I can’t talk now, I’m busy with my Ornamental Garden Trellis

The Ornamental Garden Trellis is my new best friend. We’re spending a lot of time together while she helps me plan my summer garden design.

Six-feet tall, broad-shouldered (32”) and lovely, she’s not just a pretty face but a strong garden assistant.

Going plant shopping with the Ornamental Trellis is such fun. She volunteers to stand in the sun or the shade, and looks good in any color.

With her on my team I feel liberated–free from worrying about what USDA hardiness zone I live in.

No, I’m not delusional, I’m waking up to the fact that the warm season is right around the corner, bringing me at least five months of frost-free weather.

I can plant whatever tender vine my horticultural heart desires and the Ornamental Trellis promises to support my choice in any spot in the garden. I can lift her myself and she has 12” stakes to keep her steady where I place her.

Spoiled for choice, I’m focusing on tender vines for full sun. The three finalists:

  • Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) has round, white flowers that open as the sun sets. Perfect for the white garden next to the deck where we sit on summer evenings.
  • ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor or Ipomoea purpurea) is a true blue that would be a fun morning shot of color at the back of my blue border.
  • Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) is the most dramatic vine on this list. The cup-shaped flowers open cream and turn purple, with wavy stamens. Ideal as a vertical accent near our front door.

I could start any of these from seeds, but this year I’ll go for instant gratification and buy a vine at the garden center. With that head start I’ll get earlier blooms. Which is the whole point of these vines.

Through the seasons

Moonflower and morning glory vines are annuals and die at the end of summer.

If you live in a frost-free climate, cup and saucer vine will be a perennial. If it snows in your neighborhood then this vine is one of the fleeting joys of summer, to be savored each warm day.

Easy to Grow Mesclun

by Charlotte Germane

Wouldn’t you love to have this collection of greens waiting for you at dinner time?  Grow it in a copper planter near your front door or on your back deck–wherever it can catch admiring glances. Your own little salad garden, but instead of a picket fence surrounding it you have the luxe of a copper edge.

This is no vegetable patch to hide away in a sunny corner of the garden–the assortment of decorative greens is called mesclun.

Mesclun is French (that makes anything taste better, doesn’t it?) for a mixture of lettuces and other salad greens such as chicory and endive. Your garden center will have starts or seedlings as soon as it is safe to plant. If there is a late freeze or frost in your area put the mesclun container under the eaves until the freezing temperatures are past.

How to plant

Choose a sunny location for the container and fill it with rich potting soil. I use Masters Pride Professional Potting Soil because it has valuable organic additions such as bat guano (something I find hard to gather on my own, not being on speaking terms with any bats).

Place the seedlings five inches apart and press the soil firmly around them. Water well with a fine spray after planting and keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.

Through the seasons

How to harvest and fertilize

Pick leaves for salad when the plants are more than 4 inches tall. Keep an inch or two of leaves on each plant so you get another crop. Snip leaves off with scissors.

Each time you harvest add fish emulsion fertilizer to stimulate more leaf growth. With that extra boost your mesclun can give you two or three crops.

Mesclun grows in the cool season. Enjoy it this spring and when the weather heats up move the planter to a spot with afternoon shade. When the temperatures are just too hot for mesclun I’ll tell you about another pretty edible to replace it.

Now that you have a gleaming planter with a growing crop of mesclun, read on for a special mesclun recipe.

Mesclun Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Portobello Mushrooms

by Patti Bess

When the weather starts feeling even slightly warmer and we turn the corner past Easter, my culinary time clock says I’m ready to fire up the grill and enjoy our first candlelight dinners on the deck. H. Potter’s graceful pewter-and-gold-finished candle holder is the perfect choice.

My husband has certain things he loves to grill, but I have my own specialties. Portobello mushrooms and asparagus are the first things that come to mind.

