Into the Summer Garden…

moonentry      To the Moon and Back…Enter your garden through a fascinating Moon Gate…wind your way around the path until you find that very special hidden treasure designed and planted to enjoy in the evening darkness…a Moon Garden of white and silver plants. Below you will find a drawing of a planting scheme I put together 15 years ago. I suggest using the shape as a garden spot alone or as a parenthesis or frame for a garden space…use your imagination and create something wonderful…July, the month for Moon Children, is on the way.

The white garden, will be so dramatic in the evening moonlight...

Charged with early summer rain...the garden provides a medley of blooms. In a month known for searing heat, hues of blues and plenty of white, “cool off “through the garden crowd as they hover like a cloud of sprightly blue butterflies above bright green foliage…while drifts of sweetly fragrant white phlox guide my way through the garden on moonlit nights…tall white lilies burst onto the garden stage performing daily!

The feel of wet grass between my toes, the fragrance of the pines, the air fresh and sweet capturing the smells of childhood summer holidays, and flowers still dripping from a rain shower. Once in a blue moon…I still enjoy the dance!

Chillin’ Out…There are so many hummers fighting for a drink…I think I’ve created a dependency! I do have plenty of their desired blooms to sip from but they can empty the feeder shown here in an afternoon in addition to the flowers! In order to survive, these tiny birds need to consume more than half their weight in food everyday. From sunup to sundown, they visit hundreds of flowers feasting on nectar and insects. Not only are they efficient pollinators but they are also garden pest predators.

Hummingbirds are attracted to flower colors and shapes rather than fragrance…usually bright colors like red, purple, yellow, orange and blue…and a bell-like shape as shown by the coral honeysuckle. They might love your garden so much they become reliant on it for food so you will want to hang out feeders to supplement their diet. Choose bright red feeders that attract hummers from a distance…and I prefer glass as they are easier to clean. Fill with only SUGAR WATER [1 1/2 part sugar to 4 parts water] Boil water and dissolve sugar, let cool and fill feeders. DO NOT USE HONEY OR FOOD COLORING OR PRE-MADE MIXTURES.

Meandering…Growing up, I was fortunate to be able to spend summers living on my grandparents farm in North Carolina. When chores were done, I loved to wander through the yard, smelling the flowers, hiding behind the lilac and honeysuckle…hoping that the hummingbird would be still JUST long enough for me to sprinkle salt on its tail. Oh, sure…but grandmother said so!! I watched dainty butterflies flit from verbena to lantana and then on to cosmos, petunias, zinnias and hyssop. Now, as I meander through my own garden, reminiscing…I see roses and daylilies and verbena and butterfly bushes and hydrangeas and lavender…coneflowers, phlox, daisies and so much more. It takes my breath away…and the lump begins to form in my throat as I watch the hummingbird and remember my grandmother’s twinkling blue eyes…

A CHEF’s LIFE…Speaking of North Carolina, I really enjoy watching Vivian Howard on PBS. Her show does focus on  her restaurant, Chef & The Farmer, in Lenoir County NC….however, she visits old friends and distant family to gather items for her ever-changing menu.  She left the food scene in NY CITY and has found an audience of friends, relatives and good-food seekers that love to  frequent her restaurant, trying out her new dishes based on local produce, farm-raised animals, seafood and fruits. Last week she made strawberry jam from fruit picked on the neighbor’s farm and another week put grits, in a very sophisticated treatment, on the menu after watching them being ground at a local mill. You’ll love her!!

Perched on a hillside in Provence…where the breeze is scented with lavender and wild herbs, sits La Bastide de Moustiers, an idyllic inn created from a 17th century farmhouse by one of France’s master chefs, Alain Ducasse. The Bastide wraps you in all the sensual pleasures of Provence…including some of its finest food. His dessert course is always sublime and the clafoutis, shown here, may be re-created with his generously shared recipe…fresh fruit is a must!

