Sunday, January 22, 2017

Week 8 January 22, 2017-a new beginning

A deep fog had descended upon the land. It was really pea soup when we drove to a reading of Richard III on Friday night. That seemed like an appropriate way to observe the day.

But in the same week that millions marched to a better drum, maybe...just maybe....there is a glimmer of something good.
For Julia and me, the really big news this week was not the fog, or the marching, or the garden.

On Wednesday, late in the afternoon,  Katie (our daughter) and Elisabeth (our daughter-in-law) had a baby boy.

Please welcome Christopher Philip Mears-Snell, born during the Obama administration in Maine. Everyone is fine and have gone home.

I noticed in one picture  he has a few orchids right by his crib.

In the meantime back down on the farm, a reason for the fog was that we had rain this week and the temperatures rose into the 40's. That did mean that lots of spring bulbs are poking up to see if it is time. Here is the first clump of snowdrops.

I actually raked quite a bit on Saturday. I filled up the available trash cans and then stopped. It is best to pace oneself at the beginning of the garden season. Is it the beginning of the garden season?

But let us talk flowers and look to the future. This darkness will end, and for the moment the darkness can be punctuated by bursts of laughter and light.

On to the contest which is well into its second half.

Last week' winner was...the night blooming cereus. What a great flower...that no one else saw. Remarkable. At least you can see the pictures.

Last week the daffodil gave the NBC a good contest. It will be so welcome to have daffodils bloom this year. How much longer will that be? Did you know the City of St. Louis planted thousands of daffodils on their highways going through the city, maybe 20 years ago? They really are good. If any government had any extra money....ok ok. Stop with the jokes.
A good civic project for a group of gardeners would be to find a city hillside and plant daffodils.

The full voting last was:
Night Blooming Cereus 23
Daffodil  16
Coneflower 8
Pink Zinnia 7

Week 8

Here are this week's players.

#1 Daylily Butterfly Charm (June 23, 2016)

This little daylily, called Butterfly Charm, really charmed me in 2016. There are frilly daylilies and complex daylilies. I just loved the pure simplicity of everything about this flower. Let's hear it for yellow. I liked this picture with the sunlight and the buds and wonderful stamens. I did not know this, but I read that most daylilies have six stamens. It is not something that you think about. I will now have to look at other pictures and count.

A quick family tale as I think about daylilies. When our children were little, probably in the late 80's, we would go every year to Fred McDowell's house up on Court Street. He had a national class daylily garden, with thousands of varieties. Busloads of people would come to visit from elsewhere. And we would walk two blocks from our house. A neighborhood treasure.

#2 Reddish Candy Lily (September 10, 2016)

This nice little flower is a candy lily. What is that you might ask? I have actually looked stuff up to be able to tell you about this contestant. Candy lilies were developed from Blackberry lilies. Both look like iris, especially the foliage. They are actually in that family. They do reasonably well in part shade and bloom later in the season. 

First came blackberry lilies, also called Iris domestica. They are called blackberry lilies because the seeds clump up after the flowers bloom, looking like - you guessed it -blackberries.
They were grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. They came from Asia where, like so many plants, they were used for medicinal stuff. The primary variety for blackberry lilies is orange. (see bonus section)

Educational moment alert:
Candy lilies were developed by a plant breeder from Kentucky names Sam Norris. He crossed something called a vesper iris with the blackberry lily. This allowed the introduction of many more colors, such as the maroon one in our contest.

I grow the traditional blackberry lily along with this maroon variety. I also grow an all yellow type. I think it is Belamcanda flabellata 'Hello Yellow'. That probably means it is a blackberry lily which is formally named Belamcanda chinesis. The candy lily is Pardancanda norrisii. Enough of that.

These plants do look like iris. They can get tall. They can be 2-3 feet in places. You don't remember planting them and they just show up. They spread. I find new plants each year, some even showing up in the paths. They transplant well when they are little. The seeds are quite fertile. I have some sprouted under lights right now. I have seen the term 'invasive' mentioned. I would not use that term. They can easily be weeded if you have too many of them. That, in my mind, makes all the difference.

#3 Star of Bethlehem with fern and hosta (May 23, 2016)

How about an artistic composition? The little white flowers are ornithogatum umbellatum, aka Star of Bethlehem. They grow from a little bulb. They form clumps. They grow like weeds in the garden. Sometimes I treat them like weeds. They are pretty, and sometimes form this kind of wonderful collage. They date from 1593. I assume that is the date when someone noticed it and wrote it down. They share this picture with a painted fern and a neighboring variegated hosta.

#4 Red Oriental poppy (May 30, 2016)

Here is your splash of a bright color this week. This pair of Oriental poppies represent team red this week. Oriental poppies have a distinctive place in the spring garden. They arrive after the bulbs have finished, but before the riotous color of the lilies in high summer. There are red ones and white ones and pink ones and orange ones in several shades. They are the royalty of the poppy family. They are quite perennial, and have deep roots that make them hard (but not impossible) to transplant.

