The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


2 Comments

Small Space Vegetable Gardening

20180517_200357I’m not a vegetable gardener. I think I have made the clear in the three or four years I have been blogging. I’m into flowers and shrubs.

But that’s not to say I don’t appreciate vegetable gardening or gardens. I’ve tried my hand at tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and peppers and have had a few good results and a fair amount of bad results. The truth is vegetable gardening intimidates me. I’d like to say that I don’t have the right space for a vegetable garden but a recent visit to Italy dispelled that notion. Small space gardening isn’t just for flowers.

20180517_200419I stayed in an apartment in suburban Perugia. One day I locked myself out of the apartment but thought my sister might be in the apartment and could open the door. However, she didn’t answer her cell phone. But I was sure she was in there. So, I walked around to the back of the building to call up to her window and that is when I discovered the garden behind the apartment building next door.

 

20180517_200524And as luck would have it I got to meet the gentleman who created this lovely space. We had a lively conversation even though he did not speak a word of English and I do not speak Italian. But that did not stop us from discussing his garden.

What immediately struck me was the confined space for this garden and his joy and pride for this small space. It literally butts up to an athletic court. Fennel, table grapes, sage and rosemary grow up against the fence. It is long and narrow, running the length of the apartment building and is terraced. Its depth is probably no more than 10 or 12 feet. And it is abundant with vegetables.

20180517_200349He invited me around the fence where he was proud to show me his insalata, pomadoro, artichokes, beans and, yes, they are for his family only. A cherry tree sits on the edge of the garden. 20180517_20033520180517_200545He pointed out that the garden that abuts his is his neighbor’s. Its small space includes an olive tree. Making the most of his space, the garden extends into the backyard next to the play set for his grandchildren. Or maybe it’s the other way around–the garden extending beyond his yard into the common space by the athletic courts.

Either way, the garden speaks to the ability to grow vegetables in small spaces. And its tidy appearance speaks to the owner’s deep pride in this space.

 

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Say Ciao to Carciofo

20180511_101541Discovering local foods is one of the joys of traveling. Just ask Anthony Bourdain. He makes his living bringing the joys of local foods to viewers from around the world in his program “Parts Unknown.”

Well, I didn’t check in with Tony but I did put a visit to the Mercato Trionfale, a subterranean fresh market in Rome, to the top of my “must do” places to visit on a recent trip to Italy. And I am glad I did because it’s artichoke season in Italy. These wonderful vegetables can be found on menus, in markets and gardens.

20180511_103611Now, the outside of the market doesn’t look all that appealing but that view quickly changes when you enter. Stall after stall is filled with colorful fruits and vegetables and our visit at 9 in the morning found the market abuzz with shoppers.

20180511_101935

20180511_101609

But it was the artichokes, or carciofo in Italian, that really drew my interest. Canned, steamed, marinated, fried or fresh, I have always enjoyed artichokes but I’ve never seen them in the market or grocery store in St. Louis unless they are in a can or jar, no doubt because our climate is not ideal for growing this Mediterranean native. And I was surprised to see that they were purple, as I the only fresh artichokes I have every seen were green.

My research tells me that Italy, Spain and France are the top artichoke producing countries and here in the U.S., California is king for producing this perennial. In some areas, artichokes are a biennial. One plant can produce up to 20 artichokes per year.

It’s one thing to eat them and then to see them in the market, but I had the full experience of seeing them on the plant. On a walk around the neighborhood where I stayed, I spied a garden in the back of the apartment next door. And yes, there were artichokes growing! You can see looking at the plant that it is a thistle.

Perugia artichoke 1

20180517_200428On the plane to Rome, I sat by a young woman who had lived in Italy for a six months and she told me it was the tail end of artichoke season and truffle season and to be sure and not miss these local delicacies. I’m glad to have seen and enjoyed them.

Buon appetito!


Leave a comment

More Garden Blogger Fling Highlights

Memories from the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto linger. And as I think about what I want to achieve in my small backyard this year, I am reminded of the many gardens that inspire me.

