Thursday, January 28, 2010

And...the Aftermath!

Our cold snap is now over! Up until this point the weather had been so mild that I actually harbored hopes that we would get through this winter without a really hard freeze. It's happened before, and I'm not far from the water.

But no such luck this year! After the first major snow the temperature fell and hovered around 28F (-2C) for a day or two. Not a deep freeze by most cold region standards and most of the garden is unscathed. I decided to do an experiment in Arctic training for an Aloe arborea (I have another one that I brought in). It does not look happy though it seems that the parts of the plants that were buried in snow are still firm. The outer ends of the leaves are complete jelly though. San Francisco received a freeze like this back in the early 90s, there was a lot of damage but lots of things did come back from their roots.

I had two large Brugmansias in pots, one Charles Grimaldi with pale orange flowers, and one unidentified pink one. In past years the pink one has seemed to be hardier than Charles, but this year it's suffered more from very light freezes we've gotten this year. i planted one pink one out into the soil last year and grew like a house on fire, but unless the roots survived (there is a fairly good chance they did actually), it's toast. Time will tell. I'll have to wait for the snow to finish melting before I can tell what happened to the sweet peas that had volunteered and grown nearly 5 inches...

And here, just for touristic value, is what the Bosphorus looked like today from the hill up above Anadoluhisarı. Tomorrow the temps are supposed to get to 10C, so there will be no more of the white stuff by this time tomorrow evening! But we still have February and March to get through...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Finally Arrived!

Well, I knew the mild weather we've had so far was too good to last. Until today, we hadn't even had a hard freeze. Now we have!

Here's the lower garden...

...and the upper garden.

And for a couple of touristic pictures, the Bosphorus, with the Bosphorus Bridge,

and the Ortaköy Mosque.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This is Turkey! / Burası Türkiye!

Once you live in Turkey a while and create your little bubble of order in the relative chaos of Istanbul (relative, because when I go back to the US I frequently find myself exasperated at things that I never thought twice about when I lived there), it's easy to forget that you live in what some might consider a Second-world country (I don't think it's been "Third-world" for quite a while). And then you come across something that reminds you. Turks tend to explain such things with the catch phrase, "Burası Türkiye!" (This is Turkey) as if no further explanation were needed.

I had a minor little burası Türkiye moment yesterday when I was trading some squash seeds with friends and decided to give in to my inner Pandora and peek into the commercial packet of winter squash seeds I got last fall. The seed packet should have been a hint - packaged in 2004, with a badly focused and printed picture of some sort of pumpkin, and no particular variety indicated. But when I opened it, I got more of a surprise than i expected! Here is part of the contents:

There are no less than two different Cucurbita maxima varieties, as well as some other seeds that look like C. pepo or maybe C. moschata. And a bean.

If I had a huge amount of extra room, I would plant a selection just to see what would come out; some might be good. But I'm not going to do the grunt work of opening up 200 more square feet for unknowns when there is so much dependable seed of such amazing varieties available. If I planted them I'd likely get something like the mix in this picture a friend took in Antalya. There is definitely a C. maxima or two, and several moschatas in various shapes and sizes. The maximas might actually be good; they look like some sort of banana squash. I've had some of the dubious moschatas before in Greece; they tend to be fibrous and watery, but with this much variety who knows? I'll probably chuck them, unless there is someone out there who would like to grow a few mystery squashes.

I'm totally planting the bean though.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flowers on the Water / Suda Çiçekler

When I was a kid, I remember looking with fascination at the marbled outer surface of the pages of the huge unabridged dictionary in our elementary school library. Though it made me think of water, I had no idea how it was actually done, or that it even had a name. In Turkey, this art form has been taken to an extreme and is known as ebru. It's commonly translated as "paper marbling," and as in the west, it is sometimes used as decoration for page edges or frontspieces of books, but in Turkey it is an art in its own right, and often used to create beautiful floral motifs.

I've watched ebru being done many times; almost any traditional arts exhibition here will feature an ebru artist at work. The paints are dropped or spattered with special brushes and a stylus onto the surface of water which is thickened with a plant extract called tragacanth. The paints are mixed with varying amounts of gall, which controls how much they spread over the surface. It's all a complex balance of chemistry and technique; even the humidity and temperature can affect the outcome.

I'd always wanted to try it, but for whatever reason, never had. Today I was walking through the Taksim metro station and noticed an exhibition of ebru there, by artists Fatih Yeşil and Hüseyin Gülbaran. Strangely the place was almost deserted so I could look at the prints at my leisure.

