Archive for 'Plants'
waterlilies in bloom

Flowers, Fragrance and Fruit

Posted 28 December 2012 | By | Categories: Flowers, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Spirit | Comments Off on Flowers, Fragrance and Fruit
waterlilies in bloom

waterlilies in bloom

Reclining Buddha enjoying the scent of jasmine.

Reclining Buddha enjoying the scent of jasmine.

meyer lemon and italian parsley

meyer lemon and italian parsley

 

Discovered the blackberries were starting to ripen this evening when neighbor girls asked if they could pick some from the bramble around my yard. Still a bit tart, but delightful. Happy to have an abundance of fruit to share.

Lavender and blackbird

Summer in the Seagarden

Posted 23 December 2012 | By | Categories: Flowers, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Summer in the Seagarden

It’s a glorious summer in the Seagarden. The strawberries are in full swing; blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and NZ cranberries (Myrtus ugni) are ripening. The espaliered tree has revealed itself to be some sort of green apple, and both the sweetie and braeburn apple trees are full of fruit. Fig brown turkey fruited before there were many leaves, but they all disappeared. Now there are lots of leaves but no fruit. And the tamarillos that were planted in 2010 seem to have blazed through their life cycle already.  Jasmine’s grown in around the front and courtyard doors, filling the entrances with heavenly scent, just as I’d dreamed. A couple of days ago, we harvested masses of spring onions which ended up in a giant Korean pancake-inspired frittata.

With my focus on growing a baby and business, the garden’s been mostly left to grow its own way this season. Even though I haven’t been actively planting or managing, I’ve delighted in the symphony of birds, bees and butterflies it attracts while exploring what’s new and changing. (Thank you Marisa Schuler for helping maintain this little patch of paradise.)

my first globe artichokes

Ode to My First Globe Artichoke

Posted 23 November 2012 | By | Categories: Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Ode to My First Globe Artichoke

my first globe artichokes

So delighted to harvest my first globe artichoke today. They were started from Koanga Institute seeds January 30, 2010, and survived along the edge of the orchard, but never seemed to thrive. They were shaded by a fence and tall puka on the other side. Moved a couple of them into the strawberry patch at the end of last season and now we’ve got artichokes!  They’re so tender and tasty, I like to steam, eat, and appreciate them without any extraneous flavours.

In honor of this joyous occasion, I offer Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Artichoke”:

The tender-hearted
artichoke
dressed up as a warrior,
erect, it built itself
a little dome,
it kept itself
impregnable
beneath
its armoured leaves,
beside it
the raving vegetables
began to frizzle,
they turned themselves into
tendrils, bullrushes,
touching bulbs,
below the ground
the red-moustachioed carrot
slept,
the vine
dried out its shoots
through which wine climbs,
the leafy cabbage
took to trying on skirts,
oregano
to scenting the world,
and the sweet
artichoke
there in the garden,
was dressed as a warrior,
burnished
like a grenade and proud,
and one day
assembled with its fellows
in large wicker baskets,
it walked
through the market
to make its dream of
soldiery
come true.
In ranks
it never was so military
as at the market,
the men
among the vegetables
with their white shirts
were
marshals
of the artichokes
the serried files,
the ordering voices,
and the report
of a fallen crate,
but then
Maria
comes along
and with her basket,
picks out
an artichoke
she isn’t scared,
she scrutinizes it, considers it
against the light as if it were an egg,
and buys it,
tossing it
into her bag
jumbled together with a pair of shoes,
a cabbage and a
bottle full of vinegar
until
when entering her kitchen
she plunges it into a pot.
Thus ends
in peace
the enlistment
of this armed vegetable
called the artichoke,
after which
leaf after leaf
we undress
its deliciousness
and eat
the peaceful substance
of its green heart.

(Translated by Phillip Hill)

Spinach in the garden 7 Apr 2012

Oh Spinach, What am I going to do with you?

