A Moving Experience

Dusk on the Hill

The latest Gardening Gone Wild Photo Challenge involves motion of various sorts in the garden.  The specific theme “Show the Motion” discusses how you can set out to use motion to enhance your normal photos in the garden.  Following the judge’s suggestions I set out at dusk one evening to see if the camera, tripod and I could capture the fireflies that dance around the garden in the evening.  One of the by-products of wandering around the hillside in the evening with a tripod is that you get a wonderful light on the flowers just as the sun is going down.  The colors are exceptionally strong without being blown out as they would be in mid-day.

Rock Garden at Dusk

Rose Garden at Dusk with Luxor Lilies

It turns out that the time period during which you can shoot with a long exposure, still get the garden elements, and let the fireflies dance is fairly limited — about 1/2 an hour.  I tried various exposures, zoom levels, ISO’s, etc. but the difficulty is you can’t really see and appreciate the arcing tracks of the fireflies until you return to the computer.  In the end it’s a very random thing as to whether the fireflies will actually choose to light up in sync with your camera, but it’s fun to try!  For example here is a shot from the front rock garden in which you can see three streaks of golden light.

Fireflies in Rock Garden

Another was on the hillside with clear arcs of color.

Fireflies above Coreopsis

In the end my favorite shot of the night came on the side of the hill with the pasture as backdrop and the False Sunflowers  in the foreground.  This picture was taken in the near-dark and it’s only by the magic of digital photography that fireflies appear as golden streaks of fairy dust in what looks like daylight.   This will be my submission for the GGW photo contest.

Fireflies and Hillside Garden

I also need to give some praise to the Luxor lilies which are flowering on six foot stems right now.

Asiatic Lily 'Luxor'

And I’m becoming a fan of the Walcroy Crocosmia which is an outstanding gold color to match the daylillies in the front yard.

Crocosmia 'Walcroy'

I should mention in passing that this is harvest time for the garlic.  I’ve strung several large bundles from the rafters in the garage.

Garlic (Kettle River Giant) hung to dry

And the blueberries are doing their annual thing.  I always look at them in the spring thinking that there really aren’t very many blossoms and maybe it will be an off year.  Then, come harvest time, the bushes yield abundantly and there are more to pick than we really have time for.  Beth has made a couple of full-size blueberry tarts that have been delicious.  It looks like we will be freezing berries again…

Blueberries picked last night from one of seven bushes

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for December 2010

Camellia Sasanqua frozen in place

Well it is indeed another opportunity to check the progress of the garden and to search for flowering survivors against the cold weather of December.  I bundled up yesterday and went into the subfreezing cold to look for the hardiest remnants of our garden.  The Camellia shown above sits against sheltering wall but has only the one bloom hanging on and, truthfully, that bloom has seen better days.  There are many other buds hoping for a January thaw since there are not many signs that the temps are coming back up again in December.  I looked back to last year’s posting and see that this very same Camellia is the lead flower for that edition of GBBD as well.  Note to self:  A White Camellia Sasanqua should be on the shopping list.

Now I rather expected the Camellia to be flowering.  What I did not expect was to see a Chrysanthemum  bloom still hanging on long after its compadres had packed their bags and planted their seeds for next year.

Last vestige of Chrysanthemum

A bit bedraggled yes.  But we who are in the begging profession (as all North Eastern gardeners must be at this time of year) can not afford to be too picky.

What did strike me — in addition to the freezing winds yesterday — was the number of plants that still make a beautiful green contribution to the landscape.  There are lots of plants that we assume will come to the fore at this season — like Yews or Boxwood — but there are others like the Hellebores and Epimediums that seem be contributing above and beyond the call of duty.  Given that they both will put of lovely flowers in the springtime.

Epimediums defy the cold

Epimediums, in particular, seem so delicate but are at the core just as sturdy and determined a ground cover as you can imagine.  Like ferns they are much more reliable than their appearance would seem to call for.

And the Hellebores are becoming one of my favorite flowering plants.

