Saturday, December 31, 2011

Season's Greetings and Happy New Year!

As 2011 draws to a close, I would like to thank you all for checking out "The Next Generation Gardener" and letting me share my thoughts, experiences, and my plants with you over the past year. It's been an incredible season with so much to remember, so much to learn from, and so much to take with me for the rest of my life as I evolved: both as a professional and as a person this year.

More and more, I'm really beginning to get a better sense of who I am, what I do, and what I have to offer as a person and also as a gardener. I have many things I can look forward to next year such as the implementation of my new business plan and the numerous events and speaking engagements I've been invited to.As always, Landwave Gardens will continue to grow and develop and provide me with one of the few things in my life I can always rely on in bringing me joy and satisfaction no matter what. Whether its a bad growing season, a pest or disease infestation, or even if the house/property is foreclosed, the presence of plants and flowers in my life always come through to remind me of just how great life can truly be.

On a more personal note: this was a year where I felt like I really gave it my all to make things happen in my life that would benefit me, my future and the people/environment around me. Going to England for the Chelsea Flower Show and meeting new friends, gardens and nurseries while I was there was a tremendous experience and a dream fulfilled. And for me to reconnect and develop a closer relationship with my family was another triumph that I hope continues to progress.

Then, of course, there's the harsh realization that no matter how hard you try and how much you give, there will always be things that you just won't have control over. Whether it's a bad growing season or even how someone truly feels about you, you have to try to tell yourself that you did what you could, you stayed true to yourself and that's all that matters. It's incredibly painful to have to deal with it and it will take time to heal.

Yes, I'm ending 2011 on a very difficult, very emotional note. Part of me feels like this was all meant to be and God and the powers above and around are trying to keep me in check: have your great highs and have your depressing and emotional lows because that's life. Staying balanced is the challenge.

All in all, it was an amazing year that I won't ever forget and it will only make me a stronger person: a person that now knows who he is and who he wants to be for himself and everyone around him.

Much love and all the best to you all in 2012.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

An often overlooked vegetable; the sunchoke

Spending time with family and friends right how has been so crucial and important for me as I try and move forward and also try to get into the holiday season.

I recently came over to visit my friend, Audi, who works in produce at Central Market, here in Shoreline at his home in Everett. He and his wife, Marian and 7 year old son, Aumar (cool combo of their names, eh) were recently blessed with another healthy little boy a few months ago and it was my first time seeing the precious one.

After a fabulous pasta dinner, a game of Parcheesi, and Marian, being a proud, no-shame Filipino, insisting we do karaoke, Audi dug me up something from his garden:

Shared by a friend of his starting out with just four pieces tubers, which quickly multiplied, I had my own stash of the so-called "sunchoke" or Jerusalem artichokes (which don't really look like artichokes we're accustomed to, but they're actually in the same family ASTERACEAE).

He recommend that I try them 1) roasted like you would potatoes or 2) slice them thinly and add the to salads.


I prepared a meal for my friend, Sandhya, and invited her over for a stuffed pork dish I had prepared before. I served it with grilled leek (like last time), fennel and I took the sunchokes and some beets and roasted those in the oven to have on the side. I sliced up a few tubers and put them on our starter salad.

They have a wonderfully firm and crisp texture to them. It almost looks like a translucent potato and it has a nutty flavor much like water chestnuts and jicama combined.

The plant, where these tubers come from, is quite tall and large. It's actually the same genus as sunflowers (Helianthus) and the full scientific name is H. tuberosus. It is native to eastern North America. It's essentially a herbaceous perennial that can tower up to 10 feet in height and produced simple yellow, daisy-like flowers. It's the roots, however, that's the main draw.

I don't know of too many people that grow them because they can take up so much space, but I've heard that they're easily cultivated in well-prepared soil with ample moisture. I don't think I'll devote space to growing them. Even though they were tasty, I think I'd only consume a large handful like the batch Audi gave me. I'll just ask him to hook me up next fall and use that as an excuse to play with the kids and see them grow up!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A hydrangea in honor

It's been a very sad week for the Filipino community here in Seattle as we mourn with the death of Danny Vega, a 58 year old hairstylist living in the Rainer Valley, who was severely beaten by a group of young teenagers close to his home/shop. Beaten and robbed, those close to him consider it a hate crime as Vega was openly gay and very active in the Filipino community.