Posted 07 April 2012 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Health, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Oh Spinach, What am I going to do with you?

Spinach in the garden 7 Apr 2012

 

Juiced, wilted, braised or super slow cooked? All of these and more!

 

 

Sweet as Wheatgrass

Posted 01 April 2012 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Sweet as Wheatgrass

For months, I looked for wheatgrass seeds among the seed packets and the bags of seeds-for-sprouting at the organic grocer. I started to suspect they were not stocking the seeds in order to promote the expensive flats of already growing wheatgrass. Eventually, I asked the woman at checkout why they didn’t stock them, and she looked at me incredulously: “Wheatgrass is just the baby stage of wheat, which you can find whole in the bulk section.” Of course! I had no idea.

What a delicious paradox that wheat, which gets blamed for a vast array of ills, is the very same plant that in grass form is touted as the elixir of all health and life. In any case, it’s incredibly easy to grow outside and well suited to vertical planters. Spread a dense mat of organic whole wheat seeds across the soil and just cover with a little more soil. Water extensively, then daily, and watch as it sprouts in a couple of days and is ready for harvest in eight.

Tamarillo Ripening Tip

Tamarillo Ripening Tip

Posted 14 May 2011 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants | Comments Off on Tamarillo Ripening Tip
Tamarillos Ripening in the Seagarden

Tamarillos ripening in the Seagarden

QUESTION from a Garden.Geek.NZ reader:

I wonder if you have any suggestions for ripening windfall tamarillos? We had some extremely strong winds recently here in New Plymouth NZ and so many of our fruit fell to the ground and are still very green. Any suggestions would be appreciated.  —Lyn

Dear Lyn,

Tamarillos are sensitive to ethylene gas, so storing them with other fruit can help them ripen. However, if the skin is still very green, they won’t ripen to optimal tastiness. Best wishes with the rest of the fruit!
Here’s some interesting technical info:

And when the rest of mine ripen, I’m looking forward to making these mulled tamarillos!

Tomatillo Time

Tomatillo Time

Posted 17 April 2011 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments

tomatillos grow like lanterns

Initially I didn’t have high expectations for Tomatillo Grande Verde (Botanical name: Physalis philadelphica, from the Solanaceae family, a.k.a. husktomato, jamberry, ground cherry; tomate de cascara, tomate de fresadilla, tomate milpero, tomate verde, miltomate; sourced from Kings Seeds organic), sown September 10, 2010, since I associated tomatillos with Mexican food, and therefore a sunny, warm climate. But the tomatillo’s been surprising in so many ways, proving itself hardier than all the tomatoes I planted this year and even thriving in the challenging Seagarden environment.

I planted out the seedlings at the same time as the tomatoes (gardeners delight and brandywine) and watched the tomatillo flower profusely with bright yellow blossoms, yet fruit didn’t set until much later. It turns out, they are not self-fertile— you need at least two plants to set fruit. I planted at least 4, but in different places around the garden. Happy to see at least two plants fruiting exuberantly. Thanks, bees!

Snail on Tomatillo

All types of creatures seem to like tomatillos. I loved seeing all the rigid and mis-shapen parts of the protective husks – visible reactions to threats and predators.

Todays Harvest

Yet within the husk, the fruits of my most recent harvest all looked entirely untouched. They feel sticky when you peel off the husk, but that rinses right off.

Naked Tomatillos

Alas, except for that big shiny one in the middle, I did it wrong. You’re supposed to wait until the fruit bursts through the hull — but not so long that they lose their bright green colour. Luckily, I didn’t pick them all, so I’ll wait until the rest are bursting through. My harvest was on the small and young side, but considering the delicious results of the slow cooked spicy Oaxacan Lamb stew I made with them, using Moreish organic lamb shanks from Urban Harvest and Mark Bittman’s sear it afterwards tip, you wouldn’t know I missed a trick.