Hellebore x sternii 'Hot Flash'

They are incredibly hardy, reliably deer-proof, and increasingly the hybridizers are bringing new colors and styles to the market.  The above ‘Hot Flash’ has a silvery cast and interesting markings to the leaves as well as pretty green flowers in the spring.

As far as plants still doing their thing despite the 20 degree temperatures I need to take note of the Swiss Chard in the garden.

Swiss Chard still surviving

What a great vegetable!  Thanks to son Josh, we now stir fry this with maple syrup — yum.

And yet another survivor, though nearly done, is the last of the lettuce.

Buttercrunch in the cold

I somehow never realized that the lettuce could tolerate such low temperatures.  Needless to say, I will take fall gardening more seriously in the future.  I only really planted the fall garden this year because the drought killed off our summer production so badly.  There is a world of discovery right there in the backyard…

To see other gardens on this GBBD please go to May Dreams Gardens where the event is hosted by the originator.

Autumn Harvest

Fall Fest at Wilson Farms

The theme for Gardening Gone Wild photo contest for September is Autumn Harvest.  I was not inspired by our own drought-thirsted crops as considered what photo to enter.  The above photo is from Wilson Farms near Boston.  They make a fall tradition of gathering in some of the biggest pumpkins, squash, and gourds that you will ever see.  They also have apples, cider, and a generally inspiring collection of wonderfully diverse market garden produce and flowers.  If you have the opportunity it is well worth a visit.

However, I think for my entry I’m going to go with last year’s visit to Turkey.  As we drove across the country we went from the fruit orchards of the coast to the equivalent of our midwest where the big crop is sugar beets.

Harvesting sugar beets

We saw tractor after tractor towing in wagons of sugar beets.  They drove them up a near vertical ramp to dump them out (see the red tractor in the upper left of the picture).  Then the enormous piles of sugar beets were loaded onto big trucks for traveling across the country.

Trucking sugar beets

The source of the sweetness for some of those delicious baked goods is probably the molasses derived from sugar beets. The sugar beets are also used for one version of Raki, a distinctive turkish alcoholic beverage.  But wait, the quest for an Autumn Harvest image goes further.

The small farm that we stopped at for an overnight stay operated with more of a traditional mixed crop approach.  We were hosted by a multi-generational family that provided a wonderful meal for us.  They offered that those who wanted to get up early could witness the milking the next morning.  So I got up, along with several others, and toured the barn to see the milking (the whole farm reminded me of my grandfather’s place in Canada).  Then we took an morning walk into the fields. .  The early morning light fell on the stacks of reed-like plants that were as tall as the old traditional haystacks that you may have seen in the U.S..  In honor of the many hours that were required to create those twelve foot stacks I decided to submit this image as representative of Autumn Harvest.

Reedstack at Akburun village

Oh, the gentle rain that droppeth

Morning Mist

Not too long ago we had a morning mist that covered the hillsides.  It was the most rain we had from the twelfth of August until last night.  Another month without rain.  And only .4 inches from last night.  You might ask how the plants can survive such dismal conditions and the simple answer is they can’t.  I have had to water as much as possible and we just don’t have the capacity from our well to support all the plants on the property.  This is what the triangle field looks like after a summer of drought.

The dry triangular field

And, as if it weren’t enough that the dry conditions (combined with woodchucks) did in the corn, the squash, and the cucumbers completely (I mean nothing, not a single morsel), we now have an invasion of stinkbugs on everything that’s left.

Stink Bugs on the tomatoes

These aren’t your ordinary stink bugs.  These are the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that will want to come inside for the winter time.  They’ve taken to sitting on the door and window screens when they are not sucking the life out of the tomatoes, the peppers, the eggplant, and the apples.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Nonetheless, we shall persevere.  We can always look forward to a tropical storm visiting the area… — I see that Igor is forming in the Caribbean…

A Gourmet E’scape

Garlic scapes

I realized this week that the season was moving on for the garlic that I had planted last fall.  I could see that some of them were starting to put up buds for flowers so I began to look up when I’m supposed to harvest them (this is our first venture into growing anything beyond elephant garlic).  And that’s when I read about garlic scapes.  It turns out that culturally one needs to trim off the new buds to allow the plant to put more energy into the bulb (which is the part we normally plan to eat).  But for the hardscape garlic (most of our crop is hardscape whereas commercial garlics are the softscape variety) that new growth comes up on a curly green shoot that makes an epicurean delight all in itself.  By luck I was able to harvest the scapes at just the right time (when they are still curling and flexible).

