Garden Diary - August 2007

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A Week on North Carolina's Crystal Coast
Sunday, 26 August, to Sunday, 2 September

By the Sea on a Barrier Island

"My folks have a condo down on Emerald Isle in North Carolina." said Woody. "I'm going down the end of August. Care to come along? There's ample room." It didn't take much discussion for the two of us to agree that this sounded like a fine idea. A native of the Tar Heel State, Woody is quite familiar with the area around the Crystal Coast. After all, he's been visiting there three or four times a year for several years now. Paul and I would be in good hands as far as what to see, what to do, where to go, places to eat, and more. Since we'd be driving (a long, 12 hour day what with a stop for lunch; stretch your legs and bathroom breaks; ooh, I need a picture! breaks) there was ample room for: luggage, picnic cooler (I was after figs, scuppernong and muscadine grapes), three camera bags (one each), two laptop computers, Paul's kite and its reel, and assorted bits and bobs. Everything got wedged into the car around 7:30 a.m. on August 26. I got the second row passenger seat, just enough space to curl up and nap, and away we went.

Sand, Surf, and Shorebirds

Photograph Credit Wm. P. Woodall 2007. All rights reserved.

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Water Dogs and Sea Horses

Photograph Credit Wm. P. Woodall 2007. All rights reserved.

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Southern Fried

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Southern Grapes

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Living on the Dunes

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Farming and Field Crops

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In and Out of Gardens: Governor Tryon's Palace

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In and Out of Gardens: Plant Portraits

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Omnium Gatherum

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Friday, 24 August 2007

Shitakes / Silver Lining

It's been raining and pouring. Good for slugs
and mushrooms. "The shitakes are popping," said Georgeann
"and I'm harvesting this afternoon. Want any?"
You bet!

Georgeann's husband Dan bought the shitake spawn from a place in Oregon.
He set up oak logs in the shade of the pine trees. Some are on end and others
are stacked into a crib, like Lincoln logs. Then he inoculated the logs
and waited for Nature to take its course. Rain and cool temperatures help.

An excellent reference book is "The Essential Reference:
Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini" by Elizabeth Schneider, in which she says,
"Choose solid thick caps, particularly ones that are domed and dappled with a whitish bloom.
"Above all, curled-under cap margins ensure freshness. Look for a veil over the gills."
And she wants us to look for little shitakes, not big flabby ones.
"If you are lucky enough to locate hard-to-find little button shitake, showcase them in a simple dish.
"The handsome dark caps, tender enough to be cooked with their pale stems intact . . .

Harvest fresh, and impeccably clean, no washing necessary.

Have you ever seen mushrooms as magnificent as these.

Tina's smile and her hands full of shitakes says it all. I took mine home and, following the good advice cooked the handsome dark caps together and intact with their pale stems, sauteed in butter. Grilled salmon, kasmati rice, green beans, and shitakes. Yummy indeed.

After dinner I made duxelles - finely chopped shitakes caught up in a clean dish towel and squeezed of their juice, then sauteed in butter and herbed olive oil together with slivered onion, salt and a little pepper. When cooled, packed into small containers, topped with melted butter, and into the freezer.

Here's hoping it rains some more, more shitakes pop their little button heads out of the logs
and Georgeann calls to say, "I'm harvesting this afternoon. Want any?"

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Wednesday, 22 August 2007

High Style Chrysanthemums

It's the middle of August, for pity's sake. Frost is far from any gardener's mindset. Dahlias are in magnificent bloom, brugmansias dangle their trumpet-shaped flowers, and all's well with the world here in the Garden State of New Jersey. Well yes, there are signs and portents of autumn. The first apples are in the market. We've had significant amounts of rain. While the month of August was averaging 1.5° Fahrenheit above average, by the time Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday arrived with temperatures 10° Fahrenheit below average (a blanket on the bed at night, a cup of tea in the afternoon) we were right back to "normal." But it is still August! What's going on, with chrysanthemums practically shoved in our faces.

They're here by the bushel, they're here by the pot.

I see them at big box stores such as Wal-Mart, supermarkets like Shoprite, garden centers up and down the highway. What ever happened to seasonal gardening? If we are now tuning in to the seasons in how we eat, shouldn't the same apply to how we garden?

Chrysanthemums display photoperiodism. So do poinsettias. Their time of bloom is controlled by day length. Shorter days, longer nights, and these plants set buds and prepare to flower. We're a couple of months beyond the longest day of the summer solstice, losing daylight at about about 2 minutes each day as we circle to the winter solstice. Still to early for chrysanthemums to flower in the garden, but they are easily deceived. Shade the plants with black cloth so their nights are longer than they truly are, and the befuddled chrysanthemums bud up and bloom. So standardized are the techniques for controlling bloom time that chrysanthemums are produced in great numbers, sold for a pittance.

In 2006, the The New York Botanical Garden displayed a couple of thousand-blossom plants.

Photograph Credit Raimund Koch 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.

A splendid dome of flowers, each stem in careful alignment to the others,
each flower carefully supported lest wind or rain spoil the display.
This is the result of month after month of careful work, attention to detail:
pinching and pruning and staking, watering and fertilizing and potting on to ever larger container.
This is, you see, a single plant, trained into a thousand blossom display.

Photograph Credit Raimund Koch 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.

These techniques for training chrysanthemums arose in Japan.
There, kiku, as chrysanthemums are known, are individually sculpted and trained,
using the plasticity that is potential in the plant's growth.
Pinching out the growing point causes that stem to branch.

Photograph Credit Joshua Leiberman 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.
A plant raised with but a single-stem, then pinched.
Result: a starry constellation of white flowers.

Photograph Credit Joshua Leiberman 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.
A thousand-blossom chrysanthemum at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, in Tokyo, Japan.

Photograph Credit Joshua Leiberman 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.
A different technique is used to produce cascade-style kiku. Chrysanthemums do not naturally trail or droop.
Their stems are brittle. Each chrysanthemum plant is trained over a wire screen. The pot is tilted so the plant
is growing upright - until, that is, the pot is straightened out for display and the peacock tail of flowers
now trails artistically downward. Have you never had a plant knocked over, that attempted to straighten itself.
Only, if resurrected, to display an awkward inverted L announcing to the world its response to gravity's tug.
Same principle, geotropism here utilized in artistic manner rather than sloppy gardening.

Photograph Credit Joshua Leiberman 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.
A more detailed view of this splendid display at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

A trip to Japan is an involved piece of planning and travel. Fortunately the New York Botanical Garden is more accessible.
This fall the Garden will host a month-long festival of chrysanthemums trained in the Imperial Japanese style, the most extensive display
ever presented outside Japan. As well, there will celebrations of Japanese culture on the weekends, with traditional dance and music,
Taiko drumming, bonsai display, and more. I will be there on Saturday, October 27, leading a tour of the exhibit at 12:30 p.m.
and presenting a lecture on Japanese Plants for Autumn Interest at 3:00 p.m.
Kiku, the Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum, opens on October 20, 2007 and will close on November 18.

Opening on the same day, October 20, 2007, and continuing through January 13, 2008 will be a splendid exhibition of
Plants of Japan in Illustrated Books and Prints in the William D. Rondina and Giovanni Foroni LoFaro Gallery
of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library. Highlighting the importance of Japanese plants in American Horticulture.
Works selected from the Library's extensive collections will present plants from Japan in black and white,

Courtesy of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, New York Botanical Garden.
Petasites japonicus giganteus from Descriptive Catalogue of the Yokohama Co., Limited, 1897. Nursery catalog.
And if you think this image is pure hyperbole, allow me to disabuse you. It is only a little bit fantastical.
Leaves of the giant petasites grow from not quite a yard to 4 1/2 feet wide, supported on petioles 6 1/2 feet tall.
Those dimensions make a suitable umbrella, don't you agree? Clearly not a plant for small gardens.

and many prints and images in color. Some familiar to American gardeners

Courtesy of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, New York Botanical Garden.
Utagawa Hiroshige III (1842-1894) Japanese maple from Kakyo Tokyo meisho, 1881. Woodblock print..

others of culinary interest

Courtesy of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, New York Botanical Garden.
Persimmon hanging scroll, [n.d.] Private collection.


Photograph Credit Joshua Leiberman 2006. Courtesy New York Botanical Garden.

