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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Next Giveaway: Hellstrip Gardening by Evelyn J. Hadden

Until a year or so ago, I never even knew there was a term for it--that awkward, narrow patch of dirt that lies between the sidewalk and the curb. But its very awkwardness led to its naming--the "hellstrip."

When was the last time you saw a beautiful hellstrip? It's often true that even a beautifully landscaped front yard will have a hellstrip that is dull, unimaginative, poorly maintained, or worst of all, just an eyesore.

But it doesn't have to be so. Garden writer Evelyn J. Hadden has just published Hellstrip Gardening (Timber Press), offering much-needed guidance and inspiration for creating a beautiful, maintainable garden in these small, awkward, but oh-so-visible spaces.

There are two things I particularly like about Hellstrip Gardening. First, Hadden recognizes the additional challenges for hellstrip gardeners due to city restrictions and HOA covenants, not to mention city-planted trees, poor soil, car emissions, public traffic, and irrigation and drainage issues, and she addresses each in turn. Second, she provides examples of inspiring hellstrip gardens from across the country, so you can see not only a variety of styles and plant materials, but how other gardeners have tackled problems presented by their particular climate or situation. She also provides guidance for designing, building, and maintaining your hellstrip and a palette of plants to choose from.

Evelyn and Timber Press have generously offered to give one copy of Hellstrip Gardening to one of this blog's readers. To win a copy of this creative and inspiring book, leave a comment below about a challenge you've faced or a problem you've solved in gardening your hellstrip. The contest will close Monday, July 21, and one winner will be chosen at random.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Field-to-Vase Dinner


Last month I was fortunate enough to be be invited to a truly unique event--a field-to-vase dinner to be held in a working greenhouse out among the farming fields of Watsonville. A precursor to the annual Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House, the dinner was sponsored by the MBGG and the California Cut Flower Commission to celebrate and promote the locally grown flowers that we're lucky enough to enjoy here in California.

It's about a two-hour drive from Alameda to Watsonville, but any time I find myself in California farm country, it feels like I'm even further from home. I love driving through the patchwork fields and trying to glimpse what crops are growing as they go by my car window in a blur. But when I finally arrived at the Kitayama Brothers nursery I had to stop and just stare for a moment at the green fields stretching out in the distance, just a few miles from the Pacific Coast.


Outside the greenhouse where the dinner was to be held, the Original Sin Desserts & Catering company, headed by Chef Tanya DeCell, was busy preparing the feast.


Once inside the greenhouse, it was like stepping into a rainbow. Tables of Gerbera daisies filled the massive building in vibrantly colored bands of yellow, pink, orange, and red. 


And against that stunning backdrop, a table had been laid for about 30 guests and decorated with centerpieces of locally grown flowers.


The flower arrangements were provided by Farmgirl Flowers, a San Francisco company started by Christina Stembel, who has come up with some rather clever ways to sell locally grown floral arrangements at reasonable prices.


What followed was a really fun night of conversation with growers, writers and bloggers, and other guests over a pretty spectacular meal. I got a chance to meet both Robert and Stuart Kitayama and learn a bit about how their family started in the nursery business as well as how the industry is faring now. (Pictured below: Robert Kitayama, CEO/President of Kitayama Brothers; Robert's wife, Karen; and event coordinator Kathleen Williford.)


Are you wondering what kind of food is served at a field-to-vase dinner? Delicious food, locally sourced and generally organic! Consider the menu:

Passed Appetizers
organic chive & cheese puffs
organic chicken liver pate with lemon marmalade

Organic Little Gem Lettuce Salad
organic radish, carrot & mint
organic preserved meyer lemon vinaigrette

Spanish Paella
organic english peas, tomato, peppers, garlic, onions, saffron
vegetarian OR with organic chorizo and chicken

Wild California Cedar Planked Salmon
organic grilled peach salsa

Organic Grilled Corn on the Cob
nasturtium butter

Organic Summer Squash with Herbs

Organic Swedish Strawberry Cake
chiffon cake, cardamom, white chocolate whipped cream



While the dinner was an event in itself, for the Monterey Bay growers, it was just the beginning of a busy weekend where they open their doors to give the public a chance to meet local flower growers and peek behind the scenes. The open house is free but the nurseries have plants for sale and there are some great deals to be found. Next year I'm planning on making this open house an excuse for a weekend getaway to the Monterey Bay area so I can check out all the participating nurseries.

