Welcome to October. We just were out driving around and the signs of fall are here. This is a great time of year for enjoying the outdoors. The days are getting cooler and the evenings are crisp. It is just more pleasant than the heat of summer. The fall festivals are now in full swing. These places are great for family fun and you can get the freshest produce because a lot of times it is harvested on-site!
We are now planning our trip to Ireland. This is a trip of a lifetime with the tour taking us all the way around Ireland including the very scenic northern shores of the island. Be sure to check out the information on the Garden Time website (just click on the little airplane) and sign up for the webinar. This webinar is a great place to hear about the tour and get a few more details. It is also a way to ask some questions by just typing them in during the webinar. The host of the webinar will answer them right there during the session. Come join us in Ireland!
This week we featured...
New Dulcy Mahar Book
One of the most beloved garden authors and columnists in the Pacific Northwest was Dulcy Mahar. Her weekly column in the Oregonian was inspiring, informational and always funny. A few years ago she passed away from cancer and we lost a gardening ‘soul mate’. After her passing there was such an outcry for her past columns that her husband Ted, himself a former writer for the Oregonian, decided to select some of her best columns and put them into a book. That edition, ‘Back in the Garden with Dulcy’ was a best seller and even won awards for its design. Fast forward a year and now there is a new book on the market ‘Through the Seasons with Dulcy’. This time Ted took 140 more of Dulcy’s columns and had them organized into seasons at the request of the publisher and it has turned out great! Now you can read about Dulcy’s trials and tribulations in the garden as she worked in it throughout the year. This new edition also has a more personal look at Dulcy’s life with pictures of the inside of her home as well as more garden pictures. Ted feels that this gives the reader a deeper understanding of Dulcy and how she approached her three-fifths of an acre garden. This is a must read for the gardener, even if you read her columns every week. To have these stories organized by season really gives you an insight into how Dulcy approached gardening. The book is available at most local bookstores and even a few garden centers or you can find out more information here.
Ted will also be signing books on October 11th from 1-2pm at the Portland Nursery on Stark (503-231-5050) as part of their annual Apple Tasting.
One of the most exciting new tomato varieties on the market the last few years has been the Indigo Rose tomato. This tomato has been at the forefront of the ‘healthy eating’ wave. This little wonder was actually discovered at OSU and a great team of hybridizers led by Jim Myers. What makes the Indigo Rose tomato different is that it has higher levels of anthocyanins in the fruit. This compound is very high in antioxidants. The other varieties of ‘purple’ or dark fruit don’t have these compounds in them. This makes the indigo series of tomatoes unique. How did they discover it? It was a long process of cross breeding different types of plants (no GMO’s here) the old fashioned way until they had isolated the anthocyanins. This opened the door for introducing other styles of tomato as well. In the next few years you will see indigo tomatoes that include pear, cherry, slicers and other that will be introduced to the market. Of course, the purple color is intriguing, but how does it taste? That depends on what you are looking for in flavor, but it has a well-balanced flavor if you allow it to ripen fully. The final question we had was how can you tell when they are ripe? To check this you have to look for the side of the tomato that has no direct exposure to the sun. Once that side is red the tomato is ripe. You can also look for some softness to the skin to check for ripeness. If you are interested in growing the indigo rose tomato you can check out the Log House Plants website. They grow this wonderful tomato and they have a list of vendors where you will find it next spring.
