Monday, August 30, 2010

Should We Go? What Shall We Wear?

Ok, so I obsess just a little (can one "obsess" a lttle?) about the fact that there is a TEN YEAR wait to get access to Prince Charles' Highgrove Farms.  I've finally come to terms with the fact that it is not on the itinerary for the England trip, though I do feel they should make an exception for my fiftieth birthday.  The Prince's office, however, feels differently.

Imagine my delight when I found out about "A Garden Party to Make a Difference," which Charles and Camilla (I like to think we're on a first name basis) are hosting at Clarence House. By pure coincidence, we're going to be in London while this event is going on.  I need to find a new hat, because we are SO going to this!  I'm sure as soon as they meet us, they'll put us on the guest list for William and Kate's wedding......

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Summer Crispy Stuff

Randy at Creating Our Eden posted a photo showing some of this summer's heat damage a couple of days ago, and challenged others of us who blog about our gardens to show some photos of current condition.  Here's a "gallery" of what this crazy summer heat has done in the Stepchild Garden.... 

Only the rosemary has survived in the Baker's Rack Herb Garden outside the kitchen door......
Remnants of Hydrangea macrophylla "Tokyo Delight," below....
Do you think this liatris is going to see another spring???
Can anyone say, "Petunias"???
Fortunately, I can always look in the other direction, where the roses and moonvine have completely overtaken the arbor, and are now marching toward the neighbor's house

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Felt It! I Definitely Felt A Cool Breeze!

Whether true or not, I am taking full credit for bringing the cooler weather to Georgia! 
We were at my parents' house in New Hampshire last weekend, where it was in the 60's and raining for most of our stay.  After weeks of 90-plus temps in Georgia, though, it was DELIGHTFUL!  Frank was freezing for most of our visit, but I enjoyed every minute.....we didn't use the air conditioning in the car or the house!

When we got back home, it was definitely still summer in Atlanta, but the humidity seems to have disappeared and it's actually tolerable being outside.  I'm going to spend tomorrow going through the Stepchild Garden, removing and cutting back all of those things that are at that "crispy, crispy, crispy" point.  I think I'm going with a Minimalist theme for the rest of the summer........  

Friday, August 20, 2010

Groundcover for an Impossible Area

This photo shows a short walkway (about 25 feet, so maybe not so short) at the Big House, that breaks up what would otherwise be a pretty major hill or flight of stairs to get from one area of the grounds to another.  It only gets "windows" of sun, but when the sun hits, it is blistering!
For two years I looked at struggling espaliered Camellia japonica, underplanted with vinca.  It simply never looked good.  I think I've hit on a good combination for this area, even though all of the "experts" say it shouldn't work well here.  It is heavy clay soil, with major amounts of lime that leach into the soil from the brick wall footings.  In any case, for me it's working, and you should feel free to steal the idea. 

We planted Rose "Sombreil" along the trellis, and underplanted it with prostrate rosemary.  Both are loving life in this spot, and the combination of the two distinct fragrances is awesome!

Pipevine in A Container at the Big House

This is one of those plants that "ya just gotta have" somewhere in the garden.  It's not winter hardy here (zone 7B-8, depending upon who you ask), so I'm planning to bring it into the greenhouse this winter and see what happens.  Has anyone else tried overwintering these?  I have the native species in the Stepchild Garden, and it does just fine overwintering, but the flowers are tiny little things.  (In fact, I've already told Patti she can have the native one for her's not worth the space in my mind.)
It is officially Artistolochia elegans, though they are apparently in the midst of renaming it Aristolochia littoralils.  If you have kids or pets who are going to feel a need to touch this, please be aware that the plant is pretty toxic, and is particularly linked to kidney issues.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Containers

Here are two new containers I picked up this week that I thought were pretty cool.  The hummingbird box is one of a pair for the big house, and it's actually a "rust" finish over concrete, so completely maintenance free.  The Celestial Maiden planter is for the Stepchild Garden.  Please ignore the fact that she's sitting in a bed of weeds in this shot.  The container weighs 95 pounds, and got prompty placed on the ground near the truck until I move it to its permanent home!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Only English Shrub Roses!

