Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sounds of Water

         Simon and Garfunkel wrote about the ‘Sounds of Silence’ but nothing compares to the sound of water.  If you have traveled Highway 16 in the Old Whitt area, you have probably noticed the waterfall project we have going on.  It has been quite the project.  Lots of rock…tons of rock, and big ones at that, compounded by a lot of heat…tons of heat.  My husband called me one afternoon and over the phone said ‘can you hear that?’  No, I could not, but I knew what he meant and I jumped in the car and headed over because I could not wait to hear the sound it made.  It was wonderful.  The sound of water immediately made it seem slightly cooler out, all psychological, but in this heat, I’ll take it.  You can buy CD’s of running water and babbling brooks as stress relievers, but nothing comes close to the real thing.  I have gone over there several times, fascinated by the sound and amazed at how memorizing it can be.  The sound, tone and volume change as you move around the falls, creating a sound you can never get tired of.  I went by yesterday and the waterfall was off because some pipe gluing needed to be done and was surprised at the void created by the absence of running water. 
     Soon the water will be back on permanently and our crew will leave the site after the landscaping is done.  It is at that time that nature will also be drawn to the sound of water.  Deer, raccoons, and birds of all kinds will find their way to it.  And maybe a bride or two will ask to use the waterfall as a photo backdrop.  The owners are good people and will probably oblige.   I know these customers will be spending many evenings enjoying the sound of their waterfall, the stress from the day floating away, as the fish glide gracefully through the water lilies and a chorus of frogs drown out the sound of the world and listen to the Sounds of Water. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Russian Sage - a plant that even a Czar would envy

I don’t need to tell you it is HOT out there.  I walk out to my nursery and cringe when I see what southern summers can do to plants, then I spot my Russian Sage and wish all my plants could tolerate this heat and dry days with as much dignity.  Russian sage actually comes to us from Afghanistan, but I guess Afghanistan Sage is less marketable, so it was named after a Russian Imperial General, Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky, but for what reason, I have no idea.  No matter the region of origin, this plant is a real trooper in the garden when every other plant is withering away. 

Russian sage loves lots of sun and once established is very drought tolerant.  Its four foot height and three foot spread is covered in light lavender flowers from June to September.  This perennial has silvery-green leaves with a gently serrated edge and if you rub the leaves between your fingers they emanate a strong yet fantastic smell. That pungent sage-like smell makes it a good deer resistant perennial with no know pests.  Though, not used in cooking, its smell might work in a dried floral arrangement or in a potpourri mixture.  This plant has a very elegant, architectural form.  Its wispiness teams nicely with purple Coneflowers (Echinacea) or Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia Goldstrum) and bees and butterflies will love you for it.  Come winter, you will have the silver twisting branches to give some interest to your garden.  And do leave the stems in the winter because Russian sage is a sub-shrub.  Sub-shrubs do not achieve a true dormant stage.  Instead, they are resting, which allows them to respond more quickly to warmer conditions and since pruning can induce new growth, they are very prone to winter damage.  So leave them alone and wait till early spring to prune.
      So plant some Russian sage en masse for a head turning display, and even if you and your garden look a bit wilted, your Russian sage will look marvelous.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Herbs do not a Chef make....

And I am living proof of that statement.  We have several different herbs at the garden center, from Corsican, chocolate and orange mints to pineapple and tri-color sages.  We have Italian, Greek & regular oregano, along with lemon balm and lemon basil. 

 I love herbs.  I love the look and the smell of them and the endless possibility of uses amaze me.  I have had a rosemary bush in the garden for several years and each Thanksgiving I pull the weeds off it, cut a sprig and put it in with my turkey to cook.  The house is filled with its heavenly aroma, and that concludes my use of herbs.  There is a chef inside me trying to get out and experiment with all these herbs.  I can tell you what to do with them, but somewhere between the plant and the oven, things go down hill.  Case in point, my chicken spaghetti. 

How could such a delicious sounding recipe go so wrong?  I have had friends make good-hearted jest on facebook about my chicken spaghetti (you know who you are).  I’m beginning to fear that it will be used to scare young children…’If you don’t behave, Mrs. Rubner will make you some chicken spaghetti.’   So I will stick with growing herbs for customers, pass on some advice and as they drive off, wonder what culinary delights they will create using herbs.  In the mean time, I will decide what new and interesting herbs to carry next year.  But I will put my cooking skills to good use, I will tell the kids that if they do not clean their rooms this weekend I will make chicken spaghetti for dinner.  I’ll bet the rooms will be clean and maybe my husband will take me out for dinner…Hmmm, I could be onto something.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Fading Ghost Garden

Some friends had an old home on their property which had fallen into disrepair and needed to go.  I hate to see old homesteads disappear, but this one was getting dangerous and would have cost a fortune to restore.  Sad to see it go, but as a fitting ending to this home, the local fire department used it for a controlled-burn training session, so that was a good thing.  I wanted to watch the burn (we all have a touch of pyromania in us) but had to keep the Garden Center open as it took place on a Saturday morning.  It did get me thinking about the disappearing homesteads which usually leave behind Ghost Gardens. 

 You have probably seen a Ghost Garden and not even realized it.  Maybe it’s a very straight row of daffodils where a straight line seems so out of place or a pair of trees positioned just so, to provide shade for something not there.  Maybe, a cluster of breathtakingly beautiful bearded irises mixed in a tangle of weeds.  These are the remnants of a garden which once encircled a home, planted, so many years ago by someone long gone.  Who planted these bulbs and old rambling roses?  Did some of these beauties fill a vase in the center of the kitchen table?  Was fig jam once made from the over grown tree?  Did apple pies cool on a window ledge made from apples gathered from what is now a rotted stump?   Ghost Gardens are getting harder to find, but if you know what you are looking for you may find one set back from a busy street or down a little used road.  Most of these gardens have been cleared away by bulldozers as they make way for new developments or completely choked out by weeds and neglect, but if you are lucky enough to find one of these fading memories, grab a spade and dig up a bulb or snip a branch to root.  They will soon be gone forever but you can keep a part of its history alive in your own garden.