Saturday, October 27, 2018

Using Up the End of Season Tomatoes with Roasted Tomato Sauce

That fleeting time of year has now come and gone, but before the first frost hit we snatched up the remaining tomatoes and I had too many ripening in paper bags. Rather than just chop them up and freeze them, I made a big batch or roasted tomato sauce and froze that instead. I used this simple recipe and, as it says, let the oven do the work.

This was just a part of the tomatoes we snatched. There are still a few more still ripening.
The best thing about this recipe is that all you have to do is core the tomatoes and cut them in half!
Tomatoes done. Now to add the rest. Not having to boil, ice them, and peel saves a lot of time.

Onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. Ready for the oven!

It smelled amazing. Letting the tomatoes char a bit really does add flavor.
After they cooled enough to handle, the skins slipped right off!

The blender made quick work of pureeing.
I divided this up into one cup containers and put them in the freezer. Ready for the winter!

But first I made a bowl of pasta and put on too much Parmesan and basil. So, so good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tucking Away the Tropical Plants for the Winter

If you are a reader of this blog you are aware there is always a chore that seems rushed every autumn, and that is moving all of the tropical plants into the house before the first frost. No matter how prepared I think I am at planning a date for this move (usually the first week of October) something always comes up, or the weather is unseasonably warm so we cheat everyone a few extra weeks since they always grow better outside than in.

This weekend we are looking at a dip into the thirties, and though some of the non-hardy plants can simply be covered for the night, the citrus and palms get angry when the temperature goes below 40 degrees. On Tuesday we tackled a large chunk of this rather sizable chore.

Early this year I purchased twelve Majesty Palms for several events we had at work. A few of them were then sent to a some friends who just opened a new restaurant and the rest were moved to the garden for the summer. I'm not sure about my ability to keep them alive, but I am going to give it a try. Unlike most palms, Majesty palms don't mind the shade. Because of this, the largest two were perfect for the planters along the Hydrangea Border on the north side of the house at the entrance to the garden.  The smaller ones were planted in the large pots in the Shade Garden.
I never knew how prolific agave were. We have about six varieties, and at least once a year I split the pups off of the mother plant and pot them up, usually right before they move inside. They can handle a few chilly nights with a sheet over them, so they are staying out for now. Next Tuesday everything should be moved in.
The oldest, and largest, has nearly a 30" spread and has it's own pot sitting in one of the perennial beds that needs desperately to be weeded.

My original Banana from Logee's needs cleaned up before coming in. This guy was only two stalks with the tallest being about 7" high when it arrived in the mail. Thank goodness bananas are pretty forgiving since I haven't cleaned off the dead leaves for a month or better.
All of the citrus get a thorough cleaning before coming in for the winter. I use an organic soap to spray down all of the plants before they come inside.

I also make sure to check the bottoms of the pots for any hitchhikers.

The avocado I purchased on my first visit trip to Logee's has grown leaps and bounds.
The pots in the Shade Garden were heavy, so a hand cart came in handy. The annuals will be pulled eventually.
This begonia I hope will overwinter alright. It grew larger than I expected.

The remaining pots will also need to be emptied before they are stored inside.
The Shade Garden looks rather void of the spring and summer color. But soon enough the hellebore and daffodils will be appearing. Before that, however, the boxwood will be enshrouded in burlap.

And for now the tenderest of the tropical plants are safe from the cold. Now to begin round two...

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Change of Season

I'm not really sure what happened. This has truly been the longest I have ever gone without posting. The old saying "Sometimes life gets in the way" seems applicable here. The Spring and Summer flew by. In that time I've had some of the biggest professional accomplishments of my life, neglected the blog, took a wonderful trip out East, worked even more, neglected the garden a lot, neglected the blog even more, and sometimes felt like I was spinning out of control.

Oh. And I turned 40.

I don't know why I let the fact that I was having another birthday have such an affect on me. I thought I was over it when I reached my "scary age" (you know, that age where you picture yourself having achieved at least 67% of the things you want out of life - I'm not really sure where I came up with that percentage, but believe me there was a lot of math involved) of 27. And then 30. And 35. At 37 I was pretty much over my "scary age" worry. But then 40 approached and work was taking up a lot of time and friendships were changing, life was happening, and I was like "F@&K! Am I where I want to be? Is that why I'm having a hard time with turning 40?" Random thoughts popped up like "I'll be too old to ever have a kid" or "Have my roots run so deep that I'll never move?" "Will I ever have that country house with chickens, gardens, a swimming pool, and room for a pony?" And the worst of all, "Am I happy, or just content?"

Scary shit! Especially since I don't know the answer. To any of it. I often take solace in a quote from Edith Wharton who said "If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time." This is so true! I am fundamentally happy. But sometimes the pursuit of happiness gets in the way of being able to look and see that one is happy. The worries are allowed to pop up, but do they really need to be so serious? One cannot focus on the "ifs" in life, past or present. It will eat you alive. So now I'm learning to focus on the current. The real. The now. The right now! All the good in my life. I have so many people in my life that enrich it beyond measure. They are the ones you say "I love you" to whenever you say goodbye. They are the ones you know you can show your ugly side to and they still love and forgive you. They are the ones you can just sit with happily and silently. They are the ones that get me, and vice versa. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by these people.

There was a truly wonderful text sent last weekend to a group of friends from another friend that was just letting us know how much they loved us. That they feel lucky to have us in their life and are so thankful to have friends aside from their partner around whom they can be themselves and know exactly who they are, as they, themselves, know each of us. I can't imagine a message that could make me any happier. Knowing I have these people in my life is awesome. But knowing I am that person in someone else's life is just fantastic.

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.