Sunday, August 12, 2018

August 12, 2018 - It is August

Greetings, from Iowa and from August.

For two days, early in the week, mercifully we had some rain. I think there was an inch total. That was enough that I did not have to water this week. I did have to water the morning glories. They seem to need a can full of water at least every two days. Those are planted at the end of the porch in pots. I had figured that pots might be easier to keep watered than in the ground, under the eaves. I now have to wonder about that.

Here is the first picture of one of the frogs in the pond. It's in the middle of the picture looking darker than the water lily leaves. We got tadpoles the end of June. For a while I would just hear a plop or two when I approached the pond. Then I saw them. Now if I approach slowly I can get a picture.

Closing down the garden? I read somewhere, from a gardener I respect, that August 1 is the time to start shutting down the garden, preparing for next year. Certainly this is the time when many flowers are done for the year. I agree that it is time to think about next year.
But there is so much time left in the garden year. We have a long time before first frost.

Visiting other gardens
Last weekend, in the summer heat, we were in Chicago seeing Julia's family. We took a trip to visit a park called Cantigny, which is located out in the country about 30 miles from the downtown.

It is a big park, having been once owned by the McCormick family (farm implements and newspapers). It's a mixture of things - a stately home, a war museum dedicated to the First Infantry Division and nice gardens where you can pick up ideas.
Here are some pictures.

Elephant ears are found many places at this point. Black Elephant ears are also something to acquire. You can then mix them in pots with other things.

Warning- Elephant ears do keep getting bigger. They do well in the sun.

I have found them easy to store over the winter.

Sometimes in a public garden they can do things with color and full sun.
I admire this but do not think much about trying it at home.

When you visit one of these large public gardens you can get ideas. I have found zinnias to be something I like and will grow in my less than full sun garden.

Raspberry Ripple would seem to be a variety to watch for next year.

A few thoughts about this time of year:
The annuals, such as the zinnias, will continue to be better than ever, for at least another two months. Here some of the zinnias, planted in May, dance with the hosta.

This reminds me of an earlier time in the season when the hosta joined the bluebells in that garden dance.

This is their time of year. They should do well until the temperatures get below 40. They actually are a good thing in the garden in September. They do not seem that affected by heat and a lack of water.

If what you are looking for is splashes of color, a clump of big red caladium is just the thing. The variety is called Red Flash.

More about Zinnias
       Each year for three years now, I have planted some zinnias from seed, somewhat late in the season (for planting things from seed). I have planted them late on purpose. I want the plants to be fresh and new after the high summer bloom is over.
       This year that was early June. Sometimes it has been the end of June. There is this space by the front sidewalk, where it seems the zinnias get enough sun to do well.
I tried a new variety. I forget the name. Now there are numerous flowers, all different and all rather wonderful.
        Enjoy these big pictures. When we have a picture contest in the winter I may have to include several of these.

Julia's Recipe
Zucchini baked eggs
The separate blog with all of Julia's recipes from this blog, is found at

The farmer's market is full of zucchini in late summer, and so we make zucchini baked eggs. This is a variation on a recipe from the original Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, a serious hippie cookbook from a serious hippie era.

I started with 2 medium-large zucchini, one green and one yellow because I thought it would be pretty. And it was. My zucchini were about 10-12" long and about 2-3" around.

I started by grating them coarsely into a big colander and mixing in 1-1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. I had about 5-6 cups of coarsely grated zucchini. I then cleaned 3 medium scallions, sliced them in half lengthwise and then across. I ended up with about 1/2 cup of scallions. The scallions went into the colander too.

Next I set up the drain-the-vegetable rig, which I also use to drain liquid from cucumbers for cucumber salad. I set the colander in a big shallow bowl (a rimmed baking sheet would work too), put a flat disk (yogurt container lid or flat plate) on top of the zucchini shreds and topped that with a canister full of sugar for weight.

I let this sit for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, about 1 cup of liquid was in the bottom of the bowl, which I discarded.

Then I took the zucchini out of the colander by handfuls and squeezed it out, yielding about another cup of liquid which I also discarded. I ended up with about 3 cups of drained and squeezed zucchini/scallion mixture.

I put 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet. When the butter was melted, I added the zucchini mixture and cooked it for about 5-6 minutes.

