Sunday, April 24, 2011

Enjoying the fruits of our labor

Since this is Easter, I thought I would share some thoughts on a dinner party Mark and I had last weekend.

The table was dressed with Easter egg candles that my mom got me some years back which went perfectly with some cuttings from my quince shrub. I purposefully waited to trim the quince until the flowers were just budding so that their coral-orange blossoms would look their best in the vase and last into this week (see photos of quince below).

The meal featured a ham from Mark's business Tails & Trotters which went particularly well with the spiced blueberry relish (to the left of the plate) we made with the berries from our neighbor Andrea's garden last summer.

We were all amazed by just how well the sweet, yet spicy flavor of the relish complimented the ham - a definite keeper in our growing canning project lexicon!

Mark gilded the lily by roasting the accompanying potatoes in goose fat and lightly poached the white asparagus in butter and lemon juice.

(Hummm...Perhaps a some chopped chives from the garden would have worked as a garnish and helped to break up the monochromatic color palette of the meal? Ah well, next time...)

The ham before plating.

We have enjoyed the ham in a number of dishes this week too...for example, today I added some of our peach salsa (also canned last summer) to a medley of veggies (chard, pepper, carrot) that I sauteed with some ham - yum!

I just love this quince. It has lovely flowers in spring and then it has tiny quince fruit during the winter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The right of spring

I love spring. Our garden is filled with wonder, new growth, and the promise of the coming warmer months.

Each day I tour our Portland, OR garden to see what happened while I was away at work. Have the peas started twining the way up the trellis? Are there any new tulips that opened while I was away at work today? Have the summer blooming perennials peeped their heads out of the soil yet?

I also love-hate spring. It is filled with waiting for what might be. And, this spring seems to be off to a slower start than normal due to the cool, wet weather we have been having.

Is this Mother Nature teaching me to be patient? Or, a chance to get to all of those spring clean-up chores I often over look?

Each week or so I take photos of our garden to track its progress. Mark and I have been in our home for going on three years now and the photos certainly tell the story of a garden coming in to its own.

Pictured below is our front bed last spring and this spring.

Perhaps I don't love-hate spring. Perhaps the waiting is part of the garden- a chance to reflect on what it was and to dream of what it will be?

Whatever the case may be, I have come to the conclusion that it is the right of spring to decide its own path. And it is my job to enjoy it for what it is - torrential showers, lush unfurling foliage, tightly spun buds, scattered spent petals, and pockets of sunshine.

Here are some photos from the past weekend's tour of the garden:

The whole front yard is literally dancing in the breeze.

I love the strong presence of these purple tulips with the huechera peeking out from behind. Then, the huechera will take center stage as we move into summer.

The strappy yucca provides a striking focal point for bulbs - in spring for tulips and daffodils followed by allium in the summer months.

Yay! The first bloom of a violet that comes from my grandmother's garden in Maryland via my parent's garden in California.

Veggies that overwintered are starting to take hold throughout the garden.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Field Trip to the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's Spring Sale

It was cold and blustery today so a field trip to the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's spring plant sale was a welcomed escape.

My neighbor Andrea and I made the trek out to the Portland Expo Center from inner NE Portland and entered the large hall with the intention to mostly look, not buy, plants.

I even came with a notepad and camera ready to do "research." But, half way through aisle two both of our resistance broke down - mine for a Aloe Dorotheae and Andrea's for a fabulous white Agapantha.

After that, it was open season.

Along with the aloe I picked up a trio of succulents. (I have a bit of a succulent addiction, so I felt pretty restrained in my decision to just get four plants.)

The succulents will live in the kitchen window sill until it gets a bit warmer outdoors. Then I will place them as accents through out the garden for the summer.

I also got two hellebores - one Helleborus foetidus 'Gold Bullion' from Dancing Oaks Nursery which they describe as "uncommon eye candy for the woodland" and another almost black helebore (pictured left and right respectively). I think they will compliment the assortment I currently have planted on the north side of the house.

I read about the American Umbrella Plant (Diphylleia Cymosa) the other day. Beyond having fabulous foliage, it apparently has small white flowers that are followed by small blue berries - how cool! I plan to tuck somewhere in the back garden either in the same bed as the hellebores or under the camellia just to the west.

Finally, I picked up a Lady Tulip (Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha) which will naturalize if happy - I hope I get the placement right - and Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' which I first heard of about two years ago.

In the end, I walked away with a total of nine plants. VERY restrained.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gardening by numbers

Yesterday was long, yet satisfying day in the garden.

We rented a pick-up truck and got two cubic yards of mulch to spread on the flower and shrub beds around the house.

We also spread a cubic yard of cedar bark chips along the path out front and between our neighbor's driveway and the raised bed on the west side of the house. The whole project took eight hours start-to-finish.

Since I had already weeded the beds on one of those rare sunny days in February the beds were fairly weed free. Adding a blanket of mulch will help to keep the weeds at bay for the rest of the year.

It will also help to feed the soil, keep it cooler and retain water throughout the hotter weather this summer.

Right now it also has the added benefit creating a uniform black back drop for my plants!

Three cubic yards of materials, two people, one truck and eight hours of work. Not bad for a days work.