May 31, 2010

Worlds Collide

Usually, explicit overlap between my floral and compost dual identities is limited to a vase of flowers in the ICP office or visiting with the great folks from Stray Cat Flower Farm when then come in to do business.

Not so for this little project, a low-tech evaluation of how well several new "compostable" packing products break down in our piles. The process seemed straight forward enough: contain questionable compostables in plastic mesh onion bags, bury bags in piles, wait a while, retrieve bags, and evaluate their contents to determine the rate of decomposition. The holdup came with that second to last part; turns out finding an onion bag in an industrial scale compost pile is a little like finding a needle in a haystack. So after loosing one bag to the piles and barely finding the rest, we decided the next batch should be tethered together and attached to an above-ground marker.

Amazingly, we didn't have any rope or wire in the shop that would hold up to the heat and microbial activity of the compost pile. So I hit up Stray Cat Flower Farm's "In Case of Emergency" ribbon box for some invincible synthetic stuff (above). That did the trick just perfectly, allowing me to focus my attention on the more importable task of documenting the decay of each bag's contents (below). Thanks, Stray Cats!

May 28, 2010

Sugar and flowers

Jen Smith of The Nomadic Oven is definitely one of those amazingly kind, talented, and generally awesome people I mentioned I am going to miss here in Vermont. To see one small example of how she transforms simple local ingredients (like these flowers I rounded up) into works of art, take a jaunt over to Design*Sponge! Thank you, Jen, for your fantastic craftsmanship! And thank you, Design*Sponge, for sharing it!

May 27, 2010

Goodbyes Begin

With our departure for California rapidly approaching, the reality of impending goodbyes has begun to set in.  But yesterday I realized that in addition to all the amazingly kind, talented, and just generally awesome people I have met here Vermont, there are also a few flowers that I will sorely miss. Probably these delicate white anemones that grow in the shade of our backyard will be one of the toughest to say goodbye to, so I took a break from packing to gather a simple vase full. The photos do not really do these cheerful, bobbing beauties justice; perhaps I will try again once more before leaving.

May 21, 2010

Baby Bok Choy's Back

Baby bok choy made it's arrival back in Vermont, so we celebrated by eating some in a stir fry of marinated tofu, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, garlic, and carrots. I didn't get a portrait of the finished dish, but I think you can see where things were heading . . .

May 20, 2010

Once More, With Feeling

Some of you may remember me promising never to mention these amaryllis again, but really I never did such a thing (you just wished I had). In any case, this post will be their last hurrah. I've ruthlessly harvested every remaining bloom, and will be passing the bulbs on to friends in preparation for the big move next month (!!!).

May 19, 2010

Black Gold Treasures

Before ICP's black gold is loaded into the trucks of eager customers, it is sent through a trommel screener to remove any large particles that may have survived the 9 month curing period intact. What's left is called the "overs".
Before the overs can be trucked off site, they must be re-screened.  The smaller particles that fall through the screen are christened with the technical sounding name "2 inch minus" and are used as clean fill. The new overs, the really big particles, are simply identified as "the gnarly stuff". And they get some special attention.
Several individuals line up on a conveyor belt which catches the gnarly stuff as it falls from the trommel. As material passes, we "pick" any trash from the rocks, branches, and other non-compostable organic debris. Common items include plastic straws and cutlery (which come in with our cafeteria foodwaste), horseshoes (which come in with our manure), and plastic toys (which presumably come in with our yardwaste). We keep the horseshoes (they're lucky), send the trash to a landfill, and truck the big rocks and organic matter off site, with a permit, to be used in various construction projects.
Some people REALLY hate picking at ICP. But (and maybe this is because I do it so infrequently, or maybe because it makes me feel a little like garbage archeologist William Rathje) I kind of enjoy it.  What can I say? I find trash rather fascinating. Hope you enjoyed the treasures, too!

May 18, 2010

Green Mountain Stephanotis

Grandma June, what I am about to say may shock and appall you. Last week, by my own free will, I wired 100 individual Solomon's seal blossoms, stephanotis style. Why? Sometimes my hands get itchy to do some really fine work, and the tubular, waxy, little flowers of this indigenous beauty (below) were just too perfect to pass up.
 After preparing 100 individual blossoms (the old-school wire and paraffin tape way, without stephanotis picks) I assembled them in a spiraled dome (below).
Then I added a cuff of wild ginger leaves from the garden, and be-ribboned the "stems" (below).
The finished nosegay held up beautifully, covered in the refrigerator and without water, for five days.

May 17, 2010

Work and Play

It's been a fun filled weekend of work (on Saturday) and play (yesterday we finally made it up to gorgeous, chic and friendly Montreal!). So today, just a few shots including lily of the valley, arbor vitae, variegated hosta, and white lilac.

May 15, 2010

Coffee Beans and Violets

Our coffee bean grinder found its mate in this little bunch of garden violets. Don't they make a handsome couple?

May 12, 2010

One Man's Weed . . .

It's now the height of lily of the valley season here in Vermont and the delicate looking little powerhouses are letting loose all over town in the most unfavorable of places. In fact, I am learning that they are so good at invading unclaimed (or claimed) corners of soil that many gardeners here consider this romantic bridal classic to be the most loathsome of tenacious weeds.  Some are not even aware of their amazing scent (!!!).

I am shocked, but not surprised. I grew up feeling the same way about oleanders- California's indestructible highway plant of choice- and never understanding how my grandma (who grew up in Alaska) could love them so. It is only after spending several years away from home that I am acquiring a fresh eye (and perhaps some nostalgia) for their sunny beauty.

Anyways, back to the lilies. Here they are with variegated hosta, white lilac, and a bit of that wild grape vine.

Another interesting and important note: both oleander and lily of the valley are poisonous. Please use caution!

May 11, 2010

Lilac Bounty

Even after this weekend's event, there was still lilac to be had! I guess that is the plus side of these teeming green seasons. I added some pink and white dicentra for 100% over-the-top girlishness . I wish I had included something to show the scale. . . it's pretty huge!

May 10, 2010

R&J Got Married . . .

 . . . ten years ago at a quiet courthouse ceremony in San Francisco. For their anniversary, they decided to throw a party complete with family, friends, food, and flowers. The Monkey Flower Group provided the last of these.

My favorite way to decide what materials to use in my designs is to see what nature offers up and go from there. This way the flowers are truly representative of the beauty of the day, rather than just an arbitrary or contrived decoration. R&J agreed to using exclusively local materials (amazingly, considering they are farmers and know what havoc spring weather can wreck on plants), and nature rewarded us with buckets and buckets of early lilac (above).
To decorate the venue's entrance, I rigged up these hanging vases of wild grape vine and canning jars using a power drill and an adaptation of the technique described in my May Day basket project. Here they are before installation empty (above left) and full (above right). The resulting swags looked a little like old grapevines loaded with lilac grape bunches (below).
Now for me, the "problem" with lilac is that whenever I have access to it, it is all I want to use. I indulged in single variety romantic abundance for the entrance decorations, but for the remainder of the arrangements I wanted something a little more mature and modern feeling. Bold groupings of chocolate mint and deep purple mystery foliage from my garden provided depth and interest without making things too flowery (below).
For their guests, R&J requested small, simple boutonnieres. I designed them using an assortment of different textures (below).
R&J's more elaborate boutonniere and hair ornament incorporated all the textures together (below).
 And for the kids, there were botanical wands and masks (below).
Happy anniversary, R&J!