Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017 A star in the night

            There are two themes to this week's post.
             First there is the star in the nighttime. The Night Blooming Cereus bloomed. It bloomed on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. There were 6 flowers the first night on the front yard plant. There were 3 flowers on the second night. They made quite an aroma. The back yard plant had several blooms the same two nights.
            They also bloomed right about on schedule. I looked back at when the plant had bloomed in previous years. The first bloom was in 2012. It was on August 20, 2012. I realized that I have had blooms each August. Sometimes there is a flush of flowers in late July. Two years ago there were many flowers in late September. This picture was taken on September 22, 2015.

I had been trying to figure out why it blooms when it does. The answer was rather obvious. It blooms when the days get shorter.
I am watering the plant now that it has bloomed. I will try to induce another set of flowers in a month. I also cut off the spent flowers. Leaving them on will just divert energy to seed production. I do not need seeds.
I also think I may have figured out the mystery of why the flowers did not open all the way on July 19. This was all the far they opened at the time.

I think it is possible that I just did not stay up late enough. On July 19 sunset was at least an hour later than this past week. This week the flowers were fully open by 9:30. They do not really start to open until sunset.  Sunset this week was about 8:02.  The flowers were open when it is pitch dark. This week that was at 9:30.
Both nights this week the air was still and the cicadas were loud. And the aroma went all around the front yard. It was interesting. The small was stronger away from the plants.
The two pictures I liked the most are in the voting section this week. More are in the bonus section. Some of those pictures are pretty good too.

The second theme was Siberian Iris. Siberian Iris are good. They bloom in late May/early June. Many are the traditional purple. I have some that are purple. I also have some white, some yellow. and some blue. I really paid attention to them 15-20 years ago. In 2016 I started resetting them.
This week I got in a new shipment. Joe Pye Weed Gardens in Massachusetts, operated in part by a Grinnell graduate, has some iris that make you realize that the times have changed.
So I got in and planted my shipment of new iris. I continued resetting the old ones. Now we just have to wait. Sometimes that is what gardening is about.

I will put a set of Siberian Iris from the past into the bonus section.

In last week's voting the winner was the Lantana.

The full voting was
Lantana  15
Coleus  8
Lilium with Butterflies   6
Spotlight on hosta   5
Yellow candy lily   3
Waterlily   3
Hosta flower 2
Purple candy lily  1
Buds just buds   1

Here are your pictures this week.

#1 The fully open NBC. The flowers the first night were low to the ground. The flash picked up the color in the hydrangea. I liked the effect.

#2 This much more muted picture was taken with a flashlight, not with the flash attachment. The flashlight allowed for much more light possibilities.
I really liked this picture.

For other pictures from the two nights see the bonus section.

#3 Red Flash, the caladium. There is only a little contrast between this picture and the last. This backlit flower positively glowed first thing on Saturday morning.

#4  Orchid rhynchostylis  coelestis

With many orchids I just accept the fact that I will not remember the name.This pretty orchid reliably now blooms for me in high summer. It is about a month later than last year. It will bloom for 2-3 weeks.
The bonus pictures will give you a better idea what the plant looks like. This is a closeup of an individual flower.

#5 Pink morning glory

You saw the blue one a few weeks ago. Here is pink. There will be many more next year.
Actually I hope there will be many more the rest of this year.

#6 Croton color.

I love crotons. What had started out as new green leaves in the spring has now become this riot of color. I have four of these large plants. The variety is called Petra. When the four plants are pushed together they make a wonderful continuous statement. Each leaf is so unique.

One again you can vote for two. Comments are also very much appreciated. Tell me something about why you liked particular pictures. Tell me about your own garden.

Bonus pictures

Here is the orchid.

Here is a closeup of the stem with the flowers.

More caladium.

This white caladium had a nice hint of color in it.

This is one of the last daylilies. This is interesting in that it is over six feet tall.

Now for more NBC (Night Blooming Cereus)

This is the backyard NBC. It is still rather unruly. I do have to wonder what would happen if I just stayed up later. Would it open any more if I gave it a chance?

There were these two of the backyard NBC's.

Here is the front yard plant that first night.

It is almost like an X ray.

This is the next morning at 5am. They really bloom for less than 7 hours. Who knows. Until I get up at 3 we will not know how long they bloom.

This is about 8:30. It was fully open at 9:38.

This picture almost made it into the voting. It almost looks like there is a spider behind a curtain. Enlarging it like this makes for unfair competition.

Another closeup of that spider coming out of its cave.

Now for those Siberian Iris pictures. These are historical. These were all taken the second half of May. Please note that these pictures are all quite pedestrian compared to the ones recently developed.

