Summertime, the time for ripe tomatoes, starry nights, good sleeping and being with people you enjoy. Oklahoma, in places around Tulsa, however, got upwards of 110 degrees, so life switches to shady places and moving slower when it's that hot.
It was a wonderful time to be in Tulsa, in spite of the heat. I was there for a program on Monday night for the Tulsa Herb Society, an energetic and well organized group that I have spoken for in years past. They are always great hosts and for this program, and my cooking demonstration the following day, they went pulled out all the stops in their decorating.
The location was the Tulsa Garden Center, which is a turn of the century former private mansion where many of the garden and herb clubs of Tulsa meet. These great ladies combed the city for flowers and herbs and spent 2 days decorating with flowers, antiques, tables, chairs, gloves, pots, herbs and more. It looked like a wedding was planned from all of the candles and flower arrangements and I was honored they had gone to such efforts to make my programs festive.
The crackers and stuffed tomatoes (which you saw on the previous post, and for which the recipe was posted, too) were very well received on Tuesday at the cooking demonstrations. I made Banana Salsa and Green Grape with Mint Salsa (from my Salsa book). Next on the menu was Green Pea & Avocado Dip, Stuffed Tomatoes, Habanero-Cheddar Crackers, Middle Eastern Seed Crackers and a couple of salad dressings (also from my books).
My Monday night program was, "Cutting Edge Plants" and I talked about how changing ethnic food trends change the kinds of plants we buy and grow. The food we find in restaurants and see in the media, influences not only nurseries but our own backyard gardens. I focused on several plants from India, China, Thailand, Papua, New Guinea and Mexico and illustrated how those are just coming into the marketplace.
Our great hosts were long time friends, Tom & Sue Stees and it's always a delight to get to visit with them. They both cooked and hosted and wined and dined us and just generally made life wonderful for us all. Tom, who's on the Board of Directors for the Linnaeus Teaching Garden (which is behind the Tulsa Garden Center), provided me a wonderful tour of the new facility. He introduced me to the Director of Horticulture, Barry Fugatt who is largely responsible for this remarkable garden, and one of the staff, Allison Warning, who explained the history of the garden and the mansion grounds. Much of the hardscape materials were donated by area businesses, thanks to the efforts of the Board, and the concept and design came from Barry. There are many remarkable facets to this garden and it would take several visits to see it all. It includes vegetables, ornamentals, a water garden, cottage garden, herb garden, espaliered fruit trees, along with arbors, and the garden showcases some of the newest plant introductions from Ball Seed, to be introduced to the gardening public next year, such as a new lime and pink petunia.
Who was Linnaeus? Carl Linnaeus is considered the Father of Taxonomy. His system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms is still in wide use today, continuing to evolve with changes. But it was his system, begun in the 1700s for classifying all plants, that is the basis of the plant identification and classification system still in use today.
One plant that caught my attention was a stunning new crape myrtle called, 'Dynamite' and it lived up to its name. It's one of a line of new exciting new colors of crape myrtles from Tree Land Nurseries.
The Linnaeus Garden would be remarkable in any location, but is especially fitting in Tulsa, which has a very active gardening culture. The Rose Gardens are just steps away but it is the Linnaeus Garden that is stealing the spotlight currently. They host a variety of groups for programs, keep about 200 volunteers busy (and I believe Allison Warning is coordinator of those). The plant collections are impressive and it is a perfect place for workshops, teaching children and adults.
Tom & Sue's garden is perfectly groomed and beautiful with a variety of flowers, herbs and perennials. Being there and enjoying their delightful garden, then touring the Linnaeus Garden, and being hosted by the Tulsa Herb Society, made for a perfect visit to Tulsa. It reminded me of that song (click the link to hear) from the 60s by the Lovin. Spoonful, "Summer in the City."
It was just about a perfect visit to gardens and seeing friends and eating good food and enjoying more gardens. Now, I need to stay home and weed my own. Garden volunteers anyone?