Monday Miscellany: The Drunken Botanist, Organic Eggs, Top Perennials, Garden Eyesores, and Free Reading

Misc.pngLots of great discoveries around the web this week!

The Drunken Botanist

photo courtesy Amy StewartFirst up, Amy Stewart launched the website for her new book, The Drunken Botanist. I for one cannot WAIT for the book to drop, but since that’s still a year off, we shall have to console ourselves with the columns she’s been writing for the site. Elegant, botanically-inspired recipes and stories about – what else? Cocktails and spirits. Oh yeah, and plants! Why are you still here reading? Go on over to The Drunken Botanist and check out her new site.

Organic eggs

EsthertheChicken_thumb1-150x150Love eggs? Yeah, me too! Only, after having my own free-range birds, there’s no way I can go back to the insipid pale-yellow yolks of the usual supermarket eggs. My search for real, pastured eggs with bright orange yolks that shows the birds have been eating Real Food (you know, bugs and grass) has been a tiresome one, filled with pretenders (“free-range”, “happy hens”) that are only giving lip service to the idea of treating their hens with any manner of dignity. I’ve found two brands locally that pass the flavor test and are from actual pastured birds who get to squabble and catch flies and generally have a proper good time of things: Vital Farms and Alexandre Kids Farms. No, they’re not cheap ($6-8.50/ dozen), but I would much rather eat fewer good-quality eggs than support places with sad chickens and nutrient-deficient eggs. Anyway, if you want to know which brands are really doing good by their birds, visit The Organic Egg Scorecard.  For bonus points, check out the Organic Dairy Scorecard. I’ve been so relieved to finally KNOW which brands are worth paying for and which are best avoided if you have a commitment to eating fresh, healthy food from well-kept animals.

Top perennials

tassel fern northcoastgardeningErin of The Impatient Gardener, one of my favorite bloggers (seriously, she is so cute I just want to hug her!) asked me and two other bloggers to share our favorite perennial picks. Of course, whenever someone asks me a question like that, I choose to read it as selecting one of my many favorites, because it is completely impossible to choose just one. The funniest thing is that the other two bloggers she asked both chose the same plant! No, I’m not spoiling the surprise – you better just get on over there and read the blog post yourself.

Garden eyesores

garden-upMy latest over at Landscaping Network is about hiding garden eyesores. Every garden has them – those functional but ever-so-unattractive barbecues, air conditioning units, vents and propane tanks. I provide plant suggestions and pro tips for hiding these elements. Extra credit: Check out Garden Up! by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet. The book shares designer tips, extensive plant suggestions, and stealthy secrets for making the most of a small space (and that includes hiding unattractive elements).

Free reads

american gardener magLastly, I made a supercool discovery the other day on The American Gardener website. You can actually read full issues of their magazine online for free! While I am old-fashioned and still love the experience of a paper magazine, this is a great way of discovering whether you might like to subscribe. (I am going to!) Reading a digital mag is a little confusing at first, but just click around to figure out how to navigate – it’s not like you can screw anything up. Hint: the button on the very top left is the one to click to view all the issues available to read online, so once you’re done with the current version you can go back and catch up on what you missed. And if you missed the announcement a while back, Leaf Magazine is also available as a free digital read. It’s a great new magazine for anyone interested in landscape design, so definitely check it out if you haven’t already. Susan Cohan and Rochelle Greayer are the editors, so you know it’s worth your while. That’s it for this week. Have you read anything cool online? Let me know in the comments below!

New Garden Inspiration: Google Image Search by Image

Antirrhinum-Copy.jpgI’m guessing most of you are familiar with the simple Google image search. You type in what you want, you get to look at lots of pretty pictures. It’s great for figuring out what might look good next to that sleek orange grass you just bought, or narrowing down which variety of Alstroemeria you have. But the Google image search by image feature’s a new one. You can drag any image into the search engine, and Google will find images that are similar to it. Lots of possibilities for gardening. You could:
  • figure out which variety of flower you have
  • see which colors harmonize well with a flower or foliage color
  • find plants with the same color or texture for repeating a theme within a garden
  • find furniture or other accessories that match your garden
Of course, these uses are all theoretical. The image search would have to be effective for it to do any of those things, and it’s still a very new feature. So I thought I’d test it out for gardening purposes and see what it came up with.

Plant ID

First, let’s try to ID a plant. I cropped the following image into two parts, so I could isolate the individual plants I wanted to ID. From this: Spirea Neon Flash with Alstroemeria To this and this:
1 1 (2)
  When I searched for the spirea, it actually suggested a “best guess for this image”. Ding ding ding! It was Spirea ‘Neon Flash’. Google got it on the first try! It also, interestingly, showed me “matching images”; places where the full, un-cropped photo had appeared. Google wins. Next, I dropped the Alstroemeria image in. It was less successful, suggesting again that I perhaps have a Spirea ‘Neon Flash’ in the image. Well, yes Google, but there’s also a great hulking orange thing in there. What might that be? I added the word Alstroemeria to my search in the “describe image here” box, and it came up with eight visually similar images, two of which were – ding ding ding! ‘The Third Harmonic’. One more try. This is a snapdragon a client bought at Annie’s Annuals. I dropped it in, and got a fascinating array of images: IMG_7195          
images images (1)
images (3) images (2)
  None of them are a snapdragon, but you’ve got to admit, they are definitely visually similar. In fact, I found the array of colors it picked out of the snapdragon kind of inspiring. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to pick out some of the tones it found, but upon closer looking, the colors are certainly there. I tried clarifying by writing Antirrhinum, the botanical name for snapdragon. It didn’t find an exact match, but the results were now all snapdragons. But interestingly, when I began typing Antirrhinum, Google auto-suggested some possible search terms: Antirrhinum Well, OK Google, let’s see if your first suggestion is correct. I selected “Chantilly Peach” and found the exact match over at Annie’s Annuals. It took a little doing, but in the end, Google helped me get it right. The verdict for plant ID? If it’s a really common plant, or if you have some guesses as to what your plant is and just need a variety name, Google image search by image can help you out. If you’re totally clueless or it’s an unusual one, take the photo to the nursery for some ideas first.

Design inspiration:

Next, I wanted to get some ideas for what to plant with this Carex grass: carex (4)               My first search was just odd:
images (6) images (4)
6a00d8341bf67c53ef014e5f65a668970c-800wi holiday_reflection_01
  I mean, yeah, Carex testacea does go well with pizza and box turtles, but I’m not sure how to use that in my garden. I found the mosaic-like pattern the most inspiring. I adore that deep purple, and the cream and beige are good possibilities too. I tried narrowing down the search by typing, in turn, “ornamental grass”, “foliage”, “flowers”, and “plants”. Here are some of my results:
Leucodendron foliage red-flax-foliage-breath-heaven
flower3 anthriscus-ravenswing-hakonechloa-aureola-late-october-05
cobra-lily-Carnivorous-Plants native_texas_plants_milkweed_houston
  Great! Now I have a lot of potential ideas – Leucadendron, Phormium, breath of heaven, coneflower and yarrow hybrids, black Anthriscus, Japanese forest grass, pitcher plant, and milkweed. The verdict for design ideas? Lots of inspiration, if used with some simple text terms to get Google looking for plants.

Finding garden accessories:

Let’s try one last experiment. I want a purple hose. Like, this color purple: IMG_8997               The results? With the descriptive text “garden hose” added, so Google knew what I was after, I found one absolutely perfect hose. A very small image from Kerry Michaels over at about.com: purplehose200           The verdict on finding accessories? I think I got lucky on this one, since Google wanted to show me photos of purple flowers and green hoses, but I’m going to give it to them.

That was fun!

It was a productive set of experiments, and I anticipate using this search function often when I’m needing color inspiration. My only complaint is that with high-resolution images, it took some time to upload the photo, but my lackluster internet speed is hardly Google’s fault. Special thanks to Zogdo.com for tipping me off to this new search feature. And in case it’s not obvious, all of the search results featured are copyrighted to their respective owners. I show them only to give you an idea of how the search function works, but you can see them in their original contexts by repeating my searches.

Monday Miscellany: Garden Photography Edition

Misc.pngWith spring on the way, there’s nothing more important for me than actually capturing it all in photos. Not only for the pure enjoyment of looking back on it all, but also for practical reasons. How vexing is it when in August, you wish to plant a shrub in a bare spot, but can’t recall exactly where  the spring bulbs all were? You gotta document these things. I’ve discovered a number of wonderful articles and resources online for taking great garden photos, from choosing a good camera, to learning to use it and capturing that perfect shot. I’ll start with choosing a good pocket camera. Turner Photographics has a very helpful article that shares all the features in a digital camera and what they all do and mean. Since my camera is a bit on the large side and I’m always considering a smaller one to take on the go, this simple rundown of what to look for in a pocket camera was great. In another article, Mark Turner also shares how to use some of these settings, and his advice on which settings are most effective in which circumstances. Next, David Perry is one of my favorite garden bloggers, not only because his photography is so stellar, but because his writing is such a perfect blend of funny, thoughtful, insightful and sweet. I loved this poem about loss and letting go, and this post about men and their flowers. He recently spoke at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show about garden photography, and he was kind enough to share his handouts from that lecture with all of us. He has tips for making the most of your camera and using all the settings, as well as compositional tips for getting the shot you want. Go, read. Lastly, Studio G has an ongoing series about garden photography from Stacy Bass. Stacy shares how to compose, focus, and capture the best images possible from your garden. The articles have gorgeous photos that illustrate the concepts she teaches perfectly. Just out of curiosity, what are you all shooting your garden photos with? Is it a simple point and shoot, or a more advanced camera? Do you understand the settings or just click and hope? Let me know in the comments below. (I have a fancypants canon borrowed from a family member, which I use via the click and hope method!)

Monday Miscellany: Garden Video Edition

Misc.pngYouTube’s always been cool for us gardeners. Where else can you find gardening tutorials, product reviews, and adorable animal videos all in one place? This week, I’ve got a few favorites to share. Billy Goodnick, the Garden Wise Guy,  cheers us up with his adorable music video about getting rid of lawns. Yes, people, I have been singing “takin’ out the grass is a gas, oh can you feel it?” all. Flipping. Day. Thank you, Billy. I needed something to get the latest Ke$ha song out of my head. [Read more...]

Monday Miscellany: Pacific Northwest Plants, Homemade Deer Deterrent, Book Rec’s, and MORE Garden Cocktails

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Great Plant Picks

This week I’ve re-discovered a fantastic resource for Pacific Northwest Gardeners: Great Plant Picks. Plant info online can be hard to rely on – either nurseries are stretching the zones and touting a plant’s greatness so they can sell more of them, or home gardeners are giving anecdotal information that is useful, but may not hold true in other gardens. Great Plant Picks LogoIt’s a pleasure to have a strong resource  like this that has been selected by a committee of leading professionals. I haven’t found anything on the site that I disagree with, which is rare and delightful. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and looking for an outstanding and reliable plant, definitely check out these lists of Great Plant Picks. [Read more...]

Monday Miscellany: Twitter, Container Ideas, and Garden TV

MondayMiscellany.jpgThe garden blogging world seemed to take a short hiatus from posting cool stuff when spring first arrived, but now they’re back in force, with all kinds of new ideas, hot photos, and inspiration we can bring back to our own homes and gardens.

The last couple weeks have seen some great lists of gardening folks on Twitter:

@containergarden (Kerry Michaels) is the about.com guide to container gardening, and she posted a list of her favorite tweeps to follow here. @Michelle_at_FG (Michelle Gervais) is an editor at Fine Gardening Magazine, and she’s posted a list of her favorite gardening tweeters as well. [Read more...]

Gardening Podcasts: Do You Listen?

ListeningtoaGardeningPodcast.jpg Gardening is often a solitary hobby, only shared with friends when they come by for a tour or to take some of our extra zucchini off our hands. But every so often during those marathon weeding days, don’t you wish you had some goofy gardening buddies to keep you company? I mean, the dog’s cool and all, but he doesn’t crack jokes about rude-sounding botanical names, now does he? [Read more...]

Best of the Web: Focal Points, Garden Tours, and Houseplants for the Coming Zombie Apocalypse

springishere.jpgI’ve seen so many great articles this week that I had to share them with you all. I’ve been out in the garden, trying out some new tools, listening to a delightful new audiobook and enjoying (finally!) a bit of sunshine to garden in. While I’ve been outside, everyone else has been posting some great stuff…

A rare look into the private garden of two exceptional designers

Rebecca Sweet just posted a virtual garden tour of a really stunning garden: that of Freeland and Sabrina Tanner of Napa, CA. They are both professional landscape designers, and their garden has so many exciting touches – you can just FEEL who they are from looking at their garden. (I am so taken with the garden gate and the cypress arbor!) [Read more...]

Heather and Heath Fans: Free E-Books from the Heather Society!

RecommendedHeathers.jpgBesides the Timber Press book Gardening with Hardy Heathers by Wulff and Small, my favorite heather resources have been two slender booklets published by the International Heather Society and given to me by our local Heather guru Maria Krenek. The books are about how to care for and grow heathers successfully, and which heathers they recommend most. Until now, ordering those books required getting in touch with the Brits and figuring out exchange rates and all of that… Kind of complicated for such tiny booklets! Imagine my pleasure then to notice that they are now offering these booklets as free PDF downloads! You can read them online or save them to your computer to read or print out as you like. Enjoy!

Want to read more about heathers?

Heathers and heaths: the three kinds and how to use them Video on how to prune heaths and heathers Fall-blooming heathers for autumn color

Worthy of a Re-Read: Seven Favorite Articles From Around The Web

(Photo inspired by Luke of Callus and Chlorophyll, below!) Daffodil Planter, one of the funniest new writers on the garden blogging scene, tagged me to write a list of seven things about myself. Not wanting to hog the spotlight, I instead decided to shine the light on seven of the gardening articles I have read and re-read over the past year. [Read more...]