      Typically cherries are used, but I like to make it with blueberries, blackberries and/OR raspberries as well…

1. On moderate heat, warm 1 cup of milk

2. Beat 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 cup flour, pinch of salt, 1 stick melted butter in a bowl until pale yellow. Add 1/4 cup of hot, but not boiling, milk to the yolk mixture, whisking well to avoid cooking the eggs. Then mix in the remaining milk. Bring mixture to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking until thickened…DO NOT BOIL…just let it warm.

3. Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla.

4. Butter a shallow baking dish, scatter 1 1/4 pounds of fruit  in the dish, pour in cream mixture. I choose to add chopped nuts and you may do so now, sprinkled on top.

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, cool slightly and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar while still warmish.

I chose to simplify his recipe so it differs slightly from his preparation…EASY!

BEACH PLUM…Prunus maritima, in bloom followed by dark red to purple fruits. This latest addition to my garden is native to the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Virginia. She tolerates salt spray so loves being at the beach and grows to over 6 feet tall, often forming colonies. The plum fruits make terrific preserves! I don’t live at the beach but am just a few miles from the bay…hopefully she will like her home under less stressful growing conditions…

If you don’t have space for a big Moon Garden…you can always pot up some containers filled with white and silver plants to enjoy by the light of the moon…

Discover the Delight of Summer Days…

Hidden Treasures…collect an armful of wild grasses and meadow flowers and later…mass them in a large terra cotta urn. Display in a spot where an arrangement of this size can be enjoyed…by a doorway on the front porch, on a patio, on a LARGE farmhouse style kitchen table or butcher block. Plants such as this lovely cow parsley or white dill mixed with fennel create a wonderfully light, frothy effect. Flowers will last surprisingly well when cut, stem foliage removed and then placed in water with a dissolved aspirin.

Use a container to hold flowers and then place in decorative pots or urns…Combine several urns of different heights for an even more exciting display!

Flowers are blooming, the evenings are warm and the air is filled with fragrance…scent is such a powerful and emotional trigger…fragrant summer memories stay forever. A few of my fragrant memories always include…rows of lavender in bloom and wild French thyme in the hills of Provence, huge gardenias by the porch, honeysuckle growing along the dirt road on the way to Grandmother’s house, jasmine winding its way around the porch railings, roses blooming throughout the garden, a fresh sliced tomato with basil leaves, masses of summer phlox and Black-eyed Susan in front of the barn, warm milk fresh from the cow and still-baking biscuits in time for breakfast!

photo 1(4)One of summer’s great pleasures…Alfresco, which is meals eaten outside, really do seem to taste better… For me, this is the perfect informal feast for friends who come to visit for a while. First, stroll and relax in the garden with a glass of wine or cocktail…help pick some blueberries OR blackberries for dessert. Then, enjoy my favorite Lemon & Herb Roasted Chicken…back in the late ’80’s, a good friend and client in California, Donald Bellisario, showed me how he made this family favorite…and I’ve been making it ever since!

Simple but delicious. Start with a large, free-range roasting chicken, add sprigs of fresh herbs, rosemary, thyme and sage pushed under the breast skin along with several pieces of fresh butter…rub some butter on the breast skin, too. Put more herbs and a whole lemon [cut in half] in the cavity. Place chicken in a deep oven-proof dish good for serving. Arrange several 1/2 lemons, a few onion quarters, plenty of halved small fresh potatoes to suit your crowd and season all with sea salt and coarse ground pepper. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the chicken and potatoes…then, pour about a half bottle of good dry white wine in the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil or lid and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour, remove foil or lid and let cook for at least 1/2 hour more ’til skin is browned. This slow roasting keeps the meat tender and moist.

Slicing the breast, there is a rich treasure of tender flesh under the inviting crunch of browned skin..oozing with lemon and herb scented juices. I urge friends to enjoy sopping the juices with plenty of warm pieces of baguette crusts while I bring out a green salad dressed in a light citrus vinaigrette. AND last, fresh picked berries topped with a dollop of creme fraiche for dessert…of course there is plenty of white wine to start and a glorious ROSE’ with the main course, and to finish…a nice Sauternes, Prosecco or Champagne with a bit of Elderflower liqueur !

Summer is wearing cool white and soft washed linens and eating supper on the back porch...enjoying a glass of wine…Oh, and watching the original of THE LONG, HOT SUMMER with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and others on my summer favorites list. As much as I enjoy being outside in the summer, I also like to relax, get out of the heat and escape from it all…Some of my all time favorites for summer escape:

A Good Year...set in Provence, the movie offers wonderful scenery, a delightful story and magical music

It’s Complicated…crazy, but I still laugh every time I watch this movie…my favorite parts are the kitchen, the food and the fabulous chef’s garden!!

Practical Magic…the kitchen, the AUNTS and “…the lime in the coconut…”

The Thomas Crown Affair…with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo…her clothes, amazing and PB…well just watch and you’ll see.

Point Break…some scenes filmed in front of my office in California and my VW Convertible stars in one brief moment!! The surfing is fun, too!

Dirty Dancing…never tire of watching Patrick Swazye dance with “Baby” and the music of my time!!

The Godfather…one of the best films ever made and I loved the unforgettable opening scene in the tomato garden!

Die Hard With A Vengeance…summer in New York heat, but love the whole series of Die Hard movies…I remember Bruce Willis when he starred with Cybill Shepherd in the Moonlighting TV series!

Independence Day…celebrate 4th of July with this epic adventure film, wasn’t an all time great film but loved the concept!! AND, Bill Pullman’s patriotic speech. Wacky and fun!

Steel Magnolias…for a good cry when needed! I’m on my 15th viewing and still can’t wait to hear some of the all-time great lines!

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood…classic Southern tale of lifelong friends from youth to adult…love the senior Ya-Yas!

American Graffiti…I know where I was in “62…do you?

The A-TEAM…the delicious Bradley Cooper loves it when a plan comes together! Ok, ok so my taste does run to quite a diverse list…I loved him on the old series…ALIAS where he and Jennifer Garner got started.

AND…any of the Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig 007 JAMES BOND Movies…there are more but this gives you a starting place to choose one you may not have seen yet…oh, forgot…The Transporter! YUM…

butterfly bush wbut

Butterfly Bush…one of the great joys of summer as much of my daily life happens outside…except for movie time. Gardening, lazy suppers on the back porch, and walks with Holly, my Border Collie companion. Sometimes it’s enough to just sit on the porch listening to the sounds of tree frogs and owls and the occasional coyote…while darkness brings out the fireflies!

A few things to remember…

When it’s hot and dry, remove the collecting bag from mower and allow grass clippings to act as moisture-retaining mulch. On my organic program, this material breaks down, feeds the soil and DOES NOT create thatch!

Water the garden, when needed,  EARLY in the morning or late in the day just before dusk, to allow more water retention…DO NOT water during the heat of the day!

Trim strawberry foliage now, add compost, water well and mulch with pine straw!

Prune shrubs that have flowered in late spring…that bloom on new growth!

herb box

A Haven for Herbs…standing outside on the porch in the warm sunshine, I gaze around the garden I have created from absolutely nothing…Along with many perennials and old roses and blooming shrubs…Mediterranean herbs thrive in the areas of sketchy sun as the trees have grown taller and fuller! There are at least 18-20 lavender plants of several varieties, large rosemary bushes, fennel for butterflies, French thyme, lemon thyme and silver thyme all around the stepping stones and as edging along the garden path…and several types of sage. My herbs add so much to the fragrance in garden and are so needed for my cooking…

Many of my early posts have quite a few suggestions on planting and garden care for the summer…take time to go back and read a few.

IMG_0861  Summer Love from Holly and me…