Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chromocolor Large Cup Daffodil Blooming

Seedling Growth

More Rainy Day Gardening

It's still raining.

In a recent Sacramento Bee story, National Weather Service forecaster George Cline called March "... a funny month" and said about the continuing storms, "We're already at 117 percent of normal... We can stop now."

Funny guy.

All I can say is, thank goodness for armchair gardening. One good gardening read keeping my thumbs twiddled is Heucheras and Heucherellas : Coral Bells and Foamy Bells. I've added a few new heucheras to my garden between storms recently, like the incredibly vibrant 'Dolce Peach Melba'. But since heucheras are habit-forming, I want more. This book has me going after conquests like 'Sunspot' and 'Key Lime Pie'. It also has me wanting to propagate my heucheras to share... or hoard, depending on my mood. Tell ya what. If the sun comes out, I'll share.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sod Sofa

Saw this on Inhabitat. For instructions on making your own sod sofa, visit Readymade Magazine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Best Pesto Basil?

In the past, I've been pretty casual about buying basil plants for my garden. Basil is basil, right? You go to the nursery, buy some basil (Ocimum basilicum) and plant it. Well, if you're like me and you're mainly growing it to make your own pesto, you might be better off planting Italian varieties like 'Genovese', 'Italian Pesto', and 'Profuma di Genova' over plain old basil. The Italian cultivars are considered superior because of their larger leaf size, mild taste and complex fragrance.

The Cooks Garden calls 'Sweet Genovese' "Absolutely the best for cooking and for pesto."

Renee's Garden calls "Profuma di Genova" the "European greengrocers' choice" for its "bright basil flavor without minty/clove overtones, compact shape and excellent disease resistance."

So, pesto lovers, look for key words like "Genovese", "Genova", and "Italian" when shopping for basil seeds or plants. I will... from now on.

For a nice basil primer, see Fine Gardening's Basil Basics, by Susan Belsinger, coauthor of Basil: An Herb Lover's Guide.

What would all this basil talk be without a recipe?

While not a pesto recipe, it does use fresh torn basil leaves. Enjoy this easy-to-make, delicious dish. I ... (loosens belt)... just did.

Rachael Ray's "You Won't Be Single for Long" Vodka Cream Pasta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Serve with:
Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

(Tuesday, March 28 update: I found Genovese basil plants at Capital Nursery on Sunrise and Genovese and "Italian basil" plants at Windmill Nursery in Carmichael. Also picked up some seeds of Genovese. The plants are gonna hang out in the greenhouse until warmer weather. Ah... warmer weather.)

Mountain Valley Growers has a nice pesto recipe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


(Dad aphid) "Honey, what do you think the kids would like for dinner?"

(Mom aphid) "How about Angela's pink tulips?"

(Kid aphids) "Yay, yay, yay, yay!"

Saturday, March 18, 2006

2006 S.F. Flower & Garden Show

Here are a few photos of scenery, exhibits and items I particularly enjoyed. If you go today or tomorrow, be sure to attend some of the excellent seminars and come prepared to lug home a bunch of plants and bulbs and garden tools and gismos and gadgets. A lot of smart folks bring those collapsible shopping carts on wheels.

Plants I bought:
  • Epiphyllum 'Tele' from Epiphyllum World. Epis are my new addiction.
  • 2 tree peonies from The Lily Pad
  • Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' from Digging Dog Nursery
  • Dierama pulcherrimum from Digging Dog
  • Persicaria virginiana 'Lance Corporal' from Digging Dog... nope... just discovered the plant was mislabeled. If or when I figure out what I bought, I'll report back.

It was a beautiful sunny day in the city. Keep both hands on the wheel when photographing while driving.

Striking wall-mounted pots planted with the unfortunately named Senecio rowleyanus, a.k.a. String of Pearls

"The Junkman's Paradisio"
This is my kind of garden... a rough and tumble mix of herbs, recycled art, pots, painted raised beds, herbs, edibles and a compost bin.


Arizona State University's "Jelly, Bean and Me". This display will freak your freak. What're college kids smokin' these days?

This is your asparagus on steroids.

"Livin' Cheap in Baja"

"A Garden Railroad"

Chelsea Antiques has these great giant metal roosters. I want one for my front yard. Tee hee.

The Original Living Wreath by Margee

These are so cool!

View from inside the "women's" restroom... Are the hydrangeas there to prevent us from mistaking a urinal for a toilet? We chicas are smarter than that. If they're there purely for a splash of color, well, then BRAVO!

Heading home around 4pm. Traffic wasn't too bad. It only took about thirty minutes to get over the Bay Bridge. Last year I left the Cow Palace a little later and it took me over an hour to get over the bridge... in the rain, bumper to bumper.

