Thursday, January 30, 2014

Am I a Foodie, or a Greenie? Are You?

Flash Back Thursday: March 2, 2010

Tonight as I was unpacking my first box of organic produce from a local farmer, I cooed sounds of approval over the beautiful vegetables, fruit and herbs. I wondered out loud, am I a foodie? I have to admit that until recently, I never heard of the term before, until a good friend spoke to me about her daughter-in-law and described her as one. I love fresh organic food, I’m willing to drive 20 minutes away to shop at the wonderful Central Market in Poulsbo instead of a closer grocery chain store, just to be able to have huge choices of organic food. I grow some of my food for the same reason. But does that make me a foodie?

I searched the web for the term and I’m not convinced I would qualify as one. Foodie is a term Paul Levy and Ann Barr invented and used in their 1984 book, The Official Foodie Handbook. Well, I don’t have the owner’s manual, and I didn’t search too deeply on the web, so it isn’t clear if I am a foodie. A gourmet is known as the connoisseurs of refined taste and foodies are considered the amateurs “who simply love food for consumption” according to Wikipedia. A foodie may be a hobbyist, or perhaps an obsession.

Shrug. I’m not fond of labels so whether I am or not is of no importance to me and a good indicator that officially, I am not a foodie. However, I do love good fresh, wholesome, tasting food that doesn’t come from a can or the freezer section of the grocery store. If I can’t pick my food at home in the garden, than I want to pick it out of the colorful, overflowing bins in the produce section, and I want it to be pesticide or any –icide free.

Although I am an organic gardener who wants to only eat organic food, it’s almost an impossibility, since I do dine out in local eateries. I don’t know one organic restaurant within 25 miles or having to take a ferry boat ride from where I reside. I hope that organic food served in restaurant will become the norm in the future, not a rarity.

I recently discovered a Carnation, Washington, organic farm, Full Circle Farm delivers to my small town. I made my first order and am pleased with the delivery. Almost every thing in the box they grow themselves or contract with other local Northwest farmers, although there are some items, such as beautiful mandarin oranges and kiwis, that are shipped in from outside our region. 

I carefully washed beautiful heads of lettuce and bunches of spinach and spun them dry in the salad spinner, so they are ready to use immediately for the next week. I nibbled on a few leaves as I washed them and placed the rest in plastic tubs. There were no plastic bags around the produce so I had little waste to dispose of.  The box it came in will be recycled into the garden. It felt good to buy from a Washington farmer with minimal packaging and the food I tasted so far is awesome.

I may not care if I’m a foodie, but I do like that in the middle of winter, I can be a greenie (has anyone coined that term yet?) and still eat great tasting, fresh produce.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Urban Garden Company’s Second Anniversary

Walking into the Urban Garden Company in Tacoma, you know you are going to love every vignette. Garden designer, Sue Goetz, is the artistry behind this shop. Strolling into the building during the height of winter is a welcome relief from the dreary gray days, especially today when the sun streamed through the windows and upon the shelves filled with delights for both interior and exterior. Today they celebrated their second anniversary.

While visiting the store, Sue graciously talked to me about the upcoming show That begins next week, about what it’s like to design and build the display gardens for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. They begin building the garden in the Convention Center at the end of this week. 

The store will close for the next few weeks as Sue Goetz and her daughter Courtney gear up for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. The mother and daughter team have designed a wonderful two-generation garden, featuring two artisan studios with two different styles, two different purposes  and married them together in a beautiful garden—The Art of Retreat. This is Sue's seventh display garden and Courtney's second, more about that later. For now just enjoy the store!

We will enjoy their garden in February at the show, but today here are a few treats from inside the Urban Garden Company store. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Alice in the Greenhouse

Flash Back Thursday,
May 31, 2011

There are days when I love looking out into my greenhouse from my kitchen window. Other days I wish I had a clear view out into my backyard when I stand at the kitchen sink. A lean-to greenhouse obscures any views outside its walls. Today I had a hummingbird visitor—a cute little female flew in, enticed by the flowers inside the structure that I helped build. With bright light coming in at all angles, she became confused over which way was out. Today I am glad the structure is there and I can observe her for a while and take advantage of a photo op. I snapped a few photos every time she stopped to perch on a pot hanger just outside the window. I don't know what made me give her a name or why I chose that one, but I named her Alice.

Every spring a hummer flies into the structure to feed on any flowers that are blooming inside. It usually happens when it is still too early to move the flowering containers permanently outside. I learned a long time ago not to try to help the hummingbirds find their way out to freedom. My presence in the confines of the greenhouse made one of them panic. In desperation, the little one was slamming itself into the greenhouse panels and wood structure. I imagine the panic placed a lot of stress on its small little body. I quickly left for fear the poor little being would hurt itself. When left alone, they eventually leave the greenhouse—about an hour later, Alice flew away. I hope she learned not to go in there again, or if she does, she will remember where to exit.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

This sweet Helleborus blossom appeared in my garden a few year's ago. A seedling from who knows which hellebore. Of course it has H. orientalis in its chlorophyll lines, yet all the ones I grow don't have the two-toned affect or speckling like this one.

She most likely will never be a star, never sold in a gazillion garden centers across the nation. I just like her quiet little beauty; she can be a star in a corner of my garden.

