A Walk In The Woods

This past December and early January my family met at the Morton Arboretum for a Covid safe hike. We met in Mother Nature’s family room where we didn’t have to worry about how many of us could hangout without adding air purifiers. It was a peaceful blessedly happy respite for all of us, three generations from 3 different parts of our family.

The Spruce Plot

We hiked the path through The Spruce Plot each time we met. Hiking the woods in the middle of winter has it’s own unique pleasures, and hiking The Spruce Plot brings it all home. The stillness you experience walking through the majestic trees is broken occasionally by the creaking sound the trees make as they sway in the wind. It sounds to me like they’re talking to each other, maybe to us as well, welcoming us as guests in their home. The sound inside is softened, the air still. You’re protected from the wind in the winter and the heat in the summer. You are surrounded by the trunks as the green needles grow mainly up top, reaching for the sun, creating a picture of familial strength, with the tree trunks standing tall right next to each other.

The Morton Arboretum has so many different gardens to explore. You can drive through naturalized groves or park and hike the paths through them. The Spruce Plot, where I took these photos, is spectacular. Morton Arboretum’s website describes it as The quiet mystery of the spruce plot at The Morton Arboretum will make you feel as if you were hiking in the forests of Norway and Romania. Do you feel a temperature difference as you enter? The spruce plot creates a cool, dark environment unlike anything else at the Arboretum. Look towards the sky to see the impressive height of these trees.”

LITTLE TREASURES ALONG THE PATH

In early December, when my hubby and I went on a day date, we saw a bride and groom with their photographer. Later, as we walked down the Spruce path, we found ornaments in the branches and lovely words spelled out with pine cones on the stone benches along the path. It was really cool. I thought maybe it had been decorated for the wedding. When we went back, they were still there, and more had been added. I loved it! Someone took the time to find the pine cones, shape the sticks, and even decorate them with green branch bits.  It seemed like there were more ornaments each time we went.

AND  . . . 


Front Yard Garden Design

I did the design for this new front yard garden and installed it last year at this time, when it was still pretty cold and wet.

The front yard was a soggy mess with a slope spilling mud and water on the law and the walk to the side door. With Sun on one side and Shade on the other, the homeowner was at a loss, and frankly frustrated.  Once we got started planning the garden, her inner designer came out and she actually started to get excited about gardening. Good garden design planning makes all the difference in the success of your garden, and your confidence as a gardener.

Solving the soggy slope issue was a two step process.  First we graded the slope by moving some of the soil from the center of the bed to both ends of the bed. We added a dry stack wall at each end and some in the middle to keep the soil in place. The roots of the plants will do that over time as well.  We then added flexible drain pipe to the downspouts. The end of the new drain pipes come up through the new sod added to the front of the design

Yes, I know they need to water that sod.

The curvealinear design was a natural for this spot. All that was left were the plants.

Talking to my client about design I learned she likes a clean minimalist look with a small color palate. She likes green and pink, so first we choose boxwoods, which will grow in sun or part shade and contrast beautifully with the white brick.  She also likes pink and we needed some height, so we put in a Weeping Cherry which blooms in the spring. We edged the plant and highlighted the curvy design with spring blooming creeping phlox that also matched and therefore highlighted the color of the Weeping Cherry blooms.  The opposite end of the new garden gets the most sun. We chose Dappled Willow bushes, which have pink and white leaves. We added three Lambs Ear perennials, which have a silvery soft green color and bloom a soft lavender in the heat of the summer, and will fill in fast.

These photos are from early spring, 2019, so they really don’t show the beauty of the plants.  For now, you’ll just have to use your imagination.  And – check back to see this garden grow!!

The importance of a well defined curvilear bed, is definitely highlighted when your plants have no leaves on them.

It also helps to have really nice hardscape (the natural stone wall).

This design started out with the homeowners shopping last fall for plants. The original design had all the plants that were available in mid September. They didn’t really know what they liked, and we garden designers tend to want to fill the space with four season color.  Although they weren’t sure what they liked, they knew for sure what they didn’t like and it was lots of flowering color.  By this Spring they knew what they wanted and we just ran with it. The lesson here is that taking the time to do a little recon so you know what you like, helps you to like your garden a whole lot more. These homeowners will be adding plants to this new garden over the couple of years and that’s because they feel like it’s their own and not someone else’s plan for their garden.

HAPPY PLANTING. 🙂

 


Gardening with Herbs

Herbs in the garden are magical to me. They certainly give more than they take because they’re so very easy to grow. They attract pollinators, which increases the bounty in your veggie garden. Their aromas and oils attract beneficial bugs to the garden, repel the damaging insects, and can even add flavor to vegetables that are planted next to them, like basil to tomatoes.  Here are just two – Chamomile and Lavender 

Chamomile

German Chamomile Flowers

Many of us know Camomile (Chamomile) as an herbal tea sold in abundance nearly everywhere but actually coming from some imagined far away place. It’s so ridiculously easy to grow the far away place can be just a few steps out your door.