Julia's recipe
Peach chutney

I am a relative late-comer to Indian cooking, which I like a lot, both meat-based and vegetarian. One thing I like is that Indian cuisine allows for personal garnishing at the table. One can put out little bowls of peanuts, coconut, raisins, chopped hard boiled eggs, chopped scallions, chopped radishes and chutney, and diners can decorate their food as they please.  Chutney requires more planning than the other garnishes, which can be put together at the last minute. But chutney is good, and peach chutney is the best, a lovely combination of sweet and sour. Philip says he would eat it on toast if we did not have curry from time to time, but he's always saying he'd eat something on toast. This means he likes it.

I started with about 4 pounds (13 actual medium-sized peaches) of peaches from the grocery store. They were Missouri peaches which are good here. The first step was to peel them, which is pretty easy, if the peaches are ripe (or ripe-ish). I put a big pot of water on the stove, about half full. When it was close to a boil, I added about one-half of the peaches and cooked them for just a minute or so. Then I took them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and put them in a colander until cool running water. And I put the rest of the peaches in the pot. While the second batch of peaches were in the pot, I peeled the first set. The skin peeled right off with my fingers. Then I pitted the peaches with a knife like an avocado (that is, by cutting all around and then twisting the halves in opposite directions). I chopped the first peaches up while Philip peeled the second batch of peaches. We had free-stone peaches. Clingstone peaches are a pain because you basically have to carve the fruit off the pit like a mango. Freestone peaches are better in all ways.

When all was said and done, I had about 11-12 cups of cut-up peach pieces. Next I chopped up a big onion, and I had 1-1/2 cups of finely chopped onion.

I put the peach pieces and the chopped onion in a big pot (as shown at left) along with 4 cups of raisins, 1 cup of chopped up crystallized ginger, 3 cups of cider vinegar, 5 cups of white sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of pickling salt. Pickling salt is salt without chemicals (chemicals like iodine). Regular salt or kosher salt (a bit more kosher salt) would work too.

If you do not have crystallized ginger, the chutney will still be good. I like to eat crystallized ginger so I always have it around.

I put the pot on the stove and added 3 2" sticks of cinnamon. I also got out a tea ball and put 18 allspice berries and 9 whole cloves in the tea ball and added it to the pot. I put the little whole spices in the tea ball so I could find it later and remove it. You do not want whole spices in the finished product. If you don't have a tea ball, get yourself a piece of cheesecloth and make a double thickness square and tie the spices in the little bag with twine. Or go get yourself a tea ball. (It is not hard to find and fish out the 3 cinnamon sticks at the end of cooking.)

I stirred the mixture up, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat and cooked it for about 2-1/2 hours at a simmer. During this time, the house smelled good.

At the end of cooking, we had about 10 cups of chutney, thick and dark and syrupy. I canned it in canning jars, using canning lids and everything. I also processed the finished jars in the pressure canner to make completely sure it was safe, because some members of the family worry about that kind of thing. You could also freeze the chutney in glass canning jars or in little freezer containers. It will keep for a long time in the freezer or on the shelf.

Odds and Ends
I thought I would share how I order plants now. The computer figures into the process.
At some point I scan in the invoice for each purchase from a mail order place.
With plants like Siberian Iris or Hosta I make a table using Microsoft word before the plants are delivered.  In that table I list the plant, add the price, and then add the catalogue picture. After the plant is in the ground I add the location. The following year I will add notation as to how the plant is doing and maybe a picture from that year.
An advantage of this technique is that it helps locate stray plants. I try to put out labels. I operative word there is "try". Labels also can get lost. You wind up with unidentified plants or missing plants. This kind of a list should help.

As I plant my new Siberian iris the beds look like this.

(There will be more iris in this bed before I am done.)  After the iris are put in I put down some mulch. Then there is the space in between.  But the clumps will grow over time.  This fall I can put little somethings between the iris. One possibility is annuals. Right now I am thinking about small spring bulbs. What fun. Maybe crocuses or windflowers or perhaps snowdrops. I think daffodils or tulips would not work. Their foliage would be tall and would get ragged about the time the iris was blooming. The little bulbs would mostly die back my mid May.

So much work.
We have a short week this coming week. We are going into Chicago for a wedding reception. Maybe there will be a nice nursery on the way home.
I have a major project at work before I leave. I am not sure what kind of post you will get next week.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13, 2017- a new tree

The big news of the week was that we got and planted a new tree. We planted it yesterday.
We got a Korean Dogwood, variety Chinensis. It will bloom quite a bit later than our pink one. It has white flowers.
It is now about 7 feet tall.
It was from a garden center, not a box store. You pay for that. But it comes with a 2 year warranty.

