Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unsung Culinary Herbs

During my Olympic excursion up to Vancouver, I had to visit my cousin's restaurant and dine at The Flying Tiger. With a mouth-watering selection of shareable Asian street food which includes 48 hour-marinated Grilled Kalbi Ribs, Crispy Thai Squid, Salt Spring Island Mussels swimming in red curry, and Philippine egg-rolls (Lumpia).

Crepes Duck Confit

My favorite, however, has to be the scrumptious Pulled Duck Confit Crepes. OMG, it is simply mouth-watering as you assemble your own crepes with the duck, shredded cucumber and jicama, and an assortment of Asian herbs that were so intense and refreshing, I actually yelped in approval!

My cousin joked as she asked for the scientific names of these plants to test my identification prowess and now knowing a few, I had to look 'em up!!

So here's the assemble of herbs:

Thai Basil(Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora Thai Basil cultivar group: Becoming more and more common as a garnish with the ever popular Vietnamese noodle soup called Pho. It's an attractive plant with purple stems and a licorice like scent.

Shiso (Perilla frutescens): A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and looks a little like nettle. It has a subtle minty fennel like scent and taste.

Rau Răm (Persicaria odorata)
: Know as Vietnamese coriander, this is one of various Persicarias that can be eaten. It has a pungent and distinctive flavor that is spicy and somewhat bitter.

Cilantro or Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
: Some people absolutely LOVE this herb, while there are some that are absolutely repulsed by it. I, personally, enjoy this herb as it exists in so many dishes I love. From soups, salsas, salads, I love its pungent and extremely fragrant aroma. That's why it's called "xiang cai" in Chinese meaning "fragrant greens".

Rau Om (Limnophila chinensis var. aromatica)
This herb totally blew me away with its pungent lemony flavor with a hint up cumin.

I've been able to find these herbs in Asian markets and I'm anxious to recreate these crepes or just experiment with these wild and aromatic flavors in various dishes.

Then, I'll be compelled to try and grow them!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back from Vancouver and trees are being stolen, WTF!

So, I had my Olympic moment!! I took the train up to meet my cousin (who drove up with a friend) and stayed with family up there. We did our usual runs to Chinatown and Goldilocks, but the main reason was to soak in the atmosphere of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics!

Riz Vancouver 2010 cropped

I didn't hesitate to take the opportunity to get away from work to do this. The stunning weather we've been having has been such a dream and I did pretty well not thinking (nor worrying) about work. Of course, it would have been nice to get more accomplished at Landwave, but I was proud of myself for making sure I didn't overlook other aspects of my life.

Feel free to check out my pics from Vancouver on my Flickr page.

So I got home and was watching the news (and missing the live coverage of the games Vancouver had) and a fellow horticulturist, Meghan Fuller, was on television! The Crown Hill neighborhood of North Seattle has fallen victim to plant and outdoor furniture thefts. Check out the coverage by Q13 Fox. Knowing Meghan, she's a fellow plant nut and a true collector of the rare and unusual!

Like the UW Botanic Gardens theft of the Keteleeria evelyniana last December, it infuriates me that people have no bloody respect for other people's property!
No matter what it is, may it be plants, a car stereo, a break-in at your home, etc., it's incredibly unsettling and you just don't feel safe.

I should contact Meghan and ask what they took and we just need to keep an eye out on sites like Craigslist to see if anything is posted that's hers or her neighbor's who also were victims as bonsai trees and furniture were also stolen.

Plant thieves will f'ing pay. They just don't understand how much work it takes to produce a plant, design, install and maintain a landscape that they're used in and the peanuts professional landscapers and specialty nurseries make to have these plants available to avid gardeners.

Admire these plants where they are, don't freakin' take a neighbor's shovel to dig up a plant to claim it as your own.

If I catch someone intentionally stealing or damaging another's landscape or property, I will NOT hesitate to yell and approach them with a strong desire to throw their ass in a patch of hardy Agave parryi.

I'll leave the authorities to find them moaning in pain as they slowly bleed. That should give them time to think about what they're doing!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Pretty with Pink

It's always so thrilling to have a plant I brought back from China do well and flower in my garden. This plant was actually sent to me by a collecting colleague from Atlanta, Georgia, Scott McMahan of McMahan Nursery because Riz didn't think much about collecting it on his own. I am enthralled by this Daphne relative and it looks absolutely stunning right now.

Now, there's some debate on the species classification of the genus Edgeworthia. Dan described this dilemma in an article on his website.

Still not sure exactly what we saw in the wild. It looks like E. papyrifera based on the plants labeled as such at specialty nurseries here, but Scott labeled it as E. chrysantha.

This form has an exquisite pink blush at the base of the corolla and it is exquisitely fragrant. It has also proven to be quite hardy.

Ok...start salivating:

Edgeworthia Pink close up

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Bouquets

First medals to be awarded today and they will be accompanied by these creations:

Flower power behind Olympic bouquets
Flower power behind Olympic bouquets

Looks awesome, but kind of unfortunate that it's all green.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Dreams

Another Olympic Games is underway and here I am watching the opening ceremonies and a lot of mixed feelings are coming over me. First of sadness, for the death of Georgian luge athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili. Then of regret as the games are so close to home, I had an opportunity to take part, but couldn't.

Every young boy and girl who sees the Olympic Games dreams of one day representing their country at the games and winning that illusive gold medal. I had aspirations when I first saw the Olympics on television in 1992, but I felt like I never really had an opportunity to start young enough in a sport and work hard to achieve the highest level. So instead, I gardened, grew plants and tried to achieve other goals.

While athletes will be vying for one of these:

I should be vying for one of these:

This is the Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal. Chelsea is considered the world's GREATEST flower show and highly coveted by those who enter. Entries come from around the world and I've actually had dreams of exhibiting at Chelsea. Before even thinking about this medal, I actually need to see the show in person!

One medal I could certainly work towards is one I actually saw awarded in person:

NWFGS Gold Medal

Still, there's nothing like the honor of an Olympic medal. Every four years you're lucky to even get a chance to compete for one. And if you work hard and succeed, you stand on a podium, hold a bouquet of flowers (which I think I admired more than the actual medals when I first saw them on TV!!) and hear your nation's anthem. You have crowds cheering for you and a flood of emotions comes over you as you watch your country's flag raised.

Speaking of flowers, I've also fantasized that one day I could design the victory bouquets at an Olympic Games. It certainly has its caveats, but it's still an honor to be asked to make them. Here's a compelling story on the designers for the Vancouver games who won the bid, but faced some strict critiques from the organizing committee (read this other article here):

June Strandberg, florist for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Click on the photo for a video of the unveiled bouquet.

I personally would have kept the irises and used the native vegetation of the Pacific Northwest rather than using Hypericums and Aspidistra imported from Ecuador.

Even though I never made it as an athlete, the Games continue to inspire me as the world comes together for something so grand. Human stories begin to unfold and the long road many of these athletes have traveled to reach this level should push us to work just as hard so we can follow our passions and achieve our goals and aspirations in life.

As a figure skating commentator once said of the great Michelle Kwan, "Success isn't always measured by a gold medal"


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An early spring

Lights affecting bloom time or is it just an unusually warm Jan-Feb?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Flower and Garden Show Wrap-up!

I spent the last few days just soaking in the show and not worrying about reporting EVERYTHING once it happens. Well, for one, someone has probably beaten me to it who's career is really "on the line" (lord, this woman threw a fit when the wireless in the press room cut off her internet connection as she was blogging) and, second, no one's paying me to do what I'm doing! On top of that, not all that many people follow my blog postings anyway.

Just about every day, I spent at the 2010 NW Flower and Garden Show. Each of those days I snapped photographs, talked to nurserymen and growers, designers, stressed, but still managed to pull off a successful talk, and most importantly, I was able to connect with friends and close colleagues.

To make this a far less boring and more entertaining blog post, I won't rant and ramble like I do in most of my talks and just give you a photo montage like I did during press day.