There are two types of camomile, both members of the daisy family, but the German, or wild, camomile, (Matricaria chamomilla) is stems ahead of the Roman (C. nobile). It is sweeter in taste and scent. It can grow anywhere, from 6 to 24 inches tall, with soft little feathery leaves and bright little flowers. The Roman looks similar but is shorter, is bitter and less soothing to your body. Chamomile has been grown for its medicinal properties for centuries, mentioned as far back 1652 in Culpepers’ English Physician. It is used to soothe any number of aches and pains, including stomach aches and cramps. Chamomile tea can help ease you into sweet slumber. For a bit more info on what Chamomile tea can do for your body, I recommend visiting https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, where you can see what modern 3research has found that Chamomile can do for your body.

In the Garden

Chamomile likes light sandy loam with good drainage. It grows very quickly by seed, making it a very affordable quick reward for your labor. These perky dairylike flowers enjoy a crowded space and it easily self-sows everywhere. Which explains why it pops up in every crack in the patio, the driveway, between stepping stones, and every open space in the garden. It likes a party and if it can’t find one it will start one. Start it from seed in the early spring, in a pot or in a garden bed. It grows taller faster in cooler temps. The heat can stunt it’s growth. It does not require fertilization, nor does it need a lot of water.

Chamomile is an excellent companion plant to cabbages and onions, contributing to their flavor and growth. Ours decided every plant was a worthy companion. You can see in these photos that our Chamomile grew in and along every bed, getting particularly up close and personal with the zucchini. It also tried to make friends with the pots of flowers by our front door, growing in the smallest of cracks. The flowers are beautiful and they are one of the first to bloom in Spring. I let these beauties roam around until I need the space for something else.

Harvest your Chamomile in the peak of their bloom, every 7-10 days. I recommend harvesting early in the day when it is cooler as the blooms will degrade quickly piled on top of each other in the heat. Just like us, plants generally do not like to be messed with in the heat. The various methods for drying your freshly harvested herbs are the same for all of them, so I have dedicated the last paragraph of this post for the instructions.

Lavender

I grow Lavender for it’s beautiful color and scent. It adds structure to my flower garden with the added benefit of a flower I can harvest for my kitchen. I use it for tea and bakery. It adds a lovely subtle flavor to cakes. It’s sold in sachets to use under your pillow for sweet slumber or to add scent to your closet. Lavender steeped as a tea has a very calming effect. Chamomile soothes your muscles, and Lavender soothes your mind, creating a mellow mood. Its medicinal uses too have been widely known for centuries, also mentioned in Culpepers’ English Physician.

In the Garden

Lavender grows in nearly every climate, from the hot dry Mediterranean to cold damp British Isles and even colder Norway. The key is of course to grow the right type of Lavender for your climate. Here in Zone 5 in USA, we grow a hybrid of the hearty Lavadula angustifolia which can withstand frost. I find that my Lavender will come back in a pot as well as long as it is protected from the wind. The English Lavender variety is hearty in cold temps and does much better than the other varieties in a pot. English Lavender varieties that do well in our zone include Munstead and Hidcote. Growing Lavender by seed is certainly possible, but it will take a few seasons for it to grow to a small to medium bush. If you have the patience, go for it. Otherwise you can by a one quart size for immediate, but affordable, gratification.

The plant itself looks like a small 2×2 softly rounded bush with blue-green leaves/stems. Lavender is an excellent size for a pot in a sunny spot and for a perennial garden. If you like harmony in your color scheme, plant Lavender with pinks for soft relaxing vibe. If you like contrast, plant it with yellows for eye catching boldness.

Harvest your Lavender early in it’s bloom cycle. Pick a bouquet first thing in the morning, if possible. Later in the day the heat will dissipate some of the oils and fragrance with it. Harvesting your Lavender early in it’s bloom cycle encourages the plant to produce more shoots and then more flowers. To dry your Lavender, tie the stems together and hang it upside down in a cool dry area.

Plant these herbs and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view and scent.



A Walk in the Woods

This past December and early January my family met at the Morton Arboretum for a Covid safe hike. We met in Mother Nature’s family room where we didn’t have to worry about how many of us could hangout without adding air purifiers. It was a peaceful blessedly happy respite for all of us, three generations from 3 different parts of our family.

The Spruce Plot

We hiked the path through The Spruce Plot each time we met.

