Plant Trickery

My nightstand is piled high with vegetable gardening references this time of year. I cross reference everything since I might miss some juicy tidbit that could revolutionize my gardening plans. For instance, I purchased a charming little artichoke this year at a garden center. I’ve not seen them available here in central New York before. What a thrill! So of course I came home and read everything that has ever been written about growing them. Unfortunately my research enlightened me to the bizarre knowledge that I have to “trick” the plant into thinking that it is two years old. If you know me you know that I not good at tricks, pranks, poker, OR jokes for that matter. The trickery is written all over my face. I may as well have my forehead tattooed saying that I am not telling the truth. It’s a gift or a curse- not sure which.

Back to the artichoke- Artie, of course. I have told him that he is behaving like a 2 year old. The pouting and wilting has got to stop. I think he believes me at this point.  If he puts on buds I’m pretty sure that I will have succeeded in the plant trickery. I try to look at another plant when I discuss the Artie’s age so that my face will not give away my untruthfulness. I even feel guilty writing about it.

Upon a little internet research I have found that there is such a thing as Plant Trickery. There are plants that disguise themselves using their appearance or fragrance. We all know of the sneaky Venus Fly Trap and Pitcher Plant who lure clueless bugs they want to snack on. Talk about deception!  In either case THEY are the ones doing the tricking. For our purposes we will disregard this type of trickery since this is a post about tricking THEM.

If you have plants that you need to… let’s say, “disguise the truth” to here are some guidelines that you may want to follow.

  • Be kind. No plant likes being made a fool of. Do not ruin the trust you have built- the roots of your relationship if you will.
  • Wear glasses when telling the plant the necessary false information. If no sunglasses or groucho marx glasses are available, it may be necessary to avert your eyes. Remember your eyes are the windows to your soul.
  • Add some fertilizer. A little manure can help the trickery go down easier and “take”.
  • Tell the subjects’ neighbors to keep a leaf on it. Even if they know the truth they are not allowed to share it or “snip-snip”.
  • Lastly, when all else fails embrace your plant just as he or she is and call it a day. Life is too short to stress or not adore and embrace what you have.

Latin/Localvore Dinner Menu

A number of years ago a good friend asked Farmboy and me to participate in a dinner club. I had never used a food processor before and I think one of our first recipes was for some kind of wacky blue cheese coleslaw (it was delish… I’ll post the recipe later if I can find it). There was cabbage flying all over the kitchen. I became friends with the food processor and can now thankfully profess that I am no longer afraid of kitchen gadgets or appliances. That being said I can now confess that I am a Foodnetwork and TopChef junkie.

The last time we hosted was in the Fall and shown below is the delicious menu. My intention was to do a totally local menu with locally raised beef and vegetables. I was side tracked by the Green Peppercorn Sauce which took me down the trail of a more Latin flavored meal, hence the black beans and chipotle peppers. The Salsa Verde, Garlic, Greens and Yukon Gold Potatoes came from our potager garden. In order to get Grass Fed Filet Mignon we had to buy what the grocer had from somewhere like Bolivia! Uggh. I should have prepared better. I did not realize that the local farms often do not carry “retail cuts”. A local butcher could have gotten the beef if he had more time but it would have come from Nevada since apparently it is difficult to finish beef in our climate on grass. I’m still a bit perplexed by the whole thing, but I’m learning.


Black Bean Pica with Garlic Bruschetta

Salsa Verde with Corn Chips

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Green Chili Swirl

Grass Fed Filet Mignon with Green Peppercorn Sauce

Garlic and Cheese Chipotle Mashed Potatoes with Seared Greens

Sweet Wine and Honey Roasted Pears

Potager Progress

My vegetable garden expansion took place last spring. Farmboy was busy farming, the ground was workable and I had the skid steer! My exisiting vegetable garden was a series of 9 raised beds about 3 ft wide by 5 ft. long running north to south. My sister kindly pointed out that it looked like a graveyard. I’m not a rectangle with rows kind of gal. I need paths. A destination. It needs to charm me, enchant me… maybe I just wanted a place for the kids to play without stepping all over everything. I needed paths. I digress.


View of old garden raised beds (early spring). Note playset in background… picture two-story state of the art chicken condo in a couple of years. Don’t tell the kids.


New area to the left.

I started my expansion by layering composted horse manure from the barn and topsoil. Hmmm. If I had planned it on paper I wouldn’t have made a giant raised rectangle. It was supposed to be left until Fall but I COULD NOT leave it alone. I had to see structure, shape, green plants… and paths. Out of that huge rectangle, I dug out my little paths. Ahhh. Structure. Geometry. A destination. I worked like a crazyperson. It had to be done. I couldn’t garden in half of that space and watch the weeds take over the other half.


I added a bench to sit and rest from my path making madness. On Mother’s Day I was given a lovely birdbath/fountain to add as the focal point of my emerging potager. I added an apple tree to each side of the bench as well as Little Gem globe arborvite to mark the entrance and termination of the two main paths.


View to the west through the pea trellises.

Once the paths were established I added landscape fabric and mulch to keep the weeds at bay.  Along the raised edges I planted nasturtiums to keep the weeds down. They were very prolific and effective. Note to self: plant dwarf varieties next year.


View through side perennial garden and arbor into the potager (towards south).


View of potager (mid summer) from house.


View to east through center axis.


View to west from bistro set.

The bistro set was a welcome addition to the potager. La La and the Bean enjoyed breakfast out there on numerous occasions. Junebug (my mom) and I contemplated life, gardening and much more while watching the sunset and having a glass of wine. LaLa often brought us appetizers of chives, broccoli, mint and fresh green peppers.


Mid summer view to the south with oats in background.


View from studio in late fall.


First snow 2009. (view from studio)

Next year I hope to add two more fruit trees. One on either side of the bistro set as well as some type of fencing. I am entertaining the idea of a picket fence. One day perhaps the paths will be in some sort of stone. I think I’m ready to add permanence to the shape. My main quandary at this time is where to hide the compost pile.: )


Hi, I'm Michelle. I am an artist/designer specializing in unique topiary themed illustrations for the Home & Gardener. I live on a farm in Upstate New York with my husband, aka Farmboy, my two children affectionately known as "La La" and "the Bean" and a small petting zoo of other family members.


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