Sunday, December 24, 2017

Week 5, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas       Happy Holidays
    Happy Solstice         Happy longer days

I am told that as of right now the days are actually getting longer.
Actually the local weather page just told me that today will be 10 seconds longer than yesterday. What can one do with 10 seconds?
But this is a milestone. This is cause for celebration.

The more significant fact is that it is finally cold.
There even is a below zero temperature in the immediate forecast.
This morning there is a dusting of snow outside.
There is something actually reassuring about both of those things.

Garden clean up is just about over. I believe the last of the leaves will be taken by the City this week. The amaryllis in the garage have came inside yesterday. There is no heat in the garage, which is mostly just right. For dormancy you want a cool place (40s would be best), that does not freeze. When it gets below 0 outside, it can freeze in the garage. That would not be good for the dormant bulbs.

We finally got our Christmas tree. We always keep it up until Epiphany, which is January 6. That has meant we get it at the last minute. The wonderful crotons, who thought they owned that corner of the living room, have had to shuffle around, finding other places to stay for two weeks.

While we were picking out the tree, I bought my first seeds for the spring. I got some Iceland Poppies. I will try to start them in two weeks.

Last week in the contest

The winner in Week 4 was the Night Blooming Cereus. What a great picture. What a great plant. I wish that more of you could see it when it blooms.

Here is the final vote, including some daily splits. The NBC took an early lead on the first day, and maintained that for the rest of the week.

Night Blooming Cereus  10-14-14-14
Allium                              4-  7-  8 -10
Anemone Blandas            7-  9- 10-10
Dwarf Iris                         1-  1-   1-  1
Cyclamen                         4-  4-   4-  1
total                                 26-35- 37-39

I do want to show you the Anemone picture again, in full screen.

Can you find the bug? I did not see it at first. If you click on a picture you might get  a bigger image. By doing that you should be able to make a slideshow of all the pictures for the week. On my computer you can get an even bigger image by going to the "full screen" part of the "View" drop down menu.

At this point we have had 4 weeks to look at the second place finishers. 3 "wild cards" will make it through to the next round.
So far:
Week 1 Double Bloodroot 31%
Week 3 Iceland Poppy/Cattleya  30%*
Week 4- tie for second between Anemone Blandas and Allium 25%

out of the running at this point
Week 2  Multi colored Zinnia 20%

* In Week 3 there was a tie for first. Both of those will advance automatically. Only two second place finishers will advance.

This week-Week 5

#1 Oriental Poppy
May 27, 2017

Oriental poppies are bright stars in my late spring garden. They come in several colors. Of course mentioning colors requires you to identify this color. I guess it is somewhere between red and orange. Is there a name for that? I should ask the Crayola people.

These poppies do prefer sun. That is such a recurrent theme in my garden. What if I only had more sun?

A couple of comments about this picture.
The center of oriental poppies makes for amazing pictures. I have put a few in the bonus section. Rain drops also always enhance pictures. Color contrast is so important in a picture. In the flower itself there is the contrast with the black center. In addition there is the green background. I think about other backgrounds. There can be the brown ground behind the early spring bulbs. Or there can be the black background when you take certain pictures. Actually I never quite know how that background works. Then of course there can be the blue from the sky or other flowers. Look at the interesting background of this next picture.

#2 Epimedium domino
April 21, 2017

This Epimedium x. Domino. The "x" denotes that it is a cross. Sometimes it is just listed without the "x". I think of Epimedium as little fairy flowers. The flowers are so small, but so exquisite. That is another way of saying they are hard to photograph. The plants are low to the ground. They bloom in April, but really do last quite a while.

Epimedium are also know as barrenwort, bishop's hat, horny goat weed or yin yang huo.
They do mostly come from China, which of course is a rather big place.

I went through an Epimedium phase in my garden about 10 years ago. I got 5-6 a year for a while. I was up to about 30 varieties. They have reduced by natural selection to about 20 hardy varieties. I find that a nice number.

Some Epimedium form big colonies. At this point, I have several that are at least a yard wide. I have taken to potting some up in the spring. I like to do that as a way to limit the spread. I can essentially take the outer 3-4 inches all the way round the clump. I really need to do that with quite a few of my clumping plants, not just the epimedium. Then of course there is the question of what to do with those plants. I have held spring sales, when energy and time allowed. There are times when the garden has to be an economically self sustaining entity.

I have found Epimedium to be disease and critter resistant. When they have disappeared it is apt to been drought or just being crowded out.

Some are "evergreen". That means they hold the color in their leaves until very late in the season. See the bonus section for a spring and winter picture of Domino.

#3 Tulip trio
April 19, 2017

I find it interesting how some pictures can just resonate. Sometimes you want a single flower. Sometimes, as with the anemones from last week, a clump seems right. In this picture the trio of tulips just seems balanced. In this picture you even see the difference between flowers, reflecting how far developed the flowers are. As always is the case the background helps.

I have several pictures in the bonus section of this tulip trio a few days after this picture.

#4 Pink Lupine
May 17, 2017

I love lupine. I have grown them for a long time. They are what I will call tender perennials. They are perennials, in that they come back from year to year. But the particular plants will only last a few years. I let the plants go to seed. New ones are always coming up. I also grow some from seed each year. I start them in maybe February, setting them outside rather early. They can go out early as the plants are quite hardy. Their foliage is still green even this late in the season. (Two others such plants are the hellebores and the pulmonaria.)

#5 Purple Zinnia
September 9, 2017

I have talked about zinnias before. They are annuals. (You have to plant them every year from seed.) I have just started growing them these last few years. I plant them very late (July). They then are fresh and start to bloom in September. They provide color when the rest of the garden is through with color for the season. They will continue to bloom until frost.

I could imagine this picture as a big wall hanger. I remember being at a little indoor garden on the mall in Washington D.C. There were pictures of flowers that were 15-20 feet high. Wouldn't you like that splash of purple somewhere?

I also like the little yellow stars in the center of some of these zinnias.

There you have it.
That is it for the pictures for Week 5. I hope you enjoy the pictures. You get to vote for one.
I always appreciate hearing from you, either by the comment section or my email. Do you grow any of these plants? What do you think about tulips? Or zinnias?

Bonus pictures

Here are two pictures of the tulip trio, which is contestant #3.

This was taken on April 27, over a week after the picture in #3. (That picture was from April 19.)
In the cooler weather in April spring bulbs can last quite a while.

This is April 22, three days after the picture in the contest.

This is Shirley. She is one of Julia's favorite flowers.

This is some other tulip. Tulips can be interesting when they are fully open. They then close up at night.
Look at all that great color in the center.


Here are two tulip centers, curtesy of our Mr. Crop.

Some have that little accent in the middle.

You could make an entire picture book out of flower centers.

Here are a few oriental poppy pictures.

Oriental poppies bloom, and then the foliage dies away. They will be completely gone about a month after they finish blooming. The plants do then have some fall growth, with small leaves emerging. They never get big enough to bloom.

As I noted above, this flower has such great color contrast.

June 1
This is Oriental Poppy Royal Wedding. It has appeared in the contest several times over the years.

One thing about the Oriental Poppy flowers is that they last only a few days. Depending on the temperature and whether there is a thunderstorm, they can last even less than that.

The bud on the poppy is really amazing. This picture is early in the morning, when the green seedpod has just fallen off.

Here is a closeup.

Here are more lupine pictures.

These are the little seedlings, getting some sun. This is the south side of the house. It was March 25, 2017.

Those yellow things are bug traps. By the end of the winter fungus gnats can become a problem.
April 4
One picture that I just love is this little lupine seedling.

There is nothing better than an early morning in Spring, with the birds singing, and finding something that has just come alive.

I love how water, even the dew in the morning, can bead up in the center of the leaf. It is like a little gem placed in the center of each leaf.

A different clump

The water just anoints even the edge of the leaves.

Click on a picture to see a slideshow. (It will however be a slideshow for the enter post.)

Here is a full shot of Epimedium Domino. It is really a nice sized plant at this point.  I got it in 2009.

Here is that same plant yesterday, December 23. It has held onto its color. By the end of the winter the color will be gone. It will be cut down to make way for the new foliage.

Education alert
I want to talk briefly about plant naming. I have given you a picture of one of the written explanations at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Mostly you start with the terms genus and the term species. The genus contains all the different species. Those usually are in lower case letters with the Genus being first and it is capitalized.

Here is a website that sort of explains this too.

After the listed Genus and species you can have the Cultivar name. Sometimes there will be a subspecies. That can be listed as ssp. Crosses are listed with the "x." Sometimes the "x" is just dropped.
Another term is "family", which is larger than the genus.

In sum- the genus for these plants is called "epimedium."
There are at least 65 recognized "species."
There are then many crosses or hybrids.
Epimedium plants are in the family Berberidacea. There are 14 genus in the family Berberidacea.
Other genus/plants in that family include Jeffersonia (Twin leaf) and Podpphyllum, which includes  the Mayapple.

That gives you more information than you probably wanted.
There could be a separate discussion of the plurals of many of these terms.

Julia's recipe
Shrimp in Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe is from the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook called Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, notable for including meat and seafood dishes. The shrimp dish is quick and easy and even quicker and easier if you use frozen cooked shrimp as I did. It requires a few Indian cuisine ingredients, but nothing one can't find in a reasonably well-stocked grocery store.

Here is the line up for the sauce: tomato paste (the crumpled tube behind the rice noodles), salt, sugar, garam masala (an Indian spice blend, available in my grocery store), ground cumin, cayenne pepper, a fresh jalapeno pepper, lemon juice and a 15 oz. can of coconut milk. I happen to have dried curry plant leaves, so I used them too. I do not believe the dish will suffer if you do not have curry plant leaves.

Here we have the shrimp and its friends: 1 lb. peeled, deveined, pre-cooked, frozen, size 51-60 (that is, smallish) shrimp, vegetable oil, garlic and mustard seed.

First, I mixed the sauce in a bowl. I measured (actually squeezed and estimated) 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a bowl. I then seeded and chopped the jalapeno pepper into small pieces, using caution as jalapenos can sting. No rubbing of eyes! Or else use gloves. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons of chopped jalapeno. Then I crumbled up about 5 or 6 dried curry leaves and stirred them in. Last, I added 1/2 of the can of coconut milk, saving the rest for another use (coconut milk tapioca pudding, actually, which was delicious. A recipe for another day.) and mixed everything together. I used a fork. A whisk would be fine too.

Next I smushed a large clove of garlic, and ended up with about 1-1/2 teaspoons of garlic mush. I put 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet, and I added 1 teaspoon of mustard seed and turned on the skillet to medium-high. When the mustard seeds began to pop and jump around in the pan, I added the garlic and turned the heat down to medium. When the garlic began to smell garlicky, I added the frozen shrimp and cooked them until they heated up, just a few minutes, flipping them over part way through. Some liquid accumulated in the skillet (because I used frozen shrimp), and I ladled most of that off (maybe 1/3 cup) into a little bowl.

Then I added the tomato sauce, stirred everything up, and I added a bit of the shrimp cooking liquid to thin the sauce a little. It only took a minute or two for the sauce to heat up, and it was ready to eat.

In the meantime, Philip cooked the rice noodles, which take practically no time at all.
Supper: with the addition of a side of spinach with scallions and a salad.

And here it is, shrimp sauce over rice noodles.

A few notes: I will use bigger shrimp next time, size 31-40, I think. Any bigger and you'd end up cutting the shrimp into pieces to make them work with the sauce, but a little bigger would be nice.

One could use raw shrimp, but that requires peeling and deveining, and deveining in particular is not my favorite food prep activity. If you do use raw shrimp, you will not have any liquid in the skillet to deal with, as you will essentially stir-fry the raw shrimp in the garlicky, mustardy oil. With raw shrimp, put them in a single layer and cook them for 2 or 3 minutes. Then peek at a shrimp or two and see if the down side is opaque. If so, turn all of the shrimp over and cook for just a minute or so, then add the sauce.

Odds and Ends

Poppies did lead to one of my more embarrassing moments in my professional career.
I represent lots of people in prison. I always have. I visited my first client in prison a little over forty years ago. About 15 years ago I visited a client for the first time at one of the prisons. They had just installed a fancy drug detection machine. There were things like coffee filters that they would rub your hands with, looking for drug residue. They would put the paper thing into a machine and see whether you had touched something bad. Well, that morning I must have been weeding the old foliage from some oriental poppies. They do die back after about a month. (Oriental poppies are cousins of the opium poppy.
To make a long story short, my hands tested for opiates. I was pulled out of line and required to visit my client behind a screen. How embarrassing was that?

Well, two things make the story better. I think they took out the machine, as no one even in the Iowa Department of Corrections really thought I had been using opiates. Second, I went on and won the case for the client and got him out of prison. Garden stories - everyone has them.

When it is cold, the sun can make all the difference.
Yesterday seemed cold. There was a high of maybe 25. But the sun came out brightening up the house.

This morning, as I said, there is a dusting of snow. We have had no measurable snow this year. It will come.

Enjoy the season.
Stay warm.
Drive carefully.
The days are getting longer.

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