Thursday, July 31, 2008

A happy childhood memory; fried squash

I just harvested two more summer squash from my container garden yesterday and there are two more coming right behind them. So I decided I would make some fried squash patties for lunch yesterday. (yum-yum) One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother making fried squash and my brother & I would eat it as fast as she could pull it out of the pan. She would always say “You’re going to burn your fingers.” We didn’t care. :) By the way, my mom has a cooking blog and is a fantastic cook so if you are interested in some great recipes you can check her out at Cooking in Cleveland. And you should see the pictures of her urban garden too. This is the recipe my grandmother gave me that her mother passed down to her. Sorry mom, I should of asked you for your recipe first, but was really hungry and in a hurry to fry these squash up! :)

Fried Summer Squash

Ingredients:
· 2 eggs, beaten
· 1/4 cup milk
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 2 med summer squash, sliced thinly
· 1 1/2 cups flour or cornmeal (I had flour)
· oil

Preparation:
Combine eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl. Place flour or cornmeal in a separate bowl. Dip squash in the egg mixture, then roll in flour or cornmeal coating it well. Then fry in skillet with about 1 inch of hot oil on med-high heat until golden brown.

Don't these look yummy? I would of saved you a few but my family gobbled them up before they even had a chance to cool off! :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Garden Collections

Just recently I realized that I have something of a water fountain/birdbath collection. The funny part is that I didn’t set out to collect these items, because most of them were given to me as gifts. By providing sources of water I attract a variety of birds and insects to the garden. I enjoy watching the birds splash around on hot days. They are almost comical in their bathing rituals.
This birdbath was actually my first and I’ve had it for 8 or 9 years now. I acquired it while visiting my local Pottery factory . Our Pottery is fantastic for finding handmade pottery and annuals, perennials and tropical plants that are grown on site. I love the embossed birds and flowers that decorate the pedestal and the gray-blue color.

Can you believe my friend was going to put this on the curb? She told me I could have it I came and picked it up. It is made of concrete and very, very, very heavy. This is the one my cat likes to drink out of when the birds aren’t using it of course. :)

Everyone probably remembers this one from my Whimsical Garden Art post a few days ago. Here is a better picture of it. Don’t you just love the base of it? It is made of a cast metal. I think the little decorative bird drinking out of the flower-shaped dish is so cute.

My absolute favorite one at the moment is this bronze ceramic one my husband gave me for Mother’s Day this year. He picked this one out at our local Wild Wings Nature Store. This store has fantastic birding accessories. Their items range from contemporary to whimsical.

I purchased this fountain at our local home improvement center. It was a floor model and they gave me a huge discount which means I had to get it. This is located in the bed with the huge Hosta I posted yesterday and the burgundy Cannas. The dogs enjoy drinking out of the lower basin and I’ve seen birds splashing in the smaller top dish.

This fountain is located out front next to my front door. I love the splashing sound of the waterfall and my cat enjoys drinking out of this one too. There is a light that makes it really pretty at night. It is located in the same flowerbed with Mr. & Ms. Turtle.

I hope you enjoyed my collection of birdbaths and fountains. What do you collect?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bloomin' Tuesday

It's Bloomin' Tuesday and to start out I'm going to show a couple of new things that are blooming in my garden today. Then I will show you some stuff that is still blooming and just to make it interesting a couple of things that have interesting buds and will be blooming really soon.


This is my much anticipated "Snow Queen" clematis or so I thought. But this is not a white bloom is it? I also planted "Dr Ruppel" on the same trellis, but this isn't it either. Another case of mislabeling for me this year. Three strikes I'm out for the season. I did a little research yesterday, but I still don't know the name of this cultivar. However, it is pretty with that lavendar blue background and faint purple striping on the petals. I also am fond of the deep purple center. Does anyone know what the name of this Clematis might be?

I wish I could of gotten a better picture of my new Yarrow Achillea Hybrid "Summer Pastels". I bought three small plants a couple of weeks ago at a bargain price. I specifically tried to pick ones that at least one bloom so I would know the color. One is a deep golden yellow, one is a pastel yellow and the last one is a peachy salmon color. Yarrow has a long bloom cycle from May-June and if you deadhead it will rebloom again later in the summer. I know it can be slightly invasive in the garden but I haven't had too much trouble with in in mine. In addition, the fern like folliage is attractive even when it's not blooming.

I love the pale pinkish yellow tone of this hybrid rose. Unfortunately I don't know the name of it because it was a pass-a-long plant from my grandmother's garden before she moved in with us. The blooms are full and it has a pleasant fragrance. As it ages it fades to a creamy white color.

