Archive for September, 2008

mmmm

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Gardening inspires some dynamite combinations. My most shocking revelation came when I picked some raspberries and then cut some oregano into the same basket. Some fragments of oregano clung to the raspberries. Wow! My tastebuds sat up and took notice. Try it sometime, with maybe a splash of heavy cream.

Experimentation was ratcheted up after that experience. How about pears with lavender?

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Too much sugar gets in the way of the subtle flavor of pears, in my opinion. Regular pectin can require as much as seven cups of sugar to produce a mere five pints of jam. The pectin pictured above, Pomona’s Universal Pectin, puts us in the driver’s seat. It may not be easy to find. I bought mine at New Seasons, but my guess is that any natural-food-oriented market would have it. To four and a half cups of crushed pears, I added three teaspoons of lavender, one cup of sugar, the juice and zest of one lime and followed the product’s directions from there. This is dangerous stuff. I usually avoid eating bread, but toast with this jam has become a new morning ritual.

This is one of the few remaining products in the world with no web address on the packaging. Here’s the snail mail address:

Pomona’s Universal Pectin
PO Box 1083
Greenfield MA 01302

belamcanda flava

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Some plants deserve special mention, so I am creating a new category where I can sing their praises. I love most plants, but am especially drawn to the oddballs, as you will discover if you choose to follow me down this path.

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The sunny berm out near the fence line is looking fresh, even while summer fades into fall, thanks to plants like this. The Acanthus to its right still sports upright spikes of deep purple flowers allowed to dry in place, and the leaves are turning beautiful russet tones, as you can see. On the left, stachys continue to send up fresh flower spikes beloved by bees.

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Above is a shot of the same plant while still in bud. Without the flowers to distract our attention, we can see the zig zag form of the stems that attracted me to Belamcanda flava in the first place, along with the almost woven look of the leaf arrangement (easier to see in the top photo). Tip to toe, it measures 24 inches. It multiplies nicely, much like iris. Mine came from Dancing Oaks Nursery.

flowers that bloom in september, tra la

Monday, September 15th, 2008

As the days shorten and the light takes on that golden quality, making the end of the growing season equal parts poignant and glorious…the bloomers that strut their stuff late are especially appreciated. Here are a few from my Portland, Oregon garden:

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Solidago‘Fireworks’ has been working up to this moment for weeks. It is at its most photogenic right now, but I treasure it earlier, when the blossoms are still in bud and close observation reveals strings of small yellow beads along the arching stems. It will become downright blowsy over the next two or three weeks, before it is time to cut it back for the winter.

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Hepatacodium miconiodes is a small tree with shaggy, peeling bark and an arching habit. The flowers are just coming on, and will leave behind feathery “whatchamacallits” in rusty shades that rival any blossom for showiness.

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Towering Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium maculatum set up housekeeping along the fence line with no encouragement. I could not have planned it better. Luckily, it increases every year.

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The plume poppies, Macleaya cordata, look a lot like the smoke on a smoke tree. This is another passalong plant from Amy. I have moved it around to several locations since ’99. This is the first site that has met with its approval…on the south side of the house with full sun, plus reflected heat from a concrete patio.

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My favorite use of Rosa glauca was in a garden where it had been cut back hard in early spring. The resulting flush of foliage was dense and lush, with that bluish cast above and pinkish undersides. I can never bring myself to wield the loppers as necessary for that effect, because it would mean forfeiting these luscious hips after the fairly insignificant little pink blossoms have faded. The only pruning this shrub gets is done by the deer…not known for their artisty in such matters.

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‘China Girl’ Kousa dogwood is lovely when flowering, but even better after the petals fall and the fruits redden. They are actually quite tasty, but I prefer to let them dry to use decoratively.

One of my favorite plants blooming right now is Belamcanda flava, but I am going to save it for a separate post in a day or two. Please come back to see it. If you have an interest in seeing what is blooming in gardens around the world, click on May Dreams Gardens in the blogroll at right. You will be glad you did.

so sad

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

This is a sight we never want to see:

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In the four years we have lived here, there has never been a problem with birds flying into our windows. Somehow, two days in a row, the fates aligned to invite disaster. I heard a whump, and when I went to investigate, there was this sweet little fellow, neck broken from the impact.

Several years ago, I did some research on this very subject. It seems there are several explanations for this kind of bird behavior. If they can see right through to the other side of the house, they think it is a corridor. If they see a reflection, they may read it as a rival bird. In either case, the instinct is to fly smack into the window. People have come up with all sorts of solutions, most of which involve some sort of “danglies” in front of the window, with assurances that their affront to one’s inner decorator need only stay in place through the mating season. But wait! This is not the mating season…meaning our window camouflage might need to stay in place indefinitely.

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pennants by ricki to the rescue! This pair of pennants, complete with streamers, fills the bill without getting in the way of the view out the kitchen window. They are decorative enough that I won’t mind leaving them up. I am sure that this is a seasonal phenomenon having to do with the angle of the light, but with lives at stake, we don’t want to take any chances.