Sunday, September 27, 2009

Capitol Bees

Bee hives in the White House kitchen garden. Photo: White House

WASHINGTON (DP) The bee hives in the famed White House kitchen garden received international attention this week at the G20 Pittsburgh Summit.

White House beekeeper collecting honey. Photo: White House

White House beekeeper Charlie Brandts has collected honey from the hives and saved it for special occasions.

The First Lady's gift. Photo: White House

While world leaders gathered for economic discussions at the G20 Pittsburgh Summit, First Lady Michelle Obama acted as hostess to their wives. Her official gift to each wife was a tea set featuring White House honey.

The White House found itself in a sticky situation when the Internet began to buzz with criticism of the gifts. Advocates for bees maintained that the bees had been robbed of their honey.

Photo: Infrogmation

During the G20 Summit meeting insect-rights protesters swarmed the streets of downtown Pittsburgh singing, "All we are saying is give bees a chance", and breaking the windows of florist's shops. Special security units clad in white mesh hoods and white coveralls advanced on them, throwing smoke bombs. The protesters formed one large group and disappeared down a side street.

They were later found milling around in the lobby of the Colony Hotel and were arrested for failing to disperse. Further trouble ensued at the City Jail when the protesters insisted on occupying one holding cell with their female leader.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thanks to the gardeners at Blotanical

Palm House on the Pfaueninsel near Potsdam, c.1832-1834
Karl Blechen (1798-1840)*

When I go to the Blotanical website I feel like I'm walking into a huge conservatory. It's a protected space, full of varied plants, with all the world climates represented.

And the company can't be beat! I've met many kindly, expert gardeners there in my first year of blogging, and feel fortunate to be part of a generous community.

Now we're in the annual award season at Blotanical and I want to thank the thoughtful friends who nominated my blog for special mention. It's a thrill for me each time one of you reads my blog, and I'm gratified to think you've enjoyed it.

It's especially nice to be in the Best California Blog category with my neighbor and delightful friend, Pomona Belvedere of Tulips in the Woods; charming Alice of Bay Area Tendrils; the fun native plant missionaries Town Mouse and Country Mouse; and (new to me) Cindee of Cindee's Garden. A wonderful bunch of gals, each with a distinctive voice.

Apparently there was a miscount in the votes because I also ended up in the Garden Blog of the Year category. It's flattering in the extreme to be in the same row with Frances of Faire Garden, Gail from Clay and Limestone, James of Blogging from Blackpitts, and Catherine from A Gardener in Progress. Golly. Made my week.

So deepest thanks for giving the old Daff a boost, and huzzahs to Stuart for constructing this online building where we can all meet. My life, in and out of the garden, is richer because of you.

(If you'd like to know more about the wonders of Blotanical, here's a post I wrote about it last winter.)

*Karl Blechen was a leading landscape painter in 19th century Germany. He came late to art, abandoning his job as a bank clerk, and quickly rose to prominence and a professorship at the Berlin Academy. His style evolved from Romantic to Naturalistic before his early death. This painting is in the collection at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Equinox 2009

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Royal tiptoe through the tulips

Tulipa 'Henry Hudson' Photo: Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

Prince and Princess of the Netherlands at the White House

WASHINGTON (DP) There are budding rumors about the Dutch royals' recent visit to the White House.

Although the meeting was ostensibly a social call, informed sources report that Prince Willem-Alexander offered economic advice to President Obama, drawing parallels between the recession in the U.S. and the problems suffered in 17th century Holland after the collapse of Tulipomania.

Oddly, the Prince may have proposed a modified version of Tulipomania as a financial cure--suggesting a U.S. stimulus package that would encourage American gardeners to invest in tulip bulbs.

The rumored stimulus package would offer tax credits for households buying over 1,000 tulip bulbs in 2009 and 2010. The Netherlands is the premium wholesale source for tulip bulbs and would benefit from increased sales here.

Agitation is growing in garden centers across the United States, with anxious gardeners demanding to know if there will be a tulip tax credit. American bulb catalogs could not be reached for comment, as their telephone lines are swamped with calls from buyers. 

Last week in New York the Dutch Princess christened a new tulip 'Henry Hudson'. The orange species tulip, with its ruffled foliage, is a popular arrival on the garden scene, fueling speculation that the Dutch are using 'Henry Hudson' to stir up American consumer support for the tulip stimulus package.

Pressure is on the White House to confirm or deny the stimulus package during this prime time for ordering tulip bulbs. If the question is not resolved promptly the Oval Office faces a near riot when the Garden Writers Association meets for its annual conference next week.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Michelle Obama: Arms of a gardener

The official portrait shows her famously toned arms

WASHINGTON (DP) The First Lady's arm exercises were made public today, in an interview to be published in the October issue of Women's Health magazine. The Editor-in-Chief and Fitness Editor from Women's Health appeared on the Today Show to discuss what they call "the fitness scoop of the century" and demonstrate the exercises.
, and News about the Economy
What is not revealed is that the First Lady's 5:30 a.m. workout often takes place in the White House vegetable garden--and that she is in fact gardening energetically, not doing rote calisthenics.

Those in the horticultural community understood immediately that her publicly acknowledged "exercises" were code for specific activities in the garden, and that "reps" referred to the number of plants, or bags of soil amendment, she used.