Thanks to Kitayama Brothers for hosting such a delightful evening, and to all the sponsors who participated. When fun people (especially plant people!) and good food mix, it's hard to go wrong. And in this case, it was totally worth the four-hour round-trip commute!



Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day Sale on California Gardening Books and a Giveaway!

http://www.qbookshop.com/products/194745/9781591865285/California-Fruit-Vegetable-Gardening.html
My publisher, Cool Springs Press (owned by Quarto Publishing Group USA), is having a sale! All books ordered from Quarto's QBookShop website are 35% off when you enter the promo code STARS4. That brings the price of California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening down to $14.94! You can also pre-order my next book, California Month-by-Month Gardening (to be released at the end of the year), at the discounted price of $16.24! You can apply that discount to any items on the site, which in addition to all of CSP's gardening books include many other publishing imprints and a wide assortment of topics. This sale is on until Sunday, July 13.
http://www.qbookshop.com/products/213196/9781591866091/California-Month-by-Month-Gardening.html

I'm planning on spending some of my holiday gardening and in honor of our national holiday, I'm going to give away one copy of California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening along with some other gardening goodies: a pair of Corona ComfortGEL Veggie & Fruit Shears, Pre de Provence Bergamot Tea Gardener Hand Soap, L'Occitane Creme Mains Hand Cream, and a few packs of veggie and herb seeds, all in a canvas tote that you can use to carry your harvest in from the garden (total value: more than $75). To enter, leave a comment below with your email address by Sunday, July 13 at midnight. (Note: You must leave your email address to be eligible to win!) I'll draw one name at random and announce the winner on Monday, July 14.

Good luck!

Updated 7/14/14: This giveaway is now closed. The winner is Zach.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Pre-Order "California Month-by-Month Gardening"



Here's some good news I can share: My second book, California Month-by-Month Gardening, is available for pre-ordering at Amazon.com!

I slaved over worked on this book most of last year and the early part of this year and I'm happy to see it moving toward its release in December (just in time for Christmas gifting--hint, hint!).

This book devotes a full month to each chapter, guiding you along  with the tasks you should be doing in your garden including planning, planting, caring, watering, fertilizing, and problem-solving. It covers the major plant and garden categories of annuals, bulbs, edibles, houseplants, lawn,  perennials, roses, shrubs, trees, vines and groundcovers, and water gardens and is heavily illustrated with full-color photos. This book is great for new and intermediate gardeners or any gardener who has relocated to or within California.

And here's a question for you: What do you think of the cover? I'd love your feedback!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rainier Cherries!

This is the first year that I've had any cherries on my Rainier cherry tree and ever since I noticed the tiny fruits starting to color up, I've been checking them daily. The sum total of my first crop: 5 cherries! I was certain that the birds were going to beat me to them, but today I plucked the reddest cherry to see if they were ripe enough and couldn't believe how perfect and delicious they were! They were unblemished and juicy with just the right balance of sweetness and tartness in the golden flesh.

You have to be patient when you grow cherries. It takes three or four years to get the first crop and another three or four years beyond that for the tree to reach maturity. And for most cultivars, you have to have another compatible variety of cherry tree nearby to pollinate it. I've been meaning to graft another variety onto my tree for cross-pollination, but never seem to get it done. Some neighbors have fortunately planted two Bing cherry trees in their front yard, so it seems the cross-pollination issue has been taken care of.

So yes, it's only 5 cherries this year. But over the next few years, I should get a bigger crop each year. Eventually, I'll have a big enough harvest for a pie, or some jam, maybe some chutney, not to mention eating fresh. But today, life is a very small bowl of cherries and I'm OK with that.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Garden Conservancy's Open Days in the Bay Area

If you've ever wanted a sneak peak into some of the finest private gardens in the country, you should be checking out The Garden Conservancy's Open Days program. Since 1995 this program has organized self-guided tours through gardens that you would never otherwise get a chance to view. There is a $5 admission fee to each garden but you don't have to register or buy tickets in advance.

In the East Bay two private gardens in Lafayette and one in Oakland will be open on May 31. These gardens appear to be a great combination of plants, sculpture, and amazing design concepts. Check out the East Bay Open Day page for information and a couple photos of what's in store.

In Marin County you can visit four gardens in Belvedere, San Rafael, and Tiburon on June 7. In addition to great landscapes, these gardens also offer some sweeping views of the bay and beyond. Check out the Marin County Open Day page for information and photos.

