Tag Archives: herb garden

Summertime Bliss: Sun-Warmed Cherry Tomatoes

6 Jul

Few things beat the taste of a tomato that’s come straight from the garden. And cherry tomatoes offer that extra, satisfying little pop as you bite into them. The photo below shows our first harvest of the season, but the tomatoes in this bowl won’t make it into any recipe; these sun-warmed beauties are all going to be eaten just as they are–as a snack straight from Nature. However, there is a reason these tomatoes are called Sweet 100s: before long, I’ll be wondering what to do with all of them. I see lots of salads on the horizon, as well as our favorite Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil. And cherry tomatoes would also work in Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil–though I’d start cooking the onions and garlic first, adding the cherry tomatoes toward the end of the roasting time. I detect a common theme in both recipes: basil. And now that I recall, last I saw it, our basil was in danger of being overtaken by the flowering oregano that has run riot in the herb garden…. Time for some triage in the name of good eats!


2013: Garden Phase 4

4 May

Winter is a time of reflection, and spring is a time of action. During the past couple of months in the garden, it’s been all about putting everything in order (weeding, pruning, weeding, relocating, more weeding, planting, edging, weeding, expanding, mulching, and a bit more weeding).

As I mentioned when I started the blog last year, we live in a townhouse and are lucky to have a tiny bit of land surrounding it in which to plant things. A large portion of the available space for flower beds is long and straight, bordered by a wooden fence we share with a neighbor on one side, and a drainage ditch on the other (county mandated). Luckily, the space is broken up by three trees.  When we moved in, there was nothing but grass. The first spring in our townhouse (2010, Phase 1), we created a narrow flower bed  (G1) along a short side of our yard and put in two flower beds parallel to the long wooden fence (G2 and G3). In 2011 (Phase 2), the children built a small herb garden on Mother’s Day  next to G1, and I filled out G2 a bit more. In 2012, I built upon lessons learned in 2011, and continued to add to the three flower beds (especially G3) and the herb garden. That was Phase 3.

Chicken-scratch version of main parts of Garden Layout, hopelessly out of scale….

Phase 4 (Spring 2013) has thus far entailed a lot of transplanting–moving plants to locations better suited to their temperaments and space requirements.  The feisty Porcupine Grass plants on either side of the Crape Myrtle (G2) were in danger of smothering it, so we dug them up and moved them  a couple feet farther away in each direction while they were still dormant. They are now happily growing away in their new spots.  The Montauk Daisies (G2) were also smothering everything in their paths, so we repositioned them so they were perpendicular to the fence rather than parallel to it; there was plenty of space in the back for them to do their thing, and that opened up space at the front of the flower bed. I fell in love with the Witch Hazels at Brookside Gardens and contrary to what I said, I decided not to admire them from afar. For better or worse, there is now a fine specimen growing in G1, though that meant moving a few plants to G3.

In Spring 2013, we also welcomed in the new. The entire family was here just before Easter (one son home from graduate school along with his girlfriend, another son back from college, and the two high-schoolers and a professor husband on spring break), and what did they do? They all spent part of their vacation helping to build a small Rose Garden along one side of the raised deck (the deck, porch, and entrance to the house are about 4 feet above garden level). I transplanted two existing roses into the new garden, and added four more. To top it off, last weekend I planted some vegetables in and around the roses. An odd combination, I know, but the Rose Garden is in a prime sunny spot, and it was looking a bit bare with just the roses, so I decided to be unconventional and go with vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes at the very back against the wall of the deck, and zucchini–everything I need for a nice ratatouille. (In my defense, tomatoes are supposed to help prevent black spot….). I’ll see what lessons I learn from this experiment. But a very huge thank you to my husband and the younger generation for making it all possible.

Adding to our expansion efforts, we removed a hammock that was along the far back portion of the fence adjacent to G3, dug up the earth and added manure, compost, and gypsum (since our house essentially sits on a mound of clay), and started a new flower bed there (G4), which wraps around a corner where the third tree is. It is still under construction, but I did get some bulbs in (Gladioli and Lilies), plus a Camellia, some Hostas, more Echinacea to accompany the lone surviving Double Scoop Bubble Gum, and some Astilbe, with two peonies still waiting to be planted (today, I hope).

As a finishing touch (though no garden is ever finished), I dug out the leaf- and old mulch-filled drainage ditch, lined the garden side with stones to prevent the mulch from falling into the ditch (the stones all emerged when we created the various flower beds–so our house actually sits on a clay and stone base), and then set up a small fence all around the flower gardens to keep the rampaging Schnauzers from killing the emerging and new plants. And that’s all for now…. Probably far more than you ever wanted to know. But the end result is and will be a pleasure to behold for those of us who are happy just watching things grow.

G2 and G3
G2 (with G3 and new G4 in background), ditch to right:
Montauks, Salvia, Gaillardia, Porcupine Grass, Crape Myrtle,
G3 and G2
G3 (with G2 in background): Heuchera, Blue-eyed Grass, Variegated
Sage, Aster, Lilacs, Hyssop, Butterfly Weed, Tickseed, Verbena
Bonariensis, and old Hibiscus (Kopper King) stumps
Herb Garden
Herb Garden (with G1 to the left): Lavender, Oregano, invisible but
newly planted Basil, Mint, exploding Rosemary, and wayward Cilantro
growing in G1


2011: Herb Garden

21 Jun

On Mother’s Day, 2011, my children and husband gave me a gift that will always keep on giving: an Herb Garden, which they dug out in front of Garden 1 (G1) . It was a wonderful present and with their combined muscle, it was created in one day. Here it is about a month afterward; the Yarrow in G1 is in full bloom behind the Herb Garden.

I planted rosemary in the center of the Herb garden with basil behind and tarragon in the front, oregano at the far left and thyme at the far right, Italian parsley to one side, and cilantro to the other, with some mint thrown in for good measure. I didn’t plant a lot of mint knowing it would take over the garden soon enough. But, I admire the tenacity of mint, and whenever it gets out of hand and I have to yank it out of the places it does not belong,  I console myself with the fact that it makes a nice iced tea.

The basil in the photo soon exploded, giving us a bumper crop. And so our four children decided they would make pesto one day. They weighed the pros and cons of several recipes and finally chose one, adjusting as they went. They blanched the basil to a perfect green, then added garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and tangy Pecorino Romano (non-traditional, we know, but it is our go-to cheese because of its tang). By the time they had  parceled out the resulting sauce into freezer bags for future meals, the kitchen was in need of some attention. But I would make that trade any day. Their efforts yielded a lot of pesto, the last of which made an appearance (and then a disappearance) last week, almost a year later. Pasta with Pesto and Pan-Grilled Chicken (with some cherry tomatoes for color) is a family favorite, though the last batch was used for Salmon with Pesto in Puff Pastry. Luckily, this year’s basil is growing nicely, so I will remind the children of what a wonderful job they did last year….

The one herb I have not mentioned yet actually deserves a special mention. In each corner of the herb garden, I planted Hidcote Lavender, in honor of Hidcote Manor Garden in England, an absolutely lovely National Trust property near Stratford-upon-Avon.  If you ever find yourself in that part of the world, do stop there; it will be well worth the visit. In the meantime, take a look at this blog.

Hidcote Lavender is a smaller variety, with a wonderful fragrance. And it is gorgeous. Here is a close up of the lavender this year: