The Charmed Garden

From Planning to Planting, and from Harvest to Table.

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Summer Break in a Shakespeare Garden

This past weekend Moraine Valley Community College presented it’s annual Shakespeare Under the Stars. This year the play was The Winter’s Tale, re-imagined to take place in the mid 20th century in Sicilia and Bohemia with the very clever addition of a psychedelic Bear chasing an exiting actor off stage.

The play was set so close to the Shakespeare Garden you could have watched it from the benches in the garden, and many of us did just that.

The  garden is designed with plants that are referred to in various Shakespeare plays. The path winding through the garden has plaques on stands with quotes from his plays in which the flowers are referenced. Here are two of my favorites.

The garden is just beautiful. There’s sun at one end and shade at the other with a red brick path winding through it.  Places to sit off the path are nestled under trees or tucked behind the flower beds. The Shakespeare Quotes are scattered along the way. There’s a sundial at the sunny entrance with purple Salvia and Liriope circling it.


Simple birdbaths are surrounded by Peonies, Allium, Sage, Boxwoods, and perennial grasses.  Mounded Boxwoods give structure and an English garden feel.


The garden is perfectly designed in this designer’s opinion.  Perennials are planted in mass, giving it consistent textures and colors. The heights are staggered. The flowing perennials are anchored with mounded boxwoods. Specimen bushes are placed in each section of the garden. Structures (bird baths, sundials, plaques to read) are placed along the way to encourage you to take your time and enjoy the view. Benches are tucked into their own little garden spots off the path, in the sun or out of it.

It is an island of color and tranquility in a high traffic space on a busy campus.  A beautiful place to take a break, relax and rejuvenate.  Exactly what a garden is supposed to do. If you’re in the area I highly recommend visiting the garden for inspiration or just for a brain break.  Bring a book and stay awhile.


I will leave you with one more photo of the play


The Princess of Silicia and the Prince of Bohemia in a scene from the Winter’s Tale. The Prince is our youngest son, Daniel. I don’t think I’m too biased when I say the play was wonderful and the actors fantastic.


This is hands down my favorite quote and it’s very true. It is why we garden and why we seek out gardens. It’s why we take our kids to parks, why we treasure our National Parks, why some of us camp and some of us hike. It’s why we boat, bird watch, grow so many damn tomatoes that we can’t even give them away.  There are different paths to happy, and nature in all its forms can help us get there.


Recipe for a Fall Apple, Carrot and Coconut Soup


The last of the last Farmers Market near us was a couple of weeks ago.  It was cold and raining but it was the last one.  Not Even nasty Chicago weather was going to keep us from the last Farmers Market for 6 months. Every year though it’s the same.  It’s like saying goodbye to colorful yummy smelling family who are heading south for the winter.

We bought more apples than we could eat, of course. So I created a couple of recipes to use up the apples and this is one of them.  We still have a few things growing in our garden, including carrots. Sounded like a pretty good combo to me and so it is.  The sweetness of the apples and carrots, are mellowed by the savory spices and by roasting the carrots in olive oil first. The addition of the creamy coconut milk makes this soup very filling and satisfying.


I made this Apple Carrot Coconut Soup vegan because we eat vegan two times a week.  You won’t miss the meat or dairy in this soup because the coconut milk checks the hunger box.  This soup will take care of that for you.  That is why the coconut milk is an important addition. I did not use use vegetable broth because I did not want any other flavors to compete with the apples and carrots.  Try it this way first and then if you want to experiment you can substitute vegetable broth or chicken broth for 2 cups of the water.


3 cups carrots, peeled and cubed

3 cups of apples, peeled, cored and sliced

2Tbs Olive Oil

1tsp dried cumin, 1/2 tsp dried coriander, 1 tsp dried thyme leaves (if using fresh, then it’s 1 Tbs)

1 can coconut milk (about 16oz) – use light coconut milk if you are sensitive to the high fat content in coconut

4 cups of water

2 tsp salt and 1 ground black pepper


Peel and rough chop your carrots.  * side note – the odd shaped carrots are the result of me not being able to bring myself to thin the seedlings. They look like they’re from the Island of Misfit Veggies (a Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer Movie reference). They still taste good though. 🙂

Next – toss with Olive Oil and roast at 375 F for about 20 minutes, checking them at about the 15 min mark.

The carrots are so tasty roasted that you may want to throw in a few extra so you can snack on them while you’re making the soup.

While the carrots are roasting, prep your apples. Put the peeled, cored and chopped apples in your soup pot with two cups of water.

Bring your pot of apples to a rapid boil, adding a little extra water if needed to keep the apples just covered. Let the apples boil until they are full and soft, like the last photo, about 20-30 minutes.  The smell is fantastic.


Add your roasted carrots


Next, add the last 2 cups of water. Let the pot cook for another 20 minutes. Add 1 tsp of cumin, (roasted if you can find it), 1/2 tsp of coriander, 1 tsp of dried thyme leaves being sure to release the oils in the leaves by crushing them in your hands before adding them to the pot. Stir the herbs in and then add your coconut milk. Let this mixture cook for another 15-20 minutes.


Let the pot simmer for another 15 minutes then scoop the soup into a blender or food processor  You may have to do this in two batches.  Your soup will then turn into this beautiful golden orange, like the color of fall leaves.


It tastes as good as it looks, smells even better.

Most Gardeners are cooks at some level.  It is very rewarding to prepare a meal using the produce you planted and nurtured for months. It is very nurturing for both the cook and  for those for whom you are cooking. Next week is when we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the States. We will give thanks for the opportunity to serve and be served, to share an abundant table with family and with friends who have become family.   I am thankful to be able to cook from garden for my loved ones and to share my recipes with other cooks and gardeners. I wish the same for everyone else.