Saturday, April 7, 2018

Despite the Weather, Spring Is Finally Springing

Despite the chilly temperatures and still more that occasional moments of "Oh! It's snowing!", Spring is, indeed, on the way. I was looking at pictures from a year ago today and I was picking bouquets of hyacinths. Clearly we are behind this year, but take a look at what IS blooming.

Scilla siberica, or Siberian squill, is always an early harbinger of spring.

I always look forward to this little puddle of blue to appear in the front bed, and see how much bigger it is this year.

Scilla naturalizes quite easily from seed. It can also be planted in lawns as it is usually dormant again by the time the grass would need cut.

Endangered in it's native Russia, scilla has become invasive in parts of the Upper Midwest.
All of the tiny Tete-a-Tete daffodils were blooming for Easter. This row runs in front of the flowering quince. I can't wait until all of the daffodils are blooming.
I'm always excited to see the hellebore appear from there winter nap.

Hellebore flowers usually nod down, but it's worth it to give them a lift and a look.

I can't wait to see how the ones from White Flower Farm do. They may take a few years to grow as large as some of our older clumps. I actually thing we need to do some dividing. It's also already time to start weeding. Oy.

The first primroses to bloom.

The new tree peony looks great!
Out in the vegetable garden, tulip mania is under way.

The hyacinths are at least a week behind last year.

More tulips coming up in a messy bed in the potager. Soon enough there will be more flowers than we know what to do with! I cannot wait!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Begonias and Staghorns and Orchids. Oh My!

Spring Fever is at full speed. I want to be planting sweet peas and peas and spinach and kale, but will be about two weeks behind as I plant them on Easter (April 1) rather than on Saint Patrick's Day, as we traditionally do. Thankfully I have plenty of houseplants that need looking after and cleaned up after a long winter. It helps keep my hands dirty and my thumbs green. Last week I went through every plant at South Calhoun and topped off the dirt, gave them showers, and fed them for the first time all winter.

My begonia collection usually starts to look a little leggy by this time of year. Some will go out to the shade garden for the summer, but most of them stay in the bedroom where they enjoy bright, indirect light.
There is already a lot of new growth on this chartreuse leaved begonia.

The leaves are primarily why these begonias are cultivated.

The underside of a leaf on my begonia 'Marmaduke' that I brought back with me from my first visit to Logee's Greenhouse.
Begonia 'Madame Queen' has a deep red underside.


Most of the begonias and staghorn ferns reside in reproduction faux bois containers, or terra cotta pots painted Bedford Gray.

Once everyone was cleaned up they were put back around the apartment. Pardon the dust. This smaller leaved begonia is in a mass produced Guy Wolff pot.

This staghorn fern was another purchase from Logee's. This time on my second trip. I would like to mount the others as well.

I love this staghorn, in this pot, on the concrete pillar. It's one of my favorite compositions.


A corner shelf by my desk holds another staghorn and several of the begonias.


'Marmaduke' lives on my night stand.

This is one of my favorite new faux bois pieces.

More staghorn ferns after their shower. The epiphytic fern has fronds that are fuzzy like antlers.

In the living room is a great agave I found at a big box store.

I've really enjoyed building my agave collection the past few years. I can't wait to split this guy into three pots to set along a ledge in the sunny side of the perennial garden.

This rather lovely Cattleya orchid is also blooming in the living room.
This deep burgundy phalaenopsis orchid has been blooming since Christmas.
This guy was on clearance at the grocery, They thought he was finished flowering, but actually he hadn't even begun!
Best of all is this Lady Slipper blooming on the kitchen island.
It is absolutely gorgeous, and keeps sending up new spikes. This should definitely hold me over until daffodil season begins.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Vegetarian Pho

Have you ever looked at a recipe and at first glance thought "Oh, Hell no! That's too much work!", but then actually decide to make the recipe and in the end it seems like a piece of cake? Well that was this recipe for me. What seemed like a lot of steps ended up being quite manageable, and even more manageable if you make the broth ahead of time.

I found the recipe on marthastewart.com, and set out collecting ingredients. Once I made the broth the first time, however, I realized it really wasn't difficult. There may be more steps than my cooking usually calls for, but I found myself making it again a week later on a rainy day when I was doing other things around the house. Once everything is in the pot you just leave it and go on about other housework. Now I have several containers frozen for a quick meal in the future.

All of the ingredients for the broth. I'm back and fourth on the dry shitake mushrooms. They certainly add flavor, but they are quite chewy in the finished pho.

Garlic, cilantro stems, dried shitake and fresh shitake stems start the broth base in the pot.


Toasting the spices.
And broiling the onions, shallot, and ginger.
Throw everything together and add 16 cups of water, bring to a simmer, and simmer away for about an hour.

All the good, steamy smells. After the hour you strain the broth through a double layer of cheesecloth.
As the hour is coming to an end, slice your mushroom caps and finely chop the ginger and shallot.
You can also get your rice noodles softened.
The mushroom-hoisin mix ready to go into each bowl, followed by the strained broth.

Topped with sprouts, carrots, radish, cilantro, lime and more hoisin and chili sauce. The dumplings I made looked ugly, but were pretty good as well. I'll post them separately.

So, so good. The review from Contractor was "Will eat again!" which is high praise. Next up I need to tackle my sushi rolling skills.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Getting Out of the Cold


This week, as January was coming to a close and spring actually looks to be somewhere on the horizon, I stopped to check on the tropical plants and have a brief respite from the still frigid temperatures. I also needed some banana leaves for steaming some dumplings, so the banana plants were cleaned up a bit in the process. 

Seeing everything growing so well, even if getting a little leggy reaching for sunlight, has me ready to get everyone back outside and into the warm weather.

The Meyer lemon brought back from Florida last year is doing amazingly well. I can't wait until all of these fruit begin to ripen.
A new papaya is growing!

And there are multiple flowers blooming and budding out, as well as quite a bit of new growth.
This guy has long been believed to be another Meyer lemon. However, I'm not so sure anymore.

There is a ton of fruit on the plant, and I guess to get that orange-yellow color of a Meyer lemon it has a ways to go, but I'm beginning to think it might be a limequat. Although the fruit is probably too big for that. At any rate, there are about 25 fruits on this tree.
Also exciting is that the avocado tree I brought home from Logee's last April seems to be about to bloom.

Small clusters of buds are set in several places, and I cannot wait to see them bloom!

In the "Winter Garden Annex" all of the elephant ears are slowly growing, waiting to really go to town once they are back in the garden.

One of the "Stingray" elephant ears.

All of the agave are doing well. This is a two year old "pup". I also just added to the collection, although the latest addition is still at my home on South Calhoun.
And I didn't forget the banana leaves! The dwarf Cavendish bananas we grow have yet to fruit, but at least are useful! The largest might get divided up this year, we will have to wait and see.