Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Learning to Fly

We were on the hunt for the perfect rock to place in a new section of the garden. 

As the leader of this little expedition, I was scouting out front and hubby with the wheelbarrow in hand was pulling up the rear. Recent road work had brought a number of large rocks to the surface of the soil in the vacant lot beside the house and I was on the lookout for the consummate rugged specimen. 

We were anything but quiet explorers-chattering away to one another while the old rusted wheelbarrow creaked and squeaked as it passed over the rough terrain. As I passed alongside one of the recently planted blue spruce trees, there was a sudden and frantic fluttering of wings. An adolescent robin attempted to take flight, but his inexperienced wings faltered, and he fell to the ground in front of me. 

The young robin sat in the long grass regarding me with his big dark eyes. On a nearby branch, Mother Robin was anything but calm in the face of this perceived danger. She began squawking an angry warning while flying from the branch of one tree to another.  She was not going to give up her baby without a loud, angry protest.

"What do you think we should do?", I asked turning to hubby.

"What can you do, but try to pick it up, and put it back in the nest.", he replied.

I bent down and scooped up the tiny creature. Birds always feel so delicate and frail in your hands. I always feel like it is like trying to grasp warm air in your fingers! 

I expected the young robin to protest or even peck at my fingers with his beak, but instead he was quiet, as if resigned to the fact that his fate was literally in my hands.

I circled around the blue spruce looking for the nest. Mom's frantic squawking had alerted Dad and now they both took turns swooping past us with their warnings. The tree was not tall (maybe five feet) and so I had no problem spotting the nest on the far side near the top. I reached up and carefully placed their baby back in the nest. The young robin settled in while his angry parents did their very best to try to appear threatening. 

I can identify with the parent's trepidation for their young offspring. On Monday, our one and only son started his first good job with a rate of pay higher than an hourly wage. Now that he is all grown up, with his own shiny blue car in the driveway, a good salaried job with benefits, it won't be long before he too leaves the nest.

He's 24 and more than ready to go. His father and I are the ones who are struggling with the idea of seeing him finally take flight! We don't want him to go, although we both know he must.

On the morning of his first big day, hubby and I were working quietly together in the kitchen organizing the day's lunches. It is dark in the mornings now and there was even a bit of chill in the air. Can an early fall be headed our way?

I began cutting up a fresh cantaloupe (son's favourite) that we had gotten at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Hubby busied himself taking the boxed leftovers out of the fridge and placing it in the appropriate lunch bags. Up until this point, our son's lunch bag had usually been a used shopping bag grabbed hastily as he dashed out the door. On this morning however, there was a sleek black lunch bag on the counter to go along with the new salaried job.

"There is not enough room in this thing!", hubby lamented when I handed him the tupperware container of cantaloupe and a snack sized crackers and cheese. "I'll have to put the plastic cutlery and his granola bar in the outside pouch."

Hubby zippered the front of the lunch bag closed and stood back unhappy. "He is never going to know that I have put anything in that outside pouch...maybe I better write him a note and put it inside the lunch bag to let him know."

Minutes later son breezed into the kitchen."Is my lunch ready? I'm late." Without waiting for an answer he unzipped the lunch box to check that everything was in order.

"What's this?", he asked pulling out his Dad's note. 

"A note..." hubby started to explain.

"Oh my God! There is a note from my Mommy in my lunch!", son jokingly protested."How to destroy any chance I have of being the cool new guy at work."

"I wrote the note..." hubby protested.

"Oh, that's only slightly better!", son interrupted laughing, "At least a note from my Dad might say something like: Join the army or pack your bags and move out!...And what the heck is this?", he asked pulling out a packaged handy-wipe.

"Your Mom packed you an apple turnover for breakfast. It's a long dive and I thought your hands might get sticky in the car. And the note is to explain that there is a knife and fork in the outside pouch of your lunch box.", hubby finally said, his feather's a little ruffled by our son's mock outrage.

Hey, what can I say? Hubby is a man with a big heart! 

The note and the handy-wipe got left behind on the counter and our son was out the door for the first day at his new job.

And so what ever became of the young robin who fell from the nest?

Just yesterday, I was walking to the back of the garden when I saw a greyish bird sitting on the ground near the herb garden. As I approached, it flapped its wings and managed to make it up to the arbor that you have seen featured so often in my photos. 

