Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rome wasn't built in a day...

...but I'm not that ambitious.  I like things that can be built in a day, or an hour and a half, like this little structure.  I'm not sure if it would be classified as a pergola, a trellis, or garden junk, but here it is.  I plan to grow vines on it come spring, either sweet peas or cukes or purple hyacinth beans.  We'll see.  Meanwhile, it was a good way to spend a nice November afternoon, working off some Thanksgiving pecan pie.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Child Laborer

Noah loves raspberries, and so it seems only fair that he help me plant our newly arrived brambles.  We planted twelve Caroline red raspberries in two rows in the patch of dirt just to the left of Noah - or rather, I dug and placed and backfilled while Noah did things like squeal "a worm! ahhhhhhh!!!"  I'll make a gardener of him, someday.

The reason for the new plants is the demise of the old.  They got some sort of unidentified disease last summer that killed a few plants and made the rest pretty sad looking and unproductive.  I've grubbed most of those out, and will grub out the rest when they come up in the spring.  Perversely, the remaining plants look quite good right now, and are producing a bit, making it very hard to hold to my resolution to take them out.  The buggers are diseased - but do I have the heart to euthanize them?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Of Roses and Buttercream

I still think of November as a barren time, a month of jackets and the hiss of dry leaves skittering across frozen roads.  But that was almost half a lifetime ago for me, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  In Maryland, November is still a time of roses.  November is also my sister in law's birthday (this one a momentous round number) and so I made a cake for her party:
It is almond cake with buttercream and raspberry filling, an attempted reproduction of Grant and my wedding cake, which stands out in my memory as the Cake of All Cakes, the Ur cake, the Platonic Ideal of Cakeness.  Not just because it was our wedding cake, and I remember the day fondly - it was a damn good cake.  An aside here that has nothing to do with my point, which I will get to, which really is about gardening: I used Alice Waters' recipe for almond cake this time, and it was less good than the last recipe I used for almond cake for my brother Nate's birthday.  That one I found on Epicurious, and it had a higher almond past to flour and butter ratio.

To my point: Kyle's cake is decorated with roses and sprays of raspberry leaves and unripe fruit.  In November.  I did not have to scrounge for the roses, or protect them for a week in hopes the tender buds would not get blasted.  I simply went into the garden on Saturday morning with my pruners, and cut some roses and raspberry sprays.  And Grant and I still talk about the year we picked tomatoes in his garden in a Baltimore row house the day after Christmas.  This all feels deeply weird to me, wrong, and far from my New England roots.  But...there are roses on the cake, and herbs in my cooking, and a couple of leeks yet to be eaten in the garden.  Maybe ten years of living in Maryland are simply not enough to accept that this gift of an extra month of garden harvest is for real.  I'll have to try another ten.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Houseplant Redemption

My mom used to send underperforming houseplants to the cellar to die.  Occasionally one came back from that purgatory, but rarely.  Usually they were composted after they had breathed their last down in the dark.  I always wondered why she did that, rather than just tossing the runts out into the snow, where their demise would at least be swift.  Now I realize it was really about hope: every plant is a living thing, even the dreadfully ugly ones, and they deserve a shot at bootstrap redemption.  And so they were sent to the basement to think about their sins and repent and reform, if they could. 

Last December I bought a small Christmas cactus to lighten up the living room during the holidays.  It bloomed, and then I forgot about it.  After languishing in some corner during February and March, I stuck it outside on the front porch to fend for itself, the brutal Maryland summer my own personal version of cellar banishment. 

When frost threatened a couple of weeks ago I went out to the porch to see what was salvageable.  I picked up the cactus, thinking at least the nice pot should not be exposed to the freeze and crack.  And lo and behold...the cactus was alive, and had flower buds.  Redemption.