Sunday, February 26, 2017

Week 13- the next round- February 26, 2017

February is ending. The April weather in February is over. In fact we now have some snow on the ground. But the warm weather was great while it lasted. Unnatural. Troubling. But quite enjoyable. For six days in a row the temperature was above 63 in Iowa City. Several days were over 70. You could say that Spring had begun. Snowdrops and winter aconite sometimes do appear in February. They are blooming now.
But on the last warm day this past week, Wednesday, there were even a couple crocuses. Crocuses?

Another sign of the changing seasons was sleeping with the window open. We were able to do that Wednesday night. When you do that, you can wake up to the sound of birds singing.

But those days are over.  At least for a while. Here is reality.

Picture contest

Last week's contest was the closest vote I can remember in all the years. Keep in mind that I try to balance the field. Well, after 28 votes this last week every contestant had 7 votes. After 31 votes it was 11-10-10-10. By midweek, the winner, the yellow daylilies, had gone in front by 2 votes. Since most of the votes are at the beginning of the week, it was a lead that would hold up.

The final votes were
Daylilies 14
Hosta with Bluebells 12
Amaryllis 12
Pink Waterlily 10

Week 13- the next round begins
Now it gets really hard.

Here are the pictures for this next round. You picked them.
In the next several weeks the winners from all the previous 12 weeks compete. There are 3 rounds of 4 winners each week. The winner from each of those 3 weeks will go on to the finals at that point. One feature of this round is that the pictures are all wonderful. Choices can be really difficult.
Here are the first set of four winners.
I have put the week they won with each picture. You can find more about they plant/flower by going to the archived post from that week.

#1 The colorful orchid cactus closeup-Unforgettable- (September 17, 2017) (Week 5)

Unforgettable is one of two orchid cactus pictures to advance to the playoffs.
The color in this picture is indescribable.  Is it pink? Maroon? Red? There is some fiery furnace there in the interior.

I really look forward to the orchid cactus season. I have many plants that may bloom for the first time. I also have seedlings that could be big enough to bloom.

#2   Oriental Poppy closeup (June 5, 2016) (Week 2)

This is Royal Wedding, the Oriental Poppy. Here you have the mysterious center of the flower.
I saw the first leaf of a poppy the other day. The Oriental Poppies really are quite hardy. They go completely dormant in July, but then send up new growth in the fall. That dies, I assume having grown the plant in some way.
Poppies come in so many great forms. I have lots of the Iceland poppies (smaller than Oriental poppies, in vivid colors) started from seeds in the basement at the moment.

#3 Candy lily (September 10, 2016) (Week 8)

Candy lilies are a pleasant addition to the late summer garden. This is the second picture this week from September. This plant was grown from seed last year. I think that was the reason it bloomed so late.
Candy lilies are similar to Blackberry lilies. I understand there are really great hybrids being developed.

#4 Waterlily (June 25, 2016) (Week 8)
What can I say? Waterlilies are so.... perfect. I grow hardy ones. That means they stay in the pond all year. They survive under the ice. I can report the pond was ice-free as of Thursday. The ice is probably back for the moment. It was down to 19 degrees Friday night.

Another plus: you don't have to weed waterlilies. They do occasionally have nighttime visitors, like raccoons or deer. And I guess there can be the occasional duck. They are all discouraged.

There you have it. One of these pictures will advance to the final finals in 3 weeks.

Bonus Section
Candy Lilies from seed?
Candy and Blackberry lilies are quite fertile, as they say in the world of plants. I find new plants all over the place, even in the garden paths. They do transplant rather easily.

I collected seed from some of those plants. I can grow them from seed, but sometimes they are a little slow in getting started. Sometimes you just have to forget about them and then the sprouts appear.
Here were some I had started outside and forgotten about. I discovered them as I was doing garden cleanup in the fall.The picture was taken on November 26.

I brought them inside for the winter. Here are the same plants today. I believe they will be big enough to flower this year.

by Julia Mears
Trenette con pesto

Trenette con pesto is another recipe from the Vegetarian Epicure, and it is a fast one pot (or one and one-half pot if you count heating up the pesto) meal. It is a favorite among some of my vegetarian relations, which is reason enough to make it.

I started with 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, well-washed and with the ends cut off, but not peeled. I sliced the potatoes into slices between 1/8" and 1/4" thick, and I had about 3 cups of potato slices. I put the potatoes in a pot big enough to cook spaghetti, with about a teaspoon of kosher salt and filled the pot with cold water.

I turned on the heat, and when the water came to a boil, I added a 1 lb. package of spaghetti. One could use linguine or linguinetti. Don't use angel hair pasta - too insubstantial. After the pot came to a boil again (now containing both potatoes and spaghetti), I added a quart of frozen green beans - probably one half of a big bag of french-cut or cross-cut beans would be about the same amount. I let the mixture cook until the spaghetti and green beans were done, maybe 15 minutes.

While the potato-spaghetti-green beans were cooking, I heated up 1 cup of pesto, in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. (We made our own pesto this summer. It's easy if you have access to vast quantities of basil and a food processor.) While the potatoes, etc. cooked, I also ladled out about a cup of the cooking water into a cup.

When the spaghetti and beans were done, the potatoes were done too. I drained the mixture, put it in a big bowl, added the pesto and the starchy water and mixed it up. Then I added about 1/4 cup of olive oil and about 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Supper!

You could use the same amount of potatoes and green beans and pesto and less spaghetti. This would be very good and generate a smaller quantity of leftovers. We do like leftovers, however.

If you are not good with wheat pasta, the DeBoles people make pasta from corn or corn and rice that is just fine. If you did not make pesto this summer, buy some. It does not have to be made with basil (which can be pretty expensive). Spinach pesto is good; in fact, we made and froze some of that too. I think that pesto is mainly a vehicle for Parmesan cheese and garlic and olive oil, so the greenery is not what one is really tasting. Spinach pesto seems to hold its green color better than basil pesto. I don't know why. Some kind of science, I expect.

Odds and Ends
As we move closer to Springtime the days are getting longer. We passed the 11 hours of daylight point this past week. I have been able to work in the garden on both ends of the work day.

I did a quick review of the 12 finalists. I was interested in the dates for the pictures. Here was the breakdown.
June 4
September 3
July 3
November 1
May 1

I was surprised that there were no pictures from April. I will work on that this year. There are so many wonderful spring bulbs. This year they might be in March.

But back to this weekend.

Here was the snowdrop clump you have seen for several weeks. It was holding up rather well.

This is one of the little yellow aconite, with its sticky snow covering.

Here is the group of aconite. The snow had melted back from most of them Saturday afternoon.

That's it. The cold and snow was just a reminder that it really is only February.
Have a good week. We will survive this dark time, but it is going to talk some some effort and it may take a while.

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