Friday, January 30, 2009

The Second Incarnation of the Box

Here's the second version of the box, which I tweaked based upon the comments of the first round of judges. If you click on it and blow up the photo, there is an awesome new hellebore called "Pine Knot Select" that came from Ashe-Simpson Nursery, as well as that euphorbia called "Glacier Blue," which is great because it stays that color year round.
I also added in fake diamonds, and gave more explanation to the dragonfly in the "statement of purpose." The Duke of Windsor always believed that dragonflies embody the souls of the dead.
Am I creeping you out yet?
If you're in Atlanta and haven't been to the Show yet, you need to go! It's got some great displays this year!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Duchess of Windsor & Buck Jones, Part Deux

So the infamous window box for the Southeastern Flower Show got installed today, at last! It's the first time I've done anything like this, so it was a very cool experience. I had no idea how persnickety some of these plant people can be. I must admit that I still don't understand what makes a hosta leaf win a blue ribbon while another wins a red, but that's another story.

The photo doesn't give great clarity with color, since the wall behind the box is really a taupe color, I believe to give the illusion of stucco.

I also didn't think I'd be able to fit that many plants into one 5 foot basket, but it took the full lot of them, plus about a dozen pansies, to boot!

Before you say, "It's very dark," remember that this box is themed around departed lovers, in this case the Duke of Windsor. The mood of the whole thing was "Winter seems much colder now that he's gone."
Patti's critical eye (and knife-wielding skills) were a huge asset, as was the always-theatrical Laurie from Buck Jones, who felt the bare climbing hydrangea looked "appropriately dead." The dragonfly lantern that Chris powered with a motorcycle battery buried in the soil hopefully pushed this over the top. Anyone from metro-Atlanta should remember that there is no better lighting company than his.

Will let you know if I placed at all in this competition once I know something. For now, goodnight! PS. I didn't realize until just now that if you click on the photo, it is visible in a much larger format! At least it will show some detail!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Some Early Spring Cleaning

Today was really the perfect day to be in the garden! It was a little foggy this morning, but by mid day the sun was shining and everything seemed to be melting before our eyes! After these last couple of frigid weeks, it was such a pleasure to be outside doing some tidying, getting ready for the first of the blooms to come out again!

This was one of the first days in what seems like an eternity when it was necessary to step around the multitude of bulbs that are starting to show their leaves. Hundreds of daffodils have broken ground, and I'm anxious to see what the new one, "Patrel," looks like when it comes up. It is specifically bred for southern gardens (to zone 9). The Leucojem leaves are coming up with a vengeance; they're a favorite bulb of mine, and put on a really long show of little white and green bell shaped flowers.

Some of the more delicate plants we've put into containers for this winter are having a really hard time with the unusually cold winter we've been having. I'm afraid the variegated gardenia looks more toasted than variegated at this point. Oh, well, live and learn!...perhaps that's why the tag says "zone 8".

The Erthfood we spread last fall seems to be doing its magic with the bulbs,as well. We planted a lot of tulips in November, but it seems as though there are lots of mystery tulips bursting through the soil everywhere else, too! It's not exactly rocket science...add some food and some water (from the new well), and things respond!

We also checked off lots of items from the January pruning list. I generally use Walter Reeves' list from the AJC that was published a few years ago, but is still easily available on line. For the most part, we follow that list, but for a few things like butterfly bush, we're holding off a while.

In the meantime, I think I feel the beginnings of a suntan coming on!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Something New in the Garden

Just got the new "Sunny" Knockout Roses today. As much as the plant snobs are going to say about it, one cannot challenge the fact that the Knockouts are pretty awesome in the landscape!

I'm not putting them into the high brow rose bed, but at the top of the waterfall, nestled amongst deodor cedars and Emerald Spreader yews, this cluster should be pretty awesome! I think the bright yellow against the blues and dark blue greens of the conifers should be pretty amazing

The flowers on this one open bright yellow and fade to cream, and it's the first of the Knockout series to really have a scent. Obviously in 36 degree weather in Atlanta, there ain't a whole lotta bloomin' goin' on, but I can't wait for the sun and warmth to hit these babies! I've attached a photo from their own facts sheet, and will add a photo of my own results later in the season!

Stay warm! The word is 60's for the weekend! With rain! Does it get any better than that?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Ladies in Waiting

This photo was taken in the greenhouse Saturday morning, while it was still in the 20's outside. These guys are all just patiently waiting for good weather so they can go back outside. Some, like the Tibuchina Grandiflora, are looking a little sad in the winter, but others, like the Cup and Saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) on the far right, don't care that it's winter, and are climbing up and across the ceiling!

