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!!