I always like to swing by 4th Street in Berkeley on the way home to hit a few stores and grab a bite to eat before heading back to Sacramento. The AeroGarden pictured above was at Sur La Table. Neato, huh?

This year, we got some lovely takeout from The Pasta Shop and ate it in the car. I love eating in parked cars. A lowfat mocha (no whip) from Peet's a couple doors down gave me enough caffeine to counteract the pasta and allowed me to remain alert for the drive home. New sights, new plants, good food, good coffee, good company... what a fun day!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lazy Rooting

One of my favorite GardenWeb threads is "I'm Lazy-- What can you root in plain old water???". Did you know that pricey bunch of Italian basil rotting in your fridge roots easily in water? No? Well, plunk some of those stems in water and shout, "Pesto!"

Here's what else lazy rooters are rooting in plain old agua:

mock orange
african violets
passion vine
tomato suckers
snowball bush
bay laurel
sweet potato vine
pineapple tops
christmas cactus
hardy mums
flowering quince
lemon grass
butterfly bush
tropical hibiscus
wandering jew
spider plant
angel's trumpet

There's some discussion about "water roots" making it in soil, and one suggestion was to transplant when the roots are "an inch to and inch and a quarter long" and haven't yet differentiated into water roots and can still become soil roots. Bears experimentation, I'd say! If I have a chance, I'll check my plant propagation books and see what they say. I've had great luck rooting Persian Shield in water and growing it in the garden and I paid absolutely no attention to root length. Still, I'd like to explore further.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What I like to do on a rainy day

My tomato seeds arrived yesterday from Tomato Growers Supply. Gotta get those babies planted! Working in the greenhouse on a rainy day is pretty fun except for the fact that water drip drops through the roof while I'm working. Still, the little space heater keeps things toasty and my radio keeps my ears happy.

Rainy days in the garden

Costco Bulbs

Looky what I got at Costco. Look for these varieties and many more at Costcoriffic prices.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hail yesterday, cleaning denial today

On the plus side, it's not raining. On the minus side, it's too chilly outside to do anything but run back inside! I was resigned to the necessity of tackling deferred domestic drudgery today, but then I saw my morning glory seeds bursting to life in a water-filled juice glass. Saved by the seeds.

They were an impulse purchase (Raley's sells morning glory seeds? Cool!). I'd decided to plant them in the ground in early April until I lifted the seed packs off my kitchen counter yesterday and discovered they were wet. Whatever the cause, I needed to nick and soak the seeds in case they'd been inadvertently awakened from dormancy. The packet recommends using nail clippers to nick the hard dark seed coat. I nicked, then I plopped and today I planted all fifty or so plump, already-sprouting seeds.

I mixed a pack of 'Early Call Mix' with a pack of 'Flying Saucers' so I'll be looking at an unrestrained mix of lavender, white, hot pink, purple, pale pink surrounded by white and "tie-dye" blue and white.

I'll be checking today's mail for tomato seeds. My TGS order is taking its sweet time getting to me from, jeeze, where the heck are they? They're in Florida! I can just picture a heroic Floridian mail carrier rescuing my seeds from snapping alligators or crocodiles or whatever man-eating creatures accompany them on their daily mail routes. If the gators didn't get my tomato seeds, then maybe a hurricane did. Luckily, I've got 'Black', 'Celebrity' and 'Copia' already up and runnin' in the greenhouse.

Well, it's time for me to face the cleaning music. That's it... I need some cleaning music. Wonder what's new on iTunes?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bean Teepee

In preparation for warm-season veggie gardening, I made two bean teepees... for my beans, of course. I added horizontal rows of twine for additional support. The teepees are open in front to allow for harvesting inside the teepee.

I was a little concerned about the beans casting shade on my greenhouse until I realized that by the time the beans reach the top of the teepee, the sun will be nearly overhead and the greenhouse probably won't be in use since I mostly use it in Fall, Winter and Spring.

Starting Plants

I bid on and won two unrooted cuttings of 'Slightly Sassy' epiphyllum on ebay and was given 'Ferris Wheel' and another variety as a bonus. I'm finding more and more that ebay can be a great source for new and interesting plants. And "Epis" can be addicting. I started with an unrooted cutting of a red-flowering epi from a friend. It's done very well and now I'm able to share it around. Yep, epis are addicting and epis are for sharing.

On the seed front, several flower varieties are germinating in the greenhouse. Pictured below are my nasturtium 'Whirlybird Cherry Rose' seedlings. Nasturtiums are so fun to germinate because they always seem to come up, the seeds are big and round and easy to plop into seed-starting mix, and they germinate very quickly. Whenever I start wondering if the seemingly microsopic seeds I planted simply blew away or are just taking their sweet time germinating, I just look at my nasturtiums for comfort. Good old dependable, visible-to-the-naked-eye nasturtiums...