An Alameda Garden: July 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Next Giveaway: Hellstrip Gardening by Evelyn J. Hadden

Until a year or so ago, I never even knew there was a term for it--that awkward, narrow patch of dirt that lies between the sidewalk and the curb. But its very awkwardness led to its naming--the "hellstrip."

When was the last time you saw a beautiful hellstrip? It's often true that even a beautifully landscaped front yard will have a hellstrip that is dull, unimaginative, poorly maintained, or worst of all, just an eyesore.

But it doesn't have to be so. Garden writer Evelyn J. Hadden has just published Hellstrip Gardening (Timber Press), offering much-needed guidance and inspiration for creating a beautiful, maintainable garden in these small, awkward, but oh-so-visible spaces.

There are two things I particularly like about Hellstrip Gardening. First, Hadden recognizes the additional challenges for hellstrip gardeners due to city restrictions and HOA covenants, not to mention city-planted trees, poor soil, car emissions, public traffic, and irrigation and drainage issues, and she addresses each in turn. Second, she provides examples of inspiring hellstrip gardens from across the country, so you can see not only a variety of styles and plant materials, but how other gardeners have tackled problems presented by their particular climate or situation. She also provides guidance for designing, building, and maintaining your hellstrip and a palette of plants to choose from.

Evelyn and Timber Press have generously offered to give one copy of Hellstrip Gardening to one of this blog's readers. To win a copy of this creative and inspiring book, leave a comment below about a challenge you've faced or a problem you've solved in gardening your hellstrip. The contest will close Monday, July 21, and one winner will be chosen at random.

UPDATED 7/25/14: This giveaway is now closed. The winner of the free copy of Hellstrip Gardening is Rusthawk.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Field-to-Vase Dinner

Last month I was fortunate enough to be be invited to a truly unique event--a field-to-vase dinner to be held in a working greenhouse out among the farming fields of Watsonville. A precursor to the annual Monterey Bay Greenhouse Growers Open House, the dinner was sponsored by the MBGG and the California Cut Flower Commission to celebrate and promote the locally grown flowers that we're lucky enough to enjoy here in California.

It's about a two-hour drive from Alameda to Watsonville, but any time I find myself in California farm country, it feels like I'm even further from home. I love driving through the patchwork fields and trying to glimpse what crops are growing as they go by my car window in a blur. But when I finally arrived at the Kitayama Brothers nursery I had to stop and just stare for a moment at the green fields stretching out in the distance, just a few miles from the Pacific Coast.

Outside the greenhouse where the dinner was to be held, the Original Sin Desserts & Catering company, headed by Chef Tanya DeCell, was busy preparing the feast.

Once inside the greenhouse, it was like stepping into a rainbow. Tables of Gerbera daisies filled the massive building in vibrantly colored bands of yellow, pink, orange, and red. 

And against that stunning backdrop, a table had been laid for about 30 guests and decorated with centerpieces of locally grown flowers.

The flower arrangements were provided by Farmgirl Flowers, a San Francisco company started by Christina Stembel, who has come up with some rather clever ways to sell locally grown floral arrangements at reasonable prices.

What followed was a really fun night of conversation with growers, writers and bloggers, and other guests over a pretty spectacular meal. I got a chance to meet both Robert and Stuart Kitayama and learn a bit about how their family started in the nursery business as well as how the industry is faring now. (Pictured below: Robert Kitayama, CEO/President of Kitayama Brothers; Robert's wife, Karen; and event coordinator Kathleen Williford.)

Are you wondering what kind of food is served at a field-to-vase dinner? Delicious food, locally sourced and generally organic! Consider the menu:

Passed Appetizers
organic chive & cheese puffs
organic chicken liver pate with lemon marmalade

Organic Little Gem Lettuce Salad
organic radish, carrot & mint
organic preserved meyer lemon vinaigrette

Spanish Paella
organic english peas, tomato, peppers, garlic, onions, saffron
vegetarian OR with organic chorizo and chicken

Wild California Cedar Planked Salmon
organic grilled peach salsa

Organic Grilled Corn on the Cob
nasturtium butter

Organic Summer Squash with Herbs

Organic Swedish Strawberry Cake
chiffon cake, cardamom, white chocolate whipped cream

While the dinner was an event in itself, for the Monterey Bay growers, it was just the beginning of a busy weekend where they open their doors to give the public a chance to meet local flower growers and peek behind the scenes. The open house is free but the nurseries have plants for sale and there are some great deals to be found. Next year I'm planning on making this open house an excuse for a weekend getaway to the Monterey Bay area so I can check out all the participating nurseries.

Thanks to Kitayama Brothers for hosting such a delightful evening, and to all the sponsors who participated. When fun people (especially plant people!) and good food mix, it's hard to go wrong. And in this case, it was totally worth the four-hour round-trip commute!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Independence Day Sale on California Gardening Books and a Giveaway!
My publisher, Cool Springs Press (owned by Quarto Publishing Group USA), is having a sale! All books ordered from Quarto's QBookShop website are 35% off when you enter the promo code STARS4. That brings the price of California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening down to $14.94! You can also pre-order my next book, California Month-by-Month Gardening (to be released at the end of the year), at the discounted price of $16.24! You can apply that discount to any items on the site, which in addition to all of CSP's gardening books include many other publishing imprints and a wide assortment of topics. This sale is on until Sunday, July 13.

I'm planning on spending some of my holiday gardening and in honor of our national holiday, I'm going to give away one copy of California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening along with some other gardening goodies: a pair of Corona ComfortGEL Veggie & Fruit Shears, Pre de Provence Bergamot Tea Gardener Hand Soap, L'Occitane Creme Mains Hand Cream, and a few packs of veggie and herb seeds, all in a canvas tote that you can use to carry your harvest in from the garden (total value: more than $75). To enter, leave a comment below with your email address by Sunday, July 13 at midnight. (Note: You must leave your email address to be eligible to win!) I'll draw one name at random and announce the winner on Monday, July 14.

Good luck!

Updated 7/14/14: This giveaway is now closed. The winner is Zach.

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