Native vs. Drought Tolerant
A lot of people think that if you have a native plant in your landscape that you will also have a drought tolerant plant. Not necessarily true. To learn more about natives versus drought tolerant we met with Amy Whitworth from Plan-it Earth Design at Portland Nursery on Stark Street (503-231-5050). She designs sustainable and earth-friendly landscapes and gardens, and really knows her plants. We started by looking at 2 native plants, a fern and a huckleberry. Even though these are natives they don’t like full sun, they like a little bit of shade. Not all natives in our area like full sun or full shade. These two also like a little more moisture than other natives. Native doesn’t just mean that all these plants like the same conditions. Different native plants like different types of conditions in the garden. To demonstrate the point we moved to ‘climate adapted’ plants, some lavender, sage, and rosemary. These will perform just as well in the garden as our native plants since we share a similar type of Mediterranean climate, but these like a dry condition and more sun. These plants can be mixed into the garden with your natives and could turn out to be MORE drought tolerant than a native plant. Finally, we moved to other climate adapted plants. These plants grow in different areas around the world but they love our climate and will do well here if you follow the same rules and plant them in the conditions where they will thrive. The Agistache (from Africa), Kniphofia (from Mexico), golden rod (an American Native) and Mimulus or Monkey flower (another American native) all thrive here, and when you plant them in the right area, will reward you with blooms all year long. So how do you place these plants so they all perform well? The Regional Water Providers Consortium (www.conserveh2o.org) has a booklet on-line called The 7 Steps to creating and maintaining Water Efficient Landscapes and they have a term called Hydro-zoning. That means you place plants with similar watering needs in the same areas so they all stand the best chance for success. And how do you pick the right native plants? Well the RWPC also has that covered with their on-line guide, Water Efficient Plants for the Willamette Valley (http://www.conserveh2o.org/sites/default/files/7-steps-2012.pdf). It is a great resource of plants that will thrive in our area. Now, if this is all too confusing for you, and you are looking for a designer, you can contact Amy at Plan-it Earth Design (http://plan-it-earthdesign.com, 503-239-0105)
When you are ordering from a flower catalog do you ever wonder where they get their ‘new’ flowers from? We did too. We went to see Nick at Swan Island Dahlias (800-410-6540) to see how they pick new flowers. He took us out into the field to show us over 20,000 seedlings that they are growing this year to look for new varieties to introduce. In the fall the crew at Swan Island goes out into the field and collects the seed heads from flowers all around the farm. These are dried and the seed is collected. In the spring they are grown out in the field and over the course of the bloom season the plants are evaluated based on bloom color, bloom structure and the strength of the plant. These selected varieties (usually a hundred or so) are then grown out again the following year. This continues and the choices are narrowed down each year until, after about 5-7 years they get around 10 new varieties to introduce to the market. Nick told us something that was very interesting. Some of the flowers are chosen to be cut flowers only. These may be varieties that tend to flop over in the garden, but the blooms are spectacular. They are grown and the flower are harvested for the cut flower market. It is an amazing sight to see 1000’s of seedlings growing in the field. If you would like to see them, the fields are open every day. Just stop by the office and they can direct you to them. While you are there you can take home some cut flowers and even order your tubers for next year and bring some of those beautiful colors back to your garden.
Have you ever seen a cardoon? This large thistle type of plant is grown by a lot of gardeners as an ornamental plant in the garden, but for some cultures it is a vegetable that you can prepare as a dinner! To see how to prepare one we met with Ann Amato-Zorich, a local writer and blogger, at the Standard TV and Appliance (503-619-0500) kitchens in Beaverton. Ann is from an Italian family and some of her relatives have cooked this plant for meals. Ann contacted us about doing a recipe for us and we agreed just to see how it is done. She found a recipe from Angelo Pellegrini that was close to what her family has made in the past. First you take the cardoon and you cut off the leafy top and the bottom where it is attached to the root. Then you cut off the sides of an inner stalk (these are softer and easier to work with) and peal it. The stalk resembles a celery stalk and has the same stringy skin. Once you peal it you need to put into a lemon water bath to keep the stalk from turning brown. When you have enough stalks you will want to boil them for a while to soften them up. While the stalks are boiling you can prepare the sauce mixture. In a large pan cook bacon or pork pieces for several minutes until browned. Add some onion and garlic and continue to cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Toss in some parsley and marjoram and cook slowly until the onions are done. Add tomatoes and stock and simmer for 15 minutes. At this point add the drained cardoons and simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes longer making sure to turn the cardoons often. They will be ready when the cardoons are tender. A few minutes before serving, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese and stir. If you'd like to make the dish more fancy drizzle lightly with truffle oil. The dish also goes very well with a roasted chicken or other simple main dish. For the complete recipe you can click here.