Sunday, October 11, 2009

Create a Salad Basket

At the nursery, I make quite a few salad baskets in the spring for customers looking to enjoy the benefits of growing their own salad, but with minimal space. I find, however, that salad baskets can be quite handy late in the season when the weather starts to become unpleasant. Easily portable, salad baskets can be moved to a location near the kitchen where they can decorate a porch or windowsill. They can even be brought inside at night when there is a heavy frost. To create your own salad basket you will need the following items:
A basket (thrift stores are a great source of these)
Organic potting soil
Plastic liner (several layers of a black trash bag will do)
An assortment of herbs & veggies.
A bit of green moss

Line your basket with plastic, trimming it to about 1/2" below the top of the basket and poke a few drainage holes in the bottom. Fill your basket with soil and plant. In the basket above I used some parsley, cilantro, Swiss chard, one 4 pk of asst lettuce and an ornamental pepper for fun. I love the way red color is carried throughout the basket in the peppers, lettuce and stems of the chard. I topped the soil with a bit of green moss to give a finished look and hold soil in until the plants are established. Simply add some ribbon and salad & herb baskets can make great inexpensive gifts for cooks and are simple to make. Total time planting the basket was about 20 minutes. The above basket was photographed about two weeks after planting and it's ready to enjoy. Keep moist, trim as needed and enjoy some fresh salad greens and herbs.

Potty About Chartreuse

In a recent #FollowFriday on Twitter, Pat FitzGerald (@PatFitzGerald on Twitter and very fun to follow) labeled me as being "potty about chartreuse" based on my recent comments on one of his gorgeous new introductions. After I got over my initial shock of the use of the word "potty," (realizing that in Ireland it had an entirely different meaning)I thought he really hit the nail on the head. But I don't think he had any idea just how potty I am.

I think for many gardeners our taste in plants grows and changes throughout our lives. When I was in my late teens I was fascinated with black flowers and dreamed of an all black garden I would someday have. I wanted Watchman hollyhocks, Queen of the Night tulips and Penny Black Nemophila. The darker and more shocking the color, the better. I wanted to be shocking. I wanted a garden that would make the garden club ladies faint. But as I grew up, and became a tad bit less rebellious, the need to plant a garden that would affect others in a shocking manner lessened and I never planted the all black garden. I have over the years utilized some of the flowers, but never gave any Master Gardeners a coronary. In fact I did an almost complete about face, my first garden was an English cottage style with masses of well coordinated pastels. I planted foxgloves, delphiniums, poppies and even roses. I think it was about this time I purchased my first wide brimmed gardening hat. I knew who Rosemary Verey and Vita Sackville-West were and I wanted to be just like them... well maybe not the whole Virgina Wolf thing. My galvanized watering can, however, was stamped "Sissinghurst"

After this I went through a brief bold color period and realized how difficult it was to find orange and yellow flowers for the shade. I briefly toyed with pink when I noticed how lovely the last rays of light looked on the petals of the evening primrose. And then I noticed green. Not just any green, but chartreuse. A color that wasn't quite yellow, but yellow enough with enough green to be a close second cousin of lime.

I was shopping for a combination of shade tolerant flowers to plant in my window box near my newly painted red front door. I had settled on some warm red impatiens and searched for something trailing. That's when I first saw Lysmachia 'Aurea' and fell in love. Placed next to deep red of the impatiens I had a combination that was both unexpected and coordinated. A match that was slightly off center, but felt right somehow.

To date, my affair with chartreuse has been the longest running yet, going on about 6 years. Each year I stuff my planters with more Lysmachia and am overjoyed when something new enters my world like Lemon Fizz Santolina from Native Sons, Proven Winner's Illusion Emerald Lace Ipomoea or the yet-to-be-named grassy plant at Pat FiztGerald's nursery. The color still feels fresh to me, reminding me of an early spring green... on acid. It brightens shady areas and can hold it's own in the sun. It compliments my reds and oranges and can look totally shocking with bright pink. Throw in some purple and things can get really wild. But pair it with a rich burgundy or maroon and you can have something really classy. So yes Pat, you were right. I'm potty, really potty about chartreuse.

Here are a few new favorites:

Lemon Fizz Santolina from Native Sons

Illusion Emerald Lace Ipomoea (I swear no two leaves are exactly alike)

Do you have a color you are just potty about? Or perhaps it's a family of plants. Let us know in the comments.