Monthly Archives: November 2009

Embarking on a new journey

praying mantis 2 09-06 The gardening bug bit me years ago, and ever since I’ve tried to absorb as much gardening-related knowledge as my brain can hold. Gardening helps channel my appreciation for painting from a pallet of beautiful colors. It fills my need to soak up outside air, sounds, and sun. It allows me to decorate my home with the freshest bouquets of blossoms, branches and leaves, and load my family’s plates with delicious, home-grown produce.

I buried my nose into as many gardening books and magazines as my limited budget and time could accommodate. During the three decades while my family, community, and job responsibilities grew, I taught myself how to grow annuals, perennials, vegetables, and herbs. I refurbished trees, shrubs, and gardens once horribly overgrown and neglected into a beautiful, family-friendly home landscape. I survived life-changing loss and welcomed life-altering joy. I became a Master Gardener, then an Advanced Master Gardener, and took other garden-related courses. I started new gardening challenges in a new un-landscaped home, and channeled energy into building and running a small garden consultation, coaching, and maintenance business. But none of these gardening efforts – though incredibly valuable and rewarding – quenched my thirst for more intensive and extensive landscape design training.front border 9-2009

Well, I’m not getting any younger – I’ve reached the now or never point. At this summer’s end, my husband and I launched the last of four off to college. This freed up some time but didn’t cut the distance to, or expense of, brick and mortar landscape design degree or certificate schools. So I took the plunge into a distance learning certificate program listed on the Association of Professional Landscape Designers website (thanks for the lead, Debbie).

Those of you rolling your eyes about now, thinking ‘Oh, great, she’s taking a distance learning course,’ might consider keeping an open mind. Distance learning fits the needs of those with talent and desire to learn, but not the advantage of location, finances, or time to attend the educational institutions that teach their particular area of interest. Yes, there are fly-by-night operations, but there are also less-than-desirable brick and mortar institutions. Many great talents in various fields of study had minimal formal education, but a deep hunger for learning that led to their success. At the same time in most fields, people with tons of education lack the common sense and drive they need to really shine.

I have a burning desire learn; I like to think I have some talent; and I know I will hold myself to a high standard. So I’m forging ahead. I upgraded my electronics and, in October, enrolled in the two-year, 25 module Anna Gresham Landscape Design School. I’m working my way through the computer aided drafting (CAD) instruction, and have completed the first two course modules (more on one of these later).

Follow my progress here as I work my aging brain through the technical aspects of computer aided design, and as I fulfill a long desired goal. If you like the idea of learning landscape design via a distance course, tell me why; if you despise it, share that too. It’s going to be a long, challenging journey; either way you’re welcome to come along for the ride.

Stars aligned to bring fall pleasures

Irving 11-22-09 November 23, 2009.  The stars aligned this weekend  – the combination of good weather, diminishing cold symptoms, and no other plans meant I had time to rake up, clean up, dig in, fence out, and generally prep for winter.  I had pots to empty and store, compost to turn, leaves to tend, and deer fencing to secure.  But my wanders uncovered a few surprises.  Irving watched as I discovered scabiosa, gazania, and salvia still blooming. 

scabiosa-1 11-21-09gazania 11-21-09  salvia last stand-2 11-21-09

Raspberries ripening and Alpine strawberries pushing out blooms and fruit.

raspberry-5 11-22-09 Alpine strawberry blossom 11-21-09 Alpine strawberry 11-21-09

We saw winterberry and blueberry contrasts in red;

 berry and grasses 11-22-09 blueberry twig 11-21-09

and ornamental kale in purple and green, plus santolina shining grey.

 ornamental kale-1 11-09 ornamental kale 11-09 santolina-1 11-22-09

Cutting celery beckoned to be used in Thanksgiving stuffing, and the warm fall temperatures kept sage still ready to harvest.

 cutting celery-3 11-22-09 sage-2 11-22-09

Thyme looked as healthy now as in the spring when I planted it in a pot with purple string bush beans.  Its  green carpet covered the pot’s dirt, yet offset the vibrant dark purple of the beans stems and pods.  Now, a month after the beans caught frost’s wrath, thyme continued to draw the eye until it’s otherwise occupied tender snipped it’s green stems and dropped them in a bag.  Here thyme will pass time, and once dry, will share tasteful pleasures by flavoring winter’s meals.

 thyme-potted-3 11-22-09 thyme-drying 11-22-09

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Like many other fortunate folks I’ll be busy stuffing a turkey and making pies, relishing cranberry and baking bread, mashing potatoes and casseroling beans, focusing on family and friends, counting my many, many blessings … and hoping the cold weather fencing again protects my rhododendron and azalea bushes from browsing deer.

