Tales from the Garden: Sunchoke Harvest

I have never been successful in growing things that I can actually eat. My rather large strawberry patch produced one puny berry this year and in consecutive years, my husband and I killed three rosemary bushes. But my luck has changed!

This spring, a friend gave me a sunchoke plant. I was apprehensive but optimistic.
I love sunchokes and was very excited at the prospect of being able to grow my own. The best thing about these plants is that they are regenerative. Just leave some in the dirt and the next spring, another plant will grow.

At any rate — my plant took off and grew like crazy, towering over our 8-foot tall fence. I was so proud!

Once the sunflower-like flowers died, it was time to pull the plant up and see what it produced. Here’s what I found nestled in the ground:

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Tales from the Garden: The Seed Pod

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I had no idea that irises had seed pods, but they do! Mine had two this year. They start as green bulbs, but once they dry out, they turn brown. Then they split and the seeds fall out. Every year, my garden teaches me something new!

Crudités in Clay: An Unexpected Appetizer in an Urban Eden

Being married to my husband is like having a second job sometimes. Not the actual marriage part (that part is fun and games!) but the part where I am his go-to sous chef for off-site events. I’m definitely not complaining — I occasionally get paid and if I don’t, well, I always get to drink plenty of wine which is just as good in my book.

So, just like his pig roast extravaganza, I jumped at the chance to help him do a multi-coursed dinner to benefit the Portland Fruit Tree Project. You can read more about the project here, but the basic premise is to educate people about urban gardening and to help give those less fortunate access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The 35-person dinner party was held at a house in SE Portland, known as Tabor Tilth. The woman who lives there grows so many different things in her front and back yards it’s actually overwhelming…and overflowing. She raises rabbits, grows corn, keeps bees, has more tomato plants than I could count, and even has a mullberry tree all on her 1/5 acre of residential property. She has a truly fascinating online video in which she describes her very thoughtful and meticulous system for planting and composting (she uses some very unique manure in her yard!).

To complement her creative urban gardening, my husband served dishes like “compost” beef (rubbed in coffee grounds and herbs) and a mullberry sorbet with lime salt. But my absolute favorite thing he came up with was these planters. Part centerpiece, part appetizer, each potted plant harbored hidden surprises.

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Tales from the Garden: The Stowaway

A very cheerful marigold

My grandmother is a dedicated gardener. Even though she is in her 90s, she still takes great care of her rose garden and also grows flowers from seed every spring in her greenhouse.

Since I have finally proved that I can keep plants alive, I have been allowed to take home some of her starters. This spring she gave me tiny marigolds that have since grown to a surprising degree. Even though she said they were “tall” ones, I had no idea they got that big — they are past waist-high right now.

But while I was carefully watching their progress, I noticed there was one plant that looked different from all the rest. I was sure it wasn’t a weed as I could remember my grandmother saying she had planted a variety of seeds, but I wasn’t sure what exactly it was.

Until it bloomed:

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Things That Make Me Happy — Smelling the Roses

It’s funny the things you don’t really appreciate as a kid. For me, gardening was one of them. My  grandma has, for as long as I can remember, had a rose garden. In the winter, it is a barren landscape, but come spring and summer it’s alive with roses of all various colors, each one smelling sweeter than the last.

Until I bought my own house which came with a spacious backyard and two climbing rose bushes, it never occurred to me how much work goes into maintaining a rose garden. I struggle with two bushes — I can’t imagine how she tends to the dozen that she has growing. After a quick weekend visit to see her, there is nothing better than getting to clip a few blooms to take with me back to Portland, their sweet perfume wafting through the car.

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Flowers for my Mom: Happy Mother’s Day!

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I couldn’t be with my mom today. Well, I could have driven to Tacoma but this is my only weekend at home for the month and I need to get some things done before my trip to Montreal — which is in less than five days! Eek, I need to start packing!

So here are some irises for my mother, who is not only an awesome mom but who is also a perfect companion for happy hours, pedicures and gossip sessions. Love you!