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Tucson La Paloma lobby

I can’t say that Tucson is more gorgeous than central Pennsylvania, but it is different gorgeous. The view across the bar in the hotel’s main lobby included a peek at craggy arid mountains unlike anything in my neighborhood.

In a post titled Back from the Garden Writers Symposium in Tucson, I reported about my trip to the annual conference held this year in Arizona. I shared photos from the one garden tour I was able to enjoy, and from the gardens along walkways at the hotel. I also explained about the conference’s show floor.

The GWA Symposium draws a decent contingent of garden industry suppliers who set up booths on a show floor in the hotel. GWA members spend nearly eight hours spread over two days visiting the booths and learning from experts about industry products and services. Manny suppliers offer free samples to the garden writers in hopes that we, the writers, will feature those products in our writing.

Report from the Show Floor

I had only a few hours on the show floor near the end of the exhibition. Of course, I scouted for products of special interest to kitchen gardeners.

In the “appeals to all gardeners” category, there were two tool companies that I remember visiting. One, Dramm Corporation, was showing a very colorful collection of tools—especially ones you’d use to water your garden. The other, Corona Tools, was showing ComfortGEL pruners—tools with slightly squishy grips that are supposed to be easy on your hands.

Corona Tools ComfortGEL pruners

I was happy to pick up a pair of pruners from Corona Tools to use in my own gardening. I got a few extra sets as well, and will give them away on my blogs in the near future.

BlackGold products had a place on the show floor. BlackGold is an extensive collection of prepared organic soils and soil amendments—appropriate, I think, especially for apartment dwellers and other folks who need to garden in containers. Even more specifically for container gardeners was a product line called UrBin Grower. This is a planter that maintains airspace between the bottom of the soil and the top of a water reservoir.

LiveWall showed a compelling expression of green wall technology. The planters hold soil in trays that hang on horizontal tracks; plants grow up rather than out. This looks like a green wall a plant would design for itself. A freestanding unit on wheels was particularly compelling. I suspect it could manage a fine salad garden as well as several more demanding vegetables in a very compact space.

30-day DriWater watering gel

This modest tube of squishy gel will keep a potted plant hydrated for 30 days. You may find DriWater in garden centers in coming months.

The most memorable product in the “appeals to all gardeners” category was DriWater. DriWater comes in a squishy clear plastic tube—a lot like brown-and-serve-style sausages. The product is a gel that is 97% water. You use a tube by slitting it open along one side and laying the slit against soil nurturing a plant you want to hydrate for an extended period.

According to the representative, bacteria in the soil digest the gel, releasing water from the package. A single DriWater package can hydrate a container plant for 30 days. Municipal parks workers can set out DriWater units and reduce the number of visits necessary to keep city gardens green.

Seeds from Renee's Garden

Renee’s Garden offered up a few varieties of vegetable seeds I’ve thought of growing over the years. I was happy to bring those home along with others that looked appropriate for next year’s garden plan.

Ornamentals

In the plant category, I saw more ornamentals than I can recall. Some were specific to warm climates and would not survive in central Pennsylvania. Others were hardy enough for my home state. From Encore Azalea, I picked up the Autumn Sunburst which is supposed to blossom repeatedly through the growing season. From Skagit Gardens, I brought home the Kennedy Irish Drumcliff Primrose, hardy to zone 5, and Festuca Beyond Blue—a gorgeous clump of ornamental grass that’s hardy to zone 4.

Flirting with hardiness issues, I found Amistad Salvia from Southern Living. I wish I’d checked the tag because they recommend it for hardiness zones 9 and higher; about 2 zones farther south than it is now. More promising, from Star Roses & Plants, is Flamenco Rose Salvia. This Salvia has pink flowers, and I’d love to have it survive in my garden, but it’s hardy to zone 7—that’ll be hit-or-miss for me.

previously potted plant ready for travel

A great opportunity for garden writers at the Symposium is to get ahold of new types of plants that breeders are introducing. Producers give us free samples to try in our own gardens, and I was happy to try BrazelBerries blueberry and raspberry plants. Plants come potted, and it’s terribly impractical to leave them that way and still lug them home on an airplane. So, I shook soil off the roots of my samples, and packed them into zipper-topped bags. I left an 18 pound bag of potting soil near the door of my hotel room, and brought about two dozen plants home alive.

Finally, on the non-edible side, I picked up a three-pack of Sunrosa rose plants from Suntory. These promise to be covered in red blossoms through most of the growing season.

Edibles

VIVA! Offered up Scentsational Lavender, a variety they told me was on the hardy side of the lavenders. My last lavender plant gave out after three years, and the representative for the VIVA! product told me that was typical of lavender—I’d always thought it was a perennial that lived on the edge in my hardiness zone, but now I have more reasonable expectations for this lovely herb.

My greatest thrills came at two booths. One, Renee’s Garden had two racks of vegetable seeds and invited me to select any I’d like to try in my garden. It’s hard to find space for the seeds I save from my own plants, but I have a significant expansion in mind for next season, so I’m trying a small assortment from Renee’s.