Cutting up the scapes

Recipes abound online for using these cuttings.  But far and away the favorite use seems to be pesto.  And after our experiment last night I can see why.

Garlic scape pesto

Beth tossed this creamy pesto into a vegetarian pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, as well as fresh basil from the garden, and —voila! — we had a delightful eating experience.

Pasta with garlic scape pesto

We also spread the pesto directly on toasted sourdough for a very rich and delicious side dish for the meal… Yum!  The scapes have a kind of essence of garlic flavor with no sharp bite but a delightful aftertaste.

We had also brought in a large bowl of blueberries yesterday morning.

Blueberry pickings

Blueberries en masse

They also had to be part of the menu.  The night before we had taken toasted pound cake (received as a barter gift for blueberries) added unsweetened apricot prevserves, ice cream, blueberries, and amaretto for another sinful eating experience.  Sorry, no picture, that one vanished very rapidly…

Just to show that we don’t just eat around here, we also planted a nice set of Bell Heathers that Beth found at the local Big Box store.  This was a variety, C.D. Eason, that I don’t recall seeing here before.  The test will be how they last through summer and winter, but at the moment they look very nice on the garage bank.

Bell Heathers on the garage bank

Bell Heather 'C.D. Eason'

Playing in California

This is the time of year when I venture to California to visit with my mother.  While yet another snowstorm covers up the snowdrops again I visited my mother last week and checked up on the plants that are growing vigorously almost any time of year.  The outstanding elements in January are always the pair of Camellias that dominate the side of the house.

Camellia blooms dripping off the bush

Camellia wall

They grow so easily and flower so vigorously that it seems almost criminal.

Another spot that gets my every couple of months check is the back bed.  The back of the yard was once a lovely flower garden that my Dad planted but it got overrun with nut grass.  My cure was to build up the bed and put in pots with a drip irrigation system that waters only the pots not the surrounding earth.  This I did quite a few years ago and by and large it works pretty well if the irrigation tubes don’t get knocked off or the timer reset.

The back garden

There are now three dwarf citrus trees along the back wall and numerous perennials.  My mother pointed out last trip the value of pinning down the drip irrigation tubes and that has proved to be a very valuable step.  The citrus are yielding less than last year, but everyone is still pretty much alive back there and that’s a major plus.  That’s Cape Honeysuckle with the orange flowers hanging down from the porch.

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

This is a vigorous plant with attractive flowers the year round.

It’s a little bit early for the plants in the back bed to be flourishing, but I did notice that because of the heavy rains last month the part of the garden outside of the pots that does not get watered by irrigation was covered withs seedling Calendulas, a number of which were already up to flowering size.

Calendulas self-seeding

One could do worse than having Calendulas go wild.

I added a few plants this trip, as is my common practice.  This time I found a really nice tall Pink Coral Pea.  It fit in very nicely where the Dahlia had been eaten by snails and next to where the Bougainvillea has not made up its mind whether to grow or not.

New Pink Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea)

The large vine provides instant color to the bed.  However the joke was on me.  As my mother pointed out we already had two very large specimens of this big shrubby vine at the side of the house.

Existing Pink Cora Pea

Because the nursery plant was well ahead in flowering I didn’t realize that the same plants were already in the yard.  Credit one to the supervisor.

The Supervisor

I also put in a Peacock flower and an Anemone Coronaria, but the final step as an investment for the future was to add a little tomato plant.