*Most In Line with what I'd actually Design for Myself*
Lit Curly Willow display
I was quite impressed by this garden for its layout and the stunning stone walls, very Bernard Trainor like. Love love LOVE how the curly willows are "lightened up" and create a silhouette up against the wall.

*Most Eye-Catching Planting Combination*
Hyacinth Yellow Twig Dogwood
Easy composition, but stunning use of color by the designers at Ravenna Gardens.

*Garden Ornament I'd Actually Consider Using*
Brugmansia Lamp
This is kinda cool, actually.

*Best Attempt at Transporting One to a Different World*
Orchid Display
A lovely display of a wide assortment of orchids by the Northwest Orchid Society.

*Best Attempt to Really Make a Statement, but unfortunately didn't*
High School Vignette Trash Garden
A vignette display by a local high school that was quite a bold attempt at teaching a lesson on environmental impacts on careless gardening.

*Most Awesomely Fragrant Vendor Display*
Tropicals in plant market
Loved these vendors since my first show, but I HATE the use of fake flowers and foliage and claiming that it's really easy to grow Plumeria, Proteas, and Tuberoses in the Pacific Northwest. Gotta love the fresh flower samples they have of richly scented Frangipani and Tuberose.

*Tackiest Accessory*
Outdoor flower shower
Found at The Lily Pad comes this cute, but somewhat pointless and gaudy contraption that's suppose to allow you to shower outdoors during the summer months. And what the hell are you suppose to do with it the rest of the year? Eww...

*Best Potentially Misleading Signage That Annoys Me"
Lily Trees
Again, a Lily Pad poo poo. Lilies are not trees, dammit! Yes, these Oriental x Trumpet hybrids can get large, but THEY DIE BACK DOWN TO THE GROUND EACH WINTER!!!

*Best and Clever Use of Edibles*
Urban Farm 2
"Crops for Clunkers" by Seattle Urban Farmers.

*The Pacific Islands Award*
Bonsai demo 1
A Japanese landscape designed by a Filipino man, Tony Fajarillo of Active Landscape, Inc.

**The "WTF is that" Award**
Barbie Doll 1
This was just one of several table container displays that were well composed and actually even won an award for "Best Use of Plants", but really, WTF is up with the Barbie Dolls. If this is their attempt at coaxing the next generation of women and gay male gardeners, they're seriously trying too hard.

There ya go! Until next year, folks! More stories and interviews to come later!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Media Day: Garden Show Preview

So, I took part in a pre-show tour of the gardens prior to the judging of this year's display gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

I ran into some familiar faces and fellow garden writer, Marty Wingate, was asked to lead the tour and I was informally asked to keep the group together so we made use of our short time.

Tension was high with some exhibitors getting the final touches together, while there were several veterans just soaking up the media attention they were getting for their completed designs.

Marty talks about Arboretum Display
Here’s Marty in action talking about the fine aspects of winter gardening at the Arboretum Foundation’s surprisingly small, but really well executed Winter Garden.

Arboretum Garden


Veggies are at an all time high as growers meticulously grew edibles out of season just for this show.

Urban Farm
Check out what probably is the smallest garden entry on the show floor this year, but one that certainly drew a lot of attention. I met these guys a few years back when they did a fabulous display of edibles and the whole concept of urban farming really began to take root! Seattle Urban Farm Co. creation they’ve dubbed “Crops for Clunkers”!
Urban Farm 2

And I've never attended a show with so many animals like these chickens here and 2 annoying goats that will certainly be the talk of the show.
One of many chickens on display here at the ambitious display by WSNLA called “There’s No Place Like Home”.

Just about every roof was green at this year's show and many walls were just LIVIN'.
Interior Living Walls
A unique approach to sustainability and real green living.

And, of course, the showpieces and dramatic landscapes that no one besides the disgustingly wealthy can ever own, but the everyday gardener can look at with inspiration and walk away with a fresh idea for their humble yard.

A clean cut and, probably one of the “brightest” displays was this creation by Pacific Stone Company called “Meditation From Within”

Curly Willow Garden
Absolutely dramatic willows in this stunning design by Karen Stefonick and Brent Bissell called “Ahead of the Curve”.

