Sunday, January 15, 2017

Week 7 Mears Garden Picture Contest January 15, 2017

January continues.
This week sunset reached five o'clock in Iowa City. The lengthening of the days is accelerating. We will pick up 12 minutes this next week. There are several 40 degree days in the 7 day forecast. I planted Iceland poppy seeds this last week. I had planted some Japanese Iris seed two weeks ago. The first one has sprouted. (I have never grown Japanese Iris from seed.) We are now half way between November 1 and April 1.

As you know Julia has been giving you a weekly recipe since late September. I have just posted an index to those recipes. If you subscribe to the blog, you have received that post. Otherwise there will be two ways to get to the index. You can use the archive thing to get to the index. Or you can go to the bottom of this post and click where it says "older posts."Actually now that I think about it I will add the index to her recipe part just for this week.

The winner last week...was the waterlily.

What a beautiful, majestic flower.
It was a close vote. The annual butterfly weed came in second. That plant is actually blooming right now, under lights in my basement.

The full voting was
Waterlily         18
Asclepias        16
Red Tulip        9
Crocus             3

Now for Week 7- we are half way home

This week's contestants
#1 Daffodil (April 17, 2016)

Daffodils. Nothing says spring like daffodils. Maybe I will put up a second poll this week to see which of the big three bulbs in the spring is your favorite.  The spring bulbs have already appeared at the Hy Vee grocery store in Iowa City. There are all those little tiny yellow daffodils that you can buy for your table in January. This week there were tulips and hyacinths.

Every year at this time I think about my imaginary daffodil map. I would love to create a digital national map showing where the daffodils are blooming. People could log on when daffodils bloom in their area and list their zip code. A digital dot could appear to match the zip code. Slowly you could see this wonderful northerly creeping line showing where the daffodils are blooming.
I keep waiting for the web designer to contact me and say that this can be done. Maybe this year.

#2 Coneflower Hot Papaya (September 4, 2016)

This is the third coneflower in the contest this year. This is the last one. It is a beauty. As I said earlier this year the hybridizers have done amazing things with coneflowers. This variety was a addition this year. I will let you know in six months how it survives the not so harsh (so far) Iowa winter.

#3 Night blooming cereus (July 28, 2016)

On occasion I am asked "if I had to have only one plant in my garden, what would it be."
Sometimes I think this Night Blooming Cereus (NBC) would be it.

What is there to say about this magical flower/plant?

I have had the plant for maybe ten years. It has bloomed for the last five years. I still remember that first time. If you go to the August 16, 2012 post you can read about my discovering the buds for the first time.

It is related to (or actually is, I am not sure) an orchid cactus, or epiphyllum. You saw another "epi"  in Week 5. Epis grow in my garden in pots, hanging from the trees.

It is not native to Iowa. That's sort of an understatement. It has to come inside for the winter.

It blooms all at the same time. From somewhere I think the term is a flower "flush". Where does that term come from? This means it will have many flowers, up to 11 one night this year, which all bloom at the same time, on the same night. This is so unique in that way. The cactus flower from Week 4 was like that. Mostly every other plant with multiple flowers will bloom sequentially, over days or weeks.

In 2016 there were two of these flushes, one in late July, and another a month later. You can see one discussed in the blog post for August 28, 2016.

I have two varieties. One, the contestant this week, is a single. I have a second plant which is a double. I like the single better. The double is too busy. For more proof that the plant is magical, the two varieties mostly bloom on the same night as each other.

But here is the downside. What was the name of this plant? Night blooming Cereus. Guess what? It blooms at night. And only at night. It opens by about 9-10. Mostly it is done by morning. (This makes it different from the cactus from two weeks ago. That opens about the same time in the evening but will continue to bloom the next day.)
So hardly anyone sees it. It is the tree falling in the forest. People who come by the garden, often have never seen this plant bloom.

