Thursday, April 16, 2015

Southern California Horitculture and Karen England Serve Enthusiasm and Good Taste


Karen serves the eager line with an easy recipe for tasty water freshly run over fresh flowers and citrus slices.
 Karen England was hooked on gardening at the tender age of 12, when she began helping her cousin at  the family business Sunshine Gardens.  She honed additional skills at college, took three intensives at the Ballymaloe Cookery  School. She has provided demonstrations on the wonders of cooking with herbs to guests visiting The Lavender Fields of Valley Center. Teaching how to cook with a single electrical cord in a garden taught her to simplify- a  lesson her admirers appreciate. 

On one side of cards with the names of Herb of the Year
The Year a Herb was designated for honors is on the reverse.
 Karen was also a board member of the International Herb Association and is a current member of the Vista Garden Club. She tends 2 acres of lucky herbs surrounding her home. 

There was no lack of people lining up to taste the samples.
Knowledgeable and enthusiastic, Karen is fairly described as high-energy. People pushed forward to taste the samples and say thank you for the extraordinary effort she went to.


  • English and French Thyme are the same plant. Thymus vulgaris. 
  • Dried lavender- as long as they have scent, they have flavor. The little sachets in your drawers- squeeze 'em from time to time. This releases the oils, revitalizing the space with the scent of fields of flowers in bloom.
  • For a twist on deviled eggs, grind Herb Provence finely to season the yolks.
  • One of the best reasons to grow your own edibles, including herbs to flowers, is you have control how they were grown. The floral stems at the grocery florist- chances are they have been treated with some unpronounceable chemical before being put on display.  Be as organic in your practices as you can. 
  • Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis)  is similar to California Bay (Umbellularia californica) . The former will grown in most gardens almost unchanged for about 5 years. On the 5th year, it reaches for the moon. The latter is not as refined in taste- but when I was confirming the facts for this post, I  read the blond wood is valued by woodworkers for its fine myrtle lumber.


  • Sweet Bay leaves are delicious simmered in long-cooked oatmeal. WARNING: fish the whole leaves out before you partake. Every year, a few poor souls end up in the ER when a whole leaf gets stuck in the throat.  

SoCal Hort meetings always feature plant sales, with a portion of the proceeds used to support the organization. Some of the recent temptations include


Salvia 'Love Child' 

Dwarf Angel Pelargonium 

Peach tone clivia from Greenwood Gardens

Greenwood Gardens also grows one  of the most pleasing yellow clivias on the market

This tree-form sea lavender, I've only seen it for sale two places. At the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Garden  gift shop- and at SoCal Hort Meetings. 
To learn more about SoCal Hort meetings, where people share the love of gardening, click here.

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Every plant a memory~ Bell Shaped blossoms ~Gluten-Free Easter


My garden is not so full of plants as it is of memories. 
~ Me

Fuchsia Fulgens translates to Brilliant Fuchsia

Bell shaped flowers are the dangling earrings of horticulture. They sway with the plant, bidding hummingbirds to visit. 

I remember the moment when I first spotted the seductive Mexican fuchsia. It was on a pilgrimage to to Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond. I could not take my eyes off this bush ornamented as tho' a beaded ball gown  She came home in my suitcase. Tucked between our his and hers sheds, it would be easy to ignore her if her slender salmon-pink- flowers, accented with green, weren't so darn flirty.   
As brugmansia flowers fade-away, they are pinched off for the next wave to set faster
The angel's trumpet started off as not much more than a rooted stick. My late mother - who loved all things tropical - picked it out for me at a plant sale at California State University, Riverside. 

On cool nights, the hanging peach blossoms of Angel's trumpet fill the air with intoxicating fragrance, calling the large moths to pollinate. My study is just to the right of where I pointed my camera- and on nights when I type into the night- sometimes the clicking of moths bumping into my window joins the drumming of the my fingers on the keyboard for a percussionist jam session of sorts.  

Our Easter destination was to share Easter with my mother-in-law.  Our oldest son picked her up to meet us at  Crossroads Church in Corona, where she is a congregant. We saw many things there I don't see in our church (we are Lutherans, who are old school traditionalists). There were spotlights scanning into the audience. Black and white paisley graphics swirling on the back wall. A rousing sermon. And loads of people being dunked fast at donuts. The music- what I remember of Rolling Stone and Led Zeppelin concerts in the 70's- the rock music of my heyday reached no further up the decibel meter.   

