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Archive for the ‘Edibles-Flowers’ Category

garnished-cupcake

Here is reason 1 (of 50) to grow borage lemon verbena and strawberries. They made a fine garnish for the birthday cupcakes! Although Griffin is a minimalist when it comes to cake…so the one below is more his style. Just enough frosting to glue on the strawberry. And the frosting was a simple stick of butter with 1 cup powdered sugar, vanilla and a couple drops of green food coloring. It’s his favorite…not to sweet!

minimalist-cupcake

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I received my daily delivery of Dirt du Jour, with the heading “Six plants you can’t live without!”. Launched by the Sunset blog, Fresh Dirt, the meme question for every blogger today is a good one and thankfully we don’t have to have only six. It’s interesting to think about and even more so, to consider everyone else’s faves! Today everyone try to choose six plants…just six! I am totally partial to edibles, but not just edible for me. I have to think of the birds and the bees! So here is my list…and it wasn’t easy!

wisteria-april-07

White Wisteria, because it provides seasonality in the Southern California garden. Architectural in it’s bare winter form. The promise of spring and snowstorm of white flowers in March. Then the chartreuse hedge of thick vines and feathery leaves, that provide shade and shelter for tender spring flowers and a natural den & hide-out for the outlaw cat. In the fall the leaves turn yellow and drop, while the seed pods crack open like a natural fireworks display!

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Icelandic Poppies are amazing! The vibrant colors and tissue like petals are dramatic enough to be displayed one stem at a time. I usually plant them mid-November in front of the wisteria vine where they are beautiful and prolific until Easter. The bees just roll around in the blooms and can barely fly their legs are so heavy with pollen. As soon as the petals drop off, dead head the stems for longer lasting production.

g-pink-yarrow2

Yarrow, is a tremendous asset to any garden for so many reasons! The fern like leaves and tiny flowers have powerfully beneficial qualities. From medicinal teas and poltice to pure nitrogen for your compost pile. It is a nectar flower for butterflies and just plain beautiful!! I also love the way it naturalizes in So Cal as a native it’s just perfect.

french-thyme

French Thyme, is my culinary must have herb. I use it in soups, stocks, sauces, stuffings, while roasting a bird, while finishing an item on the grill with a final smoke out (I dry the stems and throw the little herbal bale on to the fire and close the lid for that first delicate smokey bite). It has a terrific mounding growing habit and is easy to multiply by laying the soft woody stems on the ground and covering with soil. The tiny flowers are also great for garnish. Love it!

hummer

Lantana Tree-I don’t know if life would be the same without my lantana tree just outside the dining room. This little guy and all his cousins just love to sit a spell…before the frenzied quest to hit every single flower in each of the clusters. Bees, Hummingbirds and Butterflies are abundantly present in the garden when the lantana is blooming. When I was a kid we used them as Barbie bridal bouquets.

maiden_fern

Maidenhair Fern – I just love them! The black stems were used in basketry to create designs, they are pretty hearty for a fern. In the ground on the Coast they do well in a full sun location. I use them as a house plant for as long as possible, placing them in stressful situations like low light and no drainage. When that party is over I put them in the ground to create a lovely shade border that is iridescent in the moonlight with the bright green new leaves shimmering against the dark stems. Plus, my grandma’s bridal bouquet was a huge bunch of maidenhair fern with gardenias, so fabulously simple and elegant.

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rancho-tiny-cosmos

At first glance it looked like a tiny cosmos.  Friend to tiny butterflies.  But just clicking through the Theo Payne website (my new fave-this week), I think I am going with Santa Susanna Tarweed. Love the name!  It is in the aster family and in fact it is a nectar flower for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees!

rancho-catalina-cherry

Catalina Cherry.  I really like that we can have a cherry in So Cal.  I will be looking for the cherries in a couple of months.  This nursery, Las Pilitas in Santa Marguerita, looks like it would be worth the drive.

rancho-nasturtiums

nasturtium-leaves

I know the nasturtiums are a prolific pain to some, but I love them!  The picnic area has fields of them on either side of the path, and we were noticing how much larger the leaves are on the shady side.  Nasturtiums have a slightly peppery flavor and can be used in salads as a lovely garnish or stuffed and served whole like a squash blossom.  The immature seed pods can be pickled and used like capers.  If using as a fruity salad dressing add a little honey for sweetness.  You can also make a nice chiffonade of the petals and use in a compound butter.

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100-sq-ft

Last night the White House announced that Michelle Obama is taking out 1100 square feet of the White House lawn and planting a vegetable garden. You can read more about the “eat the view” movement at Kitchen Gardeners International, and see the plans. This is awesome! It’s the first step toward food reform and a promising indication that they GET IT! They get that we desperately need to overhaul our food policies and farming in the U.S.

But, not everyone has 1100 sq ft. in a sunny location. Which brings me to the idea for a Community of Gardens. A local garden club with an edible bent. An Urban CSA, if you will. A gathering of like minds and dirt. I have a community garden plot, because the trees in my yard limit the sunlight for certain crops. I wanted to have real farm conditions and grow “crops” to feed my family. And to know that the food I was feeding them was free from pesticides, irradiation, bacteria and full of the nutrients that are supposed to be in them.

Many of my friends and neighbors expressed the desire to grow their own, buy and eat local. Many want to convert front yards to drought tolerant herb gardens and backyards in to robust vegetable gardens. But there are hurdles. So, I was thinking…wouldn’t it be nice to pool our local resources, the land immediately to my right, or left. I can grow celery in my shady yard…pretty much year round. Maybe you have a super sunny yard and cannot grow lettuce during the summer…And there is the time. And the knowledge. You see where I am going with this?

Okay, I can think of 20 projects right now! The local schools have gardens but limited resources, they need teachers and volunteers to run the school garden programs. We could start a community compost, so the green waste being incinerated could go back in to the earth instead of into the atmosphere. We can pick the low hanging fruit, literally…there are dozens, if not hundreds of fruit trees loaded with citrus right now, that just goes to waste. We could take the citrus peels and make our own cleaning wipes. We can grow hundreds of pounds of tomatoes and have a canning party! We could volunteer at the Rancho, and help them with their gardens. We could collectively support bringing a community garden plot in out neighborhood. We can identify friends and neighbors with plenty of space and but no time to farm. There are strips of land for guerilla gardening as well.

But we have to start somewhere and perhaps a little meet up and food/seed swap would be a good start. What do you say the 1st Sunday in April? Now, where should we gather? How about the benches outside Rancho Los Cerritos? If you park in their lot, and walk straight ahead and take the low road…there are picnic benches in a pretty lovely setting! The alstroemeria on the little slope will probably be blooming by them…and the orchard in front of the Rancho is intoxicating right now…there are a zillion orange blossoms on the trees!! There is a red bud tree that is in full flower and their wisteria vine has begun to show as well. It would be a fun place to start and a nice walk around the grounds is an added bonus! The Rancho doesn’t open until 1:00pm, so we couldn’t get in to the area before that time. Hope this works, let me know!!

If you’re on Facebook, we have a Community of Gardens page that you can join. If you’re not on Facebook, get on Facebook!

Also, the photo above is my 10 x 10 raised bed in December, last year. I planted a bunch of peas in the middle on the black rack. There was an x of celery, and four triangles filled with radishes, carrots, onion, cauliflower and broccoli. I jammed the plants in close together and thinned as I went, eating baby vegetables and making room for some of the plants to reach full size. I would go out and break off a few ribs of celery all summer, before they bolted late in July. You would be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space!

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With 300 different gardeners there is always a lot to see out at the Community Gardens.  This morning, after building a little onion patch and a sprinkling of water…I took a quick and brisk walk around.  Here’s what I saw:

A couple of really nice chrysanthemum plants, definitely want to plant a few of these next summer…

And, next year I must have several dahlias!  They are just spectacular right now, and have been for months.

And from the daisy corner…back eyed susan and a miniature shasta daisy looked happy…

The lovely cone flower, also known as echinacea.

And, perhaps my favorite photo of the day…the sunflower.  Notice the little bee and his tiny shadow!  All of the aforementioned flowers are also edible.  I don’t know about the sunflower actually..if it doesn’t get seeds, I think the rest is actually not good and the petals might even be very toxic.  Oh well, it’s just darn purdy!!  I am filing all of these hardy and beautiful plants away in my folder for next summer!!

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It’s time to plant the winter garden! The change of seasons is always an exciting time – in the fall changing out of the vegetable plot, flower pots and planting trees is a real treat. In our mild climate, there are so many options in every category. I like to walk all the growers, nurseries, public gardens, community gardens & farmers markets to see what’s going on out there. After a stroll I sometimes like to flip through catalogs and books, such as Rosalind Creasy’s -The Edible Flower Garden. It is an inspiration and beautiful to look at, plus I can find details on the plants that I just found to be interesting or plentiful.

Right now I am seeing the English Daisy everywhere. I guess the little white flowers we used to make daisy chains growing up, are in fact the original English Daisy. Creasy writes that the double fluffy flowers we find at the nurseries have been selected by horticulturists over the years for their larger and fuller flowers. They thrive in full sun, moist soil and temperate climates.

The petals of the English Daisy are slightly bitter and would be great as a garnish on salads, soups or veggies…I think a nice wedge of brie with pomagranite seeds and a few daisies would be spectacular on a buffet or cheese course!

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