Monday, April 25, 2011

Breaking news! Hottest trends in garden art reported here!

The hottest trend in garden ornaments...
The hottest trend in garden art is obviously the world's cutest dog, as seen here. And there you have it. News you can use 2011!

Monday, April 18, 2011

For the love of neighborhood trees

the neighborhood tree i love
Walks through our Portland neighborhood we visit with neighbors and friends, but always I visit with our trees. There are some fantastic trees on our walk, and many show their colors different times of year. I know exactly where the fig and plum trees are, where the flowering cherries live, the ancient and grand old Douglas Fir, the newly planted gingkos, and of course, I know this magnolia tree.

xi and the tree

The magnolia is blooming right now and I can't but help take a photo everytime we go by it. One of AdRi at dusk with Wink, one of my niece Xi on a rainy day walk, and one of me and Wink, posing underneath its amazing canopy of giant blooms.

me and the tree

When I first moved to Portland I would pull the car over when I saw one of these trees, and sit in awe at the flowers. I had never seen anything like it in California that I could remember. I'd get out and smell to see if it had a scent (it doesn't), but to stand underneath this canopy and gaze skyward is truly one of my favorite things in spring.

adri and the tree

Our neighbor whose yard this is in once told us about how the tree one year split in half. He loves this tree, too, and he carefully tied up the trunk where the split was, and the tree healed and continued to grow. He told of a neighbor family who would take their Easter photo every year in this tree, and of the little girl who grew up with yearly photos underneath its canopy. I loved knowing this of its history, and while I feel it's my special tree, it's even better knowing it has been a special tree to many people before me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Escape from Witch Mountain

Actually, it's escape from a long grey winter and spring....
As a true Portlander I made like a bird and got the hell out of town for a few days. Thanks to a fantastic client and project, I spent some time in Florida recently (have I ever told you I love what I do? I love what I do!). And while it was a short trip, and one I mainly spent working, don't think I didn't enjoy every single bit of sunshine, warmth and loveliness. I brought you back some photos...

Bouganvilla is such a common plant in warmer areas, yet so exotic to those of us from the north.
bouganvilla in the sun

warmth from the sky

This is called color. We don't see much of it in Portland during our dreary season.
boost of color

Warm weather was made for mojitos.

Shared desserts with the 5 fantastic women I work with on this project. Before:
desserts before

And after:
desserts after

Morning walks around the lagoon, in the sunshine, short sleeves, and sunglasses.
lagoon morning walk

morning walk self portrait

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring blooms in Portland's trees

Blue sky and blooms
I've had this vision in my mind all winter of the spring blooming trees here in Portland. On cold, grey, windy days, I'd remind myself of hope for spring, and at the center of that hope was the signaling of spring through the blooming trees. That day would come, that day would come.

And it has.

Frosting on the trees

I've made sure to enjoy this fleeting time and to be out and among the blossoms. It's still too chilly for a picnic below the blooms, though we have seen people bundled up, shivering below the cherry blossom trees. Brave souls.

Cityscape framed in petals

The blooms continue on and as they age, they begin to rain petals, my most favorite and romantic part.

To stand under these trees, being rained on with the gentle delicate petals, I'm showered with spring.



Friday, April 08, 2011

Catch it quick: spring fever and asparagus

Spring and all of its glory comes in such a wave of desire and need, and drenches us with gift after gift after gift.

I like noting the little things about the season, because there are so many and it's easy to take them for granted. They're also fleeting, and soon we move into the lush fullness of warm spring.

For now, we're still in the early days of spring here in Portland, Oregon. It's cold and brisk, and despite returning from a sunny trip to Florida for business, I about ran through the neighborhood the other evening, refusing to accept how cold it was. (I think it's my tan that makes me colder. And yes I'm ducking from the punch you're sending my way.)

Spring asparagus

Yesterday I had my first asparagus of the season. Don't get me wrong. I love fall and winter's root vegetables, and all of the roasting I've been doing. May I recommend a combination of parsnips and carrots? Dee-lish-ous. But as soon as good crisp asparagus comes in, flaunting its bright spring green colors and tangy fresh flavor, I'm completely smitten.