Then to her home. She is gluten intolerant: it is one of my great pleasures to cook for her. 

If my husband has any angst in my Bible studies, it is that I found in the definition of a noble wife, 

Proverbs 31:14~ "She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar."

Orchard's Fresh Foods in Whittier is our butcher/deli of choice. It carries  a vast selection of Boar's Head Products. Ham, turkey breast, horseradish  cheddar cheese- there was enough to either feed a battalion- or have leftovers and not cook for  a week. 

Diamond Fresh Farmer's Market, the busiest parking lot in Diamond Bar, was the source of most of the produce- purple potatoes and fresh garbanzo beans are just not carried in the name-brand grocery stores.


Ros Creasy's Lavender- tinted Vichyssoise recipe from Recipes From the Garden, when you squeeze in the lemon, it really does turn this lovely color. 



Fresh garbanzo beans are quite seasonal. Their taste is more like fresh artichoke than what we know from the can.

Checking the Old Wisconsin site on my i-pad confirmed their summer sausage is gluten free. How did we shop before Apple became as known for electronics as the Garden of Eden?



Coleslaw's flavor  is pumped up with pineapple. Peanuts are pretty good, too. 







This is California. Even though it was just for vegetables marinated in lemon and orange juice and a light shaking of seasonings- grilling outdoors is our way to celebrate living in the best climate on earth. 

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for everything You do to make the world more beautiful. 

Lydia 




Monday, April 13, 2015

Waterwise is a Strategy, not a Style ~ Eat Your Garden


"Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized."  ~ Alan Armatage


Edible Landscaping 

 It was a class at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden  by Rosalind Creasy. She's the woman who wrote the book on planting a garden good enough to eat. Literally. In fact, many books. 

I was in the mood for her brand of optimism. Waterwise is more than succulents and cactus interspersed amongst gravel. It is a strategy to get the most out of the resources at hand. Its beauty is not just one vision of paradise- and it can taste mighty good.

Two of her books came home with me. I  intended them as reading material for the stack I'm saving for some soon scheduled bed-rest, but I was too tempted. That weekend's Sabbath was filled with joy and wonderment. For I am a gardener who likes to bring the outside in. Not just the view through the window. I like to bring the ingredients  which the rabbits and squirrels leave as our portion for working "their land."

Lavender blossoms infusing scent and taste into a jar of  Bakers Sugar

Some facts from 'Ros'. The scalloped shape of the tomato below is sculpted from multiple fertilized ovaries. The reason the ugly brown and funny green tomatoes taste so good is that the color genetic-code comes with a flavor boost. 




 Haggen  grocery is open in Diamond Bar. On a nieces recommendation, I went in. They know where to find delicious produce when it isn't in season in my garden. The gorgeous specimen sliced up on a bed of baby spinach and feta cheese just waiting for a family member to anoint it with their choice of salad dressing- this is heaven on a plate.  

Recipes from the Garden

It makes me smile to know that anything edible which can be grown at home is not only more delicious than store-bought: it uses far less water than a commercial crop. When we grow our own food, this leaves more produce for the rest of the nation. Which makes my using a little bit of water patriotic. 

 Last winter, all of California prayed for rain. A polite amount fell. Mostly on weekends: followed by warm workdays. Good for not tying up our notoriously wicked commuter traffic more than usual. Also good for keeping the local mosquito population off any endangered list. 

Next year we need to throw in a request for snowpack. May God throttle- up the volume of fluffy white frozen crystals evolving into clear liquid from trickle to flow. And during this time of drought, may we have the wisdom to be preparing for the rain to come. 

Until we meet again- Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 

Lydia 

Quote found on Self Sustainable Life

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Plants with Benefits by Helen Yoest


"Tell me what you do with the food you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are. Some turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and others, I’m told, into God.”~ Zorba the Greek 
~ Nikos Kazantzakis

Displayed with matching seed packet, lace garter and cherries charm- this is a natural engagement or wedding party gift

 The  title, Plants with Benefits, is subtle.  The subtitle, An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers and Veggies in Your Garden. is to the point. Our gardens are our Edens, the starter to more loving (and for the younger set) more fruitful lives. 

Side yard Orchard
Herbs and flowers offer aromatic foreplay. The birds in the garden, the cook singing in the kitchen, these are love songs. Produce is tactile to finger and tongue. When at last you taste the labor of love from the kitchen, you are entranced. Plants don't just come with nutritional benefits: Helen Yoest may not have set out to write a botanical Kama Sutra, but her  teasing text  lively waft and weave of lore and legend attached to why the plants in her recipes are so darn sensual. 

