Thursday, June 3, 2010

Now for something completely different...challenge time!

Pam at Pam's English Cottage Garden has included me in an 8x8 photo challenge--post the 8th picture in your 8th album.

Turns out it's one of my other loves (besides growing plants)...growing bread!

This particular loaf was my first attempt (and so far only) at a Pan de Campaign from the Baking with Julia cookbook.  Love that book and most everything I've made out of it, but I can't say I was all that impressed with this attempt. With practice, I hope I could work out the shapes a bit better, but the taste and texture of this attempt were, frankly, kind of disappointing.

It's a wild yeast risen sourdough that takes a few days, not continuous ;-) to make.   I enjoyed the challenge and will probably try it again, sometime, but I really prefer a nice loaf of French bread....

Thanks, Pam--I enjoyed looking back at this!

Friday, May 28, 2010

My garden is getting ready to RUMBLE!

Well, maybe not rumble, exactly, but lots of things are suddenly getting set to happen.

My Poker Primrose now has little--what? are they buds, or maybe not when they aren't really a mass of petals, but what are they called then?

At any rate, the Poker Primrose is starting to happen and you can even see the pink color beginning.  I wasn't sure the Red Coral Bells would still be blooming at the same time, and truly they do look a little rough around the edges by now, but it looks like it may just happen after all.

Even if it doesn't though, it will still be nice to have the Primrose giving me something pretty to look at between the Bleeding Heart (now done blooming) and the Hydrangea (no buds yet).

The Poker Primrose isn't the only one getting ready to go.  One of my Scarlet Emperor Beans has just started to climb!

A few more are definitely feeling around for something to hold on to, so it shouldn't be long before they're climbing, too.

As I'd mentioned before, I'd never grown these before, but somehow I expected them to climb with tendrils like peas.  I just wasn't expecting them to wrap themselves around the sticks exactly like a Morning Glory--love it!

Not to be outdone, the buds on the biggest of my Foxgloves are getting bigger and bigger--looks like I won't have to wait too much longer.

They are just lovely right now with the soft pink blending into the cream-colored tips--right now it's just the few at the bottom, of course, but they do bode well for things to come.

And, slightly less exciting but still kind of fun, I have a potted Fuchsia on the wall above the back garden that I picked up earlier this month. 

It's had a bit of an adjustment period with minimal blooms on the bottom branches only, but it's now starting to bud on the upper shoots, as well.

I only just learned of May Dreams Garden's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day so I have yet to share my blooms that way, but somehow it looks like maybe my plants have been keeping it in mind.

If this keeps up, I hope to have these guys in all their glory come June 15.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hello Nasturtium (and hopefully not "welcome, bane of my garden")

I enjoy Nasturtium.

Their leaves remind me of lily-pads and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where the courtyard is lush and green even on the very least pleasant of winter days and in April, fifteen-foot-long Nasturtium vines are hung from the balconies in honor of Mrs. Gardner's birthday.

Rose does not enjoy Nasturtium, at all.

Last year at this time, she too was a fan--pretty flowers in part-shade?  What's not to love?

Then she planted some.

And they grew.  And grew and grew.  My husband and I thought this might be a happy thing.  She planted things that were thriving--awesome, right?  Well, for her not so much.

 Rose's Nasturtium going crazy last year

She's an orderly sort of person, and these nasturtium were not following her plan.  To her they were like Kudzu only really, really invasive.

Fast-forward to this year, I wanted a bit of "something" in a spot between the daisies and broccoli.

I saw these Botanical Interests Mahogany Nasturtium and thought they'd look great.  A bit of deeper color and a pretty shape.  And goodness knows they grow well.

And, I have a new little project which was planned to either a) brighten up the edge by the fence or b) let me plant more, more, more--you can decide which it is ;-)

There's about 1.5" of space between the poured concrete patio and the fence.  There's dirt with grass on the other side, so it seems to me to be more like a strawberry pot (big dirt, small opening) than the 1.5" tray it looks like. 

I dumped a bit of potting soil between to fill it up a bit higher and planted some Thumbelina Zinnia and the rest of the Jewel Nasturtium seeds from Rose's garden last year.