Some Interesting Shots from Atlanta's Winter Blast

Here are some photos taken yesterday morning, when it was still below freezing. The big koi we call "Momma" is just fine, as are the rest of her family; she was foraging around under the ice, although she was moving quite slowly! That is a fish after my own heart......she's under a layer of ice, and still manages to eat to "keep up her strength."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Morning After

At this moment it's still just 19 degrees in suburban Atlanta, which is crazy cold for this part of the world; the forecast of temperatures reaching into the low 40's today has me optimistic that there is hope on the horizon, though.

The good part of the cold weather is that I'm not working in the garden until around noon, so I have an unexpected relaxed morning. Sadie the dog and I took a long leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, for her the opportunity to sniff every new aroma that might have landed on the ground in the past 48 hours -- for me a chance to enjoy the sun and check out how things fared during this cold blast.

The Fatsia outside my dining room window is completely bowing down in the cold, almost as though it is huddled there in a coat of its own giant leaves; whenever it goes down into the 20's this particular shrub behaves that way, and it's always cool to watch it start to open up and stretch again when the sun comes out. By this afternoon it will be right back to its usual pseudo-tropical look. The Daphne Odora near the front steps looks just fine, but I'm sure this cold is going to delay the exposion of color and fragrance that I expected by this weekend.....based upon the nature of Daphne, I'm always pleased to see it still alive!

The Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa "Toyo Nishiki," pictured above) is completely covered with buds, making me happy it's planted in a place that keeps it a couple of weeks behind those of some friends. Their's were in full bloom this past week, and probably now zapped by the freeze. Every summer as it tears the skin on my legs with its vicious thorns, this quince is referred to as "that horrible bush," but in winter it's the star of the mixed border. Perhaps it will stay for another year....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Buck Jones and The Duchess of Windsor

At this moment it is 26 degrees in suburban Atlanta, which is a ridiculous concept! Just needed to get that out of my system....

This was one of those days that reconfirmed why I like to garden, and spend most of my life surrounded by gardeners. I went to Kelli Green Nursery very early for pinestraw, where Kenny was completely bundled up in all of these layers, simultaneously talking about how frigid it was this morning and also enjoying the novelty of it all. In true gardener fashion, he was off to test the extra heaters that would be needed to keep the plants going through this cold snap. The others who work there were all inside, since "they don't know how to dress for this weather." I'm not sure why Kenny and I both felt there was something to be proud of in our actions....after all, the others were inside enjoying morning coffee.

I spent most of the day doing what could be done in the garden, spreading pinestraw, making sure the precious koi were doing ok in this arctic weather, tending some things in the glass house. As much as I enjoy being a martyr, it was an easy choice when Jean said, "What about Mexican for lunch?"

Later in the afternoon, I visited Buck Jones Nursery (another favorite spot!), on the never-ending hunt for the PERFECT plants for the Duchess of Windsor-themed display I'm doing for the Southeastern Flower Show in a couple of weeks. Some of you already know that the direction of said display has changed thirty or forty times, and I'm now buried under a number of different (expensive) plants, each representing a different season of the year (that is now not being considered). This latest incarnation is going to be representative of the winter season, after the Duke had died. (The overall theme of the SEFS garden design division is "Lover, Come Back")

In my usual way I pulled Laurie away from what she was doing to help me find the PERFECT plants, meaning something the world has never seen before, something that will make me look brilliant, and something that isn't expensive......oh, and they have to represent my statement that "winter seems colder now that David is gone."

We probably looked a little ridiculous to a bystander, each in our "this is really silly looking but is keeping me warm" outfit, but we did find a few great candidates. You'll be relieved to know that as of this moment, the climbing hydrangea (just starting to bud) will figure prominently in the display......or end up with the others, unused, in my garden later this year.
PS That's not Buck Jones in the photo with the Duchess of W

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia)

Siderkat from Horticulture Magazine had a question about Datura, which is generally called "Devil's Trumpet" in Atlanta. This is Brugmansia, which is known as "Angel's Trumpet," and is very easy to grow. It's an awesome container plant, though it needs water daily in a container. More details about cultivation to follow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Chowda Weatha!

I was teaching a propogation program last night for a garden club, and a couple of people asked if it was too early to start propogating plants to put out in the garden in late April. I don't know about you, but when they're forecasting temperatures in the single digits for Atlanta, I'm not interested in making new plants! I'm interested in grabbing a blanket, and book and a bowl of hearty soup!

This is a traditional Maine chowder recipe that goes together pretty quickly and has a "stick to your bones" consistency. Enjoy!