San Francisco's Open Day is June 21 and it offers up five gardens that show just how exciting and creative urban gardening can be. Most of these gardens are really tucked-away secret spots you'd never even know about but they have been expertly designed to make the most of limited space. Check out the San Francisco Open Day page for details on this tour.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Going to Filoli? Get Discounted Tickets Through Groupon!

If you've never been to Filoli or if you have guests visiting the Bay Area this summer, this is a great opportunity to get discounted tickets to visit this historic house and gardens. There aren't many estates like this on the west coast and I can't think of another estate in Northern California (with the exception of Hearst Castle, maybe) that can rival the beauty of Filoli.

It's name is taken from the credo of the man who built the 654-acre Woodside estate, William Bowers Bourn: "Fight for a just cause; love your fellow man; live a good life." In addition to the handsome stately house that Bourn left behind, Filoli boasts meticulously planned and groomed gardens, an orchard with more than 650 types of apples, an olive orchard, and a nature preserve. A day strolling through the gardens of Filoli is a lesson in horticulture all on its own, as well as a lovely retreat.

For the next three days, Groupon is offering admission tickets to Filoli at up to 55% off the regular price. If you purchase the tickets while deal is on, you can use the tickets any time up to September 23, 2014. (Be sure to read the fine print on the Groupon page before you buy.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scenes from the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show 2014

There's one more day to catch this year's SF Flower & Garden Show and it's definitely worth the trip over there. The show is under new management this year and, although there are a few bugs to be worked out, I thought it was much improved overall. The display gardens are great, the seminars are interesting, and the arrangement of the show floor made for better traffic through the exhibits. As for what I'd like to see improved, well, they need to work on the signage, provide handouts with the seminars (I heard the speakers were discouraged from having handouts--big mistake!), and although I happily missed standing in any lines, I heard there were some very long lines to get in at the openings. These are mostly minor problems and they tend to work themselves out over the course of a show or from one year to the next. Overall, I'm encouraged that the show will be revitalized by the new management and that's a very good thing.

Here are a few shots of the display gardens. Today (Sunday) is your last opportunity to see them and the rest of the show in person!

















Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meditation and Gardening Meet in a Free Workshop at Glide Memorial Church

I know I'm not alone in having experienced a meditative flow when I'm gardening sometimes. If you're interested in exploring how meditation and gardening can intersect, check out the free workshop happening this Sunday, February 23rd, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco

In the rooftop urban garden called "Graze the Roof" above the church there will be a dharma talk followed by meditation practice, including sitting meditation, walking meditation, eating meditation, and--you guessed it--gardening meditation. The workshop is being presented in partnership between Graze the Roof and the San Francisco Zen Center.

The workshop is free but space is limited so you must RSVP at grazetheroof@gmail.com. You can check out the event on Facebook. You can also ask about upcoming workshops they're planning in coming months on cheese making, herbal medicine, and solar ovens.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Debbie Arrington recently interviewed me for this article in the Sacramento Bee on growing and cooking Swiss chard. Check it out--she included some great recipes that sound delicious. Slow-Cooker Risotto with Swiss Chard? Yum!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Attention Last-Minute Shoppers! Give Someone You Love a Whole Garden Show!

Need one final down-to-the-wire Christmas gift for that special gardener in your life (even if that's yourself!)? Give a ticket to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show! The show will be held March 19-23, 2014 at the San Mateo Event Center and early-bird purchases of one-day tickets can be had for as little as $16. Next year's show is under new ownership and from what I hear, there will be some welcome changes to this show that, although fun, was maybe getting a bit stale. Some of the changes include improvements to the presentation of the display gardens and special workshops, including two garden photography workshops with the amazing photographers Saxon Holt and David Perry (separate fee applies for these workshops). What gardener wouldn't like to find this ticket in her stocking? Bonus: You don't even have to get out of your pajamas to purchase! Just click here.



Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Freeze Alert!

Bay Area gardeners, take note! Nighttime temperatures are expected to dip in the next few nights, going below freezing in some areas. Take the time to protect tender plants, including citrus trees and any plants that were only recently planted. Container plants are also vulnerable, even more so than those in the ground, so move as many of those as you can under cover.

To wrap plants, you can use Reemay cloth, or "frost blankets." You can also use burlap fabric to wrap the plants, particularly if you can add piles of leaves inside for insulation.

If you can't wrap all your plants, you can try an anti-transpirant spray like Wilt-Pruf or Cloud Cover.

Also, be sure to water your plants well before the frost hits. Well-watered plants are better able to tolerate the cold.

Stay warm!

Photo: Stock.xchng

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