My expectations for the zinnia aren't so very high since they like lots of sun, but I figured it was worth a shot.  I think the Nasturtium should do better (unless Rose is right and they end up eating our fence and patio and spitting them out as toothpicks).

So far the Nasturtium are coming up and looking great, in their distinctively pretty round-leafed little way.   They're definitely growing well and gaining size every day!  Right now I take that as a good and happy sign, but I guess I'll be keeping an eye on them in case this lovely growing thing starts to get out of hand.

Rose did try and warn me.  Several times.

Don't trust Nasturtium.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Progress, Stock, and Another Large Pot

We've finally had two days of sun in a row after lots and lots of rain.  It really feels like summer is here and should (God willing) for at least the weekend.

The foxglove that I started from seed last year if making definite progress and looking like it's planning on blooming sometime in the next month (give or take!).  All of them seem to be starting stalks, but one of them (pictured) is much farther along than the others--strange since all 5 surviving plants are the same variety and were planted at the same time.  This one was also the only one of the original 6 to bloom last year.  It's obviously an overachiever.

And look at the strawberries!  These are the ones I put in the part- shade as an afterthought but they're also my star pupils--hope no critters catch on because we're getting really excited to think of all those blooms turning into lots of fresh berries.

The bed were these strawberries and foxglove are is the one I took the most care of with compost last year--could be a coincidence but it does make me wonder.  Guess I'll keep up the scrap-and-coffee-grounds gathering and try to keep the compost project alive.  It seems to be worth while.

And, guess what I found last Monday?  Another large flower pot!  I had gotten the 3 large black ones (with the lettuce and now a grape tomato) from a neighbor who was giving them away.  At the time we lived in the apartment and they seemed (and were) perfect for growing some nice things on the balcony.  I'd forgotten that I had picked up 4 of them and only remembered when I saw the identical sized and shaped one in white in my mother's garage. 

Strange how these things work--I would have thought I'd have had more use for pots on the balcony, but actually space and weight were problems there.  Not so here.

I had been thinking of growing carrots, but our soil is pretty rocky--not boulders, but little rocks (1" or less) and plenty of them.  I'd heard that (unlike beets) carrots split and gnarl pretty much every time they hit a rock--didn't seem like they had much chance of success around here.


Enter the "new" large pot, add some rock free dirt and I'm ready to give it a try!  Rose and I picked out these funky colored Carnival Blend carrots.  Don't know if they'll taste any different for all their crazy colors, but Rose thought they were pretty and I figured if I was going to grow my own carrots, I wanted them to look like something I didn't just pick up anywhere :-)

And finally, Rose's garden to the left--isn't it looking sweet?  I'd been gifted some alyssum and stock plants and Rose really liked them.  Plus, while we wait to see if the columbine (areas marked out with sticks) do anything at all this year, the poor kid really needed something to enjoy.

So, now it's pretty and rosy and very sweet...just like a certain young lady I know of.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

And again with the seeds....this time Nodding Onion

Rose and I both were beguiled by this Nodding Onion Allium.  For once, it wasn't the artist's drawing that fished us in, but the photos we googled up under Nodding Onion--just lovely!

I'm not usually much of an allium fan--they can look extremely cool in formal gardens and fun for kids in a Suess kind of way, but they aren't a very good fit for my own style.  I'm certainly silly enough, but I don't tend to like my garden flowers to be too bold or too statement making.

Unfortunately, while Botanical Interests seeds are sold in one of our local grocery chains (lucky us!), this particular seed is not in their rounders (unlucky us.).

But, finally I broke down and ordered them online.  Spent more on the shipping than I did on the seeds themselves, but at least they arrived quickly (on the 3rd day--not bad at all).

These are part of Botanical Interests' "Botanic Garden Series" which aims to help preserve native plant species--these aren't actually native in our neck of the woods, so I don't know that Rose and I are really doing our part here, but then again if we can keep them alive that's something right?  Of course, nice as that is, to be fair, we really just chose them because they tolerate shade and are very pretty.

So, we planted them yesterday in the back garden in front of some blue bachelor buttons in a little crescent that bridges Rose's and my areas.  The packet says they may or may not come up without being chilled, so we may or may not see anything this year--arrgh!  Where's a sure thing when you need one?

