Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Plantings in Winter Looking for Shapes and Textures

Cabin fever is setting in pretty deep as January winds down. Long Island has had an unusually snowy and icy month with temperatures which haven't broken the freezing mark. I started my walk about with the six blueberry bushes out back. Severe Fall pruning resulted in new growth that turned out to be red.No evidence of the many Snowdrop bulbs, Galanthus, that line my garden boarders could be found. Over the last thirty plus years, these bulbs have been planted, dug up and replanted, so that there are thousands of them outlining the backyard. It is almost impossible to get every bulblet when moving these little winter gems, but that's O.K. because they create small clumps in a few years time. No Snowdrops, but there were Daffodils huddled up next to the foundation of my kitchen wing that were showing. Snowdrops on Long Island can bloom right through the snow in January or February, hence the name, but we have been so cold this year they are still underground.This is a Clematis vine. Not a terribly special one, just the usual deep purple flowers,but this plant has been growing for over ten years. Sometimes the more common varieties of plants do best and last the longest. In the fall brush away any dried up tendrils and tie it up for Spring.Some Hosta seed pods are larger than most. This old variety, just plain green, has interesting pods in winter.Maybe birds eat the seeds but it was worth leaving them on until March to find out. Many of the plants and shrubs that are at Jarvis House have been planted with Winter birds in mind.This common variety Japonica shrub came with the Jarvis House. It has been moved it to its present location. Japonica, along with Forsythia, and Star Magnolia buds, make wonderful branches for forcing, which is another way to bridge the really cold days of Winter with Spring in the garden. Mahonia, or Oregon Grape Holly, is a very beautiful bush all year long.This picture was taken today. The shiny interesting leaves and grape like berries berries are stand outs in the Winter landscape. This particular bush was a rescue shrub, that someone was about to bulldoze while subdividing an older property. It has grown to enormous proportions. Rose of Sharon pods open up like blossoms in Winter. This shrub, which some think of as a weed, can be the only thing of color in August. Just to be safe,it is planted on the lot line as they are notorious self starters and can pop up everywhere.Bamboo should only be planted in areas where boundaries are not a concern. Not only is this shrub a rampant grower, but it is extremely difficult to dig up. This variety grows very tall and has large leaves. It was in a swampy area of the garden. Never plant bamboo near a pool. They have been known to pierce pool liners. If one insists, then find a 50 gallon drum, metal, they grow through plastic, and sink into into the soil, then plant the clump of bamboo. Bamboo comes in thousands of varieties and this one seems to be evergreen on Long Island. One can make excellent plant stakes from spent bamboo canes.Butterfly bushes in the Jarvis Garden grow as much as three feet in a season. They receive a severe pruning in the fall. Little gray clumps of leaves follow. Butterfly bushes were planted under both kitchen windows so that butterflies in the summer months can be plainly seen while we are cooking.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Making Applesauce Back to the Basics

Making applesauce seems to be something that everyone should have tried. But when I decided to use home made applesauce preserved in beautiful traditional canning jars as a fund raiser for church, many people had never done this at home. They had never seen a sieve as pictured above and had not done any canning. Actually I had never canned applesauce, and usually keep it in the refrigerator or had frozen it in containers. Click here
for the directions to can applesauce.
Grocery stores always seem to have a display of fruit and vegetables that are been packaged for a quick sale, at reduced prices. Look for apples. The best applesauce and apple pies are made by combining apples of different varieties. Beautiful pink applesauce is made by leaving all of the skins on when you cook the apples.
Use both green and red apple varieties and cook the stems, seeds and cores. It is very fast an simple to just cut the apples into small chunks and pop them into a large 12 quart stainless pot with a cover. Start with 2 cups of water so that the pot bottom does not scorch.
Stir the apples with a wooden spoon so that the chunks at the top get to the bottom of the pot and cook well. Allow the apples to cook down and soften.
Transfer the cooked apples from the pot to the sieve. If you have a Foley Mill, that works well, but this old aluminum food mill really works better and is easily cleaned and stored. When you can't squeeze out anymore applesauce, throw the remaining stems, peels, and seeds into your compost pile or simply discard. The applesauce is now ready for a snack,the freezer or for Applesauce, Raisin, Walnut Cake. This applesauce contains nothing but water and apples and is great for people who are watching their sugar intake, and for babies. People were amazed by the wonderful sweet taste, but only eat a half cup or so at a time because it is also a fabulous way to stay regular!

The paper whites bloomed, January 25th!This is a sieve that was made many years ago by the Wear-Ever company, made in the USA. It is a no.8 and the pat.# are 1556275,1505456, 1761067. I went onto their web site, but no luck. I even called them about this sieve. My best advice it to look at antique and thrift shops. I have seen the wooden pestle, and the cone piece sold separately. Maybe you can assemble one. If not, we can flood them with requests to re-release this valuable kitchen tool. There are no moving parts, and it does not require electricity to operate, only, as my mom would say, "elbow grease."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Planting Paperwhites

Sometimes when you are trying to achieve a 12 month garden you have to go inside. This is a picture of a shallow bowl that I found at a local thrift shop before Christmas. When I saw it I knew that it would be the perfect container for planting Paperwhites.
I went to my local orange home store, you know the one that I mean, and got a large bag full of pea gravel for a little over $4.00. You can buy chips of marble stone but I thought that these looked more naturalistic, and I could use the leftover stones for planting in the spring to give my outdoor container pots some drainage. I started this project on January 7th.Then I scooped the pebbles into the container and filled it almost all the way.
I purchases two boxes of Paperwhites at the home improvement store for $5.98 each.
They came with plastic planting pots and peat pots which I put away for other jobs.
Next I gently pushed the bulbs into the pebbles, so that they were half way covered. The white "necks" should be up. After that I added more pebbles to give them something more to hold on to, without covering them up.
A dish garden like this does will in a sunny window, so I found a spot in my front hallway and added water.

