Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amsterdam Flower Market

Our best fare on our way back from Norway involved a 24-hour layover in Amsterdam. Since what we saved would be more than the hotel room, we thought, why not? We'd get to see one more Western European city (a little of it, anyway), and break up our marathon flight.

Amsterdam is charming. It's built over canals, like Venice (one of its nicknames is "Venice of the North"--do you think they call Venice "Amsterdam of the South"?), but the canals are more narrow. Our hotel was near the Singel canal, which is the oldest canal in the city.

Singel canal

Amsterdam is a medieval city, but most of the buildings in the part of town we stayed in date from the 16th and 17th centuries. It's a small city, but heavily populated--I took most of these pictures in the morning, before the crowds came out onto the streets.

On the Singel canal

Still, someone was up--I've tagged this next one "Got Milk?"

Got milk?

But the coolest thing about the Singel canal--to me, anyway--was that it leads to the Amsterdam Flower Market, which is several blocks long and built out over the canal. This is the back side, from across the canal--with the front side painted on.

Back of Flower Market close

Notice the tops of the tall buildings (probably former warehouses)--I'll talk more about those in a minute.

Back of Flower Market

The flower market was gardener's paradise--cut flowers, potted flowers, bulbs, seeds--it was hard to be satisfied with pictures. Here's one of my favorites, black dahlias:

Black Dahlia

Black Dahlia

Some gorgeous sunflowers:


Lilies, lilies, lilies:


Crocosmia and chocolate cosmos:

Crocosmia and Chocolate cosmos

I very carefully took a picture of the bulb package next to this plant--but I didn't get the species name in the frame, so I don't know what it is! I assume it's some kind of lily--the cultivar is called "Gloriosa Rothschildiana":

Gloriosa Rothschildiana

Carniverous plants were very popular, especially pitcher plants:

Pitcher Plant

And bulbs everywhere:

More Bulbs

There are very strict regulations about which bulbs may be brought back into the U.S., and they're not the most interesting ones. And that's all I have to say about that.


We did see a few sites beyond the flower market. Here's one of those buildings I mentioned earlier--see the decorative gismo at the top?

An apartment with crane

Here's a close-up. It's a little crane--when these were warehouses (they seem to be apartments now), barges would come down the canals, moor next to the building, and the cranes would haul the goods up into the warehouse. Salix could be a tour guide.


We saw other sites--and sights! This is a statue of Multatuli, pen name of Eduard Dekker, a famous satirist and critic of Dutch colonialism in the East Indies (Indonesia):


This gorgeous building is now a shopping mall:

Shopping mall

This is the Westerkirk, where Rembrandt is reputedly buried:


We didn't see nearly as much of the city as we would have liked, because we were there for only an afternoon and evening and because I spent so much time in the Flower Market. We missed some of the things for which the city is famous, like Anne Frank's house and the Van Gogh museum. But we did get some sense that Amsterdam is a bit of a party town (the beer for two euro was SUCH a deal after the $12 beers in Norway!):

You are sober, we can help

We couldn't figure out what this building was--we think apartments--maybe the tenants frequent the coffee shops? (more on those in a minute)


Salix at the Torture Museum (actually, the real torture museum for him was probably the third hour in the Flower Market--but he's got quite a high threshold, Salix does)--

Salix at the torture museum

Anyway, to make up for all the time spent smelling the flowers, I took him to the famous red light district--BEFORE the red lights came on:

Red light district

Of course, Amsterdam is also famous for its coffeeshops, where you can in fact get coffee (they can't sell alcohol in them anymore). But that's not the main attraction (and the cafes are a, umm, less edgy place to get your cappucino). I loved the names of the coffeehouses, like Amnesia. Or Grey Area. Or this one, the Grasshopper:

Grasshopper coffeeshop

Or "Homegrown Fantasy":

Homegrown Fantasy coffeeshop

And just in case you think the "homegrown" might be false advertising, back to the Flower Market for a moment:

Cannabis Seed!

The "Starter Kit" comes with a "User Manual" (hmm)--and yes, the label in this next shot does say "Canned Cannabis."

So Amsterdam has a whole other kind of flower power going on.
It's taken me a month to post a day's worth of photographs--in part because I'm spending every spare, precious, cool early fall moment in the garden. My next post won't be so exotic (or probably interesting)--but back to my back yard for awhile. Still, Europe is wonderful and I can't wait to get back!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bergen, Norway: The Leprosy Museum and The Botanical Garden

It's a little embarassing that almost a month later, I'm still finishing up the postings on our Norway trip. And I think the pictures in this posting are going to look more familiar than those in my earlier postings. The reason: my favorite part of my trip to Norway was the plants, many of which grow here. I spent the most time in the back yard of the Leprosy Museum and the back yard of the Natural History Museum. That's a future posting--other people's backyards. I do get into them occasionally, not always by invitation (I'd love to get into some of yours . . .).

Ok, so the Leprosy Museum is quite famous--it's the former site of St. Jorgens Hospital, which was dedicated to the treatment and eradication of leprosy in Norway during the 19th century. Leprosy is also known as Hansen's Disease, named for the Norwegian, Armauer Hansen, who discovered the leprosy bacillus. The museum itself is fascinating and occasionally depressing--some of the patients' incredibly cramped quarters have been left as they were, and the medical instruments and depictions of the patients on display are a little frightening. The part of the museum I liked best? The medicinal garden in the back.

The herb garden behind the Lepramuseet

The herbs--more accurately, the medicinal plants--grew in slightly raised beds set between a small lawn and a walkway. The plants fell over the edges of the bed, providing lots of fragrance as I brushed by them.

Herb garden at the Leprosy Museum

The plants weren't marked, which was both frustrating and a little humbling. I kept thinking, "I know what this is!" But then I couldn't remember . . . (in some cases, still can't).

Of course I recognize coneflower, though I've started to think of it as ornamental, forgetting that it's Echinacea, the root of which was traditionally used as an antibiotic. I don't think I'm telling anyone anything they don't already know, but Echinacea root is sold in capsule form as a very popular means of boosting one's immune system. (The voles in my garden have been going after my coneflowers--maybe they're gearing up for flu season?)


Another wonder herb--allium. This is one of those things that I'll probably be embarrassed by--but I'm not sure exactly what this is. I've read that onions and garlic are among the most beneficial foods we can eat. Almost everything I cook starts with garlic, onion, and red pepper (ok, so maybe not brownies). But I don't grow garlic or onions--this is some kind of garlic, right?

Cool allium

And this next one--I'm pretty sure it's some kind of Eupatorium--I guess they might still be growing Boneset for historical color. There was no flower, so it's pretty hard to identify.

What is this tall herb?

And I loved this flower! The Curmudgeon says it's a Saponaria. I've grown the kind called "Bouncing Bet," which is taller and pinker. This one is gorgeous--I think it might have been a volunteer in their tansy bed.

I love this little flower

And could this be Gunnera? At first I thought Norway must be too cold, but then Bergen has a milder climate than we do in Eastern Virginia. I've never heard that Gunnera has a medicinal use, but this was the more ornamental edge of the garden--or, just as likely, I don't what the medicinal use is . . .


From the Leprosy Museum, I headed over to the Botanical Gardens--they're behind the Natural History Museum at the University of Bergen. I was there on an unusually sunny day--and like students in Virginia, the students in Bergen were making the most of it.

The Botanical Garden at the University of Bergen

The gardens had a huge collection of Primula, a number of which I'd seen in other gardens. This long border is mostly Primula and ferns.

Primula bed, Botanical Gardens, University of Bergen

This one is Primula vialli . . .

Primula vialli

I couldn't find the tag for the next one. I think it might be Primula sikkimensis--I love the flower:

Another primula--sikkimensis?

This next one is embarassing. I thought I'd included the tag in the frame, but I missed half of it (so I can see c-a-p, maybe -i?)--I haven't been able to find it in my books--the flowers look a little bit like an allium, though the leaves are pretty clearly Primula.

Primula cap . . .

This flower was in a bed of Rudbeckia, and again I couldn't find the label. I love it--is it possible it's Inula?

I think this is inula
This was another flower I loved but couldn't find a tag for--my friend Jackaranda thinks it might be Impatiens balsamina.

Another flower I loved but can't ID
I did run into another tourist in the garden, but he didn't know the names of anything:
Another tourist admiring the garden

I was happy to see that, like me, the Botanical Gardeners occasionally missed a spot (or maybe they just want some things to go to seed?)--I loved these yellow flowers on the ornamental kale (it's kale, right?--I might actually get some if the flowers look like these).

Ornamental cabbage gone to flower

And the sign says this next plant is a cherry belle radish!

The tag says this is a cherry belle radish

I have grown cherry belles, but I never let them go--will they really get this big?

No longer cherry or belle close up

Anyway, the Botanical Gardens were lovely. These are very familiar plants--two of my favorite annuals, marigold and heliotrope--the arrangement falls under the category "why didn't I think of this?"

