Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Horticultural bloopers on TV

So, who was watching "The Closer" last night and noticed the huge (at least to me) goof about the poison ivy? Brenda and her crew are on a steep ravine in L.A. analyzing a car crash/murder victim and one of Brenda's men tells her that she is standing in poison ivy. They show her legs in the middle of what is obviously NOT poison ivy. Hehehe

I'm sure 90% never saw the blooper and I suppose horticultural accuracies on tv crime dramas are not a top priority. Oh well.

I am highly allergic to the stuff and usually have to get a shot every year for it. I have discovered a great product though that will nip it in the bud if you apply it immediately after your exposure. It is called Zanfel - expensive but worth it and you use it in small amounts so a tube will last a long time. I could have told Chief Deputy Brenda Johnson that it works much better than Calamine lotion!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rain, glorious rain!

I'm doing a big happy dance today because last night we got 4" of rain! I went to bed grumpy because it had thundered and rained around us all evening and all we got was a sprinkle. This is not the first time this has happened. Anyway, I was awakened by a severe thunderstorm around midnight. This morning - a big 4" - and possibly some more tonight?

I was talking to my friend Rebecca last night who said that she was going to do a nude rain dance. I must call and thank her for that!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ornamental grasses laughing at the heat

This morning I dug up a dead azalea and I'm afraid that it won't be the only garden casualty this year. I have a large garden and I've had my sprinkler on for the past week. Despite the continuous watering, some plants are barely hanging on. I can't remember the last time we had a significant rainfall and we just had a record 12 days in a row of 100 or higher temperatures. And although we are approaching the end of August, September and October and usually hot and dry months here. I'm ready to move to Seattle!

One of the few plants that seem to be snubbing their noses at the weather are the ornamental grasses.

I just planted "Adagio" in 2005 and they really took off this year. This grass is not as tall as others (its maximum height is 3') and the plumes are pretty spectacular. I should also add that these are planted near a large yoshino cherry which shades it most of the day.

Here is another new one for me - "Tall Tales" (bottom right) - it was just planted last year.

Some of the other grasses are not looking their best. "Morning Light," which blooms much later in the fall, is looking thirsty and a tad ragged. Despite this, however, it usually comes through. Hopefully, I will have photos of it that I can post later.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cheesecake anyone?

In addition to gardening, I love baking. I've made a lot of cheesecakes over the years (they are delicious and not that difficult to make) and I have to say that this recipe is one of the best I've come across. It reminds of the one they serve at a popular Italian restaurant chain (I'd better not say the name).

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (10 ounce) package frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.
2. In a saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt white chocolate chips with half-and-half, stirring occasionally until smooth.
4. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate. Pour half of batter over crust. Spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into pan, and again spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.
5. Place the pan in a water bath and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until filling is set. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool in the over for an hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from pan. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

The last garden that I want to share from my Washington D.C. trip is the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, part of the Smithsonian Gardens. This tiny garden, located in an alley between the Mall and the neighboring street, exudes charm. It was packed with perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees and each plant was labeled.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hillwood, the Marjorie Merriweather Post Estate

Here is another fabulous garden, also located in Georgetown, close to Dumbarton Oaks. Ms. Post apparently had enough money to feed a third world nation and the house is filled with Russian antiques and French porcelain. The gardens were immaculate and the best maintained of any gardens that I saw on my trip to Washington D.C. The majority of the plantings were azaleas which were not blooming of course. It has to be a most spectacular sight in the spring.

This is the driveway (yes, the driveway!)

Nice backyard

A pet cemetery

The French Parterre Garden - this was on the side of the house and Ms. Post had a view of it from her upstairs bedroom window.

The Rose Garden

A personal golf course!

This was one of the prettiest Japanese gardens I've ever seen. In fact, I've never really desired such a garden until I saw this one. It was very impressive, on a steep hillside, and tons of water. I kept wondering what size pump it would take to handle all that water.

