Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Toonmoose Spring's Back!

Dear Gardening Friends,

     After fits and starts, signs of Spring are all around us. At least fifty shades of green have filled in the blanks between gray and brown branches left exposed by the Winter. Mother Nature has been busy with splashes of pinks, yellows and purples from her palette that are worthy of a Joan Mitchell canvas.

     For the moment, it is in the North border of our garden that the results of our efforts are manifesting themselves, supplying visual interest through greenery, texture and color. It is a modern border in that it is as diverse and inclusive as soil and climatic conditions will allow. (Resistance begins in the garden!)It is some sixty feet long and varies between 3½ and 5 feet wide. The undulating forward edge of the border abuts the lawn where one anticipates rousing games of croquet in the warm summer days to come. It begins and ends - book-ended - with heirloom Peony, Festiva-Maxima. 

These were a gift from my Aunt Freda, whose in-laws, Charles and Inez Williams first planted them over sixty years ago. In between, is a mix of dozens of annuals and perennials, that will, hopefully, provide a continually unfolding spectacle of horticultural interest, with a little something for every gardeners taste. Aspiring astronauts may be drawn to the Ligularia, “The Rocket” or the Gomphrena, “Cosmic Flare," scooped up at this years annual Morven plant sale in Princeton, NJ. Some plants were installed quite intentionally, bearing in mind the artist Frederick Sommer’s diktat that “Placement is primary.” Others arrived compliments of Nature’s whim, escapees from next door. These will appear and erupt like fireworks from now until the Autum frost extinguishes them. Some of these plants were installed with how they will appear seen from the dining room window in mind. This is a different, layered experience from how one encounters the plants sequentially, strolling the length of the border from end to end; In that case, it is never the same twice. 

     Just now, the Alliums rub shoulders with the Lillys, which bump elbows with the Irises (“Totality”), knocking knees with the Acquilegia, playing footsie with the Echinacea. The Baptisia, (Stop-you-in-your-tracks-gorgeous,) plays Peek-a-Boo with the Poppies. The Japanese Anemones, (“Andria Atkins”) are “cheek-by-jowl” with the Kniphofia that we grew from seed. The emerging Larkspur, Cleome and Daisies threaten, “Just you wait, we’ll have our day!” All of this, while I continue to sprinkle seeds, like a chef seasoning a favorite dish; some Batchelor’s Buttons here, Cosmos there, and Zinnias, like salt, to taste. 
     What are you cooking up in your garden?

Copyright Everett H. Scott, all rights reserved. No part of this may be copied or reproduced without express written permission of the author.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of 2017 Slide Show Round-up!

Dear Friends,
     It is hard to imagine that in just a few hours, 2017 will end, and I have scarcely written about the garden at all this year.  I console myself with the notion that time not spent with a notebook and pen in hand, (or at the keyboard) was devoted to putting paint to canvas on the easel, and pencil to drawing pad. For me, the creation of Happy Hour at Lenox Saphire 

alone justifies the effort and time expended, and there are yet other works in the making. While I may not have written much about it this year, I have consistently documented the garden - with photographs! The following slide show, (largely unedited), is comprised of a years worth of images of the Potager at Penrose Bungalow. The photographs were made in all seasons and show the garden in every state, from its beginnings in Springtime to its greenest and most colorful in high summer; neatened up, and at its overgrown weediest. There are broad views and close-ups, and while the organization of some images may seem repeated, I suspect it is the plantings themselves that will have evolved, making for renewed interest. While going through these photographs, I was reminded anew of what a habitat the garden is for all manner of animal and insect life, as well as we humans! Now, while a frigid winter has forced many of us inside, I hope these images will entertain and remind everyone of the pleasures to be had being outdoors in the garden.  Think Spring!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spring on the march!

Dear Gardening Friends,
     Once again, we have reached that point in the calendar called Spring, when the surrounding landscape seems to change by the day, if not by the hour. Trees and shrubs that for months were dormant, drab and brown, have donned a mantle of leafy, lively green. Last nights buds are today’s blooms, in hues ranging from palest white to plumiest purple. And, the changes are not limited to the flora! Like clients with long-standing reservations, birds are returning to occupy their “suites” in the boughs, and atop porch columns! One is alerted to their presence by their singing, which starts long before the sun comes up. The ultimate eco-tourists, they can be seen, “twig-in-beak,” making their nests. They prepare their own accommodations, from renewable resources found on site, in Nature. Faced with these conditions, who among us can help but feel renewed and rejuvenated by the increased sunlight and warmth? That said, following is a portfolio of photographs of plants that recently emerged after a long Winter’s slumber in this zone 6B environ.  Look, and enjoy! Better yet, get outside, soak up some vitamin D, and observe what is growing around you! To revive a sixties expression, it is the ultimate “Happening!”
Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin)

Trout Lily (Erythronium)

Blood Root (Sanguinaria Canadensis)

Hepatica (Ranunculaceae)

Peach Blossom (Prunus persica)

Grape Hyacinth (Mascari Armeniacum)

Colts Foot (Tussilago farfara)


( All photographs copyright Everett H. Scott. All rights reserved. No image may be used, copied or duplicated without express written permission of the photographer.)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Signs of Springs Approach!