The Lirope muscari is blooming prolifically in my woodland garden at the moment. This plant can be very aggressive at putting out runners and will take over if you let it. I prefer the "Variegata" variety because it is better behaved in the garden. But I have to admit Lirope is a great plant for areas of your garden that have harsh conditions like along the driveway and it's low maintenance other than a haircut every spring to make room for the new foliage.

My garden Phlox paniculata "Robert Poore" is on it's second bloom cycle for the season. It has a lovely spicy fragrance that really is noticeable in the morning. The bright lavendar blooms are a nice contrast to the light green foliage. This plant gets about 3-4' tall and has a nice clumping habit. It will flop slightly after a heavy rain but straightens itself up once the blooms are dry.

The Forever & Ever Hydrangea "Red" has a single bloom so far for the season. This bloom has been open for over a week now. I purchased three of these shrubs thinking they would be a nice mass planting along the fence in my new garden. The second one has 3 or 4 buds on it waiting to open and the third bush which gets more shade is smaller and has no buds at all. The color on this bloom has gotten darker as it has aged. So far I am not too impressed with this variety. But we'll see what it does next year. I have to water these daily or they will wilt in the afternoon.


This is one of my favorite Hostas in my garden. I think this might be "Royal Standard". It has large leaves and is my largest at about 30'' in diameter. I also like the blooms on this variety because they are substancial. Look at the size of this bud. The stems are sturdy and the blooms are lavender and slightly fragrant. This is the only Hosta that I allow to flower in my garden, because the blooms are worthy of the plant. I prefer the folliage of Hosta to the bloom. This variety can take more sun than my others will tolerate. It gets morning sun in this bed, but it use to get some afternoon sun and it tolerated that as well.

My final almost bloom is the Physostegia virginiana or Obedient Plant. This variety is a pale pink color and gets about 24" tall. Don't you think the unopened flower buds have an interesting shape? I grow this plant in a large washbasin so that it doesn't overtake my garden. It is very invasive, so you will have to contain it. The flowers are tubular in shape and are available in pale pink, magenta or white. Next year I would like to try the white variety, it isn't as invasive.

For more Bloomin' Tuesday Posts or to join in please visit Ms Green Thumb. What's blooming in your garden today?

Monday, July 28, 2008

They enjoy the garden too!

Yesterday's video of Spaz chasing the birds got me to thinking how much my pets enjoy the gardens I've created around our home. Gardening with pets can be a challenge at best, but the joy they bring to our lives has it's rewards. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy when the dogs dig holes in my yard or the cat lays on one of my favorite plants, but for the most part they really do very little damage that is irreparable to my garden. Holes can be filled in, plants will bounce back if not this year than the next and life will go on. Just as I enjoy sitting on my patio enjoying the sights, sounds and fragrances of the gardens, so do my dogs and cat. Spaz the terrier spends the entire day from sunrise to sunset exploring the gardens and she is very careful to weave in and out around my plantings. She also enjoys the excitement of chasing the birds, squirrels, mice or whatever else happens to wander into her domain. My beagle "Misty" enjoys lounging in the grass under the trees as well as sitting on the bench in my Arbor Garden. Which is funny, because I think my dogs and cat get more pleasure out of the garden then I do at times. While their exploring and using their five senses to absorb everything around them, I'm too busy thinking about what needs to be done next instead of just sitting back and relaxing. The cat "Mooch" spends the majority of his time in the front yard garden beds because Spaz and him haven't come to a understanding yet. He loves to lay in the mulch under my Butterfly Bush, drink out of the birdbath, and sleep behind the daylillies in the Border Bed. The benefits are he keeps the squirrels and rabbits from visiting my garden and devouring my plants. In addition he also chases other cats away from his territory which means my beds aren't being used as large litter boxes by the neighborhood cats and the funny part is he doesn't do it either. All of my pets were rescue animals. We adopted Misty from the SPCA ten years ago this month, the cat was a stray that I fed and he stayed, and we got Spaz from the SPCA February of this year. We adopted her shortly after we lost our terrier mix Pepper last fall. Pepper was a rescue dog as well, my dad saved him from abuse in Ohio about 8 years ago and gave him to us. I can't imagine what our lives would be like without these little members of our family. They give us unconditional love and affection on a daily basis. Our lives are richer because of them.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No wonder the birds are hungry...


video


Spaz keeps chasing them away from the feeder. Maybe she thinks she's helping me by conserving the birdseed? Nope, she has her own agenda as usual. Don't worry no birds were harmed in the making of this video and she does give up after about 15 minutes so the birds do get their dinner afterall. She's just having some fun, afterall she is a terrier. :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whimsical Garden Art

I was asked by Deb over at Aunt Debbis Garden to post and display some pictures of some silly or whimsical garden art in my garden. I don’t have anything as cute as her Senor Werm. For more whimsy in other gardens please go visit Deb's plot.



