Saturday, June 27, 2009

Backyard Turkeys: The Next Wave in Gardening

Tom Terrific "displaying" for photographer Astrid Pryor

Meet Tom Terrific, the Narragansett turkey. He's a sociable guy, in fact you could call him a party animal. If he hears human laughter nearby he bowls over and gobbles happily, joining in.

Tom lives in a pretty garden in Grass Valley, California where he and his lady turkey hens stroll and peck. Tom likes to gobble to his neighbors while they're gardening, or talk through the fence to his Afghan Hound pals. If there's no one around he goes to his owner's side door, walks up the steps, and taps on the glass.

Tom strutted to his front fence to chat me up one afternoon. His friendly gobble and intelligent eyes were irresistible. I'd always heard that turkeys were dumber than a box of rocks, but Tom certainly wasn't.

Tom Terrific looks like he just came off a Thanksgiving Day place card. His ancestors and their cousins, the Bronzes, are the archetypal birds we see in illustrations every November.

Tom descends from a cross of English turkeys and the wild Eastern Turkeys in America. Narragansett turkeys boast black and white barred feathers (the striped effect) and sociable temperaments.

Temperament matters these days, as poultry has caught the American imagination and backyard chickens are all the rage. If you want to stay a four-toed, salmon-colored, clawed-foot ahead in the stylish living race, why not get a turkey now, before the rush starts in 2010?

The Narragansetts need your help, as they are losing the popularity contest to the Bronzes. The Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities is concerned.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eleanor Perenyi on lovage

Franz Kohler c.1887

Instead of a poignant comment on the changing seasons and cycle of life, here, in the last of my series of excerpts from Eleanor Perenyi's book, Green Thoughts, is a little something about lovage:

People who have lovage are wonderfully generous about giving hunks of it away, and once you have acquired it, you see why. Full grown, it is five feet tall, self-sows liberally if the birds don't get the seeds first, doesn't mind shade, is unkillable. Nobody needs as much lovage as, inevitably in a year or two, he has. It is true that it smells and tastes like celery, but it can't be eaten like celery--the flavor is too strong and the stalks are tough. A few leaves added to a soup or stew are sufficient to impart a celery flavor, and I prefer it to celery in a court bouillon. A friend of mine devours the leaves raw on sliced tomatoes in a sandwich. I keep it because I have it (it was, of course, a present), but given the amount I use in relation to the colossal size, I can't call it an essential herb.

We can call her an essential writer though. Many thanks, and bon voyage, Baroness Perenyi.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Eleanor Perenyi on herb farms

Borage, a Jupiterian herb
Photo credit: Jengod

You've done it, I've done it--the over-buying of herbs. Eleanor Perenyi comments, in the fourth of a series of excerpts from Green Thoughts (1981):

My corner of New England happens to be well endowed with herb farms and my will power easily sapped by the sight of plants for sale. Surely a gold-leaved marjoram wouldn't be amiss? What about a Lavandula viris from the Canary Islands? And inevitably the car fills up with plants that will turn out to be too large, too small, or simply not as interesting as their history and provenance have made them sound. There is, I find, that drawback to herbs. No other class of plant bears such a weight of myth and symbolism, and it can be oversold. For me there comes a time when it isn't enough to know that a plant was sacred to Jupiter, used to ward off snakes, a symbol of loyalty or mentioned by Theophrastus, when all it looks like is a not very exciting wild flower/weed.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Midsummer Eve

Midsummer Eve c.1908, Edward Robert Hughes* (1851-1914)

Best wishes for an enchanting Summer Solstice Eve!

*Mr. Hughes was an English painter and this is one of his best-known works. Prominent in his own right, he also served as an assistant to the elderly William Holman Hunt, one of the leading Pre-Raphaelite painters.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eleanor Perenyi on dahlias

'Lilac Time' Photo credit: Olaf Leillinger

Some people can quote from Shakespeare; I quote from Henry Mitchell and Eleanor Perenyi, two of America's classic garden writers.

Eleanor Perenyi captured the cultural silliness, as well as the deep importance, of gardening. Third in my series of excerpts from her book Green Thoughts (1981) is her frequently-cited reflection on dahlias:

Looking at my dahlias one summer day, a friend whose taste runs to the small and impeccable said sadly, 'You do like big, conspicuous flowers, don't you?' She meant vulgar, and I am used to that. It hasn't escaped me that mine is the only Wasp garden in town to contain dahlias, and not the discreet little singles either. Some are as blowzy as half-dressed Renoir girls; others are like spiky sea-creatures, water-lilies, or the spirals in a crystal paperweight; and they do shoot up to prodigious heights. But to me they are sumptuous, not vulgar, and I love their colors, their willingness to bloom until the frost kills them and, yes, their assertiveness. I do like big flowers when they are also beautiful.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Queen is in her garden

Portrait of The Queen (2002) John Swannell/Camera Press

Exciting report from Buck House in London about the new kitchen garden!

