Friday, May 8, 2009

May Merriment


     Day by day, the garden is revealing itself, like a photographic print immersed in developer. 
But first, (a drum roll please.....) the Potager at Penrose Bungalow has been paid the compliment of being asked to participate in the Milford Township Historical Society's eleventh annual garden tour on June 13th, rain or shine! This invitation came about as a result of our having won an award in the annual Bucks Beautiful garden competition, which we entered on a lark last year. A subsequ
ent article in the Free Press was seen throughout the area, and thus it was that Phyllis Boyer of the Milford H
istorical Society called to invite our participation. As a way to introduce the garden to her, I sent her the following description that the reader may also find helpful.

     "I call the Potager at Penrose Bungalow an American garden that reflects a world of ideas. The word "potager" is French for "kitchen garden," which is one of the aims this garden fulfills: in the European tradition, we try to grow as many vegetables as we can to supply our own and others food needs, in an atmosphere that is colorful, inviting and relaxing. 
The other part of our name, "Bungalow" refers to the American Arts and Crafts style brick home on the property, which also affected the design and organization of the garden. In this case, we aimed for a garden design that was simple to maintain, attractive from multiple vantage points, functional and organic. Ideally, any garden is designed to compliment the scale and needs of the house and residents who use it.

This garden includes a small orchard, the twenty by forty foot "potager parterre" or kitchen garden, a (rectangular) boxwood-bordered bed with symmetrical, gravel paths and seating. There is a lawn that is suitable for games, like croquet. The herb/medicine wheel garden pays honor to Native American tradition. Then, there are mixed flower beds, a rose garden, grapevines, asparagus beds and a small apiary. A fountain, swing set, an armillary sphere and a variety of seating arrangements contribute to a setting that evokes harmony and tranquility." 


     At least, this is what we are hoping for! Exactly what the garden will be doing on June 13th is anybody's guess! Meantime, the age old struggle of man against weed continues. Stay "Tooned" for more coverage of the preparations for the tour, and the tour itself.
     As of this week, a rare, late April heat wave cooked the remaining daffodils and made the peach and other fruiting trees pop into blossom! Our white and yellow tulips hung in through the beginning of the week, joined now by the pink dogwood, (Cornus florida var. Rubra) galloping into view in the front of the garden.                                                                                                                 
 We successfully harvested the first of this season's asparagus on April 23.

     The "purple patch," as I like to call it, is approaching its' full glory. This is an arc of space formed where the enclosed garden room and back porch extend off the rear of the house. Years ago, some forward thinking soul planted a lilac shrub (syringa vulgaris), that today is a twelve foot tall and wide mass of pale purple panicles. For a few weeks this time each year, the flowers' heady perfume saturates the air, so that anyone entering or leaving the house is forced to stop and inhale deeply. 
If it wasn't the only piece of landscaping that came with the house, this lilac is certainly the most appreciated specimen planting that existed prior to our arrival. Under-planting it, we have added deeper purple hyacinths, and muscari. Nature has collaborated with us by carpeting the surrounding area with violets (viola papilionacea). Factor in a nascent lavender (Hidcote) border, and this purple themed corner gives satisfaction from April through October.

     Meantime, over our shoulder, the first of the Irises, a legacy of our friend Jeanine Nearing, have begun to open in the "North" border, or "long walk." Jeanine, with John, fellow alumni of Coe College, brought a selection of her own Iris collection as a house-warming present on her first visit to Penrose Bungalow in the fall of 2005. Traveling from Hopewell Junction, NY, she brought them in all sizes and a broad range of colors, from pure white, (Totality), to an almost black shade of purple. At one point during that visit, with no prompting from us, she simply walked into the garden to a spot along the fence on the North border that appealed to her, and using her own tools, cleared the sod and planted an Iris bed, approximately four by twelve feet.
The shorter ones went in front, naturally, with the intermediate and tall plants towards the rear. She added short extending "arms" at either end of the bed that draw the eye left and right when standing midst them, and give just a hint of enclosure. Now, almost four years later, the Irises in blossom are a highlight of the growing season, doubly so for some of them that are fall re-blooming varieties. Jeanine also brought a selection of her Hemerocallis that we interplanted among the asparagus, some sedum and a peony, all of which has thrived.
     This was the beginning of all our flower beds. Since then, that bed has grown to be over seventy-five feet long. Other gardener friends have bequeathed plants to us, and we have grown many from seed. Some plant choices were made to recreate a childhood memory, while others were inspired by trips taken abroad. Together, they constitute a diverse fusion of Natures' bounty, and what could be more American than that? Yes, we have fusion cooking, and jazz-fusion music, why not fusion gardening?
     Which reminds me of a recipe that allowed me to prepare another Spring treat, Rhubarb, or Rheum. Here are my instructions for preparing 

RHUBARB FOOL

For the compote:

1 lb. Rhubarb, trimmed and cut into pieces
1/3 cup of sugar or vanilla sugar
1/2 orange, juiced

for the wafers:

3 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1lb piece of frozen puff pastry
                  OR
buy some madelaines

For the flavored yoghurt:

2 cups plain yoghurt, or one cup yoghurt and one cup heavy cream whipped to high peaks
1 orange, zested
1 heaping tablespoon of honey

Mix together the yoghurt, or yoghurt and whipped cream, and the orange zest. Drizzle honey throughout the mixture.

     In a small pan, heat rhubarb, sugar and orange juice. Bring to a boil for a few minutes, then remove lid and simmer until the mixture attains the thickness of a compote. Allow to cool. Make wafers by sprinkling ingredients onto puff pastry and baking for the recommended time. Or, use bought Madelaines. 
     In a tall glass, alternate spoonfuls of the yoghurt mixture with the compote. Garnish with the wafers or Madelaines. If you use bought Madelaines, sprinkle a little of the cinnamon into the compote mixture.
     Enjoy!    
















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