Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Beth Chatto Gardens

The Beth Chatto Gardens, located in Essex, United Kingdom, are the work of award-winning plantswoman, Beth Chatto. In 1960, she began planting a series of gardens in a rather inhospitable patch of British terrain. Naysayers said it couldn't be done in this place of nutrient-deprived soil and less than twenty inches of rain per year. But she followed her mantra, "the right plant for the right place," and created lovely gardens. The Gravel Garden is a shining example. She used one of her parking lots, with its well-draining soil, to study which flowers tolerated little water. More than twenty years later, allium, iris, Oriental poppies, catmint, and sage stand bright and beautiful in this place.

Other gardens include the Water Garden with four ponds, and a Woodland Garden, which shows visitors that beautiful gardens can be created in shady spots.

The gardens are open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Cost of admission is 6.95 British pounds.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Derek Jarman Gardens

Located in the United Kingdom in Dungeness, on the coast of Kent, the Derek Jarman Gardens surround Prospect Cottage, which was once the home of Avante-gard film director, Derek Jarman (1942 - 1994). The garden is most unusual, in that it was created in a desert landscape. It's flat, bleak, and barren - a stark contrast to the nearby rolling green hills and farmland. Basically, it's on the equivalent of a sand bar.

The garden started out by accident. Jarman bought the four-room fisherman's house in 1986. He began using bits of stones and driftwood as outlines of the property. Then he experimented with local plants to see what could survive in the inhospitable terrain. He found that oxeye daisies, California poppies, and sea kale worked. He added things that had washed up on the shore - rope, metal, driftwood, and created sculptures that served as focal points. In the end, Jarman created a colorful and eye-appealing area that surrounds his tar-black cottage.

Visitors may not enter the house, as it is privately owned, but visitors can carefully tread around the garden exterior. The best time to visit is in June and July. There is no charge to see the gardens.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Great Dixter Garden

Great Dixter house and gardens are located in East Sussex, Great Britain. They were the home of legendary gardening writer, Christopher Lloyd. Every nook and cranny of the garden's six acres is crammed with flowering plants. This gives the garden abundant color and texture. Plants seem to dance together here. As Lloyd himself wrote, "If I think a yellow candelabrum of mullein will look good rising from a quilt of pink phlox, I'll put it there."

The gardens are open from the end of March to the end of October, daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  The house is open from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Cost of admission for adults is 11.55 pounds, and for children, 1.65 pounds.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Alaska Botanical Gardens

 Alaska Botanical Gardens is located in Anchorage, Alaska.

The gardens, opened in 1993,  cover about 110 acres and contain over 1,000 varieties of plants native to southcentral Alaska.  There's an herb garden, rock garden, and a wildflower walk.  It's a great place to hike with spectacular views of the Chugach Mountain Range.  Nature lovers will enjoy it for bird watching, and occasionally will spot moose and bear.

The gardens are open year round from dawn to dusk.  The cost of admission for adults is $7.00.  For children, admission is $5.00.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Smiley Park Children's Garden

Smiley Park Children's Garden, located in Van Wert, Ohio, was opened in 2007, and was created so that children could learn about the gardening process and all that is involved with caring for a garden.

One very nice thing about the garden, is that produce that is grown in it is given to a local food pantry.

Children will really enjoy the butterfly house, which is a colorful green and pink house with window boxes filled with petunias.  The back part of the house is screened in, so that butterflies can fly around inside.

There's another cute garden called Melody's Secret Garden where children can pass though and arched entry way with climbing roses.  There are two weeping Mulberry trees, so kids can see what Mulberry "bushes" actually look like.

Kids will also get a kick out of Roscoe the Rhino who guards the International Garden.

The newest feature is a crooked house.  Kids can have fun playing inside.

The garden is open daily from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM.  Admission is free.

One more thing before I go:  I shared this on my other blog, but if you don't follow me there, you haven't seen it. This is a video of me playing at Dragoncon in Atlanta. I'm the violist on the far left. Thought you'd like to see it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Exbury Gardens

The Exbury Gardens, located in Hampshire, England, are a real treat for the eyes!  In fact, in December of 2011, they were awarded the Hudson's Heritage UK "Best Garden" award.                     

The gardens contains over 200 acres of rhododendrons, azaleas, and a plethora of rare trees  and shrubs.  They are the inspiration of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild  who passed away in 2009.  Today, his grandchildren carry on the legacy.

 There are several ways to view the gardens. You can walk on the numerous trails, you can ride a chauffer-driven buggy, or you can do my favorite thing:  ride a miniature steam locomotive through the gardens. 

The train will pass through the Summer Lane garden.  From there, you'll catch glimpses of the rock garden, followed by the wildlife pond.  Next, you'll pass the plant nursery and exotic fruit patch.  Then you'll pass by the sunflower field, which if you visit in the summer, is just amazing!  Finally, you'll loop around the oldest tree in the garden:  the Domesday Yew.  The train ride takes about 20 minutes.

The gardens are open daily from March to early November.  Admission for adults is 14 British pounds and 4 British pounds for children.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Five Things to Do with Your Garden Tomatoes

Did you plant tomatoes this year?  If you did, I bet you have a plethora of them now.  Are you wondering what to do with them?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Roast them:  Core the tomatoes and cut in half horizontally.  Place them in a glass baking dish.  Drizzle with about a 1/2 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place in a 200 degree oven and bake 2-3 hours.  Cool.  Refrigerate or freeze with the oil.  Roasted tomatoes can be used for pizza, rissoto, and salad dressing.

2.  Make a BLT.   These are great summer sandwiches.  Get some applewood smoked bacon, sourdough bread, lettuce, mayonaise, and of course, tomatoes.

3.  Make a super-easy sauce.  Core, seed, and dice your tomatoes.  Toss with 1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing, 1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic, and 2 Tablespoons of fresh cut up basil leaves.  Mix it all together and serve over hot pasta.

4.  Do you have more time?  Try making a cooked sauce.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add 1 diced onion and cook until soft.  Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and 1 cup of chopped carrots.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Add about 3 pounds of peeled, cored, and seeded tomatoes.  Cook on low for about an hour.  Cool and puree in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return to pot and add 2 teaspoons sugar, 1-2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon oregano.  Cook until sauce is desired consistancy.  Use immediately, or cool and freeze.

5.  Can them.  Peel and core your tomatoes.  Leave them whole.  Sterilize jars and keep them in a deep pot of hot water.  In each quart-sized jar, place 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pack tomatoes into the jar, leaving about an inch at the top.  Ladle boiling water into the jars.  Place lids and bands on.  Place jars in the deep pot, cover, and boil about 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat, wait 5 minutes, remove jars, and let them cool.

What do you do with your tomatoes?