  1. Lush spaces.
Cabbagetown Lush (1280x960)

This Cabbagetown front yard is small but packed with shade-loving hosta and lady’s mantle under the graceful limbs of a dogwood. A purple barberry adds a punch of color.

2. Art in the garden.

hanging sculpture (1280x960)

Strips of metal create a sculptural element. I love art in a garden.

3. Edibles.

Edibles in pots(1280x960)

A Cabbagetown garden proves you don’t need a lot of space to grow edibles.

4. Good things come from small spaces.

DSCN2016 (1280x960)

The downtown Toronto backyard garden of entrepreneur Sarah Nixon, who owns My Luscious Backyard, a floral delivery business.

I can’t say enough good things about my Fling experience. Minneapolis is the host city for this year’s event in mid July. And by all accounts it appears to be shaping up to be a great event.

 


Leave a comment

Travelogue: Autumn in The Netherlands

greenhouses Netherlands (1280x960)Am I the only gardener and tulip lover who travels to Holland in autumn? I asked myself that question as I packed to visit my daughter during her fall break in her study abroad program last semester. After all, if I were taking a proper gardener’s sojourn to this canal-filled country, it would be in peak bloom time (April/May) where I could pedal among the petals at the Keukenhof Gardens to enjoy the Dutch bulbfields.

That didn’t happen. In fact, the Keukenhof Gardens are closed in late October. But an autumn visit to this beautiful, small country didn’t disappoint. Poetry-filled walls in Leiden, the mastery of world-renown Dutch painters, a tree laden with global pleas for peace in Den Haag, bracing winds along the North Sea beach at Scheveningen, the Hortus botanicus, windmills, castles.and bicycles–lots and lots of bicycles–filled our days.

Bulb starter kits (1280x960)

Colorful flower starter canisters for sale in the bulb market in Amsterdam.Important to note, however, is the that USDA requires they carry an import stamp. If that’s missing, they may confiscate your bulbs in customs. I wonder how often that happens. Tulip kits at the airport are priced about three times higher but contain the all-important stamp.

The Holland Bulb Market in Amsterdam did not disappoint. The interesting tidbit to note here is that the tulip did not originate in Holland. It began in Constantinople back in 1593 by botanist Carolus Clusius. His neighbors, seeing a good thing, stole them from him and began what is now known as the Dutch bulb trade. Tulip bulbs are not the only thing sold at the markets. Buyers can purchase canisters of all sorts of starter kits, including cannabis. My heart beat an extra step when I saw the very reasonable prices, but I did not buy any because many did not have the required customs stamp.

 

Peace Tree (1280x960)

Visitors to the Peace Palace in Den Haag are encouraged to add their personal wishes for peace to this tree.

flowers and bikes (960x1280)

Flower-filled hanging baskets adorn light poles surrounded by bicycles.

A leisurely afternoon visit to the Hortus Botanicus in the city center of Leiden provided hours of enjoyment and lots to look as we strolled along the garden’s paths and toured its tropical greenhouse. Founded in 1590 by the University of Leiden, the botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. There is an observatory on the grounds but we did not venture in.

Bee habitat (960x1280)

Bee habitat set ups such as this one at Hortus Botanicus are common in the Netherlands.

Hortus display (1280x960)

An artful display lines the path at Hortus Botanicus. Note the palm trees in the bed in the background.

Dahlias hortus (960x1280)

Dahlias at Hortus botanicus in Leiden.

 

scooter with flowers (1280x960)

A scooter decked out front to back with silk flowers.

 


1 Comment

Ah Yes Moments in 2015

DSCN3119 (768x1024)If you’re like me, it’s easy to look in the rear view mirror and lament what went wrong during the previous season and think about all the “could ofs,” “should ofs” and “only ifs” as I plan for the next.

