Image preview from Tomorrow's Garden

I'm happy to share some images from my upcoming book, which is coming out February 15th. I'm really happy with the way the design came together and can't wait to hold the actual book in my hands. It's been a long road to publication!

My final book cover

It really is a thrill to see my first book cover for sale online. It's available at Barnes and NobleAmazon, Borders and indiebound. Visit my author's page here.

Bulb order

I suffer from an addiction that reaches a peak each year when it's time to place my fall bulb order. Someday you might even see me on one of those distressing intervention or rehab shows on television where I will grumpily submit to having my room searched for catalogs from Brent and Becky or Van Engelen and bonemeal instead of booze or drugs.

This year, in a salute to the economy, I scaled back a little. But still, somehow hundreds of eager little bulbs arrived last week to be planted. So on an overcast day last weekend, I added hundreds of them to the front lawn upstate. With the help of Chad and our friend Clay we were able to do the job in just a couple of hours. I already have a large number of daffodils planted from previous years, so this time I decided to experiment more with the smaller iris and fritillaries that did so well  in the lawn last spring (above photos and blog post here.) I also went back to anemones, crocus and the native camassias for another try, hoping that they will naturalize more successfully.

Here's my easy technique for planting right in the turf:

•Plant the bulbs in groups by digging fairly large half-moon slices out of the turf and pulling back the sod layer like a piece of carpet. I have a rough country lawn of mixed grasses and weeds so I don't too much worry about disturbing the appearance of it in the fall.

•Each hole gets a single variety or a multi-tiered arrangement of large and small bulbs that will bloom over a period of six weeks or so. Follow the listed planting depth instructions for each type.

•Add some bulb food. Refill the hole water them, lightly tamping down the “lid” of sod with your foot.

•It’s a hard autumn day’s work to get all the planting done but so incredibly worth it in the spring when the first shoots start to come out of the ground, lifting bits of dead leaves on the stalks as the grow. Over time, the bulbs will naturalize if they are happy and get enough sun, but I can’t help but order more each year.

200 Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’
100 Camassia quamash
200 Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’
100 Fritillaria assyriaca

200 Fritillaria meleagris
10 Fritillaria pallidiflora
25 Fritillaria pontica
200 Galanthus elwesii

50 Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’
50 Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’
50 Leucojum aestivum
250 Narcissus—All Pink Mixture
(small bulb photos from

I have a new job

I am happy to announce that I will start my new job as Gardening Editorial Director at Martha Stewart Living November 1st. I am very excited to be working with the many talented people there including the members of the garden department, Tony Bielaczyc and Stacey Hirvela. I will keep blogging here but also look for my posts on the Martha Stewart website.

Purple Triumph

Finally, I got a measurable harvest from my tiny, shady, deer-ridden little vegetable patch. This year's success came from the Italian heirloom pole bean aptly named 'Trionfo Violetto' that I bought from Silver Heights Nursery. Not only does this variety sport beautiful lilac flowers and dark purple pods, it is absolutely delicious. After a few weeks away, some of the beans had grown too large and stringy to eat so I shelled those and added them to the younger ones to make a bean salad with toasted almonds (my recipe below, which we had with grilled trout). I highly recommend this prolific bean. My only regret is that the purple pods don't hold their unusual dusky violet color once they're cooked.

Green Bean Salad with Roasted Almonds

1 lb green beans (approx)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup unsalted raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Lemon zest from one lemon

Wash and trim tops from the green beans and set aside. Shell any pods that are old or tough and enjoy the tender beans inside. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic, then the almonds and cook until the almonds brown. Don't let the garlic get too dark and remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest.

Once the saucepan water is boiling, blanch the green beans by cooking them for less than 5 minutes. Once they are bright green but still crunchy, drain them and rinse them quickly with cold tap water, drain again.

Toss the beans with the almonds, chopped herbs and serve warm or at room temperature.

"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees."

"I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues."

This 1971 book by Dr. Seuss and its 1972 television special had a big effect on me as a child. This is pure environmentalism propaganda and I love it. The music is completely dated but the strong message of big business greed, capitalism and the dangers of unchecked consumerism is just as powerful today. This is especially true in light of recent events in the Gulf of Mexico where our dependence on thneeds has polluted a beautiful eco-system with gluppity-glup and schloppity-schlop on a Seussian scale.

I hear that there is a new version of the story coming out in 2012 (in 3D no less). In the meantime, I recommend watching this program with the kids or just by yourself over cereal in the morning—you'll feel like an idealistic child of seven again.

Hunting for porcini and wildflowers near Aspen

While on a visit to see my Dad and stepmother in Aspen the other week, Chad and I had a free morning to take a hike. On our previous visits, we enjoyed Maroon Bells and Crater Lake so this time we wanted to try something new. My stepmother and her family have an intimate knowledge of the area hiking trails since they have been in Aspen for decades. They suggested Savage Lakes Trail, which is at the end of a long but incredibly beautiful drive up to a remote spot past the Ruedi Reservoir near Basalt. 