Portobellos on the grill, now that’s a marriage made in heaven (cliché or no cliché). Portobellos are brown button mushrooms grown to a larger meatier size, with a pronounced, earthy flavor—they are about as close to a juicy steak as the plant kingdom can come up with. These satisfying ‘shrooms provide nutrients including magnesium, selenium and fiber.

Spring just hasn’t sprung until I’ve taken that first bite of tender, grassy asparagus. Roasting it on the grill and tossing into a salad is only one of dozens of ways to enjoy it.

Blend the asparagus and mushrooms together with spring’s gift of baby greens and you have a salad I could live on for a great many days and not tire of it.

Print this recipe to save for that first deliciously warm evening and special dinner on the deck.

Mesclun Salad with Roasted Asparagus and Portobello Mushrooms

  • 4-5 ounces mesclun mix of young greens (about 6 cups)
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (about 1/2 t. dried)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pound Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough woody ends removed
  • Extra olive oil, salt and pepper for grilling

Preheat a gas grill to medium high or build a fire in a kettle grill.

Wash, dry and tear up greens. Add to a large salad bowl and set aside.

Add the shallot, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and thyme to the blender; blend until smooth. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the asparagus and mushrooms with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush the grill lightly with a vegetable oil. Put the mushrooms on the grill, turning occasionally to avoid sticking. Add the asparagus and grill, rolling them frequently to avoid burning. (A vegetable grilling basket is helpful for asparagus on grills with widely spaced grates.) Grill the mushrooms about 10-14 minutes total, depending on the heat of the grill. They should be crispy at the edges but still juicy. Cook the asparagus until browned and crisp tender, about 6-8 minutes, depending on their thickness. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool.

Drizzle the salad dressing over the greens and toss well. Cut the asparagus and the mushrooms into 1-inch lengths. Add to the salad and mix in with the lettuces. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

Spring Herbs and Spring Chicken

Grow spring herbs in a copper planter

By Charlotte Germane for H. Potter

Wouldn’t this copper planter be a pretty sight in your garden? Place it near the kitchen door so no matter what the spring weather brings you can step out and snip some fresh herbs for lunch or dinner.

Early spring crops like parsley and chives satisfy your urge to eat from the garden when the weather is just starting to warm up, and your hopeful thoughts turn to what kinds of tomatoes to grow in the summer.

That’s still a long way off, but if you are in USDA Zones 5-9 you can have the green taste of both these herbs to welcome spring.

Find these herbs in small pots at your garden center:

 Curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum) (Crispum? A Latin name we can all understand!)

• Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Add some blooming daffodils for that extra springy look:

• Yellow trumpet daffodils (Narcissus ‘Dutch Master’)

The combination offers the contrast of shiny copper, curly parsley, smooth chives and silky daffodils. The herbs are excellent companions since they both grow to be a foot tall. The chives will produce lavender flowers—a bonus for garnishes.

Planting

Place the planter in full sun. Fill it with rich potting soil and space the herbs 6 to 9 inches apart. Tuck the daffodils in for the design that you like. Water well after you plant, then supplement the rain as needed, so the soil stays moist.

Harvesting

Feel free to pick parsley as soon as the leaves begin to curl. For strongest flavor, harvest in the morning. Snip the hollow chive leaves as soon as you like. Don’t rob all the leaves or you’ll have unhappy herbs.

Through the seasons

Both herbs transplant well and you can move them out of the planter into other parts of your garden.

The parsley will work in full sun or part-sun until the weather warms up. At that point it will go to seed. Leave the seeds in your garden if you’d like volunteers the following year.

The chives are perennial onions and their bulb-like roots should be divided every few years.

Now that you have a cheery planter full of herbs, read on for cooking ideas.

Spring Chicken

By Patti Bess for H. Potter

Weather is not the only thing turning milder this time of year. As tender spring vegetables and herbs mature in my garden and begin to appear in markets; winter cravings for bold, spicy dishes gives way to quieter longings.

