Sunday, June 25, 2017

It is now Summer, June 25, 2017

Check your watch.
Summer is here.
Right on schedule, Saturday morning I needed to put on a jacket to go out to the garden at 6am. For the next few days the temperatures are in the lower 50's in the early morning, and 70's during the day. "Springlike" was the word used by the weather people. "Perfect" is the term used by the rest of us.

In Iowa we are used to swings in the weather. It is hot one day. Cold the next. I guess that is better than being hot one day, and hot the next day too.

Summer also means the garden is going into overdrive. It helped to have had some rain last week. The backyard hose is spread out across the backyard paths, sort of as a warning.

I think we may have had some new visitors to this cite last week. Viewership as measured somehow was way up. Welcome to anyone who has not been here before. I would like to think we have some fun and there are some nice pictures.
In the winter we have a full blown contest as a way to get through the long winter. For the rest of the year I give you pictures, and those of you who want to keep voting, can do so.
Voting is certainly optional but is appreciated. So are comments. There is a place for comments, which we all can read, at the end of each post. I do like to know what you think about any of this.
For almost the last year we have had a weekly recipe included. Julia  is the person to thank for those recipes. She often tries to feature food that is available locally, such as the wonderful Farmer's Marker in Iowa City.

For old and new visitors I call your attention to the archive feature of the blog. There are blog entries going back to July 2007. There was a particularly good post just one year ago, the end of June, 2016. That will show up if you go to June, 2016 spot in the archive. The garden was just about where it is now. There was a day by day show, featuring some of the gems of the summer garden.

Last week's voting

The top vote getter was Japanese Iris #2. Amidst the many flowers at this time of year the Japanese Iris seem to have the most  "oh wow" flowers. Some are at lease two feet tall.

The vote totals were
Japanese Iris #2   9
Coneflower          7
Red Poppy           6
Coconut orchid    5
White poppy        3
Japanese Iris #1    2
White orchid        1

Here are pictures from this past week in the garden.

#1 White waterlily
The waterlilies are starting. The foliage is taller than usual. That means that some of the flowers just peak out.

#2 Pink Waterlily

For whatever reason there was an unusual amount of foliage this year. That meant the flowers are kind of under the leaves.

#3 Annual ascelpias

Here is this wonderful combination of red and yellow. I liked this picture as it had the opened flowers and the buds. I am hoping these great colors will last until frost.

#4 Yellow Orchid cactus
Sometimes I have to make the pictures bigger so you can see the details. This is one of those pictures.
The orchid cactus have been blooming the last few weeks. It has mostly been one at a time.
The light was just right for this picture.

#5 Japanese Iris
A picture does not capture just how big and tall these plants are. I am really going to make the effort to feed them and make them into big clumps.

#6 Pink Orchid cactus
OK OK another big picture comes your way. And I know that is unfair competition.
This flower is one of those which stands out across the yard.
Did you remember that orchid cacti are related to the Christmas cactus we see all the time in the winter.

#7 Margaret Seawright- the daylily
This is one of my favorite daylilies. It is one of the rare daylily for me in that I actually got two of the plants originally.

That is it for the voting choices. All these pictures came from this week in the garden. Stop by when you have a change. It is another one of those times when I say it cannot get any better.

Unlike the winter contest you can vote for two.

Bonus Pictures

Daises are a nice contrast to the riot of color elsewhere at this time.
The clump in the back is really too big. If anyone would like some daisies let me know.

This very nice smaller yellow yellow cactus is newer than the rest.
It is not in last year's class. I bought about 10 new ones then. They all may still be a year away from blooming. I will soon need more sky hooks.

This is an Asiatic lily. They really have been spectacular around town this year. You drive by some and say to yourself for the tenth time this month, I should get more of those for next year.

The buds are starting to form on the cactus.

Here are more cactus shots from a different angle. From behind it is really nice.

I needed to recruit Maggie so you could see how tall this one oriental lily is/will be. It must be between 7-8 feet tall.

This is a very old daylily for the garden. I think the name is Tangerine Ice. It was one of the first ones we got, maybe about 1990. We would all go to Fred McDowell's wonderful daylily garden on Court Street. Each member of the family would get to pick one out. He had thousands and would sell them in the fall. That would be one way to control the size of the plants.

Here is a little phalanopsis. I have really been pleased with the number of blooming orchids this summer.

Cherry Pie
by Julia Mears

I was going to make strawberry shortcake last Saturday, but as we walked through the farmer's market on Saturday morning, one of the vendors had sour (pie) cherries, so there was a menu change. Cherry pie is about the best pie there is, in my opinion. Certainly the best fruit pie, although I am fond of rhubarb and strawberry rhubarb. But there's something special about cherry pie. It is more work, but it's worth it.