WALP display
A modern design approach to a beautifully composed garden by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers called “Your Hidden Garden Discovered: Collaborate with a Landscape Designer.”

WALP ktichen
Designed by Phil Wood, this display by WALP (Washington Association of Landscape Professionals) called “Simply Entertaining” is simply outstanding and way beyond what my savings could afford.

Marty with Elandan Gardens
These naturalistic landscapes by Elandan Gardens are truly stunning.

Then there's a board game!! Created in part by my wacky good friend Judith Jones.
Worm Garden

Outside the show gardens were these masterpieces in the works. Being able to work with and be around such beautiful things really brings out the joy that is the annual flower and garden show!

Floral Design 1 Floral Design

As for new and exciting plants, here's my pick:

Daphne odora 'Rebecca'.

A much wider gold edge than the standard 'Aureo-Marginata' cultivar, it looked quite handsome and looks to be a promising introduction by PlantHaven. You can find it in the display just as you enter the 4th floor entrance created by the Flower Growers of Puget Sound.

Daphne Rebecca

Oh, and there’s a butterfly exhibit I’m looking forward to seeing once the show officially opens!
More highlights and, hopefully, another cheesy video!


Monday, February 1, 2010

A new Hellebore, but why am I not that excited about it?

Last summer, we got this Hellebore as a sample from Skagit Gardens and since I leaked that we were one of a handful of Botanic Gardens to have this rare hybrid between Helleborus x hybridus and H. niger, many avid gardeners including Jim Waddick and Graham Rice were very interested in learning more about it.

So here it is in peak bloom at the UW Botanic Gardens' Center for Urban Horticulture:

Hellebore Walburtons Rosemary

While it looks to be quite vigorous and very prolific, there's something kind of plain and boring about it. It could easily be just another pink Helleborus x hybridus seedling. The size of the flowers are nothing to rave about and the color is not really all that compelling.

I also read that its sterile so any attempts to "improve" it might not be possible. It took some time to prove that it is, in fact, a true hybrid between the two species. So, I dunno. Maybe I might grow to appreciate it, but I'm not all that enthused to tell everyone to go buy it.

Making an Impression: Getting ready for the BIG show!

So I've been plugging away at this talk on Summer Flowering Bulbs and I'm pretty confident that it'll go very well, but being that this is only my second time speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, the nerves are sure to accumulate as Friday, 6:30PM nears. I'm adding some final touches, making sure the Powerpoint slides flow well, and going through the motions and gestures, I might as well be in a studio choreographing a piece.

In some ways, I wonder if it would be easier if I just had to dance rather than having to open my mouth to speak and make people believe what I was saying. Either way, people will be watching. I always ask myself, "Will people listen to what I have to share and say? Are they going to take me seriously? Will I blank out like I did during a plant propagation workshop I taught last spring? Are people even going to come and hear me speak?"

Last year was absolutely tremendous. I had television cameras following me around the show, wonderful people helping me out each step of the way and I was greeted by a packed D.I.Y. audience with a few people standing in the back to hear me speak. Now, I'm not expecting the same kind of audience or response or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

I guess these days I need more of a validation that all the time, work and effort to be this "Next Generation Gardener" is worth it. As much as I enjoy what I do, this thing called reality sort of sets in and then doubt begins to inundate my thoughts.

As Wednesday, the opening day of the show, approaches, I'm more looking forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues and being amongst a crowd of excited gardeners ready and eager to get out and work outside in the yard. I guess there's also a part of me that feels great pride in being "someone" in the industry by being somewhat of a veteran of a show I've been involved with for almost 14 years.

The best feeling, I think, is relief: relief that the show will continue on through its new owners, the O'Loughlin Trade Show, Inc.

I'm attending a media day preview tomorrow to have a sneak peak and learn more about the new owners and their future plans for the show.

I better get back to my talk. Even if it's just my aunt, my friend and a handful of little old ladies who come, I look forward to sharing my experience, my photos, my bulbs and plants (yes, I intend to bribe my guests to stay to win some door prizes), and my time with the same level of energy and enthusiasm as if it were a packed house.

Hope to see you at the show!