Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Moorpark Apricot & Red Haven Peach

My Moorpark Apricots and Red Haven Peaches are ripe at the same time this year. Since I don't use any pesticides, they may have a few blemishes, but isn't a small spot worth being able to eat a fresh piece of fruit right off the tree without the worry of wondering what residual chemical is left on the fruit.

I can't say enough about the Red Haven peach. These peaches are a very early variety; it's almost the end of June and they are all just about ready to pick. The Red Haven is a yellow freestone with wonderful color, thin skin, and little fuzz. Peaches are rich in Vitamin A, C, E, Potassium, Calcium and Iron. Once you have had one of these peaches you never want another variety of peach again.

The Moorpark Apricots are smaller than you might get in the grocery store, but are much tastier. They ripen quickly and should be picked when a little firm since just a half a day in the house they are more than ripe. Apricots are rich in Vitamin A, B and C, Calcium, Copper, Iron, and Phosphorus and are very good for you.

I'll be sending out my newsletter, letting you know the fruit is ripe. Hurry the apricots and peaches sell out quickly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dahlias Speak For Themselves ...

Dahlias speak for themselves, so enjoy the photos. I don't need to say any more. I've never grown dahlias before and now I don't know why. If there ever was a perfectly formed flower, it's a dahlia. Unfortunately, the tags faded and I can't read the names of the dahlias I am growing, but it doesn't seem to matter, because they are just as beautiful to look at either way. So without further adieu here are some photos for you.Some time ago I posted about my dahlias having some leaf damage. Well I found out grasshoppers like dahlias. Now my dahlias are over two feet tall and starting to bloom prolifically. I'm glad they didn't have some type of virus. The leaves are somewhat deformed, but the flowers more than make up for it.

Okra Doesn't Have To Be Slimy!

Okra, I like it fried, pickled and fresh. I'm learning lots of wonderful things about okra this year. Okra, also know as Lady's Fingers, originated from West Africa, is in the mallow family, and loves the heat. If you plant it too early in the season the seed will rot. So wait till the soil warms up and plant your okra seed. The roots don't like to be disturbed so if you purchase a plant already started carefully place it in the soil. The plant grows almost 6 feet tall and produces edible pods rich in Vitamins A, C, B complex, iron, calcium and fiber.

Pick okra when it is about 4 to 5 inches long, any longer and okra becomes very tough and fibrous. The largest pod above is too long and is very tough. Okra is related to the kenaf plant. Rope and paper can be made with the fibers of the plant. You can reduce the sliminess of okra by washing just before cooking and not cutting the okra too many times. The more you cut it the more slimy it becomes. I have been steaming the tender pods and eating them as a snack, boy are they good. Fried okra is a favorite food in the South, breaded with cornmeal. Okra is also added to gumbo to thicken the broth, that's when the sliminess is welcome.

I'm finding okra easy to grow. My four plants are producing edible pods every day and my plants are only a about a foot and a half tall. I had four plants and I have put in 4 more, so I may have an overabundance of okra soon. If you're looking to try fresh okra, stop in for a visit, and I'll pick you some okra right off the plant.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Our lavender is finally mature this year after being in the ground almost 4 years and our harvest is plentiful. So we are offering a free bunch of lavender with each purchase in our gallery, Blue Starr Gallery, or our garden gift shop, Springville Lavender Gardens, while supplies last and limited to the supplies on hand each day. Limit one per customer per day please. That means when we run out of bunches each day, you'll have to wait till we pick more the next day, because lavender does best picked in the morning rather than in the hot sun. I do better, too, Ha!

Our gallery is located in our garden gift shop and we have ceramic art, mosaics, photographic gift cards, and mixed media collage on display for sale all made by yours truly. Each piece of art is an original design and is handmade. Our garden gift shop carries fresh and dried flowers, soaps, lotions, bath salts, potpourri, sachets, and much more. Our hours are posted on our message machine and under News and Events on our garden website. Hope to see you soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Fingers to Finger Bowls

I had the pleasure of finding a copy of a rare book, From Fingers to Finger Bowls, written by Helen Walker Linsenmeyer, for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1972. The book is a "Sprightly History of California Cooking" and begins with Native American days and ends in the 1900's. Helen Linsenmeyer researched the book while living in Orange County in the 1960's and 1970s, pouring over diaries, personal journals, histories, autobiographies, cookbooks, and newspapers dealing with California's past.

The book contains full color plates by W.H.D. Koerner. Koerner, primarily an illustrator for various magazines of his day such as Harper's, Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and others, later painted Western and Native American subjects. The book also contains copies or woodcuts of original drawings by many illustrators of the day picturing people in their daily lives and many local scenes.