There the bird sat looking down at me and I realized as I passed underneath the arbor that it was a young robin, perhaps even the same adolescent robin we had rescued a few days before. There was another flutter of wings and he flew to a low branch in the big maple nearby.

As I worked away in the garden that afternoon, I heard Mom and Dad Robin constantly calling out their encouragement to the young bird, "Take flight! Take flight!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Oriental Lilies in the Garden of Marion Jarvie

More Information and Links:

Given the right conditions, Oriental lilies can often reach a height of 5 to 7 feet. They have trumpet shaped flowers that face outward and hang down. As the bulbs get older, Oriental lilies multiply and  form a good sized clump. They like rich, moist, well-drained soil in sun. Choose lily bulbs that are plump without mould or soft areas. Plant bulbs about 18" apart and twice as deep as their circumference (up to a depth of 10"). After they finish flowering, be sure to leave the foliage as it is needed to produce the flowers for the following year.

Marion Jarvie is an accomplished photographer, renowned plantswoman and garden designer. She lectures frequently for local garden clubs and at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Marion has been gardening in Thornhill, Ontario for over thirty years. 
Each year, Marion opens her garden to the public on select dates. Outgoing and very friendly, she is only to happy to talk with visitors about gardening and plants. For more information on Marion's Open Gardens please click the link.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cooking with Flowers (Review and Giveaway)

The cake on the cover with its creamy frosting and confetti of colorful flower petals caught my interest in the bookstore and I had to pick up the book and take a peek through its pages. 

When I saw the photographs of delicate rolled tuiles cookies freckled with dianthus flowers and the oven baked doughnuts with lilac cream filling I knew I had to get a copy of this beautiful cookbook. 

I could hardly wait to try my own hand at making the jars of pastel-colored flower jellies that I saw in its pages.

You may think that eating flowers sounds exotic and unusual, but chances are already eating flowers and just don't realize it. 

Artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. 

They're all flowers! 

As author Miche Bacher points out, edible flowers add color, complexity and even a sense of mystery to cooking that leaves you pondering the origin of the subtle flavour notes in sweet treats and savoury dishes. 

Each edible flower adds a unique and often surprising flavour- calendula flowers are peppery, dandelion flowers have a honey-like taste, daylilies taste like fresh, sweet lettuce leaves and orchids taste like a mix between cucumber and endive. 

Cooking with Flowers is divided into a series of floral chapters. At the beginning of each, the author offers the botanical name of each flower as well as notes on the background of its culinary use, seasonality, preparation and measure. 

At the very end of the book there are additional suggestions to stock-up your winter pantry with candied flowers, simple flower syrups, vinaigrettes, jellies, flower ice creams and sorbets.

The first thing I decided to tackle were the flower jellies.

You will be glad to know that the receipe's method was pretty straightforward and fairly quick. 

Very briefly: first you make an infusion of rose petals using boiling water. After it stands for at least a couple of hours you strain away the petals, and bring the flower-infused liquid to a rolling boil. Then it is a simple matter of adding lemon juice, sugar and powdered pectin. 

The author advises that the finished jelly can be refrigerated for up to a month, or if you can the jelly, it can last up to a year in your pantry.

So how do you imagine Rose Petal Jelly tastes?

I honestly didn't know what to expect when I made it. In the end, I was surprised: it didn't taste floral and it didn't entirely taste like standard fruit jellies either. The closest descriptive I can think of is the tang of crabapple jelly with a hint of citrus.

I also tried my hand at making a Nasturtium jelly.

Last night, I sliced and buttered a baguette, rubbed it with a little garlic and then spread on some fresh goat cheese. After toasting the little round baguette slices under the broiler for a few seconds, I added a dollop of the translucent nasturtium jelly and a sprig of lemon thyme. I served the little toasts with a glass of wine. Yum!

After my initial success I am really looking forward to trying some of the cookbook's other recipes. Carrot Sunflower Sandwich Cookies with Creamy Sunflower Frosting! 

Now doesn't that sound delicious!

Quirk books has kindly given me a review copy that I am going to giveaway in a draw to one lucky reader. 
To enter the book draw, please leave a comment below. I ask all entrants to make sure there is some kind of link available to their email address. I need to have a way to get hold of you should you be a winner! 

The Cooking with Flowers book draw will remain open for one week.

I am going to link this review/giveaway to Holley's monthly garden book reviews meme. To discover other really great gardening books, please click the link: Roses and other Gardening Joys.

More Information and Links:

Quirk Books Homepage.

Quirk Books Cooking with Flowers webpage. You can see a preview of pages from the book by clicking "View Interior Spread". 

About Miche Bacher, author of Cooking with Flowers: Informed by a diverse background in culinary, visual and healing arts, Miche Bacher cofounded Mali B Sweets which specializes in cakes, chocolate, and other sweet treats that are made from fresh, local ingredients. Miche is constantly seeking out creative uses for herbs, flowers and spices in recipes both sweet and savory. She resides in Greenport, New York with her husband Noah, her two sons and their dog Mali.

About the book's Photographer Miana Jun: Miana Jun is an international photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. To see some of Miana's beautiful photographs and a sampling of her work for Cooking with Flowers, please click the link.
Please Note: Other than the cover, the author and the photographer's picture, the images in this post are my own.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

Local radio stations have been repeatedly broadcasting severe thunderstorm warnings and even a risk of tornados for some parts of the Provence. 

After recent heavy rainfalls and flash flooding, I think we are all a bit gun shy in Southern Ontario. A little over a week ago, a relentless downpour halted traffic, flooded basements and left many parts of the the Greater Toronto Area in darkness for hours. 

Fourteen hundred passengers got trapped on a commuter train when part of the Don Valley filled with storm water. Terrified passengers huddled together on the upper deck of the train while the lower compartments filled with water. Thankfully firefighters and police were able to rescue everyone safely by boat.

In the sunshine this morning it seemed hard to imagine another 
bad storm might be on the horizon.

The roses in the front garden are just about rest before they bloom one 
final time in late summer/early fall.

I find it disheartening to watch Japanese Beetles eat and fornicate all at the same time (Canadian Explorer Series, John Cabot Rose).

They seem to feast on some roses and not others. 

Could it possible that a bug can have a color preference? If so, yellow is a Japanese Beetle's favourite color. They simply adore all my yellow roses!

These more open roses and the fragrant less Fairy roses along the front remain largely untouched (Hybrid Musk rose 'Robin Hood'). 

Daylilies and hostas are carrying most of the show at the moment.

These are the most common daylilies I have, but I still love them.

This is a pretty miniature daylily, which is cream colored when not illuminated by the sun. Hemerocallis, 'Precious D'Oro'

White Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet'

Ornamental onion, Allium 'Summer beauty'

Double Soapwart, Saponaria officinalis 

I have a quite a number of garden centre clearance items and new plants that are lined up waiting to be planted like cars caught in a rush hour traffic jam. 

Pink Betony, Stachys officinalis, 'Pink Cotton Candy' and Butterfly Weed, Asclepias Tuberosa are among them.

Bee Balm, Monarda,'Rasberry Wine'

This is my jungly herb garden minus the parsley that the bunnies have beheaded.

Hopefully, the storm forecast for this evening never does materialize.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Walled Garden

Today, I want to share with you a twenty year labor of love that transformed the foundation of old barn into a beautiful walled garden.

A vegetable garden, two ponds and perennial beds filled with daylilies, phlox, hosta and clematis surround this century home and working farm.

We are going to head quickly through the perennial garden at the side of the house 
and focus on area around the walled garden and new barn. 

On the shady exterior of the farm's original barn the plantings include a mix of hosta, maroon colored Heuchera, Lady's Mantle and white flowering Giant Fleece Flower, 'Persicaria polymorha'.

Inside the crumbling foundation there is full sun. Clematis and other green vines cover the walls. Flowers like orange California Poppies, Lavender and Cosmos thrive in the well-drained, gravelly soil. 

Here is a basic layout of the walled garden:

Looking towards 'A' on the garden plan.

Looking towards 'B'.

Here we are looking at a wall coved in Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia 
which is 'D' on the plan drawing.

A central pathway and vine covered arbor lead provide the main entrance
in and out of the walled garden.

It is amazing what a little creativity and a lot of hard work can do.