Preserving Summer’s Perfume: Pot-pourri.

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It’s getting near that time of year, alas, the beginnings of the end of summer. This is the season when food lovers and gardeners do our best to preserve summer’s bounty,  by making fragrant oils and tinctures of our favourite herbs, by canning jams and jellies and tomatoes and pickling cucumbers. And for those of us who love the perfumes of summer, preserving their lovely essence is as simple as making pot-pourri with herbs and flowers planted in our own gardens. Continue »



Bitter Melon: Ornamental Vine & Edible Fruit

Bitter melon vine, showing flower.

Bitter melon vine, showing flower.

I came across this beautiful vine covering a chain link fence recently. The fence itself was almost completely obscured, which is a good thing in my books. (Practical as they are, banishing chain link fences would be one of my first orders as Queen of the World)

The vine leaves themselves are exquisite, finely cut in a way that William Morris—the Arts & Craft designer who took his inspiration from nature—would have loved. The leaf veins, vines and tendrils add to the pleasing array of form. Not only is the vine good at beautifully camouflaging an ugly fence, but it has smallish yellow flowers with the sweetest jasmine fragrance—swoonworthy on a summer evening.

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D.O.P. is the Key to the Finest Italian Ingredients

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If you are looking for the finest ingredients for your next Mediterranean feast, you would do well to look for the little yellow label on many of the best foodstuffs imported from Italy. Continue »



Plant Profile: Gazania

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You’ve got a dry, hot spot that gets full sun all day. What to plant? A perfect choice for a sunny spot like this is the impossibly cheerful gazania. It’s a low-growing, drought-tolerant flowering annual that shines through in those challenging spots.

Many annuals—like the ever forgiving petunia and geranium—can be plunked anywhere and they’ll more or less cope. Shady spots make fewer flowers, but you’ll still have flowers. Not so with gazanias: they are picky and absolutely must have full sun to show their spectacular blooms. If they don’t have sun, they fold up their petals and sulk. (Yes, the petals actually close.) And why wouldn’t they? They’ve got pizzazz and they want to show it off.

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Have You Ever Heard of Cilantro Berries?

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I’ve often heard that people either love cilantro or loathe it. Those in the latter camp often describe its flavour as soapy, while those who love it rhapsodize about its floral, delicate citrus tones and bright aroma. I am definitely in the former category, an unabashed cilantro lover, and every summer my yard is decorated with this lovely annual herb reaching and stretching out of pots, most in varying degrees of maturity. Continue »