Friday, August 23, 2013

Training My Stephanotis

Last October I received my two little stephanotis floribunda plants from Logee's. They arrived as healthy little guys, packed perfectly and securely (Logee's does a wonderful job shipping plants) and this Summer they have really thrived living in the front windows of the Penthouse. The only problem is that they had completely outgrown their original stakes, which is a good thing! I want to add a variegated variety to my collection of tropicals, and perhaps I could train them on hoops. For now, however, I want these growing straight up their bamboo poles. After all, I can get 8' tall bamboo poles, and how impressive would THAT be?
The one on the left was getting leggy as it searched for something to vine around. The one on the right had simply given up and began wondering around. I absolutely love the basket weave terracotta pots I found for them!

The rambler had grown about two feet away from the stake!

New bamboo stakes were put in place, and I also topped off the pots with some gravel to make it a bit more attractive, as well as (hopefully) help with some pest control.

All wound up. I twined them up and down a bit to help conserve grow space. As I said, many people train them on a ring (which makes sense), but I think, for now, I'm going to keep them growing tall.

The other plant on it's new stake. I would love to have two tall, stately, plants on either side of the center window in the living room. They seem to like it so far, so I can only pray that they will enjoy the same spot throughout the winter. Now, perhaps, is a good time to order that variegated stephanotis and attempt to train it on hoops. I mean, I need to get the order in before the weather gets cold, after all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meatless Monday - Simple Summer Succotash

A few years ago I posted about the real deal, lima beans and all, version of succotash that usually comes to mind when you hear the word. Succotash can also, however, be as simple as sweet corn, zucchini, and green beans sauteed in some olive oil. It's a great way to use the beans and squash that begin to take over the garden around this time of year. If you don't garden, it's a great way to use up those impulse purchases you make at the farmer's markets!

In my case, it was a great way to use up the last of the first round of Burgundy beans. Here are the ingredients - Corn, beans, zucchini. There is nothing more delicious than simplicity.

I supplemented the Burgundy beans with some oh so tender French filet beans. These are delicious raw, so I through them in at the absolute end of cooking.

Burgundy beans first in about two glugs of olive oil.

They turn green in no time. Then went in the zucchini, then the corn, salt and pepper, and then the French filet beans.

Fresh, delicious, simple. Nothing could be easier than some simple Summer succotash.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mid-August Garden Update

Trying to get back to some more regular blogging, Summer is flying by and I've just been so busy I've truly been slacking. The good news is that the tomatoes are all looking better than they were in this post. It's amazing what a few weeks can do!

Anyhoo, here is a rather long post for the weekend. Hope you all have a great one!

Holy hollyhocks! These are some miniature hollyhocks with gorgeous yellow double blooms.

I still allow several Queen Anne's Lace plants to bloom, even though my mom is always weeding them out. I take them home, stick them in a vase, and think of Katharine Hepburn pulling over on the side of the highway to cut them every weekend on her way to her house in Connecticut. 

Still in love with this clematis 'Mrs. Robert Brydon'. You have to tie her up to the arbor (or let her scramble as ground cover), but she has bloomed non stop all summer.

More golden raspberries are on the way!

All of the canes have put out new blooms. We are going to have a sizable second crop!

The 'Cherokee Purple' tomato on the far right seems to have the blight and there is really no turning back now. All of the other vines, however, are much improved.

Wish I could say the same for the okra. It really was just too damp and cool, I'm afraid.

One section of mesclun has been replanted, saving room here and elsewhere for subsequent Fall planting.

Some critter took a bite out of one of the Amish paste tomatoes, which are really producing well!

The marigolds are looking bright and cheerful.

Although we did see a rabbit eating one. So much for pest deterrent being one of their positive attributes!

The 'Kentucky Wonder' pole beans are out of control and need to be picked almost every day.

Baby beans!

The zinnias are blooming at last! The move of cutting flowers from the Cutting Garden has definitely taken up some space in the Vegetable Garden, and I am working on some plans to remedy that for next year.

There are more and more reports about the danger of honey bees becoming extinct. Where were the reporters five years ago? Happily here it seems this year I've seen more bees than ever, like this one coming in for a landing on the borage.

A better look at the tomatoes. These are some just ripening 'Mortgage Lifter's.

Some 'Old German', which really seems to be one of the most prolific.


This one is called 'Pineapple' and needs to be a bit more red before ripe.

Aptly named.

These are 'Orange Russian' tomatoes almost ready to pick.

The 'Persimmon' tomato only has two tomatoes, although I do think a few more flowers are coming. The cool weather is just making everything ripen so. very. slow.