I sometimes want to go knock on neighbors' doors. Come see this wonderful thing I would say. But I don't do that.
Maybe I should put up a sign. Maybe there should be a party. Probably not.
So I take pictures. Wonderful pictures, capturing an image that will not be there 8 hours later.


#4 Pink Zinnia (September 24, 2016)

I want to hang this picture on my wall. I certainly want to fill my screen with all this pink.
Big zinnias are becoming an important part of my late summer garden. They add color when color is fading.
In the busy garden season, like this past year, I sometimes forget to plant seeds. This year I just went and got the Zinnia seeds the end of July. The end of July? Well, that is what I did. I planted them then. Sure enough, they started blooming the end of September and added wonderful fresh color until the first frost in  November.
I am not sure I will repeat this. We sometimes can have a frost much earlier than that.
The lesson is, try stuff. Some crazy things work.

There are your contestants this week. Vote away. Recruit your friends. Root for your favorite. Send me you comments. Let us all learn to survive this cold dark time.

Bonus Section

Here is another progression of the daffodil contestant picture from this week. I find it interesting how each picture has something of interest. This picture has the blurred background with... bluebells. Remember they can be pink when they first show up as buds.

This picture frames the flower, with that little color in the upper left corner. You can just start to see the subtle yellow around the center.

Wow. Now the yellow in the white petals is quite clear. Orange is a good color. One could have an entire contest of closeup pictures. Just you wait until Week 9.

How about some other daffodils

Now it is cereus time.

This is another picture of the night blooming cereus. I had a real hard time again keeping this picture out of the contest.
There were two major blooms of the Night Blooming Cereus (NBC) in the garden in 2016. One was on July 28. The second bloom was on August 26.

I have 2 NBC plants of blooming size. They are not the same plant. One is more complex, almost a double.This one just above is the plant in the contest this week. It is a more simple variety. It is amazing.

I have had the plants for 10 years. The more complex one came from Logees Greenhouse in Connecticut. (If you ever are in Connecticut, try to find the time to visit Logees.) I do not know where the other plant came from.

This year again the two varieties bloomed at the same time.  This year, for ease of viewing, I hung the 2 plants together in the front yard. They were hanging under the walnut tree.

The buds take about a month to flower.

The buds hang straight down for the first month. When they get close to blooming they curve around, as you can see in the picture to the left.

In these next 3 pictures you can see the same group of flowers. These were taken the evening of the first flush of flowers. This picture is from about 7pm.

This is from about an hour later. By late August it was mostly dark by then.

Here is the plant from further away.

Here are more pictures.

I loved this almost intertwined set.

This picture gives you an idea of the wing span on this plant.

How about a profile.

Here you have the wonderful center. The pistil reaches out, perhaps unaware that the pollen is all behind it. Actually it would be waiting for some moth half a world away from it, which does the pollination work. Not in Iowa.
Unless...maybe this year I will do some pollination myself.
This picture reminds me of something out of the original Star Trek series.

Here is the double. It just doesn't seem as organized. Yet you have to wonder how does it know to bloom at the exact same time as the other one. Is it weather? Is it genetic memory? I think I will just call it one of the better garden mysteries. (There can be good mysteries and bad mysteries.)

One last feature of the NBC. They can get rather big, particularly by the end of the season. In 2015 I trimmed it before it came in for the winter. I then rooted the cuttings in a quart jar. Voila! I have a new plant. It should be big enough to maybe bloom in 2017. I did the same again this fall. The first roots have appeared. I will pot the new one later this winter.

Recipe Section


January 15      Potatoes Romanoff
January 8        Very Brown Rice
January 1        Copenhagen Cabbage Casserole
December 25  Chicken Paprikash
December 18  Cashew Shortbread Cookies
December 11  Potato and Broccoli Soup
December 4    Spinach and Rice Casserole
November 27  Indian Spinach
November 20  Sweet Potatoes
November 13  Leftover Squash Pudding
November 6    Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce
October 31      Apple Crisp
October 23      Green Beans Vinaigrette
October 16   on vacation
October 9     on vacation
October 2         Baba Ganoush
September 25  Cucumber Salad

Here is Julia with the recipe for the week.

