Can you eat and walk at the same time? Good. Because I’ve prepared these cheese-and-herb crackers for you.
We can dip our crackers into this deliriously-delicious Chive Pesto.
And for further amusement, we can wash down the crackers and pesto with a refreshing Cosmopolitan. Or ten. I make the cocktail this way.
Trust me, no public garden would offer you this high-brow treatment. Longwood Gardens doesn’t care if you are hungry. And Dumbarton Oaks would sooner watch you spit cotton than offer you something cold, cranberried, and spirited.
But here in Kevin-land, you are treated like an aristocrat. And there’s no admission cost!
Now take a big swig of your Cosmo, and…
SWOOSH!!! We are standing at the South Gate of the Rose Garden. I created this 100×50-foot oasis back in 2004, after I removed a previous owner’s asphalt parking lot.
And where are the roses? Well, three committed suicide during the ferocious winter of 2014. And the surviving shrubs are putting out new growth. They need lots of fresh canes before they can even think about flowering. I’m encouraging them with Espoma’s organic “Rose Tone.”
Heading north, a 5-year-old Dicentra spectabilis continues to bloom in a bed of pachysandra, and beneath an ancient silver-leaved maple. I love its pink “Bleeding Hearts.” Young specimens might bloom for only 2 weeks or so. But well-established plants will bloom for an entire month if the weather isn’t excessively hot.
Let’s head up this blue-stone path to the grove of white pines. I built this gentle ascent with the help of my friend Herminio. How we groaned as we carried the stones one-by-one up the hill. Oh, the things we do for beauty.
The tall arborvitaes on the right were only 5 feet tall when we set them out 9 years ago. Now they’ve become statuesque beauties, at least 12-feet in height. I love them, as do a tremendous number of birds. They find winter shelter and springtime nesting quarters in the evergreen boughs.
Plant lots of evergreens!
And here is the Kitchen Garden, as viewed through the open gate. This “living supermarket,” which I created in 2008, contains 12 raised beds. The larger beds (8×4-feet) are framed with rough-hewn hemlock. The narrow beds (8×2-feet) are framed with common pine. A wire-mesh fence protects the garden from deer and other woodland creatures.
The narrow beds are planted with dwarf zinnias. I recently pinched their tips to encourage bushy growth. In my world, there is nothing worse than a scrawny zinnia. Besides, pinched zinnias produce lots of flower-bearing side-shoots. And the more flowers, the more bees to pollinate crops.
A note on zinnia-pinching from the National Gardening Association:
Pinching should begin early. You can start the process when the zinnia seedlings have developed their second or third set of true leaves. Remember, at each node (where the leaf stem or petiole meets the main stem), there is a bud. When you pinch off the growing point, you are removing hormones which suppress the growth of those lateral buds. Once the lateral buds start to grow and they produce a second set of leaves you can pinch those to encourage even more side growth! So pinch away!
Actually, my friend Joan — Ms. Crawford to you — has been a terrific influence on my gardening. Here’s proof.
The potatoes are flourishing in their bed-on-a-bed. When the vines reach 6 inches in height, I apply weed-free straw to within 2 inches of the top leaves. Potatoes form on stolons (underground stems) beneath the straw. I’ve never had an issue with voles, moles, or snakes rummaging through the straw. Thank goodness.
Not that I mind snakes. Gerta the Garter Snake is my favorite pesticide.
Ditto the autumn-planted, hard-neck garlic. The crop should be sending up its seed-pods, or “scapes” in a matter of weeks. I turn the scapes into this obscenely-delicious pesto.
And lovage, a superior substitute for celery in my version of Duck Breasts Mirepoix…
And ‘Red Russian’ kale, a delicious feature in this Ham, Kale, and Swiss Cheese Tart.
The purple columbine (a product of my winter-sowing efforts) is now in bloom…
Let’s have a look at the Serpentine Garden.
The Serpentine’s top terrace is my current favorite. Here, the hedge of ‘Palabin’ (a dwarf lilac) is now in bloom. I planted the hedge in 2009, the same year I carved this garden into the steepest hill on the property. (Design details.)Shall we should sip our cocktails and inhale the intoxicating lilac perfume while sitting on this bench?
Our view to the right. Below the lilacs, and cascading over the wall, is Phlox subulata. I do not water these or any of the other plants in the Serpentine Garden. I’ve never deadheaded the lilacs nor the phlox. They are perfect perennials. You might like to add them to your own garden.
I could show you the Herb Garden and the formal Blueberry Patch, but we looked at these just last week.
As we linger on the bench in the Serpentine Garden, I hope you’ll tell me about your own planted place. For instance, I’d love to know if you lost any perennials during the frightful winter of 2014.
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