Category: Yard & Garden

Yard, landscape, hardscape, xeriscape, garden, and lawn

Entertaining a Crowd in Limited Space

Entertaining a crowd in limited space…….


Constructing this monumental gastronomic masterwork called Thanksgiving dinner with an average size

residential stove, less than adequate counterspace, and a fridge already packed with cheeseballs, olives,

and drinks really can be done! But planning and organization are key.

When I was perusing sites for tips to speed up the production of the Thanksgiving feast, I ran across

some great tips from an article published in the local newspaper.

Local chefs say:

–  Have a plan Create a list of everything you need to do for the meal. Start with the big things,

like shopping and roasting the bird; and continue through to little details, such as washing

greens, chopping garlic and deciding what platters and serving spoons to use. Check things off as

you get them done.

– Select appropriate recipes Since a whole turkey dominates the oven space for several hours,

look for side dish recipes that can be made the day before and rewarmed just before the meal

or that can be kept at room temperature. You may also want to think about cooking a turkey

breast, which won’t take as long. One trendy option is to butterfly the bird, which cuts cooking

time to about 90 minutes for a 14-pound bird. Ask the butcher to butterfly the turkey for you.

– Clear the decks Move everything from the counter so you have as much space as possible. Box

up the stacks of papers and put it in another room. Do the same for any appliances you keep on

the counter but won’t be using on the big day. Create a few extra feet of work space by putting

a cutting board or large pan or tray over one-half of your sink.

– Use other appliances Don’t have a double oven? (No, I don’t! thus my double-oven envy!) No

problem. You probably have plenty of other appliances at your disposal. Cook your turkey on

the grill or in an outdoor smoker; use the slow cooker to make the sweet potatoes or warm the


– Make dishes in advance Much of the holiday meal can be made the day before, including fresh

cranberry sauce, appetizer dips, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gelatin salad, rolls and pies. Get as

much of the cooking out of the way as possible.

– Clean the refrigerator (I love this one! Has someone seen my fridge??) It’s a good time to clean

out all of the things that have been hanging around since summer and you’re not using. Besides,

guests open the fridge a dozen times throughout the day so you don’t want to scare them with

moldy mystery containers.

– Ask for help You don’t have to do the meal by yourself. Ask guests to contribute a dish or

two. But be sure to assign them something specific or you’ll have five cheese plates and no

vegetables. Asking them to bring something traditional from their family recipes is a fun idea.

Happy Holiday Season!

Gardening “Skinny”

Right Plant, Right Place….those skinny areas

……..and don’t forget the hardscapes and mulch

I think some of the most interesting places in a yard are the odd shaped areas that you just don’t know what to do with…yet.  Just like in my home, the smallest places are the most fun to decorate.  Take those skinny spots, between houses, or a sidewalk and a house, or maybe in the side yard next to the garage and the neighbor’s fence; some of the most creative ideas come from having to think outside the box and create a wonderful surprise as you round that corner.

The one thing you don’t want to do is plant a large plant in a space with 2 or 3 feet to work with.  That’s just setting yourself up to fail, or at the very least creating a lot of pruning for you in the future.  You know how important it is to choose the right plant for the right place?  Choose a skinny plant for a skinny space.

If there is a tree you just love and want it next to the brick on your home, talk to your nursery expert about a technique called “espaliering”.  This is training a tree to grow flat against a fence or a wall.  I happen to have an espaliered pear tree.  Not only does it grow flat against my fence but it also produces 4 different types of pears.  It’s so cool!  There are some things to learn about caring for plant like this, and that is how to keep up the pruning so you don’t end up with something really strange looking.

“Skyrocket” evergreens are another great evergreen tree that can be planted in skinny places and give you a large bang for your buck.  The “Capital flowering pear” is another columnar growing tree that has beautiful green waxy leaves in the summer that turn a deep red wine color in the fall.  Great tree!  And it is very low maintenance.   ‘Beanpole’ and ‘Flushing’ soft needled yews grow like green tubes and are easy to keep in the 8-foot by 2-foot range with a single annual shearing. They grow in sun or shade down to Zone 4.  ‘Dee Runk’ and ‘Green Tower’ boxwoods are two of the nicest, newest narrow (semi-evergreen in certain areas) boxwoods that maintain a dense growth in the landscape.

And don’t forget the floor; there are a sundry assortment of ground covers and ‘steppables’ to choose from to decorate your skinny space. Not to mention the hardscape material and mulch.

So many ideas, so little time!