March 2012

The tournement arrives here later this week, but  I’ve got my own version of March Madness going on outside.  It is unseasonably warm and I am fully enjoying the blooms that are already gracing my garden.  The Crazy weather makes me think that they are all so early, but then I really haven’t kept records before so I can’t prove that to myself.  So this is my record….on the first day of spring (yesterday, March 20 th) 2012 — this was blooming in my garden:

What is blooming where you are? do things seem early this year?

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’,  Pierus (Andromeda), Crocus, and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ was just peeking it’s head out and Hellebores.

 

I’m not sure why I am so obsessed with foreign seeds.  I suppose it is the endless desire to try and recreate that amazing cheesy cauliflower dish I once had in Aosta Italy, or perhaps I might one day have success making my favorite spicy Thai soup that is perfect for when I’m sick (because who wants to drive to that special soup making place all the way in Boston when you are sick?), or how about those crazy (good) cactus cocktails we had in Santa Fe….the beet soup in Russia…I could go on and on…

asian vegetables

Rather than admitting my reverse engineering skills and then subsequent re-creation ability isn’t up to the task, I choose to beleive that at least part of my culinary failure (or at least non-success) starts in the garden.   You must have the right ingredients and for me that means growing all sorts of crazy vegetables from places we have traveled.

I am still on the all out hunt for the perfect cassoulet bean, but here are some sources I have found to grow vegetables from around the world.

Native Seeds specializes in the seeds of the Northern Mexico and the southwest united states.  You will find a huge variety of amaranth, flour corn, sorghum, tomatillos and tobacco (amongst many other varieties that were grown by the Native Americans of the region).  (Hint: make sure you click through to individual seed pages to get pricing on packets that are less than 4 oz).

romanesque cauliflower

I’ve got my eye on Cauliflower of Macerata from Seeds from Italy.  Last year I grew their voluptuous Pomodoro tomatoes and can’t wait to repeat that.  If you have traveled through Italy with even the slightest adventurous palette, this website will be like a culinary scrapbook.

Years ago when my babies were actual babies we had the help of an aupair from Thailand who lived with us.  She had trained in Thai chef school and she cooked amazing meals for us that unimaginably emerged from my own kitchen.   For a time our nightly dinners not only were extraordinary, but they included decorative flowers made from peppers and other vegetables.  We were so spoiled….and thankfully she taught me a few things.  The biggest lesson…shop the Asian market if you want good Asian food.   Or grow your own Asian vegetables with seeds from Kitazawa Seed Company.  More Asian vegetable seeds can also be found at Evergreen Seeds.

French Melon

Amishland seeds made me smile with their claim that due to the cold war we Americans know not the joy of Russian tomatoes.  I have to admit, it’s a claim that has me intrigued.   Supposedly wonderfully tasty while also being cold tolerant and very hardy (for the tough Russian climate)– northern gardeners take note.

Have you been to South America?  I haven’t checked that off my list yet, but Tropilab  (which is based in Surinam) sells all sorts of seeds for vegetables that you might find in the northern regions of South America and tropical Central America.  Jack fruit, Alligator peppers, fitweed and anato (whatever those are??…and more) are available here.

Get seeds to grow the perfect veg for your favorite Indian curry at Seeds of India.  Charmingly, they have a variety of seed collections that I find simultaneously mysterious and desirable (Gujarat Seed Collection, Middle-eastern Vegetable seeds, Caribbean seed collection, Andhra Pradesh Seed Collection and then the obvious Burgundy-colored vegetable collection)

images available to buy from Rigel Stuhmiller on etsy.

 

clive rundels victorian garden

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a true expression of someone in something that they create.  Be it art, clothes, architecture, or a garden, the realization of an individual vision is what makes being a designer fun.   So even though you might look at this garden and not see the designer beauty, I assure you that it is there.

clive rundel garden

Clive Rundel is a fashion designer whose reputation for fantastic runway shows makes him the star of Johannesburg fashion week.  His garden, 15 years in the perfecting, is a study in rambling neglect.  He describes it: “Think of this as an abandoned Victorian garden with a new owner who is attempting to introduce a Japanese aesthetic,”.

