R.I.P. to and amazing gardener – Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta in Punta Canna

The world lost an amazing gardener yesterday, Oscar de la Renta.  He was most notable for the fashion he designed and the women who wore his clothing, but his two gardens, one in Kent, Connecticut and the other in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic were stunning.  Rosemary Verey, friend and consultant to Oscar de la Renta said of him “He has the hands of an artist, but they are useful hands that can dig as well as draw and paint.”

Requiescat in pace Oscar…

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Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - Yucca

When my plants and flowers start to die back and the urge to cut them down and throw them in the compost starts, I resist and leave almost everything standing.  Why?  Primarily because it provides food and shelter for critters of all kinds during the fall and winter months, but it’s also quite beautiful to look at when the landscape is bleak (a patch of frosted plants with the sunlight shining on it is stunning).

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - sunflower

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - sunflower

Birds of all kind will go crazy for sunflower heads.  They grow very easily and you can even save a few seed heads for the winter months.  Just cut them when they’re dry and store them where rodents won’t get to them (I use a small metal garbage can in the garage).  Come winter, tie them someplace you can see from the house and watch the birds go crazy!

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

Probably my favorite garden visitors are the birds that come through and quite often stay for the winter  (sorry about the blurry photo above – it’s from last year and he kept bouncing the sunflower).  They add life to the garden in all seasons and I love that I can do something small that helps them a bit.  I also try and provide water, but keeping it ice free can be tough.

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden - perennial sweet pea

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

Echinacea (above) and the yucca seeds at the top of the post are magnets in my garden for finches.

Leaving Seed Heads in the Fall Garden

I admit the fennel can get a bit out of hand when left to stand, but they’re fairly easily managed with a bit of weeding and if something else that’s fun sprouts (like the echinacea), I pot them up to share with friends.

And heres a link to the Audubon Society…  They have a wealth of birding information if you’d like to ID any of the little guys nibbling your seed…

So whats your garden strategy?  Do you cut and compost first thing or do you let them stand?

Happy gardening everyone!

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Chickens!

Finally, finally, finally the chickens are here!  It has been a monumental process trying to find the breeds I wanted and still be within driving distance so that I could pick them up rather than have them shipped, so after much research and a failed attempt in the spring, I made an epic pilgrimage this weekend and picked up four Buff Orpingtons, two Ameraucana and two Barred Rocks from a fabulous ‘local’ farm….

Chickens!

Thankfully everyone did well on the trip and they’re happily ensconced in a back bedroom with the heat on 80 something degrees.  My next hurdle is to have the run finished and figure out whether I heat, or do not heat the coop.  I’m probably over researching but consensus seems to be, do not heat except in extreme conditions.  They need to develop their down.  Any zone 6 chicken people out there that want to offer up a bit of advice???  All my girls (hopefully girls!) are good in cold climates.

And seriously?  Unbelievably cute!

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Hubbard Squash

Hubbard Squash

The big, blue squash sitting outside my door is not just Autumn decor, it’s a hubbard squash and it’s edible and delicious.  Many of you may know that already, but I was surprised when I was purchasing it that the sales person had absolutely no idea it could be consumed, albeit, I picked it up as a gourd at a garden center, but I was still surprised that she wasn’t aware it was a fabulous fall veggie with a dozen uses.

Hubbard Squash & other fall squash

Hubbards can be hefty, sometimes 50 pounds – that’s a lot of squash to deal with…  Mine is about 20 and I have plans for him…  First things first though, I’ll chop him up, seed him (while saving seeds for next year of course!), rub a bit of olive oil around and then roast at 350.  At that point I’ll be making soup, risotto, ravioli filling and of course pie…

'pumpkin pie' from hubbard squash

Hubbard is very sweet and also has the benefit of being a winter squash which equals a long keeper.  It can last up to 6 months in storage.  Pretty remarkable.

If you’re interested in purchasing seed you can order it here, or I’ll be saving a ton of seed – just ask!