Mr. Yeşil was there, and had a pan set up for people to try it themselves. I watched him talk a woman through a basic tulip, and decided to try it myself. We'll come to that in a bit!

As a gardener and plant lover, ebru is more than a decorative art, it's a documentation of the way people see and interpret the flowers that grow in Turkey. This is not a static thing; in addition to the stylized much-repeated traditional motifs, new motifs are appearing as well, and each artist brings his or her own perceptions into their work. Some of the pieces at the exhibition today could be called more or less botanically accurate, immediately recognizable. For example, the poppy here shows a typical color pattern for P. rhoeas, the field poppy found throughout most of Turkey. The same is true for this Bellflower (Campanula). Though perhaps not any particular species, it would be instantly recognizable by anyone familiar with the family.

One flower that features prominently in ebru is the tulip. There are probably several reasons for this: Turkey is the homeland of many wild tulip species, the tulip mania that eventually spread to Holland began in Turkey, and the shape of tulip petals seems to cry out to be depicted in ebru.

Today I was struck by something I had never noticed before: how the change in varieties of tulips on the market has been reflected in ebru. Though there are many tulip species in Anatolia with a variety of shapes, the most prized in Ottoman times were those with long, thin petals, like the golden tulip in this painting. There were many named varieties, nearly all of which have been lost to cultivation today. There is now an effort underway to recreate some of these varieties, and I even was able to buy one last spring at a nursery down the street from me.

The tulips depicted in most of the older and/or more traditional examples of ebru, as well as many other turkish art forms such as tilework, depict these graceful long-petaled tulips, like those in the example here. However, during recent decades the Dutch have become the undisputed kings of tulip production and breeding, and have focused more on flowers which can be appreciated from a distance and especially when planted en masse. This means large, robust flowers on tall stems. This type of tulip has also become more common in ebru, as it's almost the only type of tulips that are commercially available any more. Still, ebru is a stylized art, and it seems that in the language of ebru, pointed petals are an essential factor in tulip-ness.

Dutch-type tulips are not the only new flowers to show up in ebru: Ottoman art lovers would almost certainly have scratched their heads if they'd seen an ebru Bird of Paradise!

Mr. Yeşil, who is also a teacher of Ebru, has his own page devoted to the art of ebru, provided below, and courses are available.

So what of my own first attempt? I wanted to try the more abstract "battal" type. At first glance, it would seem to be easier, right? But it's not! Think of it this way - is it easier to paint a picture directly or try to do it by throwing the paint at the canvas? You tap the brush a little too hard on your finger and you get too much paint. Tap it too lightly and you get none. Hold your finger too stiff and the paint shoots beyond the place you're trying to apply it. Here is mine still in the tray:

The final step is to carefully lay the paper over the surface and draw it off - why drawing it over the edge of the pan doesn't mar the paint I don't know... And I present to you, in living color, my ebru representation of... corn smut! It's a beginning...

Please visit Mr. Yeşil's page at and be sure to watch the videos of ebru in the process of creation! There is also an ebru gallery where you can see many fascinating examples of this unique Ottoman art form.

Türklere ebrunun ne olduğunu nasıl yapıldığını anlatmak biraz gereksiz olduğunu zannediyorum, benden çok daha iyi anlatan yerler var zaten! Bugün Taksim metrosundayken bir ebru sergisine rastgeldim ve ebru satıldığı çok yer gibi ziyaretçilere ebru yapmayı deneme imkanı da sunuluyordu. Ebru, uzun zamandır denemek istediğim birşey olduğu için sansı değerlendirdim, sonra biraz botanik bir açıdan ebru hakkında yazmaya esinlendim.

Batıda "paper marbling" olarak bilinen ebru, orada daha çok diğer objeleri süslemek kullanınan bir sanattır. Küçük çocuk olarak ilkokulumuzun kütüphanesinde dev bir sözlük vardı, kapalıyken sayfa uclarındaki desenlere hayran kalmıştım. Nasıl yapıldığını hiç düşünemiyordum, suyun yüzeyinde olacağını nereden tahmin edeyim ki?

Botanik açısından ebruyu sadece bir süs sanati değil, Türk insanının doğal dünyayı nasıl algılayıp betimlediğini bir belgeleme olarak görüyorum. Botanik olarak ele alınan çiçekleri birebir yansıtmamasına rağmen (ki bu ya imkansız olurdu ya ebrunun imkanlarını ciddi bir şekilde sınırlandırırdı), çiçeklerin özünü ortaya çıkardığı kesindir. Ebruda görünen gelincik, lale veya çan çiçeği, doğaya herhangi bir botanik türüne tam benzemiyor fakat hemen hangi çiçek olduğunu anlıyoruz.

