Want to know a secret? The best way to rid your garden of English Ivy that has “gone wild,” is to use a half-moon spade. Just wedge the blade underneath the soil about two inches and shove. Up comes Ivy runners and roots, giving those flowers, shrubs and trees a chance to take a deep breath. But, this is not easy work, and not for the faint-hearted. You’ll have your share of pulling, and digging, and you will only continue if you are craving that open space between plants – a clear sign that there is a gardener at work. I learned all this from my neighbor, Linda, a proper landscape architect. More importantly, Linda is also a gardener. Did you know there’s a difference? Linda’s landscape is not just artistically balanced, but reveals a subtle color wave that moves slowly through the months, starting in March and flowing all the way through to November. Her front step pots are not just a showcase for summer annuals, but are part of that subtle wave that moves the flower parade up to her front door. Clearly, there is an evolving master plan. Although Linda would love nothing more than to visit all of her neighbors and dole out gardening advice and plans, she is now a exceptionally busy mom of two. Yet, I managed to convince her to make a clandestine trip down to our house. Not a plan,” she cautioned. “I have no time for that – I’ll just walk through and give you some ideas.” Perfect, I thought. “Just don’t tell the neighbors what I’m doing.” Understood. Linda made it down to our block right after dinner. Overall, her prognosis for our established overgrown landscape was good. There is that matter of the ivy. She gave us her certified approval to pull out some hideous looking bushes, (the urban hillbilly method at work here) and to replace them with some color – specifically, Knock-Out Roses, and to add a bit more lavender plants. The night was hot, and the arrival of the evening did little to stop the beads of sweat on our brows. When she reached our herb garden, she paused. “Come with me back to my house to see what I’ve done,” she said. “It’s easier to see, than to explain.” “OK if I bring my camera,” I asked. “Of course.” When I ran inside the house to grab my camera, I saw that six pack of Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob ULTRA Light Cider, sent gratis for my review here. Beads of sweat were building up on the glass, and it looked so light, cold, and refreshing. I pulled out three bottles – doesn’t everyone drink a brew made with crisp apples while gardening with neighbors? I thought so. I was happy to slip those long necks between my fingers and slip out the door. So, we took off, while Linda was generously doled out her advice. But, we both genuinely liked the cider. My husband, not so much – “Too light,” he said. So, instead of talking about flowers, we started talking about the cider, which reminded us of the wine coolers we drank in the 80s, but far less syrupy sweet. It’s a bit bolder than wine, and more like the refreshment that can only be described as, “nothing like a cold beer on a hot day.” Yet, Linda and I, like so many of our health-conscious friends, have turned our back on carbs – because of the effect they have on our hips. Precisely because of cabs, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to enjoy a brew in a bottle – I only drink wine now. Beer, for many of us today, is a carb-loaded drink of the past. But this cider is made with apples – totally gluten free.
Linda and I both felt that sipping this Ultra Light Cider, straight from the bottle on a hot summer night, was kind of liberating.There are 120 calories in this 12-ounce bottle – one third less than the 180 calories found in a hard cider. The cider’s sweetness comes from Stevia, and as a gardener, Linda knows all about Stevia – the herb in the Chrysanthemum family that has 300 times the sweetness of sugar, yet has a negligible effect on blood glucose – which means that Stevia is not fattening, like sugar. As gardeners, we can only appreciate the simplest ingredients – apples and Stevia.
Of course, all the neighbors were out that night – in their front yards.Perhaps, maybe, we looked a bit odd, the three of us walking down the street, dirty and sweaty. I was taking notes on a notepad, with my camera slung over my shoulder. Each one of us taking swigs of our cider. (Thank goodness, we didn’t have to fiddle with a wine glass.) Linda continued, graciously, with her gardening advice, as we waved to neighbors, and continued our stroll.
However, one neighbor, interrupted Linda, asking quite loudly, from across the street, “What are you guys doing?” Just going for a stroll, I said. I turned my attention back to Linda. Yet, the neighbor was persistent and said, a bit more loudly this time, “With a CAMERA?!” This brought a pause to everything. Not knowing what to say, I just kept walking. Thank goodness, my husband knew exactly what to say. Without missing a beat, he said, “Yep, we’re just drinking and taking pictures.”
So, with all the low-carb fuss going on today, what is your go-to hot drink to get you through the summer? Apples, Stevia — cider?