Winter Aconite

Dear Gardening Friends,
     Okay, so it snowed four inches this morning, and is still coming down, I still say it is not too soon to ask, “What signs have you noticed that indicate Springs arrival?” Here, in zone six, there is evidence both visual and aural, that Spring is upon us, no matter what today’s weather or Punxatawney Phil, (the groundhog’s) handlers may believe. This years Vernal Equinox will grace the Northern Hemisphere at precisely 6:29 AM on Monday, March 20th. On this day, we will experience equal hours of daylight and darkness, with daylight increasing until the Summer Solstice in June. Yet, signs of Springs approach abound, no matter the days weather, if only we take time to notice. All that one needs to do to perceive them is step outside! 

     Even with Winter’s blanket of snow tucked snuggly under Nature’s (greening) chin, one can hear the approach of Spring in the chattering of the birds. There is an excitement in their singing; a strident urgency in their calls to potential mates. “Let’s get it on!,” they cheep and tweet. “I know a forked branch just perfect for building a nest in, lets get to it before all of the good spots are taken!,” they seem to be whistling. 
Perfect, wedge-shaped gaggles of geese, honk their way overhead in a northerly direction. Enormous flocks of Black Birds, a thousand or more strong, sweep through in controlled chaos, reminiscent of an airborne bait-ball. 
  Buds on shrubs that have sat tightly wrapped for months have begun to swell and pop open, a slow strip-tease that will reach its climax when their flowers are revealed. In the flower beds, Winter Aconite, Crocuses, Snowdrops, Poppies, Larkspur, Alliums, Hollyhocks, Tulips, Daffodils and Hellebores are once again making their presence known, after months of lurking incognito beneath the earths surface. Even the first leaves of Colombine have already appeared!
In the potager, Robins, Starlings, and Sparrows frolic amid the debris of last years garden. It is a bug-rich source of food for them. Meantime, a rabbit doe gives me “Stink-eye,” whenever I am so rude as to enter what she clearly thinks of as HER space! “Squatters rights,” she insists with a nervous twitch, claiming that her “mother, and her mother before her, all bore their kits here.
Rabbit Doe in the potager.

How dare I to chase her away?! The Collards that over-wintered are “Mine!” she declares! And, who am I to argue? She can have it, at least until such time as I am willing to commit to weeding and nurturing the new seasons crops. 
Happy gardening!

(Text and photographs copyright Everett H. Scott, 2017. No part of this blog may be reproduced, copied, or referenced without specific written permission of the author/photographer. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Seasons Greetings!!!

Gardening friends,
     Since last I wrote to you, we have gone through one season, (Fall), and are well into the next, (Winter). The garden is largely in a state of hibernation, though as recently as the past month it harbored a supply of Chard and Kale as well as Carrots that provided the first course of our Christmas dinner, Carrot soup. Bear in mind, that while there is a temporary lull in our human use of the “potager,” it continues to be a source of food and shelter to myriad birds, and at least one pesky rabbit. We all need food and shelter.
     In November, when working outside became impractical because of the cold temperatures, I began looking for ways to satisfy my gardening urges while staying indoors. One of the most fun things I did – and a huge affirmation of everything we gardeners live for – was to go see the movie, Portrait of a Garden, the debut documentary by Rosie Stapel.  It is the story of the restoration of the oldest “kitchen garden” in the Netherlands, on an estate that dates back to 1630. The camera follows the owner of the property, Daan van der Have, his mentor, the 85 year old master gardener, Jan Freriks, and a small army of devoted assistants through a full year of planting, pruning and harvesting. It is very inspiring for even the palest of green thumbs, and I encourage everyone to see it, either on the large screen or on the internet. Look for screenings online, or ask your local theater to organize one.

     Over the years, I have become accustomed to receiving the first gardening catalogues with the first mail delivery of the New Year. That may still be true for some catalogues. This year, however, I noticed that a number of catalogues arrived in the days leading up to Christmas. It seems that someone in the gardening world finally realized they were missing out on the biggest shopping season of the year. They remedied this by sending their catalogues at just the moment that gardening folks were ready to spend money on their hearts desire – new seed, and all of the hope that they contain. What better to buy at Christmas than the makings of the garden that will keep one occupied in the months to come? In recent days, I have read that Purple Cauliflower is predicted to be the “hot” vegetable in this years’ garden. How such desirability is determined, I don’t know. For me, I will welcome any of the seeds I plant that honor me by germinating and growing. This begs the question, what do you look forward to growing in your garden in the coming year? One would do well to start planning now.  After all, there are only 78 days until Spring!

      Lest I be accused of getting ahead of myself, here is a recipe for Black-eyed Peas, that African-American households have been serving for generations to ensure luck in the New Year, which is now only a couple of hours away. Begin by soaking a 16 ounce bag of Black-Eyed Peas overnight in water sufficient to cover them entirely.  Look over the peas to ensure that there are no “undesirables”, or small stones mixed in among them. Once completely re-hydrated, rinse the peas in fresh water, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the peas completely. Cover the pot and place over a medium flame, high enough to bring the peas to a slow, low boil. While the peas and water are heating up, roughly chop a medium to large onion and add to the pot. Likewise, add two or three cloves of chopped garlic to the pot, along with two or three chopped carrots and a bay leaf. Traditionally, in the south, one would further flavor the peas by the addition of a piece of salt pork, or a ham hock. I find that a smoked turkey leg or wing works equally well. Simmer the peas, covered, for several hours, until the peas are tender. Take care to make sure that they stay well covered with water. Add additional water if needed to keep them covered. Season the peas with salt and pepper, to taste. Add pepper flakes if desired. Serve with white rice. Have a Happy New Year!!!

Monday, July 18, 2016

High Season in the Garden


     It is mid-summer and we are in the midst of yet another heat wave. We have had occasional thundershowers, but I have watered the garden pretty regularly, to help keep everything growing, green and blossoming.
     This time of year, one delights in being able to start the day with a cup of hot coffee while inspecting what has transpired overnight in the beds. It is best to get an early start, since any time after 8:45AM can be too hot to endure for more than 10 minutes. What is blossoming and what is ripe? What needs dead-heading and what should be harvested? This years planting scheme in the north bed, with Swiss Chard, Baby Tuscan Kale and Sweet Basil forming borders in front of beds of Tri-color beans and just as many colors of squash, seems a happy arrangement. The chard, “Bright Lights,” has matured to have beautiful vibrant green leaves with brightly colored stems and veining in red, white, and yellow. It is ideal for a variety of uses, including one of our favorite breakfasts, "Oeufs Potager":
Note: A six inch cast iron pan is ideal for this, however any small sautéing pan and a lid will do.

     With the pan over medium heat, add a generous tablespoon of butter to the pan. While it is melting, go out to the garden and cut 2 or 3 leaves of Swiss Chard, including the stems. (In the absence of a garden close by, get the freshest leaves your market or fridge can produce.) Return to the kitchen and rinse the leaves clean, shaking off any excess water. Fold the stems and ends of the leaves under, until the leaves just fit into the pan. Cover with a close fitting lid. Allow the leaves to wilt for 2 to 3 minutes. While the leaves are softening, have ready a slice of bread and one large egg. I prefer a whole grain loaf, but ones’ preferred bread will do. Rye works well. After about 3 minutes, turn the Swiss Chard “nest” of leaves over, then, crack the egg onto the sautéed side of the Swiss Chard, preferably without breaking the yolk. You may add a sprinkle of salt or a grind of pepper at this time, if you like. Replace the lid. At the same time, begin toasting the bread. Toasters will vary in the time required to toast a slice of bread to ones preferred level of doneness, however, it turns out that the time required by my toaster to toast a slice of bread, is just the amount of time required to poach the egg to perfection. That said, when the toast pops up, put it on a plate. Remove the lid from the now perfectly cooked egg and Swiss Chard leaves, and place the “nest” atop the slice of toast. Sit down with your preferred knife and fork. Enjoy!!!

This recipe is one of my favorites for a satisfying summer breakfast. The crunchiness of the toast, the silkiness of the Chard and the creaminess of the egg all compliment each other beautifully. And, it is just enough food to power one through a morning of weeding or painting or whatever task is at hand.

     Otherwise, the Lacinato, (“Dinosaur”) Kale, and the “Couve Tronchuda” Collard Greens are thriving, as are Carrots in a rainbow of colors. The heirloom tomato collection (ordered from Burpee) is full of swelling fruits and blossoms, promising lots of juicy BLT’s, and Gazpacho to come. One of the seasons’ biggest surprises is how well the Melons are doing. The four plants, which I started from seed with little hope of success, are sprawling all over the place and filled with bright yellow flowers. I can’t wait to see which of the three varieties of Melons in the packet from Renee’s Seed they are. I must say, all of Renee’s Seeds are doing well, including the Carrots, the Melons, Chard, Squash, Beans and Basil.  The seeds have thrived in the soil we have amended with compost, and watered generously. Now, to mulch the vegetable beds with straw, to cut down on weeds and to help retain precious moisture.

     The flower beds continue to delight us with rich color, shapes and textures, despite the extreme heat of midsummer. There are plants from six inches to over six feet tall, carrying flowers in shades of purple (Larkspur), to mauve (Verbena), pink (Echinacia) to magenta (Phlox), orange to yellow (Coreopsis) and white. Self-seeded sunflowers have formed what we have dubbed “Sunflower Corner,” against the back wall of the barn. These, like the Zinnias and so many other flowers still have weeks to go before they reach their peak, but then will carry us into the Fall with brilliant color. All of these blossoms play host to an army of pollinators that becomes busier and more varied by the day. The first of this years’ Monarch Butterflies has passed through; likewise Black and Yellow Swallowtails. Bees, in a wide variety of shapes and sizes work these blossoms on a daily basis, harvesting the pollen and nectar. All in all, it is the best garden ever, and there is lots of growing yet to be done!

Copyright 2016 Everett H. Scott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog may be reproduced without specific written permission of the author/photographer. Use without permission constitutes an agreement to pay $25,000 per day of use.