Why I'm posting this on my gardening blog may have many of you scratching your heads. I didn't know Danny Vega; I don't know if he was a gardener or not, but he was a respected member of a community that I'm a part of and, in a way, what happened to him could easily happen to anyone of us.

He was a small business owner such as myself and pursued a natural talent and gained the respect and admiration of many. He showed that Filipinos can make a mark and be recognized.

On Monday night after work, I texted my brother asking if he knew Danny Vega and I had to break the news to him that he had passed away as he was on life support in a coma a few days before. Neither of us really knew him, but my gut was telling me that I had to pay my respects somehow. So, I went to the store thinking I'd just buy some flowers and a card to bring to his home. At the floral shop, I found a few potted plants that, I thought, would last much longer and this hydrangea caught my attention.

Dubbed as the "Shooting Star" hydrangea, this Macrophylla-lacecap type is unusual, elegant and, in my mind at that moment, could represent the sky and the heavens above where Mr. Vega now resides. It the trade, it is also known as 'Hanabi' and 'Fuji Waterfall' (which I think is odd because I've grown FW and looks nothing like these florist plants).

That evening, I drove down to his shop where visitors have left flowers, cards, candles and their well-wishes to the friends and family. I placed my hydrangea plant and card down when a group of people came from inside the house to relight some of the candles that had gone out. They asked how I knew Danny Vega and I told them that I didn't know him, but I saw the news and felt compelled to just pay my respects. They kindly invited me inside to commiserate as they shared many stories and experiences, both in English and Tagalog.

I have mentioned that I was a horticulturist and they asked about how to care for 'Shooting Star' hydgrangea.

I explained the basics:

1) These were grown in a greenhouse under controlled conditions so they would flower for the holidays. Normally, they come into bloom over the summer and into autumn.

2) They're the same species as the typical "grandma blue" hydrangeas and should be able to grow outside.

3) Keep as an indoor plant and if you desire, move it out after danger of severe cold.

4) Supposed to be cold hardy in USDA Zone7 - Zone 9. But I still question its overall hardiness as I've been reading mixed reviews about the plant.

5) Well drained soil no matter what.

I don't know if they're interested in planting it up or not, but at least it will last through for several weeks (weather pending).

Being able to contribute and pay my respects towards someone with flowers or a plant such as this hydrangea makes the field I'm in far more meaningful. Even though it's a sad moment, plants and flowers still have the same effect on people during moments like this and just makes the grieving process a little easier.

My thoughts and prayers to the friends and family and my Danny Vega rest in peace.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Market Finds: Beets, leeks, and purple artichokes

My recent trip to the Pike Place Market yielded some wonderful finds and produced one of the most intense salads I've ever tasted. The more I visit and gather this wonderful bounty, I always tell myself, "Next year, I gotta grow these next year!!!" But, it never happens.

Pike Place Produce at home

Beets, for example, I've grown to really like as they are naturally sweet, flavorful and wonderful simply roasted with a little garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. I like to purchase a bundle with the tops still intact as they're great green sauteed in a little butter and oil. They're easy enough to grow and since they're root crops, I could be enjoying beets from my garden during the summer all the way through winter provided that I mulch them after the first main freeze. I'm particularly fond of yellow beets as they have a milder flavor and don't "bleed" like the typical deep red variety.

Now leeks are quite new to me even though I've learned how to grow them, but I've never really cooked them before so for two large stalks for $2, I thought I'd give them a try. Think of these as giant scallions or green onions and the main part you want to grow and develop is the thick white base. That's why they're usually grown in deep trenches and soil is slowly back-filled as the stalks grow to get the whitest base possible.

