The day might not be so wonderful for the rest of us. It looks like there is nothing but rain and cold showers for the foreseeable future. We hope that you got your winter chores done while you could when the weather was nice.
It is time to get ready for the holidays! Yup, the calendar is pointing to Thanksgiving and Christmas already and we have some stories to help get you ready.
This week we featured...
Winter Fragrant Plants
The winter months don’t have to be all cold and boring! You can have fragrance in the garden too! To get an idea of what to plant we stopped by Garden Fever (503-287-3200) and talked with Lori about some great plants that she recommends. We started with an old favorite, Daphne odora. This little shrub will knock your socks off when it is in bloom, plus it has great leaf color when it isn’t blooming. The second plant is called Sarcacocca, or Sweet Box. It is sweet too! The miniscule blooms come on in mid to late winter and are incredibly fragrant. You won’t know where the smell is coming from because it is such a small plant. It is perfect in a bed near your front door so you can enjoy it every time you come home. A favorite of Oregonians is the Mahonia. This is a relative to our state plant, the Oregon Grape. Newer varieties are expanding the bloom season and color of the blooms making this a must have in most gardens. The next plant was a Camellia. Varieties of camellias bloom at different times of the year, but the winter blooming ones are great. These shrubs add a splash of color to any garden, and some have a subtle fragrance too. If you pair that with a witchhazel, then you have a pair that can’t be beat. The witchhazel does have a subtle fragrance too, but the tiny blooms in late winter and its fall color are the big reasons for getting this in your garden.
An often overlooked plant in the winter garden is the Azara. This is a foliage and structure plant for most of the season, but the tiny blooms in mid to late winter are the real showmen! Plus some people say that they smell like chocolate! I think we need to get 3 or 4! A plant without blooms, but with fragrance is the Lemon Cypress. This bright green plant releases a great lemon fragrance when you brush by it. Want more fragrance, give it a rub! The next plant is one that most people have heard of, the Edgeworthia, or Chinese Paper Bush. This plant can be a short tree or a multi stemmed bush depending on pruning. The branches are tipped with bright yellow or orange, fragrant blossoms in the late winter. They too, can be over-powering on a nice warm winter day.
Finally, we checked out some bulbs. The snowdrops outside and paperwhites inside are great for those mid-winter blues. They have bright blooms and especially in the case of the paperwhites, a strong aroma!
These are just a few of the winter plants with fragrance. To find more, check out Garden Fever in Portland or your local independent garden center.
Blooming Junction Cranberry Sauce
One of the signature dishes of the season is cranberry sauce and it is also one that you can make on your own with fresh and local berries. To learn how to do this simple recipe, we stopped by Blooming Junction (503-681-4646) in Cornelius to talk to Justin. Justin is the farmer at Blooming Junction. He is in charge of growing all the great produce you can get at the farm. His recipe was pretty simple. Pour a 12 ounce bag of cranberries in a sauce pan. Add a cup of water or, in Justin’s case, orange Juice. This adds a tanginess to the sauce. Then a half cup of sugar or other sweetener to the mix. Justin uses maple syrup to give it a fresh sweetness. Then he adds about a teaspoon of orange zest for more flavor. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. The berries will start to pop,( which is kind of cool), and soften. Take it off the heat and let it cool for 30 minutes. You will notice that the berries will start to gel while they cool. This is because the berries are high in pectin and gel naturally. You can store this in your fridge and bring it out and serve warm or cold. Due to the acidity of the berries and orange juice the mixture will last up to 3 months in your fridge!
This recipe is one of the many you can get during the food prep classes they have at the farm. Check out their schedule on their website. You can also get all the ingredients you need at Blooming Junction for a lot of your favorite holiday dishes. Stop by and see all the produce and then take some home, along with a wonderful plant from the nursery!