Nothing is pruned (except roses) and what some would call messiness is purely by design.  It is a haven of untouched splendor – just what the designer wanted.

See more at Visi and in the Gallery.

images from Visi

Without question, I say Nay to the likes of the Topsy Turvey Tomato Planter thingy. I simply can’t justify tormenting my tomato plants (for no good reason) by planting them in a crap-ugly thinga-majig that doesn’t hold any water and will be a maintenance nightmare.

BOSKKE sky planters

But — Boskke Sky planters take the upside down thing to a different place. They are cute and can be easily incorporated into many garden rooms or even indoor spaces. Then there is the self-watering feature (good). But we still have the upside down plant thing that troubles me. I think I could learn to love growing something like a fern or a trailing plant in this way, but I am struggling with the flowering plants. Orchids hanging down (in an almost creepy way like they are eavesdropping) rather than reaching happily towards the sky just doesn’t seem right — and then there is the geranium…(I can’t even bear the torture of seeing an innocent plant forced to contort its flower stems to such extremes). But maybe a bar of herbs growing over the kitchen sink, waiting for me reach up and pick what I need might be nice.  I’m torn.

boskke planters
What is your take on the up-side-down planters? Do you have a use for them? Do you like how they look? Do you like to torture plants? ;)

 

images from Boskke

We have finally made it. We have endured the grey skies of Winter and are stepping into this miraculous time of renewal, fertility, and regeneration, when we sow our seeds and watch them dance forth into being. SPRING is finally here! There are so many rituals and holidays the world over that welcome the season of rebirth. And so, like the flowing sap and waters of Spring, this year we decided to get our own creative juices flowing and try something completely out of the ordinary to kick off this fabulous season.

holi festival

Intrigued by a photo passed along years ago by Rochelle of an absolute explosion of paint, this year I thought we’d learn a bit more about what this photo was all about. It turns out it was taken at the Festival of Colors, officially called ‘Holi,’ which is a full on celebration of fertility and Spring in India. As we learned more about its traditions, and meaning and myth wove its way into our hearts, we decided we absolutely had to check it out for ourselves in person.

holi celebration

The story is told of the two great lovers Radha and Krishna… playmates who lived in Krishna’s palace as young children. Krishna had skin the color of a brilliant blue sky on a cloudless day; Radha’s skin glowed like the radiance of the sun. And while all the young cow-herding maidens of the palace adored Krishna, Radha was his destined divine true love. Young Krishna, being full of mischief and playfulness as young boys are apt to be, decided he wanted Radha’s face to be as blue as his. His mother Yashoda, wanting to appease her son, suggested he take the pots of colored paint and color Radha’s face. Sure enough, on a day when Radha was surrounded by her young friends the Gopis, he stole into their female circle and began to throw paint at his beloved playmate. Before long, Radha and all the young female admirers of Krishna threw paint back; bodies, clothes and hair were soon drowning in all the colors of the rainbow, and the Color Festival was born.

Celebrated in India on the first lunar moon of the third month, the undertones of love, eroticism, and playfulness are evident as lovers and friends drench each other in the bright hues of Springtime. Luckily for us, this fabulous festival seems to be making its way around the world; searching for our own version of Holi here in New England, we happened upon a welcoming community gathering at Masala Art in Needham, Massachusetts. With young daughters in tow, we spent an unforgettable day eating traditional Indian food and drinking Indian Summers and virgin Bhangs (mango and coconut based drinks). We enviously adored the colorful saris of the women and girls. We danced under spinning bright lights and watched traditional dances and musical performances.

And finally…it was time for the Coloring. Cloaked in white, we made our way outside into the melee where brilliant colored powder awaited us. The heartbeat of the Earth could be heard in the sounds of the drums as our new Indian friends poured color over our clothes, hair, arms, faces. ‘Happy Holi’ was the mantra of the afternoon, always delivered with a smile from ear to ear.