Çiçekleri birebir betimleyemediği halde, yine de bitki dünyasında belli gerçekleri de yansıtıyor ebru. Mesela ebruda sık sık ele alınan bir çiçek, laledir. Anadolu'da birçok yaban lale türleri olması yanısıra, özellikle Hollanda'da olmak üzere batılıların bir lale soğanı için aklı şaşırtacak para harcamaya teşvik eden "lale çılgınlığı"nın başlangıcı, Türkiye'nin Lale Devri'nde idi. Osmanlıda en gözde laleler ise, günümüzde artık çoktan kaybolmuş, yaprakları uzun ve sivri olan cinslerdi. Daha eski ve/veya geneleksel Osmanlı sanati örneklerinde betimlenen lalelerin büyük çoğunluğu, bu uzun ince yapraklı cinslerden esinlenmiş olduğu görülür.

Çok şükür, bu eski türleri yeniden hayata geçirilmeye çalışılıyor artık fakat şimdilik lale üretimi ve geliştirmesinin merkezi kuşkusuz Hollanda'dır. Her ilkbahar İstanbul'un caddelerine binbir renklerini katan lalelerin hemen hemen hepsi, Hollanda'da, uzaktan göreni etkileyip gözü kamaştırmak için geliştiren, uzun boylu geniş yapraklı cinslerdir. Bu da ebruda görülebilir artık. Hatta Fatih Yeşil ile Hüseyin Gülbaran'ın eserleri yer aldığı sergide "cennet kuşu" gibi Türkiye'ye ancak bu yüzyılda gelen, Osmanlıların hiç tanımadığı çiçekler bile gördüm. Ve gelecekte başka neler ebruya girecek diye sabırsızlıkla merak ediyorum! Ebru ustası Fatih Bey ayrıca dersler veriyor; hem dersler hem de ebru için daha ayrıntılı bilgi için web sitesine başvurabilirsiniz.

Benim ilk girişime gelince...çok sevdiğim, daha soyut olan "battal" ebru tarzının, çiçeklerden daha kolay olacağını sanmıştım. Meğer öyle değil! Neden mi? Normal resim düşünün, hangisi daha güzel bir sonuç verecek, bir fırça ile direkt boya uygulamak mı yoksa uzaktan fırlatmak mı? Ustanın elinde son derece kolay görünüyor tabii, fırçayı sol elin parmağına hafif vurarak suyun yüzeyine boya damlacıklarını dağıtıyor. Fakat! Az fazla hafif vurursanız hiç boya çıkmaz, biraz fazla sert ise çok fazla çıkar, sol elin parmağını fazla kasarsanız da boya istediğin yeri aşar. Benim ilk ebru örneğine gelince... çiçekten çok, mısırda çıkan bir mantar hastalığına benzedi! Bir başlangıç işte...

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Endeavor: The New Daylilies!

Well, this title isn’t entirely accurate; it’s hard to find a gardener (at least in the U.S.) who hasn’t grown daylilies, if only the common orange ones (Hemerocallis fulva), and I've grown them too. They can often be found growing in huge stands across the American countryside; and since they are a sterile hybrid that produces no seed whatsoever, they did not seed in, but were planted in deliberately at some time or other. Where you see a lone stand with no surrounding buildings, chances are that there was once a home there. It’s such a vigorous and durable plant that it’s easy to see why it was popular among pioneer gardeners – and why it remains long after every last trace of the home has disappeared.

My mother grew other daylilies in her Iowa City garden – there were some of a deep orange-almost-red shade, and a stand of tall clear yellow ones that, as I remember, had a very sweet pistil that I liked to pluck out and eat. In my Seattle garden I found one dwarf daylily languishing between the walk and the foundation and brought back to life, wondering what it would do. It turned out to be Hemericallis lilioasphodelus, commonly called “Lemon lily,” and with its small but substantial clear yellow blooms and delicious fragrance, it was one of my favorite plants.

Overall however, even though I’d seen some different daylilies in garden catalogs – whites, spiders, even pinks, they always seemed…“common,” for the lack of a better word, or maybe “unconvincing.” The reds seemed muddy, so were the much-hailed pinks…as if, despite their outward difference, they were really just aching to be dusty orange.

