from the ground up

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Update: Garlic

Several months ago, garlic kickstarted our garden and our blog. Garlic is easy, versatile, and so rewarding. Since then, the summer heat has become thick around us, weeds have grown sky high and I have completely ignored my garlic.  But, while contemplating our garden last week, my husband cautiously asked  “What do you think is the matter with our garlic?  It looks like it’s dying.”

“It is dying…..back.  It’s ripe!” I said to him, easing his fear that our garden has a failing crop!  It is ready to be gently tugged from the soil.  Of course, not without a little help from my assistant.

Last fall, we planted garlic in one small area of the gardenIt was haphazardly poked into the ground on two sides of a flower bed, leaving ample room in the center for some cutting flowers.  Unfortunately, it was a hurried, last ditch effort to get some garlic bulbs in the ground with snow on the way.  At the time, I was relieved to know it was buried under the soil.  Now, I am thinking this was not nearly enough for our garlic-loving family.  So, plans for autumn are formulating.  More on that later!

This flower bed turned garlic bed lies just outside my greenhouse.  The stature of the garlic varies significantly from one side of the bed to the other.  We are intrigued by this.  Wondering if it is the variety that we planted (and did not document- phooey!) or whether it has more to do with extra watering.

The left side of the bed, below, receives a lot of extra attention.  Extra water from our watering cans, pruning and weed pulling while customers shop in the greenhouse, and of course the constant “Can I water these again, mama?” queries from the 5-year-old master-of-the-hose.  I am betting on this extra love being the difference.

Now the garlic is up, curing in a cool, dry place.  When it is dry, we’ll shake loose the dry soil and store it away in our pantry.  There, it awaits a gentle crush into a batch of green pesto or a hearty winter soup.

Stay tuned for an autumn field trip to buy garlic from a dear friend.



Wild. Flowers.

On a rare day away from my greenhouse in June, my family and I ventured up into the higher elevations of the local mountains.  We parked at the closure gate, since the road was still closed to vehicles and partly blocked by a stubborn drift of snow.  We enjoyed the noise of our own voices and deep breathing as we headed down the road on our bikes.  The day was perfect.  Warm temperatures, a cool breeze to help us along on our bikes, a distinct lack of biting flies…and thousands of acres of blooming wildflowers.

Oh, the flowers!, cried this horticulturalist over and over.  They carpeted the ground, as far as our eyes could see.  Confetti.  In full bloom.  We could not find a spot to settle for a picnic, without disturbing a forest of flowers.

My tattered wildflower handbook helped us along the way.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Sugar Bowls: Clematis hirsutissima

Cushion Phlox: Phlox pulvinata

Showy Crazyweed: Oxytropis splendens

Sagebrush: Artemesia sp.

And to cool off at the end of a long uphill ride, that snow drift came in quite handy!


Grub feast






Grubs, grubs, grubs,

handfuls of grubs.

Overtaking tomatoes.

Spoiling the moment.

Stop. Turn it around.






grubs, grubs, grubs,

saucers of grubs

more and more and more

back and forth

then gone.

one more? no….all gone.

Photos and story inspiration courtesy of Mom.

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For the love of Lovage.

“What is that?”

Yes, what is this amazing focal point in my garden?


Oh, how we are loving our lovage this year.  Normally this stately perennial is not nearly as tall, robust or…massive.  The past two springs, the tender new stalks of our lovage have been frozen by cold temperatures in the 20’s or flattened by heavy, wet spring snows. But this year, oh my, how it has grown.  This is the third year of its presence in my semi-formal herb garden and it has not just leaped, it has soared.  When I placed this small seedling into my garden, I intentionally planted it in the corner as a focal point, a corner piece, a border.  Week by week, this cousin-to-celery has gotten wider, taller, just plain bigger.  Now it is much more than a token in the garden. I have had many moments of wonder.  “Should I move this to a different spot?  Should the lovage have its own bed?  Should I go into the business of growing just Lovage?”  Oh, for the love of Lovage!  Who would buy all of it?!

It has become a huge conversation piece for visitors in my garden and a favorite hiding place for ladybugs and little boys.

