Sunday, March 22, 2015

WHAT A DAY

It has just been a month since my surgery and for the first time I am getting back my enthusiasm for gardening. This morning I worked outside for an hour, walked 1½ miles around the lake, ate tacos at Whole Foods, shopped for paint at Home Depot, bought some 2" succulents and a clematis, popped into Lowe's for a small fountain for my stock tank, came home and sanded down the little table in the front garden. By 5pm I treated myself to a sit down on one of the new chairs and under the new umbrella in the front garden.


The Lady Banks' rose is starting to send out a few blooms on some of the higher arching branches.


It will be another week before the whole rose is in bloom. The Aloe 'David Verity' in the large pot by the front gate made it through the winter. No sign of any blooms though.


This is one of my favorite views in the whole garden, particularly on a clear sunny afternoon. Everything looks so fresh and green with new growth.


Tucked in the corner the Mangave, Macho Moca seems to have overcome the snail damage of last summer and is making lots of new, healthy growth.


Tomorrow I have those little succulents to plant, stain the little table, begin cleaning out the stock tank and dividing the plants, more cutting back and did I hear someone today say it was time to plant beans.............

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TULIPS FOR THE SOUTHERN GARDEN. TULIPA CLUSIANA

About 10 years ago I purchased a handful of tiny bulbs labeled Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane. I was told they were species tulips and their small size would be perfect for my rock garden. And perfect is what they were. Thriving on utter neglect they appear every spring unfurling their petals in the morning and closing at night. They seem more than content with the gravelly, dry soil and are a perfect companion for my Parry's agave.


One of their great advantages is that they do not require the same chilling as the larger tulips and are perfect for a climate which has milder winters. Furthermore they naturalize quite readily.The burgundy tipped stamens are distinct against the almost pure white petals.


By evening time the flowers close showing their pretty pink undersides. I have found the Lady Jane variety to be the most successful in my garden. Every year I am tempted to try others but have had little success.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

GARDEN BLOGGERS' BLOOM DAY MARCH 2015

This year Garden Bloggers' Bloom day will be sharing a spot with Mothering Sunday, as both occur on the same day. Never heard of Mothering Sunday? Let me tell you a little about this day and why I remember it.


The celebration of Mothering Sunday takes place on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was a day, celebrated by both the Protestant and Catholic churches, when people would return to their mother church or cathedral. As the years went by and many young people were in service they would be permitted the whole Sunday off to return home to visit with their family. They ere said to have gone a mothering. On the way they would pick the wildflowers along the hedgerows to take to the church and to give to their mothers. This is likely how the tradition of giving flowers began.

As a child on Mothering Sunday I would go to Sunday School and every child would be given a bunch of violets to take home to their mother. How things have changed. In England Mother's day is still celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent but in the USA it is on the second Sunday in May. Both have now become secular events although still celebrating mothers. Gifts are often more elaborate than a bunch of violets.

I am reminded of that childhood bunch of violets by the native Texas violets blooming in my garden this week. I bought the plant at Madrone Nursery many years ago and love its neat clumps of heart-shaped leaves and delicate springtime blooms. Of course this is another one of those plants which likes to be sure of propagating itself. Just to make sure it participates in a form of seed production called cleistogamy, meaning closed seed. Later on in the year white buds will develop but never open into flowers. They need no color or scent because the seed will be fertilized inside the pod. The more normal kind of open pollination is called chasmogamy. It's just a way of making sure that the plant will reproduce.

Elsewhere in my garden there is a sprinkling of spring color. Just the odd flower here and there. Enough to keep the bees happy now that we have a warm sunny day.


Thanks to Carol at Maydreams gardens for hosting this day. Happy Bloom Day everyone.

Friday, March 6, 2015

SURELY THIS IS A SIGN

This morning I walked around the garden for the first time since my surgery two weeks ago. It was a really cold night last night with the temperatures down in the low 20s, but today the sun is shining as brightly as ever. I just knew the freeze would have left its mark and it had. Daffodils can only spring back so many times. They lie bruised and forlorn as does the one single flowering California poppy. I was thrilled to see it was a white one but alas its bud was never to open. The gopher plant may not produce any seedlings this year because it has been too cold for the bees to visit and this morning the yellow bracts are past their prime. But then I went down into the sunken garden and was greeted by these dwarf iris, Iris reticulata.