On my last trip to Seattle in November though, my old neighbor and fellow garden freak Skot (I'm not a sycophant but I really should be embarrassed to even compare myself to him!) showed me the daylily plants he had been bidding on. “Bidding on?” Yes– it turns out there is a truly devoted group of people who are crazy about daylilies and who are producing new hybrids that are so spectacular they’ll give tall bearded iris a run for their money. He was doing this bidding through the Daylily Exchange. Just the image on their homepage is a hint at what’s to be found within. If you aren’t convinced, check out Bill’s Hemerocallis Page, and particularly the gallery at (Thanks to Bill for generously allowing the use of his images!)

This for example, is no run-of-the-mill daylily!

To be honest, just like the new iris hybrids, the price of many of the newly-released daylily hybrids places them well beyond the reach of the average gardener, but in a year they become last year’s hybrids, and so on, and there are lots of wonderful things to be had for reasonable prices.

There is also the option of growing them from seed. Growing regular lilies (Lilium) from seed is a rather involved process often involving a double stratification, but daylilies are almost as easy as zinnias. People have several different approaches to sowing them but Skot takes his seed and puts it in the freezer for a couple weeks, after which it’s ready to sow whenever he wants. Sowing seed in the fall and growing through the winter under lights can often produce a bloom the first year, though the true character of the bloom will become clearer after the plant is better established. I have several of his seedlings growing in my garden now and have gotten blooms on two - one is a large clear yellow spider and the other is...well, orange, but a much richer and substantial orange than any old fulva and I'll let it keep growing.

An entire jargon has grown up around daylily breeding – UFOs, spiders, watermarks, shark’s teeth… And just as with bearded iris, there are now lots of reblooming daylily hybrids. But here the daylilies have a fascinating twist: the second flush of bloom often exhibits a color shift so striking that it’s hardly recognizable as the same variety. Another surprise in some of the new hybrids is the size; some of the spiders in particular have blooms of up to 15 or more inches across! Many of them are semi-evergreen as well, meaning they continue to provide substance when they are not in bloom in the form of their arching, strap-like leaves.

So if the thought of daylilies still conjures up images of invasive orange things, why not reconsider and try something really new this year? I'm already looking forward to the first blooms on the rest of the plants I planted last year, and knowing I have seed of some very high-falutin' plants here gives me even more to look forward to!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Winter Blahs: The Antidote / Kış Sıkıntısının Panzehri

I should start right out by saying that when I compare my location with those of many who are reading this blog, I realize I have absolutely no right to talk about winter blahs when it comes to gardening. I have Brugmansias that are still struggling to pop out an occasional flower, a huge bush of Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) in bloom, my Geranium macrorrhizum is just starting to open its deep pink flowers, and the pot of fragrant cyclamens is completely covered in white upturned petals. As if that weren't enough, a Paphiopedilum orchid is throwing up an off-season flower that should open any day now.

And yet it happens...long gray (if not necessarily frigid) days, and frequent rains that keep the soil too wet to really do anything with can add up to a bit of indifference to the garden. And it's just at this point that capitalism steps in to save the day with the perfect antidote to the winter blahs with the arrival of the first seed catalog!

In Seattle, I would regularly receive fifteen or more catalogs - Thompson and Morgan, Park Seed, Wayside Gardens, as well as several specialty catalogs. And of course there was always (sniff...) the Heronswood Catalog to look forward to. Living in Turkey, I don't get nearly as many, and to be honest I do a lot more of my seed shopping over the internet. But that made it even a nicer surprise to come out of the rain into the front porch and see a long, thin catalog with flowers on it. Chiltern Seeds' catalog is so distinctively shaped that I didn't even have to read it to know what it was. Of course like the rest of the bunch, you can shop from Chiltern's online too, but it's such fun to pick up the catalog, flip to a random page, and come across an entry like this:

953M £1.94 Papaver, unknown species, 'Via Rotorua'
This plant and its name need some explanation! Rotorua, as we all know, is in new Zealand, which is we all also perhaps know, is not the home of anything in the Poppy family. Resumé-style the story goes: folk emigrate to N.Z., take beloved Poppy seed, nurture strain, years pass, send seed to UK, writer’s wife happens to spot flowers growing in the UK, loves them, can she have some seed. Result a rather lovely, easily raised Poppy with single blooms, three inches or so across, with silky, mauvy-lilac petals with a black blob at their base. 1-2 ft.

Not only does it sound like something I'll have to order, but I learn something new in every catalog, and I always come across things I've never even heard of before, like:

899Q £1.98 Nicotiana glutinosa
Not often offered is this showy species from Peru with grey-green foliage and open bell-shaped, glossy rose-pink flowers. Easy to grow and your bees and butterflies will love it too. 2-2½ ft.

