May 29, 2010

Making a Hot Dog Arrangement, and a Saturday Garden Stroll

We like both, casual and fancy. There are parts of our garden that are well designed, and parts that visitors never see. There are messy areas, and a tidy, well designed area, (like everyone, I guess). So here, near Boston,on an overcast Saturday at the end of May, I share some contradictions and surprises I could see as I walked around the garden.
Flowering radishes,mesclun, arugula, mustards and sage may seem messy to some, but I never got to pull out all of the mesclun mixes, so what was left in the vegetable garden now has extended in the heat, and has bloomed. Normally, I would just pull it out, and add it to the compost pile, but you know, it looks surprisingly pretty and natural, if not very 'Japanese'. So I have decided to make an arrangement with it.
After all, we are trying to save cash for a hiking trip to Switzerland in a month.

Three years ago, while in Tokyo, I was admiring the Japanese mustard fields, and mustard plantings in February, when winter crops of mustard are grown for ornamental purposes, the Japanese have an appreciation for such things. They pick grasses, wild flowers, wheat etc, and arrange it in their Tokudama's and in hand made stoneware containers, with such perfect balance and editing that only the Japanese can do, that a  simply humble bade of grass or branch with a bud, transform into a work of art.

So this year, I purchased a pound of mustard seed to use both as a green manure ( seeded early in my raised vegetable beds, and then turned under in late May), and for food. Then, I saved some for ornamental purposes, and to tossed seed around the garden.
In one section of a raised be, some culinary Sage survived the winter, and has begun to bloom. Sage will do this, but it also is a sign that they plant will die soon, so fresh sage has been planted nearby. The flowers are flavorful, and have a more mild taste than the oily sage leaf.

I decided to challenge myself, and construct an arrangement of cut flowers, simply with was was found in the vegetable garden. ( OK, the fluffy Pulsatilla is out of place, but it was growing in the same raised bed, since I had extra seedlings last year and didn't want to throw them away). You might be surprised at what natural effects can be created bu both observing nature, and by re-creating a bit of it as a center piece, or floral arrangement. Grasses, roadside weeds, meadow flowers, all naturally work well together. A bit unconventional, this arrangement of Radish flowers, dill, sage blossoms and mustard greens somehow 'work' well together. I suppose, I could use it for my Memorial Day arrangement at a cookout tomorrow. I might call it my Hot Dog arrangement. Inspired by Dill pickles, yellow mustard and salad greens.

All is not rustic, but these Primula sieboldii are being divided by Joe for a new P. sieboldii bed dedicated completely to his Japanese varieties of this Japanese native wild primrose which is so beautiful yet rarely appreciated in North American gardens. Blooming much later ( near June in most 'normal' years, this primrose looks more like a phlox than it does a primrose. Snowflake shaped blossoms and a growth habit that creeps and crawls with underground rhyzomes makes it a clumper, which only gets better with age.  The ducks are growing exponentially, with every week adding pounds, more feathers and a new attitude. Now, they've been relocated outside, near the greenhouse, where they can play in the grass and lawns and pick up tiny bugs in the alpine garden.

Speaking of mustard and green manures, here, in prep for some new tomato plants, a 'green manure' of mustard was turned-over last week, and with the heat and humidity, and about 6 bushels of compost and leaf mold, the bed will be ready next week for planting. In the raised bed behind, a different method of growing tomatoes is being tried out. First, a green manure of winter rye was planted, and will be turned in this week. On top of that, bales of straw and piles of straw from the duck house was added, and potatoes and tomatoes, perhaps squash, will be planted in compost which will be added to the top of the hay pile. Next year, the entire bed will be turned under, and the soil should be perfect for other crops, but until I can get the soil texture perfect, this is the method I am using above the purchased loam which has too much clay.

A Japanese maple growing in a faux lead container on our front walk welcomes guests near the Czech stlye crevice garden and some alpine troughs in terrazzo pots. Try growing Japanese maples and pines in large tubs and pots, for there is nothing as effective visually than an elevated tree, in a massive container. Museum gardens and botanical gardens do it, why not do it at home? One does not need to live in a city, or have a trendy boutique hotel, to try this easy method of adding design to the garden. A potted tree at an entrance, or at the end of a driveway or on a deck, transforms everything. I suddenly feels special.

The effect is completely different than the same plant growing in the garden, and only becomes better with age. We keep about 5 Japanese maples in pots, and they spend the winter un protected outside. Just be sure that the container is frost proof ( fiberglass, like this one, is best), and be sure to water well when dry. For plants like Japanese maples, which can be costly, the fact that they are mobile, is an added bonus.

1 comment :

  1. Anonymous6:38 AM

    Hi Matt nice post. I've been working in my garden too. This weekend is planting weekend. I too have notice that most plants are 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule, but a few weeks ago we had a frost and it got to some of our young grapes. If they don't come back we'll replant next year.

    I like your Japanese Maple. I have some "durable" Bonsai: ginger root ficus, jade, ferns. Most of the "classical" Bonsai have passed with the dry heat winter. I hope to get back into larger outdoor types: Alberta spruce, Larch, etc when I have the time.

    I'm also reclaiming an area in the front yard for a small Japanese style garden, and eventually a meditation garden behind the house.

    Your old classmate,
    Doug Saball
    About 2 miles south of the college.


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