Our daughters declared it was ‘one of the best days ever,’ a telling sign of success. We found a store where we can buy the paint ourselves and are already concocting our own version of Holi for next year. And while we can’t compete with the full bounty of Mother Earth’s true colors, there’s no question it is henceforth a tradition for our two families to welcome in Spring with the throwing of paint in some way. We hope some of you will join us next time, on the third full moon, either here at our homegrown celebration, or perhaps we can color each other at a real Color Festival somewhere in the world.

Happy Holi to all!

Kiss the Earth,

Jen

 

images: rochelle greayer, world newshindu art yoga clothing, melissa honeybee, dishoom and desert dreamer.

Dropkick Murphys  Dropkick Murphys au Festival d'été de Québec, 11 juillet 2011.

It’s almost St. Patty’s Day.  Which meant little to me until we moved to Boston. But now we will wake up early to be at the pub with friends and neighbors (the murphys, fitzsimmons, sennotts, flannigans, kellys, and connelleys) at 10am – cause that’s when it opens (duh). That’s right –  we are in no way Irish, but it doesn’t matter around these friends and I can’t wait.

Sláinte ~R

 

image: Dropkick Murphys, Dropkick Murphys au Festival d’été de Québec, 11 juillet 2011.

 

I’m trying out a new feature…. I’m calling it the Friday 5.  The concept is simple — it is five of anything, featured on friday.   If you want to share 5 of something – it can be plants for a purpose, products, ideas, gardens, places, events — anything really — drop me an email I would be happy to hear your idea and maybe have you make a guest post.  I’m going to kick this off with one of my favorite things — grasses.  

miscanthus sinensis gracillimus

I am grass obsessed, it is really hard for me to design a garden without them. I find them perfect for so many uses and I can easily rattle off a good one for just about any situation.  So narrowing down 5 favorites is a little bit of a trick but here goes.

top 5 grasses for the garden

1) Pennisetum alopecuroides (any variety) – Happy and neat little clumps of grassiness serve the same use (to me) as a small to medium boxwood ball — only they are not evergreen through the year.   These plants are tidy flow of everything I love about grasses – Soft touchable plumes for the seed- heads and graceful full flowing foliage that browns beautifully in the winter.

2) Miscanthus giganteus - I can’t grow kitchsy Pampas Grass where I live (it’s too cold).  But if I could I would.  I would take it as a challenge to incorporate such a distinctively retro (it’s so 70′s/ 80′s to me) plant  into a modern sophisticated landscape.  But since Pampas grass is only really happy into zone 7/8 I must resort to the Miscanthus giganteus.  This can be taller than pampas, and to me is a bit more of a cross between corn stalks and bamboo but with grassy qualities.  It is commonly grown as a bio fuel, but I find that it’s qualities of vigor, ease of growth and general giant-ness pretty useful.  I’ve been using it to anchor things like barns and fence endings in the landscape.  You can do the same with a house but be careful in dry areas as it is very flammable once it dries and dies back in the winter.  It borders on small tree sized and is quite distinctive but I use it as I would a large ornamental shrub.

3) Miscanthus ‘Graziella’  - While I extol the ‘Graziella’ the reality I really love most miscanthus (except ‘zebrinus’ whose stripes, oddly, are not appealing to me).  They range from ‘stricta’ – which is straight upright to the more gracefully shaped gracimillus which is like a pretty tapered vase for your garden.   They are all about human height and are great for the mid to back of a planting group and provide excellent upright accents, hedging and screening.  Super versatile!

4) Carex ‘Comans Bronze’ – My rebellious side loves a plant that perplexes people.   Carex ‘Comans Bronze’  does that.  It’s color challenges the notion of what is ‘living’ in the garden and many people think it is dead.  But it isn’t and when mixed with other dramatic foliage it is a really surprising star for a container garden or the front of a bed.

5) Briza media – It is called Quaking Grass because the little oat-like pendants vibrate on thin stems in the slightest breeze.  It is beautiful meadows and wild gardens and also great for xeriscape settings.  I love it with similarly airy plants like cosmos, verbena, and Coreopsis.

Want to share a Friday 5? email me.  -R

images: Pennisetum alopecuroidesmiscanthus sinensis gracillimus with chinese lanterns - Miscanthus garcimillusMiscanthus giganteus, Briza media, and Carex ‘Comans Bronze’ from Rustica