Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Visit To The Seed Bank

I'm on my way to Petaluma, California...along with two friends who have been coerced into driving a bit over an hour to buy garden seeds. They have been promised good food at Della Fattoria and time to wander the multitude of antique stores and other cute shops on surrounding streets. On a busy downtown Petaluma corner stands a 1920s bank building that has become the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds storefront.
We are grateful the rain has mostly held off...after parking around the corner we enter the front door and are immediately drawn to the racks running the length of the store holding hundreds of envelopes of seeds.
The store itself is quite beautiful with decorative molding around the walls and (unfortunately unphotographed) medallions on the ceiling. Tapestries and quilts hang to warm the look of the large space and friendly salespeople wander among the racks offering help.
Now that I'm home I'm glad that I had studied the catalog in preparation for my visit... even so we spent quite a bit of time looking at the many choices available. Let me just say...if you need tomato seeds you'll be here for a long time narrowing down the possibilities. And talk about dangerous! At $2.00 or so per pack it is easy to get carried away. There are so many varieties of summer squash, zinnias, sunflowers, beans and pretty much everything I could barely limit myself to a reasonable amount. I did, however, control myself to the extent that I believe I can plant at least some of everything I bought.

One rack at the back of the store holds larger farm size packages. Around the racks and down the center of the store were racks of tools (including CobraHead weeders , one of my favorite gardening tools), baskets, gloves, artwork, dried spices, hydrosols, seed potatoes, and a large number of books and magazines devoted to farming, gardening, cooking and natural lifestyle issues.
While seeds are easily ordered from catalogs it was fun to make this pilgrimage and see all those seeds, to see in person all that potential food, beauty and life. The Seed Bank was a busy place on this rainy, misty February Sunday. It struck me that the bank building was performing a sort of reverse activity from its function almost 100 years ago. Instead of people leaving money here to grow they were taking seeds home...seeds that will grow and provide sustenance in the form of food and beauty in the form of flowers, fruits and vegetables. All in all a pretty noble use of a lovely old building.
This couch was not at Baker Creek but at a consignment store down the block. I include it simply because it is so amazing! A local artist recovered a down-and-out vintage couch and this was the result:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Orange Marmalade

Lucky enough to have a beautiful navel orange tree hanging over my fence from the yard of the neighbor behind me I have been enjoying oranges for a couple of weeks. The crop this year is particularly large so I decided to try my hand at making orange marmalade...mostly because I've never made it and partly because I know my dad likes it.

The first step was peeling the top layer of skin off with a potato peeler. I then used a sharp knife to scrape the pith off the peel. The oranges were much less pithy, the lemons needed a good scrape. The rest of the peel (the white part) was pulled off and discarded.

The insides were then chopped up a bit and set aside. I have a Meyer lemon growing in a pot that had several fruits so three of those were also peeled and chopped.
Next the peel was finely chopped. I stopped to sharpen my knife which makes a huge difference!

The peels were simmered with juice and a pinch of baking soda for 20 minutes and then the rest of the fruit (which had been mixed with a bit of sugar and pectin) and more juice were stirred in.
This was simmered for 10 additional minutes.Meanwhile, it occurred to me that the peel from the oranges used for the juice should be scraped and covered with vodka, making the beginnings of a batch of orangecello. Sounds good to me!

After simmering the mix I added sugar, brought it to a quick boil for one minute and filled the jars I had cleaned and heated. I then processed them in a hot water bath and here we are:

my first batch ever of orange marmalade!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Garden Blogger Bloom Day February 2010

The sun was shining today when I went out to look for blooms for Garden Blogger Bloom Day, our monthly bloom sharing day originated by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. I knew I would find a few blooms since I had seen several varieties of bulbs blooming for the past week or so. But I was surprised to see the first crocuses of the year, luckily snuggled up close to the cyclamen I planned to photograph.

This ivy pelargonium is tucked up close to the house and has bloomed off and on this winter.

Near by, one of the dietes has also bloomed although none of the other fortnight lilies in the yard show signs of blooming.

I love Dwarf Carnation Evermore! It blooms almost year round and offers one bloom in time to make this month's list.
Grand Primo daffodils continue to bloom...
as do the leucojum in multiple places...
and a sweet little daffodil given to me by a friend several years ago has multiplied and joins in.
Garden peas have begun to bloom although they have lots more growing to do.
Anisodontea Hibiscus Bits blooms...but only on the sunny side of the plant!
Evergreen clematis Avalanche blooms on the wedding arbor.
Other blooms include camellia Chandleri Elegans, sweet allysum, and viburnum tinus.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Misty Morning Winter Walk

It's too wet to actually work in the garden but I wanted to check in with a few things out's what I found...

Summer snowflakes, leucojum, are beginning to bloom all around the yard.

Grand Primo Daffodils, bought from Old House Gardens and planted last fall, are beginning to bloom. They are said to be "by far the most vigorous, persistent and floriferous narcissus in zones 8-9bS/11W" and I must say I am very pleased with its first year showing. I only planted 3 bulbs (this is one of them) but I will be adding to them next fall! They are planted with a Salvia May Night that dies back each winter. I'm beginning to add bulbs in area like these so things look a bit less bleak sooner in the year.

I was happy to discover that the favas planted just before a very rainy spell did not rot as I feared but are up and doing their thing, separated by rows of radishes.

Camellia Chandleri Elegans has a first bloom. This is an early to mid season camellia, one I've had for years that is finally getting some size to it.

Buds greening up on the Santa Rosa plum assure me spring will arrive and some day in the not too distant future I will be contemplating my 2010 Plum Ceremony.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Great Houseplant Census

My friend Barbara at Mr. McGregor's Daughter has invited us to post about our houseplants, perhaps allowing any snowbound gardeners to feel as if they are strolling through the garden. I believe the instructions are to post the total number of your current houseplants and so I did a quick count. I found exactly 30 plants living indoors today...down a few from a year or so ago. That reminded me that I discarded all my African Violets and a few other scraggly plants last summer when I decided that they needed to be put out of their misery. I also realized that the majority of my plants are pothos. I hadn't really noticed that before but there are a few reasons they are in almost every room here. Pothos are easy to grow, tolerate pretty much any light situation and they are one of the best plants for improving the air quality in your home. Besides that they are inexpensive, easily found and I just like the way they look. Please visit Mr. McGregor's Daughter to see other houseplant census reports!