Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fall in the garden

Fall is here after a very short summer. We wish we could have had another month of summer, this year, but we get what we get when it comes to weather in the Pacific Northwest. We have had a number of light frosts that have taken out the tomatoes and burned back the cannas, but the hardy banana, Musa basjoo has barely been nipped. The Astors are done, but went out with a flourish and the tender container tropicals are back in the greenhouse to spend the winter. There are still many chiles that we harvest daily that the frost has not been too hard on- they are great grilled on the barbi. We trialed a South African bulb, Ledbouria zebrina last year and it survived the 16*f winter just fine. We are excited about it because it has the architectual look of an Agave, but dies back to the ground in winter. It will be several years before we have them available, but the seedlings are doing fine so far.

Walks in the garden are short because of the rain and cold, but there is still much to enjoy. Gone is the summer ritual of a glass of Pinto Noir in the garden at sunset, but it is replaced with a short walk in the garden at dusk to enjoy the last fall colors, look at the ducks and geese that come in with the season. Last week a bald eagle went hunting over the middle pond. My, are they big! We have begun cleaning up some of the dead and dying summer annuals so there is less work when the colder days of winter arrive. Although clean-up is not a favorite, it is good exercise and allows us to see the bones of the garden and help plan for next years garden. Now that we are off daylight savings time, the days end rather suddenly at 5pm- a far cry from 9:30pm in June. Yet this causes a welcome slow down from summer. Its dark so early that outdoor work comes to an end and thoughts of dinner and a warm fire take over. We do have an indoor garden project though. We are making tiles for the domed garden folly as we have not been able to find weather proof tile in the color we want. So, hopefully when we have our open nursery and garden in May, visitors will see a new tile roof. In the mean time, we are enjoying the last of the seasons colors and hope you are able to do the same.   

Monday, August 1, 2011


Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. The wet cold spring (the coldest an wettest in 116 years) and the cool June and early July has finely yielded  to a pleasant, but not hot summer. These are the days that we cherish in the garden. It is not too hot, the major weed pulling is over and it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labor with dinners outside and a dip in the pond on hot days.

Our garden party July 9th was an evening to remember. It was not too hot and not too cold. The jazz trio played. The garden tour was well attended and the sun transformed the garden into gold as it set. The only glitch was our caterer's lengthy food service. Some of you waited as long as an hour for dinner. Big River Events has a commitment to excellent food at affordable prices. But how do you  feed 170 people in 2 hours with individually prepared food to order without a long wait? After lengthy discussions, we think our caterer has it worked out for next year so there will be a much shorter wait time with only a slight increase in food prices. Feedback from the the artists indicated that you were more interested in the garden and having another glass of wine than in their art. We will await your feed back as to whether we add more artists next year.   

The fundraiser for Growing Gardens produced by Chef in My Garden in conjunction with Andina Restaurant and chef Hank Costello on July 24th was one of those summer evening dinners that will be remembered for a long time. The food was divine with very creative and unusual Peruvian dishes to delight the taste buds. The staff of 16 pampered the 50 diners and turned our upper terrace into an outdoor restaurant. We also learned about the unusual peppers and spices that go into the the dishes and have motivated us to start trying to raise some of these culinary delights in our nursery. Check with us next spring for availability.

Now is the season to enjoy your garden, to savor it's beauty to drink in it's fragrance and art. Walk by that weed without stopping to pulling it and head for the hammock. Now is the season for serious hammock time. Try to wear it out.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Annual open nursery and garden

Well another open nursery and garden has come and gone. We were lucky we had no rain. Especially since this spring has been so wet and cold. We thought last spring was bad!  We had four garden designers this year that offered demonstrations, tours and garden design ideas. Wine tasting and lunch were also pretty popular especially in the afternoon when the morning rush was over. No one got stuck in our field. No one got drunk and no fights broke out over plants. We did not even have to call the sheriff! Actually, it was a great bunch of people and we had a lot of fun. We were able to keep the lines down to just a few people- thanks to the help of our volunteers.  Many of you signed up for our e-mail list and we will be sending you an invite to our garden party in July and an invite to a special 10% off three hour sale Saturday, June 25th.