Heliotrope and marigolds

So I came away from my trip with some ideas for my garden next year--and I have been working in it (one reason, in this cooler weather, that I haven't been posting very regularly). I'll be back to my own flowers soon--after one more post on Europe--on Amsterdam's flower market--coming soon. Adjo, for now.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Vegetable Garden" Update, September 2008

I had to put it in quotation--I don't have a vegetable garden--just some pots on the deck, a few fruit trees, and a lot of herbs. But Tina and Skeeter at In the Garden have suggested that we post on our edibles on the 20th of each month, and I do have a few. So here's my update--and maybe I'll spend my down-time this winter figuring out how to have vegetable garden (for human consumption, I mean) in deer country.

So, what's ready for harvesting? The cow horn peppers (I've also heard them called bull horn, not sure how to tell the gender!)--these weathered the drought and our absences this summer pretty well--

cowhorn pepper plant

The jalapenos are still putting forth peppers, but aren't really photo-worthy right now (still, straggly or not, they are SO hot--don't know if it's the breeding, the weather, or what, but they're hotter than is typical and I love 'em).

The herbs are blooming--I usually let them flower (but heed Tina's advice if you have only a few plants), which means mine are kind of spindly this time of year. Right now, I'm more interested in their forming seedheads and coming back next year--I've dried oregano, sage, and thyme, and I'll buy a few more young basil plants to nurture (and pluck) over the winter (I don't like dried basil or mint--though pesto is fabulous and freezes well).

The rosemary is generally evergreen, unless the winter is brutal (Virginia-wise, I mean--we get
spoiled here in 7b). I'd like to think that Ranunculus is smelling the herbs, but I'm pretty sure he's chasing a lizard (no worries--he never catches anything).

Rosemary and Ranunculus

My lemon verbena is thriving--it's almost a shrub--it dies back completely in the winter, and I sometimes foget about it under the marjoram until it pops up with a vengance in May.

Lemon verbena

And the thyme--well, it's everywhere. This used to be an herb border in the front--it's now a thyme lawn. There are two kinds in this picture--culinary (Thymus vulgaris) in the bottom left-hand corner, and ornamental Mother-of-thyme spreading across the yard. We'll leave the thyme lawn (and hope it spreads even farther), but I'm mining the thyme to start elsewhere.

Thyme yard

There are other herbs I love that I've never grown successfully: tarragon, borage, cilantro--and some that haven't thrived: dill, fennel, parsley. I'm wondering if it's a climate issue or operator error--subject for future post.

Here's an annual visitor to the old vegetable gardens in the front--no, not Ranunculus. I just brought him in to provide background for a plant you couldn't see otherwise.

Ranunculus highlights asparagus

(But note how he embraces his work--he knows he looks best in 3/4-profile. He only wishes he'd included the no-nudity clause in his contract--can I say that without putting that little "Rated PG" on my posting?). Anyway, look down by his left forepaw--

Ranunculus highlights asparagus crop

That little fernlike plant against his leg is asparagus. It's been here since we moved in--it comes back in these slender stalks every year, never getting quite big enough to harvest. If we ever do get a vegetable bed going, I'll have a pretty resilient starter (well, in a year or two . . .)

Our figs are still producing. We have two trees--a Celeste and a brown turkey. In early August, the Celeste was incredible--we were having fig appetizers, fig desserts, fig chutneys, and tossing the overripe ones under the bird feeder. We're harvesting from both trees at a much more reasonable pace, now--and a lot of the green ones probably won't ripen completely. This is ripe fruit on the brown turkey fig:

Brown turkey fig

This tree has grown much faster--and wider--than we expected. It's only a couple of years old, but it's already over the (first story) roof--Jackaranda and the Curmudgeon are going to help me prune it next spring.

Big fig

The Celeste fig is smaller and the fruit ripens earlier. I can't actually tell the difference in the taste of the fruit, but the tree is much more polite--it's about 8 feet high and much more contained. There are still scores of figs on the tree, but most are green and I don't think many will ripen--we're taking off two or three a day, as opposed to 20-30 earlier. (That little orange spot, by the way, is a daddy-long-legs on guard duty).

Celeste fig close up

We have other fruit trees as well. Salix started an orchard last year, so the trees are very young--but he did get a small harvest, most of which has already disappeared into Salix. But here's the last pear. I'd like to say we saved it for today, but in fact I think it just looks too weird to eat.

Salix's last pear
And finally, another surprise right off the back deck. Obviously, something thought this was tasty--I spent an anxious afternoon hoping it wasn't Ranunculus.

Chomped toadstool

So I wonder if what's toxic to humans is less so to rabbits or deer? We haven't seen any sick (or worse) animals around here--but I threw the mushroom away just to be sure.

And speaking of toxins (oh, my segues are getting lame)--one more shot of my new friend, on guard duty off the deck:

Black and yellow garden spider 2

She's a friend to vegetables (bet she's never eaten one!) and so I made her my Update mascot.
Tina, Skeeter, and Dawn--thanks.