My Garden To Do List: 2014


Happy 2014!

I hope you, your family, your pets and your plants are all thriving, alive, and well.

As for me, I’m recovering from a busy holiday season and am relaxing in bed with my two loyal felines. I can see a few trees from my back garden out the bedroom window and the weather is cool and crisp in Portland. There is sunshine mixed with some hazy fog and it’s beautiful out right now.

What a great time to be thinking about gardening.

It’s still seed shopping season so I’m continuing to dream today about the months ahead. I’m making plans for the garden.

The list so far isn’t a long list, but that’s because it’s 2014 now and I’m planning on working and traveling a lot more this year. The list must be manageable.

There will be plenty to post about and to follow again. I’m dedicated to being a garden blogger and communicator. My only hope is to expand my writing a bit more beyond the blog.

So, here’s what’s on the menu for 2014.

1: Edit. Edit. Edit. Then edit some more.
There cannot be enough said about editing. I don’t plan to make this place picture perfect—and definitely not matchy-matchy—but it will be edited. I’m eternally nothing more than a wild Bohemian at heart and my garden needs to better reflect that back to the world. Gardens are, after all, somewhat a reflection of what’s going on inside of us in a deeply aesthetic and often personally spiritual realm. That is when they’re personal gardens, and not simply designed to function as low-maintenance or move-in ready. Mine is not yet as intimate as it will be, but I’ll get there.

I also want to better define a Bohemian Garden, or maybe you might already call it an Artist’s Garden. A whole thesis could be written on this and maybe that’s what I’ll be starting this year. Who know!?!

Gardens need more categories and words. I’m beginning to realize how limiting many of the definitions can be so it will be fun to use my art criticism and aesthetic theory for some good. I honestly cannot wait.

2: Finalize a design for a fence along the back of the the garden. 
This is of the utmost importance. Anyone who knows me knows that this has been a thorn in my side for many years—pretty much ever since I moved into this house. The design challenge is upon us and I am so excited about it finally happening. Sure, I would love an 8-foot stone wall, but since that’s not going to happen, what other options are there?

3: Plant lots and lots of seeds again this winter and spring. 
Seeds have stories and a provenance. A Bohemian Garden is a Collector’s Garden, but instead of having scientifically collected data and facts, there are stories too.

4: Expand the herb garden and redevelop the kitchen garden. (We’re looking to rent community garden space again too. We have a lot of heirloom and Italian veggies we’re looking forward to growing.) 
Well, a girl has to eat right?

In all seriousness, for me, eating foods I’ve grown matters because I’m an Oregonian and an Italian-American. It is traditional for my family to eat what it grows, or else to purchase fresh produce. It’s respectable and honorable. This is my heritage and a part of who I am and where I come from. Self-sufficiency was important to my pioneering relatives. It is important to me too. I am looking forward to writing more kitchen garden and cooking posts here too now. I’ve got some skillz in that realm that I’ve seriously underemployed for many years.

Then there is the extra added value of being able to have produce you can’t buy at any grocery store or farmers’ market. That feels good. It’s like going on a major expedition to bring back something very special to share with others. I am getting hungry just thinking about the cooking plans I already have for the garden harvest of 2014.

5: Creatively redesigning some space for outdoor dining. 
Sharing a meal with a spouse, family, and/or friends is what good living is all about—especially when you grew some of it yourself. (Or caught. More on fishing some other time…)

I sound kind of Italian, but I am kind of Italian. Food is very important to me, and so is the community of sharing built around food. It is what makes a good life a great life.

6: Add a lovely European-style flower box to the front of the house and dress the place up a bit. 
The uncertainty of my time spent in this house is coming to an end. It’s going to become my home in 2014, and I’m looking forward to making it a place that brings comfort and calm, peace and pleasure to my family, friends, and most of all, to me.

2014: The Year of the Bohemian Garden.
Hope you’re looking forward to this as much as I am.
Happy 2014!

Entertaining from the Garden (and the Heart) with the Hands and the Head


Whenever my husband drives up from California, I make plans with as many people as I can because when he was a cook—and then a chef—this was entirely impossible. Now that we care for foster children, and he works out of state at a vineyard in California, this becomes even more of a challenge at times. It seems we are getting a feel for it though and yesterday we had a smashing success when I invited over an old Italian friend from college who I hadn’t seen in years!

The most difficult part for me is often just letting go of the menu completely. I want to do this, and I need to do this, and I can trust my husband completely, but it can be a difficult dance because it begins and ends quickly. This time, it went something like this, “Italian brunch to me means: frittata, leftover pasta from the night before, fruit and lots of veggies.” We planned to go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and that was the end of it. I turned to crafting with the foster respite and cleaning the house while additionally getting ready for our impending trip to California.

The Farmer’s Market was amazing and I just pointed at a few green items and I honestly had no idea what the plan was and I didn’t ask. The chef likes some mystery.

Yesterday, before our guest arrived, I looked around in the garden for some flowers to harvest for the table. I knew we had what I refer to as “bread and butter” Dutch irises in the Hell Strip by the street so I picked one of them first. It went swimmingly from there: long-spurred Aquilegia, Aucuba Gold Dust, and then some orange Buddleja globosa for some umph!

Then our foster respite asked me if I was going to use the other cool black Japanese vase and I thought about what to add to it. The Green Rose Rosa viridiflora immediately dove into the vase with a low wrap of Coleus and I didn’t even have to think about it.
Our guest arrived, and with his help, our table was lovingly set reminding me in so many ways of the rituals done almost without thought but with great reverence during the Mass. Again, I am not a seriously devout Catholic nowadays, but I will always be Catholic by culture and I am proud of that as an Italian-American.

We brunched upon a spring beet salad with fresh greens and a horseradish and walnut oil dressing, a spring asparagus frittata with a splash of white truffle oil, dragonfruit, honeydew melon, and mango, and lastly, there was a peanut soup with spring peas and a splash of whipped coconut cream. (This last course was added due to gluten and dairy intolerances and it was a perfect surprise!)

In addition to the fruit, our guest also brought carnations and I immediately thought of something I had read last week about the American singer Katy Perry. How could she demand that there be no carnations in her trailer? Sure we all have issues with some kind of flower for some kind of personal reason, but these little dolls were just so cute yesterday I just adored them. (These are for you Katy Perry XOXO.)
In less than a day, we will be departing for another whirlwind plant and garden tour from Portland, to the Bay Area of San Francisco, and then back again along the southern Oregon Coast. This time there will be more gardens, more plants, and who knows what kind of shenanigans!
Hopefully I will not be soaking wet and shivering like I was last time when I did this about two months ago. Our rain totals so far this year are seriously off the charts. ¡Gracias La Niña! Now pleeeeaaaaase go away!

Marin County Open Gardens 2011