Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Long Blooming Perennials

My garden doesn't look anything like this today.
But, I can dream, can't I?

I was awakened by howling winds... dark grey skies, blowing snow. I probably wouldn't mind so much if it hadn't been for that glorious early start to spring 2 weeks ago.

Alyssum is one of the first perennials to flower in my spring garden. (Not counting bulbs.)

That's when the weather warmed so beautifully I was able to spring into action and clean up one of my flower beds.

As Alyssum begins to fade, pale blue Jacobs Ladder bursts into bloom.

Then as quickly as spring arrived, it disappeared. Under another foot of snow. Unseasonably cold March days. No more tromping around the garden ~ at least not for awhile.

After Jacobs Ladder comes a sea of multicolored Columbines.

So, today I'm dreaming about my assembly line perennials. They may not be ultra-cool or super exotic. But they serve a happy purpose. These girls bloom in rapid succession all summer long.

Columbines grow amidst big clumps of perennial Geraniums.

Blue blooms first. Then pink steps in to pick up the slack.

Come 4th of July, Jupiter's Beard celebrate their own independence. It doesn't matter how often I thin the herd, they still grow up to be monsters.

In the dog days of summer, Yarrow creates a polka dot mess of bright color:

Soon after, fall-blooming Asters add new life to my gardens, indicating the sorry change of seasons:

Which serves as the wake up call for Sedum:

Sedum finishes blooming right about the time I'm so over gardening it isn't even funny.

The only real downside to a perennial garden is that even the long-blooming perennials only flower for 6-8 weeks, as opposed to 4 months of flowers with annuals. But, I still think perens are the way to go.

If I had to hand out report cards, these gals would graduate at the top of their class. The perennials listed here provide bright, gorgeous color from early spring to late fall.
  1. Alyssum
  2. Jacobs Ladder
  3. Columbine
  4. Cranesbill Geraniums
  5. Achillea Yarrow
  6. Rudbeckia
  7. Jupiter's Beard
  8. Solidago
  9. Asters
  10. Sedum
* They might flower at different times in your garden. Things are weird in the mountains.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Across the road from a dilapidated old shack (that I like to call home) is a great big beautiful meadow called the Swaner Preserve.

1200 acres of protected open space where birds and beasts come and go all year long.

My early morning ritual involves a steaming cup of very, very strong cowboy coffee.

One of those ultra-warm, cuddly, comfy, fleece robes (bright red, way ugly!)

And, some seriously tacky bunny slippers.

Because even in winter (it was 8 degrees this morning) I have my coffee out on the deck that faces the meadow.

I never know who or what will be hanging out in that meadow. Maybe a fox. Perhaps an eagle. But, a herd of Elk?? In the 5 years I have lived here I've never seen a site like this before!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Advice on Peas. Pretty Please?

Got a note from Dave, the pea lover, wondering what's a good variety to plant and is there such a thing as a safe planting date in the mountains?

First, the easy question. There is no safe planting date. However! My neighbors have learned that the last hard freeze of the winter ALWAYS happens the week AFTER I plant MY veggie garden. So, if you wait until I screw up you should be in pretty good shape.

If you're more of a leader than a follower here are a couple of options:

1) Sow by seed quick-growing peas that mature in 65-80 days.
2) Or, start them indoors. I plant mine in plastic drinking cups. They grow on the deck for the month of May (so I can haul them indoors on an exceptionally cold night.) I put them in the ground around June 15th.
* This is sadly abnormal in comparison to low lander veggie gardeners but mountain growing seasons are on a different timetable. We get started later but we can usually harvest later, too.

There are tons of pea varieties - English peas, snap peas, snow peas (edible pods) and, the most misunderstood of all, the Black Eyed Peas. These are considered beans if you live in the north or a highly entertaining band if you're younger than me.

Kelvedon Wonder ~ one of my favorites. It's a fast growing, tasty variety that shrugs off pea wilt and other disasters. Matures in 65 days.

Sugar Ann and Sugar Mel ~ (Don't they sound like the cutest couple?) Quick, crisp and delicious. Ready for picking in about 60 days.

Alderman (aka Tall Telephone) ~ the yummiest pea you've ever gobbled. They say this big guy requires 75 days - but it's closer to 100. Start him indoors and gift him with a tall fence. He'll climb 8 feet if you let him.

Sun-kissed, vine-ripened, fresh-picked, barely fertilized:
  • Peas produce their own nitrogen but they'll love you forever if you give them an extra shot of phosphorus.
  • Peas are a cool season veggie. Cool, not cold. Dave's overly-anxious neighbor pushes aside the snow to plant seeds directly into the ground very early. That's a different outcome for the tortoise and the hare. Peas need warmth to sprout so, sure! You can plant them early but they'll wait for warmer weather to germinate. If you plant them later chances are good they'll reach the finish line at about the same time.

