Monday, May 28, 2012

Upper Crust

It's been hot...really hot.  102 degrees yesterday and 98 degrees today.  Despite watering the yard twice a day, the plants are drooping pretty heavily by late afternoon. 

When it's that hot outside, the inside of your house seems to be a little warmer, too, despite constant air conditioning.  There's been a lot of spontaneous naps:

And a lot of the usual naps.

Despite the heat, most things in the garden are thriving.  Big white swatches of feverfew opened up this week.

My nasturtiums are finally opening up.

Just one so far, but more pods are opening up.  The leaves are wonderful - like miniature lily pads.

My tiger lilies are open - so pretty!

My new zinnias are blooming.  They're 'Envy' - a green variety.  Love!!

The hot weather makes me think of one thing, besides gardening:  pie.  I got a new book from the library that really inspired me:

Yes, that's Sandra Bullock's sister!  Perfect timing.  Pie just says summer!

What I really wanted to do was try to make a lattice-topped pie.  I've never done it before and have felt pretty intimidated by it, but I watched a few youtube videos and felt more prepared.

I made up my basic pie crust, which is a Smitten Kitchen recipe:  all-butter pie crust 

After refrigerating it for 30 minutes, I rolled one half out and used a pizza cutter to carefully cut out a circle.

Take a ruler and make little cuts every three-quarter inch.

Follow the lines and cut all the way down, slicing the circle into strips.

When you start laying slices on your pie, be sure to use every other strip.  This ensures that you have enough long pieces to cover the widest part of the pie.

Cover your whole pie with slices.

Now you'll start the weaving...which is much easier than you'd think!  Lay a short piece on top of the end of your pie.  One strip goes over, the next goes under, the next goes over.

The next strip, do the exact opposite.  You'll catch the rhythm quickly and be done in no time!

This recipe, of course, makes extra crust, and I was on a lattice roll.  So I took my little 3 x 6 inch oven-safe dish to make a miniature pie.

After baking...YUM.

The other pie looked pretty good, too.

Ah, summer!

One of the casualties of summer is my knitting.  I've been much too busy to get any real knitting done, and truthfully, I haven't done much knitting this year, period.  Just a general knitting funk.  I did finish a little fox that took quite a while, since there was so much weaving in to do!  I prefer to knit in the round with colorwork, so this was a real challenge.

He was pretty cute when I finished, though!

I also finished a Star Trek cross-stitch for Todd's birthday.  Of course, it was Spock!

I have some gift projects to get done, though, so I need to refocus my attention!

Hope you try something adventurous in the kitchen soon.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

an idea takes root

There are still a few vases around my house, surrounded by limp pink petals.  But I've got to face the facts:  the 2-week reign of my favorite flower, the peony, is over for another year.

But what a two weeks!  I don't know how anyone can be unimpressed by the sheer exuberance of the peony.

The petals are made of's a little-known fact.

The fragrance is strong in the varieties that I grow.  I like nothing better than to place my nose directly in the soft centers and inhale.

You've got to watch out for little creatures, though, like ants (who love peonies as much as I do!) and crab spiders.

Don't be afraid of them, though.  Just pluck its peony from the vase and shake it out over a bush outside.  Crab spiders are great for the garden and eat many pesky insects!

As cut flowers, peonies brighten any table.

Growing outside, they're hard to beat for beauty.  They unfurl slowly...

...and oh!

As the peonies die back, and the columbine go to seed...

...other things are just beginning to come to life.

My dahlias are blooming nicely.

My yarrow, too, is starting to open up in various patches around the yard.  I have white, yellow, and red varieties.

I have a row of absolutely gorgeous larkspur blooming...and three more of them that will be up in a few weeks! 

It looks a bit bare right now, but I have late-blooming yellow lilies that will be up soon, and sprawling red and orange nasturtiums all around the base of the bird bath, and spiky violet mallow that will pick up the purple color after the larkspur die down.  Around the lilies I have several snapdragon plants that will bloom within a month.  My purple clematis is blooming nicely (but not very visibly!) against the fence.

Further down the row, I have more yellow and purple, one of my favorite color combinations. 

I have a big silvery Russian Sage plant and then a big row of red yarrow.  White sweet peas will soon be vining up behind the yarrow, and my purple salvia will bloom all summer.  A yellow four-o'clock blooms in the corner, and I've got old-fashioned zinnias planted all around it.  The four-o'clock will die back soon, and the zinnias will pick up the slack.

I've got two types of mint growing, two varieties of thyme, dill, basil, two types of sage, parsley, radishes, lettuce, and oh, the tomatoes!

I had 100% germination from a .20 pack of cherry tomatoes.  This was 2 weeks ago, and they've all grown so much that they're ready to go in the ground!

I started some chives from a package of three year old seed.  Germination!

And at last...after a two-year wait...they're back.

I will never, ever prune you again, my dear! 

 And best of all, the clearanced hydrangea start that I bought and planted eight years ago is going to bloom this year.  I love the unique marbled leaves...and the blossoms are white!  Score!!

For the first time, something that I germinated from seed in our basement grow lab has bloomed.  A moss rose. 

I had a Tom Hanks moment, standing in front of it, just bursting with pride (click link below).

Yes, it was exactly like that!  I just said moss rose instead of fire.  :)

I brought home another carload of plants from our local Master Gardener's sale.  At $2 and $3 each, I got a lot for the $47 that I spent.

 And I discovered another trick this week that put me into an absolute frenzy. 

Take a plant...any plant!  A tree, a shrub, an annual, a perennial, whatever.  Cut a green piece of  stem, removing all but the top 2 leaves.

Dip the bottom inch (up past the bottom leaf nodes) into water and then into the rooting hormone. Then place it into a soil-less mixture (I used half perlite and half spaghum moss, dampened)...

Cut some sticks or bamboo stakes and put one in each corner of your container.

Then, wrap each one in a plastic bag and set in bright shade.

After a few days, you'll see this:

Leave it alone for 4 - 6 weeks, just rewetting the soil when it gets a little dry.  Then remove the plastic and give your plants a tug.  If you feel some resistance, you've got roots.  Pull up the plant and re-pot.  You've got a whole new plant for free! 

I used some plastic cups to make lots of mini greenhouses.  They're in a nice shady spot, because sun would burn the cuttings. 

I'm rooting 5 each of lilacs, white hydrangeas, pink hydrangeas, lavender, phlox, creeping jenny, two types of sedum, and a mystery vining plant that I'm quite fond of.  Sixty to seventy-five new plants, just growing nicely 'under glass', no trouble at all.  And I'm not done yet!  These can grow in their little pots all summer and overwinter in a cold frame that Todd will build in the yard.  A cold frame is simply a wooden box with a protected bottom (gravel, etc.) and a glass or plastic-framed top that closes down over the box.  Easy and cheap to build!  Then they'll be ready to go in the ground in the spring, or live on as container plants on the patio.  The sky's the limit with this sort of propagation.  All it takes is a little patience...and if you're short on that, at least this will teach you a lesson or two!  I'll report back in a little over a month with my results.

I just can't apologize for the breathless tone of this blog post.  I'm absolutely filled with joy when I have these little garden experiments.  Gardening can be quite a ride!  Just hold on tight!  ;) 

I hope you try some new things in your garden this week, too.  Enjoy!