Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 10, 2017- Week 3 of the contest

Welcome to week 3 of the Winter Picture Contest.

The cold time has begun. It arrived in Iowa City on Monday evening. It was 67 for a high on Monday. It had been in the 50's and 60's for several weeks. Tuesday's high temperature was 36, with a wind. It had to happen. It also got down to 16 degrees several nights this week. The ground is well on its way to being frozen.

There are so many ways that we know it is finally cold. At our house one measure is that we get the space heater out for our bedroom, which is more exposed to the wind as it is on the northwest corner of the house. (We live in a big old house which was built before they invented insulation.)

Another measure is that we start really bundling up before we go outside. Of course then I feel like a wimp. If 15 feels cold, what will -15 be like?

we are  only 11 days from the Winter Solstice. From that point on, the days will get longer. Remember that good feeling when you realize there is more daylight? You can leave work and it is not pitch black out.

In addition I am officially done with the outside garden for the season. I will order and plant no more bulbs. The garage still has a few plants going dormant. That includes the amaryllis and the elephant ears. But there is plenty of room in the garage for our small red car.

On those positive notes let me move right to pictures from warmer times.

Last week

Last week the winner was this wonderful anemone.
I have already circled the place in the catalogue where I can get the bulbs.
Red is certainly a good color.

Here is the vote totals this last week over several days. It is interesting to see how voting changes during the week. Apparently the hosta fanciers voted during the week, not on Sunday.
Anemone   11-14-18
Zinnia         7-10-10
Trillium       5-6-8
Daylily        6-7-8
Hosta          1-6-6

total          30-43-50

In the contest,  3 wild cards will advance based on percentage of votes. Here are those wild card candidates so far:
Week 1 Double Bloodroot 31%
Week 2  Multi colored Zinnia 20%

This week's contest-Week 3

#1 White Iceland Poppy
May 16, 2017

Iceland Poppies are about the best. I grow them from seed. I will start them in January. I should actually think about getting some seed soon.

This year I had close to 50 plants to put out in late April. I have a little garden spot at church where they let me put in and take care of the plants.
I took maybe a dozen of those poppies there, where they had good sun. They bloomed until August.

Iceland Poppies come in a variety of colors. This particular white flower picture had such depth.You can even see the shadows from some of the stamen.

#2 Cattleya orchid
October 21, 2017

I grow orchids. I have maybe 30 plants. Most bloom during the winter. That is one of their attractions.

This orchid, the one sometimes used for corsages,  is called a cattleya orchid. It actually started blooming outside in late October, before the freeze came about a week later.

I hang many orchids in the trees  in the back yard during the spring-summer-fall. The cattleyas are quite reliable. They set their buds in the fall, and then bloom over the next several months. This is one of two pink/purple plants I have had for the last 4-5 years. They both bloom about November, giving us wonderful color just when the outside has shut down.

#3 White Tree Peony
May 4, 2017

This peony has a wonderful story. It is important to have those stories in your garden.

I should start by saying that tree peonies, unlike the ones many people have, do not die all the way back to the ground in the fall. Over the years they form a woody-stemmed bush that can get to be 4-5 feet tall (given ideal conditions which I do not have.)

I have had a few tree peonies for 15 years.  Most have struggled since they do not get enough sun.

About 2010 I brought some peony seeds back from a visit to the east coast. I planted some very carefully and waited. Nothing happened. Finally I just threw a few seeds in one part of the garden which gets a fair amount of sun and forgot about them.

       There is a blog post from April 20, 2014 where I wrote about a tiny plant that looked like a peony. It had survived a hard winter. (You can find this post in the "archive" section of the blog.) I observed at the time that this was the second spring I had seen that plant. I also said at the time it would likely be ten years before it would bloom.
       It turned out to be only two more years. In 2016 one of the plants had its first flower. The blog post for that date is May 8, 2016. By that point there were also 4 little plants.
       This year, 2017, that original plant had 3 flowers. This contestant is a picture of that plant.  In 2017 two of the three other plants also bloomed. They were all the same nice white.
        One thing about tree peonies is that you can see the buds for the next year forming in the fall. Let me just say there could be many flowers in 2018, on several plants.

#4 Yellow and Red Tulip
April 19, 2017

Red does work well with yellow.
It helps that there are bluebells in the background.
The variety might be Banja Luka.
In this case it is a rather controlled combination. (I will come back to  that reference in a few weeks.)

#5 Purple Siberian Iris
May 14, 2017

I think the variety is Jeweled Crown. It is a wonderful deep purple.

I dug and separated one large clump of Jeweled Crown in the fall of 2016. I look forward to this coming spring to see that bed in full bloom. Usually it takes two years for them to get really going after the shock of division.

