A,B,C’s of Extravagant Garden’s

A,B,C's of Extravagant Garden's

Welcome to the A,B,C’s of Extravagant Gardens…

A is for Artichoke, that I’ve started from seed.
B is for the Beets that I don’t really need.
C is for Chard, of which I can’t get enough.
D is for Daikon, what is this stuff?
E is for Eggs, thanks to the hens.
F is for the Fennel I plant again and again.
G is for a Grape Vine that I need to train.
H is for Hose, when will it rain?
I is for the Iris that’s in a perfect spot.
J is for the Juniper I dropped in a pot.
K is for Kousa and it’s edible fruit.
L is for Lavender than lines a pathway route.
M is for Malus, my favorite is Macoun.
N is for the Netting which I’ll need to toss over it soon.
O is for Oregano, which I must confess, I’ve let it run wild and it’s a bit of a mess.
P is for Poppies, and it’s kind of strange, that I just started growing them – I must have needed a change.
Q is for gardening Questions which I so often pose.
R is next and it can only represent a Rose!
S is for the Sage I like to preserve.
T is for Tomato, stuffed for an hors d’oeuvre.
U is for Uncork, need I say more? Sometimes after a day in the garden, you must pour.
V is for Vegetables, that are starting to grow.
W is for Water, please stop the snow.
X is for Xeriscape, let’s save water!
Y is for my Yarrow, that likes it hotter.
Z is for Zinnia, a perfect cut flower, one I would choose if stuck in a tower.

Happy gardening everyone!

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Seed Starting Has Begun!

Let the seed starting begin!

Seed Starting
I rarely get my Sweet Peas in the ground in a timely fashion, which results in very few blossoms, so I’m trying them early this year. I’m going to pot them up and see how far I can push them in a cold and sunny back room.

One of the tricks with sweet peas is to let them soak for a day before you plant them. It’s not essential, but it helps to speed the process along. Once they sprout and grow a bit, I’ll pinch the tops so they don’t get so leggy, and then hopefully I can plant them out early and have loads of bouquets through the late spring and early summer. And did I mention they’re wickedly fragrant??? One of my favorites!

I also grow a perennial sweet pea, its not really fragrant but I do love it for the non-stop show of blossoms all season.
Perennial Sweet Pea
I ‘borrowed’ the seed for this plant a few years back while on vacation in Maine. It has thrived. If I’m ever lacking for a cut flower in the house I can always turn to this plant for a few blossoms.

So what seeds have you started? Are you trying anything new this year? My next big planting is going to be fava’s and I’m trying artichokes again. Hurrah for SPRING!!!!!!!

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Propagating Schefflera

Whenever we travel I like to bring back natural ‘souvenirs’ of our trip, sometimes it’s a shell I find in the sand, and sometimes it’s a plant of some sort.  If I’ve taken a cutting of something, I’ll pack it with wet paper towels to be certain it makes it back alive.  I’ve also been known to dig up an entire plant and try and bring it back in a shampoo bottle or something of that sort (and I confess to smuggling a bay tree back from Rome many years ago in this way… shhh!).  So during our Florida vacay a couple weeks back, we returned to our cute little cottage and they we’re trimming the schefflera hedge, I knew it was the perfect cutting to bring home and propagate.  Yes I could easily buy one at home, but it’s a lot more fun to try and grow one from a cutting.

Propagating Schefflera

It’s actually a super simple plant to propagate.  Fill a pot with organic potting soil (you don’t have to use organic, I just like to when I can) and carve out a small hole with a pencil or chopstick.

Propagating Schefflera

Strip lower leaves to a node, and dip the end of the cutting into the rooting hormone.Propagating Schefflera

Propagating Schefflera

This is a bottle of rooting hormone if you’ve never used it before.

Insert gently into the space in the soil, trying not to knock off too much of the hormone.  Tamp the soil down around the cutting and set it in a not too sunny spot.  If I’m trying to propagate cuttings from a plant that has a more delicate leaf, I’ll also trim the leaves themselves by half, but in this case it’s not really needed.

Propagating ScheffleraAnd that’s it!  So easy .

Do you ever take cuttings at home?  It’s a great way to expand your plant collection or to create quantities of plants that you need for mass plantings.  I’m planning on propagating about 40 boxwoods this spring for what I hope will be an amazing hedge in the future!

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First Chicken Eggs

Can I be any more excited about the first chicken eggs from the girls?  Pretty much not…

First Chicken Eggs

First Chicken Eggs

Definitely compliments of the Buff Orpingtons since they lay light brown eggs.

First Chicken Eggs

I’ve had a few people ask via social media why they’re laying in such cold weather, and the reason is that their laying cycle is triggered by light, not the cold temps.  I truly am surprised I have eggs at this point since I still thought they were too young, but I gather Orps lay early and quite often throughout the winter.  My other two breeds, Barred Rocks and Ameraucanas will most likely start laying in the Spring…

I’m taking this as a sign that Spring is truly on it’s way!  Hope you all have signs of it around you as well (and if you do send me a link or a line!)

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A Few Vacation Pics…

We spent a week in the Florida Keys for our winter vacation and it was such a treat to see some flora and fauna.  I don’t know how much snow you have on the ground by you, or how low your temps have gone (and sorry to my non-U.S. readers for whining), but we have some seriously deep drifts and it was -6 degrees fahrenheit today.  I’m done with winter…

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

I love this shot.  This is a giant poinsettia that’s thriving in it’s spot against a stone wall.  I had seen them growing in Greece years ago, but I didn’t think they’d survive anywhere in the U.S.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation PicsThis gardener had packed spanish moss around her tree-tied orchids.  Not sure if it would help or hinder the orchid.

