vegetable garden

Marvelous Magnolia is a design destination…

I’m behind in my blogging right now (although I always feel like I’m behind!) because it’s been a very busy spring in the landscaping business.  I’m grateful for the nice weather and my fabulous clients and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Today I need a little pick me up, so I’m going to share with you my thoughts and photos from a recent day trip a few Austin garden bloggers took to visit Magnolia in Waco, Texas.

If you’ve been living under a cable tv rock, Magnolia is the brand-brain child of Chip and Joanna Gaines, whose wildly-popular television show, Fixer Upper, has taken the design world by storm.  They help people buy homes in need of updating and then transform them into gorgeous properties.

Following the Martha Stewart business model, they now have a retail outlet, online store, bakery, and food trailer court located at a property that previously only held old, dilapidated grain silos.  They now boast branded wallpaper, paint, you-name-it products for any kind of design imaginable.  They even have a small garden shop and garden at the Silos.

We put on our comfortable shoes and headed out for an early morning road trip on a beautiful day.

The silos themselves are under construction right now, and will be home to more retail space at some time in the near future.

I think modern farmhouse best describes Joanna’s most well-known style, but you could also call it romantic,

quaint,

curated,

massed,

and ecclectic.  I was smitten with all the collections of quaint items, and loved the use of repetition in the design of the store.  Just as in our gardens, repeating patterns, colors, items and forms adds interest to the design.

Let me tell you, this place is POPULAR.  Tour companies bus people in every day.  It is a zoo.  But it was a zoo we all had to see for ourselves.  The line to check out was 3 x the width of the large store.  But we chatted with others, picked up more items along the way as the line moved and just settled in.  It moved pretty fast and I have to give them credit for a very efficient check-out system with multiple helpers at each station that kept things moving smoothly.

After we conquered the store, we went outside to grab a table and peruse the food trucks for some tasty lunch.  My travel partners for the day, left to right  –

Rebecca of Rebecca’s Retreat http://rebeccasretreat.blogspot.com/   Wendy of The Rabid Gardener  http://rabidgardener.blogspot.com/   Robin of Getting Grounded http://getgrounded.wordpress.com

The hand-washing station and dog water bowl.

We didn’t stand in line at the bakery, having had enough of standing in the store and at the food trucks, but it looked adorable and had a lovely seating area.

The center of the outside area sported an artificial turf play and lounge area, bordered by slouchy-bean-bag-style chairs.  Toys were available to use and families relaxed here and let their kids enjoy the open space after being forced to keep their hands to themselves inside the crowded store.

No design opportunity wasted, this industrial steel framework now serves as a series of giant planter boxes and holds a large array of hanging baskets to soften and brighten the area.

In front of the entrance to the garden and garden shop, vegetables and colorful plants welcome visitors.

The garden shop is quite small, so we were only let inside in small numbers, but as expected, the wares included quaint succulents, pottery, seeds and garden art.  

The vegetable garden looked neat and lovingly tended.

I’d shopped at the online store before we went on our excellent shopping adventure, so I already owned some sweet Magnolia paraphernalia.  Here are just a few of the things I bought on our trip.

We had a delightful time, did some serious shopping and even stopped at a north Austin nursery on our way back into town.  Here’s what we learned about planning our next trip:  Tuesday afternoon is apparently the best time to visit.  Weekends and Mondays are always busy, and mornings bring in busloads of people.  So, if you’re planning to check it out, Tuesday mid-day may be your best bet.  Pack the patience, wear comfortable shoes and a hat and sunscreen, and enjoy!

I’m ready for cantaloupe — is it ready for me?

With a high of 99 degrees yesterday, summer’s sting is lingering.  But that’s good news in my vegetable garden, where I am eagerly awaiting my first cantaloupe.  Its smooth, green, immature surface has been steadily changing, forming a lacy, beige skin that tells me it’s almost time to eat.

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This one still has a long way to go.

As it begins to evolve, you’ll know it’s getting closer.

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If you have a sunny spot and some room for vines to meander, you can grow cantaloupe.  They like well-drained soil; my veggies grow in raised beds, so that makes it easier.

Their growing season is about 12 weeks.  In Central Texas, we can plant them in late March-April and harvest them from mid summer to fall.  Cantaloupes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, and are low in calories.

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There are several ways to tell if your cantaloupe is ready.  First, make sure it’s covered with that raised, lacy netting-like skin.  Then, it should come off of the vine easily with a gentle twist.  If you have to work at it, you’ve jumped the gun!  And finally, sniff the end where you removed it from the vine — it should yield that sweet, heavenly, cantaloupe scent.  The one above still isn’t ready, the skin between the lacy part needs to turn a beige-ish color, too.  Don’t worry, if you do get too excited an pick one too soon, you can let it ripen a few more days in the refrigerator before you dig into it.

