Archive for January, 2010
cos or romaine lettuce, spinach, kale marigold and nasturtium

Lettuce Begin Early

Posted 31 January 2010 | By | Categories: Gardening, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Lettuce Begin Early

cos or romaine lettuce, spinach, kale marigold and nasturtium

I’d noticed greens harvested early in the morning for omelets tasted better and stayed fresh longer than the greens picked in the afternoon or evening. Now I know why — especially for lettuce — during the night, much of the salt contained within the leaves returns to the roots, as the day gets warmer, the salts return to the leaves. Thanks Backyard Homestead, Mini-Farm and Garden Log Book by John Jeavons.

Pictured above (clockwise from top left): spinach, cosmos, nasturtium, marigold, cos or romaine lettuce, lacinato kale, taken on 17 January 2010 in the vegetable garden.

Learning from Gardens, Books and Art

Learning from Gardens, Books and Art

Posted 31 January 2010 | By | Categories: Art, Books, Gardening | Comments Off on Learning from Gardens, Books and Art

 Collocation No. 14 (NATURE) Left Panel by Mickey Smith

I’m charmed by this “Collocation No. 14 (NATURE) Left Panel” print by Mickey Smith (and its fraternal twin) from 20×200.com (which is having a ridonkulous sale on their prints through the weekend), and it made me think of Cultivating Failure, Caitlin Flanagan’s attack in the current Atlantic on school gardens for taking away from book learning. To which Kurt Michael Friese at Civil Eats replied best summing up my own thoughts:

Ms. Flanagan has chosen to ignore the core purposes of these gardens, only one of which happens to be cultivating a respect for hard work, and only one other of which is a healthy respect for real food. While she notes that the work of the garden has migrated into each of the classrooms, she ignores the obvious point that this demonstrates: There is nothing taught in schools that cannot be learned in a garden. Math and science to be sure, but also history, civics, logic, art, literature, music, and the birds and the bees both literally and figuratively. Beyond that though, in a garden a student learns responsibility, teamwork, citizenship, sustainability, and respect for nature, for others, and for themselves.

Here in New Zealand, I was touched by Maggie Barry’s story of Seeding for Success showing how a school garden program led by Kataraina Nock at the Edmund Hillary School in South Auckland not only engaged students but families and the community beyond. I’m also excited to see The Garden to Table Trust’s initiative for New Zealand Primary Schools where children aged 7-10 will learn to grow, harvest, prepare and share food. The Garden To Table program was inspired by the Kitchen Garden Foundation in Australia, founded by Stephanie Alexander, whose Kitchen Garden Cookbook and Cook’s Companion are two of the books I’ve been enjoying learning from this week.)

Last week I was reunited with the things I saved while dematerializing and moving to New Zealand. I was excited and nervous to uncrate the art I had loved in New York — would I still find it beautiful or have any emotional connection? Would it even arrive intact? On that front, I am so pleased with the packing and crating by WelPak. They lived up to their name completely.

My father noted how uncanny it was that Marc Quinn’s Garden II series of prints (pictured above in part in New York) fit in so well to the new enviornment. But I wasn’t surprised at all… I remember falling in love and wanting to move in and surround myself with the intense blues and greens, the profusion of wild and vibrant flora, the juxtaposition of species you wouldn’t find together anywhere else. Which would not be an incorrect way to describe where I am now in New Zealand. Perhaps the art in part led me here? What yearnings are revealed in the art that speaks to you?

Opines on Lupines

Posted 23 January 2010 | By | Categories: Plants, Seagarden | 1 Comment

This beautiful bush sprouted up almost overnight in the front natives garden. At first I thought it was gorse due to the yellow flowers, copious seed pods, and speed of conquest. But gorse is a spiky thorny thing, where as this had smooth leaves. Or, as they say at the California Invasive Plant Council, “sparsely pubescent (appearing glabrous), palmately compound leaves.”

The key to identification was the flowers, which reminded me of the lupines that took my breath away riding from Husavik to Akureyri in Iceland. All of a sudden the barren-moon landscape filled up with clean rows of purple blossoms as far as the eye could see. From there, it didn’t take long to figure out it was Yellow Bush Lupine (Lupinus arboreus), designated a New Zealand national plant pest.

The Icelandic Forest Service introduced Lupinus nootkatensis from Alaska in 1945 to prevent soil erosion in barren areas and to nourish the soil by fixing nitrogen from the air. In New Zealand, Lupinus arboreus was planted along coastal sand dune areas in order to provide shelter and nutritional support for Pinus radiata trees, protecting farms from sand encroachment. Both have proven to thrive a bit too well though, and are now considered invasive.

“In New Zealand weeds are almost always plant species that humans have introduced to the country,” according to the Department of Conservation. Many of the plants considered weeds here are ones I tended with love in my New York garden. They include Buddleia davidii, Lantana camara and some species of Passionflower.