A Veggie-wrap, please.

volunteer cherry tomatoes November 20, 2009.  I would love to be growing salad greens and cilantro in outside beds as I have in the past,  but it’s just not going to happen this year. The vegetable garden needs a major re-work that I hope to have at least partially done by spring, so outside of whatever I plant inside, growing edibles in Joene’s garden is done.  So, with 2009 veggies tastes, smells, successes, and disappointments still fresh in my mind, here’s my 2009 veggie-wrap.

In spite of a very wet and very cold, slug-infested, and generally disease-prone growing season in my Connecticut zone 6 garden, I managed to grow enough greens to keep us from buying lettuce for a good 3 months, enough eggplant to keep our urges for eggplant parmesan fulfilled, plenty of hot peppers to can a few jars and ample sweet peppers for summer use, a bounty of beans for late summer meals, and cucumbers enough to eat fresh and pickle.

Here’s a list of varieties I planted – new to me in bold.  Those with a Y will find a spot in next year’s garden, the few N’s will not, and those marked with ? may get another chance next year.  And, while I planned to have photos of most of my veggies, my old computer had other ideas.  Hence, few photos but lots of info.

Radish: both continue to be good performers.

  • Cherry Belle – Y.
  • French Breakfast – Y.

Snow Peas: tough year due to wet conditions.

  • Carouby de Maussane has beautiful purple flowers and lovely, tender, flat, sweet pods. It’s as ornamental as it is good to eat – Y.
  • Snowflake Pea Pods produced a few sweet pods in spite of a vole attack – Y.

Lettuce & Salad Greens:

  • Buttercrunch has great flavor and grows reliably –Y.
  • Winter Density has not grown well for me, but it may be just me – N.
  • New Red Fire has fantastic color – lives up to its name – and great taste – Y.
  • Blushed Butter Oak has sweet red-tinged leaves and grew well –Y.
  • Oakleaf is a standard –Y.
  • Tom Thumb grows tiny, tight, crispy heads. I may use it as a border in a perennial bed next season – love it –Y.
  • Tatsoi; great flavor in salads and when sliced into thin strips and added at the last few minutes to cooked dishes – a good spinach (which grows very poorly for me) substitute – Y.
  • Salad Burnet; will have to think about this – was not too thrilled with the flavor -?

Eggplant:

  • Ichiban produces multiple long, slender fruit on a 2.5 ft plant with purple stems and purple-edged leaves that match the skin of the fruit – very ornamental and good grilled –Y. Ichiban eggplant-1
  • Lavender Touch – lavender-tinged fruit with a mild flavor –Y. Lavender Touch Eggplant

Peppers:

  • Red Beauty; a sweet pepper that produced numerous fruit – though most remained green – in spite of the cold, wet conditions. –Y.
  • Cubanelle; a frying pepper with sweet flavor and many fruit –Y.
  • Early Jalapeño is one of my standard hot peppers –Y.
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax is another standard hot pepper –Y.
  • Dancing Spirit; a hot pepper I will try again before making a final judgment -?

Tomatoes:

  • Sweet Million Cherry; all starts succumbed to the wet, cold weather but I had a couple of volunteer plants sprout up from wayward seed that produced well late in the season –Y.
  • Pruden’s Purple; the flavor overrides the fruit’s tendency to crack and its tall, gangly growth –Y.
  • Manyel; produces small yellow fruit with wonderful flavor – my husband’s favorite –Y.
  • Oregon Spring; supposedly grows well in cool spring conditions but it must do better in Oregon soils than my New England soils – N.
  • Martino’s Roma; the best producer this year, great for fresh tomato sauce – Y.

Cucumber: Little Tyke; very prolific, good for pickles and eating –Y.

Little Tyke CucumberPurple Queen Bush Beans

Beans:

  • Purple Queen Bush; though I did not get these or the Sequoias planted till late, both produced beautiful purple beans with great flavor.  Hint: great beans for kids to grow; when cooked they turn green –Y.
  • Sequoia Bush; a flat purple bean with great flavor , see above –Y.
  • Pencil Pod; very prolific yellow bean with great flavor, one of my standards –Y.
  • Henderson; a flavorful bush lima bean that grew well for me in 2008, but not in the cold, wet 2009 season –Y.

Summer Squash: because I planted both late I did not have to fight squash borers – hmmm … sounds like a plan.

  • Ambassador; a zucchini with good flavor –Y.
  • Sundance; yellow fruit, good flavor –Y.

If any of these varieties sound familiar, please share your experience with them … or make some recommendations on what veggies – a favorite bean or summer squash, or tomato – worked in your garden.  And, watch for follow up posts on the herbs and flowers that grew in my 2009 garden.