Linsenmeyer has compiled an impressive collection of typical and authentic recipes and methods of food preparation of each era of early California history. Methods and recipes of Native Americans included how acorns were prepared and "Piñon Nut Soup". Soap and candle making by the Padre's of the California Missions and "Bear Tongue" and "Rabbit Fricassee" recipes were detailed. Early Rancho recipes of "Barbequed Beef" and "Flan" and many others are listed. Gold Seeker recipes include "Boiled Bear Paws", "Chinese Roast Duck" and "Miner's Baked Beans".

One of the stagecoach travel commandments listed is, "Abstinence from liquor is requested. If you must drink, share your bottle; otherwise you will appear to be selfish and unneighborly". "Scripture Cake" and "Gooseberry Fool" are two recipes included during the time when cities and cuisines were being established in California. After the gold rush, California eventually became known for its mild climate and agricultural riches. Wine making, citrus and olive growing are discussed as well how many herbs came to be used and recipes to utilize for those who were ill.

From Fingers to Finger Bowls was recommended to me by a used book store proprietor. Sometimes it pays to take some time to peruse used book store shelves and query store proprietors about your interests. I am glad I purchased this book. The book not only satisfies my search for Native American recipes and cooking with herbs, but gives an historical perspective not often found in cookbooks.

Don't Pass The Crape Myrtle By

OK, I know, Crape Myrtles seem to be over-planted, but there is a reason for that, especially in hot and dry climates. So before you discount them, read on. Crape Myrtles have many pleasing attributes in the garden.Crape Myrtles are known for their beautiful flowers, which bloom when the heat of summer begins. Crape Myrtle flowers come in a wonderful array of colors such as red, lavender, dark pink, light pink and white and many variations of those colors. My favorite is the white variety, Natchez, which you see just starting to flower in my gardens, Springville Lavender Gardens. One of the reasons I like the white flowers is because the tree will fit in with any color scheme in the garden. What a welcome addition to the garden the bright flowers are.

Crape Myrtles are very fast growing and can be trained as standards (single trunk) as the tree above, as a multi-trunk tree, or there are shrub varieties. Crape Myrtle trees are a good tree to plant in a lawn and can be planted under power lines since their height will never reach that tall. And Crape Myrtles are drought tolerant, have few pests or diseases, and are easy to care for.

And last, but surely not least there is the peeling bark of the tree which reveals a smooth mahogany colored trunk. One of the reasons that many Crape Myrtle's are pruned as multi-trunked trees to reveal more of that luscious bark for the eye to behold. So next time you are looking for a fast growing and beautiful trees consider planting a Crape Myrtle.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Vitex agnus-castus or Chaste Tree

Most of the year everyone walks by my three Chaste Trees or Vitex agnus-castus. But when Vitex is in bloom, everyone wants to know it's name; it is really spectacular. Long blue whorls of flowers form at the end of each branch. The flowers are aromatic and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. There is a white form, but I prefer the blue.
Vitex is drought resistant and prefers well drained soil with moderate water. Vitex is classified as a large shrub or a small tree and is deciduous (looses its leaves in winter). You can grow Vitex as a single trunk or a multi-trunked tree. The leaves are palmate and are sometimes mistaken for a marijuana leaf. I purchased three Vitex four years ago in 5 gallon pots and they were already trained as multi-trunks.I planted each of the Vitex as an accent at the edge of three perennial beds. For the first two years I just let them grow whichever way they wished except I pruned off the seed heads at the end of the year. This past winter I pruned the lower branches and thinned out some of the crossing branches in the middle. Now the trees are very sculptural and during the winter its a pleasure to look through the bare branches. Vitex grows 10 to 20 feet tall and almost as wide. It forms a shapely sphere. My Vitex are about 7 feet tall now. The Vitex is the tree on the far left in the photo above.
If you plant a Vitex, do not disturb the root ball when you plant it, even if it is root bound. Vitex does not like its roots disturbed. I almost lost one when I planted it because I scored the roots. If you come to visit the gardens, see if you can tell which of my three Vitex is the one that almost succumbed.Vitex is also a medicinal plant. Clusters of seeds form after the flowers fade and these are harvested and used to make an herbal supplement to increase fertility, to help with PMS, and to improve menstrual cycles. Vitex is also called Monk's Pepper because it was used as an anti-libido by monks to help them to remain celibate.

This is a tree I highly recommend for your landscape.

Fresh Lavender, Daisy & Yarrow Bunches

We have fresh picked lavender, daisy and yarrow bunches available right now in our gift shop. Since the weather isn't too hot, now is a good time to come visit our gardens. We invite you to stop by for a relaxing stroll through the lavender and perennial borders and see what else is blooming here. Posts for the future include dahlias, peaches, small landscape trees, and more, so check back often for gardening news.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shy Garden Gal (Pin-up) Turns Jealous !

