Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kitazawa has arrived!

Whoa! That was quick. I placed my order on Saturday and I had seeds in my mailbox Monday evening. I'm going to start those Poha berries tomorrow.

Now, I have to wait for Baker Creek. I'll be patient.

I realized that after I ordered my seeds, I forgot to order sorrel. Seeds of Change unfortunately has this on back order. So does Baker Creek. Am I too late for this? Why the shortage?

Luckily, with the Internet, I can quickly search Territorial, Kitchen Garden Seeds, and Renee's Garden. I also looked up City People's number to check their availability and hopefully avoid shipping.

No luck with City People's, but I did ask about their Asian pear and persimmon varieties while I had them on the phone--multitasking! They are out of Asian pears at the moment, but they do have 'Nakita's Gift' persimmon. Check it out at The Nursery at TyTy. The fruits are huge!

Okay, so back to the seeds. Who will be the winner? Territorial has French sorrel which I didn't know even existed. It's supposed to be low in acid, but high in flavor. The for 1/4 gram of seed, it will be $2.05, but the shipping will cost $7.95!

Renee's Garden does not carry sorrel so my last hope was with Kitchen Garden Seeds. The seed costs $2.95 per packet and it's $4 for shipping. I couldn't bring myself to order the seed at a total of almost $7. I might as well try and find a start instead at my local nursery.

I decided to call City People's again and ask about starts. The gal I spoke to said they have a full flat of French sorrel in 4" pots at $2.99 each. Tah-dah! Even though I find it satisfying to start my veggies from seeds, for the price I was going to pay for one seed packet, I could by two plants. Since they can be relatively decent in size, I don't need a whole lot of them. And, it's saving me some work in the end.

Why the intense search for sorrel? The magazine, edibleSeattle (part of the Edible Communities), had a great sorrel pesto recipe in their first publication last spring. I discovered sorrel soon after at my local farmer's market in Columbia City. The bright, lemony flavor of this herb is just what us Seattlites need after a long winter. The pesto was great on just about everything: pasta, sandwiches, crackers, potatoes. And, it's a perennial so hopefully it will last through next winter. It's such an easy recipe, I would just substitute out the basil for sorrel in your favorite pesto and see how it comes out. Bon apetit!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009 Seeds

It took awhile for me to figure out what to plant this year. I had my usual catalogue favorites arrive in the mail: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, Seeds of Change, and Kitazawa Seeds.

I am easily distracted by color photos and irresistible descriptions as I peruse each catalogue. And Seeds of Change has sent me a couple already making it really hard to decide what to grow.

Kitazawa saved me this year. The simple, yet informative catalogue, with a few sketches of selected veggies helped me decide what seeds I'll be starting this season. I also made a promise to myself to not grow anything that requires more than 75 days of maturity.

Of course, I made a few exceptions. Plus, promised are meant to be broken, right? I had success with Odoriko tomatoes a couple of years ago and they were so tasty that I decided to grow them again. And I bought my seed from Kitazawa then as well.

When traveling in Hong Kong in December, I came across the Giant Cape Gooseberry, or Poha Berry. These fruits are orange-yellow, the size of a large grape, and topped with a papery husk. They taste like a mixture of pineapple and strawberry. Unfortunately, they will take 75 days to mature AFTER flowering. I'm going to get a start on them the day the seed arrives! I'm always up for a challenge, so when I saw the seed I had to order them.

Another veggie I came across during my Hong Kong trip was a winged bean. We didn't know at the time what it was we were eating, but knew it was sweet like a bean yet had four sides to it. I was convinced the veggie was some sort of sweet broccoli. I made the connection when I read the description in the seed catalogue. It says it does well in humid climates, but I'm hoping for a super warm summer.

I was also suckered into a packet of beetberry seeds from Baker Creek. The pictures show vibrant red fruits nestled in between dark green leaves that would look great cascading over my rock wall. Good thing that they only take up to 60 days to mature! Zonal denial has been avoided!

This last weekend, I was at the last Flower and Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center. I didn't have the willpower to pull myself away from Ravenna Gardens' racks filled with Renee's Garden Seeds. Though I was disciplined since I knew Kitazawa would receive most of my business this year. Only three packets were purchased: scarlet runner beans, container cucumber 'Bush Slicer', and 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard.

The other display I couldn't resist was Franchi Old World Italian Seeds since the focus of my garden is edibles. Farmer John was so friendly (he is the mayor of Half Moon Bay, CA) and was taken by me being over eight months pregnant and Eldon being a Bay Area native. He gave us a deal on our 'Fino' basil and broccoli raab seeds and threw in a packet of forget-me-knots. "That'll turn you into a real gardener!" he said, patting me heartily on the back. We promised to bring the new baby to the Pumpkin Festival in the near future.

As we walked away, I thought, "Great! I just got rid of all the forget-me-knots from the garden! I've gotta find someone to take these seeds off my hands!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Northwest Flower and Garden Show

So this is it folks. The last Flower and Garden Show as we know it.

I started going to the Flower and Garden Show in San Francisco when I started my career as a professional gardener in 2000. It was amazing to see over 20 finished large-scale gardens in the Cow Palace. Not to mention the koi ponds, Ikebana, orchids, new hybrids, mini vignettes, and the educational displays. And a whole separate wing to purchase plants, watering wands, and all the chotchkies imaginable.

I went several years in a row, but drew the line when one of the "gardens" showcased a man balancing rocks on the ground, with lit candles all around, and a movie screen behind him showing the exact scene happening in front of us. It was more performance art and less gardening. "Now, how would I use that in my garden?"

I moved to Seattle five years later and attended the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, organized by the same group that hosts the San Francisco event. After a long winter, I realized why this show is held in February, a whole month earlier. We are desperate for a taste of spring as the days start to go noticeably longer.

I continued to attend the show off and on over the last few years. Overall, the gardens lack an element of practicality I can apply at home. My garden is TINY so I am a bit limited on what I can do, yet I try to make it functional and aesthetically pleasing. Last year, it looked like there was a trend towards growing your own veggies--there were three whole displays that I can remember. But, the seminars were lacking on how to make it happen in your own backyard. There was one seminar last year on espalier which was great. I just wonder how many seminars one can attend on color or perennials?

This year's theme is "Sustainable Spaces. Beautiful Places." The seminar schedule is once again packed with how-to's on color and perennials. A few talks about propagation are offered, one on container fruit trees, a couple on water-wise gardening, and maybe two on growing veggies. In these times, there needs to be a greater focus on the urban farmer. Or, if that is not your style, emphasize planting for beauty while keeping in mind water-use and scale; a right-plant, right-place mentality.

The one aspect of the show I'm sorry to see go is the educational booths. The show is, for some, a once-a-year outreach event for our specialized societies and other organizations. It is the big debut for Great Plant Picks to announce their botanical endorsements. What other means do they have to gain membership?

Maybe letting go of the Flower and Garden show in its current form will allow for a new event to emerge that it truly sustainable in its content. Meanwhile, I'll check it out one last time.