Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

christmas tree

We went for lots of color on the tree this year. I love it. Having a kid has made me want to start collecting ornaments to bring out each year as another way to enjoy the memories of past holidays. Plus we were the happy recipients of his first handmade ornament this year.

santa pot

decorating cookies

sprinkle fest

christmas card

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looking for Spirit in the Landscape

I happened upon Dan Pearson's book Spirit: Garden Inspiration (2009, Fuel Design & Publishing) and couldn't resist bringing it home with me. Different looking than most garden design books, it is beautifully wrapped, very textural; the paper is warm and mat and it is full of intriguing photographs. It doesn't seem heavily edited or produced, but feels as if you've stumbled onto Dan's scrapbook or journal.



The book consists of 39 gardens, landscapes, sculptures and architecture that Mr. Pearson has found to be inspirational in his travels. Beginning with his childhood English landscapes, the book includes places from all over the world, from Japan to Joshua Tree National Park to the Villa d'Este. Each description of the locales is a gem, beautifully described and hauntingly photographed. I'm not sure if it was the intention of the creators of the book or not, but the mat paper seems to absorb the pigment differently than most books do. The images are darker and more murky, but it somehow suits the book. The photographs feel like memories, distant and not too real.

Bonnington Square

managed landscape

joshua tree

The way each section or description is complete unto itself, reminds me of a travel/garden blog that Mr. Pearson could've written - a wonderful blog I would visit religiously. In this case we are lucky enough to get to hold it in our hands and it feels even more precious because of that.

Wistman's Wood stone

This book has fast become one of my favorite garden books. I hope to have as many wonderful influences in my gardening life eventually. And I don't think it is necessarily a matter of getting to travel more, but more of a willingness to be present and let great spaces into your consciousness, whether it is a friend's backyard or a hike you take. That Spirit can be found wherever you are willing to look.

james turrell rocks

On a side note, I'm so excited to hear that Dan Pearson will be giving a lecture in San Francisco this February, hosted by The Garden Conservancy and the 2011 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Hopefully I'll see you there!

Friday, December 17, 2010

California Does To Have Fall Color!

I'll admit that fall color in the native landscape of California can be a bit drab. But urban areas can be quite colorful and there is a nice selection of plants with showy fall color that grow well here. Last week, the fall color seemed to peak so I headed out to photograph a bit of the show. We had an early cold snap this year that made colors even more vibrant.

fall color view

First up is one of the tried and true trees for fall color, Sweet Gum or Liquidambar styraciflua. Fall color ranges from yellow-maroon. It is a big tree, holds onto its leaves well but should be planted away from sidewalks and lawns due to its surface roots. In fact, a big garden may be necessary for this one, because gardening underneath is practically impossible. Not ideal for the small garden unless you want to devote all your space to this tree.

liquidambar styraciflua fall color

Next up is my favorite for fall color tree, Pistache or Pistachia chinensis. It is the perfect size for an urban garden and works well as a street tree. I have three in my garden plus one that I planted in my next-door neighbor's parking strip. Fall color ranges from yellow to red. Select your tree in color to be sure to get one to your liking. I also like the females which have pretty red drupes that persist after the leaves have dropped.

pistachia chinensis fall color yellow
pistachia chinensis fall color orange

The classic yellow fall color tree, if you're willing to wait for it to grow up to size, is Ginkgo biloba. We couldn't deal with the wait. We planted one as a street tree but took it out after it put on only 6" of growth after 3 years. They are very slow at first and then take off at some point. Regular water helps with growth the first few years. Ours didn't get that much water.

ginkgo biloba fall color

I noticed this man collecting fallen leaves at a Buddhist temple. He was carefully examining each one. I wonder what he did with them?

collecting leaves

Of course, the maples look great.

maples and pistache fall color

acer palmatum fall color

The ornamental pears, Pyrus calleryana, were really in top form too. With a lovely range of yellow, orange and red all on one tree, you can have a veritable rainbow with this one. People seem to feel the need to plant this tree in rows but they look lovely planted individually with some Miscanthus and evergreen shrubs, among other things.

pyrus calleryana fall color

Usually grown for its fruit, it's hard to beat the fall color of Fuyu persimmon trees!

persimmon fuyu fall color

My fig even colored up nicely this year due to the early cold snap. It usually isn't as bright yellow.

ficus brown turkey fall color

And the Crepe Myrtles were really aflame with the extra cold snap too. They're usually not quite as vibrant here.

lagerstroemeria fauriei fall color

I believe these next two trees are both beech trees. Beech will give you a wonderful gold and copper fall color. More subtle, but lovely in their own right.

copper beech?
fagus sylvatica purpurea

These elms were glowing yellow and quite impressive in their sheer mass. This guy has a ways to go. Glad I'm not him!

elm of some sort, ulmus americana?

Wisteria vines can even give you a shot of yellow, although the color tends to be less reliable around here.

wisteria floribunda fall color

And Berberis thunbergii is great for shrub-sized fall color.

berberis thunbergii fall color

I was totally stumped as to what these small street trees were. They had excellent fall color but I just couldn't place what they were.


