Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Walkabout

This has been a more-or less green Christmas, with the exception of a few fleeting snowflurries....all that could change according to the recent weather forecast.>Stormy Monday could be upon us again. The dogs and I had a good walk around the garden today. In spite of winter there were many interesting things to see and actually admire. The combinations of green and brown seem quite pleasing this time of year. Our appreciation can change as the seasons do. The winter coloration of PJM is lovely next to the evergreen of the "regular" big leaf rhododendrons. There are always buds to admire.....both rhodie and azalea. December 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

No More Excuses

I have been putting off "blogging" until we got high speed internet. That momentous event happened yesterday, so I guess I now need to play catch up. The fall is pretty much behond us, Christmas is looming, winter hasn't been too obnoxious yet, so I guess all could be said to be "well" I did a cusory rearrange of the Blog design, but I think it may need some serious tweaking. We have a new dog in our house since Halloween. "Grace" may be with us for awhile, but she is technically a friend's dog. She and Jodi seems to get along fine, but they make more noise as a duo. Christmas preparations are going along without much fanfare. The tree is up, but no presents have been wrapped. I usually do minor decorating, so that isn't much of an issue. We are going to The Christmas Potluck at my former workplace at StFX this evening, so I made a cake.
A lovely Browned Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ode to "Helda"

Late August means our favourite bean is ready to be eaten. "Helda" is a romano type pole bean that has the sweetest, "beaniest" flavour of all the types we have grown.Bill has an interesting , rustic  set of poles for them to climb. (click for full size image)
They soon do a good job of completely covering all the poles from bottom to top (and beyond).
Here is the skeleton in late June.
The beans are touted as growing 6-8 Ft. tall, but I think they would go as tall as the poles would allow.
It is a joy to browse the patch and pick the lovely dangling beans.Usually there is a set of 2 or 4 ready at any given time. 
Their are several seed sources for these, but we have purchased them from Lindenberg Seed in Manitoba for the last few years.
It doesn't take a huge number to make lots for a meal or two.
Each can get to be quite a generous size while still retaining their flavour and tenderness. 
The littlest seem to get eaten raw!
It is very easy to miss them while picking, and inevitably a few get missed....these are the ones that can sometimes get a little large.
Even the "average" sized ones are 8 or 9 inches in length. It helps with the picking when they get too high to reach....they dangle down quite well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our little basil forest -

We have had quite a successful growth of basil this summer, probably due in part to lots of sunny weather. We have grown most of our basil in planters for the last several years, and seem to have better success doing so. These planters are located on our faithful potting table and get a reasonable amount of daily sun.
We also have one pot on the back step which is handy for a quick nip of basil anytime.
Click to see the post on CG Forum
Our little basil forest - Garden Gallery - Canadian Gardening Forums
In general it is nice to grow herbs in pots. A collage of some from our back step 
(click for larger image)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sharon's Wonderful Flowerpicking Spree

Early this Friday the thirteenth, the dog, two cats and I set out to pick a great assortment of floral material. It had been a very cool night so everything was very fresh and well hydrated. My neighbor had asked for some flowers to help her prepare several large arrangements for an outdoor wedding on Saturday. She didn't have to adhere to any great colour theme, so she will have a good time putting all this material together with some from her own garden. Sometimes I think we don't have a very good "cutting" garden, but am always quite pleased with what we find. I took the wheelbarrow out to the back garden areas. One's arms soon get a bit too full. (Click the images for a full size)
She was quite anxious to have a few lilies, so one bucket contained part of those. Hopefully the pollen doesn't stain the white ones too badly. The white is one called Simplon. The pinks are StarGazers and Berlin. Another bucket has a stalk of Tom Pouce. 
I had four buckets ready for the "volunteers". Here they are all filled. 
Here is a little collage of several groups. All in all it was a very nice way to start the day.
As an addendum, here are a couple of the finished products...Norma did an awesome job. These were emailed to me this morning.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lilies with difficulty

