A Surfeit of Greens

Salad days are here! I’m eating greens like crazy–spinach, chard, lettuce, kale–and some of the other lovely things that grow along side them in the spring, such as carrots, peas, radishes, and the occasional turnip.


I roasted this with last night’s dinner.

The Plot Against Hunger gardens are both thriving and planted completely. The large garden has already yielded quite a lot and the small garden will be turning out lettuces and peas soon. Later, there will be carrots, tomatoes, and sweet and hot peppers.


These lettuces have been harvested several times. I expect they’ll be bolting soon, but in the meantime, it’s all going to AFAC.

One of the pleasures of this time of year is the flowers. Roses show up in any photograph down the length of my garden.


I’ve protected the beans from the depredations of the rabbits, but I think some wily voles munched quite a few of my beets. They must have a sweet tooth.

Some are spectacular, like these yellow ones.


These are in a neighboring garden.

And of course, there is love-in-a-mist (Nigella something or other). I love the pink, blue and white of this and the different forms of the flowers.


There’s something very endearing about these flowers. Jerusalem artichokes are encroaching on the right.

The kitchen, should you be interested, has been gutted. Electrical wiring has been upgraded and the plumbing inspected. It’s not pretty. Sometime this week, I expect cabinets will start to go up. The following week, let’s hope we have the floor and appliances in, but that will remain to be seen. I’m awfully grateful to be staying in another place for the duration, where I can cook my greens and relax in peace.


I’m so grateful not to be living with this, but to be close enough to drop in and see progress.

Cheers and good wishes for the coming week!


I’ve had the loveliest crop of radishes this spring.

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Catching Up

I can’t believe I haven’t written for more than a month. It isn’t as though the garden isn’t in full swing. I forgot the camera a number of times and then when I took it, I didn’t find time to write. So here is the update.


It’s pretty lush in my garden right now. We’ve had a lovely amount of rain and things are growing wildly.

Jane’s fabulous Plot Against Hunger garden has already given about 15 pounds of produce to the food assistance center. And that’s poundage in lettuce and kale and greens! Okay, some carrots and radishes, too. More will be going tomorrow from the small garden–Tom Thumb lettuces and some carrots, as well as more spinach from the large garden.


This garden is very productive. It’s given lots of lettuces, kale, and spinach and soon it will give beets and carrots. Later: squash and tomatoes.

So the season is in full swing. I had help today from Mike. He and his wife Gerda are neighbors in the garden and signed on to help in the Plots Against Hunger, which needed a weeding. Gerda will harvest early tomorrow so Mike can take the goods into AFAC.


These Tom Thumb lettuces are the first thing to go to AFAC from the small Plot Against Hunger garden. Cheers!

My own garden is now fully planted. The spring crops, especially the greens, are coming faster than I can eat them, and all my salad and cooked greens recipes are starting to come back to me.


I brought home kale, arugula, spinach, and beet greens from thinning. Salad days!

The flowers have been out–irises, columbine (aquilegea), now roses, and love in a mist (nigella).


I love these! And they’re just getting started.

And mallow. It is such pretty stuff, but wildly invasive.


I am the culprit who introduced this to the garden and now lots of people are having to pull it out!

Marcel, a gardener I hadn’t seen since last fall came today and when I wandered over to see him, he cut some of his peonies for me. I gave him a lettuce head from my garden. He said he was having a friend for dinner and would eat it tonight. Meanwhile, I have these lovely, amazing and fragrant flowers for as long as they last.


There was no way to do these justice with the camera. Of course I had packed all my large vases, but the water glass was perfect.

I am in the midst of packing up my kitchen for the remodel. I have been quite apprehensive about it, but that’s because I like a calm, orderly home. Supposedly the whirlwind will hit on May 15th. Since I may not have internet access enough for blogging while the remodeling is going on, if I don’t write next weekend, I’ll probably be absent again until the end of the month. But don’t worry. I’ll most likely be gardening.


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Nature and the Nursery

Last weekend I got together with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Saturday was warm and partly cloudy and we decided to drive out to Manassas to walk the battlefield at Bull Run. It was a nice hike and we got to catch up with each other’s lives while noticing the spring landscape.


A farm house and outbuildings were on the hill here. They survived the battles, but apparently burned in the early 1930’s.

There was green coming up under the trees.


I loved seeing the new grass, but there were so many dead trees!

Along Bull Run, bluebells had come up in little swaths.


These were close to Bull Run.

Families fished.DSCN4816

The landscape looked stressed. We are very near drought here in Virginia and I noticed more than the usual amount of dead trees. The bluebells were also a bit stunted, about half the height they are normally. There were a few spring beauties as well, looking themselves, so some things had not been adversely affected.


Normally these are taller plants, not so compact. It could be that they are a different variety than what I usually see in the woods.

On the way back, I asked Penny if she would mind stopping by Merrifield, which is a large nursery and garden center. I didn’t have anything in mind to buy, but I go there sometimes just to smell the plants and the earth and see the colors of masses of blooming things. Once I bought live ladybugs here to eat the aphids off my roses.