Purple Artichokes
The highlight of my finds were these adorable little purple chokes that were so beautiful, I was curious to learn more about how to cook and prepare them. I actually tried growing this in a container planting at work, but it didn't really do much besides sprout a few leaves. So, I was taught to peel off a few of the outer bracts and trim them like you would the typical green globe artichokes by snipping off the spiny tips of the bracts and basically slicing off the top 1/3 of the entire head. Then slice in half and cook.

Having some tender greens I had to use up, I decided to make a salad. I roasted both kinds of beets, and grilled up the leeks, purple artichokes, and the ultra flavorful and expensive (I had to splurge; they're freakin' amazing) matsutaki mushrooms.

The result was a cornucopia of color and various flavors and I just went all out on this one:

I drizzled the green first with a light white balsamic vinaigrette, threw in the roasted and grilled veggies and topped it off with spiced roasted pecans, dried cranberries and goji berries. I call it my "Autumn Antioxidant Salad"!! =P

Podcasting with Dr. Linda: Year Round Container Gardening!

Evergreen Container Combo

Listen to Linda's podcast on her least favorite and unnecessary garden products followed by my consultation at Sky Nursery with her podcast engineer, Shelli, who wants to improve the appearance of her small yard. I recommend that she start with a container garden so we discuss simple solutions to having a great container planting that looks great year around and is relatively easy to care for.

They had to edit for time, but we covered a lot of ideas and plants, but it's helpful to get folks started!

Hope you'll take a listen!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Better late than next year: giving thanks for what I do.

We all have so much to be thankful for and Thanksgiving was the time to reflect and also rejoice in the fact that we've all been blessed with more than what we take the time to acknowledge.

For me, it's been a rough past few weeks trying to deal with with something I sort of hinted at on a previous post, but when I look at everything else that's going on in my life, especially with work, I absolutely have no reason to complain.
I can't be more pleased at the fact that I've got a part time job with benefits and my own business, which will undergo somewhat of a metamorphosis in the coming year.

As rough, repetitive, and sometimes back-breaking as it can be, I should consider myself exceedingly lucky to have a job at this time and also in a field that I respect and enjoy being in.

I'm exceedingly grateful for my friends and colleagues in the field who have shared not only their expertise and plants, but many have also opened their hearts with their never-ending support and encouragement.

The opportunities that have fallen in my lap this year have been incredible and even life-changing. From the numerous speaking engagements, teaching, finally being able to travel overseas once again, and the continued satisfaction I get from planting, growing, designing, propagating, and studying plants and gardens, it's been another year of hard work and more opportunities that, I hope, will continue to push me and lead towards a better career that's even more fulfilling, but pays just a hair more to be able to survive and plan well for the future.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you, the readers, for staying with me and following this blog and its roller coaster of observations, events, and "all things Riz" and my obsession with plants, flowers, gardens, plant people, and, yes, even FOOD!

That's what I'd like to see in the next generation of gardeners: embracing the things that provide us with air, nourishment, beauty, spaces for recreation, privacy, and a better understanding on how to improve our overall quality of life by having plants around us always.


Support the little guys!!

It's Small Business Saturday!

Please head out and support your local small businesses and show that you care and want them to stick around!

Occupy Flash Mob Produce

Instead of shopping Black Friday, I took part in Green Friday and hit up the Pike Place Market here in Seattle to gather some produce from local farmers.

Let's send out a message to get people thinking about the holidays and what they really all about; the health, joy, and well-being of those around us. Fancy gadgets and electronics are awesome things and if you can afford them, great, but I'm encouraging you to not forget the little guys there doing what they can to make a difference in people's lives this holiday season!



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Plant now for the best summer flowers!! Come to my FREE talk!

I'm trying to be better about tooting my own horn from time to time and I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so:

Lilium Poster 2

On Monday, November 21, at 7PM, I will be speaking at the Hardy Plant Society of Washington's fall program at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle, WA.

My topic: The Lure of Lilium. True lilies have been a strong passion of mine since I was a preteen when my brother and I bought a few bulbs of the very popular oriental hybrid 'Stargazer' and grew and flowered them with ease. Comparable to the more exotic (and expensive) orchids at the time, I was instantly hooked and wanted to learn more about these intriguing plants.

