Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Seed Catalogs

Seed catalogs keep arriving in my mailbox. The newest one, today, came from a company from which I had bought tomato seeds last year and - on a whim - a package of pepper seeds: Medusa. At the end of the season, just as freezing weather was threatening, I had one tiny pot of 3 (tiny) Medusas left, so I brought it indoors. They're still alive, still doing well. In fact, I have already harvested quite a crop of seeds from these small plants and am eager to see, next spring, what they will produce.

Winter Weather Calls for Soup

A simmering pot of soup on the kitchen stove can make a nippy winter day bearable. This is a time-consuming recipe (about one hour prep and two hours cooking), but it is oh, so worth it!

This is what you need:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
(the regular kind, not the sweet ones)
6 to 10 cloves of garlic
(depending on the size of the cloves)
4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups shredded green cabbage
2 large, firm potatoes (red or Yukon gold)
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 14.5 oz. can of whole tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
(oh, what the *%@! - make it a whole cup!)
8 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

This is what you do:
Stage 1 of 4:
Heat the oil in a large soup kettle.
Sautee chopped onions until golden.
Add garlic; stir for a minute or two.
Stir in celery and carrots.
Add cabbage; stir and cook till wilted.

Stage 2 of 4:
Add potatoes, turnips and parsnips.
Stir and cook for a minute or two.

Stage 3 of 4:

Add tomatoes, with liquid.
(chop tomatoes a little)
Add parsley and stock; stir gently.
Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil.
Cover completely, turn heat down and simmer for 2 hours.
Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Stage 4 of 4 – the best!
Serving suggestion: to each soup bowl, add a few drops of Tabasco and/or sprinkle with some grated Parmesan or Gruyere. But it is good without the additions also!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow on Christmas

I am so glad I left lots of plants "a mess" this fall, including this Solidago that has made friends with a Rosemary and contributed to excellent shelter for small birds that visit the feeders in my garden and then find a place to hide for a while.

The Holly looks as lovely in the snow today as it did two days ago in sunshine.

The Nandina was sheltered from the snow by shrubs and a pine tree.

The Pyracantha, by contrast, bore the full brunt of the storm.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho, Ho - Jolly Holly!

The Holly, Nandina and Pyracantha berries are all shining enticingly in this afternoon's sunshine. If the weather forecast is correct, they'll be covered in ice and/or snow by this time tomorrow.

Merry Christmas to my readers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who Needs Dried Rosemary?

The other evening, making a vegetable soup with beans, carrots and kale, I realized I had no dried Rosemary. Who needs dried Rosemary? It grows 4 or 5 feet tall in several places in my garden. So, with a flashlight and a pair of scissors, the mission was accomplished. The soup was divine. The recipe is on Feed Your Good Dog.

Winter Gardens - Brilliant!

My neighborhood, like many others in the Atlanta area – and indeed the country – has experienced “the housing crisis” in full. Developers and builders have gone out of business. One Home Owners Association Management Company after another has come in and made matters better or worse (the current one, number four, is a good one!). There are too many renters. But that may be better than abandoned houses. There are foreclosures. There are “home for sale” signs, by owner or listed with a real estate company, everywhere and the properties are lingering on the market, some for two years or longer.

Sounds like your neighborhood? We’re all in the same boat!

This year, about six months ago, we finally had an HOA Board and a management company that saw merit in having a garden club, so I started one and, by default, became its President. With an initial membership of four (Catherine, Sally and Helen in addition to myself), we started meeting once a month, quickly added three more members (Denelle, Pat and Sandy) and then another (Debbie). Eight strong, we began planning programs. Helen took responsibility for a September workshop on soil, lawns and trees. The program was excellent, but the turn-out meager. Catherine proposed a “progressive winter garden tour”, much as neighborhoods have for decades held progressive dinners. We all supported the idea and the event was held today.

Congratulations, Catherine! It was splendid! Turn-out was 30+, at last count, most of them from outside our neighborhood (the local newspapers did a great job announcing the event), and we’ve put our sub-division on the map and made some new friends.

Morale of the story? The glass is not just half full, it’s almost overflowing! If your neighborhood is suffering from the real estate blues, do something! We are making a start in our neighborhood, and today’s event surpassed all expectations. Now enjoy images from the gardens that were on the tour:

This garden has a fresh yet polished look to it, with nicely pruned shrubs and plantings of pansies and snapdragons.

