Photo: Freesia



Freesia, originally uploaded by dewelch.

A lovely freesia arrives as the earlier bulbs (paperwhites, Snowbells and daffodils) fade.

Taken with Instagram iPhone app.

Descanso Gardens Cherry Blossom Festival, March 19-20, 2011

cherrybridgemzDescanso Gardens

1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011. (818) 949 4200

The flowering of cherry trees is celebrated around the world as a herald of spring. Descanso Gardens will welcome the season with a new, Japanese-themed Cherry Blossom Festival on March 19 and 20.

Witness a traditional Japanese tea ceremony – or watch a demonstration of Japanese cooking. Enjoy bento box lunches and a Cherry-tini cocktail in the Camellia Lounge. Take a guided walk of the flowering cherry trees in the Descanso landscape, purchase a cherry tree to take home and get expert advice on cherry tree care.

Festival highlights include:

  • Japanese Tea Ceremonies, 11 a.m., 12:30 and 2 p.m. Saturday: Witness this traditional ceremony. Seating is limited. Tea and sweets will be sold. In the Minka.
  • Japanese Cooking Demonstration, 11 a.m. Sunday: Learn some basics of Japanese cuisine from Jesse Genovese, chef at Ramsey’s at The Club in Toluca Lake. Be ready to take notes! At Nature’s Table.
  • Prunus lecture, 10:30 a.m. Saturday: The genus Prunus includes stone fruits such as cherries, plums and peaches. Descanso Horticulturist Mike Brown leads a discussion and demonstration on the proper methods for fertilizing and pruning these trees. The class will also learn how to drape trees in order to protect fruit from hungry birds. At Nature’s Table.
  • Cherry tree sale, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days: Purchase a flowering cherry to plant in your own garden. At Magnolia Lawn.
  • Cherry blossom walks, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. both days: Take a guided walk-and-talk that explores the many cherry trees in the Gardens. Meet at the Center Circle.
  • Bento box lunches and Cherry-Tini cocktails, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days: Back by popular demand, the Camellia Lounge (located in the Full Moon Teahouse) returns. Purchase a cocktail or a bento box to enjoy on the lawn. Bento boxes are $6.95 for the vegetarian option; $8.95 for the chicken or beef option. To pre-order, phone Patina at (818) 790-3663. Bento box lunches may also be purchased at the event. View the complete menu here.

Activities are free with admission: $8 adults, $6 seniors/students, $3 children 5-12; 4 and younger enter free. Details: (818) 949-4200.

 

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Event: Seeds, Please: Collecting, Processing and Storing Native Plant Seed with Genevieve Arnold

March 17, 2011

Seeds, Please: Collecting, Processing and Storing Native Plant Seed with Genevieve Arnold

$20

The LA County Arboretum
301 North Baldwin Avenue
Arcadia, CA
626-821-4623

Native seed ain’t just for the birds! This class will guide you through the fun and easy experience of gathering, cleaning and saving seed from your own native plant garden. Examples of fruit, seed and seed-processing tools will be shown. Genevieve has worked with California native seeds for nearly a decade and is seed room manager at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants. She enjoys the beauty of the native garden in all its phases, including the magical stage of fruit and seed development.

Elsewhere Online: Branch: A Cool New LED Garden Light Styled to Look Like a Twig

These lights do indeed look cool,  as described on Inhabitat…

We’re big fans of all of the futuristic new LED lights that have been popping up, but sometimes their shiny, modern looks distract from an outdoor space’s natural beauty. That’s why we were delighted when Modular Lighting Instruments introduced us to Branch. Branch is a series of LED lights encased in a twig-like structure that is sure to blend right into your garden or patio. It’s also a modular modular system with universal connectors that make it possible to construct “branches” with or without a light source. –Inhabitat via Branch: A Cool New LED Garden Light Styled to Look Like a Twig.

I have several of the standard modern looking solar lights in the garden, but this would bring a neat change, especially in a Japanese themed garden. I am not sure they would had much interest at night, though as the dark structure would just disappear in to the garden darkness.

Branch LED Light for the garden

Food: Homemade Ginger Beer

Homemade Ginger Beer

I was watching an episode of River Cottage, a UK food show a few weeks ago and came across this easy method for making your own ginger beer. The same method could be applied to almost any flavoring that you might want. I recommend fresh ingredients over dried or artificial. If you are going to make soda yourself, you might as well make something as wholesome and tasty as possible. You can buy any soda you want at the store. Make this something different.

This ginger beer, like all brewed sodas, will contains a small amount of alcohol due to the fermentation that creates the bubbles. It is usually never more than 1%-2%, though.

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MAKE THIS IN A GLASS BOTTLE!

If you do, it is almost guaranteed that you will explode the bottle, causing yourself quite a bit of danger and mess. Stick with plastic. Even then, keep it in a location that won’t be harmed too much from flying sugar water, should it occur.

Here is the River Cottage recipe. I will add my changes in parentheses.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes –
Ginger beer recipe

Date Published: 03/11/2010

There’s lashings of Hugh’s famous fizz all round on River Cottage Every Day

Hugh: “For this, you will need screw-top, 2-litre plastic bottles, which you have cleaned thoroughly using sterilising tablets.”

(I sterilized my bottle with a capful of bleach to a bottle of water. Swish it around and then poor it out. RInse with fresh water. I only had 1 .5 liter bottle on hand. It seemed to work just a well, although you may want to short the ingredients a bit to compensate for the small size.)