A great slicing cuke!


And some little eggplants beginning to grow up. We've harvested several nice sized ones, and now are waiting, again, on round two!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Naked Ladies in the Garden!

Naked Ladies, Resurrection Lilies, or Surprise Lilies are all common names for a plant in the amaryllis (not Christmas "amaryllis", which are actually Hippeastrum) family called Lycoris squamigera. The flat, simple leaves emerge in the Spring and then die back. Late July or early August is usually when the flowers emerge.

Last year, with the drought, we had hardly any bloom. This year they have rebounded in a splendid way. Take a look!

In the Shade Garden the bulbs take longer to bloom. Please ignore the thistle in this picture.

Every year we dig some and move some. All of these come from an initial gift of maybe ten bulbs from my dear friend and day lily guru Donna Brooke.


I love their pale pink petals and bright yellow throats. We've moved them in clumps all around the garden. They really bring a lot of color at a time when most perennials are finished blooming for the Season.

This is the original bed where we planted the first bulbs maybe ten years ago. Yikes! Has it been that long?

They've done quite well in this spot.

This really is a perfect bed for them as it is first full of Asiatic lilies, then daylilies, and then NAKED LADIES!!!!

Funny name for such a lovely flower.

They are a long lasting and wonderful cut flower, as long as you cut the stems every few days. They really brighten up any corner of the house.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One-Pan Pasta (Should Be a Meatless Monday)

 There is a new series of videos on marthastewart.com called Kitchen Wisdom, and I ran across this recipe while watching them. I didn't believe it would work, but it did! I maybe would have reduced the water by a half cup, but once it stands for a few minutes it thickens up.
Ready to turn the burner on high!


I cannot tell you how good it smells. It tastes just as good.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Right Outside My Windows - Window Boxes 2013

Remember last June when I said it was time for Summer? Well I quickly headed out to find the ingredients for this Summer's window boxes, and couldn't be happier with my choices. A few years ago I tried to stick to black, some yellow, and chartreuse. Last year I experimented with more colors based on what I found on sale. This year I just grabbed what I liked. The yellow petunias were the most expensive petunias I've ever bought (but they have this delicate stripe that, well, you won't see in any of the pictures), but I don't care.

Glancing over from my desk is now always a pleasure.

A view from above. They are filling in and spilling out wonderfully, although one of the sweet potato vines is growing towards the window rather than trailing downward.

Glancing down at the other box. I love when they grow in enough that they can be seen from the street. Such a wonderful, bright jumble of colors.


One more look. I love these two new (to my eyes, at least) varieties of coleus, and used them to under plant the two big pots of alocasia at the entrances to the Garden, too. The hot pink and lime green are awesome, and that strange salmon color is rather unusual, but seems to fit right in. Every year I seem to have some regret about what I plant, but this year I think I hit the nail right on the head.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Lemon Balm Massacre of 2013

Don't get me wrong, I love lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Add a few leaves to iced tea, or throw into a pot of mint or green tea, and it infuses your beverage with its delicate lemon flavor. You can also make a simple syrup with the leaves, mix with water and pour over ice for a refreshing "lemonade". I once even made lemon balm pesto with lemon balm leaves, garlic, and olive oil and tossed it with linguine. 

However, lemon balm is in the mint family, and you know what that means- it spreads like the dickens! So much so that I am now constantly pulling up entire plants (at least I hope I am getting the entire plant) as they spread around the Garden. What was once planted simply on either side of the gate has now overrun the oregano, despite the fact that oregano does a pretty good job of spreading on its own! This year, to help curb the spread by seed, I took matters into my own hands.

In the foreground is a section of lemon balm I cut back (some to dry, some to put in a vase since I love rubbing the leaves and smelling the lemony scent) just last week. It's already rebounding and setting more flowers. Farther down are some plants that are flowering.

This large clump "volunteered" either by seed or roots. It had completely taken over the thyme and a few lavender plants. Bees are really attracted to the tiny white flowers, but I really cannot risk MORE seeds being thrown to the wind. I even dug some plants out of the White Garden this spring. At least the flower color was correct.

Post massacre. If I can keep it growing in this one border I'm fine. The chives (at the far end of the row) seem to be dense enough that it rarely penetrates their clumps. Besides, I have an entire border of chives, too, so it doesn't really matter. Around the corner is the Mint Patch, so I guess it's fitting that the lemon balm should grow next to it's cousin. Maybe that is the best plan. I can have a border of chives, a border of oregano, a border of lemon balm, and a border of mint. It might be easier to control everyone that way.

Add that to the project list.