Friday, April 24, 2009

Terrorizing the Tulips!

If you're a local, the Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival is just about the prettiest place you can visit during April.

Acres and acres of brightly blooming tulips and flowering trees.

Some people make a quiet day of it... They pack a picnic lunch, relax beside a babbling brook and stroll leisurely throughout the gardens.

OR!! You can take the Fast & Furious Tulip Tour! As in renting Segways and scooting around the grounds like hell on wheels!

I barely even looked at those tulips (too busy trying to stay upright on my Segway!) But, I'm going back soon to behave myself and take some decent photos.

* Thanksgiving Point Gardens (Lehi, Utah) is located south of Salt Lake City on interstate 15. Tulip Festival runs through May 2nd. Segway Championships begin the second you slap down $20 bucks for some big fun.

** It was all good until I segwayed into a hole. But, I landed on my head, so no harm done!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fast & Easy Heirloom Tomatoes

Luscious Heirloom Tomatoes could be the most popular crop this summer.

Seems like every morning I get a few emails asking about heirloom tomatoes. Brown and green thumbs alike are wondering.... What's good? What's bad? Bad? There's no such thing as a bad heirloom. You don't get to be this old by slacking on flavor.

They're also asking... What's easy? What's fast?

Fast and easy? Now that I can answer.
Living high in the mountains, my growing season is pathetically short but there are lots of cold hardy, quick-growing tomatoes to choose from.

Here a few of my faves:

Paul Robeson ~ This Russian original is probably the tastiest, easiest heirloom to grow. Hefty, black-red tomatoes, bursting with flavor, ready for picking in about 65 days.

Black from Tula ~ If you’re big into BBQs, Tulas are absolutely worth the effort. Ready for harvest in about 80 days, with a bold, delicious smokey flavor. Roast the Tulas, place them on a burger and learn, first hand, the meaning of love at first bite.

Peacevine Cherry ~ Think Napa Valley and all those luscious grapevines... If you have a fence bordering your garden, consider planting this crazy rambler. She’ll stretch a good 15 – 20 feet along the fence line and display big clusters of tasty little tomatoes, ready for picking in less than 60 days.

Elfin Grape Tomato ~ This little guy is great in a flower pot on your sunny deck. Nothing small, at all, about the flavor. Tasty 3/4 inch grape tomatoes are ready for a salad in about 2 months.

* Before you get all wild and crazy with Miracle-Gro and other chemical fertilizers, think about it. You're planning to eat these goodies. Miracle-Gro is a synthetic fertilizer that is prohibited from use in certified-organic farming. But, then you already knew that, didn't you?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

THE Undeniable 1st Sign of Spring

Perky Primrose blooms in my frigid spring garden.

Is this THE sign of spring? No, I don't think so.

Grecian Windflowers ~ the size of your pinky finger ~ stand up to most any nasty weather. Is this THE sign of spring? For some maybe, not for me.

Maxine saves the life of the 1st honey bee of the season.

By scooping him out of the snow with the bill of my precious Red Sox hat.

Is this THE sign that spring has truly arrived? Nope.

Bright green shrubs grace the sides of mountain creeks as quick melting snows rush noisily by. Is this it? No, but you're getting close.

So, what IS the Undeniable 1st Sign of Spring? I suppose it's different for everyone. For me, it's when the ground in my backyard is dry and the prancing pony can come home to play.

Both cats and the dog chased Meg around all afternoon ~ while I tried to garden without getting accidentally stomped.

'Twas a long winter. I think she missed us as much as we missed her.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Barts Best and Other Booty!

This flower bouquet is resting in a shot glass about the size of a quarter. It's a collection of the micro-mini flowers currently blooming in my sunny window.

I've said this before though it bears repeating. Good things really do come in small packages. One quick trip to Tiffany's should convince you of that. This miniature flower bouquet was my bribe ~ for free passage into the most highly anticipated event of the season.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor the fact that I have not (as yet) paid this year's Master Gardening Club dues could keep me from...