Tomato seedling (Celebrity)

This one is surrounded by diatomaceous earth to provide an ancient drying spell against snails which run rampant in California gardens.  We’ll see if it makes a difference to the slimy sort…

Abundant Harvest

The monthly Picture This Photo Contest sponsored by Gardening Gone Wild has the theme Abundant Harvest.  I can’t say we currently have sufficient output from the vegetable garden to qualify for abundant harvest.  I could harvest all those Cosmos that I pictured in my previous post but that seems a bit wasteful — to pick all those flowers just for a photo op.  So instead, consistent with the GGW guidance, I explored some of our previous harvests.

I went through our many picking basket shots

One of many picking baskets

One of many picking baskets

and the various apple baskets

one of many apple baskets

one of many apple baskets

and the many flower bouquets

One of many flower bouquets

One of many flower bouquets

and even the wild wineberries that we harvest.

Wineberries grow wild in the White's forest

Wineberries grow wild in the White's forest

I even looked at the fiddlehead fern salad that we enjoyed in Boston

Fiddlehead fern Salad in Boston

Fiddlehead fern Salad in Boston

but I found nothing that so profoundly expressed the theme of Abundant Harvest as this image from the Lake Market in Calcutta.  This will be my submission to the October Photo Contest…

Vegetables at Lake Market, Calcutta

Vegetables at Lake Market, Calcutta

To fully appreciate this scene you have to understand that these vegetables arrive in the middle of the Calcutta metropolis from market gardens in the suburbs only by a difficult early morning journey (the traffic is incredible) and then they will all be sold that day (forget about refrigeration) for use later the same day.  While Calcutta may not be on everyone’s tour list for the first trip to India I guarantee that a visit to Lake Market will make you think carefully about what you have gained and what you have lost with the demise of the farm/market economy.  Most of the crop land around Calcutta is incredibly productive with as many as three crops a year.  We toured one farm that was about as big as our own 7 acres and it made us think twice to realize how many people were supported by the same quantity of land in the suburbs of populous Calcutta.

A Tomato Fest

The daily picking baskets

The daily picking baskets

I saw a reference to Summer Fest on A Way to Garden and since this was the Tomato week for that celebration I thought it would be good to talk about the tomato harvest here.

Last week we saw the movie Julie & Julia (Great flick!).  It certainly sets a high standard for appreciation of food and it’s preparation (though I probably saw more butter than I’ve eaten in my lifetime).  We have currently been relishing our own incoming produce and the many minor variations of cooking everything that’s being harvested.  It’s mostly tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, beans, onions, and eggplant.  The evening meal is some variation of tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions and eggplant stir fried together in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with garlic and herbs to taste (Beth uses fresh stuff from her herb garden and I tend to grab the dried products off the shelf).  For protein we throw in some tofu or chicken meatballs and a little mozzarella cheese.  If I’m the one doing the mixing some kind of nuts will be involved (pine nuts, hazelnuts, or walnuts).  Every night is slightly different but always delicious.  The ritual ends with us lifting the plate to our lips and draining the plate of the last of the luscious tomato-based sauce.  Altogether with cutting up this takes two people maybe 15 minutes to prepare and could not be much better.

However, even with this kind of eating we’re not even close to using the produce.  Beth cooked up a couple of  batches of tomato sauce for the winter this week.  This gives her more opportunity to tap into her herb garden.  And we’ve been giving stuff away as well.  And yet, the refrigerator overfloweth.  I feel bad for the folks in the northeast who’ve been hit by blight.  We were fortunate that everything was grown from seed and we have had sort of a mixed bag of rainfall — good rain early on and a lot of dry sunny days in July/August — which has had me doing hand watering but it’s been good for the tomatoes and peppers.  I don’t think we’ve ever had peppers this nice.

Some big blocky red peppers

Some big blocky red peppers

Tomatoes are slowing down but many still on the vines

Tomatoes are slowing down but many still on the vines

The hot weather has made it less desirable to work in the garden and it is starting to get away from me.  But I also know that we are going hiking in the west in a few days so that there is only so much I can do anyway.

Garden is getting overgrown

Garden is getting overgrown