Get off the ‘Net and Shop for Bulbs in Person

Recycling Rainwater

Infusing New Flavor into Margaritas

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These articles by Jamie Saxon were prepared for the May 5, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

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Get off the ‘Net and Shop for Bulbs in Person

We like to refer to it as a living catalog," says Charles Fritz, owner of Charles H. Mueller, Co., bulb specialists. Each spring, three acres of the New Hope nursery bloom into a Technicolor carpet of 40,000 tulips, daffodils, and other spring bulbs. It is the only nursery of its kind along the East Coast and one of only two or three in the country.

"The idea is that you can see bulbs in their setting, with none of the filters or enhancements that you get in a catalog or on the Internet," says Fritz, who has been with the nursery 15 years and worked for a time with its original founder, Charles H. Mueller. "You get to see what blooms when and how different bulbs look with one another."

In the parking lot pick up an order pad and then simply walk around, decide what you like, and place your order, wich is shipped in October with planting instructions.

For those new to the art of bulb planting, Fritz offers a few pointers. "Just like when you go to a casino, it’s a good idea to decide ahead of time how much you can spend," says Fritz, adding that you can get a nice display from anywhere from $20 to $50 dollars, the equivalent of about 25 to 30 flowers for a 4′ by 5′ garden. He recommends that you think about how much space you have and how you want it to look. Consider how much total shade and part shade you have, as different varieties bloom better in part shade. "It’s not a good idea to put bulbs under evergreens," says Fritz, "and really bright hot sun tends to bake out bulbs rather quickly."

On view are tulips, daffodils, scilla, camassia, and allium. Also available are summer bulbs – dahlias, gladiolas, and begonias – that you can plant now, and they will bloom in the summer.

Charles H. Mueller Co., bulb specialists, 7091 River Road, New Hope, PA. 215-862-2033. Directions: Take Route 31 north to 202 south over the toll bridge; take first exit, 32 North (River Road). Traveling north, you will see the nursery 1/4 mile on your left. Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through May 18.

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Recycling Rainwater

A rain barrel is a wonderful way to conserve water, because water really is a very precious resource," says Noelle MacKay, deputy director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, which now carries Spruce Creek rain barrels. They look just like a barrel and fit under the end of gutters to catch roof run-off when it rains. "It’s a way to think about doing your part in conserving water, even when there isn’t a drought. A 1,000 square foot roof can yield 560 gallons of water during just one 1-inch rain event."

What are the benefits of all this "recycled water?" "If you have to pay for your water, then you can use recycled water to water flowerbeds, shrubs, and landscaping – that’s the most common use," says MacKay. "If you do have a well, you don’t want to waste that precious drinking water on your flowerbeds or lawn." The barrels have an attachment to connect to any standard garden hose.

Rain barrels also help protect area water sources. For example, most household water in this area comes from Elizabethtown Water Company, which gets its water from the Millstone River and the D&R canal. The more water used from rain barrels, the less is drawn away from those rivers and canals.

With a screen to prevent mosquito breeding and a secure "closed design" to prevent accidental drowning, the chestnut-green barrels have been "approved aesthetically" by homeowners associations, says MacKay. The $125 price includes shipping directly to your home and a small donation comes back to Stony Brook.

And just a little bit of garden trivia: "The ambient water temperature of water from rain barrels is good for plants," says MacKay. "They don’t like the near-freezing temperature that comes out of garden hoses."

Rain barrel, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. $125, includes delivery. Buy three at the regular price, get 40 percent off the fourth.

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Infusing New Flavor into Margaritas

If you’re a true margarita lover, you can tell a mile away if you’ve been dealt a margarita made from a mix. Fuggedaboutit. You want the real thing. Fresh lime, on the rocks, maybe a dash of triple sec, salt or no salt on the rim.

Just in time for summer, Lambertville Station has aded a brand new baby to the margarita family. It’s called the Station Infusion Margarita, with credit going to bartender/server Jonothon (pronounced Jon-a-tahn) Criniti, but he insists it’s only partial credit. The drink began as the brainchild of a former colleague of Criniti’s. "He invented this drink and brought it to my attention," says Criniti. "It was a work in progress, and I thought it was a great idea for a summer drink. I just added a little bit of heart."

That little bit of heart takes the form of tequila that’s been infused for close to a week with a top-secret mixture of three different fruits. Another, spicier, batch also includes a vegetable (a "secret" pepper). The fruit-infused tequila is then strained and used to make a margarita "with less bite than tequila straight out of the nozzle, more non-tequila-drinker-friendly but not in a sangria way, more of a summer drink." With the leftover tequila-soaked fruit, he makes margarita "smoothies" – again, one fruity, one spicy.

What’s the verdict? We grabbed Zhanna Kovtunenko, a former engineer from Russia who now lives in Lawrence and is a designer at the architectural firm of Van-Note Harvey Associates on Alexander Road, to do the honors. With all four drinks lined up, she carefully sipped and swirled, like an ace oenophile.

First, the fruity Station Infusion, on the rocks, no salt, a lovely coral reef color. "You can sip it and sip it all night. It goes down easy." However, recalling a margarita she had had in New York a few weeks ago that had rendered both her tongue and her lips numb after just two sips, she expressed that it would be nice to, well, become a little more intoxicated after just one, as a good margarita does. But, says Criniti, it’s precisely because it goes down so easily that Criniti says he’s careful not to put in too much tequila. "With the ‘bite’ gone, people can gulp a couple down like fruit punch and then they go out in the fresh air and – bam! – it’ll hit them. Can’t have that." He’s got a point.

Spicy Infusion, on the rocks, with salt, same coral color: "This has an interesting surprise," says Kovtunenko. "You put a little in your mouth and hold it on the end of your tongue, but once you swallow it slowly, the taste progreses, then you’re suddenly hit with something new, as if an animal with claws is grabbing your tongue. Then the sensation subsides, then there’s a taste you’re familiar with – hot pepper – but not too hot."

The Infusion smoothie, fruity version: "We like it." No need to mince words, this was a hands-down winner amongst our tasters.

Whatever style you choose, Wednesday’s the day to go – the Station Infusion Margarita is $3.50 (regularly $7).

Lambertville Station, 11 Bridge Street, Lambertville. 609-397-8300.

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