Last year was not the best year for my back yard garden. The tremendous amount of rain we had in June took a toll on the way the plants performed, and it seemed like there was never enough time to accomplish what needed to be done. But, there were plenty of highlights to year 4 in my gardens. Here are few:

1. Improving the Entrance into the Yard. Visitors who came through the gate in 2014 were met with a raised bed supported by rotting railroad ties whose 5-inch nail spikes stuck out. The step down into the yard was deep, making it awkward and potentially dangerous. I said goodbye to the ties and installed interlocking stone that coordinates with the stamped concrete patio. An added step provides a more natural distance down into the yard.

The addition of a step off of the raised area, makes stepping into the yard easier.

The addition of a step off of the raised area, makes stepping into the yard easier. The shasta daisies are transplants from a friend, as are the cannas.

The entrance to the backyard.

Goodbye rotted railroad ties. The  previous entrance to the backyard.

2. Attending the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto. Okay, this is technically not in my garden, but I’ll extol the virtues of expanding your network to anyone who enjoys gardening. First, who doesn’t like a garden tour? The Fling was a 3-day-plus extravaganza of garden tours. This experience allowed me to learn first-hand from other gardeners–hobbyists to the pros–what they are doing in their gardens and public spaces. It was an outstanding way to expand my thoughts on gardening and meet many of the people behind the blogs I so enjoy. The Fling has me thinking more seriously about natural resources conservation, starting a vegetable garden, composting and the joys of connecting with those who share a common passion.

DSCN2761 (1280x960)

A rooftop garden overlooking the Toronto city skyline. The Garden Fling provided multiple venues to learn about gardening, sustainability, conservation and plant selection.

Claire Jones near Cabbagetown

Claire Jones, author of the Garden Diaries blog, takes time to appreciate the offerings at a city nursery in Toronto.

3. Installing a new bed along the south fence. Outside of raising children, nothing teaches patience like gardening. I may be planning and planting for four-season beauty, but each garden season (spring/summer/fall) is just one cycle and it took me several cycles to finally get to the south fence. I enjoyed sitting on the patio looking at this lovely, lovely shade garden.

September south garden

The caladium take center stage in the bed in September. The honeysuckle trailing over the fence from my neighbor’s yard was a welcome guest.

DSCN3038

Freshly mulched, the south fence bed in June. Japanese forest grass, heuchera various fern, hosta, creeping Jenny, solomon seal and astilbe provided lots to look at all season.

4. Edging the Beds. What a difference a seemingly small task makes in giving a garden bed a finished look. I considered installing metal edging, but instead opted for the back labor (someone else’s, as I hired this job out) to cut a nice edge around my main garden beds.

 

Replanted azaleas 2 (768x1024)


3. Plant division. Want to save a little money? Get more of a plant you just love, love, love? Fill in a space in the garden bed? Share with a good friend? Improve your garden design and color balance? Two words: Plant division.

 

DSCN3227

First purchased from the Webster Groves Women’s Garden Club plant sale, these purple coneflower have been divided and added throughout the gardens. Self-seeders, they quickly and easily multiply. 

patio containers by perennial bed

The black-eyed Susans in the foreground have three homes in my yard. Profusive in Zone 6, I gladly divide them to share with friends. 

 


7 Comments

Knock-Knock–Your Weekly Flowers Have Arrived

I subscribe to our daily newspaper The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to the nearby YMCA, to all sorts of professional magazines and newsletters, to home and gardening magazines (of course!), and to an assortment of other services. But I don’t subscribe to a weekly floral delivery.

If I lived in Toronto I just might.

DSCN2012 (960x1280)

Sarah Nixon, owner of My Luscious Backyard, arranges a bouquet for demonstration.

You see, for the very reasonable base price of $45 per week you can enjoy fresh, sustainably grown flowers on your desk or dining room table. I could move the clutter aside for that, I really could. Your weekly vase is personally delivered and retrieved by Sarah Nixon, owner/operator of My Luscious Backyard, a homegrown business built in her downtown Toronto backyard.

Sarah’s small and intensely managed organic backyard flower farm was the first stop on a whirlwind extravaganza of Toronto area gardens, courtesy of the Garden Bloggers Fling. Before escorting the 70-plus bloggers to tour her backyard, Sarah reminded us that small as it may be, hers is a working farm. Indeed it is. Equipped with a potting table, a small shed with grow lights and a yard that is nearly fully void of turf, My Luscious Backyard is an urban farm where she employs a manual no-tillage production practice to reduce soil erosion.