Superlative chrysanthemums, wonderful art, together in a celebration of Japanese flora, art, and culture.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2007

Prepare for the Flower Show

The flower show is coming up fast, just a couple of weeks away. The annual standard flower show of the Tohickon Garden Club will be held on September 8 and 9, 2007, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Erwin-Stover House in Tinicum Park, on River Road / Route 29, Erwinna, Pennsylvania. The theme is The "Art" of Flower Arranging, with design classes based on specific works of art such as Renoir's A Girl with a Watering Can, van Gogh's The Starry Night, and four others. And for those (like me) who are uncertain of the skill at arranging flowers (I'm of the "stuff 'em in a vase and hope things don't fall over" school of design) there's a large horticultural section. Today's meeting was to give us novices some hints, tips, and techniques of just what's involved in entering a flower show. A flower show judge, Sue is acting as consultant for the design class, and presented today's helpful suggestions.

First, read the schedule. Pay attention.
If it says miniature arrangement not to exceed 5 inches in any dimension, get out your ruler.
Use it on your sunflower for horticultural classes 17 and 18.
One class is for flowers up to 6 inches in diameter, the other is for larger ones.

If you will be showing a flower where the class requires 3 specimens,
prepare at least 4. Then you can choose the best of the bunch.

Understand what the judges will be looking for. This dahlia may look fabulous,
but that's to the untrained eye. "Look at the center." Sue points out.

It's green, and hard. That's an automatic deduction. Keep it at home and enjoy it yourself.

Alert and attentive, and paying attention. That's the important part.
Sue is knowledgeable and informative. I'm not ready for the design classes.
But maybe, just maybe, she's convinced me I could try the horticulture division.
I'll read the requirements, walk around the garden,
and see what the deer and slugs have left for me.

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Saturday, 18 August 2007

Summer Picnic in Parsippany

After yesterday's tumult this morning dawned with rain-washed clear blue skies. The picnic, another of the convivial activities of the Watnong [New Jersey] Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, would go on as scheduled. August is when we picnic at a member's house and garden. The chapter provides the basics of main dishes, drinks, plates and cutlery and napkins. members bring salads and side dishes and desserts. The plethora of tasty food has me thinking we should publish a cookbook! This picnic, at Karen and Jim's garden, was delightful. There small, flat, suburban lot has several large trees that provide shade and a feeling of enclosure. Tropical plants in pots, the music of a container water garden, architectural terra cotta accents lend interest and beauty all summer long.

Photograph Credit Paul Glattstein 2007. All rights reserved.

Amazing how well we all fit into the space.
A few tables, each with a simple country bouquet.
All of us comfortably seated in self-provided chairs.
Appetizers, beverages, desserts outside on the patio.
Queuing for the tasty entrees, salads, and side dishes
served buffet style in the kitchen.

These three found a comfortable perch on the low stone wall at the rear of the garden.

I brought 14 individual servings of the delectable Bavarian cream.
This version was made with white peaches, embellished with fresh blackberries.
(You'll find the recipe if you scroll down to the August 16th entry.)
I doubled the quantities to make 14 servings, and I added the beaten egg whites
while the custard was still slightly warm. That's why there's a jelly layer at the bottom.

A stroll around the garden brings me to this colorful vignette with bold tropical foliage:
feathery fireworks of papyrus fronting black elephant ear and Canna 'Tropicanna'
with a backdrop of variegated maiden grass. There's something off to the left . . .

It's not Queen Ann's lace on steroids, tossed in the wash with a maroon sweatshirt. It just looks that way.
Angelica gigas grows over 4 feet tall, with domed heads of dark purple-maroon flowers.
Native to Japan, Korea, and northern China, it grows in mountain meadows and open woodland.
When I grew it a number of years ago there was a tendency towards monocarpic behavior -
plants would drop dead after flowering and seed production. But it self-sowed. I wouldn't mind growing it again.

On the opposite, sunnier side of the garden there is a dainty little in-ground pool.
Here, at the edge of the terrace and near the shady area is a charming fountain
with its off-center spout and plump carp swimming round.

How gracefully the variegated sedge spills over and softens the bold look
of this sturdy elephant ear, an Alocasia with typical upward-pointing leaves.
This one has sturdy, nearly plastic-looking foliage.

Architectural salvage, substantial, embellished, decorative,
stacked, plinth and planter, crowned with a croton for additional color.

A mirrored globe, not the typically smooth and glistening orb
but rather a milky sphere that reflects in a more subtle manner,
nestled in a planter with sharp tipped succulents. Everywhere,
the garden has charming vignettes, clever plant combinations. A picnic indeed,
with delicious food for the body and delights for the eye and mind.

