Thursday, September 9, 2010

Garden Wisdom


One of many beautiful Japanese maples in the collection
Road trips with the girls are always so much fun, and yesterday was no exception. 12 members of my local chapter of the Northwest Perrennial Alliance trekked to the Elizabeth C Miller garden in the "Highlands" area on the northernmost fringes of Seattle. The Miller Garden is a closely guarded treasure, open by reservations for tour groups only, and limited to 500 visitors per year. About three acres of the five acre Miller estate are in cultivation, showcasing Betty Millers love of Japanese maples, dozens of varieties of ferns, rambling tapestries of groundcovers and hundreds of plants that thrive in a woodland setting, both moist and dry.
As a gardener who struggles with enough  direct sunlight to grow colorful flowers, I was most interested in the amazing array of foliage plants that choose to spend their days luxuriating in the cool lushness of shade. A misnomer of shade gardening is that all shade plants prefer moist conditions, but at the Miller garden, we learned that many actually prefer dry feet!


Head Gardener Greg holds us in rapt attention as he weaves the story of the garden.

As the number of persons and vehicles permitted for tours is so limited, and the time frame so strict, we hedged our bets by stopping at Swansons Nursery for fall sale shopping and lunch before our visit to the garden. Lunching together gives us an opportunity to socialize a little and get to know one another better. Alexis Cafe at Swansons offers a wide array of beautiful, delicious and healthy lunch choices. Trying to trim a few inches off my middle in preparation for my 50 year High School Reunion, the end of October, I was most grateful for the wonderful Greek salad on the menu. Having discovered Dr Oz's "Your real Age" website lately, I learned Greek salad is a pemitted choice for lunch on the "You on a Diet" link. As the discussion came around to wellness, fitness, weight-loss, etc, I shared a recipe I found on and since several of my garden girlfriends asked for the recipe here it is:

Mediterranean Chicken and Herbed White Beans -2 servings

Chicken Ingredients:
2 bone-in chicken thighs without skin (I used breast meat)
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
8 pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 small bunch fresh basil, chopped

Place each serving of breast on it's own large square of aluminum foil, mix remaining ingredients together and  spoon over chicken. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. While chicken is baking prepare the following:

Bean Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (15 or 16 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs, your choice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper (optional)

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; cook 5 minutes or until heated through. Carefully open chicken packets and transfer mixture to two serving plates; serve beans alongside chicken. YUM!

Bon Apetit!

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