What should I name her? A barbershop-style song "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" keeps rolling around in my head. The song was published in 1910 and has been redone by various artists. The lyrics:

Let me call you sweetheart
I'm in love with you
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too
Keep the lovelight glowing in your eyes so true
Let me call you sweetheart
I'm in love with you
Let me call you sweetheart
I'm in love with you
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too
Keep the lovelight glowing in your eyes so true
Let me call you sweetheart
I'm in love with you.

'Whispering Light', Lovelight', or 'Glowing Eyes' would be lovely names. One song, brought many names to mind. Maybe her name could be, 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart'.

What would you name her?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in the Garden

These are words we practice every time we garden. We recycle plants, woody debris and other materials to create compost. We reduce the need to use fossil fuels to produce and transport food by growing our own. We reuse our tools by rebuilding them or create interesting garden art when they have broken.

Look at this old garden rake. Too many years of raking leaves off asphalt have rubbed the curved part of tines completely off. It doesn't rake leaves very well anymore but it still fulfills a purpose. I use this rake for pulling debris off my gravel paths. It is also useful for dislodging small weed seedlings and generally disturbs the surface to prevent weeds from germinating into the quarter minus gravel. And, because the tines are flat and spread far apart, the gravel rolls along the path and falls out before it can collect into piles.

I also like the way it creates beautiful grooves in the gravel, just like a sand and stone Japanese garden.

Gardens of raked sand are referred to as karesansui. The Portland Japanese Garden states that:
"this style of garden was not meant for meditation (zazen), but more for contemplation. Care of the garden is part of the monk’s practice, as is every other action in their lives. For those who interpret these gardens as vehicles for contemplation, they may offer a cosmic view of the universe represented in sand and stone.

I find the action of grooming my gravel paths very soothing. Who would have thought that a simple and worn out garden rake could offer a "cosmic view of the universe"?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sometimes I Flirt with Hardiness Zones and Win

When I planted a Cornus capitata (evergreen dogwood) that Dan Hinkley described as, “Admittedly tender, it flourishes in the cool PNW if planted against a warm, southerly exposed wall, preferably brick, and many centuries old…”—I knew I was flirting with hardiness zones in my garden. I wondered if the tree would survive the long haul. For the cost of eight dollars, I willingly took the risk.

Many years have passed since I planted the evergreen dogwood seedling from a d2 pot and into the ground on the south end of my home. To be exact, the year was 1998 when I found the dogwood offered in a Heronswood Nursery catalog—a seedling from seeds collected from an Alpine Garden Society expedition in 1995. I still have the marked up catalog from that year with a star next to it marking my initial interest, before I whittled the list down to what I could afford that year. The seedling won on my second round of purchases. My notes in the margin of the catalog said “south wall of house.” I had a plan. I followed through.

Sixteen years later, I still don’t know if I can definitely say how the tree performs in the Northwest. Here is why. In 2013, for the first time since I planted it, the tree covered itself in blossoms. Sure, it blossomed with a flower here and there over the years mostly on the lower branches. In 2013, it covered itself in creamy-white bracts that surrounded the smaller flowers, like no other time before. The bracts continued to grow larger (and so did my eyes when I viewed them) and began turning pink around the edges as the season progressed. In the end, the bracts went pink with age and the dogwood tree in its twenty-foot tall splendor looked glorious! The show didn’t end there. Fruit began to develop. They started out smallish and continued to grow until they grew into the size of a small to medium sized plums. They hung onto the tree for a long time. I picked what I could reach and ate the custard-tasting fruit, spitting out the seeds around the garden.

For a number of years the tree received little supplemental watering. The area where it grew, we ripped out a fence and a portion of the garden to accommodate my father’s fifth wheel when he came to live with us in 2006. In 2011, professional gardener, Philip Bloomquist began work in restoring the garden, and by 2012, I began irrigating the garden area again. The tree survived the neglect along with other shrubs and perennials.

Two years of harsh winters in 2009 and 2010 did not kill the tree. Those years it lost all its leaves, and I thought it might not make it. When the spring brought new leaves onto the branches, I became confident the tree could survive in my garden. Philip took cuttings for his nursery a few years before and we planted one of them in another area of the garden. A healthy specimen growing in a gallon pot didn’t help it to survive the harshness of the 2010 winter. In the same spot in 2012, I planted another form of the species Cornus capitata ‘Mountain Moon’ purchased from Cistus Nursery (in Oregon). According to them, it is supposed to be a hardier selection than my species. Its first year in the ground we experienced a mild winter, which most likely helped its survival. With no south brick wall or home to help it, I am watching to see how this new one survives harsher winters, keeping my fingers crossed that it becomes well established before the next one.

I am certain that irrigating  the older dogwood helped it flower better than before. However, weather may be part of the equation too. This is the part I enjoy the most about gardening--experimenting, discovering, and learning what works and what doesn’t. When I first planted the tree seedling, I couldn’t find any advice on how to grow it besides the tongue-in-cheek brick wall suggestion. I learned as it grew (and neglected it for some of those years) and so far, it is a proven survivor once established. I plan to supplement with water during our drought to ensure it receives an inch of moisture every week).

I hope my dogwood continues to flower as it did in 2013, even after a harsh winter, because I can control its watering needs. If the beautiful bract display depends on the weather then I will have to relish the showy bonus years when it flowers, and enjoy its presence as a beautiful evergreen tree during the barren years.

Journal - Holman Vista Trail

Today is a rare day to cherish, as I walk the easy Holman Vista trail, near Florence, Oregon in near silence. Only the sound of my feet step...