The Morton Arboretum has so many different gardens to explore. You can drive through naturalized groves or park and hike the paths through them. The Spruce Plot, where I took these photos, is spectacular. Morton Arboretum’s website describes it as “The quiet mystery of the spruce plot at The Morton Arboretum will make you feel as if you were hiking in the forests of Norway and Romania. Do you feel a temperature difference as you enter? The spruce plot creates a cool, dark environment unlike anything else at the Arboretum. Look towards the sky to see the impressive height of these trees.”

Here is the view from our car

Hiking the woods in the middle of winter has it’s own unique pleasures, and hiking The Spruce Plot brings it all home. The stillness you experience walking through the majestic trees is broken occasionally by the creaking sound the trees make as they sway in the wind. It sounds to me like they’re talking to each other, maybe to us as well, welcoming us as guests in their home. The sound inside is softened, the air still. You’re protected from the wind in the winter and the heat in the summer. You are surrounded by the trunks as the green needles grow mainly up top, reaching for the sun, creating a picture of familial strength, with the tree trunks standing tall right next to each other.

Every view at the Arboretum is beautiful, but the winter brings with it a serenity. The stillness creates a different experience. The colors are subdued, and there are no flowers competing for your attention. The quiet beauty creates space for a mindful experience. You may notice the structure of the trees, like a cool gnarled or peeling trunk, artfully twisted branches, or the odd leaf still clinging to a branch. A grey winter day can be more colorful if you can spend it with the trees.

View Recipe

Roasted Orange Tomato and Thai Basil Soup

[lt_recipe name=”Roasted Orange Tomato and Thai Basil Soup” servings=”8 cups” prep_time=”45M” cook_time=”45M” total_time=”1H30M” difficulty=”Easy ” summary=”The bulk of your work will be slicing your tomatoes for roasting. The rest is basic prep work for assembling your soup. ” print=”yes” ingredients=”4lbs of Yellow Roma (Paste) Tomatoes – enough to fill two cookie sheets (or do you say Sheet Pan);1 cup of finely chopped purple Thai Basil leaves;1 tsp of fresh Thyme, or 1/4 tsp of ground Thyme;1 large shallot;1 large leek, white part only;1 medium yellow onion;1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs of Olive Oil;6 cloves of finely chopped garlic;2 Tbs of red wine vinegar;3 tsp salt;1 tsp white pepper;ground black pepper to taste;2 Quarts (8 cups) of chicken bone broth;;” ]Preheat oven to 400 degrees.;;Cut the stems out of the tomatoes and slice them in half. Lay them cut side up on the cookie sheets. I used parchment paper to cover the bottom of the cookie sheets for easier clean-up. Brush, or drizzle, the 1/3 cup of olive oil over the tomatoes. Roast for 25 minutes. If you are using a convection oven, reduce the heat to 375 and 20 minutes. ;;Next cover the bottom of your pot with 2 Tbs of olive oil. Heat the oil and add your onions, sweating them for 5 minutes. A note on the onions – you need 1 1/2 cup of a variety of onions. If you don’t have leeks or shallots, use whatever you have. A variety of onions for richer flaver is the best way to go. Then add the garlic and cook for just another minute. ;;Now add your freshly roasted tomatoes, the herbs, salt and pepper. and all the broth. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the red wine vinegar. Cook for another 10 minutes. When your soup is done cooking, put it in your blender in batches, or use an immersion blender, to make it smooth and creamy. ;[/lt_recipe]

 

This year we grew orange Roma tomatoes with our red romas. This was the fist time I ordered seeds instead of buying them here. By the time I sat UHY7down to order, all the &a[In March I thought I was actually The Frankly these were the only seeds I could order this year. It turned out to be a good choice, even if I didn’t have a choice. The these orange tomatoes are so so sweet, have lots of pulp, and produce prolific fruit. In fact we had many more orange tomatoes than the red Roma‘s. That alone was the reason for making my soup. I need to use a bother orange to meet us. The Thai basil it’s so pretty and very disease resistant. The flowers are beautiful but just as important the scent and flavor is just as beautiful. And purple and orange look great together.

 

1 cup of finely diced Thai Basil

1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp ground thyme

1 large shallot and one leek (white part only)

1/3 plus 2Tbs of olive oil

6 cloves of finely chopped garlic

2 Tbs of red wine vinegar

1 Tbs of salt

1 tsp white pepper

4 cups of Chicken Bone Broth *

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut the stems off the tomatoes and slice them in half. Lay them cut side up on cookie sheets. Using the 1/3 cup of olive oil, lightly coat the pans and then drizzle the remainder over the tomatoes. Roast your tomatoes at 350 for 25-30 minutes.