Sunday, April 29, 2012

10 Hard Working Perennials for Mountain Gardens

Primrose is a very early bloomer, loving cold temperatures.
Bright sunshine inspired a whole lotta work in the gardens yesterday ~ in spite of the fact that it was blustery and cold... Sitting here, this morning, tired, and sore, happy as all get out. Having dedicated an entire day to playing in the mud.

What's your favorite time in the garden? Mine is right now. When tiny green shoots are poking up all over the place, promising pretty things to come.

Sad to say, it's too early to plant. And, of course, that makes me itchy. Trying desperately to avoid the local nurseries, tempting me with new flowers that will surely freeze ~ should I lose control and jump the gun.

So, while I'm spinning my wheels, waiting ever so impatiently for Memorial Day to come, here's a salute to the 10 hardest working perennials in my waterwise gardens. These gals bloom for at least 8 weeks, some 12 or 16 weeks. All are drought-tolerant, much-loved by hummingbirds, butterflies, and most everyone who bikes past the Street Garden.

May Night Salvia
Salvia x superba
Flowers: June - August, with deadheading
Full sun
USDA zones 5-9

Tickseed Coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata
Flowers: June - September, with deadheading
Full sun
USDA zones 5-9

Munstead Lavender
Lavandula angustifolia
Flowers: July - October
Full sun
USDA zones 4-10 

Bellflower Deep Blue Pearls
Campanula carpatica
Flowers: June - September
Full sun
USDA zones 3-8 

John Cabot Roses
Flowers: June - October
Full sun
USDA zones 3-7

Johnson's Blue Geranium
Geranium himalayense x pratense
Flowers: May - September
Full sun
USDA zones 4-8

Redbirds in a Tree
Scrophularia macrantha
Flowers: June - September
Happiest at 6,000 feet or higher
Full sun
USDA zones 5-10

Six Hills Giant Cat Mint
Nepeta x faaseenii 'Six Hills Giant'
Flowers: June - August
Full sun
USDA zones 4-9

Jupiter's Beard
Centranthus Ruber
Flowers: June - August, with deadheading
Full sun
USDA zones 4-9

Corkscrew Ornamental Onion
Allium senescens 'Blue Twister'
Flowers: June - September
Full sun/Loves clay soil
USDA zones 3-8


Do you have a love affair with 10 special flowers? Do tell!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Brief Interruption

After a deep, drenching, rain I woke to a temporary drift of snow. And, while these stops and starts to the garden season can be annoying, I'm not terribly unhappy about it.  

Glory of the Snow (early spring blooming, naturalizing bulb)

This high up in the mountains, things are different. When it's raining on your garden, it's often snowing on mine.

I don't mind and neither do my flower bulbs. To me, snow is just a happier form of much-needed moisture.

People run when it's raining. They slow down when it snows. They linger, perhaps even to the point of admiring the artistic beauty of a snowflake, or two.

Oh, I know my attitude doesn't sync with most gardeners. They want spring to come early, with no interruptions.


Where I live, that's just never gonna happen. So, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise. My hard work will begin soon enough.

More Crocus!

* If you live in the mountains, you've probably already figured out that bulbs are a gardening girl's best friend. Bulbs add bright, beautiful color to the garden right about the time you're convinced that spring will never ever arrive. In my crazy, micro climate gardens, Crocus and Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) get the party started. Next up: naturalizing Blue Siberian Squill and, with any luck, some perky yellow Daffodils.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Seeds, Bulbs and Other Cheap Thrills

A good month behind kinder climates, Daffodils are threatening great things.
Half my yard is celebrating springtime, and therefore so am I. In spite of chill winds, freezing rains and unwelcome snow... heirloom bulbs in the sunniest spots are determined to put on a pretty show.

I dig through the filthy remnants of winter, exposing green shoots, in search of the first perky primrose and tiny grape hyacinth. So sweet to be playing in the mud again.

All the trappings of a farm girl summer are getting a jumpstart in my sunny window. Planting from seed saves me a bundle plus it adds 30 days to my too-short growing season. Look closely at those green leaves. Can you tell what's sprouting here? Hint: It's a super popular perennial.

When I wake to those late season snows, I can't help but dream of Hawaii, my most favorite place on the planet. The closest I'll get is this pretty Plumeria ~ a refugee of my last visit there. (Plumeria is surprisingly easy to grow indoors. Phosphate encourages plentiful blooms.)

The fact that she's blooming is one undeniable sign of spring. And, here's another...

"Honk, honk, honk," cry the Canadian Geese.
"Not again!" grouse those cranky Sand Hill Cranes.
"Harumph!" grumbles a Bull Elk as he rises to his feet and saunters away from the trespassers...

Early this morning, I opened the blinds to discover a hot air balloon, blown off course, bouncing across the Swaner Nature Preserve. (Across the road from my house.) What does this mean? Why, the tourists have returned, that's what!

I live in the strangest place. But, somehow it seems to suit me.

Quick Growing Veggies I'm starting, from seed, for my Mountain Veggie Garden:
  • Cocozelle Bush Zucchini: matures in 50 days.
  • Thessaloniki Tomato: matures in 60 days.
  • Oxheart Carrot: matures in 65 days.
  • Lemon Cucumber: matures in 70 days.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blood from a Turnip

"We've squeezed as much blood from this turnip
as we're ever gonna get."

And, with that, my tax guy handed me a pile of forms and a big, fat bill and sent me on my way.

Each year, it's the same old story. I show up with a stack of receipts 12 inches thick and then the battle begins. If it were up to me, I'd write off everything as a business expense. Including the bike I peddle to the Fed Ex box.

Bill, the tax man, is a turnip lover. (Yet another reason to distrust him.) Turnips are a love 'em or hate 'em vegetable. Mom forced me to eat them as a child and I loathe them to this very day.

That's because she made me eat the wrong part.

Tubbed, rubbed and scrubbed. Isn't she a beauty?
Turnip roots have a radish-like texture, slightly peppery. Not my cup o' tea. But the above-ground leaves, the turnip greens, are super tasty! They're also loaded with vitamins A and K, important ones if you're searching for that proverbial fountain of youth.

Turnip greens make a delightful hot salad. Immerse the greens in boiling water for just a few seconds. Pat dry. Saute olive oil, bacon, shallots, red pepper... add it to the greens, and voila! A healthy side dish that would have Bill, the tax man, grinning from ear to ear.

Hmmm... If I blog about them shouldn't I be allowed to write off turnips as a tax deduction?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Avocado App

* The Avocado App: Were you thinking this was a gadget for your iPhone? Nah. I was just trying to get you to read my post. :)
What are YOU wearing to the Easter Parade?

Last year, the biggest hit at my Easter Dinner was the ultra-easy appetizer vs. the ham and side dishes that I slaved over for hours and hours and hours. (Isn't that always the case?) Green Eggs and Ham recipes abound but this one is absolutely to die for.

Tips to Make it Totally Tasty:
Pah-leeeze! No creepy, toxic green food colorings, por favor. And, let's skip the frozen spinach while we're at it. Too yucky. Plus, it's lost all of it's nutritional content. (Which is a Godsend, if you ask me. I hate that stuff.)

Thoroughly mix in the Avocado and your Deviled Eggs will look greener.
√ This deviled egg recipe calls for fresh avocado.
√ And the lighter [than bacon] flavor of crumbled, crispy-cooked prosciutto.

Green Eggs & Ham Recipe:
  1. Boil a dozen eggs. Yes, it seems like a lot but you haven't tried this recipe ~ yet.
  2. Crisp-cook about a half dozen slices of prosciutto and crumble. Use it as the garnish. Chopped tops of green onions are a great second garnish.
  3. Slice the eggs in half, smoosh up the yolks, stir in a full, fresh avocado and light mayonnaise. (I like to add a little lemon pepper and some brown mustard to spice things up a bit.)
  4. Then borrow the coolest deviled egg platter you can find...
And, voila! Your guests will be so delighted they'll be back at your dinner table every single Easter from here on out. { Uh. Oh. }

* Leave it to our beloved Doctor Seuss to inspire kids to eat Deviled Eggs. This recipe adapted from a bunch of different recipes found on the web. Those geese were posted on my timeline on Facebook and I thought they were so delightful I had to share. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

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 up here in the mountains. 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 16 oz plastic drinking cups so they develop long, strong roots. They grow on the deck for the month of May (so I can haul them indoors on an exceptionally cold night.) I plant them in the soil around June 15th.
* This is sadly abnormal in comparison to lower elevation 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. But, here's the deal. Peas need warmth to sprout so... sure! You can plant them super early but it won't make a bit of difference. They'll wait for warmer soil temps to germinate.

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.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Caballos del Sol

Arizona wildflowers ~ Interesting how they bud pink and bloom white.
Wow! What a week. I could probably get a month's worth o' mileage out of the happenings of The Vacation. But, since it was compressed into 6 short days perhaps I'll try to compress it here, as well.

I'm reluctantly coming back to reality after a week long vacation with our horses at an event called the Caballos del Sol benefit trail ride. It benefits horse organizations. But, mostly it just benefits horse lovers like me who get to saddle up and disappear from reality for awhile.

More Arizona Wildflowers (I don't know the names ~ do you?)
Ever experienced that feeling of dread at the end of a super-fantabulous vacation?

On the last day of a blissful week, not connected to voice mail, email or any other aspect of the workaday world...   

I petted sweet Gracie and kind of wished this week would never end.

That I could really and truly just ride off into the sunset.

Karen and her Mustang, Red. That's Al in the background: 75 years young.
Toward a 5 star spa, of course, because one week of camping is plenty of hardship for this lazy butt. My hard-working horse could benefit from a massage, too.

This was my 3rd year on the Caballos del Sol trail ride. And, good luck finding out anything about it. There's no website. No contact info. Half the people submitting applications get turned away.

That Rental RV in the foreground was mine, all mine. (For the week. :)
It's a super secret horse affair. A tiny postcard shows up around Christmas time hinting at the location.

Come March, we're given directions to a private ranch somewhere in Arizona, where we set up an RV city and ride the Apache Wilderness. Each morning, heading out on a new trail, prettier than the one the day before.

We laughed non-stop for 5 fab days.

Then we packed up the horses and reluctantly headed back to civilization. Where the second I reached a cellphone service area my poor little gadget practically exploded... with hundreds of emails, cranky voice mails plus a few texts that made me absolutely batty:

Text #1: I need a place to stay ~ can I spend the summer with you? (Huh???)
Text #2: Your dog has been barking for 2 solid days! (Whaa??)
Text #3: I borrowed your car. Man! It's fast! (The nerve.)
Text #4: I think something is broken; there's water gushing all over your basement. (Argh.)

At which point I turned off the phone. Sigh.

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once." ~ Jennifer Unlimited

* Caballos del Sol = Horses of the Sun