Monday, August 25, 2008
Here's one of the first vases I made so I could display some of the lavender I grow. To uncomplicate my life a bit and to have more time to devote to things I love, I've decided to combine my gardening and ceramic blogs. From now on if you want to know what's happening in my gardens, you'll have to tune in to my ceramics blog at Blue Starr Gallery You'll probably see more about ceramics than gardening, but since a lot of my ceramics inspiration comes from nature and my gardens, you'll be able to hear about my gardening adventures too. Hope to see you at Blue Starr Gallery.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The jelly palm can grow to 20 feet, but usually only attains 12 feet or so. It has long curving palm leaves which are a silvery green color or blue green. I purchased my jelly palm four years ago as a 15 gallon sized plant at a local nursery. The palm produced fruit the second year. Now in its fourth year in the ground it is starting to show an actual trunk and is much larger. I'm looking forward to many visits to the palm in the next few weeks to harvest more of the delicious fruit.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The Black Monukka Grapes are now ripe and boy are they good, so sweet, and seedless too. This year they aren't quite as big as last year. I was reading that if it is a dry winter, the grapes need to be irrigated even before they put on leaves and I think I was negligent with this, so I will have to remember that from now on. In fact, probably all plants need water in the winter if it doesn't rain. Sometimes when plants have dropped their leaves it's easy to forget they need water since their leaves don't show any signs of water stress.
By the way this grape photo is one of my very favorite photographs I have taken in my gardens. I just love the wonderful dusky color of the grapes, almost like a water color painting. All my photographs are copyrighted. If you wish to use any of my photos, please contact me through Springville Lavender Gardens.
Last year a gentleman to my gardens looked at the Black Monukka Grapes and said, "They are kind of small, aren't they?" I suggested he taste one. Then he said, "Those are unbelievably delicious, nothing like the ones in the grocery store!" We are so conditioned by the produce in the grocery store, big isn't always better when it comes to taste. Several visitors have told me about commercial growers girdling the trunk of the grape to get the grapes to grow bigger and wondered if I was going to do this. No, why should I? I have some wonderful grapes and they taste good, so why chance messing up a good thing.
More peaches are ripe too - Fay Elberta. Now these are really big this year - almost five inches long. This peach is a yellow freestone with fuzzy skin with a little red blush. The skin is thicker than the Red Haven peach skin. Last year I was talking to a commercial stone fruit farmer and he told me when the peaches get an inch in size to deep water them at least two times a week until you pick the fruit. This definitely has done the trick. When I got to thinking about it, it seems logical that all that fruit would need much more water than just a tree with leaves.
You might notice in the upper right hand corner of the peach photo, a metal hook attached to a stake. I prop my peach tree branches and other fruit branches when they get heavily laden with fruit. This prevents the branches from snapping off. If your tree has a lot of fruit, the branches can only support so much weight before they snap off. I'm speaking from experience here. This is really important and is especially true with peaches. Sometimes younger tree branches aren't strong enough yet or haven't obtained enough girth to support the amount of fruit they produce either. The stakes are about 8 feet in length and the metal hangers or hooks are movable up and down the stake depending upon the height of the branch you are trying to prop up. I got my stakes and hooks at the local Fruit Growers supply nearby.
Friday, July 18, 2008
When one tree produces more than 300 peaches, you have to be creative on what to do with all of those peaches. I've dried or dehydrated tomatoes before and they were really good, so I thought I would try drying or dehydrating peaches. I got my dehydrator several years ago at a department store. I'm starting with about 16 medium sized peaches, juice from 4 limes, a small strainer, a mixing bowl filled with water, a cutting board, and a paring knife.
The peaches should be ripe, but firm. I washed the peaches off, just to get the dust off. I don't use any pesticides, so there is no unwanted residue in that category. I slice the peach in half and remove the pit. Then I slice the peach in half again and holding the peach quarter in my right hand, I take my left thumb and peel off the skin. I am growing Red Haven peaches. These peaches are wonderful because not only do they taste good, they have little to no fuzz, the skin peels off readily, and they are freestone, which means the pit can be removed very easily from the fruit. Cling peaches don't do this, which makes it hard to remove the pits for canning, drying or freezing.
Pour the lime juice, or you can use lemon juice, in the mixing bowl with the water. If you don't have any lemons or limes, you can use ascorbic acid found in the canning section of your local grocery store. I happened to be at the 99 cent store the other day and got a whole bag of Persian limes for, yes, just 99 cents. Make sure the stainer is submerged in the water when it is placed over the bowl. Now take the pitted and peeled peaches and slice them again which means they are now cut into eighths. When you get two peaches pitted, peeled and cut up, place them in the strainer and submerge into the citrus water for no longer than 5 minutes. Soaking the peaches in the citrus water prevents them from oxidizing in the air, turning brown and helps retain the vitamins. After soaking the peaches for a short time, drain the water over the bowl, letting most of the water fall back into the mixing bowl (for the next batch of peaches). Now arrange these peaches in rows on your dehydrator rack close together, but not touching. You want to leave a little space between each peach slice so the air can circulate around and dry them out. Now go back to pitting, peeling and slicing two more peaches and so on till you get all of your dehydrator racks filled.
Dehydrate on 135 F till dry. I put the peaches on at 11 am. You'll have to wait to see how long it takes them to dry. I also want check the electric meter to see how much energy dehydrating takes. The amount of time to dehydrate will vary depending upon the variety of the peach, how ripe and juicy it is, and the brand of dehydrator utilized. To be continued...