Corn & Clam Chowder
· 2 slices bacon, minced
· 1 t. butter
· 1 cup onion, minced
· 1 medium garlic clove, minced
· 1/2 t. each oregano, dill, thyme, basil, sage, and rosemary (all dried)
· 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
· 1 can clams (6-1/2 ounces)
· 1 cup bottled clam juice
· 1-1/2 cups Half and Half
· 1/2 t white pepper
· 1 can creamed corn
· 2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
In a heavy-bottomed kettle, sauté bacon, butter, onion, garlic and spices over low heat. Don’t let it brown. Drain the clams and set aside, reserving the juice. Slowly stir the flour into the bacon mixture, then add the clam juices. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Add cream and simmer 10 minutes. Add white pepper, potatoes, clams and corn. Heat to serving temperature. Do not allow to boil!

Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger)

They're a couple of weeks late if one wants to be a stickler about a name, but what a beautiful sight the Hellebores were this morning! Walking through the shade garden we could feel the beginnings of the cold air that's coming, but the hellebores are open all over the place! What's even more reassuring is knowing that they'll be just fine through this cold snap, and will still look great this weekend when it's back in the 50's!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

This morning was one of those on which I'm thrilled to be in the south, and no longer in New England! As much as we're dreading the "Arctic Front" coming our way, imagine having that weather from November until April!
Walking across the lawn, the sun was delightful, and it's as though the pansies knew they had to soak up the rays and store some warmth for the temperatures in the teens that are being forecasted for later this week.
These are the days when I become very protective of the bulbs that have started to emerge, and get nervous each spring that we'll have no flowers. Somehow, fortunately, I'm always proven wrong.

In the large south border, there are already lots of the miniature daffodils starting to sprout that have naturalized there over the past several years. It's grown into one of those displays that we can't readily imitate on our own, with leaves popping up in the crevice between a couple of boulders, in the midst of a ground cover, etc. It's really a show stopping display when all of the daffodils come into bloom, and across the lawn the color is repeated in the huge forsythia bank.
This year we've added in Narcissus "Petrel," which is supposed to do well all the way down to zone 9 (the top photo).

On the creek bank, the Stars of Bethlehem have started popping up, along with the leaf rosettes from the hyacinths. They are both favorites, and we added 200 more hyacinths this year, all in shades of pale yellows and white.

Leucojum (Summer Snowflake) is also showing signs of coming up, which excites me at the idea of seeing their beautiful white bell flowers again. They look very exotic, and I'm surprise more people don't use them, since they're pretty much foolproof. (The second photo down) They are in a bed with Guinea Hen Frittilaria (the bottom photo), which is another show stopper, but has a fairly short bloom season.

Fortunately the orange Crown Imperial hasn't broken through the ground yet, since I'm sure that will be this year's plant for me to be neurotic about......quick, get more pinestraw, blankets, perhaps a little heat lamp! Or perhaps my compulsion will show with the White Foxtial Lilies that we added to the pastel border. you see a pattern here?
There are also 500 tulips that were planted in November, coming up as a border to the Antique Shades pansies that are in the beds around the house. We mixed three varieties, hoping to get a great blend along with the pansies.

It's only a matter of a couple of weeks ,I would guess, when we get the show along what we call the "Camellia Walk." It's a brick path that is almost completely enclosed with tall red camellias (Henry Kramer, I think). At their base we'll have a mass of white daffodils and deep blue muscari. Hopefully I'll get a better picture this year!

I promised the UPS lady that I would get a photo for her when the allium collection comes into bloom this spring. That was in response to her question, "What did you buy? A million onions? My truck stinks!" She wasn't really amused when I told her the garlic shipment was coming soon....
I guess I'm okay with a cold snap this week, knowing we'll have such an incredible show from the bulbs in six weeks or so!

The Source for Awesome Plants

I think I mentioned it before, but I get virtually all of my annual flowers (summer and winter) from Kelli Green Nurseries in East Cobb. Elaine and crew are just amazing to deal with, and their products have never disappointed me.

I feel strongly about supporting independent local businesses, and Elaine has been involved at Kelli Green for many years; I'm not completely opposed to buying from some of the "big box" stores, but how often is someone from one of those stores going to grow your plant from seeds in her own home garden just to test it out?

The new introduction called "Joey" is something that Elaine recommended, that has been getting great reviews. Hopefully it's going to make an awesome "statement" surrounding a large birdbath at the top of a flight of stone steps.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Plan for the Spring Beds

Sometimes a brick house creates a few challenges in choosing colors for summer annuals. You haven't lived until you've seen fuschia up against terra cotta brick! I do subscribe to the belief that most flowers can work together (as in nature), but the whole fuschia-terra cotta combo sort of pushes me over the edge.

Feel free to steal these ideas. Since the fabulous Elaine (Kelli Green) grows them for me, chances aren't good you're going to find them locally! It's that whole joke about gardening being a competitive sport (If I have something in my garden and you don't, then I win this round!.....)

Anyway, this is the plan:

  • "Honey Bee" Lantana - loves the heat and the dry, will grow most anywhere, even under the crape myrtles - awesome "antique" sort of pastel shades.