Meet Mr. Turtle. He used to live in my grandmother-in-law's water garden in Ohio. I inherited Mr. Turtle when she sold her house a several years ago and moved into an apartment. He has been lurking around my garden ever since. I know his shell looks a little ragged but it gives him his own unique charm. He actually can be used as a water sprayer, see the opening in his mouth.

What about this for whimsy? A bird drinking from a miniature flower-shaped birdbath on my birdbath. Is this whimsical? I think so. This has been a part of my garden for a few years too. It was given as a Mother's Day gift to me from my boys and my hubby.

And just so Mr. Turtle didn't get too lonely in my garden, my hubby's grandmother gave me his friend. Her shell is in better condition and she's smaller, but she has the same open mouth expression just waiting to spray water on you. Hope you enjoyed my whimsical garden art. Have a nice weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bits of sunshine on a cloudy day...




Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but
to add color to my sunset sky. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, July 24, 2008

As the season progresses...

and things reach their peak and come into their own, so does my new garden bed continue to become more interesting. I created this bed over two months ago. Normally, you would create a new garden bed in the spring or fall, but I have to say this bed is coming along nicely. It's been over a month since I posted pictures of it so here is an update of the new additions thus far:

The Angelonia, Salvia and Coreopsis are still blooming non-stop. The Blackeyed Susans that I planted last month have just started to bloom in the past week. Near the fence you can see the Purple Fountain Grass has gotten fuller and is making beautiful purple plumes. I bought some perennial Candytuff and planted them in front of the Angelonia as a permanent groundcover. This variety is called "Snowflake" which is an appropriate description of the little white flowers. I also have placed a few native plants here that I purchased at the Native Plant Sale last month. On the shed wall you can see the Clematis are climbing the trellis pretty quickly. There are two varieties planted, "Snow Queen" which is a white and "Dr Ruppel" which is a deep pink w/magenta stripes on the petals. "Dr Ruppel" was planted in another garden and I dug it up and moved it over here because it was over a year old and not growing. Since I moved it, it has new growth and seems healthier. "Snow Queen" has several buds as you will see in the next photo.


Here is the largest of the buds on "Snow Queen". This one should open soon. It will be nice to have some Clematis that bloom later in the season in the garden. My "Nelly Moser" and "Niobe" bloom in May. I think I will paint the shed walls a different color so that the blooms stand out more. White on white won't be much of a contrast. At least this vertical interest will disguise the plant paneling of the shed which acts as a backdrop to the new garden.

Another angle of the new bed is where my found object turned trellis is placed. I sowed Blackeyed Susan vine seeds near each leg. You can see on the left of the trellis the small vines starting to twine up the structure. (Spaz, my little terrier mix, decided she needed to be in the shot too, lol) To the right you can see the Hydrangea Forever & Ever "Red" with a single bloom.

A closeup of "Blackeyed Susan" vine on my new trellis (old tv antennae). They have made progress in their growth, but I was hoping they would of been covering the structure by now and possibly blooming. The season isn't over yet, so we'll see. We had rain all yesterday afternoon and night so maybe that will help. I might give them a dose of fertilizer today too.

Technically this isn't a new addition to the garden, but when the phone company decided to add dsl lines to the neighborhood last fall they dug through my flower bed to do it. (I wasn't happy about that) In the process, they killed 3 large hostas and a couple of lirope (which I don't miss), so I had to replant this bed this past spring. I planted three Hostas (name unknown) and two Heucera "Purple Palace" near the front edge. The"Nikko Blue" Hydrangea to the far right was planted last fall. Oh, the hummingbird feeder is a new addition this year too. I've seen one or two buzzing around it so far, but unfortunately I haven't gotten any pictures yet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What happened to my cucumber plant?

As some of you may recall, I got a late start in planting my veggies this year. I planted a cherry tomato and a cucumber plant in large pots since I don't have a dedicated vegetable garden yet. The photo to the left is a picture of my "so called" cucumber plant about a week or so ago. You can somewhat see a couple of blossoms hiding behind the large leaves. Well not too long after I took this photo I noticed two babies about an inch long on the plant. They grew pretty quickly and I harvested the first two this past weekend except they weren't cucumbers after all. Boy do I feel stupid! I sent a picture of my first harvest to my mother and she confirmed what I suspected and my grandmother kept saying. They are a yellow summer squash. Not that I have a problem with squash. I just wanted cucumbers that's all. So here is a picture of one right before I picked it. Another case of the plant was mislabeled, I got duped for the second time this season. Well I made the best of it and used it in my Chicken Minestrone recipe in place of zucchini, since I couldn't find any decent ones at the grocery store. Next year I think I will grow zucchini in my dedicated vegetable plot that I plan on making this fall. Here is a copy of the recipe:
Chicken Minestrone
6 servings
Prep time: 35 minutes
From Eating for Life by Bill Phillips

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 slices of Canadian bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 bay leaf
1 15oz. can of cannellini beans, drained/rinsed
1 15oz. can of red kidney bean, drained/rinsed
6 cups of chicken broth (I used reduced sodium fat-free)
2 cups of water
1 ½ lbs. of chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
¾ cup Ditalini pasta
1 box (10 oz) frozen green beans
1 bag (5 oz) baby spinach
3 Tbsp fresh basil, sliced
2 Tbsp fresh parmesan, grated

Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat for 1 minute. Add Canadian bacon and sauté for 4 minutes. Add onions, celery, garlic, zucchini and bay leaf, sauté for another 5 minutes. Add cannellini beans, red kidney beans, chicken broth and water to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then add chicken and cook for 10 more minutes. Reduce heat to medium high; add pasta and green beans. Cook until pasta is tender, about 8 minutes. Remove bay leaf from soup with tongs or a spoon. Stir in spinach and cook until slightly wilted about 1 minute. Ladle a portion into each bowl and top with fresh basil and parmesan.
It's a really good soup for the summer, because you prepare it on the stovetop so you don't have to heat up the kitchen by turning on the oven. That's always a good thing during this time of the year. Now my cherry tomatoes are producing their first fruits too. They are still green but they are getting bigger as we speak. It's nice to have fresh picked vegetables in our meals. Next year I will have even more options with my dedicated veggie bed. I am considering trying the square foot garden approach. It looks like I should be able to grow everything I want in a minimal about of space. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bloomin' Tuesday

I know I've been going on and on about my Hydrangea "Limelight". But doesn't it look fantastic in full bloom surrounded by those burgundy Cannas? The flowers are all fully open now and it is really a showstopper in the garden at the moment. This is the view from my kitchen window.
I bought a few new plants the other day and a couple of them are blooming at the moment. This is Elfin Thyme. It is a low growing groundcover that prefers sun-part shade. I have this planted in my Woodland Garden. (Which gets morning sun) I love the dainty blue flowers.
I know this looks pitiful, but since my Clematis "Niobe" usually blooms in May I was kind of excited to see this one lonely little bloom yesterday. This is a prolific bloomer for me from about late April-May. I wish I could of gotten this in focus, because this picture doesn't do it justice. The petals are a deep garnet red with a magenta stripe down the center. The flowers are large. This Daylilly has been blooming for over a month now, and there are still a few buds left to open. When I went to the Botanical Gardens last week they had this blooming so now I know the name again. It's name is "Colorful Summer". The name is fitting, don't you think?



I have lots more blooming that has been blooming on and off for the past couple of weeks. What's blooming in your garden at the moment? For more Bloomin' Tuesday posts be sure to visit Ms Green Thumb.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Contain that plant!

Have you ever noticed that some of the most prolific bloomers are also great at taking over a garden? I have several plants in my own garden that I know are anywhere from slightly invasive to highly invasive, but yes I continue to grow them year after year. To keep them from completely taking over my garden beds and choking out everything in their path, I grow them in containers. That way I can enjoy the good qualities they have but keep their bad habit of spreading themselves freely throughout my garden in check. One of my favorites is the poorly named Obedient Plant or Physostegia virginiana. It also is referred to as False Dragon Head. Mine isn't blooming yet, but it will soon, so I got the picture to the left from http://bluethumb.org/plants/198/. They range in color from pale pink to magenta to even a white variety. I've heard the white variety isn't quite as aggressive, but I don't know if that is true or not. About 8 years ago I ordered Obedient Plant through a mail order catalog (name long forgotten) and received this dormant (looked dead to me) root. I planted it that spring and it didn't take me long to figure out that this beautiful flower was a thug! It spreads by underground runners and boy does it spread! Because I love plants, I couldn't just dig it up and throw it away, so I contained it in a metal wash tub where it blooms its heart out every summer. This way I keep the plant but it doesn't kill out everything else in my garden in the process. Another plant that I have growing in containers in my yard is Periwinkle or Vinca major "Variegata". It is actually a creeping ground cover that spreads by rooting from the stems whereever it lays. Some of you might of noticed the wall mounted planters I have on the wall of my shed. This is where I have this aggressive evergreen creeper growing. Don't you think it looks nice flowing over the sides of this container? The foliage is green with creamy white margins and it has lavender-blue flowers in the spring. I cut it back every winter and every spring it sprouts new growth from the roots. My grandmother likes to mix it with other flowering plants in her containers, but I think it looks pretty good all by itself, even without the blooms. Every other year I have to replace the soil and separate the rootbound plant. But don't put the pieces you don't want in your compost bin or you will have a jungle on your hands. I throw the excess in the garbage. It's a foolproof plant for containers, so you don't have to worry about killing it. Last but not least is the Blackeyed Susan or Rudbeckia fulgida "Goldsturm" which is a productive reseeder in my garden and hopefully not to their dismay the neighbor's yard as well. The plant to the left reseeded from my raised bed that is about 10 feet from their house. So far they haven't complained, maybe because it's blooming so prettily next to the foundation of their house. I don't mind digging it up and moving it into my own garden if they don't want it. This plant will reseed easily but it is easy to remove the excess plants you don't want. I don't contain it so much as keep an eye on it. I guess if I cut off the spent blooms every fall instead of leaving them for the birds it might be easier to control. But the finches love the tiny black seeds and I love watching them balance on top of the flower heads every fall. I'm sure if I looked around there are more invasive plants growing in my garden but these are my top three. What kind do you have growing in your garden?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fantastic Foliage

While I was visiting the Botanical Garden last week I saw some fantastic greenery. I’m a big fan of foliage in the garden. As some of you may know, Linda over at Meadowview Thymes did a great post yesterday titled “It’s not easy being green”. So here is my tribute to the wonderful world of texture, pattern and the color green in all its various shades. I could make an entire garden with plants like this and never miss the blooms at all.

Elephant’s Ears Alocasia “Hilo Beauty”

Fox Tongue Melastoma

Eulalia Grass Miscanthus sinensis “Gold Bar”

Knotweed “Painters Palette” (native plant to Virginia)

Yellow Root (native plant to Virginia)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's a garden without water?

I love the sound of running water in the garden. Don't you? I have a couple of water features in my own garden. One of my favorite things is to sit on the patio with a cup of coffee in the morning and absorb all of nature around me. An added bonus is hearing the sound of my fountain as the water runs down the sides of it. A garden truly gives us an opportunity to use our five senses. They had several beautiful water features at the Botanical Gardens.
This fountain was positioned in the center of the perennial border. Now I don't have room for something this large in my own yard. It is pretty spectacular though, don't you think? Remember as a kid throwing pennies into fountains such as this and making a wish?


There is also a canal that runs the entire perimeter of the Botanical Garden. So instead of walking or taking the tram you can also cruise along the canal in a boat and see the garden from a different perspective. The tour guide also points out interesting features along the way.

This fountain was part of the bog garden. I love the simple beauty of the waterlillies with the woods in the background. Another bonus was the creatures this pond attracted such as frogs, dragonflies, birds and other various wildlife.


Now this is the children's garden. My boys would of loved being able to play in these fountains. I thought this was a fun addition for the kids especially on a hot summer day. Don't you wish you were a child again so you could play in the water?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Interesting and Unusual

The Wollemi Pine ( Wollemia nobilis) is one of the oldest and rarest plants in the world. Samples have been found in fossils dating back 90 million years (the days of Tyrannosaurus Rex). Today only 100 mature trees exist in the wild. They were discovered in 1994, growing in a remote location in Australia. This specimen was given to the garden by the United States Botanic Garden. (information posted by Norfolk Botanical Garden on sign)


I've never seen Crepe Myrtles trained and pruned like this before. There was a long border of these used as a decorative fence of sorts. Isn't this an interesting living divider? The branches seem to be braided or weaved together. I can't imagine how long this must of took.

This Century Plant Agave americana is native to Mexico and Texas. This was growing in the desert garden at the Botanical Garden. I should of had my husband stand next to it when I took this picture so you could get a real idea of the size of this plant. Look at the trees behind it for a better perspective of the size of this thing. These plants can live up to 25 years and dies after flowering leaving little suckers to continue the cycle. The leaves grow to about 6 ft in length and the plants flower stalk can grow up to 25 feet in height.


This Pineapple (Ananas comosus) was growing in the children's garden area. I had never seen a pineapple plant up close before, and I thought that the children probably found this fasinating.