We bought two pint-ish boxes of cherries, which looked a bit light so we decided to make an 8" pie. Step one was to get hold of an 8" unbaked pie shell. Philip made me one using a recipe from Martha Stewart that is all butter (no shortening) and ice water and is made in the food processor. He makes a fine pie crust. Get someone to make you one or make it yourself or buy one pre-made. No shame in that.

Then I pulled out my grandmother's cherry pitter, the antique crank device to the right. I am sure she did not bring this from Europe on the boat - for one thing the patent info. is in English, but I am also sure she acquired it sometime in the early 1930s probably second-hand. It's old. But it works pretty well. One rolls the cherries into a little cavity and turns the crank and a sharp thing stabs out the pit and then both the cherry and the pit fall into the bowl below. Philip helped by separating pits from cherries. And we did a pretty good job - we encountered only two pits in the entire pie. But this does raise a note of caution - a cherry pit can do damage if you bite down unawares. Be careful.

The pie crust part and the cherry pitting part were the most work, and I did not even do the pie crust. The rest was easy. I mixed 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of water, whisking until it was smooth. Then I mixed 1 cup of sugar in with the cornstarch and water.

At right is a food joke. The bigger red things are cherry tomatoes.

I gently stirred the cherries into the sugar-cornstarch-water mixture, and added a bit of almond extract. Just a few drops. And a tiny pinch of salt.

Pie filling getting introduced to pie shell.

As you can see, the filling (about 3 cups) filled the 8" pie shell nicely. I baked the pie in a 375 degree oven for about an hour. I always bake pies on a rimmed pan with a silpat thing underneath.

I do not do top crusts on pies, as I think they are a distraction from the filling.

It takes longer to bake a fruit pie than you'd think. Really it is about an hour. By the time the pie is done, the edge crust will be golden brown and the pie filling will be bubbly. As the pie cools, it will firm up nicely and you will be able to cut it (when cooled) into nice wedges. Some serve cherry pie with ice cream. I think it is not needed.

Please note that the non-gluten community can have this nice pie so long as a non-gluten pie shell is obtained. The thickening is cornstarch, which is not a problem. If you do not have a cherry pitter or do not want to do that work, buy frozen pitted sour (not sweet!) cherries. You can have a lovely pie with hardly any fuss at all.

Odds and Ends
Amidst all the color and the daylilies that are just starting, the caladium are about to take their place in the summer garden. I got about 80 of these tender bulbs wholesale this spring and will sprinkle them around the garden for color. They do well in shady places, and will provide that color until October.
This year they are very slow to grow as it has been cooler than usual. The instructions say the bulbs will not break dormancy until the soil temperature gets to 70 degrees.
I get them in April and start them inside.
I actually still have maybe 15 that have not  come up.
I hope to have pictures next week.

The daylilies have started. I forget each year the time it takes to deadhead the spent flowers each morning.

On the lookout: I have these orchid cactus that hang in the trees. They get very big, and heavy. I need heavy duty hanging baskets, preferably with metal hangers. Ideally I would like just the metal hangers. I have enough hanging baskets. I cannot find any of the metal hangers locally. If anyone knows of a source let me know.

I am redoing a bed by the walnut tree in the front yard. This is the first time for that bed in a long time, if ever. Mostly I just plant things.
It really is a good idea to reset a bed every 10 years or so. I am taking most of the plants and even the bulbs out of the bed. Then we will add composted manure and maybe some peat, to the entire bed, probably raising the surface 3-4 inches. It had sunk over time.
Then when it is all prepared I will replant it. Hosta will go back in. This is the corner people see first. It should have some nice hosta. Maybe I will put some hellebores in the front of the bed. Maybe there will be room for an epimedium. A very nice one was there 5 years ago. A bad winter took it out. As a final matter I will put back many of the bulbs I took out and dried.

At that point I may go on to think about another bed.

Compost wait- The Iowa City landfill makes wonderful and very inexpensive compost. But they run out. They were suppose to have some more "mid June". The message on their phone saying it would be available "mid June" has been running even though it is now past mid June.

Ruby Spider, one of the best daylilies, bloomed for the first day yesterday, Saturday, June 24. Last year the day of its first bloom was June 20.

The windows are open. It will be good sleeping weather.
I need to be in the garden by 6.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

We are home - June 18, 2017

We got home last Sunday night, flying in from New York City. We came home by way of Atlanta. That piece of efficiency says something about our times.
Because of our travels this is the first blog in three weeks. There is a lot to tell.