Plant Swap Night! Where the price is so right! As in totally free, carefully coddled little seedlings from some of Utah's best growers.

After last year's free for all the powers that be decided on a saner way to manage the chaos. They broke us into small groups so no one got hurt when we ransacked the seedling tables.

Personally, I prefer the Filene's Basement approach. Sure, I'm proud of the fact I scored a Black from Tula heirloom tomato. Who wouldn't be???

But, I'd be extra proud if I had a black eye to show for it! Plant Swap Night is way more fun when you're scuffling with another gardener over a special seedling.

It may not look like much but I risked life and limb to score this booty:

Anna Russian heirloom tomato, Bart's Best personally hybridized totally tasty tomato, Black from Tula heirloom tomato, Sun Sugar baby tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, garlic, red salvia.

Plus a cute little pot of Forget Me Nots. Because even if I don't get around to paying my Master Gardener dues - rest assured - I'll be crashing this party again... same time, next year.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Buck 99 Worth of Joy

Johnny Jump Ups is a much cuter name for Tri-Color Violas.

"My dearest Kate - You are not only a hypocrite. You are also an annoying Pollyanna.* I hate the snow and I hate you, too."

~ much love Ellen

Some say it takes a big person to admit they are wrong. I believe it just requires an inbox full of 'you idiot' emails.

Which is what I came home to yesterday afternoon. Had no idea I'd piss off so many people by blogging about how I don't mind the snow.

"Did you even bother to look at the weather report? It's not 'temporary."

So, okay! I'll admit it! I am not that thrilled about a new foot of snow! I thought it was going to melt away in an hour or two. I thought the moisture might inspire the Daffodils to bloom. Instead it's freezing cold this a.m. and the snow is here to stay.

On the upside, the little packet of Viola seeds I planted 2 months ago are blissfully pretending it's spring. (Indoors)

This one's for you, E:

I've got a major soft spot for little Johnny Jump Ups. Always billed as full sun annuals, they're secretly zone 4 perennials who flower ecstatically indoors and out.

* Pollyanna was the inventor of the Glad Game. Give it a try. It's infinitely more productive than sending me hate mail! :D

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Glory of the Snow

After a deep, drenching, all-day rain I woke to a temporary drift of snow. Now it's raining again. I'll bet you think I'm mad about that, but I'm not...

Glory of the Snow (early spring blooming, naturalizing bulb)

When it's raining on your garden, it's often snowing on mine.

I don't mind and neither do my flower bulbs. To me, snow is just a happier form of much-needed moisture.

People run when it's raining. They slow down when it snows. They linger, perhaps even to the point of admiring the artistic beauty of a snowflake, or two.

Oh, I know my attitude doesn't sync with most gardeners. They want spring to come early, with no interruptions.


But this high up in the mountains, that's just never gonna happen. So, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise. My hard work will begin soon enough.

This is the month my bulbs do all the hard work. I get to while away the hours baking bread, simmering a special Irish Stew and savoring a cozy indoor day.

More Crocus!

* If you live in the mountains, you've probably already figured out that bulbs are a girl's best friend. Bulbs add bright, beautiful color to the garden right about the time you're convinced that spring will never ever arrive.

In my crazy, micro climate garden, Crocus and Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) get the party started. Next up: naturalizing Blue Siberian Squill and, with any luck, some perky yellow Daffodils.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saffron Crocus

Saffron Crocus

It was touch and go for awhile, there, but I did manage to survive The Vegetarian Easter Dinner.

I am not a veg, nor do I ever believe I could become a veg. (Bacon makes my world go 'round.) But, I'm a pretzel, I can bend. And, I also know when I'm licked. The vegetarians drew the longest straw and so it was eggplant instead of prime rib.

The highlight of this odd Easter adventure was discovering a brand new career path while I was hanging out in the spice aisle. I reached for a teeny, tiny container of Saffron and about fell over when I saw the $17.00 price tag. Alas, too late to grow my own.