Happy Birthday Orchard

Happy Birthday Orchard

Posted 07 January 2011 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons, Vegetables | Comments Off on Happy Birthday Orchard
brandywine tomato

Hard to believe it was just one year ago the Seagarden orchard was planted. Especially the magical bean-stalkish tamarillo trees. Almost everything made it through the first year on our extreme coast and quite a few have thrived. Here’s what’s notable in the garden this week, starting with the first ripe tomato. And what a punk fruit it is, with stitches and a hammer and sickle emerging from its ripe red flesh. It was, quite simply, the best tomato I’ve ever tasted, and that’s adjusting for bias because it’s the first one I’ve ever grown from seed to plate. With a name like ‘brandywine’ I thought it would be more explosive on the palette than the palate, but I was happily surprised by the reverse.

The First Tamarillos

The First Tamarillos

Posted 23 December 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Flowers, fungi, Gardening, Growing Food, Pest control, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on The First Tamarillos
tamarillo

Delighted to see the first tamarillos emerging like jewels from these fast-growing trees. The leaves have been attracting aphids, but they seem responsive to strong sprays of water shooting them off. I’m not sure the occasional chili pepper garlic spray did much more than the water on its own.

I’ve also harvested my first few potatoes out of the strawberry patch. The strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all still coming through strong. The blueberries are almost ripe, and the myrtus ugni are starting to form visibly behind the flowers. Feijoas are also fattening up even while still in bloom.

The area by the front door has filled up with fragrant star jasmine, which is apparently a seductive scent for cats as well as humans. At least for the the one below, who’s been hanging out on the front step a lot lately. When I approach to say hi, the cat scats. Directly across in the fernery, the nikau palm’s looking healthy, as are the native punga tree ferns.

There are also some mysterious mushrooms in the lettuce. Does anyone recognize these fungi? I appreciate your help in comments!

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Posted 16 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

welcome the new class of exotics This week, I am so excited to welcome an infusion of exotic plants (all from Subtropica): inga bean, chocolate gardenia, vanilla passionfruit, Chinese ginger, galangal and a dwarf date palm. I feel a bit like Willy Wonka composing a fantasy garden of candyfloss (inga bean) and nutella mangosteens (chocolate gardenia). Let’s see how they grow!

Ginger Chinese (Zingiber officinale var. sinensis) This is very similar to the ginger you buy in the shops. It has pungent yellow roots and is fairly easily grown outdoors, in a semi shaded position. Non invasive. A great plant for the vege garden.

Ginger Galangal – Red (Alpinia galanga) Also known as Thai ginger, this pretty plant has aromatic roots that are used extensively in Thai cooking. It will grow well outdoors in NZ in a frost-free spot with adequate moisture and semi-shade. The flowers have a red tinge, hence the name.

Inga Bean (Inga Edulis) A highly ornamental tree with huge bean pods up to 15 cm, containing candyfloss-like edible pulp. Leguminous tree. Ripens June-July. Will bear three years from seed. Beautiful white pohutukawa like flowers in January and February.

Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebellenii) This very attractive small palm has graceful, arching,deep green fronds. In its native Laos it produces small black edible fruits that resemble dates. It may be harder to get it to fruit here, but it will be an attractive addition to any subtropical garden.

Chocolate Gardenia (Atractocarpus fitzalani) Also known as yellow mangosteen, this Australian native has small, highly scented flowers followed by medium-sized sweet orange fruit, that I am told tastes like Nutella. It comes from the more tropical north, but will grow in a warm sheltered situation here. If the conditions are not warm enough, it won’t fruit but will still produce flowers. Not frost tolerant.

Passionfruit Vanilla (Passiflora antioquiensis) A really special passionfruit, the ripe fruit are long with a yellow skin when ripe and a very sweet, rich aromatic pulp. My favourite. The vines have narrow dark green leaves and a reddish stem. Non-invasive. The flowers are being beautiful large tropical looking scarlet flowers growing to 10-12 cm across and with purple blue centres. Flowers appear Spring and Autumn.