I've made asparagus shawls, and asparagus tart, and this year I'm thinking of blanching it for salads made with bulgar and olives, parsley and lemon juice. A little feta thrown in there for tang. Mix in some spring lettuce and arugula.

I'd love to hear your favorite things to do with one of my favorite vegetables: I need some new ideas. Favorite herbs to combine with it? I have tarragon in the garden right now, and lord knows I have chives.....

Friday, April 01, 2011

Weed haiku: how I turned my fear, sadness and anger into a tasty salad

If you garden in the Portland area, I would bet you're seeing a lot of this right now:
popweed or Little Bittercress
Known by the name pop weed, Little Bittercress and Cardamine Oligosperma, I've been literally pulling hundreds. They're like that. If you're a gardener, you probably have too. Or if you haven't, you'll be pulling 10 times as many later in the season because they multiply like crazy, popping their seeds every which way (including loose). The greatest revenge? Eat them. They are edible. And I recently did that, as well as wrote haiku about them, for my column in Just Out. I share it here with you as well....

A New Mindset: Meditative Therapy and Eating My Weeds

The news has been a bit rough lately—to put it lightly. Natural disasters, nuclear meltdowns, dictators declaring war on their own people, an economy beyond gloomy. We all know I could go on with that list. To be honest, it has simply felt overwhelming. I’ve needed a place to ground my dreamy Pisces nature in all of this unease, and I’ve been grateful for a gentle warming and break in the rain to take refuge in the garden.

The garden has been a place I’ve come for calm, creativity, mindlessness, and it’s been a place for healing when our dog, Wink, went blind last June. Signs of her old self began to return when she grew excited to be near me as I picked carrots—her favorite treat—or carefully maneuvered through the garden to the peas for her afternoon snack. I would see her tail wag, the sadness I felt at the loss of her sight melted away and I joined with her in celebrating all that grows from the earth.

So it only made sense that I return to the garden with the recent global disasters to gather myself and hold it together.

This mood lifting isn’t just my saying so, either. Researchers have recently found that a bacterium in the soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, spurs the body to produce serotonin. Dr. Chris Lowry of Bristol University has documented an immune response connecting the cells’ release of serotonin when mice were injected with M. vaccae, generating stress-free mice. What does all of this mean? Contact with soil is a good thing, and getting dirty really can make you feel better.

With my new mindset in tow, I set out to weed the other day. I bet you know what I was after, because they’re in every Portland garden right now—that sweet little white flower masquerading as a simple bloom. But if you let it grow? It explodes into a million seeds popping here and there. Thus, its common name, popweed. It’s also known as Little Bittercress, and while we’re at it, in Latin it’s known as Cardamine Oligosperma, of the mustard family.

Usually I curse at Cardamine Oligosperma—but not this year. The act of gardening is a process, and even weed pulling is an act of meditation. Instead of cursing at the weeds, I remembered what I had read recently of my popweed. In some native areas of California, it’s actually welcome and provides good balance to the soil. But the real zinger? It’s edible. That ├╝ber common weed in your garden makes for a tasty addition to a salad. When picked young, popweed imparts great flavor and isn’t bitter at all. It’s bold, like a spicy radish. I suggest you add a wee bit to your salad mix and savor the revenge of eating such a prolific weed. Pop, pop, pop, indeed—pop right into my mouth.

Back to the zen….

As I pulled popweed after popweed, I stayed present in the moment. I no longer was cursing my weeds but found myself thankful the season was changing and it was warm enough for them to grow. Instead of bemoaning how much more I had to pull, I felt the rhythm of finding, pulling, plucking and dumping them into my bucket. I found peace at a time of news earlier that day that radiation from the nuclear reactors in Japan was much worse than originally reported—and while my heart hurt for so many and for the earth, I was grateful for that moment, there in my garden. Finding, pulling, plucking and dumping. Repeat. And in this rhythm, I coined you some popweed haiku.

I see you, my weed
/ Pop pop I hear you explode
/ Multiplying, more.

Popweed my popweed
/ You grow prolifically
/ To pull endlessly.

Spring has popped, you too
/ Little Bittercress so sweet
/ Your name denies evil.

So maybe that last one wasn’t quite so innocent, but just the mindful practice while gardening opened a door of calmness and serenity. Those are things the world could use a little bit more of right now. And spicy salad, too.