This spring has not been great for working in the garden or getting an early start on tomatoes, but it has been great for slugs. I am amazed how prolific they are. They must be related to rabbits. It seems that they just keep eating and eating and I thought deer were bad! We have holey cannas and irises in the garden and even a few plants that vanished over night. Although slug bait slows them down, it does not stop them. They are even climbing up our Laburnum  trees in our allee to dine on the just opened flowers. The allee is starting to mature and look like an allee, but if we don't stop the slugs the flowers will be gone. Laburnum is not very interesting without flowers.

I think Hollywood should make a horror movie about out of control slugs. I bet Alfred Hitchcock could have made a real thriller. I think slugs could be a lot more scary than The Birds especially if you had a very rare hosta that was given to you by your grandmother before she died. I can see it now, instead of running from a plane in North by Northwest, Cary Grant could be running from a massive invasion of slugs and trying to get to the hosta before it was too late. Or maybe they could do a sci fi about a mad professor who was trying to genetically engineer a supper escargo for the French, but somehow got slugs got mixed up in the experiment and they became immune to slug bait, beer, salt and ducks.Slimy human hell, slug heaven.

I bet in their little slug brains, slugs have no idea that they cause such angst to those of us gardeners at the supposed top of the food chain.  Slugs have no ethics either. They will eat anything, including each other. When I take my morning walk down the hill to get the newspaper, I step on many slugs in the long driveway. On my return, new slugs have arrived and are eating their fallen squished comrades. We just got two ducks for our pond- my do they like slugs! We do not even have to feed them. They are fast. They swallow the slugs whole and seem to slide down their long necks with record speed. I guess the slimy slugs come with their own lubricant. The only problem is they only go slug hunting near the pond and do not venture into the garden. I guess they have heard the coyotes at night.

I heard on the news the other day that the current "La Nina" is the strongest ever recorded. Studies in Australia revealed that this "La Nina" is officially over and  that sea temperatures have returned to normal. I guess the Pacific Northwest has not heard the news. Here's to hoping we have a "normal" summer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


The calendar says spring is here, but weather in the Pacific Northwest says it is still late winter. March has been cooler and rainier then normal and we are two to three weeks behind  "normal" spring development. But what good does it do to complain about the weather? If we do it with friends, it can make us feel better (misery likes company), but all a gardener can do is accept it and hope for better weather. Nature can teach us things like accepting things we can not change. Once we accept what is, we feel better.  When faced with things we can not change, we have to change. We can not change the weather, but we can change our attitude toward it. So I am trying to practice what I preach and dream of the spring and summer ahead and look forward to evening strolls in the garden, outdoor dinners, garden parties and visiting other people's gardens. I also look at our bare winter garden and think how it could improve and become more beautiful. When the garden is bare, it is a good time to evaluate how the hard scape and structure of the garden work. Now is the time to think of ways to make it more beautiful. After all isn't the pursuit of beauty one of the reasons we garden?  I also cheat and spend a lot of time in the greenhouse!

Things are growing in the greenhouse in spite of the cold cloudy days. The sun is much stronger then in December and if the clouds lighten up a bit, the temperatures can quickly climb into the 80's. There are a number of things in bloom including Aloe dortheae, and Delchampia dioscoreafolia, oranges, lemons, and some bromeliads. The Aloe plicatilis are done blooming as are the avocados. The Bletillas are in bud and so are the olives. Greenhouses are wonderful because they extend the seasons and can give us spring even in the winter. I hear people complain about how they can not afford a greenhouse, yet there are inexpensive alternatives to the expensive conservatory that we see attached to English Manor houses. For less then $2000 one can put up a 20' x 30' greenhouse. Double poly commercial greenhouses are not pretty, but they are heat efficient and cheap. Most nursery supply companies also sell greenhouses. Greenhouses also help people with the winter blues also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD because of the added light and green plants. Then of course you can start all of your own vegetable starts from seed and save a lot of money. Internet seed companies offer an amazing array of gourmet seed selections. I am always in aw when I see a seed germinate and grow into a plant. It is hard to believe that a little tomato seed can grow into a large plant and provide so many vine-ripened tomatoes.