Potatoes Romanov

Today's recipe is another modification of a recipe from Anna Thomas's Vegetarian Epicure. As you may recall, her cookbook is the source of Green Beans Vinaigrette and Eggplant Spaghetti Sauce. This recipe is for Potatoes Romanoff, to which we have added broccoli.

This is a picture of all the ingredients waiting for their turn. First I peeled the potatoes - 6 medium russet potatoes. Don't use red potatoes in this dish. The texture will be wrong. In this recipe, one wants the potatoes to be of the breaking-down-while-cooking variety, and red potatoes are of sturdier stuff. Other white or yellow potatoes are in between. Anyway, I peeled the potatoes and put them in a big pot of cold water to which I added some (maybe a teaspoon) kosher salt. Before I turned on the heat, I prepared the broccoli, cutting the top parts into florets (as the cookbooks say) and peeling and eating the stems. (I had two bunches of broccoli which gave me about 6 cups of broccoli pieces), Then I turned on the potato pot and boiled the potatoes for about 10 minutes.

Here you have a picture of the potatoes. After 10 minutes, I added the broccoli to the pot and cooked both together. After another 5 -10 minutes, both the potatoes and the broccoli were done enough. A paring knife should slip easily into the potatoes. The vegetables will continue to cook in the casserole to come so they should not be altogether done at this stage. I drained the potatoes and broccoli and let them cool off a bit in the colander.

Next I cut the potatoes into about 3/4" cubes, and I had about 6 cups of potato cubes and about 6 cups of broccoli bits. I put all of the potatoes and broccoli into a big bowl, at left. Next I cleaned and sliced 6 scallions, using all the useable green parts, and added them to the bowl. And I smushed 2 cloves of garlic and added that too. I gave it a stir. Next I added the dairy: 1-1/2 cups of cottage cheese (4% milkfat, please, not non-fat or low fat) and 1 cup of sour cream (ditto). I added about a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper and stirred it all up again.

I transferred the mixture to a Dutch oven type enameled pot, which I had sprayed with non-stick spray (one could also use oil or butter to lube the pot). I grated 2 cups of cheddar cheese (an 8 ounce block will yield 2 cups) and sprinkled the cheese on top. I used a coarse grater because I have a coarse grater, but the medium side of a box grater would work fine too.  Then I put the lid on the pot and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Everything should be melty and bubbly at that point.

A curious thing about this casserole is that is is soupier on the first day than when it is reheated. I don't know why. Something about the chemical make-up of starch is my guess. We have this dish as the main course and with a salad and maybe something like pickled beets which we always have on hand because we like pickled beets. Leftovers are good reheated or cold.

Odds and Ends

There are houseplants blooming.

This is orchid sarcochilus. You will not be expected to remember that. It is a pretty little orchid that blooms in the winter.

The African Violets we have are starting to put on a show.
I actually spent some time this week looking for sources for interesting African violets. I found one place. As a bonus it sells hoyas. That business is on the list to patronize once most of the plants have gone outside.

I think you saw this one when it was just getting started.

These next two pictures are of an orchid called angricum sesquipidale . The first picture is from two weeks ago. The second picture is from yesterday. I think it is going to bloom this coming week. It gets the award for the most spectacular bud.

It was a sunny day yesterday. We walked around the Terry Trueblood lake and then later picked up sticks in the yard. Everything is still frozen but maybe not for much longer.

The crotons have finished their leaf drop from coming inside. We know that because they are actually making new leaves. Adjustment has occurred. At the same time they still take a lot of water.

Here is the very new sprouted Japanese Iris.  I have never tried to grow them from seed.

That is it for this week. Be safe. 
Be prepared.
Enjoy your friends.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

No comments: