Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

February Gold February 24, 2010

No question about it, this has been the weirdest winter I can remember. Yes, I’m counting last year’s Snowpocalypse; this one is even odder. Spring came months earlier than usual this year – I’m confused, the trees are confused, the birds are confused. I just hope we get back to some semblance of normal next year or it’s going to start seeming like a pattern instead of a few anomalies strung together.

Anyone reading this from under a pile of snow on the roof is probably wondering what’s to complain about. Sunny days and 60 degrees in February? Well, it’s not typical, so it’s getting everything started sooner (including garden pests like aphids and popping weed, not to mention allergies!), which just seems wrong. I wonder things like, if the migratory hummingbirds come back and the flowers they are used to have all bloomed already, will they have enough to eat following their exhausting trip? If my roses leafed out too early and I didn’t cut them back until this week, will they still bloom? If the bumblebees are already out but it gets colder later, can they go back to sleep?

The upside of all of this, of course, is sun. Lovely, warming, spirit-lifting, unusually present sun. I can’t remember eating lunch outside at a cafe at this time of year before. Essential Baking was on my way home from an errand the other week and I couldn’t resist stopping in.

Essential Baking sign on sunny Seattle day

Their special soup was beet something, I can’t remember the other ingredients but it was heavenly, along with a salad of spring greens and some tasty flatbread. The sun made the soup look like was sparkling.

Sunny cafe lunch - outdoors in February!?!

The cafe has a nice little parking strip garden, with euphorbias and a cute, small witch hazel which was just glowing on this day.

Glowing witch hazel blossoms and euphorbia

Sunlit streetside euphorbia at Essential Baking

Some kind of eucalyptus (?) is planted in brick planters on the cafe side of the street. I liked the way the red-rimmed leaves softened the severity of the iron railing.

Eucalyptus leaves and iron railing

Outdoor dining in the dead of winter. What is this, California??

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New But Not Necessarily Improved December 12, 2009

Filed under: digressions,edibles — greenwalks @ 9:28 pm
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Since my family is a little bit apple-crazy, I figure I have to try just about any named apple variety I can lay my hands on. Farmers markets and orchard stands are of course the best places to find unusual varieties, but every once in a while something new pops up in the grocery store.

Last week, I spotted a sign for a new hybrid of Braeburn X Royal Gala, called a Jazz. It had the super-firm feel of a Fuji, which is not my favorite (I’d like to keep my front teeth into old age, thanks), but I decided to try it anyway.

"Jazz" apple

I don’t know if I got a poor specimen of the variety, but I have to say it did not make the cut for me in terms of flavor or texture (too sweet and chalky). Looking it up to make sure I had the hybrid varieties right, I saw that this particular apple has not only a trademark, but its own web site, Facebook page and Twitter following. I kid you not. I am not linking to any of them since I fear their PR flaks would take me to task for criticizing their product, which seems to have originated in New Zealand but is licensed to growers here in Washington state and elsewhere. But you can look it up if you don’t believe me or just want to see the cute young members of the JAZZ™ Apple Tangy-Sweet Crunch Bunch, coming soon to a town near you to offer up some slices. No, I did not make that up either.

I’m not knocking hybrids, I know they are an important part of keeping the plant kingdom thriving. In fact, it seems that the Royal Gala itself is a hybrid from New Zealand (Golden Delicious X Kidd’s Orange Red), ditto Braeburn (Granny Smith X Lady Hamilton, possibly). Those two combined represent a huge chunk of worldwide apple sales, so I guess I can’t blame them for trying to find the next golden goose. Has anyone else tried this apple? Was it any good? Did the name attract or repel you? (Do you think they focus-grouped the heck out of it?) Am I just being an old grump for preferring my apples not to wear stickers with company logos and trademarks on them?

 

Fence Art November 2, 2009

Filed under: edibles,flora,garden art — greenwalks @ 2:45 pm
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Want to dress up your fence or gate? Just hang a glass jar or tin can as an impromptu flower vase, as this Seattle gardener did, fill it with flowers and greens, and give the passers-by a lift:

Gate vase (olive jar)

Bonus points for a carefully balanced pile of perfectly lusciously rounded apples (maybe they became “art” due to those telltale critter holes).

Fencepost apple pile

 

Anthropomorphic Tomatoes September 3, 2009

Filed under: edibles — greenwalks @ 11:00 am
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My folks grew these ultra-goofy-looking tomatoes – I picked them up a few days too late for Molly’s tomatoes-with-body-parts contest, so they didn’t win any prizes, but they sure might have. Photo is blurry but maybe you can still see, they’re pretty hilarious.

Tomatoes with noses

What’s the oddest-looking edible you’ve ever grown?

(I must say that most of my parents’ tomatoes look completely normal and perfect – these were special exceptions held out in case they made the trip to the judging on Tiger Mountain!)

 

SAGBUTT Food PS August 21, 2009

Filed under: edibles — greenwalks @ 8:28 am
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I had already included so many photos in this post that I had to leave a few out, but I can’t resist a small PS. Every time the garden blog crowd meets, people bring stuff to share. I only had boring old seeds (poppies and calendulae) that nobody wanted, but that didn’t stop me from snapping up some of what was on offer, which does seem a little unfair…

Lucky me, I came home with a slew of eggs from Molly’s lovely feathered ladies (my daughter reserved and ate the little greenish one), plums from Aerie-el’s Italian Prune harvest, and a head of garlic from Paula’s patch. Thanks, gals!

SAGBUTT bounty

Haven’t tried the plums or garlic yet, but do have to say that the eggs cooked up into the best scrambled eggs we’d eaten, EVER.

Best scrambled eggs ever

I’ve been kind of, well, chicken about getting a few fowl, but I might have to find space for a coop someday and just deal with the occasional unpleasantness (raccoon raid, heat-wave-related keelings-over, manure smell) just to have eggs like that every day. Mmmmmm.

 

Hen Party Plus One August 18, 2009

The August meeting of the Seattle garden bloggers crew was largely a female affair this time, for the first month in a long while. While we have enjoyed the presence of Daniel, Michael and David at previous get-togethers, it looked at first like it was just going to be us chickens, including a few that were new to the group.

But then one brave rooster showed up – I hope all the clucking didn’t scare him too much.

Young Araucana hens and rooster

Oh wait, those were Molly’s new Araucana hens and their boyfriend. Here’s (most of) our flock:

August SAGBUTT crew

Aaron was the new guy (at far left), he blogs at erasei and in his first year of vegetable gardening appears to be outstripping all of my many years of efforts. Way to go, Aaron! Next to him, in blue with the camera, is Melanthia of Garden Muse, coming back from some time away from the blogosphere, where she was much missed. In tie-die is Paula of Petunia’s Garden, who as always brought something to share (a basket of perfect-looking garlic). Yvonne and her friend Donna (next over, sorry that Donna is behind a tree) also came along for the first time – both are avid gardeners among many other talents. Aerie-el from Gardener’s Roost, also with a camera out and also partially obscured, has been with us via comments and our listserv but had never been able to attend a meeting – it was so great to finally meet her. Melanthia’s friend Cheryl, in the elegant ensemble complete with pink handbag, was a really good sport for a non-gardener, having really been here mostly for a board meeting of the Isis Initiative, a non-profit that supports education for women in the devolping world. Last but not least, at far right, our gracious and hilarious host, Molly, telling us more funny stories about her Life on Tiger Moutain. Also with us were Curmudgeon, Wingnut and Dakota the dog, all in fine fettle and full of stories about critter challenges in this summer’s garden – they are not in the picture, probably already working on their post about the event, which seemed to go up almost instantly.

We all got to go on the “herding cats” tour of Molly’s magnificent property, a five acre spread at the edge of wilderness of which she personally tends quite a large chunk. I admit to missing a lot of the tour’s narration, since I was once again at the back, yakking, straggling, admiring, and generally comparing my own garden most unfavorably to what I saw.