Lilium 'Scheherazade' blooms
Lilium 'Scheherazade'

From that point, I wanted to grow just about every lily that was out there and my eyes widened considerable when I dived into learning about their classification, reproduction/propagation, and even laboratory techniques in advanced breeding of interspecific hybrids!! Total plant geek, yeah I am!

I've also had the privilege of seeing a handful of wild species when I traveled to China just a few years ago.

Lilium 'Silk Road'
Lilium 'Silk Road' - Oriental x Trumpet Hybrid

My talk is aimed towards introducing newbies to this fabulous group of seemingly rare and exotic, but readily available and easy to grow plants; and it's also aimed towards those "know it all" gardeners who say they grow everything as I promise to share something new and exciting for all!!

So if you live around the Seattle area, please come and hear me speak! There will be quite an assortment of lily bulbs from my friend/mentor, Judith Freeman, of The Lily Garden and a few freshly dug selections from my own garden/nursery, Landwave Gardens.

Lilum Tiger Babies in Briza media
Lilium 'Tiger Babies'

I also love to give away plants during talks so if you come, you've got a chance of going home with something special!

OH, BTW, did I mention...... Admission is FREE!!!!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

You can't smell the roses when you're gone...


As busy and productive as I try to keep myself in the autumn, I somehow always fall into a funk where I'm overly analytical, emotional, and constantly worried about where things are going and what direction aspects of my life are taking. Not being able to actually work and garden outdoors as much as I'd like when daylight is cut short and temperatures become almost unbearable, really can get to me.

While I've been trying to refrain from sharing too much of my personal life for everyone to read, I feel like I need to share just a tiny bit so others who may read this can truly see that I'm just like any 20-something guy who's seeking out personal independence, professional success, financial stability, regular social interactions, and, along those lines, meaningful relationships.

Fall is when feelings seem to run deep and the desire to be with a significant other grows ever so strongly. Fall is also the time for new music releases that impact my mood:

One of my favorite music artists of all time is Darren Hayes. Many of you may recognize his voice as the front man of the former band, Savage Garden. I might have mentioned them in a previous blog post, but they're remembered for their romantic ballads and memorable melodies. Darren has continued as a solo artist and his latest release dubbed, "Secret Codes and Battleships" has been on my current iTunes playlist.

One track, called "Roses" inspired this flower arrangement you see above. I placed it on my bed stand to remind me that romance isn't as illusive as it may seem or, perhaps, I may have already experienced it and the excess flowers from my garden I used as filler represent something I truly care about.

So here's a preview of the entire album. "Roses" comes on at around 4:54.

Time for bed.


Engaging college students at UW Botany Greenhouse

On a chilly Thursday evening at the University of Washington Botany Greenhouse, I paid a visit to check out an event that some friends told me about as The Botany Club (at UW) organized a meeting that invited anyone to bring an empty glass container to be planted up with miniature plants from the greenhouse.

While I've been quite out of the loop with the Botany Greenhouse and indoor plants in general (minus the few houseplants in my room that are surviving well with neglect), it's still a treat to visit and support my colleagues in these kinds of endeavors as it's always so encouraging to see young students take an interest in growing plants.

I came kind of late (damn Filipino stereotype, I swear...ugh), but I was delighted to see a line-up of students with their friends, significant others and family holding their own glass containers waiting for a scoop of potting mix, their choice of plants materials ranging from tiny sellaginellas (spike mosses), miniature African violets, and various little ferns and clippings of plants that will fit in their little greenhouse and, finally, a thorough misting to complete their own little garden they can keep on their desk and/or windowsill of their small apartment or dorm room.

Terri planting a terrarium It was a perfect idea to engage people with plants FOR FREE!! It was a great way to reuse an old glass jar or container that's probably lying around and the extra little bits of plants from the Botany Greenhouse were actually put to use rather than being just chucked to the compost bin and it really is a way for students to really have some sort of plant life in their busy day-to-day lives. They had a great assembly line going spearheaded by my friends, Terry Huang and Jeff Benca who are both biology students and uber plant geeks that regularly volunteer at the greenhouse.