It’s not just plants introduced from abroad however, “even a native species can be considered to be a weed in a particular site if it affects an important natural value on that site.” Here are some helpful guides to identifying uninvited plants that are taking over the garden party:

It turns out Lupines are as nutritious and problematic for people as they are for the landscape. Italians eat the seeds as lupini beans in brine, and Egyptians make them into snacks known as Termis. (If you’re in the USA and come across Aisha’s Termis in the grocery store, give it a go — it’s delicious. Intriguingly made in Massachusetts from lupine beans imported from Australia.) I love the springy skin that pops open to a tender inner bean in your mouth.

The problem is the alkaloids in the beans make them bitter and can be poisonous if not prepared properly. Mark Bittman details the days — or longer — it takes to get ready to eat. Barbara at DISH’N’THAT suggests at least two weeks. I love slow food and I love cooking, but “soak, rinse, repeat: Forever.” is not a recipe for me.

So goodbye to you Lu, you pretty, poisonous, pesty plant. I’ll smile and be happy to see you out and about, but I don’t see a future for us growing together.

Terroirist Spy Tools

Posted 20 January 2010 | By | Categories: Make Things, Plants, Technology | Comments Off on Terroirist Spy Tools

Love this Ignite video of Kati London, co-creator of Botanicalls, a device that will let you know when your plant needs watering via Twitter. The Botanicalls system and applications use networked open source hardware and software to allow plants to communicate with people on people’s terms – using the telephone, text messages or twitter.

  • If you’re in Wellington this weekend, check out the linux.conf.au 2010 Open Day of talks, hackfest, makers space and little blu kids area at at Town Hall Saturday 23 January 2010 from 11am to 2pm.

Lotus Lessons

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Plants, Seagarden, Spirit | Comments Off on Lotus Lessons

Lotus by David Midgley, 2008, This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License

When collating my dream plants for Seagarden, the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) was high on my list. With roots in the mud, stems growing up through muddy water, and exquisite fragrant blossoms emerging high above the water untouched, the lotus exemplifies purity and freedom. Heliotropic and self-fertilizing, the lotus is a sacred symbol to Hindus, treasured as one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, and also revered by the ancient Egyptians, for whom it symbolized the sun, creation and rebirth. And its seeds make a delicious sweet soup I came to love while living in Taiwan, as well as a delectable paste used in many Chinese desserts.

The lotus has inspired significant scientific discovery as well as spiritual. Wilhelm Barthlott studied the Lotus Effect, resolving in an electron microscope the nanoroughness on the leaf surface that repels everything that tries to settle on it, including water, honey, glue, dirt and even fungal spores, leaving it always dry and clean. When a drop of water rolls around it, it picks up the debris and cleans the leaf surface. Today, dozens of self-cleaning products such as paint, glass, roofing tiles, and textiles incorporate the lotus effect. This same quality is now also being used to make solar cells that absorb more energy from the sun, increasing efficiency by up to 25%.

One of the most stunning lotus ponds I’ve encountered is at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, where the images above were taken. The one just above is by Tim Entwistle, Executive Director of the Royal Botanic Trust, who blogs at Talking Plants. The top one is by David Midgley, cc 2008, who also blogs about plants at kipili.com.

As the lotus symbolizes awakening to reality, it was a bit dispiriting to face the reality that lotus plants would be most unhappy in my Wellington water garden. For though they remain untouched by most things, they cannot abide wind and and prefer warm humid temperatures. But I was heartened to discover that water lilies (Nymphaeaceae) might do well.

Water Lily A. SiebertWater Lily George H. Pringwater lily St. Louis Gold

There are two main types of water lilies, hardy and tropical, and between them over 60 varieties. I saw a yellow “Nymphaea Ray Davies,” that I could imagine belting out “Thank you for the days,” but the healthiest plants on offer seemed to be the tropical lilies. So I brought home one each of A. Siebert (pink), Mrs. Geo H. Pring (white) and St Louis Gold (yellow) from Glenbogal, whose site has good information on keeping them happy (as does Nymphaea Fidelity).