Santa Claus cannot possible skip this family! With a 'natural' look to its garden, the season is being celebrated with reindeer, candy canes, wreaths and more.

This garden always attracts attention, no matter the season. With conifers, small trees and seasonal color, it's no wonder cars slow down when they pass. The rear garden is equally stunning, even including grape vines.

Along with strategically-placed pots of Viola, this basket of Cyclamen is an immediate attention-getter.

The photograph does not do the garden justice; these homeowners have made their front door the main focal point, with both downstairs and upstairs holiday decorations visible through the window.

An excellent example of how a sloping lot can be used for seasonal color. Here, pansies flow off to the left, to come to a halt neat the Crape Myrtle on the corner. Between the stairs to the front door and the driveway, a specimen conifer attracts attention.

The final home on today's tour, our project manager and her husband's, welcomed visitors with beautiful indoor decorations, many of them generations-old, live entertainment and a warm holiday drink. Many of the plants in this garden, not in this photograph and only becoming visible again in spring, come from a decades-old family garden in Pennsylvania and have accompanied the couple on their journey south.

We did it, in our neighborhood -- celebrate the season, forget for a moment the real estate mess and the Great Recession -- and you can do it, too!

Friday, November 26, 2010

'Winter Interest' and Season Confusion

Recent magazine articles and blog posts have made much of "winter interest" in our gardens, including the advice to leave spent flowers on the plants until next year's spring weather announces a new season. Suits me! I've generally done that for years, certainly with my pretty Sedums. This year, the Iceplant has been allowed to keep the remains of its flowers also (less work for me'!); it's nicely tucked in under the leaves of the Maple above it. Grown from a seedling in a 4-inch pot, it is now several feet across - and still growing.

This Daisy missed the memo that it is November; it's blooming either 6 months late or 6 months too soon (among some of that mint I've got to remove; yes, I was warned not to plant mint directly in the garden - keep it in pots instead - but I love mint iced tea in the summer!), and it's a cheery sight on a cloudy day with falling temperatures.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The other week, going to a local plant nursery, I wanted to buy a few snapdragons. "Do you like poppies?", the owner asked, saying she would be happy to sell me some snapdragons, but she and her husband had just brought in several trays of big, healthy poppies and maybe I wanted to try them? It was an easy sale for her!

Today, the first bloom is cheering up my late November landscape. Since I bought "mixed colors", I have no idea what any of them will look like when the buds open, but there are plenty of them waiting to show me their colors. More photographs to come . . .

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A gloomy pre-holiday afternoon

Intermittent sunshine and a slight drizzle marked the morning; now, an hour before sunset, it is raining - a mild, almost spring-like rain. Not very cold, but gloomy nevertheless.

A three-week old photograph brings back memories of warmer, sunnier days.

The Penisetum is dead now, as are the Basil, the Coleus, the Calibrachoa and the Blue Star. The Walking Irises are now inside, the Blanket Flower, the Plumbago and the Nicotiana remain outdoors, but they are not quite the same on a gloomy late November day as they were on a sunny early November day.

Making plans for next spring . . .

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall Colors Linger

I started cutting down some Solidago this morning and then thought the better of it; birds and other wildlife may want to make use of it in the coming months.

More vibrant colors in my landscape as we are getting closer to winter are provided by a Nandina, a Sweetshrub (never looked better in November!) and a Viburnum carlesii (Korean spice Viburnum - always attractive, no matter what season it is).

Mistletoe in Maple

This was an odd sight the other day. I recognized it immediately as a Mistletoe, and assumed it was a plastic variety someone walking or driving by had tossed up in the air, to land in the Maple in my front yard. Upon closer inspection, however, I found out that it is an actual Mistletoe plant, growing out of one of the Maple's branches. I still find it odd, but I like it! Just what an eclectic garden needs.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For My Northern Friends . . .

. . . in England and Upstate New York.

Just after we ended our conversation about gardeners and Social Media, Silvia and Karen, I went outside to cut some lettuce and pull tomatoes off the vine for this evening's salad. Aaah - the joys of fresh produce in late October!

The lettuce is a mix of 'Garden Babies' and 'Monet's Garden Mesclun', both from Renee's Garden. The tomatoes are 'Red Currant', off a give-away plant from the State Botanical Garden in Athens.