They have been in this spot for years and I think this is the best blooming. It could be that last summer being so dry suited the formation of the bulbs. Don't I wish now that I had planted clumps all around the garden? There is little sign that any of the larger bearded iris are producing buds which is probably a good thing. Once the warmer weather comes they will soon catch up.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DO YOU LIKE MARKETS? WE DO

Whenever we visit a new town we ask two questions. Is there a Botanical garden and is there a produce market? We have visited markets all over the world. I didn't see any other westerners at the fish market in Dubai and those that have never been are missing a treat of a lifetime? If you like fish that is.
On our recent trip we had the chance to visit two city markets and one garden but my favorite market was the one in Cusco, Peru.


In Cusco the market is where the residents do all their food shopping. Don't expect to find fancy supermarkets in this town. There are no isles of prepared and packaged food, canned goods. Just whole foods.


Let's look at the potatoes first. You probably know that potatoes came from South America. I have never seen so many different varieties. We didn't get to see all 3800 kinds but there was a good sampling in this market including these strange white potatoes. Known as Chuno, they have been treated to a process of freezing and then drying in the sun. The process dates back to pre Inca times and was a way to treat the potatoes to prevent them from growing mold in storage.


Along with corn these are one of the main staples of the Inka Peruvian diet.



Along with lima beans.


In one Andean village we bought a packet of dried lima beans. I could OD on these.


And back to the market, sacs of grains and pulses.



If you need to season your pot of beans you might like to add a little dried seaweed for flavor.


and some other fruits of the sea.


There were stalls of herbs and packages of roots and herbs.



And even the big pots in which to cook everything.


This area is famous for it bread. One of our guides told us he always takes this bread when he goes to visit family in Lima.



And there are cheeses to go with the bread.



There are the inevitable herbal medicine stalls. We see those wherever we go and can only be left to guess at how they use the products they are selling. Dried starfish?


And little pots in which to assemble your concoction.


I get the feeling that if you use this bag of dried shavings it will bring you wealth but not sure if you burn it or boil it.


And who knows what these are for.


We lingered at this medicine stall where David got a full explanation of what they were selling in a refilled coke bottle. It was some kind of green herbal mix. I wouldn't be touching that with a barge pole. While we were standing there two young westerners came by to buy a couple of bottles! Was it going to help them hike the Inca Trail, I wonder.


The shop owner gave me these rounds of some root for luck. Although I accepted there was no way I was taking those back into the USA. Those dogs at customs would have that sniffed them out in a second.


These were the roots from which they had been cut.


No, I was far more interested in buying one of these decorated gourd rattles to weave my magic.


Back to the fruit stalls. Every fruit under the sun and so fresh and delicious.


And a row of fruit juice stalls. We had so much fresh fruit juice we are spoilt for life.


What a wonderful morning we spent at the San Pedro market.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

THORNLESS MEXICAN LIME

With miserably cold weather blanketing the country I wonder how many are enjoying the sweet smell of citrus, as I am. With the temperatures hovering around freezing all day that sweet citrus smell lifts my spirits as it permeates the house. The thornless Mexican lime, Citrus aurantifolia, is ideally suited to pot culture. Only suitable for in ground cultivation in hardiness zones 10, 11, my zone 8b garden is well out of range. However, the pot is small and manageable enough to be brought inside during times when the temperature will drop below 40°


One of the nice things about this lime tree, sometimes called bartender's lime or key lime, is that it flowers on and off throughout the year so it is easy to keep fruit in production. The main crop though will ripen during the early months of the year. The small green to yellow fruits can be left on the tree until they fall. Their rind is perfumed and can be used in small quantities in smoothies for a delicious flavor. And, of course, for Key Lime pie or margaritas. Extra juice can be frozen along with the grated rind for use later in the year.