Summer Comes Alive

Summer Comes Alive

Posted 09 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Comments Off on Summer Comes Alive
first tomatoes

Summer has truly come alive. The first tomatoes, brandywine, are plumping up on the vine, and everything’s growing in full and lush.

Loving the fire-like blossoms on the native harakeke (phormium). For the last few days, a new drama has unfolded in the meditation garden outside my office: a blackbird smacks down a large stick insect and proceeds to wrestle it into submission. So far, the blackbird has won every match.

The vertical gardens are a delight this season. The strawberries (chandler, elsanta, gaviota) are doing exceptionally well and sending out runners to the tiers below. I’m still enjoying excellent strawberries from the patch that was planted before I arrived on the scene, but I have read that the plants weaken after a few years and succumb to pests and diseases.

Happy I interspersed lettuce with edible violas in the vertical planters – they’re visually delightful, and the flowers are lovely on salads and dishes. Also happy to see the potatoes planted in the bases are thriving. Will the new nutty celery succeed? Time will tell.

Strawberries and Snails

Strawberries and Snails

Posted 19 November 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons | Comments Off on Strawberries and Snails

one strawberry
Sunday, the universe sent me one strawberry valentine.

fivestrawberries.jpg
By Monday, five glorious fragaria glowed red and ripe.

Now they’re ripening fast and furiously. But I am not the only creature loving this sweet heart of a fruit…

snailstrail.jpg

Enter, the land snail. Enter many snails.
snail in my hand
I picked one up and marvelled at the feeling of its cool wet foot undulating on my hand. It outstretched its tentacles all the way to the end of its eyeballs and then gazed into mine. We sat like that for a while, contemplating each other.

According to Carl Jung, the snail represents ourself in dreams, with the hard shell analagous to the conscious and the insides to the subsconscious. But he also claimed that “No man lives within his own psychic sphere like a snail in its shell, separated from everybody else, but is connected with his fellow-men by his unconscious humanity.” I think he was right about the humans, but clearly he never spent much time watching snails. They’re definitely communing in my garden.

spooning snails in the strawberry bed

What are they doing in there? Well! I’m so glad I asked. A veritable venus in the escargot shell, this well-lubricated gastropod goes through an extensive attraction and courtship dance that can last twenty hours. Most terrestrial snails are hermaphroditic, with an organ system that includes not only a penis and vagina but exciting accessories like love darts and a bursa copulatrix (which I am excited to use in conversation when looking for my “fucking purse”). They can hold onto sperm from multiple partners until it is time to lay eggs, which the snail will place into a hole in the ground when conditions are right.

Helix pomatia reproductive organs illustration by Johannes Meisenheimer

Snail dreams just got a lot more interesting!

Did you come here looking for a way to get rid of them? I’ve come to adore these amorous mollusca and am letting them enjoy what they like of the strawberries this year. There’s plenty for all of us. But if you can’t bear to share, consider harvesting them along with your organic strawberries instead of poisoning them and other animals on down the chain (including yourself). Silver Trails Snails free range snail farm in Hawkes Bay has some intriguing recipes for l’escargot.

Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Posted 31 October 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Pest control, Plants, Vegetables | Comments Off on Halloween Special: Mummies in your Garden

Vivid tales of parasitic wasps eating mummified aphids from the inside out are but a part of this thought-provoking talk on plant protection using insects and the mass production of benevolent bugs.

A real horror story is that more than 90% of fruits and vegetables examined in NZFSA’s Food Residue Surveillance programme have pesticide residues. This method of natural pest control shown by Shimon Steinberg above could be a part of New Zealand’s strategy to reduce pesticide residues in our produce and soil.