  • Sun Devil Apricot Vinca in "Extreme Peach" -- we had great luck with this one last year, in a paler shade, so I'm hoping this shade is as awesome!

  • Purple & White Angelonia. I hadn't grown angelonia before last year, but thought it was a great flower in all regards. Can't wait to use it again!

  • Double Impatiens in Pale Pink and White...just everywhere in containers!

  • Milk Way Light Blue Calibrachoa - the hybridizer says it's specifically bred for Southern humidity

  • "Yellow Moon" Torenia in lots of pots. It needs to be deadheaded every twenty minutes, but it's worth it!

  • White "Tapien" Verbena - same look as Homestead Purple, but white

  • This cool new plant called "Joey" (ptilotus)---- new import from Australia with irridescent pink and silver heard it here first!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Some "Must Have Plants" for 2009

Just finished perusing the new catalog for Select Seeds (have I mentioned before that they are an AWESOME company to buy from?) A few things that I think I definitely need to find homes for this season:

Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) "Betty Marshall"....pure white with pale yellow-green ribs in the flowers...I still love the old-fashioned apricot color, but this one is really amazing looking! It's such a great containter plant, especially if started early indoors.

All of these different nicotianas (Patti and I can never agree on the pronunciation.....), especially the cultivars called "Jasmine" and "Woodland"

Amaranth! The Love-Lies-Bleeding that I planted last year promises to continue bleeding all over the place for the rest of my life, but in the dead of winter I tend to forget how quickly they spread here in Atlanta.....I'm thinking I need to have "viridis" to mix in with the ones I'll inevitably have from last year's LLB seeds.... (Photo above)

Texas Sage "Brenthurst"....The catalog says it's "RARE," which means I really need to have at least one of those plants! Plus, "Mrs." is going to love the color!

"Benary's Giant Lime" cool is this going to look popping up in the midst of the perennial borders?

Black Eyed Susan Vine "Alba".....this definitely looks like the start of a great container arrangement, climbing up a beautiful black tuteur

Clematis "Chinese Lanterns" along with Clematis "Roguchi".....I can just picture how beautiful that will be climbing up through the tea olive hedge (That's "Roguchi" above)

Apple Blossom Rosebud this one last year (three of them), and they are still going strong in the greenhouse! This is a really special plant!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chevre with Figs Recipe

It was pointed out that after 30 years in the food business, I should have posted more than one recipe here at this point. Here's a spread that I made for a meeting last night, which was really well received. Most importantly, it goes together in about ten minutes!

Chevre with Figs

1 lb. chevre
14 oz package dried figs (I usually use "golden figs" when dried)
1 t. fresh basil, finely chopped
1 t. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 c. sour cream
2 T. milk
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Snip the figs into small pieces with kitchen shears, put into a heat proof bowl, and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for five minutes to plump in the water, then drain and squeeze the excess water out.

Meanwhile, mix together (with a hand or stand mixer) the remaining ingredients. Add the drained figs, mix a little more, and it's done!

I serve this with ginger snaps for an interesting contrast in flavors.


The Sun Came Back this Afternoon.......

After what seems like weeks of rain (more than 5 inches so far this year), the sun finally came out this afternoon.

Walking on the lawn is a little like tip-toeing across the surface of a sponge, but the coral bark maple "Sango Kaku" and the "Winter King" Hawthornes look unbelievable in the bright light! The daffodils and hyacinths have just started showing a little bit of their leaves above the surface of the ground, the witch hazels are about to burst into color, and the forsythia buds are starting to swell, as well. I know we've barely begun winter, but it looks like I'm not the only one waiting for spring to arrive soon!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rain, rain, don't go away!

For those of you outside the metro-Atlanta area, you may not be aware of what a severe drought we've been having here. 2007 seems to have been the worst, with 2008 slightly better.

I know it's early in the new year, but as of this afternoon, we've had 4.15 inches of rain for the calendar year so far (at Lake Alatoona). Since we only had 3.46 inches for the entire month of January 2008, I'm cautiously optimistic......but still not putting my rain dance outfit back in the closet yet!
Just for the record, the average rainfall at this site is 5.5 inches for January, so we're off to a good start!

The Catalogs are Here! The Catalogs are Here!

Sometimes I think the marketing people from the seed and plant companies are the real "big brother" we hear so much about. Just as I finished packing up the Christmas decorations, the catalogs for spring started to arrive in the mailbox. What better way to spend a winter evening than checking out all of the new things being offered for 2009!

Since none of the catalogs I've seen are offering a legitimate money tree for sale, I'm being somewhat conservative with my new purchases (or at least that's the plan!), but can't wait to sit down and come up with a definite order from at least a couple of the companies.....after all, if we're experiencing a recessed economy, it's my DUTY to buy a few of these.....