Saturday, December 31, 2016
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
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.
Friday, March 11, 2016
March 1, 2016
Despite this having been one of the warmest Winters on record, for weeks now, it has been too cold to spend any more time than necessary outside. Thus, the time required to walk the dog is the longest one spends in the open air, in stark contrast to the hours spent out of doors during the growing season. Understandably, those of us who prefer the atmosphere of a garden, assuage our longing by creating interior garden-scapes, or at least having some house-plants or cut flowers close at hand.
Now, the last remnants of this Winter’s one major snowstorm, that dumped over thirty inches of snow in one fell swoop, are reluctantly melting away. Where the snow has melted, the ground is spongy with moisture, making it easier for the Crocuses,
and Snow Drops, the Winter Aconite and the Daffodils to push forth for blossoming. Encouraged by the steadily warming temperatures, the Titmice and other local birds are trilling their most seductive songs in hopes of finding a partner to build a nest with, staking out territory in the trees and shrubs before they leaf out. In the basement “Limonaia,” the tender plants, vines and shrubs that Wintered over indoors have already begun sending out tender green shoots and leaves to greet the new season. Even our Irish Terrier, Champion Redbranch Mystic Druid, is getting in on the act, responding to Nature’s subtle hints, by waking earlier than ever to go outside, anticipating the change of clocks that occurs at 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 13. Today, he came to the bedside, whimpering to be taken out despite the fact that it was not yet five AM and still pitch black outside! We humans have responded to the increasing minutes of daylight by visiting the local Agway store – no doubt, the first of many visits this season – to get an early jump on the competition for the most desired seeds. So far, we have acquired seeds for:
Larkspur Sublime Blend, Consolida ambigua
Larkspur, Shades of Blue
Baby’s Breath, (Gypsophila) Early Snowball
Penstemon, Rocky Mountain Blue, (Penstemon strictus)
Delphinium, Fantasia Mix
Cleome, Color Fountain Mix
Batchelor’s Button, Blue Boy, (Centaurea cyanus)
Snapdragon, Tall Maximum Blend, (Antirrhinum majus)
Coreopsis, Early Sunrise
By way of flowers, and:
Beans, Blue Lake 274
Lettuce, Rouge d’Hiver
Italian Lacinato KALE, Nero Toscano (Brassica oleracea)
Beets, (Beta vulgaris)
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights
Carrots, Red Cored Chantenay
These, just to get us started. Meantime, yet more snow is forecast for this weekend.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
Dear Gardening Friends,
In bleak mid-winter, (now, in other words), it isn’t just a lack of vitamin D, caused by insufficient sunshine, with its attendant risk of weakened bones that one must take measures to rectify. Another seasonal debilitating ailment, is one I refer to as a vitamin “G” (as in “G”arden) deficiency, wherein a lack of greenery and the absence of color, among other things, induces a sense of spiritual lethargy manifested by indifference to ones surroundings, disdain for the political process and a weakening of ones ability to resist bad TV. The urban dweller and the suburbanite are both equally vulnerable to this condition. If a visit to tropical climes isn’t on ones agenda, one might be tempted to despair. But, fear not! Effective remedies are at hand, and accessible to every budget.
For a lucky few, from January 22cnd until the 31st, at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, the 62cnd annual Winter Antiques Show, A Benefit for Eastside House Settlement, is underway. There, seventy vetted dealers have scoured the globe to present the most rare and beautiful antiques, art and decorative furnishings one can imagine. Among them, Barbara Israel has once again assembled an inspiring selection of garden furnishings to suit every landscape, grand or intimate. I did hear one visitor complain as she left, that “Years ago, it was possible for a middle-class person (like me) to actually afford to buy something.” “Now,” she continued, “these are all museum pieces.”
A favorite remedy for the Winter Blues, also sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, that is so simple as to seem obvious, is a bouquet of fresh flowers. These days, even the neighborhood grocery is likely to have a supply of flowers on hand. In these parts, along Broadway on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we are fortunate to have vendors whose open-air displays of flowers are by themselves, a tonic for the neighborhood. Just to view them as one walks past has an edifying effect on ones psyche. For just twelve dollars – less than the price of a packet of cigarettes, and infinitely better for ones health – one can acquire a bouquet of twenty roses in the color of ones choice, from pure white to the deepest red, and nearly every hue in between. I encourage those with a slightly larger budget to visit the newest iteration of Surroundings, flowers and event planners, recently opened at 2675 Broadway at 102cnd street, on the southwest corner. There, Stephen Buchwald and the friendly staff, monitored by canine companion Katie, the Bischon Frise, bring their years of experience to creating delightful floral arrangements for every occasion – or, no occasion at all. They pride themselves on having one of the largest selections of cut flowers to be found anywhere in town, and welcome browsers, no purchase required.