Offertory arrangement of fruit on display with Chinese Floral Arts Exhibit at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Garden 
Plants with Benefits intrigues with hints from history. Casanova ate celery before his legendary hookups. Alexander Dumas sipped on almond soup in prelude to satisfying his mistress.  This is a book in need of a matching naughty board game or crossword puzzle. How much fun would that be to develop?

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 

Lydia 


Friday, January 9, 2015

Starting the New Year with Respect


When you hit the wall. Climb over. 


Revisiting what I had not intended to be my last post- fueled by exasperation with the culture- I had hit that life-wall full-on. I needed time to say "Thank you Lord for my trials" and mean it.  

Living in the land of picking tangerines and lemons off trees in what passes here for winter, it is easy to take things for granted.  




I live better than rulers of yore, writing from my windowed study where  hummingbirds dash in the distance between feeders and flowers. If the pantry is low, we can run to the grocery store a few blocks away. On a lazy night or when the deadline is coming faster than the words, we can choose which side of the street to order from. Will  it be In and Out or  Ranch House Cafe  for a tasty hot meal?  


We have it good. And we take it for granted. 

Every day people get up to go about their jobs. Some of them quite dangerous. They may be called  by family tradition or sense of duty to work in conditions or do jobs that I am certainly glad I never was. Not for the hours. Not for the conditions. Not for nothing.


About Careers posted a listing of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States- all by deaths per 100,000 persons,(figures circa 2011) 



1.Fishers and related fishing workers, 116           
2. Logging workers, 91                                         
3. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers,                  
5 Farmers and ranchers, 41                                   
5.Mining machine operators, 38                           
6. Roofers,  32                                                       
7.Refuse and recyclable material collectors, 29    
8.Drivers / sales workers and truck drivers, 21     
9. Industrial machinery repair and installation, 20
10. Police and sheriff's patrol officers, 19             


video

 At 19.1 deaths per 100,000,  just missing the list is Oil Field Work. 
North Dakota morning at negative 40-something degrees. The work for people begins before the sun starts its labors.  It is a world of starkly bitter beauty, where one mistake can cost more dearly than a deposited paycheck.

Imagine having to wear to work gear to protect you against everything from a flash freeze to fire. In fly-over country weather, wearing a Burka would not do you much more good than wearing a bikini- too much skin exposed. 

This is a job where love waits at home. It's not a job where at the end of the day, a dog greets you with a wiggle and a waggle. The accouterments of gracious living are by requirements of the occupation: delayed gratification.  
Reno- career lap warmer
As a writer, most days I work in scruffies- oh- that's my dog.

This is the challenge for those of you as spoiled as we are with good weather- the next time you are wearing a tank top while topping the gas tank- send a shout out to the universe- God bless the men and women whom we may never meet, but are viewing the cost of gas at the pump from a different viewpoint. One as valid to their well- being as ours is to us. 

Send up a thank you for the respect they deserve for manning-up to miss holidays, school plays and family gatherings- so we don't have to.  

Not just for oil field workers. Not just for the list above. But for everyone who is taken for granted. 

In this New Year- Peace be with you all.


Photos from personal files. For more on the dangerous job info, click here. 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thoughts on our 39th Anniversary~ The Garden as Teacher ~ Social Media and the New Ghetto




It is a blessing that when the sun goes down, it is easy to see past undone garden chores
It is  a powerful thing, to decide how to see life. You can see the time change this time of year as darkness descending too early or as a chance to enjoy the sunset sooner. 


When we got married, the bets were it wouldn't last.



We were too young to know ourselves. Didn't know each other long enough to know the other. He was an engineer and I was in fashion merchandising.  Our brains operated on different hemispheres.The cynics thought we had nothing in common.

Our own pastor predicted in premarital counseling " You two are going to have problems."  

Dear Pastor, I wish I had asked - Who doesn't? 


No life is without challenges. 




For I am a gardener, I have been a better wife. 

My garden raised me up to rejoice in challenges. It taught me to live like a runner on the track. There are going to be hurdles. Some are simply not going to be liked. Yet each offers not just the chance to plant your forehead where feet should be-  with each leap and land there is the potential to build skill, improve attitude and reap reward.

But only if we are willing to work through. Play through. Pray through every problem.   

A motto for workaholic recovery
Anniversaries  and birthdays. They should be viewed with gratitude. Every one a treasured blessing that may not repeat.   


