Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coneflowers, Milkweed & Monarchs

I'm having a swingin' time with my do-it-yourself irrigation system. They sell you about 100 miles of black hose and a cute little device that works like a paper punch. Then they turn you loose, claiming a monkey could do this without more instruction.
They were right. It's really pretty simple.

Poke holes in the hose, install a tiny sprinkler valve wherever you want to water a flower and... voila! You're done.

Unless, of course, you can't leave well enough alone.

I find a lame excuse to poke a new hole in that thing every time I'm out in the garden. After 3 months of this action, the DIY system behaves exactly like the soaker hose that was there last summer.

But, I still prefer it over the soaker hose. It's loads more fun. :)

Milkweed (right) appreciates the extra water. Monarch Butterflies appreciate that I plant Milkweed so they can lay their eggs.

Baby Monarchs are thrilled with my bumper crop of Coneflowers. (Me, too!)

You can get free Milkweed seeds from this special place.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Time Veggie Gardens

I've known this young lady since she was knee high to a Sangria bottle.

Lots of people worry about growing old. I kind of like it. Oh, I don't particularly care for the big mirror in the bathroom any longer. (Never did.)

But, when I look beyond that, I feel like I'm heading into this amazing new chapter of my life. My daughter is an adult. Her gardening friend, Noel, is an adult.

And... well... sooner or later I might start treating them like adults! Instead of the middle school brats I fondly remember.

I always knew this kid had special talents and this picture is proof positive. It's her first ever stab at transforming her backyard into a super productive plot of land. (Check out that pumpkin!)

You grow, girl. Now we just need to talk you into a BBQ.

With love,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Tomato Night

Big Bruiser Heirloom Tomato*
Feeds at least a dozen guests

I spoke excellent French the whole time I was taking French classes in South Dakota. Then I went to France, where people really speak French, and realized how badly I'd been taken on those tuition payments.

It was remarkable how consistently I screwed up deciphering the menus. One evening, my entree turned out to be a tomato the size of my head. Whenever I get together with old friends they tease me about my big tomato night. :)

I didn't know such great, big goodies were available here until I arm wrestled another shopper for this 3-pounder at the Farmer's Market.

* The actual name is the Marvel Stripe Heirloom Tomato, which generally tips the scales at 2-3 pounds.

How did this happen?? Garden zucchinis, apparently, are over-achievers no matter what kind I plant. This 1.5 pound giant was lurking under the vines in my (alleged) miniature veggie garden.

Mediterranean Garden Salad:
  • One big ass heirloom tomato
  • As much ripe zucchini as you'd like to get rid of.
  • Fresh Mozzarella and Feta cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil and mint leaves (chopped very fine.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Deep Blue Pearls

Campanula Deep Blue Pearl

Garden Vultures: Time to swoop! Giggled a gardening friend who, like me, circles and waits for the screaming deals at the end of the planting season.

We pounced on a $2 table of Deep Blue Pearl Bellflowers. They, of course, are not the slightest bit blue but the name did have me longing for another trip to the ocean.

Plus, it gave me a pretty good excuse to spread my sand dollar collection into the garden.

Earlier this month, we were goofing off on the Oregon coast. There's lots of fun things to do out there, but when I'm there I pretty much specialize in doing nothing at all. Other than comb the shore to collect sand dollars.
Campanula Deep Blue Pearls are dainty little perennials, hardy to -40 (F). They flower most of the summer, with deadheading. I planted these shade lovers under one of the few trees that seems to be flourishing in the backyard.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Small Batch Raspberry Jam

My first Raspberry harvest! Don't they look yummy?

Unfortunately, this is the ENTIRE raspberry harvest ~ 7 berries. Oh, well.

Flowers are my forté, they're so easy to grow. Fruits and veggies, I've discovered, are a much bigger challenge. This summer I've harvested 5 tomatoes, 3 zucchini and 1 lemon cucumber with a bug inside.

Plus 7 raspberries. So, things are looking up.

Are you a jam lover? This is a yummy, homemade, spreadable fruit recipe though I still call it jam. Sounds nicer.

Small Batch Raspberry Jam
* This recipe takes about 20 minutes, stays fresh in the frig for about 6 weeks.

Over low heat, dissolve 1 packet unflavored gelatin in 1/3 cup water.

Stir these goodies into the saucepan and bring to a boil:
3 cups fresh raspberries, 3 tbs honey, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp lime juice.

Hey! Nobody told you to stop stirring! Reduce heat, cook for 5 more minutes. Poor into jam jars and refrigerate.

* No pectin, all fruit, quite yummy, must be stored in the frig.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Malva: Miniature Hollyhocks

Zebrina Malva resembles a miniature Hollyhock.

Ooh, I'm all excited. Every time I check my email I get another taker for the Hollyhock seeds. I'm so glad. I always have so many seeds left over and I just hate to throw them away. They should be dry in another couple weeks so look for your care packages then! (OmegaMom - yes, I do have yellow.)
Purple Satin Mallow has a longer bloom time ~ about 3-4 feet tall.

And, this is for you Ellen. Okay so you've got a yard the size of a postage stamp (you really need to send pictures of this... :-) So, regular Hollyhocks won't work but miniature ones will.

Sometimes called Mallow and other times Malva, these little gals are bright August bloomers that reach 2-4 feet high. Bumblebees love 'em and you might, too!
Mallow, Malva, I don't really know what the difference is but they're pretty little bloomers in tight spots where you need some height. Zones 4-8. Not fussy about soil. Full sun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Heavenly Hollies

Heirloom Hollyhocks can grow to 10, 12 feet or higher. Some of my Mom's Hollyhocks topped out at 16-18 feet.

When I was a little girl, Mom and I would visit her sister's farm every August to pick chokecherries. While she was there she'd also wander about the Hollyhocks, pluck seed pods and stick them in her pocket.

Back home she'd walk into our big garden, crumble the pods, sprinkle the seeds on the ground and, that was it.

Next summer, young Hollies would reach a couple of feet tall and put forth their first flowers.

The older Hollies provided a gigantic flowering forest for little girls with big imaginations.

When I bought my house, I purchased hybridized Hollies but they just never had the wild, farm garden look I was used to.

So... I did what any enterprising daughter would do. I paid a visit to Mom and stole some of hers!

Hollyhocks add big personality to your garden but they are hellacious reseeders. Cutting down stalks before seed pods dry helps keep them in check.

Heirloom Hollyhocks are generally single flowered, tall and lanky compared to hybridized varieties.

In well-tended gardens, Hollyhocks experience a disease called rust. (Which is why I never have that problem!)

Rust takes a foothold during the winter. Cutting down Hollys in fall and removing debris can save them from rust.

Flowers can only go to seed if they are left on the stem, undisturbed. Pluck Hollyhock pods from the stems when dry.

I have lots of heirloom Hollyhock seeds that have been flowering in my family's gardens for over half a century. If you want some, send me a note. I would love to spread some cheer by sharing these seeds. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cocozelle Zucchini & Other Heirlooms

Today's bountiful harvest.
If things don't improve, I might starve.

I photographed my itty bitty zucchini on the smallest saucer I could find so it would look more impressive!

Most garden zukes are tipping the scales at 20 pounds by now. Tiny (5 inches at maturity) Cucurbita Pepo cannot compete with that.

I'm extra proud of this little fella. It's an heirloom, Italian zucchini (Cocozelle Bush) that matures in 55 days!

Part of the miniature vegetable garden I planted this spring.

The heirloom Oxheart Carrots didn't stand a chance once horse, Megan, discovered where they were planted.

The rest of these quick-growing veggies fared pretty well.

Mini Zukes are happily stretching their vines all around the Hollyhocks.

PS: These Hollies are heirlooms, too.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Troy Toys & Butterfly Dreams

The tiniest things can spark the biggest ideas. I've never seen a true, blue butterfly in my garden before. But, I have two of them this summer. They seem quite fond of a small patch of wildflowers. I'm so enthralled with their sky blue color...

Go Big or Go Home.
Meet the Bronco:

Brand, spankin' new rototiller.

Who's gonna assemble this?
Panted the delivery man after dragging the heavy box up the hill and into my garage. Hmmm.... I thought to myself. Good question. Which big, strong guy can I sucker into this project?

I like to tackle it alphabetically. I began by whining to Bob, then Gary, John, Mike and Steve. They all promised faithfully to stop over real soon and put the thing together.

Patience is not my strong suit so I decided to assemble it myself.

It took all of 40 minutes. I could have had her done in 15 minutes but I don't have much strength in my hands and the lug nuts were screwed on too tight. I guess as far as complaints go that's a pretty tiny one. This beast was as easy to use as the lawnmower. And, infinitely more fun.

My last project of the busy, busy summer is gonna be a goodie.
Bad Dog is quite delighted at the prospect of a bigger lawn.

What kind of trouble am I stirring up now?
Well, I haven't the heart to tell Bad Dog but more Kentucky Blue Grass doesn't figure into his future. I'm tilling a quarter acre of ugly weeds and turning it into a butterfly habitat. Stay tuned...
Jane is nurturing butterflies, which prompted me to help the butterflies and maybe you can, too.

* Why a Bronco? Because I love horses, of course. This thing is a Troy-Bilt and while they do have other models the names aren't nearly as cool.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot August Bloomers

Gaillardia [Blanket Flower] Oranges & Lemons

The August hiatus has begun. What weeds survived my wrath earlier in the season can stay there. I'm done. Done with everything but deadheading until this heat wave is over.

Very Mean Bee on Wild Gaillardia

Plus I'm mad... mad and puffy and sore... Got stung by a bee while weeding the Blanket Flowers. (Ungrateful bastard.) They dearly love the native varieties though they have an odd way of showing it.

Baby's Breath is going bonkers this summer. She loves my alkaline soil. I love the way these teensy white flowers soften the look of big blossoms.

This is a neat trick, if you have the space. Baby's Breath makes the garden look so professional it fools people into thinking I know what I'm doing!
Last but not least, my lazy, lazy Coneflowers have finally decided to bloom.

"A garden never stops growing. By its constant demands on the gardener's attention, it makes the gardener's life a great adventure." - Coelho Brida

* Most of my flowers are about a month behind bloom times in lower elevation gardens.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Tomato Thief

Today's Harvest

Stop laughing! You try growing heirloom tomatoes in a high mountain garden. The mere fact that some grew has the Guinness Book of Tomato Records trying to set up an interview with me.
Sweet neighbor kid?
Or, hardened criminal?

Sure, my tomatoes are ugly. They're heirlooms. They're supposed to be ugly. Besides, looks can be deceiving. Wendy is cute as a button but she's also a tomato thief and a repeat offender, at that. Today I caught her red-handed.

"How many times do I have to tell you? Steal the zucchini! It's all yours! Just keep your cute little mitts off my heirlooms."

Fresh & Tasty Bruschetta
Brush sourdough bread slices with olive oil and toast in the oven.
  1. Dice some fresh from the garden tomatoes
  2. Sprinkle with minced garlic, basil leaves and the chopped tops of fresh green onions
  3. Add a little lemon juice for zippy flavor.
Spread this marvelous concoction on the toasted sourdough bread and enjoy a little slice of heaven.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Decompressing @ Happy Camp Hideaway

After a wild & woolly time at the Tillamook County Fair, the silence of Netarts Bay beckoned. I discovered this sweet, little place several years ago when I visited a friend in Oregon.
If you're a flower lover, you'll be in 7th Heaven in this lovely spot along the Pacific Ocean. Gorgeous blossoms happily flourish without any assistance of the human kind.
The really surprising thing is that if you ask the locals about the wildflowers, most will say, "Oh, I don't know what they are. I never noticed them before."
Calla Lilies grow wild in this magical spot.
Where we stay: It doesn't get any better than the dirt cheap digs at Happy Camp Hideaway (Cabin 9.)
What we march toward every evening:
For the most amazing meals imaginable, hike the beach to Rosanna's in Oceanside, Oregon. With any luck, the tide will be out ~ so you won't drown on the beach walk home!

Happy Camp Hideaway is real gem along the Oregon coast. Affordable, eclectic cabins are inches away from the ocean. Cabin 9 is the best. Cabin 7 is darling. Cabin 2 is haunted!

* Bruce and Theresa own the joint. Tell them Kate sent you and maybe, just maybe, they'll give me a deal the next time I show up!

* For more pictures of Happy Camp click here.