Monday, May 30, 2011

In The Garden and Hoop House Harvest

These days are reminiscent of last year in this Pacific northwest: cold (59 degrees F), cloudy and rainy. With any glimmer of sun, we head out into the garden in an attempt to play catch-up with what needs to be done and enjoy some of the beauty.

Acer griseum

north side of the garden

Evening Grosbeak

Mrs. Evening Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak

Western Tanager

Of the iris we have in the garden, the I. sibirica is always the first to bloom, followed by I. germanica, the bearded ones, and then the Japanese which should begin their display during the month of June.

Iris sibirica

I. germanica

I. germanica 'Portrait of Laurie'

I. germanica 'Lacy Snowflake'

Epimedium 'Frohnleiten'

Molinia caerulea

Clematis fremontii

love the Allium in the garden

Our harvests of the last several months have been flowing from the hoop house: spinach, lettuce, kale, carrots, broccoli... and Saturday we harvested three large solid heads (9.3 pounds total) of Cabbage 'Stonehead' and a beautiful Cauliflower 'Cheddar' which weighed 2.5 pounds.

Although our daytime temperature has been mainly in the 50's and low 60's, inside the hoop house it can reach up to 90 degrees with just a bit of sun. At this time of the year, many of the cold weather plants have begun to go to seed, but earlier we duplicated a second offering in the outside raised beds. I dug some of the spinach and transplanted it outside, and peppers have taken its place inside the hoop house. As the rest of the cabbage and remaining cauliflower is removed, eggplant will be planted there.

Tomatoes and peppers all have blossoms. Only half of our tomatoes are outside; the others are still in gallon pots and are becoming root bound. I plan to put them out within the next several days, rain or shine... and the forecast is for more rain. I am encouraged however, as Stupice has two little green tomatoes forming on the vine, and it is in one of the raised beds outside. Considered one of the first tomatoes (and the last) to have fruit, we are hopeful.

The slugs are so bad, and I exclaim that the following is a crime against gardeners. Robin gave me the seeds for this Zucchini 'Cocozelle', and I was so excited that the first one was forming. Guess we will have to wait a bit longer for others to develop.

We attended our dear friends 40th wedding anniversary on Saturday. What a wonderful and blessed occasion! And thank you John and Laurie for hosting their event.

We hope you had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and that you took some time to give thanks for those who have given and risk their life to protect and defend our freedom.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Malus 'Prairifire', An Evening Walk

While walking about the garden last evening and observing the fading blossoms of the Malus 'Prairifire', I thought about the following which I posted over a year ago and that you might enjoy it once again.

When family or friends join us for an evening walk in the garden, I will point out "this is one of my favorite trees". The only problem with that statement is we have planted about 50 specimens over the years, and each was selected because of a particular habit or feature which we found especially appealing. This time of year a spectacular tree happens to be the flowering crabapple, (Malus 'Priarifire').

The photos do some justice to the actual blossom, an unmatched beauty of color in the landscape, and when I see this tree in full bloom, all I can think of is ‘HOT’!

As we start down the path the blue, purple and pink Columbine (Aquilegia), which have freely seeded, cover the area beneath one of the birch trees. Do enjoy the fragrance of the lilac while stopping for a moment to look at the rich purple red foliage of this great maple, Acer Platanoides 'Crimson King' (one of my favorite trees).

The sloping field below the main garden is home for three Malus 'Prairifire'. These 15-20’ trees, rounded in habit, require little or no maintenance, do not drop their fruit, and clearly are quite the showstopper this time of year - a beautiful addition to any garden. (I won't tell you that we planted another young one in the main part of the garden several years ago when we found it on sale.)

Late April generally brings forth their “fire” in the landscape, summer yields reddish green foliage, the fall transforms it into red and orange, and the red berries of fall and winter offer the birds a feast; the bark - a glossy dark reddish brown.

As we approach the bottom of the path and turn toward the right, the towering Cedrus Deodara can be seen in the distance, while the Ligustrum x vicaryi 'Aurea' (privet) nestles beneath the Malus.