The zucchini did not become goopy because it was, relatively speaking, dry. The resulting  product was soft, but with distinct zucchini shreds. I added maybe 1/2 teaspoon more salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. 

I turned the oven on to 350 degrees and lubed up an oval shaped baker with cooking spray. Butter or oil would be fine. I spread the zucchini into the baker, and I made 4 little depressions as shown. I broke 1 egg into each depression and sprinkled a little salt and pepper over each egg.

I set the baker on a rimmed baking sheet and inverted another rimmed baking (although it would not need to be rimmed) on top of the baker. The idea is to have a lid over the eggs so they cook faster. I put the baker on a rimmed baking sheet so I would have an easier time getting the whole thing in and out of the oven. Of course, I could have set the baker on the oven rack and then put the lid on. It hadn't occurred to me to do that all these years. Next time.

Here is the finished dish. After 15 minutes of bake time, the egg whites were still runny: too soon. After 25 minutes of bake time, the egg yolks were set. If you want soft yolks and set whites, I think 20 minutes is about right.

We serve this dish with hollandaise, which Philip makes from a recipe for blender hollandaise from the Joy of Cooking. I have investigated and can report that Knorr makes a hollandaise mix that is well thought of, and a company named Delouis makes hollandaise in a jar. I bet other companies make mixes or bottled products as well.  Hollandaise is important to this dish, but it need not be an obstacle.

You will note that this dish is vegetarian (but not vegan) and gluten free. And good cold for lunch if there are leftovers. Of course, everything is good with hollandaise sauce.

Odds and Ends
The other evening we had a quick rain storm. After it was over the clouds and the sun made that wonderful color that gave everything just this intense color. I took this little video along Fairview Street.

Some of the stars of the garden should bloom this week.
The cactus plants should bloom this week.
The night blooming cereus has 9 buds, the first of which should bloom in the next few days. Actually it will bloom one of the next few nights. The first bud just started to turn up yesterday late in the day.
Here was the bud yesterday morning.

That is it for this week.
August is hot, and often dry.
It is a time of change in the garden.
In August you can look back and forward at the same time.
It is a challenge.
It is still a time of wonder.
Be safe.
Better times are ahead.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

August 5, 2018-on the road

Greetings from Chicago
We are visiting Julia' family this weekend. It will be a short post.
This week in the garden was short as well.
It is still dry. We have passed the two week mark with no rain. This weekend the heat is back. A good deal of my time has been spend watering. That can be enjoyable in the quiet of the early morning. While I quietly wander the garden with the water wand I think. You can think about anything of course. But this is the time of year not only to ,appreciate what is in the garden at the moment, but also to think about the garden next year.
What plants would appreciate being in a different place, perhaps with upgraded dirt?
Where should that new dogwood tree go?

But there were a few things happening.
That night blooming cereus bloomed.
This was the smaller variety. There were three plants with a total of four flower. It was not overwhelming but the flowers were exquisite.

Here are a few pictures.

I was watering and sprinkled this flower. The water added a dimension to the picture that I had not anticipated.

The colorful pistil is rather remarkable.

The first zinnia I grew from seed bloomed. This variety is quite different from the others we have grown in the past few years.

I guess it was a week of firsts. Here was the first morning glory. Having just one flower was not the intended result when I planted these Heavenly Blue flowers. But time will tell. I want this trellis to be covered with blue.
The pots do consume a remarkable amount of water. I give them almost a can of water every two days.

Here is the front of the house. The Red  Flash caladium are good.

Here is a late daylily called Lady Niva.

Julia's recipe
Mrs. Davis's Italian Bread

We received this recipe from Sue Davis, an old family friend in Iowa City, many years ago. It is quick, as yeast breads go, and easy, with few ingredients and no kneading. If you are inclined to have a loaf of fresh, rustic bread with dinner, this recipe will give you a loaf in about an hour and a half, including the time for the bread to cool enough to cut after it comes out of the oven.

Here are the players: all purpose flour, sugar, yeast, salt and water. Plus (unpictured) cooking spray to lube up the baker (a souffle dish is what I used) and cornmeal to sprinkle over the cooking spray.

I started by putting 1-1/2 cups of warm tap water into a 2 cup measure with 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of yeast, which I stirred together gently. You can see the measuring cup with frothy yeast in the photo. It takes a few minutes for the yeast to froth up. While that was happening, I measured 3 cups of flour into a bowl, added 2 more teaspoons of sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the flour bowl and stirred it up to mix the sugar and salt throughout.