Sarah's backyard, which she estimates to be 1/16 of an acre.

Sarah’s backyard, which she estimates to be 1/16 of an acre.

Sarah began the business in 2001 and through a unique business model has expanded beyond her backyard by scouting area yards, contacting homeowners and turning their patch of turf into a flower bed. Currently, she is working with 10 area homeowners where she is growing a wide assortment of annuals. This is small-space gardening at its utmost. A steady rotation of seed is started and planted to meet the demand of clients who enjoy her fresh bouquets.Her clients include individuals, as well as florists who seek locally grown flowers.

Making the most of limited space.

Making the most of limited space.

All in all, her annual season consists of about 100 varieties from her perennial yard and her partners. She starts seeds in a small shed she dubs “the barn.”Those agreeing to turn their yard into a flower farm reap of the benefits of the beauty flowers provide but not the privilege of cuttings for their personal enjoyment. Also Sarah said she may ask them to purchase planting mix and help with turf removal but she does all the rest, which includes planting, watering, caring and harvesting the flowers.

I don’t know what happens when the flower season is over, however. I imagine those yards as large patches of brown dirt. Would you be willing to turn your yard into a flower garden?

A neighborhood city lot turned into a flower garden.

A neighborhood city lot turned into a flower garden.


9 Comments

Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling – What is a Garden?

DSCN2978 (960x1280)

Private garden using natives.

Ask a Garden Flinger what turns his or her crank in the garden and you’d best be prepared for a wide variety of responses. Some like it sculpted, many like it native, there are tree lovers, beekeepers, edible erudites, professional landscapers with an eye for the truly unique, and garden hobbyists, to name a few. This palette for plants presents a pretty planning problem for the event planner. Or does it? Apparently not if you’re Helen Battersby and crew who put on a non-stop, can’t-get-enough-of-every-type-of-garden-out-there event in Toronto last weekend. Many thanks to Helen, Sarah Battersby, Lorraine Flanigan and Veronica Sliva for hosting the Fling.

As a first-time Flinger and increasingly devout garden hobbyist, the selection of tour gardens and conversation with other bloggers got my wheels turning about what a garden is and why we garden and I’m looking at my garden endeavor with fresh eyes. Gardening friends, what is your raison d’etre for digging in the dirt? Is your garden energizing? Or does it offer a respite from the day? Are you gardening on a balcony, backyard or football-sized scale? Are you inspired (or inspiring others) through plants, design or art? Is your garden an ecosystem? Does its bounty replenish? Is it up high?

Enjoy this sampling from the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling.

DSCN2935 (1280x960)

Garden at the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Center.

DSCN2104 (1280x960) (1280x960)

Private garden.

DSCN2483 (960x1280)

A plant-loving bed in Ontario gardener Marion Jarvie’s garden.

DSCN2753 (1280x960)

Rooftop garden at the Hugh Garner Coop.

Container edibles.

Container edibles.

DSCN2350 (960x1280)

Asparagus piled high at the St. Lawrence Farmers Market.

DSCN1998 (960x1280) (960x1280)

Starting flowers at Sarah’s Nixon’s backyard organic flower farm My Luscious Backyard.

DSCN2396 (960x1280)

Side yard of private garden.

DSCN2121 (960x1280)

Private garden.

Garden on Ward's Island.

Garden on Ward’s Island.

DSCN2033 (1280x960)

Black oak savannah at High Park.

DSCN2834 (1280x960)

The restored quarry at Evergreen Brick Works.

DSCN2761 (1280x960)

Hugh Garner Coop rooftop provides all-day views of the city.

DSCN2856 (960x1280)

Container gardens at Evergreen Brick Works.

DSCN2078 (960x1280)

Private garden.

DSCN2951 (960x1280)

Private garden.

DSCN2400 (1280x960)

Private garden.