Sunday, November 26, 2017

Week 1- Picture contest- November 26, 2017

Welcome to the Mears Garden Blog Winter Picture Contest.

This contest is one way to get through the winter. 

These contests started so long ago that I get a little confused about just when. The archives from this blog, which you can review, go back to the second contest, in 2007. The first year it was all by email. Then I started the blog. I missed one year 3-4 years ago. So I think this is number 11.

About the contest:
For those of you who are new to this contest, here is how it works:
Each Sunday, for the next 13 weeks,  I will put up five picture-contestants. They are pictures from my garden during 2017. There are five pictures each week this year since I had that many pictures I felt deserved to play. You can vote for the picture you like best that week. (You only get to vote for one picture.) You can find the voting poll on the right side of this page. Voting lasts until Saturday evening at midnight. The weekly winners will advance to the next round. Several runner-ups join them in that semifinal portion of the contest. By the time we see which picture is the overall winner, winter will be over. 

*Voting note*
When you vote you will likely not see the vote tally change immediately. The blog puts up your vote after you leave the site.

You can also comment. The place for comments at the bottom of the post. I really appreciate comments. Everyone else can see them too. I like to know what you think about particular photographs or plant, and/or why you voted the way you did. Or you can just tell me something about your garden.

I also send out emails weekly, upon request, giving you the link to the blog. If you want to be included in those emails let me know by email. My address is in my profile, found on the right side of the page. Some people like the emails since they can then "reply" with their thoughts.

Other features:
Subscription choice- There is a place for you to subscribe to the blog. If you sign up, then you should get an email notice automatically when there is a new blog post. 

Julia's recipes have now become a regular feature of the blog. There is a separate website Katie created where all Julia's previous recipes are kept. It is:
There is no competition with her recipes. It is amusing to contemplate competing recipes. Beef stew versus cranberry upside cake.

So let us get to the contest.

Week One

Here are your five pictures this week. The date of the photograph appears with each picture.

#1  Yellow tulip
The variety probably is  "biflora".
April 16, 2017

This is a species tulip. That means that somewhere, someplace, this one appears in nature.

I have found that  species tulips do come back the next year on a somewhat regular basis. The more hybridized the tulip, the less likely it is to do well in subsequent years. Sometimes you should treat certain tulips like annuals.

Yellow is so good. Sometimes after the contest is over in the Spring I have a team competition between the colors. Yellow is always a strong competitor. (That last competition was on April 2, 2017, for those of you who have figured out how the archives work.)

#2 Winter Aconite
February 25, 2017.

This picture illustrates why the plant got its name. Winter aconite, like the "snow"drops, comes up very early.
Its more formal name is eranthis hyemalis.

February was a warm month in 2017. (We really did not have much of a winter last time as December was warm too. ) It was above 60 degrees for almost a week starting February 18. Then it snowed a few inches.
The snow did not last.

Please see the bonus section for more aconite information and pictures.

#3 Double Bloodroot
April 13, 2017
I have grown this beauty for almost a decade. It grew from just 2 plants to form a nice clump. I actually was able to start dividing it. That was two years ago. (See bonus section.) Perhaps not coincidentally, every plant, even the transplants, did not return the next year. In 2016 it did not come up, at all, anywhere.

But I found a good source for double bloodroot this past winter. The source shipped me bare root dormant plants in March. I planted them and then they bloomed. This is one of them.
That was what is known as "immediate gratification."
They are really one of the stars of my garden. I am so glad that they are back. When I think about the plants to look forward to, the double bloodroot is in that list.

The double variety blooms a little later than the single variety. (See bonus section.) They apparently are sterile, multiplying only by runners.

The single variety is mighty nice too. It is one reason to go for walks in the woods in the spring. In the Iowa City area, Ryerson Woods, by the Johnson County Fairgrounds, is a favorite walking place of ours.

#4 Tricolor crocus
April 1, 2017
What a gem. And what an appropriately named flower.

You look at this flower and the word "more" immediately comes to mind. I just planted more this week.

Did you know crocuses are in the iris family?

There are crocuses that bloom in the fall. Some of the saffron crocuses appear in frescoes at the Knossos site on Crete that dates from before 1100 B.C. (I know this because the Internet told me so.)

#5 Pale Blue Siberian Iris
May 22, 2017
I have been working on my garden for over thirty years. During that time my enthusiasm level for certain plants comes and goes. (They refer to this as "serial enthusiasms".) There were the daylily years. Then I could not get enough epimedium. At the moment Siberian Iris are near the top of the enthusiasm list. This pair might give you an idea why. I wish I knew the name. I try to keep track, but labels get lost.
I particularly like the composition of this picture.

For two years I have been separating old Siberian Iris clumps. These were clumps that  had not been touched in a long time. The first such division was done in the fall of 2016. This spring should be when that pays off. This year I also found a wonderful source of new and different varieties of Siberian Iris. So next spring I hope to have many new varieties, with name tags.

