Category Archives: Books

Book Review: The Chinese Kitchen Garden by Wendy Kiang-Spray

februarygardenkids2017-042The day that Wendy launched her new book at Politics and Prose in DC, I was at home reading about her life. Normally I skip the preface of any book but this time I enjoyed reading Wendy’s journey into gardening, which began when she became a mother, and her parents’ journey from China to Maryland, resulting in a successful business and a large vegetable garden. The Chinese Kitchen Garden is Wendy’s first book, a sublime integration of gardening and Chinese cooking. Divided into the four seasons, her book melds her own gardening advice on growing Asian vegetables with her parent’s ability to incorporate such vegetables into classic Chinese cuisine.

Wendy features 38 vegetables that are either native to China, commonly thought of as Chinese, or play a role in China’s culinary world. Each plant is labeled with its common and botanical names, Chinese transliterations, and pronunciations in Cantonese and Mandarin. Wendy describes the plant’s general use in the kitchen such as side dishes, entrees, soups, and salads and gardening methods for this area. Throughout the book are 20 family recipes incorporating the vegetables grown in her and her parent’s garden. Published by Timber Press, this book has excellent graphic elements such as Chinese characters, plenty of colored photographs, and easy-to-read sidebars plus resources for recommended reading, websites for more information, and companies that sell plants and seeds.

The first chapter, Spring, provides instruction on improving the soil, Chinese intensive beds, raised garden beds, container gardening, composting, and seed sowing. Wendy provides information on growing and cooking bamboo shoots, garland chrysanthemum, garlic chives, a variety of peas, and watercress. Recipes include “Bamboo Shoots and Pork Belly Braised in Sweet Soy Sauce” and “Stir-fried Flowering Chive with Roasted Duck.”

Summer addresses the typical problems of pests, diseases, weeds, and the need to water.  Wendy covers a variety of beans and greens, amaranth, bitter melon, bottle gourd, bunching onions, Chinese cucumbers, Chinese eggplants, Chinese peppers, daylily buds, fuzzy melon, and luffa gourd.  Recipes include “Bottle Gourd and Chicken Stir-fry” and “Long Beans with Garlic and Preserved Olives.”

Fall involves succession planting, seed saving, food preservation, and cleanup chores.  This chapter describes how to grow and cook with a choy, bok choy, choy sum, cilantro, gailan, ginger, kabocha, mustard greens, napa cabbage, radishes, stem lettuce, taro root, tatsoi, water chestnut, and winter melon. Recipes include “Kabocha with Ground Pork in Black Bean Sauce” and “Steamed Sea Bass with Cilantro, Ginger, and Scallions.” Several pages are devoted to her father’s signature dumplings with a recipe for “Crab, Pork and Napa Cabbage Dumplings.”

The story ends with Winter: techniques to extend the season, including cold frames, row covers, hoop houses, and cloches; growing cold-hardy vegetables; planning for the next year; and growing sprouts and microgreens indoors.

Throughout The Chinese Kitchen Garden, Wendy tells stories about her family: her husband and daughters, her father and mother, and her sister and her family. She has a very relaxed, easy-to-read style, as if she were chatting at the kitchen table, surrounded by her family. Those who are new to gardening will find this book to be a great introduction to growing Chinese vegetables in the Washington DC metropolitan area while those who are interested in cooking will be inspired to try the delicious recipes. Wendy provides more information on her website, wendykiangspray.com, her blog, greenishthumb.net, and on her Facebook page, The Chinese Kitchen Garden. This coming Saturday, February 18, Wendy will speak about her book at Rooting DC, an annual event in Washington DC.