We had a really good time. Here is my grandson, Christopher Philip.  I met him for the first time. We spent the week in Maine with him and Katie and Elisabeth. Then we all were in New York City for his baptism last Sunday. joined by Maggie We have been promised pictures from that event. I will share when they arrive.

I have two posts for you today. This one will be about the Iowa garden. The second one will be about our travels, including the Dale Chihuly installation at the New York Botanical Gardens. The second post should just follow this one, if you scroll down far enough.

During the ten days we had been gone I watched the weather forecast for Iowa City. It was not a pretty picture. We were going to get home to have it be in the mid 90's for days.

The reality when we got home was as just as I had feared. It was hot, and dry. We had not had measurable rain for going on 3 weeks.

It was also that time of the summer when the temperature does not cool off much in the evening. If I had thought about it, I would have had a neighbor turn on the air conditioner the Sunday we returned. As it was, we got home tired and hot. Our bedroom was close to 90 degrees at midnight. Old houses do not cool off that quickly.

It does not surprise me that I have spent the week being tired.

Tuesday - I got the backyard hose out for the first time since 2015. I then spent the rest of the time trying to find the watering wands. The sprinkler also seems to have rusted. It only goes in one direction.

Wednesday - I think there will be rain today. I even have a window open to listen to that wonderful sound. Mostly it rained just when we went home for lunch. We wore different clothes when we went back to work,

Saturday - A really good rain last night. It was probably over an inch. The weeds pull easily. I have my cans mostly filled with yard waste by noon. The weekend has barely started.

Since I really have three weeks of garden pictures to sort through I have some nice pictures. You can do that voting thing for a good group.

Actually I must tell you about the voting from the last set of pictures way back for the Week of May 28.
The top vote getter was the purple stars from the allium.

The full voting was
Purple stars 12
Pink Oriental poppies 10
Lupine with rain 8
reddish Oriental Poppy 6
Orange Iceland poppy 6
Blue Siberian Iris 5

Here are the pictures for this week.
#1 Red Oriental Poppy
There really needs to be little commentary. Oriental poppy season was short. There are always good pictures that find their way to the contest in the winter.

#2 Japanese Iris called Gracieuse.

This is the first Japanese Iris of the summer. In all the pictures of this iris it always appears that the iris was just pasted on to the background. I think it looks like a drawing, rather than a picture.

#3  This is royal Wedding, a great white Oriental Poppy.

#4 A pack of Asiatic lilies They really do best in full sun. They will grow but not multiply in less than full sun.

 #5  The coconut orchid

This little flower is so fragrant you walk by it and have to stop. It really does smell like a coconut.

The picture below gives you a better idea of the size of the flower.

#6 Japanese Iris number 2-

These iris are just stunning. They should bloom for the next two weeks.

I liked them so much that last August I got 12 more. None of them survived the mild winter. Sometimes things happen.

#7 Coneflower

I love some of the new hybrids.

#8 A white cattleya orchid

I always thought that orchids would bloom in the winter. It turns out that many of my orchids do bloom in the summer.

Bonus Pictures

The Iceland poppies did not like the hot weather. This one did show up this week. It stood out
from across the yard.

This flower was interesting because it had that stripe. Even more interesting was that another flower from the same plant had the same stripe. If I was more organized I would have saved the seed. Oh well.

This is one of the first daylilies.
The daylilies should make their show over the next 4-6 weeks.

Sometimes a daisy fits in with its louder playmates.

Another early daylily.

More Asiatic lilies
I really like the yellow one, and plan to get some more.

Julia's Recipe for
Lentil Salad

I never ate lentils as a kid at home, not in soup and certainly not in salad. I got acquainted with lentils in the 1970s when we lived on a farm with a bunch of other hippie-types, an era I have mentioned before. At that time and in that setting, I found lentils a bit too earnest, a bit too they're-good-for-you. So I have come upon lentils only in more recent years. Lentils turn up in Indian cuisine (sometimes yellow or pinky-orange) and also in more palatable less militant non-Indian recipes. I make lentil soup in colder weather, as it is a soup which can be made from scratch (if you have stock on hand) in less than an hour. Now it is actually summer-like here in the Midwest and so our thoughts turn to salad. This recipe is taken from From Tapas to Mezes by Joanna Weir. The cookbook covers soups and salads and sides from the Mediterranean, all around the coast.

