Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 1, 2018 - So much is happening in the garden

A week ago on Saturday perhaps as many as 500 people came through the garden on a garden tour. Project Green in Iowa City runs this tour each summer. There were gardens in three neighborhoods featured this year. This year was year 50 for the tour. That is a lot of tours. That is a lot of gardens. I had been on the tour about 25 years ago, so I had some idea what it was like.

That event was many things. It was a date on the calendar. You knew it was coming and planned for the event. You wondered what would be blooming. Would the lilies ever get started? Would it ever rain? Would the rain ever stop?

It was a lot of work. You try to get all the weeds pulled. You get annuals by the flat, splashing them around in greater numbers than usual. You give encouragement to the very slow caladium, many of which were still dormant in their pots, due to a cool spring. Much path work occurred. One big change in the garden in the last five years has been the increase in the number of paths. They are all wood chip paths lined with bricks. Paths are helpful to the gardener. It is so much easier to work on a bed if you can get to it. Paths are also helpful to the people visiting.

But it was wonderful work. It was work that I would have done anyway. It is work I will do next month and next year.

Many people thanked me for opening up my garden last Saturday for everyone to see. I explained that the garden was always open. Why garden if it is not to share? In fact if you are reading this having come by last week, please accept this invitation to come by again in the next few weeks. The lilies are now going strong.

There were some worries. I mentioned the rain. There was a lot of it. But it was a dry day for the tour.

Then there were critters. A few days before the tour I walked out on the front porch and saw something go by the side of the house. I went to the end of the porch. It was a decent sized deer. It was not exactly in the garden. It was on the neighbor's path between the houses. But that was just a few feet from the garden, heading toward the back yard. I walked around the house and chased it back across the street. In fact during the tour there were some conspicuous deer footprints in one part of the garden, which I was able to show people when they asked about deer. But there was no damage from deer that I could see.
Earlier this week I observed a raccoon wandering away earlier in the morning. Sometimes later in the year they will mess with the pond. But not this year.

As I recount the worries there was also a concern about heat. We had a number of days in June when it was in the 90's. The forecast for the day of the tour had the temperature in the 70's. They were right. It had even cooled off the night before to close to 60. It was just about ideal.
I can only imagine those gardeners over the years who were on the tour only to have a storm or a heat wave. All that work and worry. But not this year.

The garden did look good.

This panoramic shot from our upstairs window does distort things a little. But the picture does show that the garden paths were in great shape. We had put down wood chips in April, and then added to them in the 2-3 weeks before the tour.
The hosta had been pumped up by close to 8 inches of rain in the two weeks before the tour.

You can compare this picture with this shot taken on May 3. At that time there were still bluebells and the hosta was smaller.

Pictures from this week

This one flower just wouldn't open in time for the garden tour.
It finally opened on Tuesday. Actually it started to open about 9 pm Tuesday evening. The first picture here was taken about 4:30 in the morning. (Yes, I was up at that time.) The flower did remain open and looking good all day.

Here is one group of the Gingerland caladium. The caladium company gave me 10 of these 3 seasons ago, as a bonus. I have been hooked. They really are good. They come up more reliably than the big red ones.

The daylilies have started. Each day there are some that are just wonderful. This ruffled pink one could even be one of my own hybrids, from 20 years ago. I had a wonderful large pink daylily named San Ignacio. I decided to cross it with one that had a ruffle. I made 3-4 that more or less did the trick. I think this was one of them.

This bright orange Asiatic lily really is that color.

Here is a closeup.

Seriously, is that orange?

In the morning during daylily season I will go around and deadhead the spent flowers. (They only last one day.) That is a time to touch all the corners of the garden, watching for which flowers have opened each day. Sometimes the light is just right on the flower. Friday morning it was this trio. The plant is Kyoto Swan.

Here is Asiatic lily Kentucky. It is vigorous, growing to almost 4 feet. Just the right size so that a small deer would not even have to bend over. I found this stalk partly eaten Friday morning. I can certainly tell you it wasn't rabbits. I sprinkled some deer repellent that evening.
Actually this plant is right next to ruby Spider, one of my favorite daylilies.

Sometimes I show you pictures of particular flowers. You do not get to see how they fit into the garden.
Here is a picture taken from Fairview Street looking into the garden. The two big hosta are Lakeside Symphony and Tom Schmidt. The little plastic straws mark the tiny red caladium sprouts. The red ones have been the slowest. But they will be fine in August and September. I will take this picture again at that time to show you the change.
There are small zinnias planted by the curb, for color. The challenge can be finding the annual that will do well with the somewhat limited sun in parts of the garden. This area gets maybe 3-4 hours of afternoon sun.