Then I poured in the yeast mixture into the bowl and stirred it up with a big wooden spoon. I added about 1/2 cup more flour until I had a kind of stiff dough.

This stage took about 10 minutes.

During the waiting for the yeast to froth stage, I lubed up the baking dish with cooking spray, and then sprinkled corn meal all around, swirling the dish to spread the cornmeal all over. I plopped the dough in and covered the baking dish with a dish towel. I left it on the counter for about 30 minutes and turned on the oven to 375 degrees.

After 30 minutes, the dough had risen some and I baked the dough for about 25-30 minutes. You can knock on a loaf of baked bread, and it will sound hollow when it's done. Or you can take its temperature with an instant-read thermometer and it should be between 200 and 210 degrees.

I left the bread in the baking dish for 10 minutes then turned it out onto a wire rack to cool. After another 20 minutes, the bread had firmed up enough to cut into nice chunks, using a serrated knife and sawing gently to avoid squishing.

Lovely with pasta dishes or dinner salads or soup.

By the way, you can lube up the baking dish with oil or butter or shortening and cornmeal is not essential, but adds a bit of crunch.

Also you can bake your bread in whatever oven-proof container you like - loaf pans (use 2) or square baking pans (use 2) or round cake pans (use 2). The height of your loaf (loaves) and the baking time will vary. The ease of making and the tastiness will not. 

Odds and Ends
It is still early at the hotel, on Saturday morning. There is just me and the bad music in the lobby, waiting for the coffee to be ready. Imagine that a hotel does not have coffee at 6 in the  morning. What are they thinking? (The cafe does not open until 6:30.)
It is brighter  earlier here than in Iowa City. We are 200 miles further east of course. It took me a while to figure that out.
It is going to be a hot one.
Stay cool.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

July 29, 2018-a quiet time

It is a quiet time in the garden.
We said good bye this week to the daylily Ruby Spider. We said good bye in that the last flower bloomed. What a marvelous plant. There must have been over 150 flowers on well over 30 scapes this year. Here was that last flower.

I think about that last flower. Mot of the daylilies are finished. Is that cause for sadness or worse, garden depression? Perhaps that can happen for a moment. But as sure as July gives way to August, and then fall, what else is true? Something else marvelous blooms.

The same day, Tuesday, that the last Ruby Spider flower bloomed, the first cactus flower showed up.

There should be more cactus flowers in the coming month.

In addition that same day I took a closer look at my orchid cactus plants, hanging various places around in the garden. I noticed that one of them had a three inch bud. Then I noticed a second bud on the same plant. It turns out that three plants in all had buds coming. I think these are all the slightly different type of the night blooming cereus, I acquired last fall. I think in about two weeks there will be a nice show, for those who might wander by at 10p.m.

The blackberry lilies continue. Please keep in mind they are called lilies but they are really iris.
A more precise name is pardancanda. The more formal name, just recently adopted is "iris xnorrisii." They are named after Sam Norris, the person who first made the cross that became this variety. I will write more in the next few weeks.

I indulged myself a little this week by ordering a new variety, that is almost pink. Thursday was a very long work day. I left for a court case in northwest Iowa at 6:30 in the morning. By the end of the day I had drive almost 600 miles. I am not as young as I used to be. That kind of driving can be exhausting, even with a good radio, featuring a come-from-behind Cubs win. I got home about 7:00. The package with the new lily was waiting for me. The new plant was planted within the hour. It came with a few buds. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a bloom I can show you next week.

Here is one of the nicer colors for these special iris.

The zinnias continue to put on a show.

Here you have zinnias, hosta and caladium. That really is a nice combination. The red caladium are really making up for lost time. (They mostly did not even come up until mid June.)

 The zinnias I planted from seed should start to bloom this coming week.

And even if fall gives way to winter, winter will give way to spring, and then there are bluebells again. We must go through all that sequence to enjoy spring again.
Ruby Spider will be back next year, and could have even more flowers.


The daylilies that are left are much appreciated. This is Breed Apart.

Here is a late lilium. I think it is called speciosum album.

The phlox are blooming. Sometimes I just pull them up. They do tend to take over an area.

This is Delmar.

More phlox.