Winter time is when you look backward and forward at the same time. Part of that is because you do not want to spend that much time in the present.

There you have it folks. At least one of these pictures I had placed in the knocks-my-socks off category. Tell me which you like this week. I always appreciate you comments and email responses.

Bonus pictures

Here is the tree peony that gave you Picture #3.
It actually shares the spotlight with the Liberty hosta that was in the contest last week.

Here is a closer picture of one of the flowers.

The center of the flower is really interesting, albeit in rather muted colors.

Did you know that tree peonies do not attract ants? The peonies that are called "herbaceous" do. (They die all the way back to the ground each winter.)

Here is the other tree peony of mine that seems to get enough sun.

Between the two purple cattleya plants I had constant bloom in the living room for the last six weeks. It makes the inside time better, when the outside is shutting down.

Let me show you more of the whitish Iceland Poppies.

I look at this picture and I do not understand why it is not in the contest itself. It certainly made the selection process difficult.

Here is a closeup of that picture.

Here there is just  a little bit of color added.

Here is the picture from the contest, before it was cropped. Sometimes I like this view, showing all that darkness, better.

Which of these Iceland poppy pictures do you like best?

Julia's recipe
Fruit salad

Sometimes we have breakfast for supper. We like pancakes and waffles and French toast, not to mention bacon and breakfast sausage. So once a month or so we make one item from list A and sometimes, but not always, one item from list B for supper.  On such occasions, green salad would be out of place so we have fruit salad with a tart vinaigrette dressing.

I started out with pink grapefruit, oranges, bananas and kiwi fruit, as at left.

I find grapefruit to be the hardest to prepare because of the inedible membrane. This time I followed the advice of Jacques Pepin and cut the membrane off along with the rind, working over a bowl. It was faster, if a bit messier. After the skin and membrane were removed, I used a paring knife to cut out the sections which I dropped straight into the waiting bowl. I peeled and cut up the oranges (no need to worry about the membrane) and peeled and cut up the bananas and the kiwis. I am told the skin of kiwi fruit is edible but I do not believe it.

The ingredients at right comprise the salad dressing. Kind of a lot of ingredients but nothing exotic (depending on how you feel about celery seed): olive oil, lime juice, sugar, cayenne pepper, regular (not kosher) salt, black pepper, Tabasco sauce and the aforementioned celery seed.

Here's the fruit. I ended up using 2 small red grapefruit (small is how grapefruit come in the grocery stores of the Midwest), 2 navel oranges, 2 bananas and 2 kiwis. The Noah's Ark of fruit. I used 2 bananas because they were small. Sometimes bananas are so big as to be daunting to eat without a friend. Use only one if you have giant bananas. You will observe these are all soft fruits, which is important. Don't use apples or firm pears which have the wrong texture. The addition of berries would be fine or berries for kiwi. Some pineapple would be fine as well, a nice flavor addition. I had about 4 cups of fruit when I finished peeling and chopping.

For the dressing, I started with 1/4 cup of olive oil, then added: 2 tablespoons lime juice, a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce, 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of regular salt (which dissolves better than kosher), 2 teaspoons of white sugar and 1 teaspoon of celery seed. I mixed it up with a fork in the measuring cup. Instead, you could measure everything into a small jar with a good lid and shake it up to combine.

This dressing recipe is taken from an old version of the Fannie Farmer cookbook. I do note the presence of small amounts of several kinds of pepper. I don't know why, but I have always followed Fannie's advice and used them all.

Here are the components, waiting to be combined.

I gently mixed the dressing with fruit, and there you have it. I would recommend starting with about 1/2 of the dressing and then tasting the salad to ascertain whether you need more or all of the dressing. Obviously more fruit requires more dressing.The fruit salad should be a bit soupy but not really soupy. We serve fruit salad in separate little bowls so that it does not get mixed up with the maple syrup or jam or jelly on the plates. You might not feel the need to do so.

The dressing keeps well in the refrigerator. The salad will keep for a day or two - the bananas do not discolor because of the lime juice. And tangy fruit salad is especially good for breakfast.

Odds and Ends
Two weekends ago it was so great outside that I ordered more bulbs. I knew the warm weather was going to hold all the following week. I figured that if I ordered them on a Friday, they would ship on Monday. I would get them on Thursday so could plant them this last weekend. Well, the bulbs got stuck in transit. The tracking number showed them in Illinois by Thursday where they remained. They finally arrived this past Monday, the day the weather turned. It was 65 on Monday and 35 on Tuesday.

I got off work a little early on Monday and started planting. I got the tulips and daffodils planted. But I only got started on the 100 crocus bulbs. As I was planting in the near dark, the thunder was rumbling in the west, ominously heralding the arrival of winter. It rained and the the wind started.

