Artichokes and Airlines

Not every veggie gets a movie star’s endorsement. There aren’t any fancy clubs for radishes or muskmelons.

Then there are artichokes.

I had the pleasure of feasting on these odd-looking edibles on a trip to Salinas Valley, in California. It’s not easy to get under their prickly exteriors to reach their mild, delicious hearts (they’re especially yummy with melted butter and lemon), but it’s worth the effort.

No less a celebrity than Marilyn Monroe once praised the humble vegetables; she was the first honorary Artichoke Queen, in 1948, and in 1959, the city of Castroville, California, launched a festival to promote the local crop. It’s still held every year. Now you can also join culinary clubs to learn how to turn ‘chokes into cupcakes (which taste a lot like carrot cake), or make them into other fried, marinated, baked, or steamed delights.

Check out my article in the very last issue of U.S. Airways Magazine. After this month, the airlines will merge, leaving American’s publication, American Way, to carry the torch of reporting from varied domestic and exotic locales.

It’s been a real joy to write for U.S. Airways magazine. Now–grab a ‘choke and look for the recipe in the link to my article. Enjoy!

artichokes

Glorious Morning Glories

morning glory

It’s December now, and my garden looks brown and bare–nothing like the picture above. But I just found this on my camera, and wanted to share it so we’d have something colorful to look at during this kinda dreary season.

I saw these morning glories earlier this year, growing on trellises at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. If there was a sign showing the variety name, I missed it. But aren’t they glorious?

Morning glories can be really weedy, of course, and take over your yard or garden spot. I made the mistake once of composting some vines, and the next spring–in fact, for many springs thereafter–I had to pull up seedlings that sprouted everywhere. Now I know it’s better to trash or burn the vines at season’s end (if burning is permitted in your area). You just can’t tell if a few dried seed pods are still clinging to the plants, and believe me, they’ll grow almost anywhere you toss them.

This summery picture will have to hold me for now. If anyone can tell me what variety these might be, please let me know. I’m wondering if they’re open-pollinated/heirlooms.

First Frost of Autumn

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The first official day of autumn has come and gone, but not all the flowers in my garden have gotten the word yet. This is a blue morning glory that recently unfurled in my yard. The vines have stopped blooming in the last few weeks, but freezing temps are on the way, and soon they’ll fold their leaves and die.

Makes you appreciate that phrase about “the last rose of summer.” The last rose–or morning glory–might come late in the season, but it’s no less breathtaking.

Happy Halloween

Audrey in paper macheBack by popular demand!

Okay, not really. But Halloween is coming, so I thought I’d bring my paper mache re-creation of Audrey, from Little Shop of Horrors, out for another viewing.

I had fun making her, although she had a tendency to keel over because of her extremely heavy head. A lesson for all of us, perhaps? Avoid having a big head??

Writing for HGTVGardens

mum from New York Botanical Garden Japanese Chrysanthemum Festival

Spider mum at the New York Botanical Garden Japanese Chrysanthemum Festival. Courtesy of Ivo M. Vermeulen/NYBG

I’m really excited to tell you that I’m now writing for HGTVGardens.com every month!

I’m covering lots of different topics, like growing a corn maze (okay, you’d have to have a HUGE backyard to grow an entire maze, but I learned how The Rock Ranch, an agritourism destination founded by the late Chick-Fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, grows their maze. And I’ve got tips to share on growing a cornfield in whatever space you have).

I’m also putting on my girl-reporter hat to cover events like the stunning Japanese Chrysanthemum Festival at the New York Botanical Garden.

And my bookshelves are starting to groan, as I’m stacking up new gardening titles to read and review. Look for posts on a great new book about growing tomatoes and two books on fairy gardening (one is good for beginners, while the other is packed with beautiful photos of fairy gardens that range from the fabulous to the otherworldly). The reviews will go live over the next few weeks.

Check out my posts when you get a chance, and while you’re there, explore all the other cool stuff on HGTVGardens.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful, Useful Rain Chains

Rain chain from Rain Chains Direct

A chain of hammered copper cups. The cups are open at the bottom, so rainwater can flow through to the ground.  Image courtesy of Rain Chains Direct.

I love watching water move, whether it’s at the beach or in a puddle stirred by the wind. I love the sounds of water, too, and sometimes I know it’s raining before I look outside, because I hear the water  gurgling down our gutters.

Recently we replaced one of those gutters – the ones my husband complains about, because they get choked with pine straw every fall – with a rain chain. It was super-easy to install. All we had to do was take off the downspout and measure the distance from the bottom of the gutter to the ground, so we’d know how long the chain needed to be.

Then we attached a gutter installer, a device that holds the chain.  You put the installer into what’s called the leader hole (the opening in the gutter that directs water to the downspout). Add the chain, tighten a bolt, and you’re done.

rain chain gutter installer, courtesy of Rain Chains Direct

Here’s the gutter installer. The chain hangs from the bar in the middle. You tighten the bolt to hold the installer in place. Image courtesy of Rain Chains Direct.

To keep the chain taut, we tapped a stake into the ground and attached it. Next I’ll put some rocks from our creek under the chain to help distribute the run-off, but you can also buy catch basins to match your chain. They don’t hold a lot of water, but they add to the charm.

And rain chains really are charming, although they’re functional, too. Best of all, they don’t clog, so nobody has to climb a ladder and dig out wet, decomposing leaves.