I was pruning and deadheading roses at the Big House yesterday, and it was just like every other ending the process by declaring, "I'm only ever growing English roses!"  A couple of the hybrid teas are looking like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree between the black spot and miscellaneous funky things they all seem to develop, but the English roses are blooming their guts out!  This top one is Graham Thomas, which never seems to stop putting on a show.
Abraham Darby was just planted last year, and is certainly holding its own with the others...... 
William Morris is a delightful, exuberant, "fluffy" rose with a really wonderful, almost spicy fragrance. 
All of these are David Austin roses, which we got locally at Autumn Hill Nursery. 

Benary's Giant Zinnias

The walled garden at the Big House is mostly an area where we plant vegetables and flowers for cutting to go into the house.  At this time of year, that means it's generally a lot of tomatoes, okra and basil.  Some things have fried from the heat, while some of the others aren't blooming yet.  Very little color is going on, except for these incredible zinnias!
Last year I planted just one color of Benary's Giant Zinnias (I got them from Johnny's Seeds, but most all of the seed companies have them), and this year I planted three packs.  I can't say enough good about how this guys perform.  Our weather has been just brutal for the past couple of weeks, with heat index numbers hovering around 100 to 105 degrees; that has been interspersed with ten minute bounds of TORRENTIAL rain that smashes everything else to the ground.  Through it all, these babies have continued to shine, and without powdery mildew!  (Even my shoes end up with powdery mildew in Georgia in August......)

Next year I'm buying the mixed pack of 500 seeds, and scattering them throughout the garden!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The End of An Era

I got an email from a gardening friend a couple of days ago, just confirming the news that we all knew was coming.  The bankruptcy auction has been scheduled for Park Seed and it's various divisions (including Jackson & Perkins), part of the Chapter 11 "restructuring" the company is undergoing.

What a sad ending for an American institution.  I don't think there are many gardeners who couldn't recognize this logo as quickly as the golden arches.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Garden Magic

I don't usually write about the Master Gardener meetings, although it is a group that I'm pretty passionate about, and quite active with.  Tonight's meeting, though, had a great energy about it, which came almost as a surprise to me.  Since I'm in charge of booking programs for the monthly meetings, and spent almost 30 years as a caterer and event planner,  it's rare that I'm surprised like that.

Instead of our usual meeting space, we met in the "shed" at a large vegetable garden (about 7 acres in total).  The property is owned by a retired developer, and it's where he and many of his friends garden, simply for the love of gardening.  Most of them are executives in varying stages of their careers, one is the County Manager; in the garden, though, they are all equals.  The garden is a really special place in and of itself, since these guys can't possibly use the volume of food they produce; as a result, virtually anyone can come and do "chores" for a few hours just once, or they can come back whenever they want just to help in the garden.  They are encouraged to take whatever produce they can realistically use for their families, and the balance of the crops are donated to soup kitchens, senior housing buildings, the Boys and Girls Clubs, etc.,etc.

The meeting program was pretty loose, and since it was literally 96 degrees when the meeting started, I expected there to be a fairly small turnout.  Boy, was I surprised!  By the time the meeting was underway, we had at least 60 people there, all sweating like beasts, fanning ourselves with leftover paper fans from a County event in 2007.  All of this in a cinder block building in the middle of a field, with old fashioned fly paper hanging over our heads.

As dusk fell, we strolled the acres of gardens, petted the burros (and one orphaned deer fawn) they raise, pulled peanuts from the ground, and ate cherry tomatoes off the vines.  There was no pretense, there were no discussions of the proper way to prune, there was no plant snobbery.  It was simply a great evening in the middle of the vegetables for a group of friends who love to garden.

The heat lightning off in the distance as we wrapped up the event was the perfect end to the evening.  There really is a magic in gardens.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perhaps It's Time to Prune?

The weather in metro-Atlanta has been just plain nasty lately, with temps in the mid-to-high 90's every day for what seems like months!  To top it off, every day the weather forecast is for a "30% chance of long as your house is facing east, painted blue, and a Dutch Colonial" I sound bitter?  Seriously, the weather pattern has been so bizarre, the Big House sometimes gets 2 inches of rain in an hour, and at home, we get none (or vice versa).  Fortunately the Big House (where I get paid to make it beautiful) has a great irrigation system; unfortunately the Stepchild Garden does not.  Every time I go outside at home, I am reminded of the Hefty bag commercial, but in this case it's "crispy, crispy, crispy...."