But, as I remind myself very regularly, we're not just here for a year, we're looking to get better and better over time.  And, as perennials, these (assuming they eventually do grow) will be a part of that.  And, years and years from now, when Rose is grown and off on her own, I can still look at them and remember the summer my little Rose and I were beguiled by these pretty things enough to take the plunge.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Welcome, little Brandywines

As I mentioned before, this spring was a bit tricky for me and I didn't get any tomato seeds started indoors so they could be big enough to produce anything before the fall frosts.  So, last week I picked out some seedlings from a local nursery--Brandywine Tomatoes.

I've never grown, or to the best of my knowledge even eaten a Brandywine before--I'm going into this only based on their reputation as an extremely tasty variety.

They're also a very slow growing variety, but hopefully that won't be too much of a problem.  I have a single Grape Tomato plant in a big pot on the patio, so I'm thinking that will help us manage the waiting.

Because Brandywines are an heirloom variety and not a hybrid, I'm planning on saving some of the seeds (assuming they grow pretty well and taste very good)--it will be my first time fermenting seeds (more info here) so that also will be a new adventure.  And, I love over time getting the seeds from the plants that do best in my little spot under the sun.

But, obviously, I'm getting way ahead of myself (as I usually do when I start thinking about gardening!  But that's the point of planting things, isn't it?).  It's a rainy, dreary day and I only just dug up a strip of grass to plant these little guys in--and even with that, on account of the rain and general drear, I didn't do much more than the minimum, as you can clearly see from the photo.  Fruits of my labor will still be a long way off (if at all, to look at it totally realistically).

But since nothing will come unless I take the first step, I hereby consider myself and my Brandywine Tomatoes on our way.  Hooray for us!

ETA: the whole heirloom thing reminds me of this very funny recent Garden Rant post.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm on board with having some water and canned foods on hand in the winter, nothing wrong with having flashlights, extra batteries, and blankets when you need them--just don't try and sell me $20 of heirloom seeds for $159.95 because I'm supposed to be afraid not to.

Guess between my beets, spinach, and now the Brandywine tomatoes, we'll be good to go in case of governmental collapse.  But don't worry--in the event of a catastrophy I'll be happy to share them with you all, no $159.95 required.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What a difference a week makes...

...or maybe 3 weeks makes?  All of these pictured except the strawberries are now 3 weeks from the time their seeds were planted.  All kinds of everything growing right now--I love this early spring time!

My lettuce is looking really lettuce-like and (much to Rose's delight) the red leaf varieties in the mix are looking like red leaves--why didn't I ever grow these before, they are so pretty!

The spinach now all have a first set of real (and spinach shaped!) leaves.
Lavawa Spinach--3 weeks after planting

The Strawberries with lots of blooms--no red yet, but lots of signs that berries won't be long

And, remember how I was losing hope that these runner beans were even viable--look at them now!  I'm actually going to need to thin them out soon :-)
Happy spring, everyone!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Want to see something cool?

Last year I had a pot of jewel toned pansies on my porch.  I was a bit surprised (but not unhappy!) to find a pretty yellow one had reseeded itself and was growing in the front garden.

I was even more surprised to find (about a month later) these pansies (above)--the yellow/cream and the purple/yellow blooms there are both on the same plant.  But the really cool thing is that I'm pretty sure that the purplish one started out cream/yellow--I could be wrong, but it looks to me that the bees  have cross pollinated my yellow pansies with my yesterday-today-and-tomorrow violas to make these pretty little yesterday-today-tomorrow-and-yellow pansies--how cool is that?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hollyhocks, meet World

This photo makes me smile, the little bitty hollyhock sprout looking out at the big wide world!

The hollyhocks are starting to come up, but 2 have already damped off (the first two, so maybe I didn't get the wrap off of them fast enough?) and most of the others aren't sprouting.

Don't know if it's the hardware store seeds, my own incompetence, or just sheer stubbornness on the part of hollyhocks, but these guys aren't doing as well as I'd hoped.

It's funny, because the ones that are growing well look great, but the suicidal ones aren't shy about it either.

I'm going to throw a few more seeds in the unsprouted cells and re-plasticwrap only those, hopefully getting something from them.  I started with 2 seeds per cell, but I think I need to up my odds a bit more.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And you are...? (or: where's Nancy Drew when I need her?)

