Thursday, September 29, 2011

The only dates I've been getting

So autumn is here and with a new school year starting, you'd think that there would be a fresh crop of young, attractive individuals who catch my eye, but I haven't really been on the prowl like many around me say that I should be. So, I've resorted to "dating" by finding and devouring these sweet fresh dates known as Barhi dates.

So dates (Phoenix dactylifera) are well known as these sweet, dried, prune-like preserved fruits and it wasn't until many years ago when my aunt from California brought some with her when she visited Seattle. I was enamored by them right away as they just looked so beautiful as she held up a long golden inflorescence seemingly dripping in these firm, oval fruits that have a wonderfully crisp texture and mildly sweet flavor with a hint of astringency.

These are eaten fresh like this or allowed to ripen fully like the dates we're all familiar with.

Obviously date palms are not hardy in the Pacific Northwest, but it sure is a treat to have found the fruit to enjoy them at this time of year.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Dahlia flowers with purpose and meaning

September is the month for DAHLIAS!! I've always LOVED them since I was first introduced to them as a pre-teen by my good friend and mentor, Cora Slecther, who gave me a raised bed in which to grow my plants and she guided me through cultivating them and even exhibiting them in competitions. I have such a fondness for dahlias for their extravagant colors, forms, and their use as a garden plant as I've leaned more towards "garden worthy" varieties versus the "show" dahlias I grew up tending and being in awe of.

Dahlia purchaseAfter a site visit to check on a client's establishing garden last week, I drove by a gas station and noticed a tent surrounded by white buckets with bundles of dazzling cut dahlias. It had been a long week, I've had a lot on my mind and on my plate and I realized that my dahlias in the garden are nowhere near this abundant. So, I decided to splurge and buy a bouquet. Knowing off hand that these were locally grown and freshly cut that morning, I felt compelled to treat myself and support a fellow grower. So, I had this sweet young lady throw me a bouquet together for $10 using orange dahlias with some fabulous delphiniums and any other filler she felt like using. I handpicked a few individual stems for $1 a piece for a second bouquet and I was on my way.

Realizing that the cemetery was on the way home, I decided to bring the flowers to pay my respects to family and to Cora's late husband, Ken, who happens to also be buried in the same cemetery as my grandparents and uncle. I divided up the flowers and split them four ways.

I then headed home to work in the garden a bit and noticed that I did have a few dahlias in bloom so towards the end of the day, I gathered a few blooms and mixed in some wonderful blue Symphyotrichum novi-belgii and a few blades of grasses and Sedums. I placed them on my bed stand that seemed to create a theme with a candle, an iPod player and a copy of Dr. John Gottman's "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". The two dahlias I have in this vase are soft orange/yellow 'Camano Pet' and the fiery cactus 'Weston Spanish Dancer'!, I'm still single. Don't ask.

Just enjoy the flowers!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Back in School!

So I finally took my first baby step in what may be the next chapter of my horticultural career by enrolling in school to 1) figure out if I'm really on the right track with my current business endeavors with RHR Horticulture and Landwave Gardens by taking a Horticulture Business course through Edmonds Community College and 2) see if I have the drive to continue with schoolwork and look further ahead towards an advanced degree.

These were things that I've mulled over since finishing undergrad in 2006. I stuck with my plans to continue to work until I was financially capable of paying for the next phase (which I thought would possibly be a Masters), but these past few years have lead to a secure, but only part-time gardening position with the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, growing exposure and clientele and wonderful networking opportunities through talks, conferences, lectures and teaching engagements. Many around me felt like I didn't need another piece of paper. I still feel like it could hold me back somehow if I didn't pursue it.

Time and time again, I think of the title of this blog and how I represent it. Who is the "next generation gardener"? I know it's not just me, so how do I channel what I do to represent the next crop of avid individuals who love and appreciate the environment and love to see and nurture things to grow, bloom, and change.

In a way, I'm coming to realize that it doesn't fully matter what I do, but its how I do it. Does the passion and desire still burn inside to work in a field that I've loved since I was very little, but yet continues to baffle me as to what the next step should be to find a career that will sustain my humble and meager lifestyle during this very tough economic climate.

If I'm to represent the next generation of gardeners, I need to stick to my guns and instill a positive outlook for the future of my industry by simply doing what I love and that's sharing information and my enthusiasm for the wonderful aspects of the work I do. If people can see me thrive and be happy in an otherwise dismal field that's been ranked as the "#2 most useless degrees" by Newsweek, they will begin to explore and discover aspects of their life that don't have to cost a lot of money, but can be exceedingly rewarding.

Gardening needs to be fun and fulfilling, but when you do it professionally, it can easily burn you out as pressure from oneself tends to take over as you're constantly trying to figure out how it all really works for you. Taking this business class is just what I need right now just to be in a classroom where I'm not the one lecturing. Many of my classmates are former students of mine and I've really been good about keeping myself in check and focused on the task at hand and this quarter, it's my BUSINESS PLAN!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flower names in Chinese! Gotta review!


Time to brush up on my Mandarin. I learned a handful of Chinese names for common garden flowers and here's just a few of them in this easy tutorial:

I actually knew more fruit than flowers because they probably didn't want you to go hungry while in China. LOL.

And the veggies...I didn't care as much so I just grabbed them and asked, "多少钱?", hand them 100 yuan and hope I get the right change back. Hhahah, ok it wasn't that bad. I should practice these, but there were other veggies that I liked, but they didn't mention here:



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Counting on Crocosmias

These late summer blooming plants are becoming exceedingly popular and more widely grown. Thought to be somewhat weedy, now many are seeking out specific name cultivars as their intense warm hues light up a perennial border like no other at this time of year.

Here are three favorites in full bloom now at Landwave:

Crocosmia 'His Majesty'

Crocosmia 'His Majesty'
Can rival the popular 'Lucifer' in terms of height (3.5-4ft tall), but the flowers are exceptionally larger. I got this cultivar from Kelly and Sue at Far Reaches Farm earlier this summer and I loved the description, so I decided to try it. I had it placed where a stunning blue Agapanthus was in fully bloom as well.

'George Davison'

Crocosmia 'George Davidson'
An electric yellow orange that lights up the foreground of a hot summer perennial border. A classic variety that stands about 1.5 to 2 ft.

Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie'

Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie'
A strikingly dramatic cultivar that is always eye-catching because of its deep orange blossoms and blood-red blotch in the centers. Stands almost 2ft. in height and deserves more attention towards its large and unusually colored petals.

Of course there are many others in existence, these three impressed me the most and with the exception of 'His Majesty', 'George Davison' and "Emily" are readily available and worth seeking out come spring when their corms are available. A few nurseries will carry them blooming now in containers!