I’m hoping for a big bowl of cantaloupe with my breakfast this weekend!

Cottage garden entwined with beautiful edibles highlight of Houston trip

We saw lots of interesting, beautiful and creative gardens when my friend, Pam, of Digging, and I visited Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day Tour two weeks ago.

My very favorite — a cacophony of color, texture and layers so entwined that taking it all in was a project in and of itself.  But a delightful one, not to be missed.

It wasn’t on the tour; it was recommended by Pam’s sister.  We had high expectations for the house at 605 Peddie Street, and we weren’t disappointed.  The owner, landscape consultant, Terry Gordon Smith, was hand watering the garden with a hose when he found us oohing and ahhing over  his creation.  He was very welcoming and proud of his garden and we enjoyed learning about the garden’s evolution and the weather and conditions in his Houston garden.

No lawn in sight, this garden is filled with evergreens, perennials, annuals, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The bottle brush trees were pruned very high, making a dramatic statement towering over all the other plants.

Up close and personal – I almost can’t count how many plants are encapsulated in this close-up photo.

With so many plants filling the garden, the view from every angle is unique.

The delphiniums were gorgeous.  I love blue in the garden and there just aren’t that many good choices for us to incorporate it into our gardens.  I’ve had delphiniums, but the deer thought they were tasty!

Even the edibles make beautiful examples of perfect color combinations.

Tight shots like this make the veggies look like abstract art.

 Pam’s working on some of those close ups, too.

 Love the color combo of the delphiniums against the brightly colored house.
This was a delightful garden and, like the garden at 1514 Banks that I posted about, helped to give us a broader perspective of Houston gardens than just those one the tour.  Our weekend was totally garden-licious.  More to come soon about another cool destination nursery and restaurant combo.

Delicious garden kale — it’s what’s for dinner

While I was out in the garden this morning figuring out what to do about the impending freeze and miserable weather, I decided to bring in some things from the veggie garden for dinner tonight.

I covered a few things – the lettuce and the chard that I just planted. 

I brought in some parsley and sage and lettuce and the whole head of red Russian kale.  (Kind of liked thinking of the punitive theme for the Russian in my garden.)

Isn’t it just gorgeous?  I admit, I plant this one year after year because of its colors.  I looks beautiful in the garden.  The red colors disappear when you cook it, though.

I sauteed a little bit of onion with a smidge of bacon drippings and then just steamed the still-wet leaves after cleaning.  They cooked for about an hour on low heat with the lid closed.  I seasoned them with truffle sea salt, pepper, a little poultry seasoning and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar upon serving.  Delish!

Oh – and notice my pretty new ceramic olive oil bottle and spoon rest – birthday gifts from my Mom and Dad.  It was all color coordinated on the stove tonight!

What are you eating out of your veggie garden right now?  Any kale on the menu?

Shopping for veggies for the spring garden…

A quick trip to The Natural Gardener today yielded a treasure trove of goodies for the spring garden.

I went in search of three little things:  potatoes, sulfur and seed starter mix.

But I came home with so much more, including:

  • a few magazines,
  • a decorative hanging bell with a cord of glistening glass beads,
  • a fairy garden turtle on a leaf for my daughter, who recently asked if she could have a turtle,
  • seeds,
  • strawberries,
  • beets,
  • lettuce,
  • cauliflower,
  • spinach,
  • chard,
  • daikon radishes,
  • all blue and red pontiac potatoes,
  • sulfur,
  • and my friend Amy Stewart’s book, Wicked Plants.

I got it all into the car and then realized I had forgotten the seed starter mix.  It’s funny how a trip to the nursery can turn your world upside down and make you forget things.  I ran back in and grabbed a bag.

Now it’s time to get busy planting!

Winter vegetable harvest — grow delicious kale

Vegetable gardening feeds my desire to buy and grow unusual plants. I love watching interesting varieties of common plants put on a show in my garden. 

This year I grew kale for the first time — Red Russian, which boasts beautiful red leaf stalks and tender twisting intricate green leaves, and Red Ursa — which is red all over and has tight, tiny curls like a perm left in too long!

If you’ve been wanting to add edibles to your perennial landscape beds – these varieties are the perfect addition.  If you don’t have to worry about deer or other critters getting them, that is.

They look so pretty in the garden.

And even better picked an in a bowl ready for washing!

I sauteed a leek from the garden with a little bit of bacon drippings, then added the washed and wet kale.  I put a little salt, pepper and chicken base in the pot with a little extra water and covered them and let them steam for a while — maybe 30 minutes. 
They were delicious.  I think we can get another meal or two out of the plants before I pull them to make room for the four tomatillos biding their time in the greenhouse until our danger of frost has passed.
What are you eating out of your garden now?