There you have it. I did not suggest it would be an easy task to pick one picture you like the most. But please do. And share the contest. I like to hear from people that have just found the flower contest. Then again I like to hear from those of you who have been with me for a while.
What I really like is to hear that you are out there and have shared in my enjoyment of the garden from 2017.

Bonus pictures from 2017

This is the section where I show you pictures related to some of the contestants of the week. Two of the contestants were from the group of very early spring bulbs.
This first group of bonus pictures are pictures of the trio of very early spring bulbs- snowdrops, winter aconite, and crocuses.

February 17, 2017

I think this was the first snowdrop to bloom this year. Sometimes they emerge in January, or even  in December.

I am always amazed at how these plants in particular hold up to the very cold temperatures.

February 19, 2017.

That was day that the first winter aconite bloomed in the garden. It closely followed the snowdrops. Beverly Nichols, the wonderful British garden writer, talked about planting these by the 1000's.
What a perfect color, amidst all that brown. The little globes before they open are good too.

This was a week before the snow picture in the contest. I do not know if it is the same flower.

Aconite are inexpensive. One bulb source has them at 100 for $22. Of course you do have to plant them. Aconite are in the buttercup family. They are deer resistant, which makes sense. I think that means they do not taste good. It would not be a survival trait to be the first colored flower and to taste good.

February 22, 2017

Here was the first crocus. It might be Cream Beauty.

February 27, 2017.

This is probably a "tommie." (See comments with the next picture.)

March 5, 2017.

These little pink guys are crocuses of a species called tommasinianus. That is a great word. You get lost about in the middle. They are called "tommies" for short. In addition to spreading, unlike most of the crocuses, they apparently taste bad.
Since "crocus" means "squirrel food" in Greek, this feature is important. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I do not think it really means that in Greek. But it sure could.)  Sometimes when I plant other crocuses I put down plastic barriers on top of them to keep the bulbs safe until the ground freezes.

You see all these crocuses in the spring and you wonder why don't you just get a few hundred more of them. This fall I got 150 more. I just wander around and randomly plant 10 here and 10 there. Friday I planted some tricolor bulbs mixed with ones that are white.

It should be noted that this is about the time when bulb sales begin. It is not too late to plant bulbs until the ground freezes and stays that way. Certainly planting bulbs over the Thanksgiving break is a gardener's tradition in Iowa. (At least it is my tradition.)

Pictures of early spring bulbs continue.

In the picture below, taken on March 5, 2017, the winter aconite are all over.
Gardens have tipping points. That is the time after which the plants clump up or spread at a rate faster than they die or get eaten. That is so much nicer than saying something is "invasive."
The aconite in certain parts of the garden have reached that point. What I love about this particular picture is that you can see the generations of aconite. The little tiny ones will not bloom for maybe another year. They become like the stars in the sky, they are so many.

Another thing about aconite is that when they bloom they pretty much have the stage to themselves. There is the snowdrop in the upper left of the picture.

March 6, 2017.
More tommies, with slightly different colors.

March 19. 2017.

White crocus in a clump. Sometime a lot of one thing is as impressive as a lot of many different things.

March 24, 2017

Here are some of the tricolor crocuses.

March 24, 2017
It seems like the more colorful crocuses comes up later. Maybe this is a survival technique. By that time other plants are showing in the garden.

Here are more snow pictures from late February. The snow was gone in a few days.

These early bulbs were not bothered at all by the snow, or the cold.

Here are some of the acnonite. You can see contestant #2 on the left.

How about some pictures of bloodroot?
This picture is the large clump from April 14, 2015, that did not come back at all in 2016.  That clump took about 7-8 years to develop.

April 15, 2017.
Here is one of the replacement clumps. I specifically did not plant  all of the replacements in the same place. I also marked the beds so I would not  plant annuals right on top of the bloodroot after it went dormant in July.

April 8, 2017
The single bloodroot can be an impressive flower.
While this single bloodroot was not a lot earlier than the double variety, it was a little earlier. The singles also last only about a day. The doubles last longer, which is perhaps related to their sterility. (But I am not sure why.)

Here is a clump of the single variety in the garden from several years ago.
They do come and go.

This picture was taken at Ryerson Woods on April 9, 2017. I am always struck by the flowers coming up through all that leaf cover. No one is out raking off the floor of the forests to make them ready for the spring flowers.
In the upper right you can see the foliage from a Dutchman's breeches, which follow the bloodroot and bloom by the thousands.

Julia's recipe
BBQ (Actually Braised) Pork Chops

We have always called this dish BBQ Pork Chops, but that is mostly because I had no idea what barbecue was really all about until fairly recently. Eastern and Southern Europeans do not barbecue. This dish is actually pork chops braised in a flavorful liquid, and it is taken from a recipe in the old Joy of Cooking.

As with many braised dishes, the prep is fast and easy, while the cooking time is kind of long. This is a dish to make over the weekend and re-heat or prepare in ahead of time and put in your oven at lunchtime on a cook-timer. It would work in a slow-cooker as well. My slow cooker is large, and so I use the oven.