Believe it or not they started growing in just a few days, and those brown strange looking bulbs with those white "necks" grew and turned green. Jan 7th.
This picture was taken on the 13th. They grew.And grew. This picture was taken on the 16th.
This picture was taken on the 19th. The only thing that I did in addition to replenishing the water, was to rotate the dish a bit when I thought of it.
Now you'll have to wait a day or two to see the flowers, but I thought that you might want to start the garden as soon as possible. The buds are ready to pop. Have fun with this. One warning, these flowers in bloom might have a strange fragrance , but beauty hath no pain, as they say. Next blog, the flowers, promise.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jarvis House friends Jilli Dog & Rick Caran

These are my friends Rick Caran & Jilli Dog. After seeing the blog about the potato soup Rick called me up to see if there was any left. He & Jilli came over to sample some. Rick is a silk floral designer by trade, but for the past few years he has really focused on training an amazing Yorkie named Jilli. By way of the Internet, You Tube, pet conventions, trade magazines, and spots on many T.V. programs, they have become internationally known.
Jilli performs many adorable tricks including playing basketball. But she is best know for her winning ways with poker! She really knows how to win.
Rick has another dog named Spidey, a Chihuahua. The magical thing about these two dogs is the way that they work together on tricks. Often times Jilli is the one being trained, but Spidey looks on and learns to copy the trick and helps out too.
Here are the two dogs doing a new trick. When Rick gives them the command, they go across the room to a book, and place their paws on the book. Seems simple, but try and get your dog to do that. Another trick Rick has taught Jilli to do is to pull a tissue out of a tissue box and to bring it to someone who has sneezed. The dogs have been encouraged to do tricks with people other than Rick. It makes for an interesting evening if they come for dinner and I have other friends there too. The dogs are always well behaved and welcome.
You will often see Jilli Dog riding inside Rick's coat. Check out Jilli the Poker playing dog here or on You Tube, and watch Rick train his pets with "Five Minutes a Day" lessons.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter Plants for a 12 Month Garden Zone 7

This is a Callicarpa bodinieri giraldii, or as I call it the Purple Berry Bush. I purchased this bush at a local family owned garden center in town. In order to achieve a 12 month garden, you need plants that will bloom or show some color or interesting feature during the winter months, even when they are covered with ice and snow. I planted this bush right in front of my house so that I could see it from a kitchen window. Birds, especially Mockingbirds and Cardinals love to eat the berries. In the wild, this shrub doesn't produce a lot of berries, but if you severely prune it in March, after the birds have had their fill, it will make huge purple clusters the next fall.
Another favorite winter plant at Jarvis house is the Winter Jasmine, which droops over the low stone edging at the corner front of my barn. This plant blooms several months before Forsythia, and has waxy red buds and yellow trumpet blooms. New Plants are easily started whenever branches touch the ground. It is especially nice for rock walls as it cascades down over high places.
One of the first trees that I planted at Jarvis, over 30 years ago, was an American holly. Each year it produces huge bunches of red berries and beautiful large shiny leaves. This tree is remarkably resilient to all extremes of weather. One winter, on Long Island, we had terrible winds and all of the large leaf hollies here lost their leaves. I thought that the tree was going to die, but it came right back. Honey bees cover the tree each spring. With the disappearance of honey bees, I thought that I would not get berries. If there are male and female hollies within a mile of your garden you will probably get berries. There are still some honey bees around and other insects must be pollinating the tree because it had berries this year.
Recently I tried out some large grasses, varieties of Miscanthus. Not only are they really luxurious in the driest days of August, but they are take on wonderful shapes with snow and ice. In the spring I cut them back with old fashioned hedge clippers. They look like large scissors. They can be easily split with a spade if they get too large.

Another winter plant of interest is a small leaf variegated Holly. I have planted these shrubs all over my yard for their interesting foliage. They grow very slowly, but they are also quite tolerant of weather extremes, and seem to grow well even with limited light. I have a plain small leaf Japanese Holly that grew into a beautiful large shrub even though it was planted near a Norway Maple! Now that's a great plant.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Good Day for Soup

Today the temperature is around 32 degrees and freezing. It's a good day for soup. I had a leftover spiral ham from the holidays and I didn't know what to do with it. Split pea soup with ham is everyone's favorite, but not mine, so I decided to try and make ham & potato soup. Thanks goodness for the Internet. I found a basic recipe and followed it loosely.

I browned some chopped onion with a bit of oil in a large pot.

Next I added chopped celery, chopped & peeled potatoes, and small bits of the ham. I added about 3 cups of water and brought it to a boil.
In another smaller pot I combined 5 tablespoons of butter, and five tablespoons of flour with a drop of milk. I whisked it and slowly added more milk, about 1 1/2 cups of milk in total. When you add this mixture to the soup it begins to look creamy. Just cook it a little longer, and add salt and pepper to taste.

A little about the pottery bowl. This small crock was made in England, and I believe it is made from the same sort of brown clay that "Brown Betty" teapots are made of. This clay keeps everything really warm for a long time, and makes a great teapot as well as a great soup bowl. The pottery makers mark is shown below. I hope that you will stay warm with this soup.