  • In this video, Janine Benyus, co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, talks about Lotusan, self-cleaning facade paint, as an example of the how designers can use biomimicry.
  • Sarah Fain has Starfish Envy is the compelling blog of a lovely lotus chronicling her adventures in self-fertilization.
Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Art, Health, Spirit | Comments Off on Daily Om: Healing Gardens

Ganesha, Saraswati, and Jallandharnath (detail), identified here as a copy of folio 1 from the Nath Purana, attributed to Amardas, c1825; opaque watercolour and gold on paper; 47 x 123 cm. Mehrangarh Museum Trust

There are very few email newsletters I remain subscribed to for long, but after many years, the DailyOm, continues to inspire me and often surprises me in addressing an issue or theme that’s top of mind. Today’s Om, Healing Gardens, particularly resonated:

Healing Gardens
Hand in Hand with Nature

Time spent in nature’s embrace is a soothing reminder of the fact that we also are products of the natural world’s ingenuity. We feel at home in a quiet forest and are comforted by the pounding surf of the seaside. In both the sunny meadow and the shaded waterfall’s grotto, stress and tension we have long retained melts away. Finding opportunities to reconnect with nature to enjoy its healing benefits can be difficult, however. Planting and tending a garden allows us to spend time with Mother Nature in a very personal and hands-on way. We work in tandem with nature while gardening—honoring the seasons, participating in the life cycle of various organisms, experiencing the unique biorhythms of our environments, and transcending all that divides us from the natural world. As we interact with the soil, we are free to be ourselves and reflect upon meditative topics. Fresh air invigorates us, while our visceral connection to the earth grounds us.

Though you may plant a garden to grow food or herbs, or for the pleasure of seeing fresh flowers in bloom, you will likely discover that the time you spend working in your plot feels somehow more significant than many of the seemingly more important tasks you perform each day. Whether your garden can be measured in feet or is a collection of plants in pots, tending it can be a highly spiritual experience. You, by necessity, develop a closer relationship with the soil, seeds, water, and sunlight. Nurturing just a single plant means cultivating a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that permit it to thrive. A true healing garden is simply one where you feel comfortable plunging your hands into the earth, lingering over seedlings and plants to observe their growth. And yes, even caressing and talking to plants. Creating beauty through the creative use of space, and giving yourself over to awe when you realize that you have worked hand in hand with nature to give birth to som! ething, is truly wonderful.

The partnership that is formed when you collaborate with Mother Nature through gardening is wonderful in that it provides you with so many opportunities to be outdoors. You will be reminded of not only your connection to the earth but also of your unique gifts that allow you to give back to the earth.

  • The image above is a detail from Ganesha, Saraswati, and Jallandharnath, identified here as a copy of folio 1 from the Nath Purana, attributed to Amardas, c1825; opaque watercolour and gold on paper; 47 x 123 cm, part of the “Garden and Cosmos” exhibition of the royal paintings of Jodhpur organised by the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Jodhpur, currently on at the Art Gallery NSW in Sydney, Australia through 26 January 2010.
  • The related Divine Landscape self-guided walk pairs paintings in the exhibition with locations in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Their lotus pond takes my breath away each time I visit — it’s one of my favorite heavens on Earth.
  • The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, India

  • A huge inspiration for my current Seagarden is the Oberoi Rajvilas (pictured above), also from the Indian state of Rajasthan, but in Jaipur. I especially loved the flowing water throughout the property, deep blue and turquoise ceramic tiles, scent of jasmine flowers permeating the air, private bathing gardens and harmonious combination of sacred temple and secular haveli.
Remote Control Gardening

Remote Control Gardening

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Technology | Comments Off on Remote Control Gardening

Le verdure del mio orto

I’ve been watching friends get sucked into FarmVille, a social online game that has them planting, plowing and harvesting and earning a little virtual coin. But what if those vegetables you planted in your browser were actually delivered weekly to your home? Le Verdure Del Mio Orto (‘The Vegetables from my Garden’) lets you build an organic garden from your web browser and offers weekly deliveries from ‘your farm’ in Northern Italy, between Milan and Turin. (Found via Springwise.)

Virtual gardeners first select a plot size according to how many people they’d like to feed: 30m2 is sufficient for 1–2 people and costs EUR 850 per year. Then you can select from 39 types of vegetables for your patch, with information on expected yields and harvest times displayed visually. Optional extras include herb, fruit, flower, and flavor (e.g. garlic, basil, chile peppers) beds, a photo album of the garden’s progress, organic compost, personalization, and even a scarecrow with an image of your face.

Now this is the kind of community supported agriculture I’d really love to support!

  • If you’re dreaming of growing Italian vegetables in your own garden, Franchi is a line of specialty seeds with gorgeous pomodori, melanzane, carciofi,cime di rapa and other marvelous things available at ItalianSeedsPronto.co.nz online in NZ, seedsofitaly.com in the UK and http://www.growitalian.com in the US.
  • If you’re in Wellington and want to order organic veggies grown by Frank van Steensel and Josje Neerincx of Wairarapa Eco Farms online for weekly delivery, sign up at www.simplygoodfood.co.nz.
  • If you want to learn to cook creatively with them, make Maria Pia de Razza-Klein your mentor.
  • Or if you just want to experience them at their best, eat at her trattoria (Maria Pia’s, 55-57 Mulgrave Street, Wellington, phone 04.499.5590).