UW Botany Greenhouse with kids

It was great to see that they had a pretty good turn out and people seemed genuinely interested and even excited about getting something for free that was unique, creative, and something they could call their own to care for and nurture. They got full instructions on how to care of their terrarium and no one really worried about them dying and the handful that did actually realized that it didn't really matter; it didn't cost them a thing!

I think it's simple things like this event is what we need more of. It brings a community (big or small) together and it gets them talking and everyone is there to learn. It's one of those initial hooks to get the younger generation to start thinking about plants.

Oh, and probably the most unique composition was this little sci-fi vignette with an X-Files theme!

The X-files Terrarium

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A lady named Wendy. She does awesome containers!

I've been so out of the loop with NHS (Northwest Horticultural Society), but I have to mention their upcoming lecture at the Center for Urban Horticulture on Wednesday evening because my friend Wendy will be speaking on her forte, container planting design.

November 9, 2011
Container Confidential
Wendy Welch

Garden designer Wendy Welch shares what she has learned in 15 years of designing, installing and maintaining container gardens. Gorgeous plant combinations of trees, shrubs, conifers, perennials and annuals will inspire you. The dispelling of some long lived mythology about container culture — drainage, soils, water, fertilizer, longevity etc. will empower you to plant successful, sustainable container gardens.

Wendy has earned a huge reputation as one of the Northwest's best container designers. Her work can be seen all over the Seattle metropolitan area and has been featured at local nurseries, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and she is a fellow part time faculty member at Edmonds Community College where she teaches container design.

What I love about Wendy is her perky personality, her familiarity with both hardscape materials AND plants, her concern for the environment and looking for ways to move forward to meet the demands and desires of her clients. She also uses color well. My most favorite thing about her is what I love about most garden folks is her willingness to share her love, her craft and her vast knowledge and experiences with others. This is key for our industry.

Riz and Wendy at NHS

So, you've gotta see her talk on Wednesday and check out some of her beautiful work and get some wonderful ideas for your container plantings with winter!!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Annual Container's last hurrah!!

Annual containers last hurrah
So this was the result of trying to spruce up our surroundings over the summer and now they're as full as can be as the autumn color from the Oregon ash trees in the background set it off well.

As extravagant as this looks, it's actually really easy to put together and maintain. Think of this idea in a tough spot underneath a tree for next season. Rely on foliage and texture: flowers are just icing on the cake.


Autumn at the Arboretum

Fall color in its full splendor. It was just a few weeks ago that I wrote about the lack of color up in the mountains, but with snow expected up there soon, I'm sure things colored up well, but here in the lowlands, the show has been quite spectacular.

Check out a recent visit to Washington Park Arboretum and the wonderful display we were treated to.

After a staff meeting, our hort supervisor, David Zuckerman, lead us on a tour of the Woodland Garden.

Fothergilla fall color B
The absolute standout was the intense coloration of Fothergilla major. All throughout the plant was this kaleidoscope of warm colors at different intensities. Each year, it's always this brilliantly colored and can be seen from quite a distance! Next to the Fothergilla is another one of my favorite landscape plants that will exhibit its autumn colors in just a few days. This is Hydgrangea quercifolia, the Oak Leaf Hydrangea! Below

Fothergilla and oakleaf hydrangea 1

Further down the path, we encountered the stunning fine texture of this Acer dissectum cultivar that lit up the woodland garden as the sun that day made an attempt to show itself that afternoon.


Close by in the winter garden, the Hamamelis, or Chinese witch hazels, were coloring up quite well also:

Hamamelis fall color Hamamelis yellow fall color close up

Can't share fall color with some bark action and these Chinese Paper Birches (Betula albo-sinensis var. septentrionalis) were simply outstanding!


Then, we looped around and captured a view that I've never seen before in all the years of visiting the Arboretum. It was such a treat to witness this with my co-horts and appreciate one of the reasons why we love what we do!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In honor of "hua jiao" - The Sichuan Pepper Corn

Must first get your attention with this...

