Friday, November 19, 2010

Window Box Week

This is the window box Angela worked on the day I was there.
Here's the vision: Window boxes and pots full of greenery outside every home and business in town from now through the holidays and into March. It's not such a crazy proposition when you listen to Angela Stocke, the creative brains behind Angela's Bella Flora in Duluth.

The sign welcomes visitors.
Angela wants to create a winter container movement. We live in a part of the world where it's mostly cold and snowy from November through March -- a window box arrangement on the porch or outside the front door can help take the edge off until spring.

I learned some of the finer points of outdoor window box design at one of Angela's demonstrations during the recent Window Box Week celebration at her shop. Here's how she built the box with the bird and the flame willow in the photo at the top of the post. It took her less than 45 minutes to pull it off.

 A bird's nest is tucked into the bottom of the window box.

Start with a base of greenery using a variety of traditional greens such as spruce, pine and balsam. The display is meant to be viewed from one side so build up the back so you have a background against which color and do-dads can strut their stuff. Mix up the texture with other greens such as Port Orford cedar and yellow incense cedar that are more wispy and lacy. Add some leafy branches of boxwood and seeded eucalyptus. All are stuck into water-saturated blocks of floral foam in the bottom of the box. The greenery hides the foam.
Angela works on a second window box.

Angela had decided on a color palette of orange and pink for this box so she added branches of pepperberry and some fake orangy persimmons. The pink blossoms on the right are protea, a tropical plant that Angela is experimenting with in cold-weather window boxes. She expects it will dry in place and look good for several months.

The bird perches on flame willow that Angela buys from a farm in Wisconsin. The stems are flexible and malleable. She stuck some on either side of the box, bent them toward each other and used a wire wrapped with brown tape to hold them together. (The bird hides the connection.) 

The final touch was a bird's nest with eggs tucked into the foliage. A surprise, Angela said, for people who take the time to look a little deeper into the arrangement.

1. Choose a color palette. Sticking to a palette keeps you on track and allows you to collect various tchotchkes over the years to add to your design scheme. That also keeps the budget in check because you're not buying all new stuff every year.

2. Look at what you have in your own yard and garden. Maybe you can build a base with stuff you have for free and then spend a few dollars on pepperberry or variegated boxwood or sparkly balls or sticks. Add and subtract items so the display doesn't shout Christmas or Hanukkah around Valentine's Day.

3. Use standard floral foam and make sure it's super-soaked. Put the foam on top of the water in a bucket and let the water slowly fill all the pores in the foam. Don't force it.

4. These boxes are meant for cold-weather display. Use wood or plastic containers. Once everything has frozen in place, you won't need to water. And the display will last for months.

Those are brown magnolia leaves among the evergreens. This box is a nice balance of humble (readily available conifers) and Hollywood (sparkly balls).

Pheasant feathers and huge sugar pine cones are easy companions in this box on display outside the store. The cones don't come cheap -- almost 6 bucks for one -- but they are impressive.

Shoppers examine the fresh greens and other natural wares.

This simple crate brims with evergreens and glittery purple stems and balls.

 Don't stop with boxes. How about a hanging basket?

Or a simple swag?Sweet!

I'm inspired. The silly dog and I will be out gathering supplies. I think I can do something fun with that lingonberry we're growing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two reasons why we cage trees and shrubs

 1. This doe about to enter the yard.

 2. And this doe already in the vegetable garden, trying to snack on the remains inside the pepper house.

Both were midmorning visitors on Tuesday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter ...

... has arrived in the form of 6 inches or so of heavy, wet snow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seventh Day November is here

The lush summer garden is gone, but there's still much to enjoy in the November garden. Take a peek in the slide show at top right.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Karen cooks Kale and Cannellini Soup

 Kale and Cannellini Soup from Bon Appetit magazine. The kale, carrots and garlic are from the garden. To prepare the kale, use a sharp knife and cut on either side of the center rib. Discard the rib and give the leaves a rough chop.

True. I am not making this up. I made a pot of Kale and Cannellini Soup for supper this weekend. From scratch. With minimal coaching from the resident chef.

And it was delicious.

The kale is a variety called 'Nero de Toscana'. It has thick, puckered leaves that seem to get sturdier as the days get colder. You could probably harvest it in the snow -- assuming you could keep the deer off it. An old bed sheet protects the crop now.

The recipe is from November's Bon Appetit magazine. Note that you make the Beans with Kale first -- you get enough to make an appetizer one day and the soup another day. The recipe is easy to follow and doesn't require any fancy techniques or equipment. We didn't have any Italian seasoning on hand so I subbed in some thyme and basil. Instead of toasted baguette slices, we had extra Parmesan cheese to garnish the soup and crackers on the side. And we did without the final drizzle of truffle oil.

This is not a wimpy soup. It has depth and substance and flavor. There were no leftovers.

This is how the kale looked in September.