Spring produce begs for simpler, more delicate preparations—that’s where chicken comes in. Topped with chive and parsley pesto, this simple-to-prepare entrée is perfect for guests or a quiet evening at home.

Parsley and chives in the kitchen garden are as much a welcome call to spring as daffodils in the flower beds. I especially like having parsley in the garden as it is so convenient to pick a few sprigs for a dish instead of running to the market for a bunch that will mostly migrate to the rear of refrigerator and be forgotten.

Basil pesto is a staple on the summer menu, but it can be made with other herbs as well. This spritely flavored parsley and chive pesto adds a little zing to your chicken. Pair it with an herbaceous white wine and roasted asparagus or a beet and fennel salad.

These simple gifts from the garden (and at the dinner table) make me shout, “Ain’t life grand?”

Chicken Breasts with Parsley Chive Pesto

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives or green onions
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or broth
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Generously salt and pepper the chicken. Brown it in a fry pan on medium heat, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from stove and set aside.

Add all remaining ingredients to a blender or food processor. Pulse several times to blend but not completely puree. Add a dollop on each chicken breast, cover, and simmer on low until chicken is moist and tender. Serves 3 and can easily be doubled for guests.

Plants for Terrariums

The key to success with terrariums and Wardian cases lies in matching the right plants with your mini-world. A happy marriage between plants and a terrarium can lead to a relationship that lives happily ever after. A terrarium provides very specific growing conditions and you need to fill it with plants that will thrive in its humid, tropical mini-ecosystem. Even open-topped terrariums tend to be much more humid than your average container. The glass (or acrylic) sides add moisture to the ecosystem within – and that trait is what makes a terrarium so delightfully low-maintenance.

All plant-filled terrariums need to grown in indirect light, especially if they’re closed or partially closed. When direct sunbeams fall on the glass, the insides can bake – frying all the little plants inside (think of a closed car in a sunny parking lot). So you want to fill your small world with plants that thrive in shady, moist conditions. Ferns, most orchids, begonias, peperomias, members of the African violet family, and many other plants (see the list below) love living in a terrarium. However, sun-worshippers and plants that prefer arid conditions won’t thrive in a terrarium over the long haul. Unfortunately, cacti and succulents, alpines, geraniums, most herbs (mints being a possible exception) and any other similar plants fail to live long in a terrarium, even though they might be the right size for the space.

Speaking of size, that’s another issue to keep firmly in mind when selecting plants for a terrarium. In general, the ideal plants for terrariums are in the “little league.” They should remain diminutive throughout their lifespan. You might want to check with the experts at your local nursery before purchasing a plant. Make sure it isn’t bound to be a jolly green giant eventually. After all, even the mighty oak starts life as a tiny acorn. However, many plants can be pruned and groomed to remain suitable for your terrarium or Wardian case’s dimensions.

When you find the right plants for your mini-space, your small world will perk along beautifully. Not only will it rarely require your care and remain trouble-free, but your crystal kingdom will be a pleasure to behold. Can you think of a more fulfilling package?

A Short list of Terrarium Plants

  • Rhizomatous begonias (miniature)
  • Rex begonias (miniature)
  • Cane begonias (miniature)
  • Selaginella mosses of all types
  • Members of the African violet family such as:
  • Chirita
  • African violets
  • Streptocarpus
  • Sinningia pusilla
  • Episcia
  • Ivies (miniature)
  • Muehlenbeckia complexa
  • Peperomia
  • Miniature ferns
  • Miniature orchids
  • Paphiopedalum
  • Masdavallia
  • Bromeliads
  • Ficus pumila & baby’s tears
  • Tetranema (Mexican foxglove)
  • Carnivorous plants
  • Viola hederacea
  • Marantas
  • Neoregelia
  • Pilea
  • Artillery plants
  • Coleus
  • Fittonia (nerve plants)
  • Cyclamen
  • Violas
  • Mini hostas
  • Helxine (baby’s tears)