A closer look says these two may have something going on.

Shall we walk beyond the Cedrus Deodara and turn back for an opposite view and a wonderful Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'? Don't you simply love the weeping whimsical stature of this evergreen? Reminds me of a Dr. Seuss character.

We hope you found something to enjoy during this evening walk in the garden. Thank you for being here, and we shall do it again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lazuli Bunting

Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature --if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you --know that the morning and spring of your life are past. Thus may you feel your pulse.

~ ~ Henry David Thoreau

If you can imagine my joy: yesterday I could not believe my eyes, and of course I couldn't get the camera to focus as it fixated upon the window pane, but you can see the shape, the colors.

You can see it, can't you? The bluebird! I have been waiting for years, hoping one day they would come to visit and make this their home. We even put up a house specifically for them.

This morning at dawn he returned, and he and a white-crowned sparrow fed at the ground below the feeder outside my studio window, each keeping a distance between. Several attempts were made to visit the feeder, but the tentative behavior had him feeding at ground level until he flew away. Will he return?

It doesn't take much to bring a smile to my face. I do believe he's scoping us out, making an assessment. What do you think? Will he raise his family here?
He couldn't find a more loving place to be.

Moments ago he returned to sing me a song.

Update: Today, Tuesday May 24: Sweetbay identified our bluebird as a Lazuli Bunting rather than a Western Bluebird. Thank you, Sweetbay! Even this Oregon Nature Examiner at first identified incorrectly. According to him, Oregon has three blue birds: the Lazuli (Indigo Blue) Bunting, the Mountain Blue Bird and the most common is the Western Blue Bird. What would we do without our internet friends?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paeonia suffruticosa, Chinese Tree Peony

Exquisite! is what comes to mind as the Chinese Tree Peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are now in full bloom. These exotic plants have a special place in the garden, a focal point, so one can fully view the spectacular 6-9” blossoms. Showstoppers they are.

The 3-5 foot upright woody shrubs do very well in our garden: deep, well prepared soil and good drainage, in full sun or part shade. In the early spring they appreciate a little bone meal (high in phosphorus) worked around into the soil, and on occasion I may add a slow release fertilizer.

I love watching them unfold, and they do so rather quickly. Perhaps they know that once they begin to blossom, invariably the Pacific northwest rains take its toll upon these beautiful specimen. These are so heavily laden that one of the branches snapped and is now residing in a vase in our kitchen. Not only do we love the rich deep wine color of P. suffruticosa 'Yagumo', but the fragrance is divine.

The following tree peony (unlabeled) is also delightful, pink and with inner markings on the petals.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

Baked Cod and Fresh Garden Greens with Vinaigrette

I think I am a fairly good cook, but for some unknown reason I have the hardest time with halibut. No matter how careful I am to not overcook, plain and simply it never turns out the way I think it should, a juicy and luminous opaque interior when you flake it apart. So for now I am cooking with Cod and with success. It is not exactly of Alaskan halibut fame, but turns out just the way we like it. Note: this recipe was expressly written for Catherine at A Gardener in Progress.

Baked Wild Pacific Cod from Diana's kitchen

2 lbs fresh Cod fillets, cut into serving size portions
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tablespoons milk
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons white (yellow) corn meal
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
lemon wedges

Remove the fish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before preparation; it allows the fish to cook more quickly and evenly.


Gently rinse the fish under cold running water, drain and pat away any moisture with paper towels. Cut into serving size portions.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Grease a baking pan (cookie sheet with raised edges) with the olive oil. Beat one egg with a fork; add milk, just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and beat again. In a shallow bowl, mix panko, corn meal, Parmesan, garlic powder, salt and pepper and combine.

Dip each piece of cod into the egg mixture with one hand, lightly coating, then into the crumb mixture, and with the other hand lightly coat both sides and place on the baking pan. Note: any tails are tucked in under the body of the fillet as well as any thinner side pieces... plump 'em up and give them space as pictured here.

