The Boxwood meets Geometry in Spring. L’orangerie, Parc de Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine), in France. Flower beds consist of Forget-Me-Nots, Pansies, Euphorbia, and Tulips, surrounded by finely clipped Boxwoods. Garden design by André Le Nôtre, best known for his designs for Louis XIV, Palace Versailles (1600’s).
February is National Bird Feeding Month
Isn’t this a beautiful way to accessorize a winter bird bath, and feed the birds at the same time? The frozen birdbath consists of cranberries, kumquats and citrus slices with some white polished stones and pepperberries for decoration.
“Lawns are an attempt to dominate and homogenize nature, something that hasn’t worked out very well. Gardens, however, especially urban ones, make visible “the intimate relationship between people, cities and food, constantly reminding us of the complexities and poetry of growing food and eating,” says Haeg. From which, just about everyone who’s thought about the subject agrees, we’ve all become alienated.
“And small-scale suburban and urban gardening has incredible potential. Using widely available data, Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International estimates that converting 10 percent of our nation’s lawns to vegetable gardens “could meet about a third of our fresh vegetable needs at current consumption rates.”
“Ten percent is optimistic; even 1 percent would be a terrific start, because there is a lot of lawn in this country. In fact it’s our biggest crop, three times as big as corn, according to research done using a variety of data, much of it from satellites. That’s around a trillion square feet — 50,000 square miles — and, since an average gardener can produce something like a half-pound of food per square foot (you garden 100 square feet, you produce 50 pounds of food), without getting too geeky you can imagine that Doiron’s estimates are rational.
“Lawns are not exactly the enemy, but they’re certainly not helping matters any. (For a real anti-lawn rant, see Ted Steinberg’s book “American Green.”) When they were used for grazing sheep — sheep are the best lawn-mowers — they made some sense. But as ornamentation, only a few parts of the United States have the climate to sustain them. (Kentucky bluegrass is not even native to Kentucky, let alone Arizona.) In the remainder they’re horrible water-wasters and enormous users of chemical fertilizer.”
“View from a Window in Vitebsk” Marc Chagall (1908)
Moscow - The State Tretyakov Gallery
The Edible Garden: Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum)
Have you met the new Super Fruit? It is commonly known as The Wolfberry or Matrimony Vine.
Goji is hardy in zones 5 to 9, and because it is a cousin of the tomato, it also requires full sun. Purple flowers appear in spring, and by summer the sweet berries will start to ripen and be ready to harvest. (A pollinator is not needed.) The berries contain 13 percent protein and are loaded with anti-oxidants. Not only that, the Goji berry contains more iron than spinach and more Vitamin C than an orange. Eat the berries fresh, or dry them like other dried fruits. What else could you ask for from a Super Food?
The shrub is quite vigorous, so make sure it is planted in a suitable location where the vine-like branches have ample room to spread. Try training it as an espalier, where its shape can be easily managed. Choose a main cane which will become the trunk of the plant, and prune accordingly. Planting more than one? Allow 6-8 feet between the plants. The Goji will need annual pruning to keep it in check (thin out previous year’s growth), and to encourage new growth which will produce new fruit. Because the berries are edible, be aware that birds, rabbits, squirrels, and deer will eat the leaves and the berries, so be prepared to wrap netting around your plant, if necessary.
Goji ‘Sweet Lifeberry’ is a Proven Winners Selection for 2013.
Detailed instructions on how to grow the Goji can be found here.
During the 1600’s, Tulipia ‘Semper Augustus’ was considered to be the “Holy Grail’ of tulip bulbs, and it almost brought ruin upon an entire country. (The red-and-white striped Tulip ‘Semper Augustus’ no longer exists.) The striping on this particular tulip bulb was caused by a virus spread by aphids. The virus produced flames and feathering on the petals (called “breaking”) and it created a sensation when it was released upon 17th Century Holland where the populace was all too eager to get rich on an anomaly without knowing its severe detriments. Bulbs carrying the virus lose their vigor quickly, making it almost impossible to propagate and the result is the demise of a genetic line. No one knew that, of course, when the tulip frenzy started…
Legend and Lore of the Tulip as recorded by Charles McKay in 1841: Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
17th Century Holland, 1636
The ‘Semper Augustus’ tulip was considered to be the most precious of all, and in 1636, only two such bulbs were known to exist (both of an inferior quality, due to the virus). One was in the hands of a dealer in Amsterdam, and the other was in the hands of a dealer in Harlaem. The desire for the ‘Semper Augustus’ tulip was so great that one speculator offered the fee-simple of 12 acres of surrounding property where the Harlaem tulip was located. In Amsterdam, another speculator purchased a single ‘Semper Augustus’ for 4600 florins (approx. $64,400…for a single bulb), plus a new carriage, two grey horses, and a complete harness.
The demand for rare tulips was so great in 1636 that their sale was established on the Stock Exchange of Amsterdam in several towns throughout the country. “Tulip-jobbers” speculated on the rise and fall of tulip stocks, making enormous profits for themselves, and it wasn’t long before people in all walks of life began to participate in the tulip stock trade: noblemen, farmers, chimney-sweeps and aristocrats who converted their homes and properties into cash so they could invest in the flower market.
The tulip frenzy was not to last, however. When the prudent portion of the population (namely, the noblemen and aristocrats) determined that the folly couldn’t last forever, they stopped purchasing bulbs and began to sell them off at discounted prices. Suddenly, confidence in the market was destroyed, and the streets were filled with defaulters in the tulip trade.
When the dust settled and the fury subsided, the courts ultimately refused to interfere in the mania-inspired debacle, stating that gambling debts were not debts of the law, and the population was left to sort itself out without judicial assistance.
It was many years before the country recovered from the economic shock resulting from the tulip-trading epidemic.
Paul Cézanne - Potted Plants, 1890 at the Barnes Foundation Philadelphia PA (by mbell1975)
Monstera deliciosa, you will always have my heart.