(Golden Stargazer above)
This post to the CG Forum was done with a fair bit of griping! Slower than slow would be a good description. As if our "snaily" dialup wasn't bad enough, I have to turn off our dial-up accelerator to access and post. The season of oriental lilies is here and most are doing beautifully. It is proving to be a challenge to remember that I have to examine each lily for the Red Lily Beetle this year. I have found a few adults and just yesterday a small new batch of larvae. Ugly things they are!
Hopefully we will be vigilant enough to prevent too much damage.
Click on the link
A bit of Boogie Woogie

Friday, August 6, 2010

Another Garlic Harvest

The first week of August seems to be garlic harvest time, and this year was no exception. Planting and harvesting garlic, not to mention eating it, is one of the favourite gardening pusuits. I was anticipating a very poor harvest this year. For some reason several rows grew very poorly. Most notable was the basic failure of the softneck variety.
It was a pleasant surprise that several of the hardnecks types, with the exception of the row of Wyndvale Heights, did very well. Why they were poor is a mystery. It was a very nice garlic, too bad it seems to be not available via Garden Import anymore.
There was quite a full wheelbarrow load.

Each type was kept separate and given a cursory wash off with the hose. Our sandy soil isn't really very "dirty"!
The intact plants were arranged in mesh trays and set out on the picnic tables in the sun to dry off a bit.
Then they are put on the table next to the house under the overhang to continue drying and curing.
They get a bit of a rearrangement on a daily basis. We also have to check that sowbugs may not have found their way into the stash! Raising the trays on another layer helps that problem.
The tops usually get cut off to about 6-8" in about a week, depending upon how quickly they shrivel.
A final trim of the stem and roots happens when it seems thay have thoroughly dried. They are then put in open boxes or paper bags and stored in a dark closet in the basement. The heads destined for replanting are put aside and labelled.
I usually don't bother counting them until they are ready to be stored. The number planted never matches the number harvested anyway!
Last year I planted a nice hardneck variety obtained at the Farmer's Market in Antigonish. They did very well and I must see if I can get more.

A few years we received a head or two of one I call the "Giant" garlic from our friend Maureen. She didn't know its name, but we have managed to keep a modest supply of this one each year. It makes a nice head with only 4-5 large cloves....a very user friendly type.

We have had a variety of hardneck types over the years from various sources. This year it seemed one was a bit more precocious than the others. The heads had loosened up quite a bit more than is advisable. I expect if I had paid more attention to those plants, they might have been lifted a bit sooner.

No real harm done....they will just get used sooner, or will make great candidates for melted garlic. It seems I only make that in the late summer after garlic harvest. It makes a more mellow version of roasted garlic, but can use up heads of garlic quite quickly.
To make melted garlic, gently heat olive oil (or a mix of olive and canola) in a small saucepan. About a cup of oil usually works. Add as many peeled cloves of garlic as you like. They should be about covered in oil. Have the heat very low. Fresh garlic will start to caramelize very easily.
Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the cloves are softened. There will be a subtle change in colour. Strain the oil into a jar for future use. Mash the cloves with a touch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. I usually refrigerate the garlic infused oil as well
The mashed garlic can be used in any application calling for roasted garlic....from potatoes to bruchshetta.
Our garlic growing venture this coming fall is going to see the patch moved to an adjacent garden spot which has been growing buckwheat in anticipation. The bed the garlic came out of will also grow some buckwheat for the rest of the season. Seed was planted there Aug7th.
An addendum August10th! 
The tops of the harvested garlic shrivelled up very quickly since last Thursday's harvest. 