Saffron is just the dried red stamens of this very pretty autumn crocus. I'm thinking of planting an entire patch of them ~ they're beautiful, very water wise, and if I could sucker all my vegetarian friends into purchasing the harvested saffron, I could pay off this house in no time.

Eggplant Saffron Gratin is what I made for Easter dinner. Even a $17 dollar spice couldn't do the trick. It was awful!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

First Crocus :)

"Why put off 'til tomorrow what you can postpone 'til the following spring?"
- Slacker Kate

Those were my famous words last fall when I decided to ride horses instead of clean up the garden beds and prepare them for winter. You know the drill, rake out the leaves, snip the flower stalks down to the ground, blah, blah, blah. At the time I had all sorts of valid reasons* why this made sense.

But, the true valid reason was that it looked like a whole lot of toil and trouble and I just didn't feel like working that hard. Now I'm working twice as hard, raking up about a hundred pounds of soggy wet dead leaves.

But look who I found underneath that slimy mess! First Crocus blossoms of the season.

* There are two schools of thought on garden clean up. Postponing that hard work until spring adds interesting texture to the winter garden. Tall flower stalks encourage snow to drift, giving plants more moisture. But, I'm discovering spring clean up is twice as messy. And, also a little tricky. Since I have to carefully work around the new growth so as not to damage this year's flowers.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wild Lupines and the Not Karner Butterfly

Wild Lupines growing by a roadside in Northern Minnesota.

I spent my formative years in Siberia. Aka Minnesota. About the only thing people talk about in Minnesota is the weather.

How it was 100 below zero last night and how it might warm up to 80 below zero sometime soon and oh, yah, you betcha... Chances are good we can take our coats off for about 5 minutes in August.

When it's time to start swatting mosquitoes.

I've tried for years to find something positive to say about Minnesota. Not because the Dept. of Tourism is suing me. Because I have plenty of Minnesota friends who get cranky when I rant and rave about why I hate that state.*

So, here goes. There is one wonderful thing about Minnesota:
Those glorious Wild Lupines that happily speckle the highways and byways in late May and early June.

Wild Lupines are the life source of the Karner Blue Butterfly.

When I found blue butterflies in my garden last summer, I was certain sure they were Karners. Though that, like most everything I'm certain sure about, would surely turn out to be wrong.

Karner Butterflies don't live in Utah.

[This is a photo of my blue butterfly. I would be forever grateful if someone could tell me his name and what he likes to eat for dinner.]

I purchased Wild Lupine seed to grow the wildflowers that feed my non-existent Blue Karner Butterflies! I'm moving ahead with this plan in spite of the fact they won't become a meal for anyone special.

Soon these little darlings will grow up to look like the lovely ladies in the above photos.

* I don't hate Minnesota. I hate that state's bitterly cold winters. Mostly I hate the fact that joint warmed up considerably as soon as I moved out. Some folks blame that on global warming but I'm pretty sure it's because of me.

* There are plenty of other wonderful things about Minnesota. Take Madeline Island, for example. I mean, that place is incredible! Except that it's in Wisconsin. I rest my case.

* Dear Jane: This one's for you! :D

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Persistant Blossom

My Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid has been flowering, non-stop, for 15 months.

Ah... springtime.... Will it ever really get here? Drove down to the valley today to have my weekly battle of wills with horse, Tina. She's finally starting to like me! But, that doesn't really have anything to do with me. Everybody has their price. Hers is a piece of peppermint candy. Ever since I figured that one out, she's been putty in my hands.

Came home to a sun-filled living room and a gorgeous, gorgeous orchid that may never stop flowering...

And... I barely even noticed her because I was too busy wishing I lived in the valley. I'm what you call a fair weather friend. The second ski season is over I want to jump ship. Move down the mountain! Into the valley, where it's warm and sunny and the bulbs are blooming!

Alas, 'tis 8 long weeks 'til this girl's planting season begins. Tick... tock... tick... tock...

PS: If you fell for that line about my Orchid flowering for 15 long months, congratulations! You're my April fool. She's been flowering for 3 months though I still think that's pretty impressive.