My Baltimore Oriole on one of his favorite snacks.
Although we still have chilly nights, the days feel silky, warm, and filled with bursting life. As I walk my garden paths, I am amazed by the brilliant oranges shining from so many pots and plots. And then, to add to the plethora of oranges, as I worked in my studio, this flaming orange Baltimore Oriole appeared on my new pages of paintings. It felt like the easiest drawing I've ever done, and it seemed to flow off my brush and onto the page. Why couldn't every illustration be this easy?
Won't you join me on a short walk through the gardens? We'll stop and look closely at some of the magical unfoldings. Spring is careening toward us.
The aloes provide welcome nectar for hummers, orioles, and the warblers who hover in front of the long, tubular blooms and sip.
The little kumquats, which are the size of my thumb, are all ripening, which makes my grandson so happy. He is a fruitaholic and loves picking fruit fresh from the garden.
I have a small crop of blood oranges, which are almost ripe. I love using these in salads. Their deep red flesh is always a surprise for my guests.
This small Washington navel is loaded this year.
Yum, it will be time for my Grandmother Lovejoy's California orange marmalade. Her recipe came from my Great Grandmother Abigail, who was born and lived in Pasadena, California.
The old-fashioned Calendulas are in full bloom now. I pick them every few days and dry the petals for my salad mix toppings, but I also love them fresh and scattered in rice dishes, custards, and on salads.
My potted and in-ground Meyer lemons are producing like crazy. Wow, these Meyers are the best. Zest them and put on a parchment covered cookie sheet; bake at 250 degrees until they're dry. They have a hint of vanilla taste to them and are great on desserts.
Ok, I know these are humble flowers, but I adore them. These nasturtium (called Lark's Heel in olden days for the spurs on the backside of the flower) are ubiquitous in coastal California, but I never take them for granted. I know it is old hat to use them in cooking, but I do it. I cut the petals and confetti them over salads, stuff the whole blossoms with my homemade cheese mixture, and plant them in pots for my beloved hummingbirds.
I am not a great photographer (where is Carol Duke of Flower Hill Farm when I need her? ) Here are the hummingbirds who bring so much life to my garden.
I photographed these three (one behind one on right) through my bedroom window. At dusk, there will sometimes be 5 hummingbirds feeding here. I keep two feeders filled and hanging close by so I can always watch them. They give me so much joy, and they love all my Salvias and the pots of colorful nasturtiums.
I mix fresh syrup for the hummingbirds every day. I scour the feeder with a bottle brush, and clean it with hot, hot water.
Many of you have asked what I feed them. It's simple. 1/4 cup of pure granulated sugar (NEVER use sugar substitutes or honey), and 1 cup of water. I mix the sugar and water and microwave it for about a minute and thirty seconds, then let the syrup cool thoroughly. I keep a jar of prepared syrup ever-ready in my fridge so I never run out.
Every morning when I feed the Scrub Jays and Mockingbirds, I stick a small fruit atop a birdhouse. The birds love the fruits and now someone (maybe a little woodpecker?) is working at opening a larger entry hole in the birdhouse.
I must return to my work table now to finish some illustrations of Pine Siskins. Before I leave though, I wanted to offer my readers a chance to win a wonderful and colorful gardening book, The Complete Kitchen Garden, written by my friend Ellen Ecker Ogden, who is the co-founder of The Cook's Garden. This special book, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, will give you a wheelbarrow load of ideas. The plans, plant lists, and 100 recipes are great. Good luck to you. Be sure to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing to be held on the last day of this month.
Next month, I'll begin my spring give-aways of goodies from Gardener's Supply Company. Check back in March thru May.
Here is a delicious little tidbit from one of the pages of this inspirational AND useful book.
What gardener could resist this???
Sending love across the miles,
P.S. I want to thank one of Indiana's BEST teachers for her thoughtfulness. Thank you Lori Hibbard for the antique bird book AND for the faerie doll for Sara May. It even looks like her, and she loves it. You're a peach!