There are your contestants. Pick one if you can. Vote early. Vote often. Spread the word.
There will come a dawn. It is just cold and dark for the passing moment.

Bonus Section

How about some more blackberry/candy lilies, which are really iris kin?

The yellow variety is shorter than the orange.

More star of Bethlehem.

The Japanese or painted fern really is nice. It comes back every year. It grows in the semi shade. It will transplant. It sticks around all year, if there is rain in the heat of the summer.

Now for some daylilies.

Here are pictures that almost made the contest.

This is Indy Charmer.

This is a beauty called Breed Apart. You can see the ruffles that are a desired trait in the hybrids.

When I was obsessing about daylilies 15 years ago, this was one of about 3 varieties where I bought a second clump.

More ruffles.

This weeks recipe

Indian Cabbage with Tomatoes and Cumin
by Julia Mears

As I believe I have said before, we cook vegetarian from cuisines that cook vegetarian. Like from the Indian subcontinent. I never had Indian food nor did I meet anyone of Indian heritage until we lived in Iowa City. But here we are and we eat and cook Indian food from time to time. Certainly I do not vouch for ethnic authenticity, but what we make tastes good and that's the main thing.

We made potato curry, dal and cabbage with tomatoes for dinner last week, along with basmati rice and banana raita. I know that the cooking is going well when the aromas from all the pans cooking at once make me sneeze. Really. The three little bowls at left are the spice mixtures for the potato curry, the cabbage and the dal, from left to right. It's good to gather the spices first. For the cabbage dish, that means 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a pretty short spice list compared to some Indian dishes.

After gathering the spices, I prepared the cabbage, a red cabbage because it's prettier. I cut the cabbage into quarters, cored it, discarded wilted leaves and ate the cabbage cores, which I like to eat raw. I will share if asked. I cut each quarter lengthwise and then across so I had chunks about 1 inch square, as at left. I used a smallish cabbage and ended up with about 5 cups of cabbage pieces.

Next, I put 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (not olive oil or coconut oil, please) in the saucier that is front and center in the photo. A skillet with a cover would work fine too. If you have mustard oil, use all or some of that. I didn't so I added 1 teaspoon of mustard seed to the oil. Using ground mustard would also work. When the oil was hottish and the mustard seeds were starting to pop, I added a big pinch of asafetida. Not everybody has asafetida on hand, but as it happens, I do. The recipe is fine without it. Immediately after that, I added a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, juice and all. It sizzled in a satisfying way. Then I added the little bowl of spices, and I stirred it up. The immediate post-stirring stage is pictured above. The other pictures, by the way are the potato curry cooking away and the pink/yellow dal cooking, before the addition of spices.

Then I added all the cabbage, stirred and lowered the heat to medium and put a lid on it. I forgot to pay close attention to the cooking time from that point but I think it was 20-25 minutes. The cabbage chunks should be soft but not disintegrated.

Here is the final dish, red and purple and fragrant and tasty. Philip asks me to tell you that it is good cold.

I have made this dish for many years. It is an slight adaptation of a dish from Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook called World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

I am posting it this week in response to a request from a friend of our daughter Katie, who has over the years become a friend of ours too. Here you go Sarah.

Now for the Odds and Ends section

The angrecum orchid is just about ready to bloom. The tail or beard, depending on your point of view, just keeps getting longer.

Speaking of buds, one of the cactus under lights in the basement is setting 2 buds at the moment. It has never bloomed before. Stay tuned.

The little Iceland poppy seedlings are developing secondary leaves. In several weeks I will need to think about moving them to bigger containers.

In this section I sometimes feature flowers that did not make the contest. Here are a few primroses. One can not have too many primroses. Several of these are quite reliable and have come back for more than 5 years. Others are hard to bring back for more than a year or two.

I do not know a deeper blue than this flower.

This one is setting little plants around the edge. I sometimes call these plants perennials plus. That means not only do they come back every years, they bring company.

I should close. It has been a roller coaster week.
The bad thing, that is not mentioned, has happened. It will be as bad as imagined.
But we have the light on our side and a new baby in the family as well.
And there will be more light as time goes on.
I hope this glimpse into the Mears Garden and kitchen helps.



Phyllis Noble said...

You bet your blog helps bring on the light! Congrats on becoming grandparents!

Catherine Woods said...

I love both the yellow daylily and the red poppies nearly equally, and finally chose the yellow daylily this week. I also enjoy Madhur Jaffrey's recipes. I make the recipes from her book, "At Home with Madhur Jeffrey." Congratulations on the birth of your grandson, and thanks to both of you for this blog.

Anonymous said...

"Speaking of buds, one of the cactus under lights in the basement is setting 2 buds at the moment. It has never bloomed before. Stay tuned." <3! Also welcome baby Christopher!! :D