Saturday, December 3, 2011

Longwood Gardens

Two things happened special this week.  One, I took my son Travis back to South Carolina to see where he lives and meet his new friends.  We also went to the botanical garden and visited the zoo.  Always fun with our children no matter what age.  And Two, George and I went to a green roof conference in Philadelphia.  We spent the night downtown and learned a lot about the green roof industry and how it works as we have started growing green roof plants.  On the way in we stopped at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, very near out old home.  Oh my gosh what a show, it would make anyone want to garden.  Well actually you don't have to be a gardener to appreciate the beauty of the place, it's overwhelming walking into the conservatory and gardens.  If you haven't been it's hard to describe, I would say Disneyland for gardeners except more natural. The smell of growing things is what first hits you, warm and inviting.  After that it's just one long mouth hanging open experience.  Thousands of poinsettias and white hydrangeas along with branches from red twig dogwoods. Amaryllis in red and white.  Tall white euphorbias next to giant red amaryllis. Small salmon poinsettias that look like roses next to silvery big leafed begonias.  My oh my, how to describe it all.  Maybe I will just use the rest of the page for the pictures, after all one picture is worth a thousand words and who has time to read all that.

OK, this is my zoo visit which was way cool too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Here come the blue ridge

Fall means, among other things the return of the mountains from my office window.  The trees that have grown up through the years, in summer obscure those beautiful blue ridges, but now have lost their leaf power and with it the ability to hide my view.  OK so good and bad things happen with the demise of another year of gardening.  I love this window outlook, it includes a view of 'Old Rag' a local landmark.  I have painted this same scene on our stairway leading up to this very same view.  No one would notice this but me which makes me smile.  George has started cleaning up our garden, it's a nice time of year with mellow days and cool nights. I am listening to Danny Wright on Pandora as I write this and life seems perfect. We are looking forward to lots of garden projects with anticipation.  Not everything will get done but enough to make the place look good when spring rolls around again  Our plant and seed catalogs have appeared from hiding places where we squirreled them away, it's time to plan spring 2012. Of course it's also time to plan what we will have for Thanksgiving, the paradox of gardening.  Plans must be laid in the season of dormancy in order to bring forth new life in the spring.  Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.  Better than Christmas (although the parties are nice) is figuring out what to try. Notice I said try, not everything works even some tried and true seed may fail to germinate this year, it happens.  I would like to have more varieties of Anise Hyssop. Bees and butterflies love them, they have a long bloom time and deer leave them alone, sweet. This year we will have,  Golden Jubilee with it's stunning yellow foliage and blue flowers, rupestris with root beer scented leaves and rose orange flowers, Bolero  has rose purple blooms with bronze aromatic leaves and a few more. Foxgloves, one of my favorites just because they are beautiful, how many can I talk George into this year.  Maybe Apricot, and Snow Thimble (white), lutea (yellow straw foxglove), Rusty Foxglove which is yellow with brown-red spots, Strawberry Foxglove (guess what color) and I bet I can talk him into more. I can really get him going on the odd stuff that will work in our area. I have a while until spring after all.

Friday, May 13, 2011

And the rain came, we all breathed a sigh of relief, spring again.

This spring has been outstanding. As I am looking out my window this cloudy morning the grass and trees are so green and grateful for all this rain.  This year, it seems like it's better then other years or is it just that old spring fever again. I wake up with a smile on my face and ready to face the day.  My customers and friends that come are of the same mind, no lamenting here. 

Seeing the plants emerge from the ground is like seeing all of my gardening friends that also emerge this time of year. Some have grown, some are the same, and some have died away and somehow new plants find their way into the garden and new customers find there way here as well. Of course we at Morningside change too; a new greenhouse went up where our herbs abide, shade perennials moved around to a new home and there are ever so many subtle changes only old customers would notice.

We are working like mad to make everything beautiful and welcoming. I have finally figured out that the nursery, like my home, is my attempt at making a place I would like to find on a back road. Full of blues and greens, people who love plants and love to talk about plants, and of course the plants themselves. Sharing a life's passion is the best part of being here. I can make people happy just by being here; we make a difference in the quality of the lives of the people who come here. Pass this on if you feel like it, it's good to pass around happy thoughts. I have also started a facebook page to jot down day to day happenings or not happenings as the case may be. Check us out. Onward and upward in the spring garden.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The spring rush is on.

We had a great opening weekend. Old friends came by and new people showed up as well. We had a few extra vendors from local farmers markets selling organic beef, lamb, goat cheese and so much more (I will be eating well for the next few weeks myself). We closed up shop for the day at four and all the vendors vowed to meet again for dinner in September, a fine time was had by all.
During the weekend, as my friend Anne and I were walking up to our house, we passed my old retail garden and she said 'I used to covet this garden'. She said it in a sad way as the garden is over run with all kinds of weeds and plants that have gone wild.  Another friend, Linda, had commented the day before how beautiful the garden had once been. I have neglected it the last few years, it will get a quick run through from George once a year but that isn't enough to keep weeds at bay. Some of the worst offenders are plants I put there, like the confederate violets, with their beautiful splotched blue and white flowers. I got a clump from good friends years ago and put them in the garden where I could take care of them. I was able to do that for, say, 5 years; I even thought I had gotten them all. But when we moved to the new retail area, the garden got lonely and neglected. Over the years I kept at the violets and I thought I was winning the war. Nope. The reason I thought I had gotten them all was because, unknown to me, they had sneaked over to the other side of the garden and were flourishing. Having come upon them a few days ago, I am enjoying digging them up as they are easy to spot (being one of the only green things in the garden--beautiful flowers even now). 

One of the things they were crowding out were my tree peony seedlings. Years ago I was given tree peonies that had been done from seed. Now eight years later I have a really nice crop of seedlings of various age groups below their mothers. Three years ago I dug about 30 of them up and tried to pot them up. It was too much care for me, being as they were not going to bloom for another four or five years and I couldn't keep them alive for one. So I decided to leave them in the ground. It's funny that I consider the violets invasive, while I encourage the peonies (of which there are many). I am thinking of turning the garden into a tree peony garden: now that would be impressive. I bet a confederate violet garden wouldn't take nearly as long to mature; they're very sneaky. Come and visit now that we are open; we'd love to see you...and we can help you with just these sorts of problems. 

Happy Digging,


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sporting Life

In Virginia, if you talk about the sporting life, almost everyone thinks that you’re talking about football or some other game of sport or maybe fox hunting, here in Virginia that's big. But I’m actually talking about how plants can move around in a garden and change color, shape and size. I think people can make a lot of money on the sporting life of plants. I would imagine lots of the new plants that make it big out there in the gardening world are just random sports that an observant person noticed in a garden. I have been pleasantly surprised with some of my own sports, and laughably disappointed in others. The sports or seedlings I have found need to hold up to a couple of seasons of trials before we at Morningside give them names and turn them loose on our customers (OK I am lying a little bit, I name them all). The two plants that seem to sport the most for us are tall summer phlox and the old fashioned garden mums. So I will start off with my phlox experience.  After neglecting one of our gardens for a few years, there seemed to be phlox colors I hadn't planted in that garden, could they be worthy sports? I watched these new plants for powdery mildew and made sure I really loved the colors so different then the parents, they seemed like they had potential.  At the end of the season I dug them up and moved them to another garden where I could keep an eye of them and trial them for a year or so.
This was their first year of flowering in their new home and my gosh, what was I thinking? They looked just like two other phlox we already have and one of them got powdery mildew so badly I had to cut it down. How could I have thought they were special?  One of my problems is I don't have a real trial garden where they can be separated and spaced to really see what they look like.  I just mixed them up in my overflowing garden and what happened? Not good. By the end of the season I didn't know what was what anymore. So cross off the new phlox for now. On a happier note, the new garden mum is still a stand out going into its third year. Beautiful color, nice habit, a great plant in the late summer/early fall garden. This year two more mums decided to sport and I’m thinking we should start a new mum line, call it something catchy, and make a million.  I wonder how many I would have to sell to make a million?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Changing Gardens