My reward for foot surgery was yellow Clivia minata from dearest friends

I cannot pass a yellow Clivia  minata without wanting to talk to my mother. English was her adopted language, and she treasured  both flowers and language  like others treasure diamonds. 

My mother was a quiet woman, known to select her words carefully.  She epitomized the wisdom from Colossians 4:6


 "Let your speech always be gracious" 

This age of social media has created new hurdles. At the same time we complain about government intrusion into our private lives, we are cavalier with not just our own lives, but those of family and friends.  

Concurrently, it is fashionable to casually zing those whose different philosophies and beliefs with throw- away insults.  The consequence is that we are self-segregating into thought-ghettos with barbed-word wires. 

Unless this trend reverses, it is my strong belief that the loss of common civility and courtesy is the greatest danger to our future. 

I am of the belief that globally, the weather is largely in God's hands. But our words are our personal responsibility. Like it or not, we are judged by them. 

I wrote friends on this subject last night...

Words have consequences. If I am to eat my words, let their taste be sweet rather than bitter. Unless absolutely necessary. There is a place for bitter, burning hot and even charred flavors from both the kitchen and in words. 

God grant us all wisdom in how we choose our words. 

Until we meet again, Thank you for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 


Friday, September 19, 2014

Walking San Luis Obispo Campus ~The Leaning Pine Arboretum ~ Tapenade


"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's there are few." 

~ Shunryu  Suzuki



The beginners mind. There is wisdom in off turning off the mind. Using my heart to see, the connection to the event changed perceptively. I caught the hummingbird diving into the flowering canopy of the floss silk tree. The hummer may have flown thousands of miles, and if I had my nose in my notebook and a pen in my hand, I would have missed the moment.


(L-R) Randy Baldwin, GM of San Marcos Growers chats with Professor Matt Ritter

Our official host for the walk was Matt Ritter, author of A Californian's Guide to the Trees Among Us




Cal Fire and San Luis Obispo keep the Registry of  California Big Trees.  The 154' tall Eucalyptus Karri  Gum the group is oohing and awing, is listed. 


The Pacific Horticulture event provided quite an entourage to follow the young professor. Don't we look like duckies following their mama? One of the truly wonderful mix of people was the mix of minds. I am not alone: not everyone hates lawns.



Some do hate pink. They tend to be male. The detractors don't believe the color  blends with the native California landscape, which admittedly leans to the warm side of the color wheel.  Yes: pink does stand out. But, doesn't this image show that standing out can be a good thing?



Roughly the size of a mature artichoke, this magnificent magenta bloom arose from a dusty earthen patch on the Cal Poly campus. It is good to know so many experts who can supply me the name. This was a portion of the itinerary desired to experience details as a child does: as they come.



 Walking the Leaning Pine Arboretum, whose name could be more accurately 'The Pine- Which- Leaned- Too-Far- and Fell-Over' Arboretum, proved views don't have to be owned. It is perfectly fine to borrow them.

Deck view
Come walk with me. Enjoy the charm of place. 


Formal garden with tiered fountain

Sunken color garden


Entrance to Australian Garden


In  California, lawns are quite controversial. If you are going to have one: be intentional in your care of it. The difference between raggedy and rich is not much in water or care. 



See those spots of coral red behind where Joan Bolton and Carol Bornstein thought they were having a private chat in the garden...



Oh, my. Just when I thought my plant lust might stay undercover  for just one weekend....





I have never seen bauhinia galpinii- the red orchid tree. Such a moment is why I took the train rather than drive. Stopping at every nursery back to LA would have added a day and a couple hundred dollars to the journey.  Better to sleep on it for a few days. Wait until the temps to dip out of the triple digits here. 





The sun was softening, Our feet were tiring. The temperature back into bragging territory. These last two parting shots from the arboretum of just how ephemerally beautiful a low-water low maintenance landscape can be. 

It was getting to be time to run by the motel to clean up and head over to Sage Ecological Landscapes and Nursery for wine tasting and tables groaning under the weight of hors d' oeuvres. 


Press release photo found on Internet
Snack-Alert. The Mediterranean  Olive Tapenade by Chef OH, served at the host nursery, was spectacular. Simply served on crackers or bread spread with brie, there was no obnoxious vinegary taste clashing with the beverages. Instead, the creators relied on the infused oil of the olive to carry the flavors. I'm renewing my membership card just to be able to put this on our table.  

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful!