That was the statement and request of our dear friend and client and surely a compliment that is difficult to live up to. This was clearly stated in kindness (or blindness to the weeds, chicken scratchings and the almost accidental, haphazard quality that our gardens possess) but we did understand her meaning. When we’re on top of our game, our gardens do express abundance, jubilance, colorfulness and romance. We create cottage gardens. This garden is newly planted, and it always irks me to see the gardens that we create at this particular stage because of their awkwardness. The fresh mulch and the instant color is nice, and yet, they are immature. Many of the plants have been reared in greenhouses and so their flowering periods are somewhat out of synch with nature. Plants chosen to cascade, drape and mound are too young to do so and those meant to stand tall, proud and boldly display color like a peacock may not perform instantaneously. As always, it takes a year or two for a garden to come into its own. Many of the previously existing perennials, including peonies and hibiscus, will languish after the move and may not flower this year or next, but, still, the promise of a new garden, carefully created; removing invasive weeds, stem by stem, filtering the soil, hand-digging 12″ of horse manure into the ground, incorporating organic fertilizers and watering and mulching, is a promise of beauty and sensual enjoyment for years to come.
It’s an exciting time, early spring is, and its the time when we fret about timing. Timing is everything. The early crops that favor the cold, seeds that miraculously germinate in near frozen soil are at the top of the To-Do list. The peas were a little iffy , germination wasn’t happening, I fretted, until I spoke with my sister in Northern Maine who asked, “Do you know what they call March snow in Maine?” No, what? “Pea fertilizer.” It runs out to be true. We had a snowfall the day after we’d sowed the peas, and now, a few weeks later, the peas are looking robust and eager to please.
Meanwhile, the other cold weather crops have been sown; spinach, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, potatoes, onions, shallots, radishes, pac choi, beets, swiss chard, broccoli di raab, carrots, parsnips, and all are coming up with the lengthening days and the fluctuating temperatures.
The greenhouse continues to be a source of great hope and anticipation. The alimentary seedlings; broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, celery, celeriac, peppers, basil (5 different varieties) leeks and sorrel are going great guns. The ornamantals; lupines, calendula, marigolds (the gem types that we love for their citrusy fragrance and their edible qualities, not to mention their great beauty), larkspur…are all emerging from their dormant seeds and offering promise of a productive and richly colorful gardening season.
Gardening season! Hooray! Bring it on…we’re more than ready!
Wow. You’re really hanging in there. Thanks so much. With the time change, I begin to think about sunnier days ahead, which always reminds me of brunches in NY. I don’t know why this particular watercolor makes me think of that but it does. Cheers my friends! Wait a minute…that’s tomato soup ( or perhaps lobster bisque) and a glass of white wine….hmmm, maybe not brunch, unless brunch happens when ‘the sun is past the yardarm’. Bon appetit!
Another watercolor, but wait, here’s a surprise, a dining theme. (What’s going on here? Perhaps I’m thinking of the old days when I lived in New York and ate every meal in a different restaurant!?) Well, nevertheless, its a theme that welcomes and reminds me to brush up on my hostessing skills and provide future dinner invitations. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!..and, lest we forget Julia Childs, “Bon Appetit!” (even if this does look like a chinese rstaurant).
Another day; another watercolor; alas, a bit of the grey of the day has managed to creep into colorland. That said, the torrential rain is swiftly erasing the snow that has certainly worn out its welcome. Thanks for hanging in with me during my countdown to Spring gardening season, and thank you for your kind comments. Cheers!
Working in the studio during the winter months is a relief from the physically taxing work of gardening, and provides some small respite from the grey and white palette of the winter landscape, which has become so tiresome. Color is what I long for and the physical contact of pencil and brush to paper or paint. In addition to working on large paintings and painted furniture, I’ve committed to doing one watercolor per day, no matter how trite it might be, to keep my hand in it. Lacking any gardening wisdom to impart during these pre-gardening season days, I submit the products of my studio time, and will attempt to post one watercolor per day until gardening season gears up. Cheers!
The landscaping and stonework business goes quiet during the winter months, and so, one might think, that I’d be blogging away, casting pearls of wisdom regarding garden planning, maintenance and all things horticultural. Sadly, no. One might even think that since this blog is about our homestead here in Killingworth, CT, that I’d be writing about food, art, projects, etc… Again, sadly, no. These Persephone months are those that generate the most anxiety and pressure for me, and, at the same time,provide the most promising block of time to do what I am trained and compelled and desirous to do ,to which is to make art. This is my only yearly chance to get into the studio and work on painting and design projects that have occupied my mind for months, if not years. I largely abandon cooking, cleaning, and most things related to homekeeping. Asides from the necessary activities of bringing in firewood and venturing forth through deep snow to help Andrew collect sap from Sugar Maples on the Welter Farm, a project that he is engaged in, my time is spent in my studio. We do like to entertain but this is a rare occurrence during these winter months. And so, I extend my apologies to all who may have looked for gardening wisdom. I will say that this is the time to start many of the cole crops and onions as seedlings. These are cool weather crops that benefit from an early start. Don’t be seduced into starting tomatoes too early. Let that go until late March; you’ll have healthier seedlings.
I’ll be posting some images and updates of what I’m doing in the studio very soon. Until then, be well, be safe, be inquisitive.
Just when winter was really beginning to drag down the old spirits, voila! A bundle of hope and promise, flavor and pleasure arrives. Firstly, the mind lunges at the checklist of the seed order, Provider Beans?, yes, check, Donkey Spinach?, yes, check, Raven Zucchini?, yes, check, etc…then to the planting plan…hmmm, we don’t have the most organized crop rotation schedule system going so this will take awhile. (It does, and will continue to do so). Then the mind, rather, my mind swings over to aesthetics…what plants will look the best next to other plants while still hewing to the not-yet-resolved and seriously flawed crop rotation schedule? Hmmm. Well, it doesn’t work, that train of thought, and it’s too bitter a reminder of why I didn’t go to law school and secure a comfortable future for myself, so, let’s move on to more positive things (skipping over the inevitable spraying schedule of pyrethrins and spinosads to keep the damnable bugs at bay) and consider the delectable future harvest. Well, it’s still winter and so I still have time to create that 3-ring binder with tabs that identify the vegetable and associated recipes for them, don’t I? I’ve spent the last two or three winters poring over cookbooks with a list of the vegetables that we grow and have made a very useful, A to Z list of all things Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus,….Zucchini, etc… These are hand written on lists (something that I do during commercials while Andrew and I are watching TV) and identify the recipe and the cookbook/page it comes from. This is an extremely sensible and handy tool that takes all the thinking and worry out of harvesting time, when one is so busy weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting the kitchen garden, while, at the same time, tending to twenty perennial borders, caring for flocks of chickens, turkeys, ducks and designing and installing gardens for clients. If only I applied it to our lives!
So, this year, I intend to actually put it into practice. Yes, of course, I vow to do this every year, but it just doesn’t ever actualize. The year 2013 will be different. Trust me! Miracles of planting and succession planting will occur. The planets will align and tomatoes and peppers and cilantro will all be abundant at the same time and gallons of salsa and pesto will be produced, canned and stored and will reward us with delectable pleasures and bonding moments with smiles of achievement as we dip our chips into our last year’s bounty watching re-runs of CSI in January 2014.