gardening


This post is a migration from our earlier blog: March 21, 2008

AHR Plants in Flats
As is typical, no matter when Easter lands each year it is a working day for us.  This year it will be the eve of our first shipping day of the season and it will be a long day.

Once we left the city life and found ourselves in the farming groove we’ve learned many lessons about following the seasons, respecting the weather and praying for whatever conditions we need at any particular time!  As you can read below, we had our first snow on our property in the seven years we’ve lived here.  The locals said that that was the most snow they’ve ever seen.  Fortunately it didn’t last, but the overall colder winter did put off the beginning of our shipping season this year.  Every year we vow to be earlier (we’re thinking of our customers in the deserts who want to plant in January!), but short of the added set up and expense of heating the coldframes we’re just plain dependent on what Mother Nature gives us each year.  It’s not so bad, and actually reminds me of my time I lived in China where we were advised to always be ready early, but be prepared to wait.  I guess that’s how farming goes too.Dream Come True rose

So far this season Tracy is most impressed with the new variety from Weeks calledDream Come True.  We certainly appreciate the professional photos provided from the hybridizers, but probably just like in your gardens, we’re eager to see the flowers WE have grown, and see what it looks like in OUR climate.  Tracy took this one at the end of last season.
Recently a customer and former neighbor in our city life asked to see more photos of our garden. Well…I am usually mortified by the amount and variety of weeds that we get here on the coastal prairie, and my attempts at complete eradication are tempered by the reality that no matter what I do, the weeds will blow in from the fields next door.  I was greatly surprised by the gushing comments of a friend who came to our open garden last summer.  She was grateful for the “new inspiration” for the historical Russ House and Garden that she and her husband maintain in Victorian Ferndale.  “New inspiration, here?” I thought to myself. I didn’t really get it until she sent some photos, and there in the photos the eye was drawn to the beauty as the weeds and unmanicured dead twigs were minimized.  Even I had to say “Wow” and really didn’t feel much pride in being responsible for it all.  We were fortunate to find this house which was previously owned by a serious gardener.  She put in great structure trees and shrubs while Tracy has done 90% of the rose plants.  I feel I have had modest trial and error impact as I can really only claim to putting the thing in the ground and doing minimal care.  Beyond that it’s all God’s mystery and glory.  Science can explain the hows and wherefores, but I don’t think they can explain the whys.  It’s for beauty and pleasure and sheer glory.  Plain and simple.
Backyard Summer 08Tying all my thoughts together for this Easter blog (are they supposed to run on forever, or am I making up for lack of recent posts and the knowledge that we probably won’t have a chance to blog again until the busiest of our shipping season is mostly over?) I would like to quote from John Eldredge’s book The Journey of Desire.  I’ve recently rediscovered this author and have read some more of his writings such as this, which is a perfect meditation for this Easter weekend.
LIFE IN ALL ITS FULLNESS
by John Eldredge

Eternal life – we tend to think of it
in terms of existence that never comes to an end.  And the existence it seems to imply – sort of religious experience in the sky – leaves us wondering if wewould want it to go on forever.  But Jesus is quite clear that when he speaks of eternal life, what he means is life that is absolutely wonderful and can never be diminished or stolen from you.  He says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  Not, “I have come to threaten you into line,” or “I have come to exhaust you with a long list of demands.”  Not even, “I have come primarily to forgive you.”  But simply, My purpose is to bring you life in all its fullness…In other words, eternal life is not primarilyduration but quality of life, “life to the limit.”  It cannot be stolen from us, and so it does go on.  But the focus is on the life itself.  “In Him was life,” the apostle John said of Jesus, “and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

May we all find the One True fullness of life that we deeply desire when we’re quiet and can really think about what’s most important to us.  Happy Easter from our garden to yours.  He is Risen; He is Risen indeed!  Every bud and bloom, and even sprig of weed, are shouting “Glory!”
Fragrant Spring Balcony
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Clutter – it often gets the best of me, but what to do when there are so many interesting things to learn and read about?  Recently I made a foray onto the dining room table.  It looked really good for my 50th birthday party, but has digressed since then.  We even removed all the table leaves so that there would be a smaller surface to hold clutter, but I underestimated the piling effect…

