Who’s Got the Best Strawberries?

The Fruit Gardener's Bible

Congratulations to Fran Danner! You’re the winner of The Best Strawberry Giveaway. Your cautionary tale of eating strawberries that you should be saving for shortcake made me laugh. I’m sending you a copy of The Fruit Gardener’s Bible.

Thank you for all your comments. It was a joy to read each of them. There’s something comforting in the fact that so many of you can remember the taste of an exceptional strawberry from 20, 30 and even 60 years ago!

It’s so close to strawberry season I can almost taste the strawberry shortcake. I’m a little biased but I think the best strawberries are grown right here in Arkansas. Care to challenge me on that? Tell me about the best strawberries you’ve ever eaten for a change to win a copy of The Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry. If you’re interested in growing fruits of any type this is a handy reference to have around.

Strawberry Tip from The Fruit Gardener’s Bible

  • Everbearing and day neutral strawberries are the best choice for growing in hanging baskets.
  • Plant strawberries with the crown sitting at soil level. Too deep encourages disease; too high and they’ll dry out.
  • Alpine strawberries, Fragaria vesca, produce small, intensely flavorful berries all summer. They spread by seed and don’t produce runners. Great for partial shade.

Arley Hall Comes to Arkansas

After years of hospitality from the Ashbrook family at Arley Hall I’m excited to welcome Lord Michael Ashbrook to my home. I can only hope that it’s half as inspiring to him as my visits to Arley have been to me.

I stumbled upon Arley when I was a graduate student at the University of Manchester. While exploring the grounds I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman who turned out to be the 10th Viscount Desmond Ashbrook. He introduced me to his wife Elizabeth and we became fast friends. Over the years I’ve developed quite an attachment to the people and gardens at Arley.

So I’m excited to welcome Lord Ashbrook to Arkansas. He’ll be here to give a lecture about the estate and gardens that have been in the family for more than 500 years. If you are going to be in Little Rock that day I encourage you to plan to attend. Here are the details.

When: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Bring your lunch! Drinks will be provided.)

Where: Clinton School of Public Service, Sturgis Hall

How: It’s a free lecture, but you do need to reserve a seat. Email the school at publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or call 501-683-5239.

Lord Michael Ashbrook

The double herbaceous border is the crown jewel of the garden, planted in 1846.

Lady Elizabeth Asbrook and me walking down the Ilex Avenue. These evergreen oaks (Quercus ilex) were planted in the 1850s.

Arley Hall stands on the site of the original house built in 1469.

Say Yellow to Spring

Congratulations to Alice McMillan and Christine Czarnecki! Your comments are my picks for the book giveaway. Alice I loved all the ways your grandmother used yellow in the garden, especially the traces of yellow on the river rock. Christine, your blue and yellow toile dining rooms sounds so lovely. Hope your search for forsythia was a success!

There were so many amazing comments! Thank you to everyone for participating and for all the fab ideas for using yellow.

A recent visit with The Collected Tabletop author Kathryn Greeley inspired me to get reacquainted with my tableware collection. I’m hopelessly addicted to collecting cream ware, porcelain and transferware. An ardent collector herself, Kathryn showed me some clever ways to set a table with my pieces. With spring’s official arrival tomorrow I’m eager to use some of her tips to create a new tablescape to celebrate the season.

And since it is spring what better color to work with than yellow! Now I’ll admit, yellow isn’t the easiest color for me to work with so I went to designer Tobi Fairley for advice. She sent along this post with a few ideas for incorporating it into a tabletop.

Thanks so much to my good friend Allen for inviting me to be his guest today! Allen is always so kind to share his wisdom on my blog, and it’s such a treat to be here to share with you today!

Speaking of treats, this early summer weather has certainly brought us a few — like lush green landscapes and early blooms. Allen’s beautiful daffodils are always one of the highlights of an Arkansas spring and this year is no different.

The rolling hills of yellow have inspired me to share a few ideas for bringing this vibrant hue to a table setting indoors.
Here are a few of my favorite finds inspired by the daffodils at Moss Mountain Farm.

Aegean Dinner Plate /Yellow and White “Firenze” Fabric for a Tablecloth / White & Yellow Cake Stand /Lacquered Box / Linen Cocktail Napkins / Glass Decanter Set

Choose one of these or mix a few together to create a look that’s fresh as a daffodil!

Happy Decorating!

–Tobi

Soil Prep for Edibles

The first week of March definitely came in like a lamb this year with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. It was beautiful weather for working in the staff garden at the City Garden Home.

The soil needed some TLC after working hard all fall and winter. Vegetables are needy when it comes to soil. They require fertile, well draining ground for optimal growth. I like to refresh the soil after each growing season to replenish nutrients. Gardening is raised beds makes it easy. I take the existing soil and mix in well rotted manure and compost or humus. A good ratio is 2 parts soil to 1 part manure and 1 part compost.

As a final step Jobe’s Organics All Purpose fertilizer was added. This stuff is powerfully good at breaking down nutrients in the soil for plants to absorb.

This year is going to be the best yet for the staff garden.

 

The Chicks are Hanging Out

Spring is the season of adorable out at the farm. This week the chicks get first prize for cuteness. They are about 4 days old and starting to show some sass. Jersey Giant, Buff Orpington, Dorking, Wyandotte and New Hampshire are the breeds we’ve hatched.

These pictures beg for captions don’t you think? Well, the folks in the office sure thought so and spent a good deal of time emailing choice chick words; some with visual aids. Check out their suggestions on our Purina Chicken Chat Facebook page.