}

June 30, 2011

One Spice Bush to Get

Sinocalycanthis 'Hartlage Wine' has flowers that look like big, burgundy magnolias, and it blooms in early summer.
This is a relatively new plant and a very exciting one that you must seek out. It is new to most gardeners, a cross between two relatives from two different continents, that of Calycanthus from the south eastern US and a similar species from China, Calycanthus sinensis. The result is a shrub with large, 4 inch flowers in late May and June, with beautiful leaves that are almost tropical. My plant is only three years old, but it is already taking off. Here is what my post looked like last year.

Saying Goodbye to Three Heritage Trees

If you are a long time follower of this blog, then you would be familiar with many of the tall stately trees that we have on our property. I am very attached to every tree for various reasons, but most revolve around the fact that I could tell you the story behind every tree ( and plant, for that matter). A benefit , or burden, of now living with a garden where I was raised, and for that matter, where my nearly 98 year old father was raised. This past weekend, we cut down three of the tall Colorado Blue Spruces that his father had planted in 1938, ( look at them in some of these photos - talk about old!), two 90 foot tall specimens that were starting to reach the end of their life, as they have begun to loose more branches and sap which weakened these giants. It's sad, but it also opens a new door. Now we have more sunlight, and we all were surprised about how much larger the yard looked again.
It's really all about scale, since these spruces towered far above our heads,and were twice as large as any other tree on the property, they helped demonstrate a trick which many of the greatest landscapers of the late 19th Century employed - tiers and scale play - tall trees, medium trees and small, short trees, all help create an outdoor experience which feels natural, as if nature planted it, but in  a perfect way, which we often don't notice at first. You can see this in old estate landscapes that are still maintained, or in some of the great Olmsted parks like Central Park in NYC. At home, you can try to not plant all of the specimen trees and plants while they are at the same age, or you will end up looking more like a nursery rather than a garden in the woods.


This Golden needled Japanese Spruce, 'Skylands' is a more manageable scale for our garden, and it provides a balance to the super-tall giants behind it. I know that I need more trees at this mid tier level, but there is much more to consider. The garden has become over-grown and out of scale over the past 50 years, so we continue to remove large masses of vegetation, uncovering some of the more formal aspects to the garden, before I decide how I am going to re-design it. With 3 acres to work with, this is not small task. But it is starting to look a little less weedy already.

I am continually embarrassed with the garden,and often never invite guests to see it ( many crazy outbuildings and trashy areas, tall weed areas, etc), but I also know that many other gardeners who are plant lovers have gardens like this, a fact that doesn't really make me feel better about it.So my strategy is to try and open-up some of the weedy areas to see lawn or low, planted herbaceous areas again ( yay - more gardens to plant!). When I was a child in the 60's and 70's the lawns were massive, or so they seemed, because it took an entire day to cut them. Hey, I am not a lawn-dude, but, it might look a little better to have some very low vegetative areas too. I think that I need that 'carpet look' in areas.

So long old spruce. I was trying to remember why I was so emotional about these two stately blue spruces, but they provided the anchor-tree look as we viewed the garden from the picture window, a formal design earlier, these two tall spruces looked like two church steeples, and I can remember many many winters when I would turn the spotlights on in the back, and watch the snow gather on their branches during blizzards. Then, they must have been 40 feet tall, this year, they were 80 - 90 feet tall, and I still loved how they looked in the winter. Now, it's time to move forward.

June 26, 2011

Viva la Fraises - Because it's June

SEASONAL LOCAL VARIETIES OF STRAWBERRIES ARE READY TO PICK. EVEN WITH DAMAGE FROM THE RAIN, HAIL AND MICE, THESE TENDER, FRAGRANT AND SWEET VARIETIES ARE FAR BETTER THAN ANY COMMERICIAL BRAND FOUND IN A PLASTIC CLAMSHELL.