The lettuce is just about finished, but there are still hundreds of little green tomatoes on the vine; I don't think they'll ripen before the first frost. This is the tomato to try again next year!

Oh, I did dress it before I ate it! Added salt, pepper, half an avocado and a few croutons and then two teaspoons of a dressing made of a mix of 2 T. EVOO, 1 T. balsamic vinegar and 1 t. Dijon mustard - yummy!

Fall Flowers

Empty jars make great vases! This one contains a Fanny's Aster (the one with the yellow heart), a Georgia Aster (the other blue one), a Japanese Aster (lovely white flowers) and (top right) a Walking Verbena.

Late October, no frost yet, so there are still many plants in bloom.

Along with a deep purple Verbena, this hanging basket is filled with Diascia, Lysimachia and a few Pansies that were between blooms when this picture was taken.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Perfect Day - but still no rain . . .

Yesterday may well have been the most perfect day since I left the city behind and bought “a cute little house in the country”.

After a few e-mails and communications with two clients right after daybreak, I went outside with the 3-cup “Buongiorno” coffee mug an employee left behind in my office more than two decades ago, I made an inspection tour of my garden and came up with a plan for the morning.

Then I head this persistent, intermittent hissing . . . . from the sky above?

A balloon!

I had noticed several of them overhead Saturday morning, on my way to co-hosting a “plant clinic” at a Big Box store, so I was not entirely surprised. Instead, it was very nice: a balloon race two days in a row! That first balloon was followed by three more and I saw two additional ones at tree-top level in the distance, but their launch did not seem to happen today.

Saturday, I bought the first supply of Violas for my winter garden. Yesterday morning, it became quickly clear that planting them would be a challenge. Unless memory fails me, last Friday marked 3 weeks without rain. The soil is so dry! Even with watering once a week (more frequently for my patio and porch plants), there is not a speck of moisture to be found in the soil.

Nevertheless, I pulled up three Angelonias (huge, still green, but with few flowers) and replaced them with some of the Violas. I also dug up three Daisy “babies” from a backyard clump that had become too large and put them in the same border. Keeping my fingers crossed for next spring!

For Wednesday, we have a “20% chance” for rain – fingers crossed again, trying toes as well! – so further planting will wait. But clean-up work is ongoing, with old stems from perennial Salvias removed, invading Bermuda tendrils dug up, “Farmer’s Organic” mulch added, pine straw added, and watering here and there.

The afternoon ended with a glass of wine, a pear and a handful of pecans in my garden. It’s taken six years, but I can now boast of having a shade garden – sort of. Small though it may still be, I sat in the shade of one of my maples, with birds singing around me, pale yellow butterflies (and an occasional orange one) flitting about, the buzz of bees in the mums and swamp sunflowers behind me, and it was a good afternoon.

Maybe the best day since leaving the city in the distance, certainly for a gardener who is still a novice at the craft.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Growing Lettuce in October

My spring crop of lettuce did not work out; the weather became too hot, too soon. But I had some left-over seeds, so decided to try again now that fall has brought us cooler temperatures.

Next week's salads are growing nicely.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Warmer than normal winter?

One of my neighbors told me the other day he expects the coming winter will be colder than normal.

Today I read: " . . .and warmer than normal conditions during December-February along the Gulf coast of the United States." in a press release from the World Metereological Organization. We are not exactly at the Gulf coast (300+ miles away), but it's as close as I can get to a land area identified in the press release.

Given a choice . . ., warmer is better than colder!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Moveable Garden

Received from one of my Vietnamese friends.

The woman is probably transporting these plants from her home, where she has grown them, to a market. Or perhaps she bought them at a market and is taking them home, where they will adorn a courtyard.

Whatever the situation, I thought you might enjoy the picture as much as I did when I found it in my in-box.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Garden Adventures

This has been a brilliant day. First a garden club meeting with an excellent program about soil, lawns and trees (need to talk with presenter; she should do some videos), then the Agri-Fest in Cleveland (bought some tomatoes from LoganBerry Farm and a Sedum from Full Bloom Nursery), then to Lula (bought planters at Wayne Wilson's), a stop at the Hall County Master Gardeners' Garden Expo (OMG - I got this gorgeous, gorgeous,almost 3-feet tall Hinoki cypress from Bannister Creek Nursery for $5; try finding it on-line, anywhere, for less than $25). Finally, I stopped at a local nursery for a bag of organic soil amendment stuff (peanut shells, chicken poop and cotton stalks, I have been told . . .) and a few bales of pine straw. Guess what I will be doing in the morning - until the rain arrives. And do we ever need that rain!

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010: A Good Year for Tobacco?

As in “Scented Nicotiana” that is. This is Jasmine Alata, grown from seed; I followed the packet’s instructions precisely, more or less, and nothing happened. The plants, tiny, just sat there all summer long. I watered and fertilized, moved the containers from one spot to another – nothing helped.

Now they are growing so rapidly that I can almost see them getting bigger as I spend a few hours in my garden. I think it’s because our summer has been brutally hot, which affected the growth of many plants. The days now are still very hot (91F today, expected to go down to 79F by Sunday), but the nights are much cooler. The question now is: will it bloom before the first frost of the season, which could come as early as four weeks from now, kills it. I hope so!

The Gaillardia did not like the hot summer either, but is now coming back nicely, and the Calibrachoa from Hort Couture is getting a new lease on life as well. Other plants in the picture: Coleus, Alternanthera, Basil, Yarrow, Blue Daze and a Dill that is determined to stick around till it can produce some seeds for next year. I love an eclectic garden - even on a patio corner!

Euonymus americanus or Strawberry Bush

I first saw this shrub on another Master Gardener's property and liked it so much that I went looking for one. As luck would have it, Elaine Kelley's Potting Shed that some for sale that autumn, so I bought one and took it home. Then I found out that it likes a shady spot in the landscape, of which I have very few. Nevertheless, I had a growing Maple and thought its canopy would provide adequate shade for my new Euonymous americanus, and it did! It has grown to 4 or 5 times its original size and even though I don't see much of it (my neighbors do!), it looked so beautiful this morning, after I had stepped over a Yarrow bed and moved a Maple branch out of the way, that I had to take its picture.

Since I planted it [in 2007, I think -- yes, I know, I ought to keep better records! :-(], it has not been watered, fertilized or otherwise cared for. Maybe that's the secret for a successful garden: plant it and forget it. Well, not really.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jerry Hall a Gardener?

Why not? She's a Texas girl and Texans are famous gardeners.

She's also into cooking and on her way to become a chicken farmer.

It all sounds wonderful to me!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Had I been in a doctor’s office this afternoon and been told I had “plumbago”, I would have thought I’d caught some dreadful disease – tropical maybe, perhaps infectious. Instead, I was in a garden, admiring a plant with blue flowers that surely had to be a Phlox. “No”, everyone else there said, “it’s a Plumbago”. It’s these kinds of experiences that can cut a Master Gardener down to size very quickly. I had never heard of “Plumbago”. But, sure enough, I did some research when I got home and discovered that this plant is a shrub, originally from South Africa, that can grow into a nice hedge, and that in the U.S. it’s suitable for zones 8 to 11. Well, last time I looked, I lived in zone 7B, so the three small specimens the garden’s owner gave me will need some special care if they are to make it into 2011.

“Plumbago” – odd name, but a beautiful flower. I hope the plants will survive the coming winter.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sedum in September

Despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that we have now not had rain for two weeks, the Sedum 'Autumn Joy' looks very good; the variation of color, from the palest pink to the deepest rose, makes this a wonderful garden plant this time of year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Early Morning in the Garden

An hour after sunrise, the gigantic banana trees in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (Athens, Georgia, USA) look spectacular.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Moon Vine

Last year, I had a moon vine and a pink morning glory sharing a trellis. At the end of the season, I found seven seeds on the ground, which I collected, kept indoors over the winter and put in pots last May, not knowing which they were. Now I know: they are moon vine! At least the 3 I kept. This is a fabulous flower, 5 inches (12 cm.) across and splendid even in front of a white fence.

August = Bugs

Whether it's a Monarch in the Rosemary, a bumblebee getting covered in pollen in a Canna, or a spider trying to hide in the Nicotiana, "bugs" are everywhere. And, I hasten to add, they are very welcome in my garden. Even the grasshoppers that eat as if there were no tomorrow. Well, I guess their "tomorrows" are pretty limited as we approach the end of summer.