Portland Nursery Cover Crop
Cover crops are seeds and plants that help your soil ‘rest’ over the winter. They also help replace the nutrients in your soil by returning nitrogen to the earth as ‘green compost’. To see some of the different types of cover crops we stopped by Portland Nursery on Stark (503-231-5050) and talked to Sara. They carry numerous types of cover crops and even have various ‘blends’ that you can use. You just sprinkle the seed mixture over the soil and work it into the garden, and let it go. It will grow over the winter and come spring time you just rototill it back into the soil to add the nutrients back to the earth. If your garden has been kind of weak the last few years it may need the refreshing boost of a cover crop. Over time the soil can lose a lot of the nutrients and that means smaller plants and less yield from your best vegetables and flowers. Cover crops also help prevent soil compaction caused by the rough winter weather. Planting a cover crop now will help your garden be healthier this coming season! To see the different types of cover crops you can check out this handout at Portland Nursery or stop by and ask one of the helpful employees.
Growing horseradish is easy. In fact, it can get out of hand if you don’t keep up with it in your garden. Some people contain it in a pot to keep those tasty roots under control. Making Horseradish sauce is even easier!
To show you, we went out to the garden and dug up a couple of roots. The best part of growing horseradish is that you can go to the same plant over and over again. A little piece left in the ground will just grow into another plant. Experts say that the fall and winter are the best time to harvest your roots. The cold concentrates the flavor and so you get a stronger flavor. Dig up a few roots and then take them in and scrub them until clean. Then use a carrot peeler to remove the outer skin, exposing the white root. Grate the root with a fine grater or micro plane. Combine about a quarter cup of grated root with a cup of sour crème and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. You can also add salt and pepper to taste. Some people will also add a little sugar to take the ‘hotness’ out of it. If you are looking for a smoother consistency you can use a food processor to make it creamy. Put it in your fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to combine (it will get spicier the more time you let it sit). Bring it out and use it on roast beef of other dishes and enjoy the fresh flavor of the garden.
Timber Press Winter Books
This winter, don’t feel trapped inside! Take a trip to another place through a great book from Timber Press. We stopped by to chat with Tom about some of the newest titles they have coming up for winter and holiday gift giving. The first book he shared was a trip to the ‘World of Laura Ingalls Wilder’ by Marta McDowell. Marta takes you back to the real time of Little House on the Prairie. The plants the pioneers grow, the way they lived, how they survived. It gives you insight into the life of the family on the prairie and a history lesson as well. The next book was from a local author and plantsman, Paul Bonine. He, with co-author Amy Campion, wrote the book ‘Gardening in the Pacific Northwest’ This is a complete guide for the NW gardener, whether you live on the east or west side of the cascades. It has plant picks, growing advice and tips for success in our Northwest climate. This one is coming out in mid-December but you can pre-order it now at the Timber Press website. The next two books were on the wonderful hobby of journaling. The first one ‘Nature Observer’ has all sort of pages with prompts for sketching and writing your observations about the outdoors. The second journal was ‘A Year in the Garden’. This has a lot of the same features but goes deeper, with tips for tracking your favorite garden plants and keeping tabs on the changes in your garden season by season. The next book was ‘Garden Renovation’ by Bobbie Schwartz. As the cover says, this book will help you evaluate what you have, decide what you want and put your plan in action! If you want to make changes in your lawn or garden, this book will get you past that point of paralysis and out in the garden to make those long sought-after changes for the garden of your dreams.
Succulents are very popular and the next book is a must have if you love this group of wonderful plants. ‘Designing with Succulents’ by Debra Lee Baldwin’, is a re-introduction of her popular first edition. This edition has more photos, more information and more beautiful gardens that feature succulents. It deals with all types of succulents from the tender to the hardy. It also gives you lots of ideas for using succulents in your garden and displays. The final book was ‘The Living Forest’ by Joan Maloof with photographer Robert Llewellyn. This book is all about Old Growth Forests and the biodiverse systems that they are. It is full of wonderful pictures and tons of information about every aspect of the forest; the trees, the animals, the birds, and the insects. You will walk away from this this book with a deeper understanding of these endangered forests and what they mean for all of us.
These are just a few of the great garden and nature books you will find at Timber Press and your local book store. For more information and to see other titles you can always check out their website.
TOW – Raking Leaves for Mulch
Tired of bagging your leaves? Here is a quick tip that will help your plants and save your back! Rake your leaves into your garden beds. This will help the plants by protecting them from the bitter cold, plus it will also keep the rains from compacting your soil during the wet months ahead. This spring you can compost the leaves to finish the job that nature started or you can put them in your yard debris container where they will take up less room than they do now.