Give Peas a Second Chance!
Saving pea seed is simple. Allow the pods to dry until brown on the vines. Hand shell them and plant the following spring.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wild Equinox

It may appear that these Wild Mustangs are standing on the edge of a great sea but it's actually a broad, barren desert that stretches all the way to Nevada.

ROAD TRIP! This week's Friday Afternoon Club took us far west, to the town of [we'll never tell] on desolate county road number [we'll never tell] to a place so remote we did not see another car all day long.

We were searching for wild Mustangs. The chances of actually finding them is so rare I held out no hope whatsoever.

But some days... oh, do I love those days... you don't even need to turn on the porch light for good luck to knock on your door.

As we made our way down a bumpy dirt road we spotted this small group far off in the distance. A young stallion and 3 mares keeping a watchful eye on us. There were others. A mare off by herself in a sage brush thicket. Perhaps hiding a new baby?

And the 2 yearlings in the top photo. We think they're young Mustang stallions because they dog the small herd but they keep their distance. All the big guy had to do was turn and face them in order to scare them off.

Most of these photos were taken by KC who has a real gift for capturing wildlife in motion and a super duper telephoto lens - which never hurts - because when we first spotted our Mustangs, they were so far away it was hard to tell what they were.

* The Spring Equinox happens each year at one specific moment in time (rather than one whole day), when the center of the Sun is vertically above the Earth's equator. This year, it happened on 3/20 at 11:44 Universal Time and all that really means is... spring is here and the Daffodils are blooming!

** "We'll Never Tell" ~ This was an unforgettable day. As I watched the Mustangs gallop off into the distance I realized that the very best thing we could probably do for them is to never tell anyone where they live.

*** Oh! And, if you have nothing better to do...
Modern folklore claims that on the March Equinox you can balance an egg on its point. But, you can balance an egg on its point any day of the year... providing you have enough patience.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Gardens

I've had a love affair with the Emerald Isle for as long as I've been on this planet. On days, when life becomes unruly, I close my eyes and daydream about an imaginary cottage ~ with a brightly blooming Irish garden ~ in some out of the way spot that never gets cell phone service.

Flourishing in this imaginary place are all my Irish Garden favorites:



Bellis perennis

Ox Eye Daisy



Plus lots and lots of cool, bright, soft and squishy... Irish Moss.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

* Plant an Irish Garden
Perennials: Bellis perennis, Primula vulgaris, Ranunculus ficaria, Achillea millefolium Leucanthemum vulgare. Bushes: Cytisus scoparius, Ulex europeaus Ligistrum vulgare, Viburnum opulus. Ground Cover: Sagina subulata

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Medium Rare Aspirations

Scrap whatever you're planning to make for dinner. Get thee to the store and start shoppin' for Paprika. Yup. You read right. Paprika!

You can grow* your own Paprika, ya know. It's not that hard. All you need to do is... whoa! Who cares? Back to the matter at hand.

I've found a steak recipe that deserves mention in my will.

You're gonna need a whole bunch of these. To blend. To roast. And, to munch on while you're cooking up a storm.

It's a dry rub plus an amazing steak sauce ~ one taste and you'll happily discard any bottles of A1 kicking around the frig.

Here's the rub recipe:
And, the steak sauce:

Created by Iron Chef extraordinaire, Bobby Flay.

I imagine I'm breaking all sorts of laws by posting his recipe in my blog. But, once again, who cares? He's cute! If I make him so mad he calls me up and hollers at me... well... that wouldn't be half bad.

Paprika is made from grinding the dried pods of mild pepper plants. Like most things American, the paprika we're familiar with is bland to the point of being tasteless.

However! Spanish and Hungarian Paprikas impart great flavor to foods. You can grow these little goodies in your garden. Kolosca peppers is a tame variety to try. Kick it up a notch with Dulce Rojo and Alma Spicy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Life Before Death

I do solemnly swear this will be the last blog post showing us having fun in the snow. This is, after all, a gardening blog. But snow or no... ya gotta love that view.

From the top of Iron Canyon, you can see for miles and miles.

Higher and higher we must go in order to find that really good snow... This week's Friday Afternoon Club adventure took us to the tippy top of Iron Canyon.

Along one of the steepest trails we've ever snowshoed.

Through a quiet forest of Quaking Aspens.

To the lookout. Rather, the look down. Upon Park City Mountain Ski Resort. Most folks reach this elevation by taking a chairlift so we were quite proud of ourselves for snowshoeing all the way up here.

As we huffed and puffed our way to the top, KC offered up 1 really terrific quote: "I believe in Life BEFORE death," she says.

"So say we all."

Once we reached the top we discovered we were missing one crucial piece of equipment. The other hikers brought sleds so they could fly all the way back down the mountain!