NOBODY was in a bad mood here…

Penny was up for it. The first thing we saw as we parked was a forklift carrying two cherry tree saplings in bloom. Pretty cool. I didn’t get a picture of it, because I gaped at it in delight for too long. I missed a second chance later because I was carrying my purchases. In my mind, the only visual better than a forklift carrying cherry trees in bloom is a truck full of watermelons.


I did capture a vehicle hauling a lot of bamboo. Whoever plants that will rue the day…

There were a lot of flowers out: potted bulbs, flats of pansies and other early flowers, begonias, gerberas, ranunculus, geraniums.


There were vegetable garden plants as well. I picked up some parsley, cilantro, sage, and lavender. I also got a pink gerbera and some snapdragons. I’ll plant them all out sometime this week or weekend.


I grabbed a Radio Flyer to haul our purchases around in.

Penny had strawberries on her mind and bought a box of plants as well as some garden herbs, lettuces, and flowers.


She’s got plans for these strawberries, if the birds don’t get them first.

We headed back to her house where her husband had been trying to fit the carrier for their kayak on their new vehicle. Apparently it wasn’t very successful, but a glass of red wine on the porch made it all better, especially when a neighbor with a sweet dog joined us. We took turns petting the dog, sipping wine and telling stories. All in all a nice way to spend a spring day!


My purchases, snug in their box…


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Blossoms, Snow, and Custom Envelopes

Late this week, I noticed some of the daffodils doing face plants in the dirt. They are optimistic, tough little flowers and can withstand the cold. But I think they may have heard about the snow.


Ooooh Noooo. It was so nice a few days ago…

These crab apple blossoms have not heard yet and are at a stage where the snow will not be helpful.


Blossoms. Leaves too. Aaiiieee….

The latest forecast I’ve heard is for a nor’easter up the coast dumping either 2-5 inches or 10-13 depending on storm track. I don’t mind; it’s kind of exciting. And given the lateness of the year, the snow won’t be around long. Nor will the blossoms and buds that were tricked by 70 degree weather in February. I haven’t thought much about the storm, since I will probably just hunker down and enjoy it. What I did think about today was getting construction paper to make envelopes.


It was fun matching paper colors with the different colors on the cards. Each one had a perfect match somewhere.

A while back, Pauline, the Contented Crafter announced the availability of hand made cards. I bought two kinds, one set for me and one set, called Carnaby Street, for my mother, whose birthday was Saturday.


My technique varied somewhat from Pauline’s web site instructions for custom envelopes.

The cards come without envelopes because once those are added in, the postal rate on the cards shoots way up. Pauline educated us in a blog about how to make made to measure envelopes, so I thought I would do that.


Aren’t these cards gorgeous? They contain the whole universe.

The thing is, once I got the cards, I realized the envelope they came in was the perfect template. I just traced it on the construction paper, cut, folded and glued. My mother is thrilled with her cards, which I sent with envelopes I had on hand. And I’m thrilled with my cards and the opportunity to match them up with colored construction paper and create custom envelopes.


Four cards, four envelopes, and a great deal of satisfaction.

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Winter and Spring Tussle

Yesterday I opened the blinds to a beautiful winter day. After letting myself absorb the clear sky and the brightness of it all, my first thought was Dumbarton Oaks. There is nothing like a trip to the fabled garden to make me feel all is right with the world.


I could tell some snowdrops came out earlier than others, depending on their position. These were fresh.

T.S. Eliot talks about midwinter spring in the Four Quartets. It may be that was what we were experiencing in the last two weeks before the latest cold front blew in. More likely something else, but the poem, Little Gidding, talks about light blazing on a branch and certainly I saw that yesterday.


I’m not sure what kind of pears these are, but every fall they have lovely fruit.

There had been a smash up between winter and spring, as though winter rose furious from a near knock out punch. The magnolias got the worst of it, but from a distance the frosted blossoms look like exotic buds of some sort.

The grass, unmolested by the sudden cold, looked very like summer. In this view, with no deciduous trees, it’s hard to believe it’s not June.


Early March? June?

Before we get too far into the ecstasies of Dumbarton Oaks, you may remember that a couple blogs ago, Jan of The Snail of Happiness offered me a custom made pussy hat. At the time, I thought I probably wouldn’t be wearing it until next year, but hat weather arrived at the same time the hat did, from a different direction. Perhaps the cold and the hat had arranged a rendezvous. I certainly gave it to them yesterday.  Does it go with my coat and jacket or what?

I went through the garden out of my usual order and it provided some surprises, views from angles I don’t often see. It was looking for the snowdrops that took me off route and then I had to spend some time with two–I think–flowering quince. Those of you in the know can correct me if I’m wrong. They were so stunning, I walked up to them without getting a photo of the big picture. They were magical.


There were two of these breathtaking bushes and they mesmerized me.

There was other magic, of course. In the forsythia walk.


This path has one moment of glory all year.

In the cherry tree alley.