A few weeks ago, I found this little guy growing by my back spigot.  Being very new still at gardening, my first thought when I saw pointed leaves and thorns was, "a rose?  how'd that get here?" (it's ok if you laugh with me about it, I am laughing)

After roughly 30 seconds on google, I found out, sadly, it wasn't going to be a rose when it grew up, but I still don't know what it will grow up to be!

I've moved it to a more empty area in the garden and am watching it, waiting to find out what it does.

My husband (who, like me, knows a whole lot more about google than he does about the identifying traits of local flora) thinks it's probably in the blackberry/raspberry family, but what exactly it is (much less whether it does anything pretty and/or yummy!) is still a mystery.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Red Coral Bells

Well, the lilacs are officially done, plus it's been chilly and the seeds are slow to grow any further, but my red coral bells are blooming and (much to my surprise) I really like them.  A lot.

I guess I should like them, since I'm the one who ordered and planted them, but to be completely honest, I picked them because they tolerate partial shade, are reputed to attract butterflies, and looked a little wild.  There are some plants that I'd been wishing for long before we had a place to grow them, but these just weren't one of them.

But now that they're here, I'm really, really enjoying them.  They have an ethereal look to them, kind of fairy-like and graceful.  Rose has been building "fairy homes" out of rocks and sticks in the backyard and I think these look like the fairies made them while they were waiting for their new homes.

I also like the way the coral bells complement the bleeding heart, their low leaves and tall vertical blooms make a good pair to the bleeding heart's higher and lighter foliage and almost horizontal bloom stems.  Who knew?

Plus, I am again delighted that they sent me the wrong color bleeding heart--I think the pinky-red one I ordered wouldn't look nearly as pretty with these as the white one does.

And, for about the millionth time, I'd like to take credit for my excellent planning, prediction, and decision making skills, but (as usual), in reality it's just another lucky mix of blessing and blind luck (story of my life!).

One funny thing, Rose is far less impressed with these in the garden than I am!  She thinks the red looks plenty bad with the purple violas--I can see her point, but I actually enjoy the "pop" of it--maybe she'll be happier when the poker-primrose blooms and adds a bit of pinky-red to the mix?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day, from Rose and Daphne!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It turns out that Runner Beans can read....

Or something like that.

Not 24 hours after I bemoaned the lack of action where I planted those Scarlet Emperor Beans, I took another look and there were a number of them showing themselves to be alive and growing.

I am so relieved!

Not only that, but one of the Strawberries is definitely getting ready to bloom (no need to talk myself into it this time--I see white!).

And indoors, the hollyhocks are also starting to sprout (well one hollyhock, actually, but still a good sign).  I really enjoy these large-ish seeds that need the light to germinate--keeps them in my sights this way.  Still have a year or so to see those flowering, but, that can't happen without this step, so I'll take it.

Hope any of you who have been joining me in staring at your dirt trying to glean any sign of anything at all that might hint at something about to happen have some similar joy in this lovely season.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rose Talks a Little (lot) About Gardening

I thought I'd say a little something about my garden- which is flourishing.  :-)
I guess that's because I got a Bleeding Heart plant from my Grandmother, and although its practically done blooming, its still a big plant that's green

Both of my Bachelor Buttons, Black Ball (which is really maroon) and last year's Blue Boy are in the ground, and Black Ball has "popped surface". 

I have two Columbine-Harlequin Mix from last year (perennial) and three more planted, but still underground, and three of my new Blue ones also just seeds. and in the ground. 

Another last-year plant that is green is Hellebore -which I forgot I had. 

I also found a Violet behind our shed (don't ask me what it was doing there) and, finder's keepers, losers weepers, put it in my garden.

Finally, there's the Pink Pansies I got as seedlings (You see, I do cheat at this) that are in a line in the front. It all looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

The picture on the left is of the three seeds I wish I'd planted this year: Moon flower, Foxglove (of my own), and Balsam. Especially Balsam. It just looks sooooooo pretty, doesn't it?

But today I bought some Canterbury Bells-Cup & Saucier Mix from Burpee and they looks really good too. Even better than the moon flowers and foxglove.  I can't wait to plant it in the summer!