Gardens with a taste for wine bottles

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A taste for wine could be your entre to a whole new world of garden accents by recycling those gorgeous and colorful wine bottles. There are a number of creative ways to use wine bottles in the garden. One of the swankiest garden borders ever is fashioned from a row of upturned wine bottles, necks inserted into the soil, to march along the edge with savoir faire to spare.

Other uses include sections of “crushed” wine bottles of one color or a mix for textural contrast, though definitely not for bare feet. Get out that old bottle cutter to create hefty candle holders to place alongside garden paths, or use wine bottles to hold tiny clear lights for festive garden illumination. What better way to relive those special times with those special bottles of wine? If the subject has whetted your appetite for more wine bottle ideas and inspriation, visit the creative blog:

http://theartofthers.blogspot.com/2010/10/taste-for-upcycled-wine-bottles_17.html

In the winter garden

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The mild weather has made all the difference in this winter’s garden. Not the usual vegetable patch, this garden has taken an artistic bent — literally. Rows swirl and twirl around mixing up ornamentals with vegetables. Maybe it’s not the best use of space, but we have to admit it is one of the prettiest vegetable gardens we’ve ever created. Plus there is more to come with tiny hollyhock and foxglove seedlings just getting ready to shoot up. And I just put in the tomato plants, though I expect I’ll have to cold-protect them as the forecast now has unexpected near-freezing temps predicted in two days. I really thought we were past all that.

For color we’ve added purple cabbage, purple kohlrabi, red and green leaf lettuces in a dazzling variety. There’s baby pak choi, though the flea beetles have had their way with them. Also we’ve got spinach, arugula, dill and rosemary, onions, snow pleas, strawberries, blue bonnets, a few geraniums, pansies, violas and nasturtiums. But one of the most extravagant items in the garden is red mustard. It’s not one of our favorites to eat, but whether it’s eaten or not makes absolutely no difference. This stuff just shines and sparkles with color and texture.

Red mustard is bare none, one of the prettiest plants around. And oh, the texture! Thick and leathery, shiny leaves of a rich burgundy, bisected with chartreuse ribs just beg to be touched. Try this one for cool weather in any ornamental bed and watch the traffic come to a screeching halt. And unlike those tomatoes, red mustard is quite cold hardy, preferring cool weather.

 

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red mustard

Seeing red — red buckeye that is

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red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

One of my very favorite natives, the red buckeye tree is blooming! It’s the first time it has since it was planted several years ago. Seems as if every year something happened to that bloom spike — twig girdlers or something snipped it off just as it was about to set buds. But not this year and I am so excited to see those brilliant red blooms.

Red buckeye is an excellent understory tree, tolerating shade and wet conditions, but it can also thrive in sunny and drier locations too. This beautiful deciduous tree is hardy to Zones 8 to 9,  and grows to about 25 feet tall. The magnificent sprays of red flowers in the early spring are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, and the golden-brown fruits which come later are favored by wildlife.

Colorful blooms, food for the wildlife, cold tolerance and more distinguish the red buckeye which could become your favorite native tree too.

Golden potato soup

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It's time to raid the root cellar for a simple and satisfying healthy soup whipped up from potatoes, carrots (or parsnips), onions and celery.

Forget the long-simmering and arduous preparations, this creamy potato soup goes together in less than 30 minutes, and features plenty of vegetables you are sure to have on hand. Substitute parsnips for the carrots for a creamy-white soup, and don’t forget to garnish with sprigs of fresh dill, maybe even some bacon bits. Serve with a tossed salad and you’ve got the meal!

 

Golden Potato Soup                    Serves four

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 medium onion coarsely chopped

2 ribs celery coarsely chopped (tops and all)

2 carrots, pared and coarsely chopped (or two small parsnips)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups water

2 Tablespoons fat-free sour cream

Fresh dill, one Tablespoon chopped for blending and 4 sprigs for garnish if desired

Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, saute onion and celery in the tablespoon of olive oil until soft, but do not let brown, about five minutes. Add potatoes, carrots (or parsnips), salt and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender about 15 minutes. Remove one cup of vegetables with a slotted spoon and along with the one tablespoon chopped dill, puree in food process or blender. Stir puree and the two tablespoons of sour cream back into contents of saucepan and reheat. Season with pepper to taste and garnish with dill and if desired, bacon bits.

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