Vacation PicsEvery now and then I remember that I’ve downloaded the app Waterlogue.  It’s kind of cool.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

 

Vacation Pics


Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Poolside visitor.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Palm in bloom.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Our island retreat.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Seriously!  Right???

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation PicsSo that’s vacation in a nutshell.  Have you booked a trip and gotten out this year?  Was this year so bad you’re planning on booking and bolting next year?  Would love to hear where you’re going or what you’ve done!

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Beautiful Winter Tree Bark

Beautiful Winter Bark

When you’re up to your eyeballs in snow, and you have to walk super slowly along walkways or you’ll wipe out on the ice underfoot, it gives you that extra moment to stop and take a look at beautiful winter tree bark that you would not otherwise notice.

It’s not a silver lining but it’s all I really have to work with…

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Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

When I was young, my parents would frequently take us to a dear friends restaurant in NYC named The Chambertin.  Without fail, I alway ordered clams chablis, duck a la’ orange and a light and fluffy chocolate mousse that is absolutely, sublimely perfect (and I really don’t like dessert to be honest).  It took forever to figure out how they made it – I was stuck in the egg trap (whipped, yolks etc.), and invariably they we’re dense and heavy.  I stumbled upon a recipe that used gelatin to achieve the fluff without the density and it worked.  This recipe has evolved over the years and it’s the flavor of my childhood, and I’m calling it the Ultimate Chocolate Mousse – and it is!

And I admit this has zero to do with gardening, but really, since it’s chocolate, who cares, right?

Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tspns Unflavored Gelatin
  • 2 Tbspns Cold Water
  • 2 1 Oz. Chocolate Squares (unsweetened)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Tspn Mace
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tspn Vanilla

Directions

Soften gelatin in the cold water. Set aside.
Put the chocolate, 1/2 cup sugar, mace and milk in a double boiler and heat until the chocolate melts. Don not let it boil.
Beat until smooth. I have an old rotary blender but you could use a whisk.
Add the gelatin and stir until it's melted. Pour into a bowl and chill until it's nice and thick, then beat it until it's fluffy.
Whip the cream and add the remaining sugar and the vanilla. Fold the whipped cream and the chocolate mixture together. Squish into cute little cups and top with toasted nuts. Chill.

And I always rig a double boiler with two pots.  No need to have extra equipment you have to store.

This mousse lived up to my memories.  Hope you enjoy it too.

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Meyer Lemon Oddities

Meyer Lemon Oddities

Just a quick post on my wacky Meyer lemons.  The large and crazy Meyer in the photo above is mine – great flavor, nice and mild but about the size of a softball, and then the standard grocery store Meyer below.  Odd, no?  There’s lots of pith, but also plenty of juicy fruit.  I think it’s probably a crazy mix of some other citrus, possibly a Ponderosa?  Who knows, but it’s fun and the tree is loaded with fruit so I’m not complaining.

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White Bean and Kale Stew

White Bean and Kale StewJust so you know (a.k.a. full disclosure), I did not use kale from my garden for this recipe.  There is kale out there – I swear it – but it’s buried under a couple feet of snow at this moment and while I love you all, I’m not that dedicated…

So everyone has a version of this soup I think.  It’s yummy and hearty and can be served to vegetarians with ease just by swapping in veggie stock.  I also love it since I can top it with an acre of parmesan cheese.  I dressed this version up a bit with a toasted parm crouton, but a wave of grated cheese is simply amazing too.

White Bean and Kale Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 Yellow Onion (diced)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Bundles Kale (deveined and chopped into reasonable sized pieces)
  • 6 Cups Chicken or Veggie Stock (use the good stuff if you're not using homemade)
  • 1 28 Oz. Can Italian Tomatoes (squish them with your hand before adding them to the pot)
  • 2 15.5 Oz Cans Cannellini Beans (drained)
  • 1 Tspn Thyme
  • 2 Tbspns Dried Celery Leaves (you can use fresh, just throw them in with the onions and garlic to sauté)
  • 3 Slices Hearty Whole Wheat Bread, not from a plastic bag if you know what I mean (cubed)
  • 1 Rind Parmesan Cheese
  • S&P (to taste)
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Over a medium flame, pour a bit of olive oil into a large, heavy bottomed pan and add the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Cook until onion starts to pale.
Add the chopped kale, stir for a minute or so to allow it to shrink down a bit, and then add the stock and tomatoes.
Next add your beans, cheese rind, thyme and celery. Give a good stir and then add the bread. Cover and simmer for a good half an hour or until the bread breaks down.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and top with a cute little homemade crouton if desired.

White Bean and Kale Stew

I save my left over parm cheese rinds in a bag in the freezer (my freezer is kind of frightening honestly, there are some crazy things in there).  They’re also great in minestrone so it’s nice to have on hand.  Waste not, want not right?  Also, you can see in the photo above a few garbanzo’s floating around – I ran out of cannellini so I popped them in.  It worked really well.  And if you’d like to make your own stock, here’s how I make my veggie stock, which also falls into the ‘waste not want not department’, and here’s another great version if you don’t want bags of vegetable scraps lying around.

Happy gardening (and cooking) all!

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Wordless Wednesday

You mean you want me to come out?

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