Here is the progression of pictures.

Here was the empty space.
That took some work.
Sometimes I think August is a game of musical chairs only with plants.
Part of that space was where there was a stump from the first pink crabs to die.
They keep telling us that the crabs are dying of old age. That is certainly better than telling us that there is fault involved. At the same time I think that maybe they don't know so come up with a default explanation.

If this tree grows then maybe we will get more. We could have a line of these trees in ten years.

They would be replacing the pink crabapples that are on their last legs.

We opted to plant it ourselves,  rather than have the nursery plant it for $50. In hindsight I would have them plant it. It was not particularly hard, except for that part about having it real straight.
It is straight now, but I worry about the first wind.

Here it is. I can tell you it is hard to photograph a new tree with all the background. I almost have to get out my little tellistrator and make a drawing around it.

Julia suggested we get someone to hold up a sheet behind it. It would need to be a big sheet.

In last week's voting the winner was the Morning Glory. Anything with blue in it this late in the season is good.
I expect you will see this picture in the winter contest.

The full voting was:
Morning Glory  21
Asclepias  11
Orchid Cactus  10
Hardy cyclamen   5
Gingerland caladium 4
Lady Neva  2
Flame of Hades  3

This week's pictures

#1 Late lily with butterflies

This is the last of the lilium. It is reliably an August show piece. As one of the brightest things in the garden it attracts butterflies. These two showed up, at the same time. Actually the second to arrive was apparently attracted as much to the other butterfly as to the flower.

#2 Hosta flower

Hosta are not known for their flowers. There are varieties that bloom in August that have bug nice white flowers.
The hosta is Fragrant Bouquet.

#3 Candy lily

If you are looking for something to bloom in August, candy lilies can be there.
There are candy lilies and blackberry lilies and pardancandas. It makes my head spin.
There is the basic orange blackberry lilies.
Then there are candy lilies that seem to be crosses that are beyond me and wikipedia.
They are pretty and they will spread.
These dark ones have color differences.

#4 Coleus
I wish I knew the name. I would get more. Then again there are many wonderful coleus. (I wonder what is the plural.)

Coleus do root from cuttings easily. You can get a nice one and cut it up for parts. By the end of the season you can have many.

#5 Peeking waterlily

The waterlilies continue. If it does not rain they are not affected.

#6 Lantana

These little clusters in the lantana flower make some wonderful patterns.
Because they are so small they can be difficult to photograph.
I actually used my tripod for this picture.
A picture in the bonus section will give you an idea of the size of the flower.

#7 Spot light on City Lights

I have dappled sun/shade. It makes spotlights at time of the day or evening.

These yellow hosta in the spotlights are really super.

#8  Yellow candy lily

Well I think it is a candy lily. What is nice about this plant is that it is short, maybe 18 inches at the most.

The others are more like 2-3 feet tall, and fall over when they have bloomed and are setting the seeds, which all look like blackberries, hence the name.

#8 Buds on the Japanese anemone

I do not often have a picture of just buds as one of the voting section. I really like the way the buds come out of the cluster at the top of the stem.

So I was able to find a few pictures this week. Saturday morning I was not so sure.
You can vote for two.

Bonus Section
The next round of the night blooming cereus is a day or so away. You know it is imminent when the buds curves up.
The front yard plant is one the left. The backyard plant is....on the right. They really do stay remarkably on the same page. Where exactly is that page?

You have seen Gingerland, the caladium before. I can't just feature it each week.
This leaf had the sun behind it and was magical.

The lantana will provide wonderful color and detail from now to frost.

This is another sunlit big yellow hosta. This is Sum and Substance, a wonderful classic large hosta.
This is the smaller of the two Sum and substances in the garden.

Here is a picture of the lantana plants. They have not done as well as they had the last two summers. The pink dogwood has grown and they do not get enough sun. In full sun they will be covered with flowers.

Here is the orange blackberry lily.

Julia's Recipe
Chocolate Zucchini Cake

High summer (July and August and into September) is the time of abundant produce in the upper Midwest, and we bring home lots of produce from the farmer's market on Saturdays to eat and cook and put away for later. We do this partly because fresh produce tastes good and partly because things we freeze or can ourselves taste better than store-bought (or so we think) and partly out of nostalgia. When we lived in the country, years ago, we had our own big garden and had too much produce right there in the backyard. No need to go to the farmer's market. In that era, we sometimes played baseball with giant zucchini as bats. They worked and exploded at the same time. Maybe you had to be there.

We are still attracted to biggish zucchini at this time of year and have several recipes when the urge to buy zucchini strikes or when we find ourselves on the receiving end of the gift of zucchini, as happens in neighborhoods where someone has a garden.