There are more pictures you have to see from yesterday. This is just that time of year.
This is Red Ribbons. It is also a daylily. It grows right by the front sidewalk. There are many varieties of daylilies. This is one of the group that are called spiders. I assume you can see why.

This next picture is one of my favorite daylilies, not only for the flower, but also for the name. This is Primal Scream.
I first got it probably 20 years ago when it had just been developed. It was rather expensive. You pay for the fact it is just started to be available. I checked on its price in the last few years, and it was not really expensive anymore.
I actually moved this plant 2-3 years ago. It had been near a tree that was giving too much shade. Moving it gave it more sun, but set its bloom back a few years. It is back to a good size.
The color is quite good. When the light is just right it becomes a must show picture.

In this picture you can see some plants that look like iris. They are actually blackberry or candy lilies. I will wait for some future date to discuss the differences between those names.

Here is that first flower. It bloomed the last few days. It was not open for the tour. In the next 3-4 weeks I will show you some other colors.  I did not crop this next picture so you could see that rolled up thing in the lower left hand corner. That is what the spent flower from yesterday looks like. I will show you the seed as it develops.
These flowers are no more than maybe2-3 inches across. They are like little jewels.

Julia's Recipe
Cold cucumber soup
Please note that the link to the separate blog with all Julia's recipes is

It is very hot at present - heat advisory hot. So it is nice to be able to prepare something to eat that requires no cooking at all. Such is the case with this version of cold cucumber soup. There are, of course, other versions. I have seen (and prepared) a recipe that calls for cooking the cucumber chunks in chicken broth and then blending and chilling the result and then adding yogurt and herbs, but this is not necessary. Sometimes we call this soup white gazpacho but there is another (Spanish) dish called white gazpacho that involves pureed almonds and grapes and cucumbers and no yogurt, and that's not what we have in mind.

Here are the ingredients: 4 medium cucumbers, 2 scallions, yogurt, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

I peeled the cucumbers partly, because a little green in the soup would be pretty. My cucumbers came from Mrs. Wasson at the
Farmers' Market, so I knew that they had not been coated with wax or paraffin. If you do not know the provenance of your cucumbers, peel them.

I cut the cucumbers into chunks, and I ended up with about 6 cups. I cleaned and cut up the scallions (into about 1/2" pieces) and ended up with about 1/3-1/2 cup. I had about 4 cups of whole milk yogurt because I like whole milk yogurt. I think low fat or no fat would work too. I put about 1 cup of yogurt in the blender and added about 1 cup of cucumber pieces and blended away until it was all pulverized and soupy. I poured some of the soup into the tureen, and left some behind to facilitate blending. Then I added more cucumbers, the scallions and more yogurt, working in batches until all of the cucumbers were blended up. At that point, I had a little yogurt left. I put that yogurt into the blender, and I added 2 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of table (not kosher) salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Table salt dissolves better in cold liquids than kosher salt does so use table salt. If you don't have white wine vinegar, you can use cider vinegar. Or some other kind but not red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar which would mess up the soup's color.

I blended the salad dressing ingredients, and then I stirred it into the soup in the tureen to get everything mixed thoroughly. You will want to taste and adjust the salt (and pepper) to suit your palate.

Here it is, ready to serve. We had bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches along with the soup. Summer is prime tomato season and therefore prime BLT season.

If you want to garnish the soup, certainly a fine thing, chop up some fresh chives or dill or parsley and sprinkle on top.

As should go without saying, a mug-full of leftover cold cucumber soup is great for lunch.

Odds and Ends

Now that the adrenaline rush of the many garden guests is over, I need to find what could be thought of as garden motivation. What will come next? What will get me out in the heat, even at 6 in the morning?

Well, one thing will be the night blooming cereus, which has quite a few (maybe 10) buds coming along. I think it will bloom in about two weeks. You can see a couple of the tiny buds below.

I grow maybe 30 orchids. That is not that many. They all live outside from April to October. Then they all have to come inside.

There are enough that some do bloom during the outside part of the year.

This little phalaenopsis is blooming at the moment.

I find it remarkable how the orchids perk up after six months of being inside. I have some artificial light inside, but that is nothing like being outside.

As the to do list was mostly exhausted when the tour happened, it is time to make a new one.
I have decided that at this point I should hand out some fertilizer to the plants in the garden that performed so well for the visitors.
This week I fertilized the newer hosta.

The quilting guild displayed quilts at the Garden tour gardens this year. It was a nice addition. Here were the ones hung in our garden.

That is about it for this week. The pictures are so numerous at this point that it is difficult to pick which ones to show you. The garden is really in bloom, in a way you would not have seen a week ago if you came to the tour.

So come back. Stop by. Pretty soon the aroma of the Oriental lilies will fill the evening.


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