Julia's recipe
Eggplant Salad

In high summer, when we start to see eggplant in the farmer's market, we make all the usual eggplant things: moussaka, baba ganoush, eggplant spaghetti sauce, ratatouille. Then Philip asks if there is anything else to be made with eggplant. Last year, he consulted a cookbook called Greene on Greens by Bert Greene, and he found an eggplant salad recipe, which he tinkered with and here it is. This is a variation on an eggplant salad made by Greeks (and probably others in that part of the world).

The major players: an eggplant, a green pepper, an onion and 4 Roma tomatoes.  There is also a salad dressing (not pictured here) using vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper.

Other unpictured ingredients: a can of sliced black olives, a clove of garlic, more olive oil and some parsley.

First, Philip peeled and cubed the eggplant. It was purchased at the farmer's market that morning, so fresh and firm.

If you are not sure how long a journey your eggplant took to get to you, you can sprinkle the eggplant cubes with about 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, put them in a colander set on a rimmed tray, cover with a plate with a weight on it (like a canister full of flour or some canned goods) and let the eggplant cubes sit for an hour to drain off some liquid. This will wilt the eggplant some and prevent bitterness. Not necessary if your eggplant is fresh.

Next Philip added 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the bowl with the eggplant cubes and tossed them around. Then he poured the cubes onto a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat on it. You could also use parchment. He put the baking sheet in a 425 degree oven and baked the eggplant cubes for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This is the longest stretch of the recipe, but does not require much attention from the cook.

Here are the eggplant cubes after roasting, a bit shrunken and soft and a little crisp around the edges. He had about 2 cups of eggplant cubes.

While the eggplant was baking, Philip cut up the Roma tomatoes: cut off the stem end, then cut in half lengthwise and then across, ending up with about 1 cup of tomato bits. He cut the green pepper into small pieces about 1/4 - 1/2" square, also ending up with about 1 cup of green pepper bits. He put the onion in the food processor and pulsed away to get onion mush, ending up with about 3/4 cup, which he drained. Onion juice is not part of the recipe.

Here are the vegetables in a big bowl, waiting to be dressed and tossed.

Philip used Roma tomatoes because they are less liquid-y than other tomatoes, and he drained off the onion juice for the same reason - regulating the amount of vegetable juices in the salad.

Next Philip opened and drained a 4 oz. can of sliced black olives, smushed 1 clove of garlic and chopped up a handful of parsley. He added those ingredients and stirred it all up.

The salad dressing is a vinaigrette, but adjusted to account for the olive oil used to roast the eggplant. So 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar or cider vinegar) and 3 tablespoons of olive oil and about 1/2 teaspoon of table salt (not kosher, which does not dissolve well) and about 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. The dressing ingredients went into a jar with a lid, were shaken up and then poured over the salad and mixed in.

Here is the salad, in a pretty bowl ready to eat.

If you don't have parsley on hand, not to worry. Grape or cherry tomatoes would work instead of Romas. This is an unusual salad (although not unusual at the east end of the Mediterranean) and very tasty.

Odds and Ends

I must give points this week to downtown Iowa City. There is a mural project that has started.
What fun it is.
This is the formerly blank wall on Washington Street facing the US Bank parking lot.

Here is an article about the project

Cactus flowers certainly let you know they are coming. The buds take weeks to develop. In the last few days before they bloom the buds are amazing.
In fact there were two buds on Monday. One was on a plant that was quite small.
When they opened during the night the flower on the small plant was too heavy for the plant. It sort of broke from the plant.

I brought it inside.
I wondered how being inside would effect how long the flower lasted.
Well the flower that stayed outside closed up by 4-5 o'clock and did not open the second day. The one inside, here on the kitchen sink shelf, stayed open even until we went to bed. It was done in the morning.

In case you are wondering, the thing to the right of the cactus blossom is a piece of orchid cactus rooting in a jar of water. It actually has rooted and could be planted now. The curved part at the top is new growth.

Japanese beetles have been around this year. I have not seen that much damage. I did find one on the ghost pepper the other day. What a surprise that must have been for the beetle.

It was cool this weekend. I wore a jacket when I went out into the garden at 6am yesterday (Saturday). I was down to maybe 59 degrees.
Of course windows open mean the pollen comes in. I am going to have to think about something else to take for my allergies.

Enjoy the cool weather.