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Wordless Wednesday

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Lemon Grass Grilled Sea Scallops

I have a new pot of Lemon Grass that I started last year.  Lemon Grass grows fast and it gets really, really big if you let it, so I’ve decided to be aggressive this time around and have been looking for recipes to use it with (I had a large pot I used to lug in and out of the house every year and it was just too unruly, and those leaves can be sharp!).  I decided to try threading it through scallops and it worked beautifully,  The result?  Lemon Grass Grilled Sea Scallops…

Lemon Grass Grilled Sea Scallops

Lemon Grass Grilled Sea Scallops

Ingredients

  • 1 Stalk Lemon Grass (per 4 or 5 scallops)
  • 5 Scallops (per person (or more - your call))
  • olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

Cut the stalks from your plant, wash and clean off the old outer leaves. Cut the end on an angle so you can easily thread the scallops. (You can also buy them in pre-cut bundles at Asian grocers).
Rinse your scallops, pat dry and thread 4 or 5 onto the lemon grass stalk.
Rub with a good dose of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let sit for a few minutes to impart flavor.
Place the skewers in a grill basket and set over the cooler side of your grill. Cook for total of about 5 minutes, flipping once. Do not overcook or you'll be unhappy.

I had a Beurre Blanc on the side too add a little moisture, but it didn’t really need it.  A squeeze of lemon would have been just fine.

And if you don’t have a grill basket make sure you use a spatula and tongs or a pair of spatulas.  The lemon grass will have burned a bit and might not be able to hold their weight.  And if you’d like to buy a grill basket try Sur La Table .

Lemon Grass for Grilled Sea Scallops

Hope you like this.  The lemon grass really works well with the scallops… Oh, and if you want to buy a lemon grass plant try your local garden center in the spring, they often have them or you can try it from seed at rareseeds.com

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Snacking in the Garden

My garden has been inundated with praying mantis’ over the past few years, and while I love it, this little guy was starting to bug me yesterday.  He staked out a position on my meyer lemon, which is blooming like crazy, and picked off multiple bumble bees.  Beastly little glutton…

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When I got in close to take a photo with my phone he actually had the audacity to give me a dirty look (with that creepy head swivel – he was probably deciding if I was too big to eat).

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DSC02714Thankfully he moved on by the morning.  I can’t even imagine how many bee’s he consumed over the afternoon.  I wonder what eats a praying mantis???

And check this site out – the Mantis actually catches a hummingbird.  It’s a mini jungle out there!

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Dividing Perennials…

IMG_7307There are certain garden chores that can seem daunting and you tend to avoid them, dividing perennials can be one of these.  Sometimes it’s the physical labor and sometimes it’s the uncertainty of how to attack that unruly clump of vegetation.  This past weekend I had a large patch of Iris that needed to be split so I thought I’d give you a quick refresher on how to tackle the chore.

The mass below started with one sweet little piece from my Mother’s garden.  It’s overwhelmed it’s location in just a couple years.

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In my mind the most important thing is don’t be delicate about it.  Plants are a lot tougher than you think. But having said that, I watered this the night before I dug, we’ve been dry and I wanted to be certain it was hydrated before I  put shovel to soil…

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I have a fabulous little shovel that I do everything with.  It’s small and versatile and I find it much easier to use than a standard shovel.  Unfortunately the company I purchased it from no longer sells it, but it looks something like this. The right tool for the job always helps.

And I confess they were difficult to remove, I did some root damage but they’ll be fine.

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Cut about half to three quarters of the foliar growth.  It helps them conserve water when you replant. And a helpful tip – if you have a clump that won’t break down easily into manageable chunks, use an old steak knife.  The serrated blade works like a charm.

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Pop the divided chunks that you’re keeping back into the soil and water well.  I also took the opportunity to lace this area with various bulbs while everything was dug up.

Happy Gardening!!!

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Banana Melon

Banana Melon

I can’t resist a plant, and that holds true for my veggie garden.  Each year I try and do something a little different (at least for me) and sometimes it’s a success and sometimes it’s a failure.  The photo above ranks as a double failure.  It’s called a banana melon which would be cool, except I planted a melon called  Jenny Lind.  Oops!  (failure #1) I won’t name which company I purchased the seed from, it does happen, but I was bummed.  Jenny is supposed to be perfect for my cooler climate, she is sweet and small and develops in a reasonable time frame for a zone 6a/b.  Mr. Banana chose not to cooperate.

I pawned the first one off on my mother – it looked ripe after all.  Not so much (sorry Mom).  I tried another one this week – it smelled amazing, and once again looked ripe, sadly it does not taste like it smells.  It’s bland and soooo not sweet (failure #2).

Banana Melon

Maybe it was the cool summer, maybe Mr. Banana just doesn’t like me, but off to the compost you go, along with your brethren still clinging to the vine!  And I will be re-ordering my Jenny this winter – from the link above!

And have any of you out there had any success with this melon?  I’ve seen rave reviews about it on-line but it really was a dud in my garden.

 

Happy Gardening everyone!

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