Sichuan Cuisine

If there was one plant that would remind me fondly of my experiences in studying abroad in China, it would be the genus Zanthoxylum. :"Huājiāo" (花椒; literally "flower pepper") in Chinese or "sanshō" (山椒) in Japanese has thrived in my garden since I secured plants of two species shortly after I returned from China. They are now growing close to one another and producing an abundant crop of peppercorn husks and pungent foliage when crushed.

As a member of the citrus family (Rutaceae), all parts of the plant are scented when crushed, but it's the bright red peppercorns that pack the punch when it comes to tongue-numbing sensations that allow the spiciness of Sichuan/Szechuan cuisine to really come through.

There are several species that have earned the common name of "Sichuan Pepper Corn". Perhaps the most common in production is Z. piperitum, but I've also secured a seedling of Z. simulans from the University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden.

At first, I thought I had two different forms of Z. piperitum, but the foliage and habit are very different.

On top of the photo is Z. simulans with larger, dark green leaves with fewer leaflets compared to Z. piperitum which has smaller leaves and more leaflets. It is also lighter in color and when you crush the leaves and smell both species, the Z. piperitum has a "sweeter" smell, while. Z. simulans is stronger and kind of harsh.

What I remember in Sichuan is actually Z. simulans. A classmate of mine was studying them as a commercial crop in a small village in the Liangshan Prefecture in SW Sichuan called Yangjuan. He tried to determine if the peppercorns would be a viable crop for the village as it thrived in the high elevation and somewhat arid conditions.

Here at Landwave, I actually grow the two species close together in the hopes that I'd get increased fruit production. It's been two years since I planted them together and this year, I'm having quite a crop! Z. piperitum has denser foliage ( I think in Japan it's the new growth and foliage they consume) and not as much fruit, but Z. simulans, though lanky and somewhat awkward in habit (due to my not so great pruning as it has gotten a bit large) is fruiting very well.

So, what you consume are the pinkish red husks. The black seeds are removed and it's these husks that are allowed to dry and used for cooking to create dishes like the ones above!

A winning fall combination! A toad lily in forest grass

I remember seeing this combination in a shade gardening book and have wanted so badly to recreate it. This is Tricyrtis 'Taipei Silk' USPP#18727 in bloom with the foliage of Hackonechloa macroa 'Aureola'.

Both plants enjoy part shade, adequate moisture throughout the growing season here in the Pacific Northwest!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In search of fall color: A weekend getaway

This past weekend, a friend and I headed up to a friend's cabin just past Snoqualmie Pass along the I-90 corridor in the hopes that we'd get away; have some one-on-one time to catch up and talk, hike, cook, listen to some classic 80's and 90's pop, and sit in the cabin with a fire going in the fireplace as we watched a lame action movie.

Vine maples pass Snoqualmie

I kind of treated our weekend getaway as an opportunity to also scout out plants and views of the Pacific Northwest landscape; studying my natives, taking photographs, and, hopefully, being treated to a spectacular fall foliage show was on my agenda.

DSC03931Driving through, there wasn't all that much, unfortunately. Along the side of the road as we took exit 62 on Lake Kachess, we noticed a few vine maples that were showing some color. On a morning stroll by myself, I noticed a few interesting groundcover plants alongside the road that I never really get tired of seeing. Our native coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus v. palmatus) and the lovely heart-shared leaves of Asarum caudatum, the Western Wild woodland ginger. These are garden worthy plants (in fact, I grow a gold leaf form of out native coltsfoot that I seriously need to thin out, btw) and to see them in their natural setting is kind of cool.

Petasites along the roadside

In a roadside ditch, the Asarum and its humble hearts.

But what I was really hoping to see were the views from the lakeside with the water and the distant hills spotted in bright yellows, oranges and glaring reds. While the views were still captivating, there wasn't really any color yet.


It was peaceful, tranquil and a much needed break to just regroup and be reminded of what was an awesome summer. The lack of color almost seemed to symbolize a slow transition; almost as if to say that parts of the summer still exist, but nature has to take its course so you just have to trust it and, in time, it will all fall into place.