NATIVE STRAWBERRIES ARE DIFFERENT THAN STORE BOUGHT VARIETIES, WHICH ARE BRED TO BE RESISTANT TO BRUISES, AND CAN HANDLE LONG SHIPPING WELL. LOCAL BERRIES ARE EXTREMELY FRAGILE, BUT OH SO MUCH MORE FLAVORFUL.
 I can't help but to associate June with strawberries. For this is the month for the world's most popular berry. It doesn't matter if you are in Germany, Switzerland, Seattle, Tokyo or New York - this month is THE season. You may prefer those Driscoll branded varieties, that are bred to retail intense flavor but even they don't compare to the intense fragrance of garden-grown sweet strawberries. Many people don'e realize that that there are nearly a hundred varieties of strawberries, and like tomatoes, those found in markets are bred for color, shelflife and firmness. Garden varieties are extremely tender, and bruise too easily, but their flavor is incredible. Intensely strayberry-ish,  juicy and sweet, full of rainwater and sunshine.

AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, BERRIES HAVE SO MUCH WATER IN THEM, THAT JUST SUGAR IS ADDED. BOIL UNTIL FOAM BEGINS TO FORM. THE ENTIRE KITCHEN WILL SMELL LIKE A CANDY FACTORY!

PREPARE IN SMALL BATCHES USING NO MORE THAN 4 LBS OF FRUIT AT A TIME. NEVER LET THE TEMPERATURE OF THE PRESERVES RISE HIGHER THAN 220 DEG. F, OR IT WILL SET TOO TIGHTLY. (I LEARNED THE HARD WAY!).

 I have many fond memories of picking strawberries with my parents. We grew a few rows in the gardens, and the rest were picked a local farms which my mom would freeze for later use, or to make jam with. If you remember back in December, I decided that this year I would start making jams and jellies again, as well as pickles. I miss the smells in the kitchen, and the entire process. It's a little funny to think that I have about 20 years experience as being an apprentice to my mother as she made pickles, james and jellies in many, many flavors, from currant to sour cherry, and wild concord grapes. Each fruit marks a season for me, with its scent, flavor or the entire process of picking them.
STERILIZED WECK JARS  FROM GERMANY ARE READY FOR FILLING. I STERILIZE THEM IN THE OVEN. WECK JARS ARE BEAUTIFULY DESIGNED, BUT PROBLEMATIC FOR MORE MORE SERIOUS CANNING, SUCH AS FOR BEANS, MUSHROOMS, MEATS, BUT FOR ANYTHING REQUIRING A HOT WATER BATH OR FOR PICKES, JAMS AND JELLIES, THEY MAKE THE RESULTING PRODUCT LOOK SO MUCH NICER. THERE IS NO JAR MORE ATTRACTIVE THAN A WECK, I THINK.

Why not take your family and pick some strawberries or blueberries at a local farm this year.  Enjoy your Saturday or Sunday making some fresh Jam ( I highly reccomend the Blue Chair Cookbook). Get the proper equipment, since there is really no room for experimenting or taking corners when it comes to home processing or jam making, but the results are incredible, and with a good jar of White Cherry Peach Jam going for around $14. at your local Whole Foods, why not make some yourself at less than half the price!

IT TAKES ABOUT AN HOUR FOR THIS PECTIN-FREE RECIPE TO REDUCE. ONLY 3 INGREDIENTS, BERRIES, LEMON JUICE AND CANE SUGAR. THE TRICK, IS TO USE THE RIGHT POT, SUCH AS THE WIDE COPPER CONFITURE PAN FROM MAUVIEL.  THE WIDE SURFACE ALLOWS FOR A FAST REDUCTION. IT'S A BIT OF AN INVESTMENT, BUT A NICE ADDITION FOR ANY KITCHEN.

FRESH STRAWBERRY JAM IS SUMMER IN A JAR, WHEN EATEN IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER


Why not take your family and pick some strawberries or blueberries at a local farm this year.  Enjoy your Saturday or Sunday making some fresh Jam ( I suggest that you get the the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders, it's just about the best jam cookbook I have ever read, besides being a beautiful addition to any library). Get the proper equipment, since there is really no room for experimenting or taking corners when it comes to home processing or jam making, but the results are incredible, and with a good jar of White Cherry Peach Jam going for around $14. at your local Whole Foods, why not make some yourself at less than half the price!
NEXT WEEK, IT'S CHERRY SEASON!!!