Per 2-liter bottle:

Ingredients

  • ¼ tsp brewer’s yeast (I used the baking yeast I had around)
  • 225g caster sugar (I used 1/2 granulated sugar and 1/2 brown sugar)
  • 1½-2 tbsp finely grated fresh root ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 good tbsp honey

Method: How to make ginger beer

  1. Add the yeast to the bottle. With a funnel, pour in the sugar.
  2. Mix the grated ginger with the lemon juice and honey.
  3. Pour the ginger mixture through the funnel into the bottle. Now fill the bottle about ¾ full with water, put the cap on and shake the bottle until all the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Top up the bottle with water, leaving a 2.5cm gap at the top, to allow for production of gas. Cap the bottle tightly, then place it somewhere warm. Leave it for about 48 hours. Once the bottle feels very hard and has no give in it, your beer should be ready.
  5. Place the bottle in the fridge for several hours to stop the yeast working. Once the beer is thoroughly chilled, pass it through a fine sieve and serve.

© River Cottage Every Day

After about 48 hours the bottle was very firm and the bottom of the bottle had pushed out from the pressure. I placed it in the fridge for a few hours this morning and tasted it this afternoon. There was a burst of gas released when I opened the bottle, but the soda remained quite fizzy on pouring and drinking.

The soda was very gingery and a bit sweet. I might cut back on the sugar just a bit next time. If it is too sweet, you can mix it with sparkling water to match your tastes.

Homemade Ginger Beer

I Like This – March 11, 2011

    A collection of career items I found interesting this week.

  • Start a Plant in a CD Spindle Case [Clever Uses] – March 6, 2011 – I love recycling ideas. I’m not using as many discs as I once did, but I could put these to use with the last remaining one’s I do have. I suppose you could use the top alone as a cloche for fragile seedlings outdoors, too.

Giveaway: Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas

“Like” the Gardener’s Notebook Facebook page before March 31, 2011 for a chance to win my review copy of Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas.

I will randomly pick a Facebook “fan” to receive the book.



Review: Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas

Whenever I am talking with people about New Media, the largest reason I give them for producing podcasts or YouTube videos is that they help introduce and educate their potential customers about products and services. Little did I know that when I received this book from the publisher, it would prove to be pursuing the same idea, just in book form.

Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce gives Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Inc. a platform to spread the word about organic produce while also providing some excellent information and recipes where this produce can be used.

This book goes far beyond a traditional marketing piece, though, and that is also to its benefit and the company’s. Filled with excellent photographs and great information “Cooking with Organic Produce” starts with an overview of what it means to be “organic.” There are large discussions happening in the US Government about this topic, so it is nice to have a good definition as it stands now. Next comes a lovely chart showing the “seasons” of each organic produce from apples to turnips. This then sets up the remainder of the book.

Arranged alphabetically, each different produce is detailed including season, recommended varieties, availability, buying and storing information and then, one of the best features of the book, 4 excellent recipes using this particular item.

The alphabetical arrangement of the book also allows for easy use as a reference and a cookbook. You can turn immediately to whatever section interests you most. That said, I found myself flipping through a random, taking in this fact and this recipe as the mood struck me.

Be aware that this is not a strictly vegetarian cookbook. Recipes include bacon guacamole, nuthouse chicken with roasted bananas and pork chops with apples. In those cases, though, they also include vegetarian-only alternatives.

Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce is a book that is both pretty and useful. If you are looking for ways to include more produce in your cooking, hopefully organic produce, then this is an excellent place to start.

Amazon Link: Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas

 

AGN is now on Facebook

I set up a Facebook page for A Gardener’s Notebook a long time ago, but never really promoted or activated it. If you prefer to interact on Facebook, you can now join the AGN page and keep up with the new items and discussion along with all your other Facebook content.

What I’m Reading…The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf

The Brother Gardeners: A Generation of Gentlemen Naturalists and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf

From the Random House web site…

This is the fascinating story of a small group of eighteenth-century naturalists who made Britain a nation of gardeners and the epicenter of horticultural and botanical expertise. It’s the story of a garden revolution that began in America.

In 1733, the American farmer John Bartram dispatched two boxes of plants and seeds from the American colonies, addressed to the London cloth merchant Peter Collinson. Most of these plants had never before been grown in British soil, but in time the magnificent and colorful American trees, evergreens, and shrubs would transform the English landscape and garden forever. During the next forty years, Collinson and a handful of botany enthusiasts cultivated hundreds of American species. The Brother Gardeners follows the lives of six of these men, whose shared passion for plants gave rise to the English love affair with gardens. In addition to Collinson and Bartram, who forged an extraordinary friendship, here are Philip Miller, author of the best-selling Gardeners Dictionary; the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, whose standardized nomenclature helped bring botany to the middle classes; and Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who explored the strange flora of Brazil, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia on the greatest voyage of discovery of their time, aboard Captain Cook’s Endeavour.

From the exotic blooms in Botany Bay to the royal gardens at Kew, from the streets of London to the vistas of the Appalachian Mountains, The Brother Gardeners paints a vivid portrait of an emerging world of knowledge and of gardening as we know it today. It is a delightful and beautifully told narrative history.

Video: Watering seedlings made easy

My friend, Frieda, has a great idea for recycling a water bottle into a gentle seedling watering system in this iPhone video.

You can find all of Freida’s Videos on her YouTube channel, Frieda’s Garden.