On Tuesday, by mid afternoon the temperatures had risen to the mid 30's. That was just enough to get the last of the crocuses planted. They do not have to go down quite so deep.
Now we just have to wait.

I get a lot of my tulips from the Scheepers Bulb Company. I read this on their home page about the founder of the company. It was rather interesting.

So now we settle in for the winter. It is almost time to start thinking about seeds. It is also time to find the plants that have not been watered for a month. Every last corner of the house has to be checked. It seems like there are so many jade plants.

I hope you enjoy this little diversion from the cold that is settling in around us.
While you are at it please give a little prayer in the direction of Alabama.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Week 2- December 3, 2017- sunshine abounds

        The warm weather has continued. We have had plenty of sunshine.  I saw a time and temperature sign yesterday that said it was 60 degrees. The end of that pattern seems to be coming in 3-4 days. At the same time, in Iowa we know we can never really know what the weather will be like in two weeks. But we still have seasons and they are suppose to behave certain ways.
      In a way getting cold now is all right for several reasons. First, it does not seem natural for it to be so warm. Second, when the warmer weather is really gone, then I can stop trying to  plant more bulbs. It will be time to concentrate on indoor plants for a few months. Finally, it will be time to carve pumpkins, to hang them in the trees. I have about a dozen pumpkins ready to be carved, just for that purpose. (If you have no clue what I am talking about just wait a few weeks.)

So I hoped you liked the start to the contest.
In last week's voting the winner was the yellow tulip. What a wonderful color.

The full voting was
Yellow tulips 20  (44%)
Double bloodroot  14 (31%)
Tricolor crocus  4
Iris pair  4
Cold winter aconite 3

I was a little surprised that the Tricolor crocus did not do better. It got my vote.

I added the percentages for the runner up because there is a wild card principle in this contest. There will be 3 wild card participants in the final 16.
Those of you who were really rooting for the bloodroot, please know it may not be entirely done for the year.

Week 2

#1 Liberty Hosta with bluebells

April 22, 2017

While it is true that everything goes well with bluebells, the emerging hosta in the spring look particularly good with those blue accents.

If a garden had to have only one hosta I think Liberty would be my recommendation.

#2  Multicolored zinnia
October 26, 2017

I have grown zinnias from seed the last two years. I have planted that seed very late, about July 1. This has meant that I had fresh plants in September, giving wonderful color until frost.

This year I grew the smaller flowers, which were about as wonderful as the big ones from 2016.

As one works on the fall garden, annuals should be featured. Zinnias are a good choice.

#3  Little white Trillium
April 8, 2017
This is Trillium pusillum 'Roadrunner'

This plant was a new addition to the garden this year. I really like all the trillium. I will show you other varieties in the bonus section.

I particularly liked the part of its catalogue description where it was described as "known for its exceptional vigor."

The foliage did die back by June. This does mean that the space where it is planted must  be carefully marked so nothing is planted on top of the dormant plants.

#4 Daylily called Breed Apart
June 29, 2017

During the years when I was obsessed with daylilies (1995-2005) I ordered lots of daylilies. On very rare occasions I obtained a second one of the same plant. This variety was one of those plants.

I really like the color and the frilly edge.

#5 Anemone de Caen
April 15, 2017

I like anemones. I like poppies.
This is the "Poppy anemone".
That means it is an anemone that looks like a poppy. Its more formal name is Anemone coronaria.
I cannot find anyone to talk about why there is "de Caen" as part of the name. De Caen seems to be a place in France. But the plants are found in the Mediterranean area. (See bonus section.)

This plant was also a new addition to the garden this year. Unfortunately it is not hardy here in Iowa. I bought it as an already close to blooming plant. I intend to get some bulbs and try them this coming spring.The color is described as "venetian red".

The plant also comes in a blue that is about about as vibrant as this red.

Names of plants  can be amusing. When I look this plant up I am told it is also known as a Spanish marigold. What?

There you have it. What a wonderful field.
I hope you enjoy the contest. You can pick only one picture.

Bonus pictures

This picture is from Israel. I read that these vast red carpets of anemones have become a major tourist attraction of the northern Negev region of Israel in recent years.

More trillium pictures
I have a number of varieties of trillium in the garden. Like so many plants I wish there was room for more. This fall I found someone who had a sale on T. grandiflorum. I bought ten new ones.
Here are pictures of that great trillium.

This picture of grandiflorum was taken on April 25, 2017

One great characteristic is that it turns pink after a while. I did not have a picture of the pink flower  in 2017.
This picture was from May 15, 2011. 

This is trillium luteum.
The picture is April 17, 2017.
Luteum means yellow in some language.