First Day of Spring in the Seagarden

First Day of Spring in the Seagarden

Posted 01 September 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Container Gardening, Flowers, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Seasons | Comments Off on First Day of Spring in the Seagarden

September 1 is the first day of Spring in New Zealand. That’s still hard to wrap my Northern hemisphere-raised head around, but the garden’s been sending signs for a couple of weeks that it’s so. The nights are still cold, but each morning brightens a little earlier, accompanied by the sound of tui birds. Here are some more clues:

3 aeonium
Aeonium Schwarzkopf has provided a trio of synchronized swimming coneheads in daisy bathing caps for us to admire. Let us celebrate the combination of plum and chartreuse, wherever we may find it in nature. Where else can you find it in nature? If you can think of anywhere, let me know in comments.

blueberry blossoms
Blueberry bushes blossoming. Some have pink buds, some have white buds. Even the plants that looked too meagre to flourish are budding.

Clivia Miniata about to bloom
A Clivia Miniata blossom is springing up from the fernery floor. While normally a hardy plant, these were transplanted last year to make way for the tree ferns, and didn’t show much growth afterwards. Happy to see they’re going to make it after all.

Orchid Training
A splendid gift orchid is training dormant ones to revive. All 5 of the dormant phalaenopsis orchids have green leafy bases, but two have dead-looking stems, while three have green stems with buds.

Almond Blossoms
Almond is the first orchard tree to bloom, but I see buds developing on the apricot, nectarine, cherry, orange and apple trees too.

Sarracenia Blossom Sarracenia purpurea, also known as the purple pitcher plant or the side-saddle flower, shot up a foot-high stem in a week, and proceeded to open its lovely blossom yesterday. Pitcher plants derive their nutrition from insects that find their way into the pitchers, filled with liquid digestive enzymes. Does the fluid smell sweet to the insects? I can’t detect an odor, but spiders seem to know what’s going on. A few enterprising arachnids have spun webs across several pitchers, aspiring to intercept the catch. It’s a micro-jungle in here.

Speaking of fauna, I am pleased to note the presence of many earthworms in the composter and a whole universe of creatures in the vegetable patches. Excited to come across this introduction to New Zealand’s giant springtails (Collembola) and look forward to seeing them in the garden. Also, I’m finding this Guide to New Zealand Soil Invertebrates by Massey helpful for identifying the creatures I run across, as well as those that run across me.

What are your favorite signs of Spring?

Mystery Plant Identity Revealed

Mystery Plant Identity Revealed

Posted 22 August 2010 | By | Categories: Gardening, Links, Plants | Comments Off on Mystery Plant Identity Revealed

pittosoporumcrassifolium2-1.jpg

A while back, I sent out a question via Twitter to see if anyone could identify this plant I was seeing explode all over the neighborhood. I asked everyone I passed on my walks if they knew and still couldn’t find the answer, so I printed out the pictures and took them to a meeting of the Wellington Botanical Society for help. (Thank you BotSoc!) I’m pleased to present you these images of Karo, also known as Pittosporum crassifolium.

Though Karo is naturally coastal, it’s apparently new to find it farther South than Poverty Bay. It seems to be doing very well this year on Wellington’s Eastern peninsula. It certainly sounds like a good match for the conditions. According to Trees for Survival, a site with good resources on New Zealand native plants, it’s an excellent shelter plant that’s extremely resistant to wind, and particularly good near the
coast where salt spray makes it hard for other plants to establish.

In traditional Maori medicine, a gum is extracted from the bark and used by itself or together with that of pūhā (Sonchus species) as a cure for bad breath, sore gums or other ailments of the mouth.

Karo - Pittosporum Crassofolium

Karo - Pittosporum Crassofolium near Tarakena Bay

How to identify your own mystery plants

Recently I’ve received a few personal plant ID requests I didn’t recognize – this is one area where all of us is definitely better than one of us. Harness the power of crowdsourcing and cognitive surplus by posting your image and question to a forum for identifying specific plants or a regional botanical or gardening group. Here are some active ones that might be helpful: