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sprig to twig » 2012 » May

Archive for May, 2012

garlic scapes

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

garlic scapes

The flower buds of the garlic plant can be treated much like asparagus: steamed, roasted, fried. I like to split it into quarters, tip to stem end, then finely chop. It can then be added to all sorts of things. The taste of garlic is there, but somehow fresher, greener, more spring-like. The first thing I did was add it to a browned butter sauce for filet of sole with some lemon zest and juice.

pasta salad with garlic scapes

But this was the dish that got rave reviews. I had some spaghetti left over from the night before (open a jar of tomato sauce from last year’s crop, boil some pasta and Voila! Dinner!). Some dark sesame oil, a few red chili flakes, soy sauce, rice vinegar, the garlic scapes, fresh peas in their pods (cut on the diagonal) and some red bell pepper. A sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

One of the things I love about Wendy’s Garden to Table Challenge is the way it challenges us to be more attentive to the little inventions in the kitchen when using fresh ingredients from the garden (or market). Then, of course, we can visit others who have taken up her challenge and find inventions we never would have thought up on our own.

the accidental forager

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Claytonia

I once went to quite a bit of trouble to track down Claytonia seeds to plant in the garden. I finally found them from Nichols Garden Nursery, based in Salem, Oregon. They have just about anything you could want in the way of seeds. They grew quite satisfactorily, but the life cycle was very short, and in the end, I concluded, not really worth the effort involved. How much more fun, anyhow, to find it growing in the wild.

Miner’s lettuce

Also known as miner’s lettuce, it is…well…”cute” is the only word for it. Each longish stem supports a couple of levels of round, slightly cupped leaves with a topknot of little white flowers. I found it growing in profusion along the verge of the road I walk nearly every day. The few handfuls brought home had begun to go to seed, but that just added a tiny bit of crunch to what is otherwise a tender, delicate salad. I threw everything into a strainer to rinse, then tore the whole plant: stems, leaves flowers and seeds into bite-sized pieces (I hate that chi chi custom of leaving salad makings whole so that they whip you in the nose and drizzle dressing down your chin). This salad was all about freshness and delicacy, so I just used a light dressing of oil and champagne vinegar. It would be easy to overpower these greens. Over at Greenish Thumb, Wendy has a recipe for the perfect drink to accompany this salad…or most anything, come to think of it. Hint: it involves gin.

don’t overlook the power of FOLIAGE

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Stachys ‘Helen Von Styne’ and Eremurus

Stachys ‘Helen Von Styne’ is running rampant and overtaking Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’, and while I like the look, I’m afraid an intervention is called for.

new tips on conifers

Most of the conifers look like they have been to the salon for a frosting job. The new tips of fresh spring green give them that youthful glow.

Abies Koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’

The cones were the attraction on Abies Koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’, and finally, after planting it in a pot in 2010, the first cones are putting in an appearance.

miscanthus ?

Huge, stripy grasses are the backbone of several beds here, purchased before I started paying attention to ID beyond Miscanthus.

fern ?

Same story with a couple of ferns that always have a wonderful, swirling presence in the woodland, but are almost magical now as they unfurl.

another fern?

I’m thinking they just might be Osmunda regalis or European Royal Fern. Can anyone out there confirm or deny? Thanks, Pam, for the monthly opportunity to salute foliage in our gardens.

the bloom post for May

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’

I had to lead with this, even though my many attempts yielded no very good image of Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’. This is new, and just a baby being coddled on the deck until the new bed I am working on is ready for it. The flowers are subtle, but well worth the effort of close inspection.

Rhododendron Loderi ‘Saint George’

We are right in the middle of Rhody season, bloom-wise. Although our shopping is based on leaf forms, some of them are spectacular in bloom. Rododendron Loderi ‘Saint George’, above, is like a giant bridal bouquet.

orange guem

The passalong orange geum had little chance to bloom last year because the deer nipped off most of the buds. A preemptive strike with nasty hot spray did the trick and it is going great guns.

Euphorbia ‘Fire Charm’

‘Fire Charm’ is the latest addition to my Euphorbia collection.

Epimedium x warleyense

I am glad you couldn’t see the contortions I went through to get this shot of Epimedium x warleyense. Suffice it to say that the entire plant is only a foot high.

bouquet of Nectaroscorum siculum and Iris

This is not a bouquet that will appeal to everyone, but it does to me. It has been fun to watch the Nectaroscorum siculum emerge from its carapace like a butterfly, and let’s zoom in on that Iris…

pale lavender Iris

so that you can appreciate the delicate pale lavender. On my monitor, at least, it is pretty true to the real color.

mystery plants

Finally, I hope you can help me to identify these newcomers that sprinkled themselves beneath some shrubs in the berm on the east side of our house. They almost look like wildflowers, but so far I’ve had no luck in tracking them down.

All of the usual suspects are blooming their little hearts out. It is May, after all. I’ve tried to be selective and show you what is new (to me, at least) or outstanding. Carol has made it her mission to introduce us to bloomers world-wide.

arugula

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Eruca sativa

It goes by many names: Arugula, Rocket Salad, Roquette, Eruca sativa, but whatever you want to call it, it perks up salads no end and can even be strewn atop a pizza. We had devoted our half-barrels to chard and kale with great success, but the last couple of years velvety green worms got to them before we could. I thought maybe arugula would be too spicy for them, and I guess I was right. Nothing has interfered with this crop and now it is time to begin harvesting. My latest favorite dressing for these greens and a cubed avocado goes something like this: 6T mayo (Best Foods is best), 3 T rice vinegar, 2T orange juice, crushed garlic to taste. It can be a meal with some freshly toasted cashews strewn on top and some biscuits or cornbread on the side.

Don’t miss Wendy’s recipes that appear each Monday. I have found all sorts of imaginative ways to use the garden’s bounty by following her and the links I find there. Happy Grazing!

Janet’s sale & a walk around her neighborhood

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

When I wrote about Janet’s sale a couple of years ago, I included photos of her garden, so this time around I thought I would take you on a tour of her immediate neighborhood.

house in the trees

Hers is a long-established neighborhood, shaded by many mature trees and landscaped yards. The architecture is varied, but largely camouflaged by flowers and greenery.

a border of greenery

Strolling down the street takes one past a variety of styles. This is very close to the look I am aiming for along our entry drive.

more of that border

Looking back along that same border.

dogwood tree

I felt fortunate to be there at this dogwood tree’s peak of perfection.

a typical style

A typical layout is a streetside border (no sidewalks) through which can be glimpsed an expanse of lawn, with the house beyond.

corner border

another corner

Janet with customers

Once I had made my selections: a claret day lily, two monkshoods, a Syrinchium striatum, a fall aster and a Heliantum maximillianii, there was a lull in the buying frenzy. I had brought Janet a copy of BeBop Garden and we posted an “out to lunch” sign and headed to neighbor Mike Darcy’s place to take him a copy. Do you know about Mike? He has been the voice of gardening at 101 on the FM radio dial for years. Tune in on a Saturday morning at 9 am, and he can carry you through your weekend chores with garden talk, a call-in section if you have a burning question and, for instance, last Saturday’s fascinating interview with Richard Turner, editor emeritus of Pacific Horticulture magazine. Mike has a glorious mature garden which I would have loved to point my camera at, but we were in a rush to get back to the plant sale. Maybe another time. I can tell you that Mike’s newest preoccupation is a hive of bees, which he has discovered holds a fascination for his grandson. I didn’t get to see Nick in his own little beekeeper suit, but I have a mental picture and am told he is reading everything he can get his hands on regarding apiary pursuits. What a great, educational bonding experience.

back yard view

Having a “native guide” is always an asset. Taking a shortcut back to Janet’s, we were able to take in this view. I will leave you with this image…no word required.

shopping: Concentrates, Portland Nursery, Means, Cistus (whew)

Friday, May 4th, 2012

What would you do if you awoke to no electricity? Our first thought was “coffee”, so we headed for The John Cafe in St John’s (sorry, Din, but we wanted breakfast, too). This place whips up a mean omelet, the proportions of which are plenty to split and fuel two people to face the day. That accomplished, we decided to take a trip to Concentrates to check out their new digs and pick up a few things. This was a long drive out into the suburbs of Milwaukie, where they gained a lot of space but lost the funky vibe that was a big part of their charm. Well, the next thing to spring to mind was “plants!”. If we took a particular, circuitous route we could justify winding up at Portland Nursery on Division.

Cryptomeria japonica spiralis ‘Granny’s Ringlets’

Richard and I have very different taste in plants…which is OK, because we wind up with twice as many whenever we go shopping together. I love everything about this Cryptomeria japonica spiralis: its color, its form and especially its common name, ‘Granny’s Ringlets’. It will eventually reach ten feet, but right now it is no more than a foot high. My kind of gardening is a waiting game. Most everything I am attracted to would be far too expensive to purchase as an adult.The thing is, so much is going on in the garden that it hardly feels like waiting…more like “gosh, look how much THAT has grown while I was paying attention to something else.”

Populus tremuloides

R, on the other hand, is all for instant gratification, so it is a good thing that his taste runs toward the less exotic in plant material. He was after something that would soon provide some shade for the front deck. Remembering the effect of a grove of Quaking Aspen shimmering and golden in late summer at Black Butte, he sought out Populus tremuloides. I quite agree that it will be lovely to have, so maybe two heads really are better than one.

Cupressus sempervirens ‘Swane’s Gold’

Next stop: Means Nursery. We had agreed that a focal point was needed just as one turns into our drive. There is lots of gopher activity in that area, so several things had been tried, but failed…including a hawthorn tree that survived for six years before all of its roots were chewed away to leave the above-ground part lying on its side, dead and helpless. That was when the plan was hatched to encase the root balls of all new plants in wire cages before planting. That post is about four feet tall, but Italian cypresses grow fast, so ‘Swane’s Gold’ should make its presence known in good time. It will be a nice introduction and segue into the several regular deep blue ones that provide exclamation points throughout our landscape.

R was eager to get started planting, but I had only had my appetite whetted. Off to Cistus I headed.

the jungle look

First, a stroll around the grounds for inspiration. It’s a jungle out there, which suits me to a T.

unknown phormium looking good

On an overcast weekday with intermittent showers, I had the place to myself. By the time I was ready to call for help, I had forgotten to ask about this thriving Phormium. Clearly these guys have the magic touch.

monkey puzzle tree

This image will be stored away for when I start to worry about overplanting.

Araucaria araucana

Several Araucaria araucana have been woven into the landscape in close proximity to their neighbors. My monkey puzzle tree looks positively lonely by comparison.

trilliums with gravel mulch

Gravel mulch sets off trilliums every bit as nicely as woodland duff…never would have thought of it.

Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’

Hanging over the path, these flowers caught my eye. When i found them in the sales area they turned out to be Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’.

‘Rana Creek’ close-up

If you look closely, you will see that Rana is armed with very dangerous thorns.

cardoon

I have always given my cardoons plenty of elbow room, but I like the way it is crowded into a border here.

rusted metal cattails

I like the restraint of just a sprinkling of garden art as we close in on the shopping experience.

metal fern cut-outs

planter

Always the plants steal the show, especially when raised to new heights in a dramatic red container.

Echium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’

Just when I was beginning to think that I could take Echiums more or less in stride, I stepped into the greenhouse area of Cistus and there was thisEchium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’. Words fail me.

Yucca aloifolia ‘Spanish bayonet’

I bought this Yucca aloifolia, which I plan to put in the large green glazed pot (unusual for me to have an actual plan in mind…maybe R’s ways are rubbing off a little).

Buddlieja globosa

Buddlieja globosa will live in a pot for a while, with Sedum ‘Angelina’ spilling over the edge. Its eventual size is nine feet, and those knobby balls turn bright orange and are fragrant. Once Angie fills in a bit, I’ll show you this interim composition. I also came home with a couple of charming sedums that do not photograph well, at least with my limited skills. By the time I came across Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’, I had blown my budget and could only justify a four inch baby. Visit The Danger Garden and scroll through this post if you want to see ‘Night Heron’ as it should be seen.

One would think that with all the visits to Cistus, and all the posts, it would begin to seem repetitive or boring, but it seems to be an entirely different experience with each visit. I know I will keep going back for more. Would you like to come along?

may day! may day! incoming!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

bouquet of lilacs

I just rang your virtual bell and left you this fragrant bouquet of lilacs to celebrate May Day. Old fashioned flowers are appropriate for an old fashioned tradition. Pay no attention to the giggling in the virtual bushes.

old lilac tree

This old lilac tree came with the property. I have been pruning it, but timidly: trying to let vigorous new shoots replace gnarly, tired branches. The short but heavy snowfall of this past winter used a heavier hand, breaking off large chunks. The tree is liking its new haircut and flowering more generously than ever.

lilac blossom close-up

The flowering is powerful, but brief. With several years of trial and error (mostly error) we finally got it right. The last picture shows the right moment to cut some branches for indoor enjoyment: a few of the individual florets have opened, others are still in bud. Cut too early or too late, they will go limp almost immediately. Fill a vase with lukewarm water and crush the ends of the cut branches (this is one of the few times I get to break out the meat tenderizing mallet). An arrangement on the dining room table fills the entire house with its delicious aroma. Same for the one on the front deck. We have been enjoying them for almost a week. I wish that I could waft that scent your way. Instead, I will send you over to Lelo in NoPo for another scented post.

Oh, and Janet’s Plant Sale is this Friday and Saturday 9-3 at 2090 SW Crest Drive in Lake Oswego (97034 if you need to Mapquest). Prices start at $1, and I can vouch for the gardenworthiness of her plants.