Walking towards the barn and greenhouse, the veggie patch in raised beds begs you to come closer and take a look at what’s growing and how carefully and intelligently it has been tended.

Molly's barn, veggie garden and greenhouse

Have you ever seen healthier pumpkin vines?

Pumpkin vines that ate the universe

They grew up and over a net trellis that had been put there for other purposes (Borlotti beans visible below but not nearly so visible as the pumpkins!).

Pumpkin and Borlotti bean trellis (lacrosse net?)

We talked about TP rolls (or “loo rolls,” as Matron would call them) and how some have found them to be less than wonderful for seed starting, perhaps due to chemicals or coating in or on the cardboard. Molly says they work fine for her leeks – they certainly look happy.

Leek bed with TP rolls

I could be wrong, but I think this was only one of several tomato beds. Netting is to protect from chickens when they’re out free-ranging, I believe. Chickens are good for some pest control but they also scratch sort of indiscriminately; they also don’t eat slugs, but the ducks do so they seem like a good team.

Tomato bed

I forgot to peek in the greenhouse – I bet there was some great stuff in there. Dang. On to a few highlights from the rest of the property.

Clematis seedhead:

Clematis seedhead

Peach tree:

Peach tree

Big rock and Japanese willow at the front of the house, with striking sedum at the base:

Big rock and Japanese willow

Bed by the front steps with such a great mix of leaf colors, shapes, textures, and hues:

Entry bed

When gardeners get together is good food and drink ever far away? I know Molly worked very hard to put all of this together, but she didn’t make a big deal out of it. Highlights included pizza fresh out of oven, covered with homegrown tomatoes, and blackberry clafouti, from freshly harvested berries.

The spread

Elderflower beverages were promised, elderflower beverages were delivered. How to describe the taste? Delicate, sweet, subtle, delicious! To read the story of St. Germain liquer, and how the elderflowers are gathered (it involves old Bohemians on bicycles in the French alps, hard to beat that), click here.

St. Germain elderflower cocktail fixings

Not being a tomato lover, I didn’t participate in the tasting, but there sure were a lot of juicy-looking ones.

Tasty tomatoes and zinnias

I didn’t get a good photo of Molly’s dog, about whom she has told us many stories (I liked the one about how she picked up a bucket of blackberries and dashed off with it, handle in mouth, berries flying everywhere), nor the hide-ier of her cats, whom I glimpsed once gliding by, but this one put up with us at least until a faceful of German Shepherd got a little too close for comfort (in a friendly way, but still).

Feline host

Thank you, Molly, for sharing your beautiful food, drink, garden, and self with us. Life on Tiger Mountain seems pretty sweet indeed.

Molly at home

 

Tomatoes on Tiger Mountain August 12, 2009

Filed under: bloggers' gathering,edibles — greenwalks @ 4:21 pm
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Molly of Life on Tiger Mountain has graciously invited the Seattle garden blogging crew out to her Issaquah-area place for snacks, elderflower beverages and a tomato tasting this Saturday, August 15. Bragging rights will be awarded in various tomato categories (see below), and this might actually be the meeting where we get around to discussing blogging. Maybe.

Here are the details, courtesy of Molly – we’d love to meet some new folks so if you haven’t joined us yet, please come on along!

Saturday, August 15, 2:00 pm – whenever

Garden tour and tomato tasting (at least 5 varieties available for tasting)

You are welcome to bring your favorite variety of tomato for tasting, whether homegrown or from the farmers’ market

Tomato tasting is subjective, so no competition here. BUT! There will be prizes for the largest tomato (homegrown), smallest ripe tomato, and most anthropomorphic tomato (resembling a face or other portion of
the human anatomy).

(For directions, email me at greenwalksblog@yahoo.com by Friday night, and I’ll send them along!)

 

tomatowithnose

(Grandmotherly tomato image courtesy of Finizo via Flickr Creative Commons. To see more images by this photographer, click here.)