Tag Archives: spring

Wordless Wednesday: Streptocarpus ‘Salmon Sunset’

Streptocarpus ‘Salmon Sunset’, 13 May 2012


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Re-Learning How to Can

Grammy & Greenhouse Tomatoes

My paternal grandmother canned, and my husband and I visited a few summers after we were married and canned with her.  That was over 20 years ago, and we haven’t done any canning since.  Until two days ago.

May 13 was our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary in addition to being Mother’s Day.  Our long standing tradition is to celebrate holidays that involve going out to dinner either well before or well after the actual day to avoid crowds.  Since we knew every restaurant on the planet would be mobbed all weekend, we found other things to do.

The highlight of our weekend was canning together.  The Chief of Implementation and I collaborated on a batch of Onion Maple Conserve.  We’re fond of sweet & savory together and this new recipe turned out extremely well.  We’ve already opened the second jar so another batch or two may happen.  We cooked 2-1/2 pounds of onions down to six 4 oz jars of maple and onion goodness.

Onion Maple Conserve, 13 May 2012

The recipe is from a Better Homes and Gardens special interest publication and I’m hoping that’s a safe source for recipes.

I also made two herb vinegars–rice vinegar with chive flowers and apple cider vinegar with tarragon.  They’re stored at the front of the peanut butter and snack cabinet for 4-6 weeks of aging in a warm dark spot where I’ll remember to turn them every day or so.  After that, I’ll filter them thoroughly and bottle them attractively.  I’ll watch the chive flower rice vinegar very carefully because it’s 4.3% acidity instead of the needed 5% for safe food.  I figured that out AFTER I’d put every available chive flower from the garden into it.  (Oops!)

Herbal Vinegars, 13 May 2012

We’re off to a small but happy start preserving our harvests.  Hope everyone is starting to enjoy garden bounty.


Filed under Cooking, Gardening, Sustainable Living

Happy Herbs

After years of unsuccessful attempts to grow Mediterranean herbs in heavy clay soil, I’ve moved them all to containers.  After a couple of years of experimentation including, surprisingly, a few deaths by drought, I’ve settled on mostly self-watering containers with a mix of potting soil and sand.  These containers are lined up in the hottest, driest spot in my yard — the north end of the driveway with plenty of south sun and reflected heat from asphalt.

Driveway Containers, 10 May 2012

I’m extremely please with how well these containers are doing and I keep expanding each year.  I’m planning to fill two more green boxes this year.

The current highlight is the two varieties of chives in bloom.  I’m watching very closely so I can pick the maximum number of high quality flowers to make a batch of chive flower vinegar–my first garden preservation project for this year.

Seed Grown Chives, 10 May 2012

Profusion® Chives, 10 May 2012

For more details on these containers, check the Garden Journal entry for North Driveway Containers.

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Salad Greens for Breakfast?

Last September, I ran across a Kindle book on green smoothies.  We’ve enjoyed smoothies for years and have been gradually transitioning to healthier ingredient choices.  Originally, our smoothie recipes involved fruit and sweetened yogurt or fruit, sugar and milk.  We’ve slowly moved toward less sugar and less dairy in smoothies. I find that my sinuses are happier when I limit my dairy intake.

The 7-Day Green Smoothie Kickstart Guide was just the latest step.  I’m finding that I actually enjoy choosing a couple of fruits and a green each morning.  Today I blended a banana with water, added half a package of organic frozen strawberries, blended again, topped it off with all the good looking spinach leaves left from the overwintered container. Once blended all together it’s a funny green color, but quite yummy.

Overwintered Spinach, 22 March 2012 (BEFORE it bolted!)

Everyone in the family has been surprised at how good these smoothies taste despite the green colors.  I’m the most consistent consumer of green smoothies, but my husband and daughters often enjoy them too.  Even my mother-in-law has been known to sip one.

Following the recommendations in the book, I try to vary ingredients from day to day.  I’m quite pleased that my grocery store carries organic frozen strawberries, mango cubes and raspberries.  I’ve used lots of fresh oranges and bananas along with pears and other fruits. Frozen greens I use include kale, collards, spinach.  Fresh greens include whatever is available in the garden or store.  Here’s the spring planted salad table with seedling peas, lettuce and volunteer violas.