Certain of the plants, however, are delighting in this weather.  Here's a shot of one section of the perennial border at home.  Everything is toast except for Rudbeckia and Verbena bonariensis, which are about waist high!  Those other things are the tops of the Lythrum "Morden's Pink," which really need to be pruned, but they're going to need to wait for a cloudy day.
A little further down the way, here is the arbor that marks the entrance to the garden at home.  The moonvine and New Dawn rose are so out of control at this moment, they are both reaching out to grab unsuspecting children who walk by on the way to the bus stop.  I like my friends, and I want them to visit (no, really, I do.....but in August I really just like the moonvine more......)
Have a fabulous and cool day.......

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Pretty Serious Container Arrangement

My sister took this photo of a "container arrangement" someone had done in her little town (Eliot, Maine).  It takes that whole wheelbarrow idea to a whole new level!  (As always, click to make it's pretty fabby!)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A New Favorite Cookbook

I've been doing a lot of cooking lately from Jamie at Home, since it suits my frame of mind during the summertime (and year round, for that matter).  I've always like Jamie Oliver's approach to doing simple foods in a simple manner, without the fru-fru.  It might be part of my aging, but I'd much rather spent a great evening sitting around the table eating and drinking with friends than put on a jacket and tie to go to the "latest and hottest" restaurant.  We only live twenty minutes from Buckhead, but most of the restaurants aren't going to allow my flip flops.

Last night I was dodging thunderstorms and grilling out some assorted chicken sausages from Harry's, and I served Jamie Oliver's Roasted Carrots with Orange, Garlic and Thyme along with Cricket's pasta salad.  All in all a pretty good, definitely not fru-fru dinner. (I'm not sure that's the name of the recipe, but it's in the book.)  Bon appetit!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Barefoot Contessa's Tuscan Grilled Chicken

As I probably should have guessed, I've already gotten two emails asking me to explain "spatchcocked chicken," so here's how it's done.  Once you've flattened a chicken this way, you'll see what I mean about Sadie's pose on the floor.....not really ladylike.

Place the whole chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using poultry shears (or a knife, if you’re good), cut from the neck to the tailbone on either side of the backbone to remove it. The bird is now shaped like a file folder, for lack of a better description. Make a small slit in the cartilage at the base of the breastbone, and grab the bird with both hands, and open up like a book, facing down towards the cutting board. Remove the keel bone (it’s triangular, sort of), so you can open it completely flat, but it’s still one piece.

Now that you've done this to the chicken, you might as well make Ina Garten's Tuscan Chicken recipe, which is a favorite of mine. (Click on the link's really a link, though Blogspot has made it some lovely shade of chartreuse.) For the record, I have a gas grill, and it works just fine.

Barefoot Contessa Tuscan Chicken

Weather Not Fit for Man Nor Beast!

Just got home from the Big House, and casually hooked the leash onto Sadie's collar for the afternoon walk.  We made it about ten feet from the porch when she made it clear I could walk by myself in this weather!  It's 95 degrees at the moment, and you can drink the air, with a "heat index" of 105.  Sadie is already back on the tiled floor of the bathroom, in her spatchcocked chicken pose.
This was one of those days at work when clipping hydrangeas for arrangements or watering the containers at the pool left us soaking wet. Sweat bands and bad hair are the look of the week.  By contrast, I have never seen so many butterflies and hummingbirds, who are just delighting in the heat! 

At least if we are going to melt, we might as well enjoy the sights!

To add insult to injury, I just got an email from the B & B where we're staying in England in September.  It's 67 degrees, dry and sunny at the moment.........

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Please Pardon my (lack of) Post

It was already 90 degrees at 11:30 in Atlanta, so not the most perfect of gardening days.  One of those days on which I break into a sweat pulling a single weed, which won't even begin to make a dent in the Stepchild Garden!

As a result, it's the perfect day to just ENJOY the Stepchild Garden for a couple of hours.  Lemonade in my signature QT cup, sitting in one of the chairs that Chuck built, on the porch of the "Not Shed," reading some more of the book I'm reading about Sissinghurst.