Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 17 April 2015

A Poem for Salad

On Wednesday morning I was delighted to find I've been gifted my first ever poem.

Even better it's a) about one of my blogging obsessions - growing salad leaves, and b) April is National Poetry Month.

I tend to gnash my teeth a bit when the online marketing 'experts' go on about the Return on Investment (ROI) for social media. For me, this kind of random connection and a gift from a stranger is all the ROI I need.

I must admit I was a bit suspicious at first and responded with my own brand of Bad Poetry.

A delightful conversation ensued...

As a final thank you, here's the link to Mary Elizabeth's meinrhyme website :)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

GBBD: Tulip 'St George'

A large pot of 'St George' tulips on our garden wall

In 2000, one of the improvements our garden contractor added to our sketched garden design, was a plinth either side of the central steps leading off our patio. For many years these were topped with a couple of box balls in pots, but the 'sentinel conifers' encroached on them too much and pulled them out of shape. They're beyond rescuing.

I'm undecided whether to start again with the box, so in the meantime I've gone much larger with the pots. Last summer saw them stuffed with a huge dahlia each, which I loved. This spring sees the classic combination of tulips and yet-to-bloom wallflowers, with a few pansies thrown in for good measure.

The tulip variety is 'St George', which I was given to trial last year, and judging by their height and leaves they're of the Greigii type. They're around 9-12 inches - a bit smaller than advertised, but that's probably because I'm growing them in pots and they're quite close together. I love the striped leaves.

I'd like to rename them 'Strawberry Mivvi', because that's what I'm reminded of when I see their budded form. Later in the day they open wide into a creamy yellow with a stripe which is more of a peach colour. I'd say they've come out a bit paler than their naming and the supplier's website suggests, possibly because they're in pots in the sunniest part of the garden.

As a Blooms Day bonus I have to show you our neighbour's magnolia tree which has popped over our fence to say hello. The blooms are so magnificent, even NAH has remarked on them. It's a good magnolia year.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.


Latin without tears

As we discovered in my What's a Name? quiz recently, tulip (latin = Tulipa) is derived from the Turkish for turban, talband, which refers to the flower's shape. However, Wikipedia gives a slightly different definition, saying it's derived from the Turkish for muslin via the Persian word for turban. It also says the word may refer to the fashion at the time of the Ottoman Empire of wearing tulips in turbans, rather than the flower's shape.

There are around 75 wild species and the RHS groups cultivated tulips into 15 Groups - click on the link and scroll down for a slideshow of examples plus definitions. Greigii tulips form the 14th Group which comprises cultivars, subspecies, varieties and hybrids of T greigii. This species hails from Turkistan and according to the Backyard Gardener is named after Samuel Alexeivich Greig, a 19th century botanist and former president of the Russian Horticultural Society.

The Greigii group is characterised by shorter, later flowering tulips - April/May in the case of my 'St George' - with distinct mottled or striped foliage. The latest edition of The Garden says this tulip Group is good for containers, so it seems I made the right choice for where to plant mine.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Latin Without Tears: Tomato

Photo of a tomato and salad leaves on a plate

Oops, forgot to add my regular Latin feature to last week's plant profile. As it was a long post anyway and I've found quite a bit of information, a separate post seems best.

Our word for tomato is rooted in the Aztec one, tomatl which gives us a clue to this plant's origins from the Andes in South America. We had a quiz question a couple of weeks ago: What is the Peruvian 'love apple' commonly known as? and I was relieved I had the right answer - tomato - especially as the rest of the team didn't believe me. I wonder if that's where the French Pomme d'Amour originates.

According to the British Tomato Grower's Association tomatoes have been cultivated in South America since around 700 AD. They arrived in Europe in the 16th century either via the Spanish Conquistadors, or Jesuit priests bringing them back to Italy.

According to Wikipedia, the latin name for tomato is Solanum lycopersicum, which shows it's been placed in the notorious nightshade plant family, Solanacea. The meaning of this part of the Latin name is unclear: it could refer to the similarity of the plant's flowers to the sun's rays - at least one species is known as the 'sunberry'. Or it could originate from solari, the Latin verb meaning 'to soothe', which refers to the medicinal properties of some of the species found in this family.

However, other sources such as the Plants for a Future Database give the Latin name as Lycopersicon esculentum.  My findings so far suggest this genus name refers to wild tomatoes and the Solanum naming is accepted by botanists for cultivated varieties.

Whichever Latin name we're looking at, Lycopersicon and lycopersicum are derived from the Greek meaning 'wolf peach'. This could be rooted in the initial belief when they arrived in Europe that tomatoes were poisonous. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is the carotenoid responsible for giving tomatoes their distinctive colour.

We now know tomatoes are edible (esculentum = edible) and delicious. They're one of the most widely grown edible crops in the world. The foliage is still deemed to be poisonous, going back to its nightshade roots.

However, I've seen a couple of references lately which cite the use of a small amount of leaves (around 2-3) in cooking to increase the tomatoey flavour in sauces. James Wong's latest book has 2 in his pasta sauce recipe and last week's edition of Saturday Kitchen had the whole vine from the packet popped into the pot for one recipe. The leaves or vine are fished out prior to serving.

How do you pronounce the word tomato? Oh,  Let's Call the Whole Thing Off ;)

Friday, 10 April 2015

Portland Inspiration: Lasting Impressions

If the embedded show doesn't work, try this link instead.

We've just booked our flights to this year's Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto - it's less than 2 months away, squeeeee!

I've looked at last year's photos to help me through the wait and it's interesting to see what has stayed with me. The sheer number and variety of gardens we visited; the bold use of art and orange in the garden; huge pots; serious plantsmanship and good design, which still has room for lots of fun and quirky detail; cheeky hummingbirds (holds back the green-eyed monster); lush planting with varieties I can use in my garden. I could go on.

Instead, I've produced a slideshow of my lasting impressions, restricted to a couple of photos per garden plus a few extra scene setters. Naturally I found it difficult to keep to two, so I cheated and sneaked in a collage at the end. Even so I could have made some more, but then the show would be too long.

Sit back and enjoy.

You may also like:

  • Preliminary Snippets - my first impressions of last year's Fling
  • Portland Inspiration: Between the Paving - my look at foot level gardening
  • Portland Inspiration: Raindrops on Rhone Street - my post about a special garden in the rain. Also contains a video!
  • Portland Inspiration: Roof Garden - a future Wordless Wednesday post for April
  • From Sign of the Times: A Friday Bench in the Portland Japanese Garden
  • The Garden Bloggers Fling blog - Portland section. Contains links to everyone's posts about the gardens and nurseries we visited.
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