On the good side, clutter often does provide me with some happy coincidences.  Just yesterday I saw a bowl of floating roses that Tracy had brought in from the greenhouses – the first fragrant blooms of the season. The colors went perfectly with the watercolored birthday napkin I got the day before at my friend’s 90th birthday lunch, and the stuffed purple rabbit still sitting where he landed as a gift at my own party a month ago.  A little repositioning and voilà- a nice colorful composed photo to bring back good memories.Felicia, Barbra Streisand, Intrigue, Strike It Rich roses with Purple Bunny

The roses are (clockwise from top left) Strike It Rich, Barbra Streisand, Intrigue, and Felicia – all really fragrant.  Tracy is shipping bareroot roses almost every day right now.  At last count there were a few plants of 11 varieties still left.  He’ll have some other potted varieties available through spring and fall as they mature enough to ship.  Watch the shopping cart for earliest availability, or send an email from the Contact Us link and ask about a certain variety you’re looking for.  I am always amazed how he sells things that he’s only inventoried in his head.  I guess he experiences happy clutter coincidence too!

It looks like it would take too much time to figure out how to move the first blog (which I abandoned because of trouble uploading photos) to here, so I’ll just post the url for now…

http://www.amityheritageroses.com/blog.html

Valentine Flower Bags

There’s a half hour left before Valentine’s Day 2010 is over for those on the east coast.  I just had to share the little gifts I gave to some friends earlier today.  I had a lot of fun being crafty one night this week, thanks to some inspiration from Martha Stewart’s email newsletter.  How easy was this? and it cost me all of $1 in ribbon and the price of the plants.  The happiness it brought to friends young and old (to quote a commercial) was priceless!  I hope you’ve had a moment of inspiration to give to someone in need of encouragement lately.  And even if you don’t have a sweetheart of your own, valuing the people in our lives – be they co-workers, friends, or family – can make such a difference in how we experience life together, both for the giver and the receiver!

I am having my usual June Weed Meltdown; the only problem is that it’s only February! The current new dreaded weed is Common Groundsel.  My Master Gardener course book actually lists a few redeeming qualities of weeds, and I have to give this one real props for having a very strong Plan B.  You see, I uprooted two of these yesterday for this post because the taller one didn’t have any seed head showing.  It was just all closed yellow nibs, so I picked the smaller weed (at bottom) because it had the small dandelion-like seed head in bloom.  Well by today, when it was picture time, the taller one had its own seed head, and was ready to prove my Plan B point;  if this weed is picked immature it will still produce some seed to wreak havoc next spring.  Argh!!!  We’re doing the best we can to mow, weed, burn or trash, but I’m sure we’ll have this weed back next year anyway, but hopefully less of it than we’ve had this year.  There’s the “evil” of this post.

Now, to cling to what is good I want to return to an earlier blog title and talk about a great “clinger”, kiwi fruit.kiwi fruit Looking back in my scanty records I see kiwi listed on my summer watering chart back in 2003, so I would guess that’s when we planted a female and a male vining plant.  The following winter some type of fungus was found eating away and oozing at the base of the male vine.  Our county ag advisor suggested sulpher, but I’d already sprayed vinegar on it (thinking that’s a generally good and safe fungus killer in the house!).  I don’t know if my actions had anything to do with it or not, but the vine survived.  Now, the mystery is that the male vine has never flowered, but the female has flowered and produced fruit for the  last several years!  Albeit the fruit is small and in our cool summer area that may be the best that we can hope for.  This past year the vine was really loaded.  I think I’ll try to do some thinning this next year, if I don’t get around to pruning out some more of the side branches.

As you can see from the photo here, the brown fuzzies can be rubbed off, but I’ve found that using the stiff potato scrubber works really well, and when the green shows through the brown skin it’s just a work of art!

