Growing NOW Garden Tour

Grow Now Logo med

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Caroline and this is my gardening/food/life blog, Extravagant Gardens.  I’m absolutely thrilled and honored to be featured on this week’s Growing NOW Garden Tour sponsored by the fabulous Beth Bilstrom of https://morethanoregano.com.  She has an amazing blog that you truly need to check out.  It’s a great resource for all things garden and trust me, you’ll love it!  And now I’m so happy to welcome you to my garden…

Hosta in Extravagant Gardens

A few tidbits and photos so you can get to know the garden:

I’m a zone 6B in New Jersey, U.S.A. (the Garden State!), and no, for all of you who have landed at Newark airport and then driven through the wasteland into NYC, nothing is radioactive and glowing in my neck of the woods.  I’m blessed with fabulous, mildly acidic soil and verdure.

The froggie in my pond

Lillies in the pond

A couple years back I added (meaning my husband dug – and then re-dug) a small pond at the back of the house.  It’s one of those black tubs that you can purchase on-line or at garden centers and it’s been terrific.  We have a couple of resident frogs and 4 goldfish that I purchased at Walmart a couple years back.  It seems every time I sprang for expensive fish, they either were picked out by raccoons and herons, or they literally committed suicide by jumping out and baking in the sun.  Not pretty. My .99¢ goldfish might not be pure breeds but they’re certainly tough!  They survived last years crazy winter as well, with the help of a heater of course, but wow!

Verbena bonariensis

I’m truly a lazy gardener.  I love plants that self sow which is crazily obvious when you see the profusion of Verbena bonariensis (and fennel, dill, liatris, borage, sweet william etc.) around my garden.  I really need to start deadheading more!

Bee Balm from Seed

I am plant obsessed and love to buy flats of anything.  I’m currently going through a Piet Oudolf stage and trying to create a mini meadow around my fruit trees.  Since so much of what I want is unavailable in mass orders, I start from seed.

Garlic Chives from Seed

Potted plants are a big favorite as well.  I started garlic chives from seed a couple years back and they’ve just flowered this year.  There are a pair of these that I’m hoping will grow large enough to flank an entrance to the pool garden.  They’d be outside the gate and the deer won’t touch them (did I mention I’m plagued by critters?).

Color in the Garden

Hydrangea in full bloom

I’ve staggered plants so that there is always something blooming in just about every season.

My veggie garden has been a bit of  disaster this year but it’s still producing.

Hyacinth Bean Pods

And it’s that time of year where I start to collect seeds for next year.  This includes everything from the hyacinth beans above, to a french green bean I adore to heirloom tomatoes that have been handed down to me.  It’s a great way to be certain you have what you love.  I’ve found that I occasionally get hooked on a certain plant, only to find it’s been discontinued or sold out.

Chickens in the run

And no tour of my garden would be complete without a final stop at the girls coop.  I have 8 chickens who not only provide fabulous eggs, but loads of manure for flowers and vegetables.  They are super friendly and love visitors – especially if you come with treats!

Thanks for visiting my garden and enjoy the rest of the summer!  That first frost will be coming soon enough!

signature

Distraught Gardener

I hit a low in the veggie garden before leaving for vacation and pretty much swore I was done when I left. There were various reasons, the biggest being a woodchuck I have named ‘grande bastard’ (sorry, but if you saw him and lived with the destruction you would be calling him worse).

Woodchuck Damage

Every year there is damage either from animals, weather, diseases etc. and I really felt like ripping it all out and planting a giant cutting garden. When you put so much time and effort into a rows of kohlrabi and Savoy & red cabbage, and it’s gone overnight, you start to question what you’re working for and putting all of your sweat into.

Woodchuck Damage

However, after returning from vacation, having chilled out for a bit with some lobster and white wine, I’ve regained my perspective.  I’m going to approach the veggie garden as a journey rather than an end result.  Instead of bushels of tomatoes and sauce I’ll settle for a few tomato salads and I’ll plant only what I love with fewer high maintenance experiments.  I’m also buying a really large have a heart trap…

And we have a winner from the Bluestone Perennial gift certificate giveaway.  It’s Jen @ frauzinnie.blogspot.com  (check out her blog too – her photos are wonderful) No one named everything correctly, so all of you that were close were dropped into the hat (literally).  Thanks to all who took a guess!  You’re very much appreciated!  Oh, and the one flower everyone missed was parsley that had bloomed.  It makes a great cut flower!

signature

Wordless Wednesday

Raspberry Freezer Jam

signature

Maine Throwback

Maine Throwback

As we arrive home from yet another fabulous vacation in Maine, I thought I’d share a throwback from the 70’s.  The only thing that confuses me about this photo is that there isn’t a bottle of white wine on the table….