Of course I loved the statuary -

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dumbarton Oaks

My main reason for visiting Washington D.C. was not to see the White House or the Lincoln Memorial or any of the other monuments - I wanted to see Dumbarton Oaks, a garden that I've studied and revered for years. I reviewed a book about the creation and history of this fabulous garden - Dumbarton Oaks: Garden Into Art - and I highly recommend it. From the photos I'd seen and what I'd read, it was my ideal garden. It has inspired me in my own garden and I couldn't wait to see it with my own eyes. Granted, August was not the ideal time to visit but the opportunity was there and I took it. I was not disappointed in the least - this is a garden known as much for its brilliant architecture and tactile elements than for the plants that adorn it. I do want to go back and see it again, both in the fall and spring, so I hope this won't be my first and final visit.

I was disappointed that no one seemed familiar with Dumbarton Oaks. The concierge at our hotel gave us a blank stare when we asked about it and the cab driver told us he'd never heard of it. I suppose a garden is not the first thing that comes to most people's minds on a visit to Washington D.C. Oh well, I've always marched to a different drummer!

My friend Rebecca and I toured the garden on a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon (it is open from 2-6pm only) and we practically had the garden to ourselves until a group of design students showed up toward the end. Despite the heat, I thought I had found heaven. I took over 200 photos - here is a small sample.

Rebecca enjoying one of the views

The Orangery
A section of the front lawn
Close to the entrance to the property is this magnificient spreading katsura tree (in the background), one of the oldest trees on the property. It was planted in the 19th century. Next to it is an ancient Japanese maple (in the foreground) with a spread of over 70 feet.
The front of the house
The back of the house is also restrained with plantings. The elaborate gardens (below) are to the left of the house on a sloping hillside.
Detail of the grass steps on the back lawn.

This is the Urn Terrace which overlooks the rose garden and the lower gardens. Notice the exquisite brick work - although brick is used extensively throughout the gardens, other types of stone (slate, concrete, pebbles, etc.) are used as well. One of the things I learned from this garden is that it is okay to mix materials.

The Rose Garden lies just below the Urn Terrace and above the Fountain Terrace. The roses here are hybrid teas and there were not too many blooming. The tomb of Robert and Mildred Bliss can be seen at the center of the wall.

The walls of the Rose Garden (the Urn Terrace sits right above this area).
A bench in the Rose Garden inscribed with the motto "Quod Severis Metes" ("As you sow, so shall you reap"). The ornament at the top of the bench is actually the top of the ornamental section of the Fountain Terrace (you can see it in the next photo if you look closely). Ingenious!

This was my favorite area of the garden. It is the Fountain Terrace which features two matching lead fountains. The plantings in this area change with the seasons.

Or maybe this was my favorite area - the Arbor Terrace. I believe this was Mrs. Bliss's favorite spot in the garden. The coolest area of the garden was inside this arbor which is covered with a massive wisteria. I would love to see it in bloom! There is a charming wading pool inside and (don't tell anyone), I took a dip! The containers outside were filled with tropical plants like oleander and coleus.

Inside the arbor with the wading pool in the foreground.

This is the famous Ellipse, comprised of a double row of American Hornbeams that have been clipped into an aerial hedge 16 feet high and 15 feet wide. An antique Provencal fountain sits in the center of the circle. Very elegant, very restrained.

The Lovers Lane Pool is a miniature Roman-style amphiteater made of brick rows that overlook a shallow pool.

In the sweltering heat, the pool looked so inviting. It was actually closed off so that you could not walk around it.

Inside the Loggia, artist Allyn Cox, who also painted murals in the rotunda of the US Capitol, developed a series of canvas frescoes for the ceiling and walls, depicting the fable of Diana and Actaeon. When the paintings declined in the 1940s, they were reproduced in three mosaic panels of Portuguese tile.

The Pebble Garden was the last major feature to be added at Dumbarton Oaks. This was a former tennis court that was covered with a huge motif made from pebbles and is usually covered with a shallow sheet of water although when I was there only the fountains at the head of the design were
running. This area lies just beneath the pool area.

In early August, most of the color in the garden was in the Cutting Garden and the Herbaceous Border. They were a riot of color.

A monument commentating the work of Beatrix Farrand, the woman
who created this beautiful garden.