Here is the First Lady's official workout translated into what she probably does when she is alone in the garden:

1. One minute of hammer curls, in which she lifts dumbells toward the body in alternating motions and which should leave her "fatigued".

Clearly the First Lady is holding a one-gallon plant from the nursery in each hand, and lifting her hands alternately, trying to determine which plant should go in which new spot. No gardener needs to be told how mentally and physically fatiguing such a process can be.

2. Triceps pushdown with an overhand grip, pushing down on the t-handle of a 15 pound weighted pulley, for 15-20 reps.

Again, it is easily understood that she is digging a hole with a shovel, pushing down into the soil 15-20 times.

3. Triceps pushdown with a flip grip. The same movement as Number Two, but with the hands turned up.

This "exercise" is familiar to all gardeners: the lifting of heavy bags of soil amendment from ground to waist level, an obvious accompaniment to digging holes.

4. An aerobic finish to her workout is a floor exercise called mountain climbing. The hands are placed on the ground and the feet come forward quickly in an alternating motion. It was noted that this exercise is "not for the faint of heart".

Any gardener would agree--crawling forward in search of weeds is among the most tiring of garden tasks.

A mystery remains. Why don't all gardeners have arms that look like the First Lady's?

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Correcting color mistakes in the garden

Illustration by Sir John Tenniel

"Would you tell me," said Alice, a little timidly, "why you are painting those roses?"

Five and Seven said nothing, but looked at Two. Two began in a low voice, "Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake."

--Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Me too. I ought to have planted a pink Buddleia in my pink border and I put a white one in by mistake. Buddleia davidii 'White Profusion' is going into witness relocation on the other side of the house (as part of the federal Crimes Against Aesthetics Program).

I'm searching for a splendid pink replacement. Any suggestions on varieties?

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Seven favorite gardens

Here are seven gardens I love:

Photo by Andrew Dunn

The garden of the Generalife at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. First, last and always, it is my ultimate garden. In a college art history class the slide of this garden enchanted me. Two decades later I finally made the trip and on a day in May I stood at this spot, alone and transfixed. As soon as you finish reading this post, buy a ticket to Spain!

Photo by Uris

The eight tiny Pavilion Gardens at the University of Virginia are enclosed by brick serpentine walls and flank the main quadrangle. Yes, Thomas Jefferson designed them, along with the rest of the place. In 1976 the American Institute of Architects, in a bicentennial mood, named the University of Virginia "the proudest achievement in American architecture in the past 200 years". Nice going, TJ. I have happy memories of hosting a birthday/croquet party in this Pavilion Garden.

Photo by Luu

I fell for Keukenhof Park in the Netherlands one spring when I was a teenager. So don't make fun of me!

Photo by Daderot

The Arboretum at Stanford University in California. Take a deep breath--can you smell the eucalyptus? The Stanfords planted exotic trees along with the native live oaks here, and it's a wild area that's a buffer between the campus and the town of Palo Alto.

Photo by Daderot

The University of California at Davis is near Sacramento, in the Central Valley. The Arboretum has walking paths on either side of a long creek, punctuated by foot bridges in a variety of styles. This particular bridge is a bit humdrum, but the stroll is delightful in all seasons, for humans and dogs.

Photo by Epibase

Moving on to gardens I have visited only in my imagination, we find ourselves in an herbaceous border at Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire, England. The rose section is said to be superb. Someday I'll find out.

Photo by Epibase

Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, England. Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson created these gardens, and Vita wrote her garden columns in that big tower. If you've read Orlando by Virginia Woolf you've met Vita as the inspiration for the title character.

How did you get dragged by the hair on this garden tour? Blame Susan at Blue Planet Gardening, who tagged me. Her blog and site are Action Central for low-water gardening info; no additional charge for her quick wit.

I raise my muddy dandelion fork and tap seven more bloggers, bidding them to:

• Link back to the person who gave you the award.
• Reveal seven things about yourself.
• Choose seven other blogs to nominate, and post a link to them.
• Let each of your choices know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
• Notify your tagger that the post is up.

Take your own international garden tour and meet these seven outstanding bloggers:

  • Shirl at Shirl's Gardenwatch in Scotland. Notes on her own and other Scottish gardens, and backyard hedgehog videos too.

  • Emily at Emily's Garden in southern England for photos and reports on her extensive, beautiful garden.

  • Fern at Life on the Balcony in southern California. She knows all about container gardening, and designs for both commercial and residential spaces. Big on Twitter, if you want to see how that's done.

  • Gen at North Coast Gardening in California near the Oregon border. She's a gardening pro, with an especially well-designed blog. Makes her own how-to videos and is a rising national star.

  • Maranta at Callus and Chlorophyll in Seattle is another gardening pro, who ruminates all day as he digs and prunes, and types out the goods on his clients at night. I call him the Thomas Pynchon of garden bloggers. No post of mine is complete without his clever comment.

  • David in Missoula, at Montana Wildlife Gardener, is a biologist who has created an exceptional garden in town, while making few demands on the environment. He's a gold mine of information and is always a pleasure to read.

  • Back on the East Coast, head for the Pittsburgh suburbs to read Burbs and the Bees by Beegirl. A fun, new blog about being as country as possible on the edge of the city.

As with all lists, it's hard to have to choose. See my blogroll for other excellent blogs, sorted by geography.

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