Sunday, January 31, 2010

Goodbye January

Above is the view from my kitchen table, where I sit writing today. At least the sun is shining on this last day of January, but we woke to single digit temps and a stiff breeze that let us know winter still has us firmly by the scruff of the neck. Every now and again we are given a little shake, as if winter wants to let us know it could break us, if it really wanted. I'm not going down without a fight, however.

I've been low this winter, not feeling up to writing much, and today's sunshine was enough to rouse me. Gourdo, who has to keep busy always, has been at work on a project, building shelves to house a television and books in our living room. Ooooh yeah! Food Network is on!
The house is turned upside down as a result of the bookshelf project. I think that is adding to the feeling of malaise. As soon as I'm finished with this brief, keep-in-touch post, I'll attack the disarray and maybe whatever order I manage to restore will help with the mood around here.
I'm starting to plan trips to the various home and garden shows within an hour or two from us, and I'm also looking online for seeds to start in March. I have a few items on my wishlist and they are proving difficult to locate. Is that because they won't grow here in Ohio? My garden research really heats up now that January is done. If I decide to start seeds indoors, early March is when I'll want to have seeds and supplies at hand.
Goodbye, January, you vicious beast! I'm glad to see you go! Photos by JulenaJo.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Flowers in the Snow

Although I seldom remember my nightly dreams upon waking, there was a period a few years back where I had a series of recurring, vivid dreams about gardens.

One such dream featured an overgrown, neglected rose garden that I would discover in the yard of a house that, in my dream, I was considering purchasing. The house was always different. Sometimes it was an eerie Victorian mansion, damp and ornate, but long-unoccupied--on the verge of collapse. Other times it was a suburban modular, plain and unappealing, also long-unoccupied but otherwise habitable. Several times it was one of the two houses I grew up in as a child.

In all cases, the thing that really piqued my interest was the garden. Dazzling, unusual flowers grew in an untamed tangle all around the house. Roses grew with wild abandon, canes rocketing out of the soil to reach dizzying heights. I always had to reach up and pull the opulent blooms down to smell them. I couldn't wait to lose myself in the garden, trimming and pruning and restoring order and the lost beauty of the original garden. In every dream, I had misgivings about the houses, but felt irresistably drawn to the mysterious, old, neglected gardens.

In another series of recurring dreams, I find myself walking in the snow. Suddenly, I come across a garden in full bloom. I'm stunned and marvel at the beautiful red tomatoes hanging on lush green vines and at scarlet poppies waving on prickly stems above a drift of white snow.

How does this happen? I wonder. What kind of gardener can make flowers bloom in the snow?

I wake feeling happy after these dreams, but I have no idea what they indicate about my psyche. Who dreams of flowers in the snow? What does it mean?

I carried a bouquet of dried flowers and seed pods outdoors for a photo today. I'm looking forward to planting lots of everlastings this spring. I like the idea of flowers that last all winter. I need flowers in the snow. Photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

National Hot Tea Month

Some of the teapots I've collected since I was about 13 years old are shown above. That year mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and, much to her surprise, I requested a teapot. It was the first of many to follow.

Since, I have received several from my godmother and other family members, and two from my late, beloved grandmother, which I treasure most. One of those, the most unusual in my collection, is seen in the first photo. It's a squatty, stacking set with what I believe is an "occupied Japan" mark on the bottom of the pieces. It's quite charming, and I've never seen anything like it elsewhere. The small brown pot in the center photo is of a more commonly seen style. It belonged to my great grandmother. I love to imagine her using it so many years ago. The last pot shown is the one that started my collection that Christmas when I was a girl.
I was happy to share my collection with the library where I work for a January display, as January is National Hot Tea Month. It's the perfect month for it, don't you think? With the frigid temps, the snow, and the gardens frozen over, there is nothing finer to do than brew a cup of tea and sit, sipping, with a good book--or pile of garden catalogs.

Regular black or green tea is brewed from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a lovely plant in its own right. How the leaves are processed determines the type of tea produced. I like my Camellia leaves with a hint of added flowers, as in jasmine or lavender, or with the citrus oil of bergamot (an orange, not an herb) as in Earl Grey. I even have tea with rose petals in it. Of course! It must be the gardener in me. At any rate, I find a cup of hot tea to be soothing, warm, and delicious. According to the health literature I occasionally peruse, tea is loaded with antioxidants, too. Bonus.
Won't you join me in celebrating National Hot Tea Month? Let's brew a comforting pot of tea and get comfortable with our books and catalogs. It's the next best thing to spring! Teapot photos by JulenaJo.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bests of 2009 and an Invitation

Let me recap the past year. I love making lists. January 1 is a great time to do so.

Best Flowers of 2009

Sunflowers: Moulin Rouge and Strawberry Blonde varieties were stellar in the cutting garden.

Rose: Knockout--the original Rosa RadRazz outperformed all others in a year when even the rugosas took a hit due to drought.

Annual: Nasturtium Empress of India makes a huge impression with its round, dark, blue-green foliage and its startling cherry red blooms. I grow them in the front of the bed and in a mass. The flowers are edible, too! Second best would be the equally old-fashioned snapdragon. I grow the taller varieties and they are impressive, blooming all season long and never needing to be staked even in our windiest conditions.

Perennial: Tough call here. Catmint blooms for a long time and draws butterflies, but so does buddleia, which is also fragrant. Crocosmia 'Lucifer' has attractive foliage as well as gorgeous blooms, but so does the variagated iris. And the coral bells! Their airy blooms soften the garden and bring in hummingbirds. I really cannot decide here.

Best Food of 2009
I've enjoyed a lot of really good food this year, but these dishes stand out as the best by far.

Pioneer Woman's brisket. Holy cow. Look here for the recipe, or better yet, just buy her cookbook.

Rachael Ray's crispy chicken cutlets. Gourdo made this for Valentine's Day as well as for Christmas Eve. Every bite was yum-o, as RR would say. Here's the link:

Giada de Laurentiis Mascarpone Mini Cupcakes with Strawberry Glaze. Everything you ever wanted in cake. And more.

Best Books Read in 2009
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Hands down. The best.

Contenders for second and third place include The Lottery by Patricia Wood and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Aha Moment of 2009
I'd been listening to The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle when, like a lightning bolt, it struck me that I am neither my thoughts nor my emotions, that who I am is separate from them. Yes, that's what the book is about, but it HIT me. Very liberating. For almost 12 whole hours after that aha moment I felt terrific--free of worry and quite at peace. I haven't quite figured out how to live in the now all the time yet, but I'm working on it.

And that leads me to my New Year's Resolution: to simply Be Here Now. (Remember Ram Dass? Tolle and he both impressed me!) Thanks for reading. I hope you'll journey along with me into 2010!