This was the only crowded place in the garden.

In the naturalized lawn full of crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and little blue flowers.


There was coming magic on cherry hill where the yoshino cherry trees are.


These often blossom before the ones in the Tidal Basin because they are sheltered.

They had some fat buds, undamaged by the cold, that will be out in the next week or so if it gets warmer.


Buds!! Unmolested by frost!

Up above, I could see the petals of cherry blossoms drifting east in the chill breeze.


See the guy looking in? Everyone did that before walking under the blossoms.

There was also evidence of winter repairs.


New wood…

And around the corner from the repaired bench, more magic.


I have written about the art installations at Dumbarton Oaks before. This one was something, with sounds of a quartet coming from each of the chairs, like a conversation. Of course, when you sit in one of the chairs you insert yourself into the sound, actually feeling it at times. Is it any wonder I love this place?


In any season it blazes with beauty.


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Ready, Set, Hands in the Dirt!!

It has been in the upper 60’s and mid-70’s for about two weeks. As I mentioned last week, I did some planting in the small Plot Against Hunger garden and my own, in hopes that the seeds will have an early start. This week, Jane, who created beds in the large outside Plot, called a work party.


Here she is giving Ilka a tutorial on digging up a hard-packed bed.

Jane had tested the soil in this plot and while it had good pH and a nice mix of nutrients, it was oddly devoid of nitrogen. She bought bags of chicken manure to remedy that problem.


Chicken manure, which is full of nitrogen, is a ‘hot’ fertilizer. We mixed it in with the weeded, dug beds and will let it commingle before planting.

She also brought two friends who are gardeners, Paul and Ilka, who helped us dig up the hard-packed beds and dig in the chicken manure. Many hands make light work.


Paul took on that very long bed and double dug it. It’s beautiful, loose, dark soil now.

Jane has plans for the garden that include kale, tomatoes, peas, beets, carrots, and assorted other early crops. I’m not sure yet what her plan for summer is. She’ll probably put in some seeds this week.


Mulching the kale seedlings, which got a nice dose of rain after we left.

Once we finished digging in the chicken manure (boy does that stuff stink) and planting the kale seedlings, we mulched the paths of the garden. It’s my hope that if the utility folks come tromping around in there again this year, they’ll stay on the paths and not be so destructive. Between them and the fencers, it was pretty much week after week of destruction last year.


We were mighty darn pleased with ourselves when we left. We’ll get at the flower borders later.

But this year will be better. At least we have hope that it will. And that’s enough to keep any gardener going.


We threw some compost on the small garden before we left. Look at those daffodils! They weren’t blooming last week…

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Sowing Seed, Sewing Felt

We’ve had the most delightful unseasonal weather for the President’s Day weekend. I took advantage of it to spend some time in the garden both days.


Lucky for me, my garlic plants were growing snug under some oak leaves all winter.

I was pleased to see that the garlic I planted last fall and thought had not come up, was thriving and at a very good stage for late February. The blue kale, on the other hand, was full of whitefly, so I removed it in short order. I was also pleased to see that the cutting celery had reseeded itself and come back.


Spinach seeds under the chicken wire, beets and scallions under the small tent, and carrots under the row cover. Turnips are in between the chicken wire and the tent. I haven’t cleaned up beyond the row cover.

I took a gamble that we might continue to have weather not much colder than the low forties and decided to plant some early crops. They are under shelters not necessarily to keep them warm, but to keep rabbits away from the tender shoots if they come up.


I dare the rabbits to get at these pea shoots!!!!

Last fall I was so disgusted, I didn’t do much in the way of planting for salad greens or root vegetables. I did have some nice greens through fall and up to now, including flat-leaf parsley and lettuce in the cold frame.


I should have planted these turnips in August, so I didn’t get to eat them this winter, but I’ll have them quite early this spring.

Yesterday I spent a few pleasurable hours in the small Plot Against Hunger garden. I weeded it and planted peas, lettuce, carrots and turnips for early crops. We’ll see if the rabbits get into it. Sometimes they’re oblivious to this garden, perhaps because they have to hop into it.


The stick structure is for the peas to climb. Hope springs eternal.

I turned over management of the large Plot garden that is outside the fence to my fabulous volunteer Jane, whom you’ve seen in other posts. Because of the extensive damage done by utility work in the garden last year, she decided to delineate paths and beds for planting. So far it’s looking fabulous. Sometimes putting another head to work on a problem provides the perfect solution.


This is why you talk with other people! I’d never have dealt with the utility worker incursions this way. Brava!!

I’ve also been sewing sea creatures, in the form of baby sea turtles and sand dollars. I just cut the turtles freehand, but thought better of that once I’d pinned them together, plopped one on the copier in pieces, and–voila!–had a pattern to use again.


Here’s the start of it…

The turtles are going to my little great nephews, who were in town late this week with their father. The sand dollars will be wending their way soon to Jan at Snail of Happiness, who kindly offered to make me a pussy hat that wasn’t pink.  I think I’m making out like a bandit on the deal.


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