Give an Award-Winning Gardening Book for the Holidays

9781604695533r A great source of gift ideas for the gardeners in your life is the American Horticultural Society’s annual book award program. The American Horticultural Society is an educational, non-profit organization dedicated to making America a nation of gardeners, a land of gardens.  Over the last two decades, they have been recognizing outstanding gardening books published in North America. Books are judged by the AHS Book Award Committee on qualities such as writing style, authority, originality, accuracy, and design quality. The five recipients for 2016 are:

  • The Art of Gardening by the Chanticleer Gardeners and R. William Thomas (Timber Press)
  • How Plants Work by Linda Chalker-Scott (Timber Press)
  • Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West (Timber Press)
  • The Seed Garden edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel, with contributors Micaela Colley and Jared Zystro (Seed Savers Exchange)
  • Seeing Seeds by Robert Llewellyn and Teri Dunn Chace (Timber Press)

9781604693386rThe 2016 Book Award Committee was comprised of the following seven members: Jeff Cox, a garden communicator and designer in Sonoma County, CA; Rita Hassert, a botanical librarian at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL; Susan Hines, a garden communicator in Hyattsville, MD; Jim Long, garden communicator and owner of Long Creek Nursery in Blue Eye, MO; Mary Ann Newcomer, a garden communicator in Boise, ID; Doug Oster, a garden columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and radio personality based in Pennsylvania, PA; and Anne Marie Van Nest, a garden communicator and horticulturist in the Niagara Falls area of New York.

Peg’s Picks: July 2016 Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area

These are Peg’s Picks of local gardening events in July. July may be hot but it is a busy time in the garden as well as in the Washington DC metro gardening world. If it gets too hot for you, cool down inside with Lisa Mason Ziegler’s free, virtual Cool Flowers book study (see last entry).

2, Saturday, The Summer’s Best Hydrangeas, lecture, 11:00 am, Free, Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

5, Tuesday, Simpson Gardens Stroll, 11:00 am to noon, 426 E. Monroe Avenue by the YMCA in Alexandria, VA. Free and hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

6, Wednesday, Pollination, Pollinator, and Flowers, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

7, Thursday, Growing Flowers Using Organic Methods: Walking Tour of a Local Cut Flower Farm with Barbara Lambone at Greenstone Fields, 38223 John Wolford Road, Purcellville, VA, (will be cancelled if rains). Free, 7:00 pm., Hosted by Loudoun County Master Gardeners. http://www.loudouncountymastergardeners.org

7, Thursday, Totally Tomatoes, tomato cooking demonstration with the Cook Sisters, Free, do not have to register in advance. Held at noon and 12:45 and also presented on July 28. U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. (202) 225-8333. http://www.usbg.gov

7, Thursday, Getting Your Orchid to Re-Bloom, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

9, Saturday, Bring the Shade Garden to Life with Perennials, lecture, 11:00 am. Free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

9, Saturday, Saturday in the Garden “Compost Happens”, 10:00 am to noon. Free talk at Loudoun County Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden in Ida Lee Park, Leesburg, VA. Hosted by Loudoun County Master Gardeners. http://www.loudouncountymastergardeners.org

9, Saturday, Jam Preserve Workshop, 9:30 to 2:30. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, 1400 Quincy Street NE Washington DC, Fee and must register. (The Monastery has extensive gardens and gives free garden tours on Saturdays at 11:00 am and noon, until September, meet in front of visitor center). E-mail gardenguild@gmail.comhttp://www.fmgg.org.

10, Sunday, The Birth of a Rain Garden: From Start to Finish, 11:00 am. Free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

12, Tuesday, Bearded Iris Care, lecture by staff horticulturists, 9:30 am. Free for Ladew members; fee for non-members; registration required. Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD. (410) 557-9570 ext. 261, e-mail rhebert@ladewgardens.com. http://www.ladewgardens.com

13, Wednesday, Marvelous ‘matoes, a tomato cooking demonstration by the Cook Sisters. Fee and must register. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. (301) 962-1470. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

13, Wednesday, Lasagna Gardens: The Layered Approach, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

14, Thursday, Rejuvenate the Midsummer Herb Garden, 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Burke Branch Library, 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA; Hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Free but must register in advance. http://www.mgnv.org

14, Thursday, Home Irrigation, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

16, Saturday, Lotus and Water Lily Festival, 10:00 to 4:00 pm, Free, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, 1550 Anacostia Avenue, NE Washington DC. http://www.nps.gov/keaq/index.html