Here are the pork chops in the casserole. We bought one-half of a hog from Ms. Pavelka, which was a great idea. She and her husband raise excellent livestock, and we enjoy their beef, lamb and pork. She has the meat processed (i.e., cut up) and packaged at a meat locker.

Some of the pork comes in pieces that are not like the grocery store. Most of the pork roasts, for example, are the size and shape of bricks, with random bones, and they get turned into pulled pork now that I have a clue about BBQ. These pork chops would probably be labeled as pork steak at the store.

The chops weighed about 1 lb. I decided to bake them in a baking dish with a pig's face, see right. It seemed appropriate.

No need to lube up the baking dish.

I preheated the oven to 325 degrees.

At left are the ingredients for the braising liquid: chili sauce (I like Heinz), lemon juice, dried onion flakes, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce (I like Lea and Perrins), salt, paprika and black pepper.

I measured everything into a 2 cup measuring cup: 1/4 cup chili sauce, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon sweet (aka regular) paprika, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

I mixed everything up and then I added 1 cup of water and mixed again. I was careful to get all of the ingredients at the bottom mixed into the slurry.

I poured the liquid over the pork chops, put the lid on the casserole and put it in the oven. It baked for about 2-1/4 hours. This is not a recipe for rosy-centered rolled pork loin roast. When I make rolled pork loin roast, I take it out when the internal temperature is about 140 degrees and let it rest. While the roast rests, the temperature rises to about 145 degrees, and the pork is still a tiny bit pink inside and that is fine. In fact, it is delicious.

In this dish, you want the pork chops to have given up completely; the meat should pull away from the bone. Depending on your particular pork chops, this may not take 2-1/4 hours. You can test with a sharp knife - does the meat fall away from the bone and kind of fall apart into pieces? If so, you're good.

I used dried onion flakes because I have always used dried onion flakes. If using fresh onion, I think you will want about 1/3 cup, chopped fine. You can use half-sharp paprika if you prefer. I think smoked paprika would be too strong, but go ahead and try it if you like.

Here are the pork chops. We serve this dish with rice, which I cook by first saute-ing the rice with onion (yes, fresh onion) in regular oil and then using chicken stock instead of water. And a green vegetable, in this case green beans which taste good with the braising liquid.  Enjoy!

Odds and ends

This is a section for my random thoughts, unrelated to the contestants.

I grumbled a little about the weather last week. It had been gray for quite a while and also a little wet. Well, this week the sun came back, providing just about perfect weather for a long holiday weekend. Friday was about the best, with the temperatures getting to 70 degrees. We went for a walk in the woods, going to Squire Point, for those of you who know the Iowa City area. I also planted the last of my bulbs. To celebrate, I ordered some more. Anyone can always find room for another 100 crocuses.

Gardening, like so many things, will take about as much time as you give it. There is always something more that can be done. With my bulbs all planted, and a few nice days left in the weekend,  I started digging up old lilium, that have not been touched in ten years. They had multiplied and are too close together. So I dug up a clump. I should have known what would happen. The problem with dividing any plant is then you have more. There were three good sized bulbs, and 2 smaller ones. They have all got to be replanted. Replanting involves digging the rather deep hole, and marking it. (I use colored straws.) Before I dug the second clump I made sure I knew where they were going to go before I dug them.

There was voting last week on the blog, even though the contest had not begun.
This picture got the most votes.

The full vote was
Spring flowers 12
Star of Bethlehem 9
Elephant ears 9
Crown Imperial fritillarias 6
phlox 4
orange lily 1

Garden cleanup- The final leaf sucking from the City will come soon. Leaf sucking is a regular occurrence in Iowa City each fall. Everyone rakes their leaves out to the curb. The city crews come around with a giant vacuum cleaner. They suck up the leaves and cart them away. The landfill turns them into wonderful mulch. The City then practically gives it away once it is cooked. I have been gardening so long in Iowa City that I can remember when you could burn your leaves. I wonder how long ago was that? Who else remembers that?

The two tone Christmas cactus is currently the centerpiece on our dining room table.

Here are the individual flowers.
They look like Christmas tree ornaments.

I cannot go through the year in pictures without sharing one wonderful new part of that overall picture.

Our grandson, Christopher Philip, was born on January 18, 2017. This is a picture from that very first day.

May 6, 2017
He got bigger and was not sure what he thought about hats.

October 25, 2017
He  discovered mobility.

He discovered things to eat.

November 12, 2017
Somehow, when he visited Iowa two weeks ago, a cow suit was just the thing.

I just cannot say much more after these images.
I hope you enjoy the pictures and the contest.
This will be a way to get through the winter.


Bob S said...

I voted for the aconite, Philip. Ever since I saw skunk cabbage blooming in Feb. when we lived in northeast Iowa I have had huge respect for these holdovers from tropical times as they kept their leisurely pace of flowering by learning how to create heat in mid-winter to protect their blooms. By the way, I wanted to vote for Christopher, by far the most beautiful flower in the bunch!

philip Mears said...

I will have to look to see what skunk cabbage looks like in bloom.
Putting Christopher into the competition would have been unfair competition.