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.