There is more. Chances are, if you live in the country, you already have a birdfeeder. If not, I urge you to consider investing in one. The dividend will be untold hours of entertainment by your local avian community - as long as you keep the feeder filled! Especially when the ground is snow-covered, and other sources of food are unavailable, a feeder is a lifeline to the birds, just as their aerial acrobatics will be an endless source of fascination for you. What is more, if they learn to associate you with food now, the birds will continue to return in the Spring and Summer when their songs will be the soundtrack of your landscape, and their presence can be an aid in pollination. Even urbanites can undertake to support a birdfeeder, though you may find that the birds must compete with other, undesirable creatures for the seed!
If there is anyone who still needs to consult a seed catalogue, here are links to a few of the dozens of catalogues and online sites that I enjoy:
( All photographs copyright Everett H. Scott, 2016. All rights reserved. No image may be used or reproduced without express written permisssion from Everett H. Scott.)
Monday, January 18, 2016
So, Gardening Friends, what is on your gardening agenda for 2016? Although we have only just passed the middle of January, already I can sense the increasing minutes of sunlight that will eventually fuel the coming seasons growth. Though there is snow and cold ahead of us, it isn’t too soon to begin planning for the coming gardening season, however you choose to engage with it.
Perhaps you are perusing the seed catalogues that have begun to arrive, in search of the varieties of vegetables and/or flowers you want to grow? Will you select old favorites or opt for new, untried varieties? Perhaps you are planning a visit to some admired garden(s), that you want to experience in person, first-hand? Will this be a “Day trip,” or are overnight accommodations required? Be mindful of any change in growing zones, if you want to bring home ideas that you pick up on the road. If Santa didn’t arrange it, perhaps you want to put getting a copy of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days guide to public and private gardens on your “to do” list?
When not browsing through seed catalogues, I have been enjoying reading Andrea Wulf’s engaging book, Founding Gardeners, The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2011. She writes of the relationship that Washington, Jefferson, Madison and (John) Adams had to their surrounding landscapes in the newly independent United States, and the impact of that relationship on their ideas about government and politics. Especially in this, an election year, this book has made for particularly interesting, informative reading. Also, one of the frequently mentioned locations in the book, Bartram’s garden in Philadelphia, Americas oldest botanical garden, which supplied many of the native plants these men cultivated, is now on my list as a “must-see” garden destination.
I had about given up on it, and was preparing to dig out the stump, when, brushing away leaves from the very center of the tree at ground level, I finally discovered a tender new green leaf, right at the heart of the plant! Over the course of the season, the tree did indeed thrive, doubling in size AND producing fruit, despite having endured one of the coldest, snowiest Winters on record. But, could we avoid almost losing the tree again? I remember, as a child, watching over our back fence in the Fall, as our Sicilian neighbor Charlie, would bend his fig tree over until it was prone with the ground, then mound it over with soil and tar paper, effectively burying the tree. It was always miraculous to me, when in the Spring, the tree was uncovered and filled with budding green leaves. I wondered if now, I could devise an alternative way to protect our tree?
Last Fall, we decided to take no chances this Winter, and came up with a plan for increasing the trees protection. Four eight-foot metal stakes were driven into the ground close to the tree’s roots to form a rectangle. We opened the bottom of a thick-sided cardboard box and pulled it over the trees stalks, down to ground level, then, using the four stakes as support, pulled another open-bottomed box over the upper portion of the tree stalks. We used straw as insulation, to fill in the open space between the trees branches and the cardboard boxes. Then, we used two heavy-duty black plastic trash bags, one with its bottom cut open so that it could be pulled down to the ground over the stakes, to enclose the straw-filled boxes. The other plastic bag fit over the top of the stakes and covered the exposed upper portion of the tree, providing a wrapping for the tree. The black plastic trash bags overlap, allowing air to circulate, but the tree is protected from the worst of the chill winds, ice and snow. Come Spring this year, we will see if our efforts to protect the tree are successful.
Sunday, January 3, 2016
Greetings gardening friends! I hope the excitement that accompanies the beginning of the year will be yours throughout all twelve months. To aid in reaching this goal, once again I present the Potager at Penrose Bungalow (2016) calendar. In it, are depicted a series of images of the garden at Penrose Bungalow, throughout the seasons, with broad views and close-ups, showing a range of the edible plants as well as the ornamentals that together make for a "little slice of heaven." I hope these images will whet your appetites for digging in the dirt, no matter what you grow. Anyone interested in having their own hard copy of the calendar is encouraged to write to me through the comments section of this blog, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on the link below to view the calendar, and give the pictures a minute to upload. Good luck with your garden this year, wherever it is!