Last year I had concern over the improperly formed buds on the flowers. The petals never seemed to open and remained in an almost fused condition. Enquiries did not bring any explanation for this. You can see on this one cluster of flowers a similar appearance this year although the superior ovary is popping out above the petals and should fertilize without problem. There are enough normally developed flowers to take care of pollination. To be sure I did a little hand pollinating the other day.


When I was examining the flowers the other day I spotted a tiny yellow inchworm, creeping along the edge of the petal. But for the movement he might have been mistaken for a stamen. I wonder if he is doing the rounds of pollinating.


At the same time I noticed a couple of spots of scale on a nearby leaf. Easily scraped off with a finger nail at this point in time but I must keep a close lookout for citrus scale.


Here are a few more anomalies. These floral clusters are unlikely to develop into true flowers.


I think I may look out for another Mexican lime tree this spring. You can't have too many limes in the fruit bowl.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

HOMEGROWN HERB GARDEN. A book review

You have a new recipe to try. It calls for several herbs; basil, chives and oregano. You go to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for the recipe and when you look at the price of the herbs you have second thoughts. Do you really want to pay $2.99 for each bunch of herbs. You will only use a few sprigs of one of them. Plus those chives look a little wilted.
Maybe it is time to think about growing your own herbs. With herbs just a snip away from your kitchen you can enliven all your recipes with the fresh taste of the garden.
But where and how are you going to grow them? Which ones should you grow? From seed or from transplants? How much sun, water? So many questions. You need to find a book to help you get started. Here is a book that will certainly help you select the easiest and most commonly used herbs


Homegrown Herb Garden, is a collaboration of gardener Ann McCormick and cook Lisa Baker Morgan. Step with Ann into the garden and learn how to grow your favorite herbs then take them into the kitchen where Lisa will teach you how to use those herbs to enhance the flavor of meats, seafoods and desserts.
For the first section of the book, Into the Garden, Ann has chosen 15 of the more commonly used herbs and with each one she covers planting, caring for and harvesting. Most of these herbs can be grown in the ground or in pots. Some, like rosemary and mint might have to be pruned more frequently to restrict their growth. Ann accounts for the differences in climate which are to be found in the USA and how this affects their growing conditions. Some herbs which grow in the winter months in the south would be summer producers in the north. Where herbs are not cold hardy they can be potted up and overwintered in the house. There is an interesting Did you know? section with each herb. Here is one I really like. 'Tradition says that parsley grows best in a garden where the woman of the house is the boss'. Harvesting and preparing your herbs for use is covered at the end of the individual herb chapters.


The larger part of the book is given to the preparation and use of herbs, to bring out the fulness of those essential oils which infuse your cooking with their amazing flavor. This section, Into the Kitchen, has 15 original recipes using 15 of the named herbs. Lisa was trained at the Cordon Bleu Institute of America  in Los Angeles and her recipes are original. Some are everyday recipes and some, which use lobster, duck and smoked salmon, might be used for that special occasion meal. Either way the photography couldn't be more enticing and the recipes more mouth watering; Venetian seafood en papilotte, Lamb chops roasted on thyme or Roasted pork tenderloin with rosemary and fruit-sage stuffing. My mouth is watering!


And you may have to go no further than the grocery store to find your herbs. Basil, rosemary and thyme are often sold in small containers. What do you have to lose in taking a pot home, snipping a few herbs for tonight's recipe and then plant out in the garden for continued enjoyment.

I am a herb gardener myself and cannot imagine not being able to go out into the garden to snip a few for dinner. Its an almost daily occurrence. I would like to encourage others to start their own herb garden.

About the authors.
Ann McCormick has spent her life gardening. She writes for a variety of gardening magazines, is a frequent speaker and media guest. She shares her love of herbs on her blog www.herbncowgirl.com

Lis Baker Morgan is new to the field of cooking having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles. She is a former Civil trial attorney who now shares her passion for cooking as a private chef, cooking classes and her blog " a table"

The book is published by Quarry Books who sent me a copy of the book to review.