I will trim the roots and remaining stub.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some things from a July 6th walk

Here are some samples of things encountered on a morning walk a couple of days ago...........via Canadian Gardening Forum.
We are in the midst of a heat wave of sorts. It will hopefully not persist for too many days. some things from a July 6th walk - Garden Gallery - Canadian Gardening Forums

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Beauty after the Rain

This weeks' rain gave many things a bit of a temporary droop, but the Beauty Bushes didn't seem to mind. Share some observations about that!
Beauty after the rain - Garden Gallery - Canadian Gardening Forums
There were many other things showing off this week. Lots of peonies that were , of course, laid low by rain. This is Festiva maxima in a typical pose!
It seems to be a rite that buckets of peonies for bouquets get picked each year.
This year they went to a wedding being held this July1st.
The big doubles fall the worst....this year many were low, but hadn't actually broken.
There are lots of interesting peonies in bloom just now, both named varieties and seedlings....sometimes we forget who's who.
We have been wowed this year by the vigour and beauty of our Magnolia tripetala. This tree seems to get better each year. It adds a touch of exoticness to our garden with its huge leaves and tall stature.
Another plant giving a bit more of itself is the Tricolour Broom...this plant has a bit of a struggle to come through winter looking very great.
Even the clematis on the back arbor have been great....I always think clematis do better for others than for us!
These are the individuals growing here amongst the roses and azalea.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Deluged by Digitalis

This summer has blessed us with MANY Digitalis.
We are having some mixed appreciation. They do make a good foreground for the Persicaria, which has its own lonely space.
Share a few thoughts on digitalis.
Deluged by Digitalis - Garden Gallery - Canadian Gardening Forums
This last day of June has seen things growing very speedily after a lovely rain. Overall June has been quite dry.
The afternoon was spent purging many Bleeding Hearts, which had made themselves far too comfortable. Perhaps a bit of breathing room has been created.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some first day of summer treats

Summer is officially here according to the calendar. There are still lots of jobs to be done, but we  are getting there little by little. Regardless of what we do, the plants go ahead and bloom their heads off. 
Share a few from the CG Forum post.
Some first day of summer treats - Garden Gallery - Canadian Gardening Forums

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rhododendron and Azalea Time

The bloom season for the rhodies and azaleas is in full swing. We have invited anyone who might enjoy them to come for a garden visit this Saturday and Sunday afternoon from~12-4PM.
It often seems that people are more liable to visit if there is a "perceived" event. "Busyness" still seems to be prevailing here at The Willow Garden. If the cold nights ever let up, some of the tender plants may actually get to their garden beds. 5C seems to be a not uncommon early morning temperature! We did have a nice respite last weekend while attending the ARHS Garden Tour and Potluck in the Liverpool/ Port Mouton area. There was a dedication and unveiling of a plaque at Pine Grove Park in Dick Steele's memory.  
We had quite a stroll through the lovely pine forest. It had been quite a few years since our last visit. Most of the rhododendrons were almost finished, but the azaleas were a riot of colour.
Rain descended in full force for much of the afternoon, but we still enjoyed garden visits in the area.
It was interesting to see some of our plants in Ruth's garden. Audrey's garden, as usual, was a masterpiece. The rainy weather somewhat inhibited the picture taking!
We had a brief visit to the rock garden at NSAC in Truro on our way home. It has matured considerably in the last few years. We don't seem to be adherents of alpine gardening, but do admire the efforts of others. I think I, at least, lack the discipline required.
I had quite an early morning walk to hopefully get some pics before the sun was too bright. It was a challenge to get a decent pic of this rather nice yellow rhodie we moved earlier this spring.
It has been a rather strange bloom season for the rhododendrons. Many plants are fully covered in bloom, but others had minimal bud set last summer.
There are always many surprises in store.
One of our favourite rhodies seedlings hails from 1992....we call her "Sproeten", which means "freckles" in Dutch. It is a cross of  Barbara Cook x Janet Blair.
This year she is at her blousy best.
The azaleas are getting to be in full glory.
We are patiently waiting for more blooms to open on Homebush. In the meantime Spicy Lights seems to be outdoing itself....the fragrance from this plant is wonderful. It is due for a haircut very soon. It is impeding traffic on the path through the back perennial bed. Perhaps a bouquet is in order.