16, Saturday, Lavender Wand Making Workshop, 10:00 am to noon. Free. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, 1400 Quincy Street NE Washington DC. (The Monastery has extensive gardens and gives free garden tours on Saturdays at 11:00 am and noon, until September, meet in front of visitor center). E-mail gardenguild@gmail.com. http://www.fmgg.org

16, Saturday, Tips for a Happy Garden: Mulching, Watering and Protecting Your Plants from the Heat, 11:00 am. Free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

16, Saturdays in the Garden, Getting your Lawn, Landscape, and Vegetable Garden Ready for the Fall, 9:00 am to noon. The Teaching Garden at the Benedictine Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. Presented by Prince William County Master Gardeners. Outside, dress appropriate. Free but must register. http://www.mgpw.org

16, Saturday, Native Trees and Shrubs for Home Gardens, 10:00 to 11:30 am. Fee and must register. Presentation by Green Spring staff horticulturist. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. (703) 642-5173. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/

17, Sunday, The Benefits, Beauty and Diversity of Perennial Groundcovers, 1:00 pm. Free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

17, Sunday, Sunday in the Organic Vegetable Garden, 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Potomac Overlook Regional Park, 2845 Marcey Road, Arlington, VA. Free and hosted by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

20, Wednesday, Grow Your Own Cutting Garden and Old Fashioned Flower Show, 7:30 to 9:00 pm. Free and open to the public. Takoma Horticulture Club, 7328 Carroll Avenue, Takoma, MD. http://www.takomahort.org.

20, Wednesday, Seed Saving, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

21, Thursday, Composting Basics, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

23 and 24, Saturday and Sunday, 27th Annual Montgomery County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale, times vary, depend on the farm, 21 farms involved, check out web site for farms, times, and map. http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/agservices/agfarmgtour.html

23, Saturday, A Survey of Shade Trees, 11:00 am. Free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

27, Wednesday, Soil Building, Composting, Compost Tea, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Wednesdays in the Garden Series at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. Library phone and website:  http://www.library.arlingtonva.us (703) 228-5990. http://www.mgnv.org

28, Thursday, Totally Tomatoes, tomato cooking demonstration with the Cook Sisters, Free, do not have to register in advance. Held at noon and 12:45 and again on July 7. U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. (202) 225-8333. http://www.usbg.gov

28, Thursday, All Things Lavender, 12:15 to 12:45, East Walk of the Smithsonian Enid A. Haupt Garden, Smithsonian, Washington DC.  Part of the Let’s Talk Garden Series on Thursdays, hosted by Smithsonian Gardens horticulturists, free. (202) 633-2220. http://www.gardens.si.edu

30, Saturday, Lecture: Mints: Their Botany, Chemistry, and Uses, 10:30 to noon. Free but must register in advance. U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. (202) 225-8333. http://www.usbg.gov

30, Saturday, Spicing Up Your Gardens and Containers from Now through Fall, 11:00. Free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. (301) 937-1100. http://www.behnkes.com

30, Saturday, Honey Extraction Workshop, 9:30 to noon and noon to 2:30 (two sessions, register for one and there is a fee). Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, 1400 Quincy Street NE Washington DC. (The Monastery has extensive gardens and gives free garden tours on Saturdays at 11:00 am and noon, until September, meet in front of visitor center).  E-mail: gardenguild@gmail.com. http://www.fmgg.org

Summer Garden Workshop Series in DC

DC Parks and Recreation has a Summer Garden Workshop Series. More than 50 free workshops every Monday, Wednesday and various Saturdays from April 18th to September 28th. Focused on practical urban gardening and taught by the leaders of DC urban garden movement. Monday Classes: 6:30-8:30pm – Deanwood Rec – 1350 49th St. NE; Wednesday Classes: 6:30-8:30pm – Raymond Rec – 3725 10th St. NE; Saturday Classes: 10-12pm – Times and locations vary.  Check registration for more details:
http://bit.ly/UrbanGardeningPrograms

A full schedule flyer is at this link
http://dpr.dc.gov/node/1124742

For more info about all DPR Urban Garden Programs click on this link
http://dpr.dc.gov/service/urban-garden-programs

 Cool Flowers Virtual Book Study

Lisa Mason Ziegler, owner of The Gardener’s Workshop in Newport News, VA, is hosting a virtual book study for her book Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques. Starting Friday July 15, she will teach how to grow hardy annuals (flowers) such as bells of Ireland, snapdragons, and sweet peas. Each Friday for 10 weeks (1 week for each chapter), she will show a short video and answer questions. There is no fee and it is not required to have the book although it will certainly be beneficial to read along. If you are like me and work on Fridays, you can sign up at her web site to have the weekly links sent to your e-mail or you can visit the web site any time. Lisa has been a cut flower farmer since 1998 and has built a very successful business. She produces 10,000 stems each week during the growing season on 1 ½ acres. She has written several books, sells seeds and supplies, hosts workshops, and gives presentations across the county.

Books About Gardens and Gardening in Virginia, Maryland, Washington DC

I just updated my website’s Books page about gardens and gardening in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC, from the year 2000 to the present.  There are 35 books. Below is the updated text in the Books page.

The public library is a great resource–not only are the books free but if the branch does not have a particular title, they can get it for you from another branch or through interlibrary loan. Most libraries have gardening magazines; you can borrow past issues. The reference section has non-circulating gardening books that are great resources. Local bookstores have plant and gardening books and many have web sites for searching or ordering books. Don’t forget Amazon.com and check your phone book for the used bookstores. Many of the public gardens have non-lending libraries; some are open when the gardens are open, others are by appointment only.  Public gardens also have books for sale in their gift shops. Brookside Gardens and Green Spring Gardens have reading libraries. For extensive research, try the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library, Abraham Lincoln Building, 10301 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD  20705; (301) 504-5755; http://www.nal.usda.gov.

Below are local books with the most recently published listed first through the year 2000:

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses: How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by Marta McDowell, Timber Press, 2016

Mid-Atlantic Gardeners Handbook: Your Complete Guide: Select, Plan, Plant, Maintain, Problem Solve by Katie Elzer-Peters, Cool Springs Press, 2016

Gardens of Georgetown: Exploring Urban Treasures, text by Edith Nalle Schafer and photos by Jenny Gorman, Georgetown Garden Club, 2015

Maryland’s Public Gardens and Parks by Barbara Glickman, Schiffer Publishers, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Month-by-Month Gardening: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year by George Weigel, Cool Springs Press, 2015

Chesapeake Gardening and Landscaping: The Essential Green Guide by Barbara W. Ellis; photographs by Neil Soderstrom, University of North Carolina Press in association with the Adkins Arboretum, 2015

Maymont: An American Estate (Richmond, VA) by Dale Cyrus Wheary, Scala Arts Publishers in association with the Maymont Foundation, 2015

Mid-Atlantic: Getting Started Garden Guide: Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines and Groundcovers by Andre Viette, Mark Viette, and Jacqueline Heriteau, Cool Springs Press, 2015

The General in the Garden: George Washington’s Landscape at Mt. Vernon by Susan P. Schoelwer, editor, Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association, 2015

Native Plants for Northern Virginia by the Virginia Native Plant Society, available via the Society, http://www.vnps.org, 2015

Great Perennial Plants, Vines, and Bulbs Guide for the Mid-Atlantic Garden by Donna Williamson, self-published, electronic and available via Amazon, 2014

The Mid-Atlantic Garden: An Insider’s Guide to a Successful Lower Maintenance Garden by Donna Williamson, self-published, electronic and available via Amazon, 2014

Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello by Peter J. Hatch, Yale University Press, 2014

Take Our Advice: A Handbook for Gardening in Northern Virginia by Margaret Fisher, Student Peace Awards of Fairfax, 2014

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast by Ira Wallace, Timber Press, 2013

Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles: DE, MD, PA, VA, DC, and WV by Katie Elzer-Peters, Cool Springs Press, 2013

Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardeners by Wesley Greene, Rodale Press, 2012

American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama, Crown Publishing Group, 2012

Capital Splendor: Parks and Gardens of Washington DC by Valerie Brown, Barbara Glickman Countryman Press, 2012