Bake uncovered for about 12-15 minutes. The bread crumbs should be golden on top, and the fish will flake and be moist inside. Remove from the oven, allow it to rest for about a minute and serve with a wedge of lemon, sauteed kale, and a fresh garden salad. Should you like wine with dinner as we do, a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Viognier would work nicely. A quick, simple and nutritious meal, doesn't get much better than this.

~ ~ ~

Rosey, over at Dung Hoe, once asked about the kind of dressing I use for our fresh salad greens from the garden: a simple red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil dressing. At times a bit of crumbled feta cheese is sprinkled atop, and the full flavor of greens speaks delicious.

Simple Vinaigrette Dressing from Diana's kitchen

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, just a touch
1 teaspoon Splenda (sugar), optional

Combine, shake and drizzle lightly over your greens. Gently toss to coat. We are always amazed at how little dressing you need. On occasion you might try 1 teaspoon Splenda (or sugar) for a little sweetness or your favourite herb or spice. When it comes to our vegetables straight from the garden to the table, we want that wonderful fresh flavor to dominate. Simplicity is always the best.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. "

~ Kahlil Gibran

For my mother, Rose, I honor you not just today, but every day.

She was born before the Great Depression, the seventh child of immigrant parents who escaped to this country from a small village in Panevėžys, Lietuva (Lithuania).

Her father, Juozas, arrived Ellis Island the 2 AUG 1909 on the Rotterdam by way of The Netherlands. 27 years of age, 5’ 6”, blonde hair, blue eyes, and he had a mark of identification. $10 dollars was all he had, and his destination was Pennsylvania and a brother-in-law who had paid for his passage and would find him work.

Her mother, Tekle, pregnant and left behind, would join him within a few years. With no money in her pocket, she arrived 23 MAY 1911 on the Kursk from Libau, Posen, Prussia, and Germany. 5’ 1”, light complexion, fair hair, dark eyes, she traveled with her young son and sister-in-law. They spoke little or no English. (My grandmother holds my mother. Not pictured, a daughter who died and one not yet born.) Happy Mother's Day, Bobu; you were such an influence on my life.

When mother was eight years old, her father died of lobar pneumonia, related to the coal mines in which he labored. By the time she was in the seventh grade, it was clear that continuing education was not to be. One of her older brothers was able to finish high school, but all the siblings would share in the work effort of helping this family survive. Hopefully, these were times during the Great Depression that most people will never know or understand.

My Mother was taken from us nearly 10 years ago, but vivid in my mind is her gentle smile, those loving eyes, and warm embrace. For as long as I can remember she worked, nearly each day of her life and at whatever task in order to care for our family. She knew much struggle and hardship, loneliness and pain, but she always seemed to muster up the strength, courage and perseverance to get through it and do what needed to be done. She did the best she could. We had little, but she gave us everything:

How you loved to laugh!
An incredibly strong woman, but kind and gentle, a heart so big,
unselfish in every way;

You taught us honesty, responsibility and integrity.
Keep your word, buy only what you can afford, and always pay your bills.
You demonstrated cleanliness and the importance of caring for the little we had;
a work ethic without complaint; sense of humor.
We learned to be independent and you allowed us to find our way.
Unwavering and unconditional was your love, no matter what.

I miss the singing, laughter, tears, your embrace.
How we danced together!

So clearly do I see your beautiful face and feel your presence, your magic,
and know you are at peace. I miss you on this Mother’s Day.

With all my love,


I wrote this last year on mother's day, and thought it worth another post.

To my mother, Rose

Beautiful and glorious is this Sunday morn!
In the coolness of the fragrant garden
so colorful and alive
an early walk along the paths
we strolled together when last you came,
and still I hear your voice.
So many years have passed
yet on this day I weep
as I miss you so
But I rejoice!
for within me lies your love and undying spirit
Nothing can replace that mother's love.

~ Diana

Blessings to all you Mothers, and all who mother. Have a wonderful weekend.