Many years ago I learned that most of the kiwi nutrients are just below the skin, so we tend to cut off the harder stem and flower ends and eat the rest, skin and all, minus the fuzz.

The vines are vigorous and will twine wildly if not clipped back.  I was just reading that the end of the fruiting vines should be cut back in May, so I’ll add that to my month-by-month calendar of things to do this year. Once the leaves fall off, in October around here, we can still leave the fruit on the vine.  We were having freezing nights in early December this year and I picked quite a few bags full and kept them in the refrigerator.  One resource said that kiwi are fine to have a little freeze to develop their flavor, and that to find out if they are ripe enough for cold storage (stored up to five or six months) just cut one open and see if the seeds have turned black.  I was reminded of an experience of a colleague years ago whose college-aged son brought her some kiwi from another area of California, which she shared with  me.  If picked too soon kiwi will never ripen – yep, hard and sour kiwi right up until they start shriveling.  If they are picked very ripe then they won’t keep well in cold storage at all. So kiwi are a bit tricky to harvest, depending on what you want to do with them.  One of the local farmers here keeps her fall-picked kiwi in cold storage , then has them ripe and out for sale at the opening of the farmers market in April.  People really go for local fresh fruit after such a long winter hiatus.

Kiwi Flower

I haven’t even mentioned how lovely the flowers are yet!  I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment watching and learning from our kiwi vines.

Here’s another flower  photo where you can actually see the fruit forming from the center of the flower.  Amazing!

Kiwi flowers into fruit

And even better, I’ll never forget the day I realized the true meaning of Jesus’ words, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Apart from Me you can do nothing.” while I was studying our kiwi plant.  Kiwi vines produce fruit not from the main leading vines, but on the side laterals (or branches) that come off of the main leader, just like modern climbing roses.  It’s a perfect analogy, “Of course! What did you expect from Me?” God replied!

So, with all this kiwi talk let me wrap up with a recipe for a tasty kiwi lime smoothie.

Cut up about 1/3 cup kiwi fruit (2 normal size from the store) into a blender, add a drizzle of honey or agave nectar, the juice of half a lime, about 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt (or vanilla ice cream), and a little soy milk (or milk) and blend till smooth.  If it’s hot out I add ice cubes into the blender too, with less milk. After blending till smooth I taste it and adjust all the flavors to my liking (more lime, more kiwi, a little vanilla extract, more agave, more milk or ice cream, etc.)

Experiment and enjoy – you can certainly see that that’s exactly what I’ve done while growing kiwi fruit!  If you have any experiences with kiwi fruit, please share!

Back in January there wasn’t a lot to do outside.  We were having rain off an on and it was a bit too early to start the annual rose pruning.  I did my weekly African Violet care and realized I had a pretty good “winter garden” right there in the kitchen window.  Not bad at all for January 10th!

African Violets

Winter Gardening

When we were planning our kitchen remodel a friend suggested a garden window as a way to make the space feel bigger.  I did some research and the books all said to forget about it if the window is on the north side of the house.  Well, I’m glad I ignored that piece of advice.  I can’t think of one month when at least one of the six African Violets is out of bloom.  I have year-round color in that northern window and because it rarely gets full sun (a little in summer but I shade the plants with the taller begonia and jade plant) the violets are truly happy.  I’ve learned the truth about feeding them too.  I use a liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength every time I water.  Now if only I had a market for all the AV babies I could make!

…leaving the other half of the figs for Tracy to eat when he gets home, even though I could eat them all now and he’d never know it!

Our Ninth Year Here, and we’re finally enjoying a dozen or so figs this late summer through fall. I started this fig from a cutting from a huge (15′) fig tree in a rose customer’s backyard in San Jose before we moved. The first year it was planted in Q4 before we realized how boggy it was there in the rainy season and how the deer would pass through daily. Then it got potted up and kept alive for a few more years until we got it planted into our greenhouse. This was probably year two for it to be in the ground there and it’s done very well this year, as long as I kept the gophers away (I know, again with the gophers!). We’ve enjoyed (and shared) every precious fig off this little (but old) plant.

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