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Friday, 17 August 2007

After the Storm

Elephant ears, the plant, have leaves reminiscent of an African elephant's large ears. They (I'm again referring to the plant) needs lots of water, especially on hot summer days when their large surfaces transpire moisture faster than the roots can suck it up. It's easy for the moisture level to drop, and when it does the leaves droop

as here. Cannot be ignored, especially if you want to use the front walk.

Oops! Out with the hose and water every pot in sight.
If one is drooping, other plants are likely verging on dryness.

But of course that tempts fate. Occasionally, if I water it rains.
(And if I didn't water, it wouldn't. Rain that is.
Better to water and have it rain, than not water and have plants dessicate.)

Oh boy, did it ever rain! Monsoon rains. Oven an inch in less than 30 minutes.
Faster than the downspout can cope with the deluge.

Splattering on the driveway so hard the water droplets bounced back up in the corona effect.

And then we got hail. A drumroll rattle of ice that sounded like the skylights would break.
Droplets going up into cold air, sinking into warmer air, cycling back and forth until too heavy to bounce any more.
Crash, down they come. That's 3/8 inch gravel, and some hailstones are almost the same size.

And the elephant ear, my poor thirsty elephant ear that just wanted a drink?


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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Berry, Berry

Intending to go berry picking, off I went to Solebury Orchards in Bucks County, Pennsylvania this morning, and a hazy, overcast morning it was. There was a sign

and first I went for the blackberries. Oh my, summertime, and the picking is easy.
I went down one side of one row, and filled six quart-size baskets in about an hour
(and let us not count those I popped in my mouth.)

I brought the baskets to the fruit stand and asked them to set them aside
while I went back to the berry patch for raspberries. I'd forgotten how much longer it takes
to pick raspberries, much longer than blackberries. It took me 45 minutes to pick two quarts.

Don't they look good though!

A couple of people asked what I was going to do with so many berries. Make blackberry jelly of course. And with the remaining blackberry pulp, Bavarian cream. It's a delicious, flavorful, light, cold dessert for summertime. So far I've made several versions, with blackberry, with yellow peaches, and a caramel banana. Here's how:

Blackberry Bavarian Cream. Makes 6 servings

Soften one packet of gelatin in 1/3 cup of water.
Warm 1 cup of whole milk in a double boiler.
Separate two eggs. Set whites aside. Whisk yolks.
Beating all the while, add warm milk to egg yolks.
Add 1/4 cup sugar.
Return egg yolk mixture to double boiler and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until it thickens into a custard.
Add softened gelatin and stir until it dissolves.
Lift out double boiler insert and discard water from saucepan. Add cold water and ice cubes.
Replace double boiler insert and cool custard, stirring periodically.
When cool, add 2 cups blackberry puree and 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to custard. Mix well.
Whip egg whites. When soft peaks form, add 2 Tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Fold egg whites into custard and fruit mixture.
Ladle Bavarian cream into wine glasses, custard cups, or other serving dish, and refrigerate at least 2 hours until set.

Note: I get my eggs from Blue Jingler Farm, where they keep pastured chickens. If you go here and scroll down to the December 3rd entry you see the chickens and their eggs. I am comfortable with eating raw egg whites from this known source. If you shop for eggs at the supermarket and have any concerns, choose pasturized eggs for use in this recipe. And, by the way, "cage free" is not the same things. True, the chickens are not in cages. They are, whoever, confined indoors in overcrowded conditions.

Berry pickers are not the only ones at Solebury Orchards.

She's picking flowers that providentially match her outfit.

And Sarah here, is being assisted by Whizbucket, the very sweet and loving cat
who resides at Solebury Orchards and enjoys welcoming all visitors to the farm.

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Sunday, 12 August 2007

Jersey Fresh

Sundays are when I run around shopping Jersey Fresh (and a quick trip across state lines into Pennsylvania.) It's one of the benefits of living in a somewhat rural portion of The Garden State. As well, there is that great tasting tomato sandwich, a Jersey specialty.

First, you need tomatoes, sun kissed, freshly picked, and bursting with flavor.

Then, you make a sandwich. Dick's is relatively complicated:
bread, mayonnaise, tomatoes, and egg. The most basic ( pure)
would be just a thick slice of tomato and some mayo. Here's a hint:
if you're using bread, only smear the mayo on one piece.
Both, and the filling can skoosh out when you bite down.

So good!