Garden Organics supplied heritage seeds with appropriate names. The tomatoes are Queen of Hearts, Golden Queen, and White Queen; the beans are Royal Red and a rare, climbing Blue Queen; one of the lettuces is Northern Queen.

Which leads me to ask--have you ever chosen varieties just because they share your name (or title)?

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Eleanor Perenyi on old-fashioned flowers, and a garland of tributes to her

Love in a Mist, Sophie Gengembre Anderson* (1823-1903)

This is the second in my series of excerpts from Green Thoughts (1981) by the late, great writer Eleanor Perenyi. Here is some of her commentary on old-fashioned flowers:

The Victorians meant hardy annuals when they spoke of old-fashioned flowers, a term that used to puzzle me. In Little Women, Beth grows 'old-fashioned flowers,' and I always supposed this was part of Alcott's goody-goody emphasis on out-of-date virtue. That isn't the case. The sweet peas and larkspurs and pinks beloved of Beth actually were old-fashioned by the middle of the nineteenth century--having been superseded by the newer, smarter, tender annuals imported from the tropics and sub-tropics of Mexico, India and South America. The old annuals in contrast were natives of the north temperate zone, age-old denizens of cottage gardens where familiarity and the folk imagination bestowed on them their common names: love-in-a-mist, pincushion flower, bachelor's buttons, sweet sultan.

Several garden bloggers have written on the passing of Eleanor Perenyi and I have gathered the tributes here as a virtual garland for her. Please let me know if there are others to be included.

Country Gardener

*Sophie Gengembre Anderson was a Pre-Raphaelite painter.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eleanor Perenyi on mint

Photo credit: Gogo

Eleanor Perenyi wrote about her gardens in a way that commanded respect. Many of us worship at the shrine of her collected garden essays, Green Thoughts (1981), and I felt a personal pang at the passing of the author in May.

Margalit Fox captured her well in a delicate New York Times obituary. My own memorial to Baroness Perenyi will be a series of excerpts from Green Thoughts.

Here she speaks about her mint bed:

Every garden should have an area that can safely be neglected, and a mint bed is the ideal choice. My unknown mints, fenced in with old boards, get no attention beyond a shovelful of compost now and then. They never have a shadow of a pest or a blight. Once a summer I get down on my knees and trace the stolons that have escaped the fence, ripping them from their moorings and throwing them on the compost heap. As gardening jobs go, this one is a delight. The heavenly smell invades every pore, and if I were the size of a cat I would roll luxuriously in the pile of discards.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Sadly, the winner isn't you (I would have sent you an email by now)

The winner is Bill Bird, blogger at Sacramento Vegetable Gardening

We did a random, double-blind (my husband was in a dark room when he picked the number) drawing. Many congratulations to Bill! He has ambitious plans for his garden this year, including giant pumpkins. He's a regular at his local Home Depot, so this should really clinch his position as the super-duper customer.

Thank you all for visiting the Home Depot Garden Club and entering the contest. I hope you're able to accomplish your DIY projects or, in Debby's case, that Home Depot gives you the house in the main Garden Club photo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Win a $100 gift card from Home Depot!

Two things I've always wanted: a cute goat and a classic wooden picnic table.

The Home Depot Garden Club has directions on how to make the picnic table. I think I'm on my own for the goat acquisition.

Would you like that table for your own garden lunches and dinners? Or as a play structure for your goat? 

Head over to Home Depot's Garden Club site and look through the popular gardening and outdoor living DIY projects. 

If you're not into DIY, you'll find information on landscaping that works in your region, and an extensive plant directory that you can search six ways from Sunday. 

Come back here and leave a comment naming a feature you like about the Garden Club. On Friday evening I'll have a random drawing from all the comments and one of you will win a $100 Home Depot gift card. Check in on Friday evening to see who won! 

Home Depot will Fed Ex the gift card to the lucky winner, so I'll need your email if you win, in order to get your street address and phone number. Don't put that info in your comment. The winner must be a U.S. resident. 

Bonus: If you register with the Garden Club you'll get coupons and more garden information.

To leave a comment, click on the word COMMENTS below. 

Please use a name of some kind to identify yourself. One easy way to get a name is to sign up for a free Gmail account; the name you use as part of that address will be your Google name. A Google name is one of the choices that can be selected in the Comments box. 

If you're having trouble leaving a comment it may be that your computer is blocking cookies from Blogger. Quick ! Fix that! Don't you want the $100 gift card?