Until I saw this monster: Pomegranates! The street trees were just missing the fruit. I didn't have my camera with me when I saw this pomegranate so I snapped the photo with my camera. I love how it looks like a crazy yellow monster with red pomegranate eyes!

pomegranate monster

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Foliar Compostions for Foliage Follow Up

I did some bouquets for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day yesterday and thought I try to do some arrangements with foliage only for Foliage Follow Up. Inspired by the gorgeous silver leaf backs of my Astelia chathamica, I started making a flat composition on the bench. I had planned it to be much larger and more intricate but I started getting irritated when I'd bump one leaf and all the others would get out of whack. Andy Goldsworthy I am not.

foliage construction

I used Astelia chathamica, Persimon 'Fuyu' in fall color, and Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Kathryn'. Click on the photo and it'll take you to Flickr where you can see what is what.

Thank you to Pam for hosting Foliage Follow Up! Please join everyone and show us what great foliage you've got in your garden right now! Wishing everyone Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December Bouquets for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

I'm a little disturbed it's already the 15th again. Regardless, driving past my house it would appear I have nothing in bloom. O contraire, there are several stubborn bloomers still going at it even with gloomy gray skies and near freezing temperatures awhile back. I decided to make a couple of bouquets for a change, to show you what is blooming in my garden.

yellow bouquet

In the first bouquet is Zantedeschia aethiopica/Calla Lily, Deppea splendens, Dicentra splendens, Helleborus argutifolius, Tanacetum parthenium aureum, and the flowers of a Graptoveria. Oh, and crammed in the back where you can't see them are Oxalis herrerae. I can't believe my Deppea splendens is still blooming. It just continues to pump out new buds. If you click on the photo it will take you to Flickr where I've tagged all the flowers in the photos, in case you want to match a flower to a name.

purple bouquet

This bouquet has Erigeron 'Wayne Roderick', Abutilon 'Nabob', Cuphea viscossisima, Gomphrena decumbens, Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud', and Liriope 'Silver Dragon'.

Thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting! Happy Garden Blogger's Bloom Day! See you next year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Most Delicious Berries You've Probably Never Tasted

I recently finished harvesting my crop of Ugni molinae, or Chilean Guava berries. I was given my first plant as a gift and wasn't all that impressed with its boxwood-esque look. Little did I know what deliciousness awaited. Once the tiny red berries start to ripen, the heady-sweet-fruity aroma will bowl you over. I planted a foundation hedge of Ugnis and this year my entire front yard smelled so sweet with the ripening berries. The taste is hard to describe. The best I can manage is strawberry/blueberry with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. It's good.

ugni berriesitty bitty ugni

bowl o' ugniugni molinae

It is said that Queen Victoria's favorite jam was made from Ugni berries. I got a large enough crop for only about one jar of jam but decided to go for it anyway. I couldn't find a recipe anywhere on the web so I had to wing it. The berries are kind of dry so I added water with the sugar. Things were going well and it was beginning to set up when I realized I hadn't sterilized my jars (jar). Rushing to do that I let the sugar crystalize so my jam became candied Ugni berries instead. Oh well! I've been sprinkling them on granola, bowls of ice cream and I'm thinking about making a pumpkin/Ugni bread. So many uses! And next year I'll perfect the jam and we'll see what Queen Victoria was so wild about.

crystalized ugni

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eating Local for the Holidays Challenge

I accepted the challenge by aHa! Modern Living's Jayme Jenkins to create a Thanksgiving meal using local ingredients from within a 100 mile radius. Well, I'll be honest, a lot of stuff I couldn't find locally (or was already in my cabinets and I wanted to use up that first) but I focused my efforts on the farmers markets and was able to get the majority of my ingredients within in my 100 mile target zone, some from my own backyard!


Here's what I found:

For appetizers - local cheeses and pears
Turkey - from California, but more than 100 miles away. I'll try to find closer sources next year.
Vegetables - Baked Leeks, from a friend's backyard
Glazed Multi-colored Carrots, found at farmers market
Sauteed Brussels with Apples and Hazelnuts, all from farmers market except hazelnuts, which were already in my cabinet, in leu of those I would have used local walnuts
Green Beans tossed with Walnuts, Dried Cherries and Shallot Vinaigrette, all local ingredients (minus some spices), my favorite recipe! I'll include it at the end.
Homegrown Tomatoes, ripened indoors
In addition we had Pumpkin Puree, Turkey Gravy and Creme Fraiche from Three Stone Hearth, a really amazing local Community Supported Kitchen.
Desert - Persimmon Pecan Tart with Creme Fraiche sprinkled with Candied Buddha Hand Citrus, all local or home grown ingredients, except the pecans, flour and sugar.

fruitsveggieslocal cheesespersimmon tart

I am lucky to live where there are such bountiful farmers markets this time of year. I'm not sure what may be available to those in colder climates. While it's hard to have every ingredient be from within a 100 mile radius, it is fun to be aware of what can be had nearby, whether it is local meat, local nuts or even what can be stored from summer in your own root cellar. I'm planning on this being a new tradition to add to our holiday celebrations - a tradition that makes me thankful for the region I live in and what I can provide for my family and friends from my own garden. And I'm looking forward to cooking more local food for the upcoming holidays! What are your favorite local foods right now?


Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry Vinaigrette from Bon Appetit:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
1 1/2 pounds trimmed slender green beans
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

Whisk first 6 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Mix in dried cherries; set aside. Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. Bring to room temperature; rewhisk before using.
Fill a large bowl with water and ice; set aside. Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl with ice water; cool. Drain.
Toss green beans, walnuts, and vinaigrette in a large bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Happy Holidays!