Thursday, December 08, 2016


An Eclectic Garden has a new home. Future posts can be found at An Eclectic Nature.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sleeping Peas

The garden is rife with opportunities to anthropomorphize. The plants are really thirsty, they reach for the sun and leap out of the ground, and they pout. We like to think of our gardens in terms we understand.

Pea planting this last weekend (late, I know) allowed me a chance to indulge one of my favorite plants-as-human fantasies. I imagine the seeds tucked in a bed of rich soil, sleeping and dreaming of spring. The sun will come and warm the soil. The seeds will swell and sprout and the cycle will begin again.

And this is happening all over the garden. Perennials that appear dead aboveground are still hibernating in the earth, with pale tiny leaves and shoots. Fruit buds on trees are tightly closed but all manner of hormonal changes are taking place as the days grow longer and temperatures begin to moderate. Tomato seeds, little more than flakes when planted, will imbibe water, absorb heat and soon push out a radicle and cotyledons.

Last night a dusting of wet snow fell on the garden. As I lay under blankets in the pre-dawn darkness I thought about my newly planted seeds under their own rich blankets of compost and snow, waiting out the capricious early spring weather, waiting and ready to go.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Witch Hazel

Hamamelis spp.
Witch Hazel

Here in southern Oregon February is a liminal time. We are, literally, on the threshold. It is not yet spring, but it is no longer winter. Days are longer. Bulbs are pushing. And the Witch Hazel is blooming.

Two Hamamelis species are native to the eastern United States but here the Witch Hazel is planted as an ornamental. Its blooming marks for me the first sign of the seasons changing.

The coming week's storms are lined up in the Pacific but a walk around the park assures me that the stormy season is passing. Witch Hazel cultivars from pale yellow to lemon yellow to orange russet contrast against the grays and greens.

It won't be long now.

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Server woes

Server problems are nothing new but this problem seems permanent. I will switch to blogspot hosting while I try to find another solution. The new URL is:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On a Mission

‘An abandoned blog’ is such a sad phrase. Better ‘a blog in hiatus’ or ‘a blog on sabbatical’ implying study and industry taking place in the background. But all good sabbaticals come to an end and it is time to rescue this blog from the comment spammers and rejoin the gardening blog community.

Helen at Gardening with Confidence recently suggested that gardeners consider developing a mission statement for their gardens. This initially sounded like a wonderful idea and I have read with interest other blogger's thoughtful posts declaring their own reasons for gardening. I was stumped, though, with my own garden. It is so very small, a mere corner of a yard, and not really my own as it is a rental property. Even coupled with my community garden plot, my garden lacks of a sense of permanence and it seemed hardly worthy of something as farsighted as a mission statement.

I stewed about it for a while and discovered the flaw in this thinking. My gardens are indeed temporary but what gardener can claim to have real control over the long run? Mother Nature is capricious, some say fickle. She blesses some plants with devious powers of reproduction, the better to take over small beds with their minty presence. She is ecumenical, welcoming all manner of creatures in to alter whatever imposed order I have created. She conjures up rainstorms, snowstorms, windstorms and drought. She is, in a word, unpredictable. But she is kind and allows me to take part in the daily miracles.

Gardeners are all temporary stewards, some more temporary than others. Looking back at my many years of gardening I realize that there is an underlying theme, a mission if you will, that emerges over time.

So my garden mission statement becomes clear: My garden will be a place of peace and abundance for the body, mind and spirit. It will welcome, nourish, teach and soothe. It will serve to honor its part in the harmony, in the dance, and in the continuity of our earth.

Lofty stuff for my little garden. But as my grandmother said: Hitch your wagon to a star.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Puttanesca sauce

August ushers in the great tomato extravaganza. Until frost I will be bringing in big bags of assorted varieties and will be caught up in processing sauce to freeze. A couple of years ago I came across an article in the local newspaper for making roasted tomato sauce. This has been my mainstay technique. It is dead easy. But last year, when all the frozen sauce was gone, I purchased a commercial Puttanesca sauce that knocked my socks off. I knew that I must find a way to duplicate it.

With a little wandering around the internet I discovered a nice page on roasted tomato sauce. I also found a recipe for Puttanesca roasted tomatoes. Why not take these recipes and combine them?

I sliced enough tomatoes in chunks to fill a single layer on two rimmed cookie sheets. I then added to each pan:

Half an onion, cut in wedges and spread around
Several cloves of peeled garlic
A large handful each of fresh basil and fresh parsley
One half a small tin of anchovies
6 or 7 Kalamata olives, cut in chunks
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes (I used Allepo)
A generous drizzle of olive oil over it all

Roasting at 400 degrees until the tomatoes collapsed took about 40 minutes. (I would like to try slow roasting at a lower temperature but it is too HOT! to leave the oven on). When cool, I transferred one sheet’s contents to a food processor, threw in a heaping teaspoon of capers, and processed. (I think that putting the capers in with the tomatoes before roasting would be just fine.) The two cookie sheets yielded six cups of very delicious sauce.

High summer chores (albeit pleasurable) yield such treasure in the winter, not to mention reducing monthly food bills (ever increasing). Our household has been trying to do more preserving this year. M. is smoking and canning salmon that he catches. My pepper crop promises to be the best ever for freezing, drying and making hot pepper pastes and powders. We have concord grapes to steam juice if we can beat the raccoons to them.

And now it’s time to make more pesto!


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Winter Dreams

A gardener’s spring begins in winter, in the imagination. And the imagination is a kind companion, forgiving and forgetful, encouraging and enthusiastic. Last year’s failures are recast as character builders and learning experiences. The coming year is still a blank palette. The seed catalogs are spread from hell to breakfast. Ideas loom large but still seem achievable. Pragmatism may win later in the year but now is the time for optimistic indulgence.

And what indulgences! I am actually envisioning a gardening year where I thwart gophers, vanquish deer, redesign plots and finally grow tuberous begonias from seed. Quixotic you say? Well, we’ll see.

Fedco, my mainstay seed company, knows about these rose colored glasses that we don in the dead of winter. This year marks their 30th year of doing business and the catalog ‘s catch phrase reads “30 Years of Spring Fiction.” Extravagant descriptions, gardener’s purple prose, fill the pages and tempt the winter vulnerable to further excesses of ordering.

But honestly, who can resist a winter squash, Sweet Meat, that “grew over the bean trellis, vaulted the 8’ garden fence, and ran off into the woods like kudzu with pies attached.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Last week's storm

Standing in the eye of autumn’s bluster is an elemental pleasure. Secure in the knowledge that warm shelter is but a few steps away, I can freely breathe the wildness of a coming storm without worrying over finding a place to hunker down and wait out the weather.

In gust after huge exhaling gust, the wind showers me with a whirl of leaves; oak and maple, filbert and persimmon, gingko, dogwood and dove tree spin past me, get caught in air eddies and propel upward and on their way. No demure spring zephyr, the angrier fall wind can strip the leaves in one afternoon.

The gusts, ushering in a chilling rain, calm as suddenly as they began. The temperature drops noticeably; the leafless trees stand still in the brooding air.

In this brief between-time, the wind spent but the rain not begun, I am struck by the now exposed pattern of skeletal branches, from the thick scaffolds to the tiniest twigs far above. It is a fractal echo of leaf veins. The bare limbs reveal patterns within patterns.

The drizzle begins, settling in, a wet cloak under a darkening sky. Time to go in.