignonette and artichokes have already sprouted, as have Mary's Thai chiles. It's cold and windy outside right now, but at least these tiny little seeds give me hope that summer is coming!

Succulent Containers at SEFS

This is the last of the photos from last week's Southeastern Flower Show, unrelated to the others. It is a collection of succulents that I thought was just beautifully displayed. Interestingly enough, it was on the edge of a huge garden designed by Home Depot, and appeared to be almost an afterthought....this was the most inspirational part of the display! Definitely something I'm going to play with this summer!

A Few More from SEFS

Here are a few (not good) photos of Kathy Walton's work at the Southeastern Flower Show last week. Kathy is an incredibly talented metal artist who works mostly with recycled goods; she's agreed to do a pretty big piece of art for a giant blank wall on my house, so I'm way excited about that!
Not only does Kathy do metal art, but she's also an accomplished plant person. Her wheelbarrow was a winner at the Show, as was another arrangement she had done with underwater plants.
Hopefully you'll get an idea of how good her work is if you blow the pictures up to see more detail. If not, you'll have to search her out at another show to see for yourself!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Fern Goddess

Here are a couple of shots from the Fern Ridge Farms display at the Southeastern Flower Show. Eleanor didn't have a retail booth this year, but did this beautiful display in the "Discovery" (AKA Educational) area of the show.
We are all still mourning the fact that Eleanor moved her operation from Georgia to Cedar Bluff, AL, late last year. Fortunately, she still makes lots of trips to north Georgia for her adoring groupies! In my mind there is nobody better if you're looking for ferns......even worth the drive from Atlanta to Alabama!
If you are not familiar with Eleanor, check her out!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Non-Potting Shed

While I spent the afternoon mangling my arthritic hands (slamming empty wine bottles down into the ground), Chuck spent his afternoon working on the tin roof of my new "Not Potting Shed." It's still very much a work in progress, but it's starting to take shape, and the windows and door have been located (in the backroom of the local antique store).
If you blow up the middle picture and see the slight scowl (and WTF look) on Chuck's face, it's because that's the moment when I asked, "You remembered my terra cotta birds need to sit on the ridge of the roof, right?" easily he forgets that fashion comes before function!

99 Bottles of Wine in the Ground...99 Bottles of Wine.....

I finally got started on the wine bottle borders in the Stepchild Garden this afternoon, after spending the first half of the day at the Big House. It's not looking like much at the moment, but I'm loving the way it's turning out. (I probably should have hosed off some of the mud before I photographed, huh?) The added treat was how awesome the bottles looked as sun was starting to set on that part of the garden! 85 in the ground, only about 900 or so more to go!

The Lady in Red

This is a piece done for the Southeastern Flower Show by artist Tom Chambers. This second photo is part of the board that explains how it was done. The piece was bigger-than-life, and mounted on an 8 x 8 platform covered with moss. The perfect finishing touch was the pair of shoes off in the corner, made of the same twigs. I have such huge admiration for people with this sort of talent. I can usually conceptualize some cool stuff, but could never execute it this well. Thank goodness for people like Tom!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Some Cool Design Ideas from Southeastern Flower Show 2010

The pavers, above, were part of the display by the Georgia Native Plant Society, and I thought were pretty cool. They've taken battery-powered votives, which are under the cut bottoms of wine bottles. It seems realistic for a home garden, since all of the paving is really permanent except those inserts. If you're having a party, just lift up the bottles and replace the candles.
This "fountain," above and below, is from Kate at Bloom'n Designs. It is incredibly simple and incredibly effective. I took these photos before the show opened this morning, so naturally there is no water running. It trickles fairly slowly out of this pipe onto the rock; under the rock is a water-catching basin topped with a screen and slate chips.

Some Photos from the Southeastern Flower Show

This first section of photos is comprised of things that were "arranged." Since I took about 30 photos this morning, I thought I might break them into categories. This first set is of arrangements that I personally found appealing. Above is the centerpiece from a table in one of the competitive categories. The tablescape as a whole didn't win, but I thought the centerpiece was pretty fabulous. Roses and hellebores are such a beautiful combination...shame they don't grow at the same time of year in nature.
The arrangement above is live plants, done in a birdbath. This one took first place in that division, and involved lots of forced winter plants. It was pretty cool to watch over the course of three days as things opened and others faded. Kudos to the entrants for coming back every day to "fluff' it up". The birdbath below took second place in the same category. I liked it because it appears almost to be from the bottom of the ocean.
The terrarium below was done by my friend, Sara, and my photo doesn't do it justice. It won first place in its category and was just beautiful! I'm afraid my photo doesn't give a good image of how softly-faded and aged it was in appearance. You'll have to take my word for how stunning it was! (As usual, click the photos to make them larger.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gone to the Flower Show

It has been raining "cats and dogs" since yesterday, which means I'm not in the garden anywhere. Since I coordinate the volunteers for Georgia Perennial Plant Association, it means I'm spending the next couple of days at the Southeastern Flower Show. I spent some time there yesterday, but without my camera, so more posts to follow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dreaming of Artichokes & Mignonette

Today was beautiful, sunny and in the low 50's, but even the television weather guy has expressed how "over" this winter he is. It seems as though we have just a taste of good weather for 36 hours or so, and then we're hit with another bout of clouds, rain, drizzle, and (OMG....) snow!

I was delighted when Alice called with her offer of letting me keep most of the plants if I would be willing to start some artichoke seeds for her. Since she only wants a couple of each cultivar, it seemed like a good deal to me! All of the varieties she purchased promise to produce in one season, and since the walled garden at the Big House retains such heat, I'm pretty confident I can overwinter them in the vegetable bed there. Planting 36 of each of four cultivars gave me a little confidence that summer is actually coming! I've been chomping at the bit to get seeds started, so I was thrilled to see that the artichokes actually need three months of growth before the first frost in order to produce this season. Just the names are enough to make me excited...."Violet de Provence,""Violette Precoce," and two others. (Quick, get in the kitchen and start the Gremolata!)

I also took some time to pot up the last of the rooted "Betty Marshall" brugmansia cuts that have been sitting in water since fall, and planted both Mignonette and Chinese Forget-Me-Nots (all three shown above). The last two are are typically planted outdoors in the fall here, but I'm hoping I can "push the ticket" a little bit and have them in bloom for the tour in mid-May. The mignonette is really not the prettiest of blooms, but the fragrance is incredible! The Chinese Forget-Me-Nots were free with my order from Select Seeds, and the color works perfectly with the blue patio furniture!