I started by cooking 1 cup of French lentils in about 4 cups of water, to which I added 2 bay leaves, 4 whole but peeled cloves of garlic and a bit of dried oregano. It took about 25 minutes for the lentils to cook. I fished out the bay leaves and garlic, drained the lentils in the sieve, run them under cold water to cool and then drained them again.

You could use green (they're actually tan) lentils. I like the French ones for this dish because they seem to hold their shape better.

Next I diced some red onion - it came to 2/3 cup and some red pepper - it came to 1 cup and put all those things in an attractive bowl.

Here is the salad with the red onions but before the red pepper was added.
I chopped up some mint leaves (about 1/2 of one of those little containers of mint from the grocery store) which came to about 1/4 cup.

It pains me to buy mint, which is a weed basically, so we grow it in a pot to keep it from taking over. And while we were gone, it died. Too hot, not enough water. We will buy a plant and put it in a pot and then we will have our own mint again.

I made a vinaigrette dressing with 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1/3 cup of wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of fine (not kosher) salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin. I mixed that up, poured it on the salad, mixed the dressing in gently, let the salad sit on the counter for about 20 minutes so everything could get acquainted and then refrigerated the salad until shortly before dinner.

Just before serving, we grated a little block of feta cheese over the top and added a few (maybe a dozen) pitted kalamata olives, cut in half. Colorful and tasty.

Odds and Ends
I do hope you will find the second post with flower pictures from our travels. It should be right after this one.

I am still waiting for many of the caladium to wake up. I should be about time to start sprinkling the ones that are up around the yard.

I found the first tiny bud on the night blooming cereus. I think it takes 2-3 weeks.

I did find something chewing on a few hosta. Bugs. Remember when there were no bugs. Raise your hand if you would like to go back to April?

Our travels, including Dale Chihuly- June 18, 2017

When we travel we watch for the gardens in the area the way that some people watch for shopping. We went to two Botanical Gardens while we were on the east coast. Last Saturday we went to the New York City Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. It was featuring works by the glass artist Dale Chihuly. It was great. We know his work. We have now toured 4 gardens with his sculpture over 15 years. I must say that nothing will compare with the first time at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago in the early 2000s. As I think about it, that is true for so many things. I think I remember that the Garfield Park show was the first time he had tried the combination of glass art and gardens. It works.

Here are pictures of most of his pieces at the NYBG, as it is called.

Glass and water is one thing he does well.

We have always wanted to find the Chihuly seconds store. I don't think it exists.

Some pieces were enormous.

It would be nice to see these in the night time with lights.

I  like his pieces best that work with the plants around them.

The installation below might have been my favorite of this group. I still have the painted pvc pipe in my back garage that I have occasionally planted around the yard in an attempt to duplicate the effect.

Did I mention how he works with water?

These pieces were a little different. They particularly worked with the reflections in the water.

This was the last piece we saw. It was stunning. Blue is always good.

Here is the enlargement.

The other garden we visited was the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. It is located about an hour north of Portland. We were there on a much cooler day.  That was so much nicer than navigating the crowds in NYC in the lower 90's.

By far the most amazing plants were the native orchids. The variety is cypripedium acaula. It is sometimes called the stemless orchid. We timed our visit perfectly. They were everywhere.

This variety particularly likes/needs a very acid soil. Pine forests are perfect.

I really liked this one, growing on a moss covered area.

This wonderful clump had about the most flowers in one place.

They have a orchid count each spring. There were over 700 on the entire garden, much of which is wonderful woods.

There were ferns everywhere.

Here is a closeup.

This is cypripedium gisela, growing in our backyard. You can see the stem that is not present in the acaula version.

The timing of our visit was also just the right time for  the rhododendron. These also acid loving plants actually are not native as far north as Maine. Despite that fact they do wonderfully there. The rhododendron part of the garden is the oldest.

We enjoyed our time in Maine. We spent much time on the little island of Chebeague. It is in Casco Bay, which is all around Portland.

 It was accessible only by Ferry. The Ferry took about 15 minutes.

We stayed in this little house.

Here are other pictures from Maine.

Ferns were everywhere. There were at least 4 different varieties we saw. This was the cinnamon fern.

I put this picture in because it shows daffodils blooming in June. That is late.

This orb was at the Maine Botanical Garden. It is out in the middle of nowhere. We had visited the garden and discovered this orb last fall. It really is magical.

We saw pitcher plants at both gardens. I do not remember seeing them anywhere before. They seem to do well as far north as Maine.

There were primroses growing many places. They were in people's gardens on the island, growing in wet areas.

It was a good trip.
This was the last evening we were there.

There was also our grandson Christopher who I met for the first time. That was special. I wish Maine were closer.