Guess I'll be ordering that one this year too!

Of course, all this thinking about plants gets me thinking about the weed-choked expanse that doubles as a garden on good days...and spurs me to get my butt out there and pull out all the mallow and borage that would like to be the only things out there. I will, and it will be replaced by Lamium and bindweed, but that's another problem for another time.

Happy 2010!

Hemen belirteyim ki bu blogu takip edenlerin bazılarının yaşadığı yerlere kıyaslarken, bahçeyle ilgili olarak “kış sıkıntısı” denilen şey için şikayet etmeye hiç ama hiç hakkım yok. Hâlâ arada bir çiçek açmaya çalışan Brugmansialarım var, Geranium macrorrhizum’um koyu pembe çiçeklerini yeni açmaya başladı, ve geçen yıl bulduğum kokulu siklamen saksısını kıvrık bembeyaz yapraklarıyla doldurmuş halde. Ayrıca evin içinde bir pabuç orkidesi mevsimdışı bir çiçek açmak üzere.

Yine de başıma geliyor…uzun, çok soğuk olmasa da gri günler ve toprağı sürekli kazılmaz halde tutan sürekli yağmurlu hava, bir ilgisizliğe yol açabilir. Ve tam bu esnada, kapitalizm gelip, ilk tohum katalogunun varışıyla günü kurtarıyor!

Seattle’dayken her yıl - Thompson and Morgan, Park Seed, Wayside Gardens ve birçok özel fidanlıktan gönderilen onbeş küsür katalog geliyordu. İstanbul’da o kadar almıyorum, ve gerçeğini söylemem gerekirse bahçe alışverişimin büyük çoğunluğunu artık internet üzerinde yapıyorum zaten. Fakat belki de ondandır ki, yağmurlu bir günde eve dönüp kapının yanında çiçeklerler süslü uzun ince bir katalogu bulmak beni daha da mutlu etti. Son derece orijinal şekliyle İngiltere’deki Chiltern Seeds katalogunu hiç bakmadan bile tanıyorum. Siz de Chiltern Online’den alışverişinizi yapabilirsiniz. Fakat internet ne kadar kolaylık sunarsa sunsun, yağmurlu bir günde rahat bir köşeye sığınıp gelişigüzel katalogu açıp, böyle bir açıklamaya rastgelmek, son derece eğlenceli:

953M £1.94 Papaver, bilinmeyen tür, 'Via Rotorua'
Bu bitki ile adı biraz açıklama gerektirir! Hepimiz bildiğimiz gibi Rotorua, Yeni Zelanda’da ve yine de belki hepimiz bildiğimiz gibi, söz konusu ülkede, Gelincik ailesine ait olan herhangi bir bitki bulunmamaktadır. Hikaye tam bir özgeçmiş gibi: İnsanlar Yeni Zelanda’ya göç ediyor, sevdikleri gelincik tohumunu da götürüyor, cinsini koruyup yetiştiriyorlar, yıllar geçiyor, tohumu İngiltere’ye gönderiyorlar, yazarın eşi İngiltere’de bitkileri yetişirken görüyor, biraz tohum istiyor. Sonuç: dibinde siyah bir beneği olan, ipekimsi mor/lila yapraklı 7 cmlık tek çiçekli, hoş bir gelincik.

Bunun gibi kesinlikle sipariş etmem gerekecek tohumlar içermesi yanı sıra, her katalogda yeni bir şey öğreniyorum, hatta hiç duymadığım yeni türler sunuyor, mesela:

899Q £1.98 Nicotiana glutinosa
Peru’dan gelen gri-yeşil yapraklı, çan şeklinde açık parlak gül pembe çiçekli bu gösterişli tütün türü sık sık sunulmamaktadır. Yetiştirilmesi kolay, arılar ve kelebekleriniz de ona bayılacak.

Her halde bu yıl onu da sipariş edeceğim!

Tabi ki hep bu bitki muhabbeti, beni iyi günlerde bahçe olarak geçen araziyi düşündürerek, kıçımdan kalkıp her yere saran, bahçenin tek varlığı olmaya yüz tutan ebegümeci ile hodanı yolmaya teşvik ediyor. Yolacağım, ve hemen ardından yerine ballıbaba ile beyaz sarmaşık gelecek, fakat onlar, başka bir zaman için başka bir sorundur…

Herkese mutlu yıllar dilerim!