Spring Planted Salad Greens, 10 May 2012

I have to confess that my other favorite smoothie is butter pecan ice cream and Kahlua…

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Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)

Evergreen shrubs are often considered the backbone of a garden.  I have a decided preference for evergreens that also offer seasonal interest and I love fragrant plants.  Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) offers all three, with fragrant spring flowers, a solid evergreen presence and, on some varieties, colorful new growth.

There are three varieties growing at the Garden in the Woods.  When we moved in, there were two large mature shrubs in the front yard.  One of them is at the end of its life, but I’m hoping to take cuttings.  The other graces the front door, and blooms in mid-Spring,

Pieris japonica, 22 March 2012

covering itself with long chains of delicate bell shaped flowers

Pieris japonica, 15 April 2011

which are much loved by bees.

Pieris japonica, 14 April 2011

This is probably a 25 or 30 year old shrub and most likely the plain species Pieris japonica.  There’s been some breeding and selection focused on pink flowers and colorful new growth.  P. j. ‘Valley Valentine’ is widely available with pink flowers and red new growth.  The pink variety in the Garden in the Woods is P. j. ‘Dorothy Wyckoff’.  It’s a lovely shrub, in full bloom just a few months after fall planting in this picture.

Pieris japonica 'Dorothy Wyckoff', 27 March 2010

The flowers fade from pale pink to white, but the stems and calyces remain red.

Pieris japonica 'Dorothy Wyckoff', 27 March 2010

This variety blooms a little earlier than the plain species, but that may be due to a warmer spot.  About half of the shrub has died back which seems to be a problem with Pieris if they’re not perfectly sited.  I’ll give it another year or so to recover before either moving it or dispatching it to that great garden in the sky.

The third variety in the Garden in the Woods is Pieris japonica ‘Prelude’ a dwarf shrub that blooms later in spring.  This year that translates to just starting now, although in previous years, it’s been in bloom during April and early May.

Pieris japonica 'Prelude', 10 April 2010

I’m particularly fond of the combination of P. j. ‘Prelude’ and Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’) shown here.  Blue Eyed Grass seems to be a short lived perennial for me, perhaps because even with amendment, the soil is still clay.

Pieris japonica 'Prelude' & Sisyrinchium angustifolium 'Lucerne', 1 May 2010

Pieris japonica is a hardy shrub, preferring well drained moist soil and partial shade.


  • West Front, Sidewalk to House
  • Southwest Front Corner
  • West End of House


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February & March, In Retrospect

Most years, March is the busiest month of the year in the garden for me.  It’s the perfect time for planting out perennials and shrubs and a wide variety are readily available.  Mail order nurseries ship hardy plants to my zone in March or April, and the nurseries are well stocked.  There’s enough warm sunny weather that it’s nice to get outside, and there’s plenty of cleanup work to do after fall and winter.

Due to a broken ankle, my gardening time has been drastically curtailed this year.  Working around that has involved identifying tasks that can be done on crutches or sitting on a scooter, badgering the Chief of Implementation and our offspring and a LOT of letting go of things that aren’t getting done this year.  We’ve postponed starting a couple of beehives until next spring; much of the vegetable garden will be planted late if at all; and I have no plans for new flower beds this year despite having a big lot with lots of blank space.

In spite of that, we’ve gotten a good bit done in the yard and planted a lot of new plants and replacements.  Most of my mail order plants are in the ground, largely thanks to my daughter and her significant other. We even did a little direct seeding of hardy annuals in the Front Island Bed last week.  Winter sown seedlings are doing fairly well, although I planted a fair number of slow germination seeds this year that aren’t up yet.  I do have one Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh Poppy) seedling so far.  Supposedly, this is the easiest kind to grow, and reliably perennial.  I’m growing double orange and double yellow ones.

It’s also been a lovely spring, though earlier than usual.  Thankfully we’ve had enough cool weather that flowers have lasted pretty well.  Here’s a quick glance at what’s bloomed so far.

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Photo credits go to my daughter who posts her art at http://cricketwerks.tumblr.com/

Here’s to a lovely growing season for everyone!


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For LinnieW

who pruned her Spirea and got some flack for it. I did the same to mine about two years ago and here’s how it looks now:

Spirea, 23 March 2012

It’s actually bloomed a little more since that picture was taken last week.  Here’s a closeup of the blooms.

Spirea Bloom, 23 March 2012

They really do respond to drastic pruning.


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