This recipe is for chocolate zucchini cake. I got the recipe from a nice man known to all as Sprie. He was an accomplished scholar and a good administrator, imaginative and devoted to making the institution he worked for better. He also made a fine chocolate zucchini cake.

Here are the ingredients. There are lots of ingredients, although none are exotic and the cake is not hard to put together.

I started by softening 1 stick of butter (that's 1/2 cup) by leaving it on the counter for a while. I put the stick of butter and 1/2 cup of plain oil (that is, flavorless: not olive, not corn, not coconut) in big bowl. I added 1-3/4 cups of white sugar and mixed them together with a hand mixer.

Then I added 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and mixed that in. Next I added 1/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup milk. (The recipe calls for 1/2 cup buttermilk, and if you are a person who has buttermilk around, by all means, use it. I do not have buttermilk so I use milk and yogurt instead.) More mixing.

Then I grated up most of a washed-but-not- peeled medium-large zucchini using a medium grater - not the slicing side, not the tiny shreds side. I measured 2 cups (kind of packed down, but not tightly packed) and set it aside.

Then I added the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients: 2-1/2 cups of all-purpose white flour, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon. I mixed all of that in by hand with a big stiff spatula. A wooden spoon would be good too. Then I added the shredded zucchini, and last, I added and mixed in 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips.

I lubed up a 9" x 13" pan and poured/scraped the batter into the pan. Then I sprinkled another 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips on top, and baked the cake for about 40-45 minutes in a 325 degree oven. I tested the cake using a bamboo skewer at 40 minutes, and it needed a little more time. The cake is done when the tester comes out of the cake clean (that is, without wet batter on it).

This is a light, tender, chocolate-y cake which keeps well. You will not notice the zucchini at all, but it is essential to the lightness and the tenderness and the keeping-ness.

If you are vegan, you can use margarine or shortening instead of butter and whatever it is vegans use instead of eggs. I think 1/3 cup of water with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice would work instead of buttermilk or yogurt/milk. I would be skeptical of soy-based yogurt or almond or rice milk in baking. Of course, use whatever nuts you like except maybe peanuts. And white chocolate chips instead of brown chocolate chips. I used a combination of milk chocolate and semi-sweet chips because that's what I had on hand. And yellow summer squash instead of zucchini if that's what landed on your doorstep. I have not made this cake with gluten-free flour, and so I cannot attest to that. But I would be interested in hearing from anyone who does as to the results.

Odds and Ends

I have a little plant nursery. It is on the kitchen window sills, above the sink. At various times of the year I will start cuttings of some sort. Sometimes it is a coleus. Sometimes it is an impatient. During the winter I have been known to make lots of little Persian shield plants. (That is that wonderful purple plant.)
I usually have some plant that can be cut up for parts. Impatiens that are purchased from the store late in the year are often leggy. No problem. I just top them and start the cuttings over the sink. It usually takes 2-3 weeks.
This year I have been starting white impatiens and one nice coleus that had grown too long without planting. I must have 20 little coleus plants at this point. There are more cuttings just started today. They will have roots by September 1, and could give at least a month in the garden. Who knows, maybe I will make some cuttings when there is a frost coming.

Here is one of the little plants where I have 20 or so. It is small now. I think it will be really nice in September.

There are some cuttings that take much longer than 2-3 weeks. I have started hibiscus plants. I have started crotons. While it takes a bigger window sill I have started Night Blooming Cereus plants.

Japanese Beatles-have been bad this year. It had been 4-5 years since we had this major infestation. You can particularly see it with the Linden trees around town. They are practically brown, as their leaves are completely perforated.
They are apparently worse in other places in Iowa. Reiman Gardens in Ames apparently had the beetles eat most of their roses.

Naked ladies- It is that time of year again, and not just because the college students are coming back to town. Naked ladies is the name given to Belladonna lilies. In more polite society they are called Surprise lilies. They have great big daffodil like foliage in the spring. It dies and then in August up comes this pink thing on a stick.
I don't particularly like the plant. I did once have one right next to a hosta plant. In August it looked just like the hosta had this tall pink flower.

Mistreatment of trees- The crew came through the neighborhood this past week, clearing the power lines of tree branches. They carve out really ugly chunks of the trees. We can be thankful that they put the lines on the other side of the street. I wish homeowners had the option of paying extra and getting their lines buried. OK I guess it is not that simple.

That is it for this week. We could use some rain.
If you want to get an email alert that the Night blooming Cereus are blooming, let me know. I think it might be tonight, Sunday night. Best viewing is about 10.