Happy Summer!

signature

Wordless Wednesday

Extravagantgardens.com

signature

Gift Certificate Giveaway!

If you’re like me you are at that point in the summer where you’ve assessed what you love in your garden and what you lack.  I’ve made my list of what I lack and what I want to buy and I thought I would help you with your list too.  I have one $50.00 gift certificate to Bluestone Perennials in Ohio that you can win if you can name the contents of this bouquet.

Contest

Contest

Contest

Contest

Contest

Rules?  Write the flower names in the comment section of this post.  I’ll accept common or latin names, and at the end of the contest I’ll pick one of you out of the proverbial hat.  Also, you need to be an active email subscriber which means if you’re a new subscriber, when you send in your email (it says ‘subscribe’ at the top of the page) you’ll receive an email back that you must click to activate your free subscription.  It’s super easy but you can’t win unless you’re active.  The giveaway will run until August 20th so get your guesses in!

And I’ll give you one hint – something in there is not what it appears.  Good luck everyone!

signature

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

signature

Potted Bay Leaf Tree

Bay leaves are an essential flavoring for many recipes and I’m fortunate that I have a potted bay leaf tree that has been alive for at least fifteen years and has provided a constant supply of fresh leaves for loads of dishes (I’m also fortunate that my hubby has been willing to lug said tree around for fifteen years – it’s not small).  A bay leaf tree is one of those plants that will live happily in your home in a sunny spot, and truth be told, it actually makes quite a handsome house plant so it’s a multi-tasker, what’s not to love?

Antonio_del_Pollaiolo_Apollo_and_Daphne

Bay leaves were cultivated by the early Greeks both for food and medicine, they were also woven into ceremonial crowns for their leaders and winning athletes.  The actual bay tree- Laurus nobilis -was said to have been the transformed nymph Daphne.  She was pursued relentlessly by the god Apollo until her father took pity on her and turned her into the tree.  Apollo still loved and worshipped Daphne as the bay tree and bestowed immortality upon her, thus it remains evergreen (at least in Greece).

While I use fresh leaves at home, I also need them when I’m cooking in other locations.  If I know what i’m making in advance I can snip a couple and bring them with me in a damp paper towel, otherwise I have to rely on dried leaves.  I currently have a small batch drying.

Drying Bay LeavesThey’re super easy to preserve.  Snip, rinse, cover and abandon until they’re dry.  I put them in my bottom oven where they won’t be bothered by anyone (and yes I have forgotten they were in there and cooked them to oblivion – oops).

If you’re looking for a great plant for culinary purposes and for a spot in your home, head out and get yourself a bay tree (or find one on the internet – and no I don’t get a kickback from that).  You’ll enjoy it for years to come, I promise!

signature

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

signature

Perfect Summer Cocktail

I have returned to an old love – the Kir…  It is the perfect summer cocktail!  Light and refreshing and a wee bit sweet, it really has no competition.

Perfect Summer Cocktail

Isn’t it beautiful?  Of course you must stir the two parts but I love to present it while the wine and liqueur are separate and then whisk them together in front of the recipient.  It’s great cocktail theater.  And if you would like to ‘up the ante’ on your tipple, add champagne for a Kir Royale.  Endless fun!

The standard recipe is a 3 to 1 ratio of wine to creme de cassis, but I find I like it a bit more sweet so I tend to add a bit more.  Also, I like to use Muscadet since it’s what I have floating around the house while most people will use something chardonnay based (like Chablis) and bartenders will grab virtually anything at hand.  But they’re rarely bad so take heart!

The history of this cocktail starts as so much else does, with capitalism.  Felix Kir, a local of Dijon, France and the Mayor from 1945-1968 (he was also a hero of the French Resistance during WWII), was also a proud proponent of local products.  The area around Dijon produces white wine as well as an excellent cassis (cassis is a liqueur based upon currants, currants also make wickedly good jam – just thought you’d like to know that).  He married the two and served them at the various mayoral receptions to his guests.  It caught on.  The mix used to be called a blanc-cassis, but appropriately now bears his name.

My goal is to one day make my own cassis from lovely little berries that I grow, but in the interim I will happily enjoy someone else’s amazing product.  Cheers!

signature