We have been enjoying its changes, from straight and angular to wild and rangy.  It is amazing to look at up close. And rather astonishing to look at from afar as it makes our newest garden bone, a towering trellis, look…small.

Other, smaller garden visitors, the bees, have been moving about on it, collecting pollen and nectar.  Their weight creating a lovely lovage dance as they travel from tip to tip.

Here are a few notes about Lovage.

Common Name:  Lovage, Love Parsley

Latin NameLevisticum officinale

Family: Umbelliferae or Apiaceace: The carrot or parsley family.

Height:  3 to 7 feet (or more!)

Uses: The young stalks of Lovage have an uncanny resembelece to its cousin celery.  But upon tasting, there is quite a difference in flavor.  Much stronger, yet pleasant, it can be used as a celery substitute when a celery flavor is desired.

– The mature stalks can be cut and used as a drinking straw, preferably in a tomato juice cocktail.

– Tender young leaves or seeds can be candied for an after dinner breath freshener and digestive aide.

*** The seeds were once used in love potions and spells, thus lending the name Lovage. ***

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Mountain Spinach: Orache

Common Name:  Garden Orache, Mountain Spinach

Latin Name:  Atriplex hortensis

Family: Chenopodeaceae: Goosefoot family

This unusual, beautiful plant came to me in this lovely, hand packaged envelope of seeds.

A friend of mine, lovingly tends and collects seeds from her amazing garden, just over the hill from where I live.  In her eclectic, organic garden, she grows many heirloom plants, such as orache.  She dries the seeds and then painstakingly writes out the growing information about the seeds on these packets. My favorite sentence on the packet…Hardiness: Zone 3!  One winter, I grabbed this tiny package of seeds during a holiday gift sale and my garden has included orache ever since.  Some gardeners grow the light green orache variety but the burgundy variety is the one that graces my garden.  Its striking color and texture make it one of the most asked about plants in my garden.

The young leaves can be eaten when tender, raw in salads.  As the leaves age and get larger, they can be used as a substitute for spinach.  The leaves do have a bit of a tart flavor that increases with age.  We prefer them young, mixed into our salad greens.

Do the leaves look familiar to you?  Probably because it is related to one of my least favorite weeds, Lambsquarters, which is also member of the Goosefoot family.

One last note:  Orache is a steadfast addition to my garden, but to keep it this way, I do let it reseed.  I am careful to keep the new seedlings under control.  I don’t want this heirloom traveling to all corners of my garden.


A Basket Recipe

During this time of year, I can often be found working on planting baskets from dawn to dusk. Even amongst the commotion of my dreams, I choose, I turn, I stuff baskets.

The greenhouse slowly becomes a kaleidoscope. Hanging overhead, colorful orbs. Each one unique, mindfully created for my patrons. One order consists of more than 50 baskets.  An assembly line strategy best suits this high volume order. I plan each basket pattern according to desired hanging location and color preferences.

Here is my basket recipe:

My list of favorite ingredients includes:

Coco Fiber Lined Basket: This style of vessel can be used year after year and adds a natural component, when compared to plastic.

Potting Soil:  A high quality mixture, preferably without fertilizer mixed in.

Annual plant selection: Here are a few suggestions.

For Sun:                                                For Shade:

Cascading petunia                                 Lobelia

Sweet Potato Vine                                 Begonia

Licorice Vine                                          Coleus

Mexican Heather                                   Ivy

To plant your basket:

1.  Fill the basket with potting soil, to just below the brim.

2.  Place you center accent plant.

I generally choose either a burst of color or a graceful grass, but anything large, robust or tall will do.

3.  Fill in the blanks.

Odd numbers work beautifully. Work them in around the edge.
One, two, three, repeat…Petunia, Licorice, Cuphea, repeat, etc.

By following this recipe,  your basket will almost immediately have an established look.

And there you have it. A pattern of color to enjoy through summer.

On a hot day, we loaded 50+ baskets into a horse trailer, destined for a beautiful local ranch. Goodbye friends, until we meet again next spring!