Dick's orchard is where I get peaches, wonderful, juicy peaches
for eating fresh, making desserts and Creek Road Crafts preserves.
So far this summer I've made ginger peach and chile peach jams.

Then it's across the river for corn.

Right now they have white and bicolor corn, and charming staff to wait on me.

Back across the river to New Jersey, and up the road to the Dvoor Farm Farmers Market.
There's some more about it here, just scroll down for two previous entries.
Today I bought some honey from Jean-Claude, and strolled around admiring beautiful produce

Carrots and bok choy and eggplants

As well as other produce I bought a lovely ripe watermelon,
juicy and bursting with flavor. Excuse me, I must go and eat some more.

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Saturday, 11 August 2007

Luxuriously Planted Containers

Today I taught a class about waterscaping at the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills, New Jersey. While I think of the garden as a springtime delight (for the early bulbs and rock garden display in April and May) it is wonderful in summer, with lush plantings around the pond and tree-shaded paths. In addition, there are wonderful containers that explore a diversity of plants well beyond the commonplace of geraniums, petunias, and vinca vines.

A luscious foliage combination of Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyers' and Plectranthus uvongo.

Under the dappled shade of a black locust near the visitors' center, a rectangular wooden plants displays
Plectranthus coleoides 'Nicolleta', Solanostemon (previously known as Coleus) 'Green Earrings'
and Impatiens 'Amythest Sonic'™.

An attractive container filled with an exuberantly growing fern, one of the "footed" kind
with green runners sprawling hither and thither.

A container with a bold coleus and a chartreuse elephant ear.

A glimpse of Begonia Dragon Wing Pink™ in the hanging basket above a red spotted banana and coleus.

Sources for the diversity of plants in these and other planters at the Leonard J. Buck Garden came from Atlock Farms on Weston Canal Road in Somerset, New Jersey, telephone 732-356-3373. See here and scroll down for my June visit. Others came from Leaping Lizards Garden Center, at 3055 Valley Road in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, telephone 908-542-9797, and also Morris County Farms, at 33 Smith Road, Denville, New Jersey, telephone 973-366-4448.

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Sunday, 4 August 2007

Tri-State Hosta Society Meeting in Connecticut

Today was the garden tour and annual meeting of the Tri-State Hosta Society at the garden of Paul Young in Bethel, Connecticut. A landscape architect, Paul retired from Young's Nursery in July 1999, a change which allowed more time to develop his property into a delightful garden. A peaceful, four acre pond is the focal point of the ten acres of Limewood Farm's rich soil. Originally designed with mass plantings of the largest hosta varieties, it morphed into "Hooked on Hosta" and has resulted in the collection of more than 650 different cultivars spread throughout the 3,000 linear feet around the shoreline of the pond and into the nooks and crannies of the shade gardens. Woody plants create a backbone setting for the hosta. Mountain laurel, flowering dogwood, viburnum, and many ornamental trees provide interest and protection from the sun. There are moss and rock gardens, and a small water garden pool, all with the emphasis on the genus hosta.

Enthusiastic about the genus Hosta, the group draws its membership from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York State.

Checking in, everyone receives a plant of Hosta 'Judy Rocco, commemorating a founding member of the society.

Tucked into a bag

in a folding chair's drink holder,

even in a shirt pocket.

Now presumably members are all growing hostas in their own gardens.
And they each just got a bonus plant. But now matter how crowded the garden there's always room for more.
Here's someone perusing the plants for sale from O'Brien Nursery.
John's nursery is in Granby, Connecticut if you want to stop by on their Friday through Sunday open days.
Check their calendar. And he has other great shade-loving plants in addition to the hosta.

Paul Young started preparing his garden for this meeting a year ago. He decided that
he wouldn't buy any new plants nor would he plant any new plants. Maintenance was the focus.
And the plants look great. He applied deer repellent in early June and again in early July,
weeded and watered and mulched. His goal: grow the plants as vigorously as possible
and get them knit together in sweeps and drifts, accenting the trees and shrubs and as a backdrop
to individual hostas.

Careful labelling identifies the different cultivars.


It was really a Quad-State meeting, as among the hundred or so who came for the day
I recognized at least one from Pennsylvania. Hot dogs and hamburgers and sausages,
beverages provided too. Members brought salads and side dishes and a bevy of desserts.
Chairs arranged in the shade, a lovely peaceful garden through which to stroll,
and the company of friends. A delightful day, in a wonderful garden.

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