All these trilliums are perennials where they come up in the forests before the leaves come out. When the leaves come out and shade the forest floor, then they go dormant. So many of the spring wildflowers are like that if you think about it. Bloodroot, Dutchman's breeches, even Bluebells all behave like that.

Here is trillium Cuneatum. I love how this variety emerges in the spring. It is quite early. This picture is from April 12, 2017.

Here it is just coming up.

This picture from 2005 was one of my all time favorites.

This picture, also from 2005, gives you a better idea about the scale of the plant. The little blue flowers are scilla or squill. They make up the first wave of blue in the garden. That is followed about a 3-4 weeks later by the bluebells. The scilla are much shorter than bluebells.

This is a red trillium, and may be the one known as Wake Robin.

This is the group of those little roadrunner trillium. I really anticipate what this will be in 2018.

Here is the closeup of the red anemone.
It does look like the center of the red oriental poppy.

I had some difficulty deciding whether this should have taken the place of picture 5.

This will give you some prospective on the size of these anemones.
The hosta is Little Miss Sunshine. It makes me realize that bright yellow hosta should have a place in any garden.

Julia's recipes
Oatmeal cookies, with or without gluten

Sometimes a person does not want chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter cookies or even shortbread, cashew or otherwise. On such occasions, one can make oatmeal cookies. This recipe is mostly from the Cook's Magazine cookbook, with a variation for gluten-free. The gluten and non-gluten versions are both very tasty but surprisingly different in texture.

I started with 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, which was not rock-hard but also not soft or warm. I cut the butter into little cubes and put them in my stand mixer. It is always easier to make cookie dough in a stand mixer. I turned the mixer on to start to cream the butter and then I added 1 cup of packed brown sugar (light or dark). After that was mixed in, I added 1 cup of white sugar. After that was mixed in, I added 2 eggs. More mixing. Then I added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (I grated what looked like the right amount but did not measure). I did not add salt as I used salted butter. If you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon of regular (not kosher) salt.

Next I put 1/2 of the creamed butter-sugars-egg mixture in another bowl, so as to have 1/2 of the cookies to be made with regular flour and 1/2 to be made with gluten-free flour.

To the gluten flour bowl, I added 1-1/2 cups regular (not quick) oats and 3/4 cup of white flour. I mixed that in and then mixed in 3/4 cup of raisins and chopped walnuts. (That is, 3/4 cup of add-ins altogether).

To the gluten-free bowl, I added 1-1/2 cups of regular oats and 1 cup of gluten-free flour (as usual, I used King Arthur GF flour) and 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts as some people do not approve of raisins in baked goods. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

Ignore the interloping pineapple, which has nothing to do with oatmeal cookies. I used a disher (looks like a little ice cream scoop) to make more or less uniform balls of about 1 inch.

I baked all of the GF cookies first to keep things straight. I baked the cookies for about 16 minutes, rotating the pans (back to front) halfway through.

Here are some of the GF cookies. As you can
see, they are kind of flat. Also kind of crisp and a bit sandy in texture. But very tasty.

Here are cookies of both kinds. The cookies made with gluten flour are denser and chewier than the gluten-free cookies. I ended up with about 2 dozen cookies of each kind. You could of course make fewer bigger cookies, and if so, bake them a little longer (say 20 minutes).

A word to the wise: do not let the cookies cool completely on the pans or they will break. You should let them cool for about 5 minutes. If you try to move them too soon, they will also break.

Some might use parchment to line the cookie sheets or silpat liners, which would solve the cooling and breaking problem, and those people would be smart. I did not think about it until the baking was done. Ah well. A few broken cookies are not really a problem in today's world, and they taste just fine.

Odds and Ends

In the winter, in this section, I sometimes tell you about the inside garden.

I have several hibiscus that come inside. They are never really happy inside. For most of them the goal is survival.
They usually come inside with buds. So there are flowers for at least a month.

Hibiscus can be propagated by cuttings.
Here is one of those little plants from a cutting, where the flower is almost the size of the plant.

Last weekend I was digging and replanting lilium.
Here was one such clump.

Here was the clump when it was turned over. It was fun to discover the colorful bulbs. It reminded me of digging potatoes when we were able to grow potatoes, so many years ago.

Here were the assembled bulbs from several clumps.

This gives you an idea of the size of an individual bulb.

Another piece of indoor gardening news is that the tillandsia is blooming again. It lives in the winter over our kitchen sink. It can never be ignored without getting in your face when dishes are done. I try to give it a splash about every day.
It had bloomed a little in October before it came in. It now has about 6 parts that are making flowers.
First the foliage turns red.

Then along comes this tiny purple flower. It only lasts a few days.

That is it for this week.
Soon it will be cold in Iowa.
That is how it should be.
We can then start to look forward to warmer times.
We will get through this cold time.
I hope these pictures will help.