Rain Chains Direct

Rain chains come in many styles. Some look like flowers or small cups; others are lengths of single or doubled loops. This 100% copper rain chain has aged to a soft patina. Image courtesy of Rain Chains Direct.

All I need now is rain, since we’re currently in a drought. I’m looking forward to seeing the little copper cups on my chain channel the water to the thirsty shrubs around our foundation, and to hearing it splash and tinkle. I’m watching the skies for clouds…and watching…and watching.

Thanks to Rain Chains Direct for providing the rain chain used in my review.  The opinions are my own, freely and sincerely given.

 

Penny McHenry Hydrangea Festival

hydrangeas in Suzanne Hudson's garden

It’s June, and hydrangeas are busting out all over at the 7th annual Penny McHenry Hydrangea Festival!

Named for the founder of the American Hydrangea Society (AHS), the festival runs from Friday, June 6, to Sunday, June 8, in Douglasville, GA. It’s centered around the Douglas County Courthouse in downtown Douglasville and will spill out into the surrounding streets. They’ll be blocked off for vendors, a flower market, a vintage garden furniture exhibit, a farmer’s market, and more.

hydrangea

The festival kicks off on Friday evening with a Summer Sampler Wine Tasting; tickets are $25. Tours of private gardens, also ticketed at $25 per person, take place on Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm.

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There’s plenty of free fun too, including a standard flower show, scarecrow display, and in-town gardens to visit with free shuttle service to and from the Courthouse.

Don’t miss this beautiful flower fest!

 

 

 

Old Seed Catalogs

 

watermelon

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, because I might be encouraging competition–but I can’t stand it. I’ve got to share one of my new, favorite things to do: looking for antique seed catalogs on eBay. Long before digital photography (and before film photography was widespread) , artists were sketching and painting beautiful pictures of fruits, flowers, and vegetables for seed sellers across the U.S.

A lot of these old seed catalogs survive, but many are in pretty bad shape. Who would’ve guessed they’d be valuable one day for their artwork?

This is the cover of one catalog I found for less than $20, but be prepared to pay more if the one you’re coveting is bigger, older, and/or in better condition. I bought this one, which was created prior to modern day copyright laws, so my publisher could reproduce some of the images for my book, Gardening with Heirloom Seeds.

Want to use old images for your projects, too? Just make sure you don’t violate any copyright restrictions. You can learn more about copyright laws here.

Then start looking around. You may find a stash at a grandparent’s house, in your attic, or somebody’s garden shed. Then it’s easy to scan the images in and use them on your website or print them out (again, be sure you’re allowed to do that under current copyright restrictions).

I’d love to see what you find! Share your image here, if you have one!

Fresh Strawberries

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Too bad you can’t scratch-and-sniff this picture! I wish you could smell the sweet fragrance of these ripe strawberries. I hit the jackpot at my local farmer’s market when they put these beauties on sale, and I have more strawberries blooming in my garden that should be ready soon.

It’s sooooo easy to turn these into jams and pies, but I also like to freeze a bunch.  Then I can pop them out anytime to use as a topping on ice cream, cake, or cheesecake. They’re also great for whipping into smoothies and stirring into yogurt.

All you have to do is rinse the berries quickly in cool water, then let them drain and dry thoroughly. Don’t leave them in the water, because if they absorb too much, it will dilute the flavor.

I remove the stems and slice my berries, but you can leave them whole. Then arrange them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. I used a Silpat non-stick mat underneath, but you could use wax paper or freezer paper. (Paper towels tend to stick.)

Put the cookie sheet into the freezer until the berries are firm, then remove them and store them in freezer bags or containers. Use them in a few months, and enjoy!

An Apron for Your Garden – The Roo

Roo apronI’m one of those people who wander around a lot. I can’t seem to help myself. Put me in a garden, rain or shine, and I’ll find something to look at or to do.

Sometimes I go out to water a plant and wind up harvesting an armful of tomatoes or banana peppers. Or I’ll start out to prune some branches, and end up stuffing my pockets with interesting acorns, hickory nuts, and pine cones. (Of course, poking around and seeing what’s out there is part of the charm of a garden.)

Recently I was offered the chance to try a Roo, a nifty garden apron that comes with its own built-in, handy pouch (think, kangaroo). I love this apron. Aprons are making a comeback, you know; they’re not just for Donna Reed and all those 50s’ TV moms.

The pouch is the best part of the Roo. If you’re out weeding, you don’t have to leave a pile to rake away later. Just drop the weeds in, and head over to the compost pile. Open the pouch, and it acts like a funnel, dropping the weeds where you want them.Roo apron

Now when I’m wandering around the garden, I can pick tomatoes or cucumbers and carry them in the pouch. It’s sturdy cotton canvas, so it’s strong enough to hold them. No more stretching out the bottom of my tee-shirt to put my veggies in! No more splattered tomato juice and seeds down the front of my shirt! (If you’re a gardener, you’ve done it, too. Admit it.)

Roos come in purple (my fav), green, blue, and red. They’re “one-size-fits-all” and washable.

Joe Gardener, of TV’s Growing a Greener World, picked the Roo as one of a gardener’s “must-have” products. I’m giving it a big, green thumb’s up, too.

Fair notice: Thanks to Tamara Cullen for sending me a sample Roo apron. Images are courtesy of Roo Gardening Apron.