My second thrill came at the BrazelBerries booth. BrazelBerries come from Fall Creek Farm & Nursery and have small habits appropriate for container gardening. The BrazelBerries line includes two varieties of blueberry plants, and one of raspberries and I got samples of each.

BrazelBerries Jelly Bean blueberry plant

Several days after I returned from Tucson, I had planted all of the plant samples. This is the BrazelBerries Jelly Bean blueberry plant, bred for container gardening. While literature that came with the plant recommends it for “large” containers, there’s nothing that says “how large.” I used a 7 gallon planter which is the largest I’ve ever used. If the plant someday looks stressed, I’ll find a place for it in the garden.

Only Time will Tell

With so many live specimens available to try, the challenge for conference goers is to get the plants home. It’s not practical to jam all those flower pots into a suitcase, so I spent an hour at the hotel shaking potting soil off the roots and repacking plants into zipper-topped plastic bags. These I stacked surrounded by clothing in my suitcase—some in a carryon and others in a bag I intended to check. Happily, all the plants came through in fine shape and I’ve since planted them in my garden and on my deck.

I’m excited to see how the plants do, and will share my observations in coming seasons.

Soon: a Giveaway

I happened to reach the Corona Tools booth as vendors were packing to leave. There, my friend Chris gave me a handful of ComfortGEL pruners along with sharpeners to keep them in top form. In an upcoming post, I’ll launch a giveaway of those pruners with instructions for how you can enter to win a set. They feel great in my hand, and I expect to pack some next summer when I head out to pluck suckers in my tomato patch.

crocus at your home kitchen garden

The last crocus flower in my yard apparently hasn’t noticed that all ther other blossoms have faded. Finally, spring is creeping in!

It’s mid-April, and I’ve planted nothing in my home kitchen garden! I’ve many seedlings literally dying to get out off their planters, but it has been cold and rainy, and working in the garden means wading in mud.

That said, today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens, came up with this idea that one day each month garden bloggers would showcase their flowers. I try to post photos of whatever food plants are in bloom in my garden, but today there are none. So… I stepped over the garden fence and shot photos where the ornamental plants grow. I hope you enjoy the results… and jump over to Carol’s blog to find other garden bloggers. You’ll find all kinds of blogs that post awesome flower photos on Bloom Day!

Pachysandra Blossoms

Pachysandra came with the house. These seem to be blossoms, but it’s hard to imagine wanting to pollinate such things… then again, pachysandra probably isn’t trying to attract me as a pollinator.

Daffodil in Front Bed

The main ornamental planting bed in your front yard opens the season with a modest display of crocuses which is finally giving way to daffodils and hyacinths.

Daffodil with Orange Center

Every daffodil I saw as a kid was yellow. Now daffodils are all about fancy color combinations. I like!

Forsythia Fringes

I once heard an artist suggest that you can improve your ability to draw objects by focusing on the empty spaces. If you draw all the empty spaces, what you didn’t draw will be the object. I was thinking about that when I created this photo in a forsythia bush.

Backlighted Forsythia

Sure, it’s another forsythia photo… and there are plenty more. I like the way this one makes me feel as though the forsythia towers over me… though I know the blossoms are quite tiny and unimposing.

Hyacinth

So many colors of purple! This hyacinth becomes surreal when I enlarge it to full screen.

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reflecting pool at the philadelphia flower show

Most striking to me of the ultra-embellished exhibits was this long reflecting pool with modernistic light panels and an “alabaster” sculpture at the far end. It would take months to get this installed in your yard, buy I’m guessing the folks who assembled it at the show completed the job in a few days.

My seed-starting shelf is ready for me to start planting my home kitchen garden. I’ve cleared off the canned goods and hung the lights. In the meantime, we’ve had some late winter snow, so I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to attend this year’s Philadelphia International Flower Show.

The show is an indoor oasis in winter. If features many exhibits of all types of plants that experts have tricked into maturing out-of-season. Not surprisingly, there are many, many flowers. Happily, there are also exhibits of vegetable plants. I spent some time at the show on Tuesday and plan to return on Friday.

About the Philadelphia Flower Show

I live about 2 and a half hours from Philadelphia. As I drove 50 miles south, I saw that lawns were sprouting green and it made me a little sad since my town is under about eight inches of snow. The show floor was crowded, so it was pointless to have a destination in mind; deciding to move with the crowd helped keep my stress level low.

pretty flower at the philadelphia flower show

There were, of course, flowers at the Philadelphia Flower Show. They scented the air, and some formed eye-catching displays. A few got very close to my camera’s lens.

With all the flowers and other plantings, my favorite ornamentals were succulents and cacti; there were some gorgeous specimens.

The show’s theme this year is Springtime in Paris, and one vendor showing succulents had a sign that read something like, We thought they meant Paris, Texas. That amused me.

If your home kitchen garden is still under snow, please have a look around the Philly Flower Show. I’ve posted a few photos to give you a short respite from the cold.

pak choi at the philadelphia flower show

Thank goodness, someone at the Philadelphia Flower Show appreciates food! The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society had an exhibit of edible plants that included some gorgeous Chinese cabbage. Something the exhibit taught me: when you grow vegetables in your greenhouse intending to transport them to a flower show, don’t plant peas. Pea plants are very delicate, and the ones at the show were more badly damaged than any in my home kitchen garden after the worst storms of spring.

view from above the philadelphia flower show

Tulips and flowering trees lead up to base of an Eiffel Tower simulation. There wasn’t enough air space to handle the entire tower, but the structure is pretty convincing when you’re under it in the dim light of the convention hall.

 

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The berry snacks in this promotional giveaway include apple chips, strawberries, cherries, and blueberries… they’re delicious, nutritious, and low-calorie.

Welcome to Your Home Kitchen Garden. This blog is the sister site of Your Small Kitchen Garden. Your Home Kitchen Garden is about growing food for your own table… regardless of the size of your yard or garden.

Your Home Kitchen Garden is participating in the same promotional giveaway as Your Small Kitchen Garden. We are giving away three cartons of freeze-dried fruit snacks. Each carton contains 12 individually-wrapped servings of berry snacks, and 12 servings of tropical snacks. These were packaged by Sensible Foods under a different label, but otherwise they match the Sensible Foods snacks that often retail for $1.79 per pack.

You might win a carton of 24 snack packets if you do any (or all) of the following:

1. Score one entry by leaving a comment in response to this post. Multiple comments from the same visitor/email address qualify as a single entry. If you also do #2 (below), the comment you leave for that qualifies you for item 1.

2. Score two entries by linking to this post from your own blog or web site. Of course, I’d be happy to see more links, but I’ll count only one link as qualifying for the two entries. (After you link, come back and leave a comment linking to your web page so I can verify the link… otherwise, I won’t know you did it. If you do link from your web site, the comment you leave here to tell me about it qualifies as entry #1 (above). If that’s confusing, don’t worry about it.)

3. Tweet a link to this post that includes my twitter name @cityslipper (so I can keep track). I’d appreciate multiple tweets, but only one will count as an entry.

4. Visit my other two participating blogs, Your Small Kitchen Garden and Food Dryer Home where you’ll find a similar post… each of which can earn up to four more entries: One entry for a comment, two entries for a link, and one entry for a tweet.

While multiple entries may increase your chances of winning a carton, you cannot win more than one carton per email address or visitor.

This promotional giveaway ends on Friday, November 6, 2009. My random number generator will select winners on Saturday, November 7 and I’ll post announcements on all three participating web sites.

 

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Never mind the turtles in Aiken, South Carolina. There wasn’t ice on the ponds! I’ve bounced golf balls on ponds in central Pennsylvania. Every winter I develop an urge to travel south as an appetizer for the coming spring.

As you might learn from many web-based “tips” for beginning gardeners: you should put your home kitchen garden where it will get sunlight. I’ve yet to see the following tip in any of those beginning gardening articles: Make sure you put your gardener where he or she will get sun.

I’ve no objection to winter, but I enjoy it much more when I get at least a week of respite some time before the spring thaw. Every gardener in northern climes—and especially those who manage massive kitchen gardens—should try to head south for a break in January or February.

Winter Escape from a Home Kitchen Garden

Winter has suspended my own home kitchen garden, and it has slowed me down a bit. Most of that has to do with holidays; the rest of my family lives by the school calendar, and it was a particularly lengthy winter break this year. Thankfully, our break included escape from winter.

My in-laws have recently moved to Aiken, South Carolina, and on the Sunday after Christmas, we piled into the minivan and went for a visit. My mother-in-law, you might recall, introduced me to red pepper relish, one of the many fine foods she has fed me in the years since I met her daughter.

[!AdServe:GardenSense!]

Aiken is nearly 700 miles south of Lewisburg. That’s plenty far enough to put winter out of reach. Some days ran more than 60F degrees, and all days but one were sunny. Of course, I Googled attractions in Aiken, and picked up brochures. The nearest public garden was just a few blocks from my in-laws. So, on an unscheduled afternoon, we were off to Hopelands Gardens.

No Home Kitchen Garden

Click the photo above to view photos from Hopelands Gardens in Aiken, South Carolina.

Even in winter, the gardens were green and gorgeous. There were squirrels, ducks, and turtles about, and there were spring flowers in bloom. Many of the plants at Hopelands Gardens were unfamiliar to me; I suspect they’re not common in central Pennsylvania. And, clearly, no one planted the garden with a kitchen in mind. In fact, given the same space and resources, a kitchen gardener could provide fresh vegetables and fruit for at least a hundred families.

Hopelands Gardens is a tragic misappropriation of gardening space, but it made for a very pleasant afternoon. The garden walk helped to recharge me so I’ll hold up through the next two months of Pennsylvania’s winter. If you can find a way, get out of the winter for a week, and find a nice garden to visit. Now I’m anticipating some warm days in March, pruning and grafting in my apple trees.

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