Sunday, October 24, 2010

Behind the fall décor

See, it’s like this. We in the Western New York area love our seasons; we really do. But in order to give up on the flowers of summer and the growing season in general, we need some kind of substitute.

Or, I should say, I do. Part of it is celebrating the symbols of the harvest in a little display like this—including pumpkins, hay, dried flowers, and whatever else seems to work.

For me another part is firing up the plant room for all the tender and tropical plants I am overwintering; right now it looks like a mini-jungle in there, except that jungles usually don’t have artwork and bookshelves. It also includes planting the final perennials and—of course—621 bulbs, many of which are being forced for January-March enjoyment. Though I must say I think I enjoy potting them up and storing them in the root cellar even more than when they bloom.

There may be some hay and pumpkins on the stoop, but there also a lot of gardening action going on chez GWI—even in late October.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day: The late Great Lakes?

As Kathy/Cold Climate Gardening is fond of saying, I live by the shores of an inland sea. To be honest, I’d rather live by the shores of a real sea; I love the ocean. But Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are very beautiful bodies of water. They have gorgeous beaches, and the sight of sailboats on Lake Erie is something that never tires. The proximity to the lakes softens the winter temps even as it brings more snow. It also keeps things cooler in the summer. Orchards and vineyards around Lake Ontario benefit as well.

But you often can’t use the gorgeous beaches thanks to polluted run-off. Infestation of alien species threatens many of the fish, and contaminated sediments make eating many of the fish that remain in advisable. In some ways, the lakes are better than they were, but there are still plenty of problems. I’ve always known about them, but this summer they became a bit more personal.

It was hot. I had never in my life visited any Lake Erie beaches on the American side, but this summer we did. We went to three—all were very pretty in their different ways. I particularly like the vintage concession buildings a couple had. Only one was open for swimming the day we went—the other were closed because of lifeguard shortages and heavy currents. But a report on beach pollution throughout the U.S. rates a few Buffalo-area beaches as persistently failing to meet healthy standards, particularly during times of heavy rainfall. This is when storm water overloads water treatment plants. The report was widely publicized.

There is more EPA money on the way as a result of this and other publicity. I know that beach health is just one part of the Great Lakes picture, but wouldn’t it be great if they were always clean and open all summer long?

Here are two useful sites:

Great Lakes Information Network

EPA Great Lakes site

Friday, October 08, 2010

In which Amy's chickens steal the show and Amy drinks vodka out of a mason jar

Oh sure, I did my best with my weird pickled hibiscus buds and my vintage hyacinth vases, but that background clucking and Ladybird's guest appearance was just too cute. Here's episode 2 of the Garden Rant Cocktail Hour. Stay tuned because we're bringing on some other bloggers who long to tell their tales and drink their drinks for you.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Return to Sonnenberg

A couple years back I visited this historic public garden; we found it lovely but in need of some restoration. Now it looks like it’s getting some help. I met fellow Ranter Amy Stewart here the other day; we toured the gardens and shot a couple episodes of our new Cocktail Hour video series, which will be running on Rant every Thursday—more or less.

The rock garden’s water courses have been filled; this is really the most beautiful feature of Sonnenberg. The rock walls and structures follow a meandering path punctuated by cascades, pools, and streams. We both fell in love with the rock folly above; it is topped by a beautiful climbing hydrangea.

The classic Victorian glasshouses are dilapidated, but still elegant, and the plants are in good shape. We surreptitiously taped a short video in one of them—I had brought along a floral liquor I thought we could taste with Sonnenberg as a backdrop. Amy had some slight demurs about embibing at a rather early hour (10 a.m.). We’ll be posting that soon.

In the meantime, Sonnenberg is well worth a visit if you’re ever near Canadaigua, NY. I wouldn’t think cool weather would make any difference—in fact, I am sure the autumn color here is gorgeous.

Shaken, stirred, and Skyped

Amy Stewart (in California) and I have started a project called the Garden Rant Cocktail Hour, a series of videos in which we mix drinks and chat, mainly about the drinks but about other stuff too. We’re both interested in using botanical infusions (like cucumber gins or homemade fruit vodkas) and botanical elements in drinks (like flower garnishes). Here's our pilot—still some technical issues to work on but we’re working on it.

Sample restaurant's Honey Lavender martini (modified by Eliz)

1 part gin (G'vine is divine.)

1 part honey lavender simple syrup (boil sugar, honey, water; use 2-1 water to sweet stuff; add a bunch of lavender; let steep an hour; strain)

Juice of 2-3 lemons

Shake with ice, strain, pour into martini glass and garnish with lemon slice studded with a viola blossom. You don't really need a premium gin—Sample does not use one—but I like the way a botanical gin's flavor shines through whatever you blend it with. I have also included a sugar/honey mix, not all honey (too much honey taste).