Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017- It is February.

Welcome to Week 10 of the Mears Garden Winter Picture Contest

February is here. It is the shortest month. It will be only a little bit more time before the spring bulbs start to bloom. Who cares what that darn groundhog saw.

It is time to get busy with the plant catalogues in one form or another. I ordered my caladium this last week. I have 25 of the Gingerland variety coming the first of April. (I got a few more too.) I will start lupine seed this week. I should divide my Iceland poppy seedlings.

But let me get to last week's contest, featuring that great field of closeup pictures.

In last Week's Contest the winner was the wonderful Columbine.

When all the votes were counted the results were the Columbine by 5. It maintained a steady 4-5 vote lead for most of the week.

Columbine  24
Black Daylily 19
Pink Anemone 6
Coneflower 5

The Columbine advances to the next round where it will compete with 3 other winners. The winner of that round is in the finals, by which time hopefully it will be spring.

This Week's Contest- Week 10

#1 The White Lupine (May 30, 2016)

I really liked this picture. The white lupines by themselves were a good start. The background made the picture. The blue sky in the upper right added so much. This lupine was part of a plant that became so tall this past spring. See the bonus pictures.

#2 The Lantana (August 25, 2016)

I have just the right place in my garden for lantana. They are an annual. I have bought an entire flat of plants the last 2 years. They provide such wonderful color throughout the summer. They also provide an opportunity to see how I can focus my camera on small things. I have found it difficult at times. I obtained a tripod and that helped.  As you can see there are those tiny little star bursts, that develop into tiny flowers. You just want to go smaller and smaller until eventually you just lose the focus.

#3 Epiphyllum strictum (September 25, 2016)

For those who do not remember, Epiphyllum means orchid cactus in flower talk. This past summer, I became inspired by several of the really pretty Epis and got 9 new ones. There was a sale. I am a sucker for sales. I will admit it. I always have been. It is a good thing I do not like to shop...except at plant stores.

When you get new Epi plants, they are small. You would expect to have to wait a year or two for the first flower. Well I looked up in September there was this bud. Then came that excitement of waiting for a brand new plant to bloom. It was worth the wait. This really remarkable flower also bloomed in the daytime-what fun. I really look forward to this coming plant year, with all those other new Epis.

#4 Red Zinnia (November 5, 2016)

This picture was really taken in November. I suppose I should add that it was taken in my garden. Outside. November.
I have told this story before. We really like the big annual zinnias. I just did not have the time to start them this past  spring. (You do plant them directly in the ground.) So I planted them the end of July. Crazy you say.
Well, that meant they bloomed from late September to November. It was November before we had our first killing frost. They were all the more wonderful since there was a limited number of flowers then, compared to June.

I had no idea the center of zinnias was so neat. This year I should start some in May...and in July.
The big lessen is that you should just do crazy stuff. Sometimes it works.
There are many more zinnia pictures right below in the Bonus section.

That's it for this week's contest. Vote away. Support your local team color. Get your friends to vote. Let's have some enthusiasm, folks.
And thanks for the comments, and the reply emails. I enjoy writing this up every week. But what I particularly enjoy is hearing from you. Voting is good. Sharing is good. But hearing from you is the best.

Bonus Section

Since the second and last of the zinnias has appeared in the contest this week, I can now give you all these zinnia pictures. What is all the more remarkable about these pictures is that they were taken from October 1 to November 5, 2016. What great color at a time when color was beginning to fade. It really is hard to pick a favorite color. There is purple which is good. But then there is pink and yellow. And of course I chose the red one for the contest. Those centers really are good, and more complex than you would have thought.

This last picture was taken on November 12, 2016, the morning after the first hard frost. I cannot tell you the color before the cold. But the cold essentially bronzed the flower. I found that fascinating.

How about some more lupines?

This is a picture of the clump of really tall white lupines. The contestant comes from this clump. I think the plant from top to bottom must have been close to 5 feet tall.
I collected seeds from the lupine, but did not pay attention to colors. I am going to start some from seed this weekend. Maybe I will have a whole bunch of white ones. (Of course I won't be able to tell for a while.)

I should add that a secret of lupine display is avoiding thunderstorms. A heavy rain will really mess with these spires.

I blew up the center of the white epi so you could see the yellow pistil.

This nice little video was rather instructive about growing your own Epis from cuttings.

Kashi Salad
by Julia Mears

Kashi is a mix of 7 grains, sold by a company called Kashi. They also make ready-to-eat cereal and granola bars and such. Years ago, I could buy raw kashi (that is, not ready-to-eat cereal) in bulk at the Co-op, but no longer. Then I could buy it pre-packaged at the Co-op. No longer. I am resigned to the fact that I am out of step with mass of Co-op customers. Maybe you can find it at your Co-op or Whole Foods or something. I just looked at the Kashi website, where this product is referred to as Kashi pilaf. The seven grains (in case you are wondering) are oats, brown rice, rye, hard red wheat, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), barley and buckwheat plus sesame seeds. I assume it is available on-line if not in the health food store in your community. I see that there has been controversy about product claims - are Kashi products really "natural" or "organic"? I have no views, especially as I now buy my kashi from the Amish.

These days, we buy kashi at the Stringtown Grocery, an Amish country store south of Iowa City, off Highway 1, where it is called 7 grain mix. The Stringtown Grocery (as we have mentioned before) is an Old Order Amish store, with a combination of  products strictly for Amish folks (wicks for oil lamps, parts for wind-up clocks) and products more apt to interest non-Amish touristy folks (jams and jellies and candy) and products of interest to one and all like flour and noodles and cornmeal and 7 grain mix and tiny pigs and cows and bears made of sugar to decorate cookies.

If you have a specific grain sensitivity, this dish is not for you. For the rest of us, this is a very nice dish to bring to a potluck, which is what we did recently.

First, I cooked the kashi. I cooked 1-1/2 cups of kashi in 3 cups of water, in the same way one would cook rice: grain and water into a pot, bring it to a boil, turn down the heat and cover it. Kashi takes 25 - 30 minutes to cook. Keep an eye on it to adjust the heat, probably lower as time goes by. Taste it when you are close to time. The grain should be done but still a bit chewy. Kashi bulks up like rice too - 1-1/2 cup made 3 cups cooked. The picture below is the kashi spread out on a baking sheet to cool off. That took about an hour.

The picture above and to the right is the rest of the ingredients, in process. Philip and I chopped up 1 cup of red pepper, 1 cup of green pepper and 1 cup of sliced scallions. Then we washed and sliced 8 oz. of white button mushrooms, which came to about 2 cups.

When the grain was cooled to room temperature, we put the grain, the pepper bits, the scallions and the mushrooms in a big bowl. Then we drained an 8 oz. can of sliced water chestnuts and added that too. The picture below is the salad in process.

Some people add minced parsley. Some of us here have views about parsley so we don't. Some people add sliced or halved cherry tomatoes. I don't think cherry tomatoes hold up well in the refrigerator (before serving or if there are left-overs) so we don't use them either. If you find yourself with some little nice looking cucumbers, they can be added, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced. If you are feeling main-course-ish, cut up some firm tofu and add that. Or not.

After the salad is all mixed up, make a dressing: 1/4 cup salad oil (don't bother with olive oil), 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons wine vinegar (or cider vinegar if that's what you have), and 1-1/2 tablespoons prepared mustard, preferably dijon. Put the ingredients in a jar, put on the lid, shake it up and dress the salad. Let the salad sit (with the dressing on it) in the refrigerator or on the counter for a couple of hours so all the flavors get acquainted. Taste to see if it needs salt. We find that it doesn't.

This recipe is a minor adaptation of a recipe that came with kashi (from the Kashi Company) when it was sold in bulk or in the box. I don't remember. Please note I am talking about kashi here, a mixed grain product. I am not talking about kasha, which is some kind of processed buckwheat, tasty I am sure, but different. We make this salad in the summer as a side dish, and we make it in the winter too. It's good. I hope you enjoy it.

How about that recipe? Wouldn't this make a good jigsaw puzzle?

Odds and Ends

This little orchid just opened. It is a mini that lives on the windowsill over the sink in our kitchen. It is no more than 3-4 inches tall. All it gets is outside light. The window is a south window. There are four stalks at the moment with maybe 6 buds per stalk.

The angrecum orchid continues its bloom on our dining room table. It still gives off fragrance after supper. That evening fragrance is certainly a plant mystery.
In the wild maybe it is pollinated by a creature that only comes out at night. So why bother to be fragrant during the day?

I am rooting/or trying to root cuttings at this point on the window sill over the kitchen sink. I have cuttings of the following plants: Persian shield,  annual asclepias,  croton, new guinea impatient, and as of today, a bougainvillea. They really fill out the windowsill in the kitchen.

We have brought down both of the poinsettias that we have grown for several years. We have gotten to re-bloom. They live outside until frost. At that point they come inside to a cooler room, with no artificial light until they make their colorful bracts and are ready for display. (That means I do not turn on the lights after dark.)

Here is the one that just came downstairs. This plant was purchased at Thanksgiving in 2013. This is the third time it has re-bloomed. This year, upon the recommendation of professionals, I gave the two I have had for several years, tomato fertilizer. Who knew?

That's about it. I hope you enjoy the flowers, the recipe, and can survive the dark times.


Callie Weston said...

Lantana an annual? I have always known it as a perennial First grew it in pots in Mebane NC. Now have it planted in a zeriscaped patio in El Paso TX. It needs very little water, has a sturdy, spreading growth. I cut it back ruthlessly 4-5 times a year. Nothing stops it. Temps lately low 30s to 40s at night; 60s during the day. I see one yellow flower on it now. How do I vote? I vote for the epi because I want to grow some this year.

philip Mears said...

Yes, it is an annual here. It is due to this thing we call winter. I have often wondered what other "annuals" in Iowa would just grow forever where it is warm. We once were in the woods near Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco. Some nasturtiums had gotten lose and were taking over the underbrush. That was also the place where there were jade plant hedges.
We really felt like country hicks, which of course, we were.
I do wonder about vegetables, like green peppers, or bulbs like dahlias. Will they just grow and produce until you pull them out? I doubt it.
I do understand the epis will grow well there. Many of the mail order places are in southern California.

Catherine Woods said...

I chose that gorgeous, red, late-in-the season, surprise zinnia! I love zinnia's range of vibrant colors. I also love the photo of the one you call "bronzed," Philip. And I agree with you about the zinnia's splendid center. Overall, great flower photos this week, both the contestant group and all the bonuses These bring welcome light and vibrancy to February darkness.

Your kashi salad looks yummy too, and really quite simple to make! My favorite grain this time of year is millet with onions. I use the leftovers to make millet croquettes with the addition of an egg, soy sauce, a bit of wheat flour, and sliced scallions. I let this mixture sit and thicken, then fry the shaped croquette pattie in a little bit of oil, using my great non-stick cast iron skillet.

Judith said...

bright red wins. I'm looking forward to seeing Peter see the bulbs we planted at Laura's house start coming up before too long--crocus and daffodil. I'm not a tulip fan, I think that's all we planted. A whole new yard with too many trees. One sunny area where I will put vegetables (and a fence).