A Guide to Smithsonian Gardens by Carole Otteson, Smithsonian Books, 2011

Historic Virginia Gardens: Preservation Work of the Garden Club of Virginia by Margaret Page Bemiss, University of Virginia Press, 2009

Virginia’s Historic Homes and Gardens by Pat Blackley and Chuck Blackley, Voyageur Press, 2009

The Virginia’s Garden Companion: An Insider Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia by Donna Williamson, Morris Book Publishing, 2008

Garden Walks in the Southeast: Beautiful Gardens from Washington to the Gulf Coast by Marina Harrison, Lucy Rosenfeld, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006

Garden Walks in the Mid-Atlantic States: Beautiful Gardens from New York to Washington DC by Marina Harrison, Lucy Rosenfeld, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2005

The American Horticultural Society Guide to American Public Gardens and Arboreta:  Gardens Across America, Volume 1, East of the Mississippi by Thomas S. Spencer and John J. Russell, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2005

A City of Gardens: Glorious Public Gardens In and Around the Nation’s Capital by Barbara Seeber, Capital Books, 2004

Month by Month Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic by André and Mark Viette and Jacqueline Hériteau, Cool Springs Press, 2004

Selecting, Growing and Combining Outstanding Perennials: Mid-Atlantic and New England Edition by Teri Dunn, André Viette, Mark Viette, Jacqueline Hériteau, Cool Springs Press, 2003

Mid-Atlantic Gardener’s Guide by André and Mark Viette and Jacqueline Hériteau, Cool Springs Press, 2003

Barnes & Noble Complete Illustrated Guidebook to Washington, D.C.’s Public Parks and Gardens, published by Silver Lining Books, 2003

Complete Illustrated Guide to Washington DC’s Public Parks and Gardens by Richard Berenson, Silver Lining, 2003

The Virginia Fruit and Vegetable Book by Felder Rushing and Walter Reeves, Cool Springs Press, 2002

Virginia Gardeners Guide by Jacqueline Heriteau, Cool Springs Press, 2001

The New York/Mid-Atlantic Gardener’s Book of Lists by Bonnie Lee Appleton, Cooper Square Press, 2001

 

Free Gardening Handouts from Virginia Cooperative Extension Website

L_HORT-76-JPGAs a garden communicator I am always collecting information for use with my own garden, for other gardeners, and even for future articles. A reliable source of local gardening information is the Virginia State Cooperative Extension office, located at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) website has scores of handouts on gardening–everything from annuals to vegetables to trees and shrubs. Most are short, black and white, pdf files that one can download quickly but some are small, full color publications such as “Fooling Mother Nature: Forcing Flower Bulbs for Indoor Bloom.” Written by George Graine, a local VCE Master Gardener, reviewed by Holly Scoggins, Associate Professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture, and produced by Lindsey Nelson, Communication Project Coordinator at VT’s Department of Horticulture, this 10-page handout is very easy to read with several color photos of bulbs and charts that provide additional information. In fact, Publication HORT-76NP is so well written that it won a Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association’s Media Awards Program this year.

All of the VCE gardening publications are designed for home gardeners but they are science-based and reviewed by horticulturists or experts in the field. All are available for public use and can be re-printed without further permission, providing the use includes credit to the author/photographer and to the VCE, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University. Simply put, these publications can be copied and distributed at garden clubs and nurseries, for seed/bulb fund raisers, for teachers and children who have school-based gardens, and for people who have community garden plots. They are great resources for writing articles and even stimulating ideas for future articles. Check out https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/ every season for timely information!

Cookbooks That Focus on the Harvest Are More Useful to Gardeners: The Renee’s Garden Cookbook

The Renee's Garden CookbookThe more I garden, the more I want to increase my repertoire of vegetable and herb-based recipes. I have plenty of cookbooks that were given to me years ago, but they are of little use to me now. With them, I have to wade through dozens of recipes to find one that highlights fresh chard, kale, or spinach, much less mention rosemary, thyme, or basil, all of which I have in abundance in my Northern Virginia garden. For me, cookbooks that focus on the harvest are more useful to gardeners than ones that focus on the type of course. Because many of my vegetable seeds come from Renee’s Garden, an online seed company in California, recently I learned that owner Renee Shepherd published The Renee’s Garden Cookbook with co-author Fran Raboff, cookbook author and cooking teacher. The Renee’s Garden Cookbook is the third in their collaborative effort; Renee and Fran already published Recipes from a Kitchen Garden and More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden a few years ago. The recipes for these cookbooks come out of a gardener/cook partnership; Renee brings the harvest from her company’s trial gardens to Fran’s kitchen and together they cook and test recipes to make easy dishes for families to enjoy. The recipes are by no means vegetarian dishes but vegetables and herbs are prominent.

I have the most recent cookbook, The Renee’s Garden Cookbook, and I suspect from the sample recipes on the Renee’s Garden web site that the other two books are similar. Unlike traditional cookbooks, Renee and Fran divided the recipes in The Renee’s Garden Cookbook by the main vegetable, salads, and herbs. In the first section, 29 vegetables are highlighted in alphabetical order, each with several recipes and sidebars on growing the plant. The section on salads and salad dressings has both leaf as well as fruit salad recipes with instructions on growing lettuce and Asian greens. The third section covers savory and sweet herbs. Savory herb recipes include herb encrusted lamb chops; Whitney’s tender chicken with pasta, mushrooms, and fresh herb sauce; apple chutney with wine and sweet basil; Thai shrimp soup with lemon grass; and spiced mint vinegar. Sweet herbs are used for desserts such as upper crust pear pie with lemon basil or lemon thyme; yogurt cheese pie scented with lemon geranium; caramel custard cups scented with rose geranium; and lavender jelly to name a few. Your mouth waters and you instinctively add the plants you don’t have to your “garden wish list” (got to get those scented geraniums!). Illustrated by Mimi Osborne who designs the watercolor images on the Renee’s Garden seed packets, the 158-page book has over 300 recipes.  Each copy is $17.95 or $19.05 for a gift box (great holiday present). To order and to view sample recipes and the other cookbooks, visit http://www.reneesgarden.com.

 

Plant NoVA Natives Campaign’s Free Guide

nativeplantsfornovaMy family and I had a great time at Green Spring Garden’s Plant Sale this past weekend. It seemed there were many more vendors than in the past. There were so many plants to choose from, as well as a baked goods sale and representatives from several local garden clubs. One interesting gem of information that I wanted to pass on is a new guide called Native Plants for Northern Virginia. Volunteers of the Plant NoVA Natives Campaign were selling the guide for $5.00 but the four-color guide can be downloaded from the Plant NoVA Natives Campaign website free (http://www.plantnovanatives.org).

Published in March 2015, this 48-page guide lists plants native to Northern Virginia (residents of the greater Washington DC area also can benefit from this guide). The guide was not meant to be comprehensive but rather a showcase of natives that are attractive, easy for home gardeners to acquire and grow, and beneficial to wildlife and the environment. The guide is organized by the type of plant: perennials (forbs); grasses, sedges, and rushes; ferns; vines; shrubs; and trees. For each plant there is a photo, cultural requirements, size and shape, and the insects, birds, or wildlife that benefit from the plant. The guide also lists native plants that would do well in particular situations such as wet or dry places, additional resources on native plants, native plant demonstration gardens, and invasive plants.

The Plant NoVA Natives Campaign is a partnership of the organizations listed below. Its goal is to promote the use of these plants in the urban and suburban landscapes in Northern Virginia for their social, cultural, and economic benefits, and to increase the availability of Northern Virginia native plants in retail nurseries throughout the region. For homeowners and gardeners interested in native plants or new to Virginia, this guide is a great introduction and a useful compendium of local resources.

  • Audubon Society of Northern Virginia
  • Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
  • Mason Sustainability Institute
  • Nature by Design
  • Northern Virginia Regional Commission (lead organization)
  • Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Potowmack Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society
  • Prince William Wildflower Society Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society
  • Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Virginia Department of Forestry
  • Virginia Master Gardeners
  • Virginia Master Naturalists