Friday, January 10, 2014

Common Pruning Mistakes

In our area, January and February is the time to prune woody plants, except those that bloom in spring. (Which you could prune if you want to, but then you would be cutting off all the flower buds.)

Of all the things people do in gardens, pruning seems to me to be the one thing everyone thinks they know how to do and almost everyone, even those who are supposedly professionals, gets wrong. This drives me crazy because once a plant has been butchered, it can't be put back together again.

So to get 2014 off to a good start, I am going to post pruning videos from Plant Amnesty, featuring Cass Turnbull. Cass has been a landscape gardener for 30 years and she's seen it all. She's opinionated, funny and a good teacher. So watch and learn. And then visit her website for more information.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kitchen Garden Inspiration from Chateau Villandry

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the gardens at the Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley of France. The gardens there are gorgeous. Of all of them, though, the kitchen garden is the one that made the biggest impression on me. My memory of that visit has forever changed what comes to mind when I hear the phrase, "kitchen garden."

I've grown vegetables and I know that "working" gardens, the ones that produce our food, aren't always picture perfect. They start out in spring looking orderly, but as the season progresses and gardeners get bored or busy with other things, the garden begins to go a bit wild. Vines wander, weeds creep in, lettuce bolts, and yellow leaves tattle on gardeners who water too much or too little.

Before my visit to Villandry, I thought of gardens as being either ornamental, planted and arranged to bring beauty into a space, or edible, planted for the purpose of food production. Never the twain to meet. But leave it to the French, with their love of all things beautiful and delicious, to combine the two.

I was there in September, the time of year when vegetable gardens often look their worst. But here, with beds edged with boxwood, flowers and espalliered apple trees, the garden looks tidy and thriving. 

Villandry's kitchen garden is all organic. Gardeners use non-chemical techniques both old and new to maintain the health of the soil and plant material. 

It's all here: cabbages, kale, beans, various greens, leeks, berries, dwarf fruit trees and more. I saw pumpkins and squash being harvested when I was there. Rose standards mark the corners of beds. Annuals and perennials provide cutting flowers and seasonal color.

Where does all this bounty go? The chateau restaurant, La Doulce Terrasse, offers a seasonal menu featuring produce from the garden and the local area.

If you would like to visit Villandry and enjoy its gardens, information is available on their official website. Even if you can't visit in person, you'll want to take a look to find inspiration for your own kitchen garden. Bon appetit!