My normally shy garden gal became jealous when she heard other garden accoutrement were pictured on my blog and she wasn't. So I had to accommodate her. When she heard she was posing for my blog, she gladly agreed to my taking her photo. Here you see her making her Pin-up debut, 'Demurely in the Salvia'. See how she is posing just like a movie star! She took time to do her eyebrows, but not to dress for the occasion.Be on the lookout for small items to decorate your outdoor tables. I picked up this mini garden Ferris wheel in the kitchen section of a thrift store. I couldn't resist and was glad the mini terra cotta pots I later purchased fit in the slots just perfectly. I wonder what this would have been used for originally? Does anyone have any ideas?
We went to a garage sale years ago and picked up this gate for five dollars. I have never used it as a gate, just as a garden decoration. Someone was really talented in converting discarded tools into this beautiful gate. Now the gate makes a normally bland, exterior brick fireplace wall look so much better.OK, this is getting ridiculous, even the lizards want to pose for the blog. I leave you with a photo of this handsome fellow and bid you adieu for today.

More Garden Treasures

By request, I am posting more of my garden treasures for the world to see. Here is a concrete garden elf who hides behind the post of my wisteria pergola. His paint is really peeling and I would like to restore him, but I am afraid to scrape the old paint off. One of these days I would like to do it. Any ideas on what type of paint to use on him for outside? I wish I could find him a friend. He used to have a wheelbarrow he pushed because his hands have a hole to insert the handles. Perhaps I'll find a woodworker some day to make a wheelbarrow just his size.This plant stand might not look like much, but you wouldn't believe how handy it is to set newly planted seedlings on so I can keep on eye on them to water them. Then when they need to be re potted to a larger size, the larger sized pots fit in the circles on the side. The whole thing rotates around. I put the piece of wood on the top to sit the smaller plants on. I suspect at one time the plant turnaround had another layer - that would have been really something.
I picked up this mini tea cart up at a second hand store and couldn't resist it. Even though it is blue and doesn't go with the rest of the colors in my garden, I hate to paint it because it is so well preserved. It is the perfect height to put a glass of lemonade down while sitting in the lawn chair. I also have an old iron record stand that is perfect as an end table beside another lawn chair. You never know what you can use in the garden for furniture. I like iron or painted furniture because they hold up well under all types of weather.Here's a couple of my glass Victorian ladies (or totems as some call them) chatting in the shade of the garden cottage. One of them has had too much to drink and she is a little tipsy or maybe she's swooning in the heat. Anyway, the two ladies have been hanging around my garden for three years now and the glue has held the glass all that time. They are easy to make, just pick up the occasional mismatched vase and plate and glue them together in any sort of fashion. If you look closely you can see the ladies hat and their face and then their dress - maybe the heat has gotten to me too. If you look real close you can see the ducks around the ladies, I think they have been feeding them, because the ducks never leave their side.

I would love to see your garden treasures, in the comments section, please post a link so I can see them. I'll probably do one more post of garden treasures as I have a few more hanging around in the gardens.

Trash to Treasure

You can decorate your garden on a shoestring with re purposed furniture and other items found at garage sales, thrift stores, and, heaven forbid, even dumpster diving. I purchased the three wheel bicycle many years ago with the intent on planting the baskets with flowers. When we moved here and started my lavender gardens, I finally got around to planting the baskets and painting the bicycle just before it was destined to be taken to the dump. It now greets visitors to my garden.I've had this garden gilder for a long time. Originally it had peeling black paint. Now that we have painted the glider a nice color green it really lights up a dark spot under the willow trees. I planted this discarded wheelbarrow with gazanias and chrysanthemums and placed it near my vegetable bins. So when I water my vegetables I can easily give those flowers a drink too. In my garden there is a garden pond made from an old claw foot bathtub just before you reach the bicycle. The bathtub island looks much better in person. Many people pass the pond by without even knowing it's there. I"m glad because it means the pond blends into the landscape. The sculpture is a copper float I found in our barn and attached it to a rusty post to grace the pond.

We dragged the tub to the parking area and placed it in the center. We attached a PVC pipe to the drain in case we ever wanted to drain the tub. We then mounded soil around the whole bathtub up to the rim. Then we gathered rocks and placed them around the soil to keep it from sloughing off. Then we filled the pond up to the very top. I planted some shrubs like bottle brush, burgundy yucca, and cotoneaster to shade the pond. Keeping a pond in less than six hours of sunlight a day helps reduce the buildup of algae in the summer.I added bricks in the pond and set water plants on the bricks. About a month later I went to a discount store and purchased two gold fish and two bottom feeders and put them in the pond. They started out about 1.5 inches long and now, three years later, they are about 5 inches long. Even on the hottest days of summer, the water in the pond stays cool. This year I plan on getting a solar pump, I have been adding water each day to aerate the pond and the water plants add oxygen to the water too. I feed the fish a freeze dried fish food once a day. Now I see quail and lizards going to the pond to take a drink each day.This double washtub is perfect for a table near my vegetable bins. I can bring the tomatoes and peppers there to sort them into various sizes without bending over. Inside the tubs I can store containers, tools or flower heads to dry for seeds.

Have you turned some junk into a jewel for your garden or your home? I'd love to hear about your trash to treasure creations.