A salesman at the local sporting goods store had told us that we might find porcini mushrooms along those trails since it has been such a wet summer. (Most locals seem to use the botanical name Boletus instead of porcini or the Anglo-French cèpes.) We never made it up to the 11,000-foot summit of the steep trail and Savage Lake, but instead we got happily sidetracked by a forest full of wild mushrooms and wildflowers of all kinds. It was definitely much more about the journey than the destination that memorable day.

Even though this was our first time, Chad turned out to have a hidden talent as a mushroom hound and could spot the fat little chestnut-brown piglets at 15 paces. I would like to say that his talent comes from superior eyesight or powers of concentration, but I suspect it is his love of getting expensive stuff for free that made him so good at the job. "This is about $120 dollars worth of mushrooms!" he would exclaim while joyfully shaking his plastic grocery bag for emphasis. I was always a few steps behind in the hunt and usually got hung up photographing some other beautiful—but perhaps deadly—fungus like the ones above right. We were careful not take anything that we weren't absolutely sure of. We ended up with a basket full of porcini that we took home and carefully identified before sautéing them for a pasta dinner for the folks and my sister. The mushrooms were delicious.

Being so high up around 10,000 feet, we saw all the wildflowers that had already bloomed down in town, plus many more. There were pale blue columbines, mertensia (M. lanceolata) and a mysterious blackish flower I had never seen before called star gentian (Swertia perennis).

The orchid-like elephant's head (Pedicularis groenlandica) is an alpine wildflower that grows beside mountain streams.

Chad, with his bag of precious boletus, is flanked by a wild monkshood (Aconitum columbianum) on the left and a white cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) on the right.

All sorts of composite flowers were blooming among the tall trees. I think the one on the left might be an arnica and the one on the right might be a senecio. I am trying to get to know my Rocky Mountain flora better with each trip.

These lovely pale lilac flowers looked like asters, but I wasn't able to identify them in any of my books.

The crepe-y petals of this hardy geranium (Geranium richardsonii) look too delicate for its remote and rocky setting but the forest was full of them.

Summer nights

Recently we made pizza for 25 people in our outdoor stone fireplace at the lake house. It went really well—but we couldn't have done it without our friend James who is a fire-master. Over the past several years, he has developed the pizza dough recipe and perfected our outdoor cooking technique, which consists of a ceramic kiln shelf and small fire bricks placed between the hottest part of a very hot wood fire and the pie to keep the edges from singeing.

We use big metal pizza paddles to take the pizzas on and off the coals in a big river stone fireplace that looks to be from the same vintage as our 1930s house. The pies are perfectly cooked and crispy in just a couple of minutes. We made red-sauce pizzas with sausage, mushrooms and vegetables. My favorite was an herb pie with handfuls of rosemary, thyme, chives, tarragon, mint and basil from the garden with olive oil, salt and a few dollops of ricotta.

I have been experimenting with hand-holding the camera at night without a tripod—so please excuse the blurriness (which I like).

The lake cabin at night, above, and the screened front porch, below

August full moon, Sullivan County

Burchfield at the Whitney

If you are in New York City for the next several months, don't miss the show at the Whitney Museum about one of my favorite painters, the mystical loner Charles Burchfield (1893-1967). I wrote about him on this blog a year ago but didn't realize there would be an exhibition coming up. I couldn't be more pleased to go see his work in person. See that post here. The show ends October 17th. 

Read the NYTimes review here.

The Hissing of Summer Lawns Playlist

Photograph by Bill Owens
"I bought the lawn in six-foot rolls. It's easy to handle.
I prepared the ground and my wife and son helped roll out the grass.
In one day you have a front yard."

The Hissing of Summer Lawns by Joni Mitchell

He bought her a diamond for her throat
He put her in a ranch house on a hill
She could see the valley barbecues
From her window sill
See the blue pools in the squinting sun
Hear the hissing of summer lawns

He put up a barbed wire fence
To keep out the unknown
And on every metal thorn
Just a little blood of his own
She patrols that fence of his
To a latin drum
And the hissing of summer lawns
Wonder makes it easy
With a joyful mask
Tube's gone, darkness, darkness, darkness
No color no contrast

A diamond dog
Carrying a cup and a cane
Looking through a double glass
Looking at too much pride and too much shame
There's a black fly buzzing
There's a heat wave burning in her master's voice
Hissing summer lawns

He gave her his darkness to regret
And good reason to quit him
He gave her a roomful of Chippendale
That nobody sits in
Still she stays with a love of some kind
It's the lady's choice
The hissing of summer lawns

Weekend flowers

Actea racemosa. I liked the name better when it was known as Cimicifuga racemosa. This native of the woodlands of the eastern U.S. is also known as black cohosh, bugbane, black snakeroot or fairy candle and has a long history as a medicinal plant.

There are two wondeful things about these plants in my upstate garden: they take care of themselves for weeks at a time while I'm not there AND the deer don't eat them. The art director in me loves photographing them against the walls of our dark house.

 'Bowles Black' viola

 'Pam's Choice' foxglove

 Unknown foxglove variety

Unknown foxglove variety

Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana)