Garden Power

Beet Power

Happy New Year! Take power from the mighty beet, symbol of the new agrarian world order.

We dug beets from our garden for both Christmas dinner and a treat to share at a New Year’s party last night. The recipe combines fresh beets, pineapple, a bit of chopped onion and celery with wine vinegar and olive oil. Stir together and chill overnight for a tasty salad. At last night’s party some of us discussed whether the neighborhood-grown beets balanced the Hawaiian pineapple for locavore status. What do you think?

Dawn ViburnumThis being the mild Pacific Northwest we gardeners sometimes joke that spring begins on New Year’s Day. We try to have something blooming in our garden year-around and today is no exception. What’s blooming in your garden today?

Our Dawn Viburnum, Viburnum bodnatense, has been blooming since about Thanksgiving and will continue for at least another month. I like the pale pink hue of the blossoms. When the weather turns really cold, like under 20°F then the blossoms freeze and turn black. When it warms up again then fresh buds open and we’re back in the pink. It’s fragrant, but not overpowering.

Today is very windy so the fragrance flew up the street pretty fast, but I stuck my nose in the blossoms to enjoy the scent.

Hellebore budWe’ve got a nice patch of Hellebores growing under the Dawn Viburnum. They haven’t started blooming yet, but the flower buds are swelling. Depending on how warm January turns out to be, they could be starting to open before the month is over.

We have three big clumps of these dark red hybrids, an unnamed cultivar of Helleborus x hybridus that we picked up from a plant sale down in Seattle a few years ago as a single stem. They’re obviously happy in our fairly sunny front bed and may need to be divided again this year or next.

Most of the parentage of these hybrid Hellebores is Helleborus orientalis, the Lenten Rose. The common name reflects their habit of being in bloom for Lent. The flowers look a bit like single roses, but they’re actually members of the Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family.

Corsican Hellebore foliageOver on the other side of our front yard garden, nestled close by the Korean Fir that serves as our Christmas tree, is a big clump of Corsican Hellebores, Helleborus argutifolius.

These are big plants with stout foliage that stays strong and green all winter long. I really like the leathery foliage with its spiky edges which almost looks otherworldly. Before long these flower buds will be opening, revealing soft pale green blossoms that will look good for several months in our garden.

Pretty much any kind of Hellebore is happy growing in Northwest gardens. We don’t have as many as some gardeners, just enough to enjoy having a few around. I’ve known gardeners to get obsessed over every sort of coloration, petal doubling, picotee edges and other details. There are worse obsessions.

Sherwood's Early Red HeatherWe have several varieties of Heather scattered around our garden. This one I think is ‘Sherwood’s Early Red.’ Like many other plants we started with just a little start years ago and have divided it as it grew. Now we have it several places in the garden and have shared pieces with Natalie’s mother for her garden, too.

The heather has just started blooming, but like many of the other winter-blooming flowers it has a very long season and will be in bloom until March if not later. On warmer and less windy days the bees will find the blossoms.

All of these photos today were made with my little Canon S70 pocket camera. For most of them I used the close-up mode, setting the lens at its widest zoom and moving in very close. I’ve found that extreme close-ups work a lot better that way than zooming in and trying to focus close. The camera just won’t do it. Focusing on the Viburnum blossoms was a big challenge as the camera wanted to make the house in the background sharp and ignore the flowers. I had to try several times to get what I wanted. I held onto the stem the flowers were on so that they didn’t blow around while trying to focus. The light is from the very soft gray sky, using the cloudy white balance setting. There’s been a little processing of the raw files in Lightroom to finish them.

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