Cardoon in our garden

The big horse-shoe garden down by the greenhouses, where you will find me hanging out most of the spring and summer, changes everyday. No one else notices these changes, but like the mother of a young child, I notice every change, everyday. Buds appear on plants, flowers open, plants get taller and fill out. The mix of annuals, perennials, and herbs make the changes both more dramatic and, perhaps, harder to recognize. This year, I took a lot more pictures of the garden determined to share them with you, my garden blog readers.  Now I wonder why so many of those pictures  look the same.  They seemed so different to me at the time! Every day, there's an important change in a garden's color and texture as its flowers open, mature, and go to seed, but its as subtle as if its nothing more than the changing light in the day. Even my cardoon, which has only gotten bigger and is unfazed by the frosts of October and November, is never the same. All the plants change everyday, or so it appears to me. How important could all this be, me seeing changes no one else would notice? In that way, a well loved garden is like a beloved child: we see them changing everyday; it is our joy as gardeners (and parents) to watch these small changes that make up the life of our gardens and families. And rejoice at every single one every day, even if only for ourselves. Because, as we all know both gardens and children can be a challenge (and I mean that in a good way).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pesto Weather

I love working with our herbs.  One of my favorite jobs is watering them everyday, and I have to take it seriously. They are my tasty aromatic charges and no one is going to die on my watch if I can help it. Today I had one of my best friends over for lunch.  As always, I changed my mind about the menu 10 times.  I finally settled on 'Golden Corn Salad with Fresh Basil' from this month's Cooking Light.  It sounded SO GOOD and it didn't disappoint. As always when I am cooking something I will sample it along the way to see how it tastes, and I knew I had a keeper recipe from my first taste.  What I didn't know was how basil would elevate it from keeper to sublime.  The last ingredient is basil so after putting the whole salad together I went out to snip the basil from the garden, brought it in, chopped it up and sprinkled it on top.  Oh my gosh what a difference! Such a small act, adding a half cup of the quintessential summertime herb basil made this salad extra special, delish.  I should have taken a picture because it was a beautiful salad as well as tasty but alas I just ate the last of it as I was writing this.  There is a very good picture in Cooking Light if you want a visual.  As our summer is winding down I want to make lots of basil dishes; the time is fast approaching when it will be gone like our warm weather. Because of the cooler nights, plants are slowing down and not growing as much as they were even a few weeks ago. Soon basil will follow this summer and just be a memory. Some of the other herbs will hold on through the winter but not basil; it is even hard for us to grow in the greenhouse.   We keep two mother basil plants which are done from cuttings so we must overwinter them, not easy during those dark days.  So I guess it's time to think of that old saying 'make hay while the sun shines' or for basil, 'make pesto while the sun is hot and high in the sky'.  Not quite as catchy but just as true.

Golden Corn Salad with Fresh Basil

8 ounces small yellow Finnish potatoes (I used fingerlings of different colors)
3 cups of fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
2 cups assorted tear drop cherry tomatoes ( I used different sized and colored cherry tomatoes) halved
1 1/2 cup s chopped red bell pepper (I used several colors)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups arugula (I used arugula and spinach)
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
2 ounces goat cheese sliced (I used mozzarella as I couldn't get a good goat!)
1. Place the potatoes in a small saucepan; cover with water.  Bring to a boil; cook 11 minutes or until tender.  Drain and chill.  Cut potatoes in half lengthwise.  Combine potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and bell pepper in a large bowl.
2. Combine shallots and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Slowly pour oil into shallot mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle over corn mixture; toss well.  Add arugula; toss. Sprinkle with basil; top with cheese.