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Today I went to visit my friend Judy to see her new method of growing vegetables. Judy read about building raised block bins and using rice hulls to amend the soil. Judy says her vegetables are twice as big as they were last year and attributes their health and size to using the rice hulls. That's the light colored stuff you see in the soil. Judy constructed the bins by stacking the block and overlapping the seams. It wasn't necessary to use any mortar as the block is strong enough to hold back the soil.
Judy's also has bent PVC pipe and inserted each end in the block. She uses the PVC pipe to place plastic over the bins if a frost is threatened or can put up some shade cloth if the weather gets too hot. I could even see some vines climbing up the PVC pipe.
Here's Judy's potato bin. She ran out of block, so she built this one out of wood. The beauty of a raised bin with rice hull, lightened soil, is digging for the potatoes is going to be super easy.
Judy made some scrumptious lunch too and the main course was curried okra, um um good! That's Judy's okra patch shown in the second photo. As the summer winds on, Judy said the okra gets over 6 feet tall and keep producing. We also had rice, summer squash and I brought some of my minted eggplant. Lunch was like dinner. I never eat that much for lunch, but I recalled visiting my grandmother in Arkansas when I was a child and remembered we always had a big meal for a late lunch and then something light for dinner.
Here's Judy's Curried Okra recipe: 1 pound young okra pods, stem-end cut off and discarded, chopped into 1/2 inch sections. Begin stir frying okra over medium heat in a little olive oil, stirring frequently. After about 10 minutes, add 1 red onion, finely chopped, and 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp curry powder, 1/4 tsp ground turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Stir fry another 5 minutes, until onions are soft. Serve hot as a vegetable side dish, a main dish, or cold on bread as a sandwich. Even if you don't like okra, this is one recipe you have got to try, it is simply delicious.
Thank you Judy, for a wonderful visit and a super lunch.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Another online blog recommended not requiring a sign in on blogs to increase blog comments. So in the interest of sharing and increasing comments, which is why I started this blog in the first place, I am putting myself out there. If you wanted to make a comment about a previous post, but decided not to because of the sign in hindrance, please do so now. I'd love to hear from you.
I hope I'm not deluged with a ton of spam.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I found three ripe eggplant this morning. I've grown eggplant before, but my plants never did that well. At this location they seem to do well. I think they are getting the heat and humidity they need to thrive. Eggplant is one of those vegetables that takes on the flavors you add to it. Most people have heard about Eggplant Parmesan, but have you heard of Minted Eggplant? Well, here's the quick and easy recipe, perfect for a hot summer day.
2-3 large eggplant
4 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 cup very finely chopped mint leaves
juice from 5 limes
Slice eggplant about half an inch thick,
leaving the skins on. Steam eggplant
in a vegetable steamer till just tender,
but not falling apart. About 12 minutes.
Quickly remove eggplant and immerse
in an ice water bath to stop cooking process.
Drain eggplant well. Put one layer of
eggplant in the bottom of a casserole dish,
layer with minced garlic and finely chopped
mint leaves, making sure you get some mint
and garlic on each eggplant slice.
Continue with another layer until
you run out of eggplant.
Drizzle with fresh lime juice
over the entire casserole.
Let marinate for about two hours.
Serve room temperature or slightly chilled.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I finally got some wet floral foam yesterday, so I could take advantage of some of the flowers blooming in the garden and a few floral arrangements. Here you see a footed round milk glass vase arranged with Bee Balm, Black Dahlia and Shasta Daisy. I used Modesto Ash for greenery. All of these items are growing in the gardens here. As soon as I am caught up, I plan on having a floral arranging demonstration and class here in the gardens. If you are interested, please give me call. Happy Fourth of July weekend to you all.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Achillea millefolium 'Paprika', Yarrow
Kniphofia uvaria, Red Hot Poker or Torch Lily
Hypericum androsaemum 'Aubury Purple', St. John's-wort
Gallardia 'Torchlight', Blanket Flower
Leucanthemum 'Agalia', Shasta Daisy (fringed)
Echinacea 'Primadonna Rose', Purple Cone Flower
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
My Moorpark Apricots and Red Haven Peaches are ripe at the same time this year. Since I don't use any pesticides, they may have a few blemishes, but isn't a small spot worth being able to eat a fresh piece of fruit right off the tree without the worry of wondering what residual chemical is left on the fruit.
I can't say enough about the Red Haven peach. These peaches are a very early variety; it's almost the end of June and they are all just about ready to pick. The Red Haven is a yellow freestone with wonderful color, thin skin, and little fuzz. Peaches are rich in Vitamin A, C, E, Potassium, Calcium and Iron. Once you have had one of these peaches you never want another variety of peach again.
The Moorpark Apricots are smaller than you might get in the grocery store, but are much tastier. They ripen quickly and should be picked when a little firm since just a half a day in the house they are more than ripe. Apricots are rich in Vitamin A, B and C, Calcium, Copper, Iron, and Phosphorus and are very good for you.
I'll be sending out my newsletter, letting you know the fruit is ripe. Hurry the apricots and peaches sell out quickly.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Okra, I like it fried, pickled and fresh. I'm learning lots of wonderful things about okra this year. Okra, also know as Lady's Fingers, originated from West Africa, is in the mallow family, and loves the heat. If you plant it too early in the season the seed will rot. So wait till the soil warms up and plant your okra seed. The roots don't like to be disturbed so if you purchase a plant already started carefully place it in the soil. The plant grows almost 6 feet tall and produces edible pods rich in Vitamins A, C, B complex, iron, calcium and fiber.
Pick okra when it is about 4 to 5 inches long, any longer and okra becomes very tough and fibrous. The largest pod above is too long and is very tough. Okra is related to the kenaf plant. Rope and paper can be made with the fibers of the plant. You can reduce the sliminess of okra by washing just before cooking and not cutting the okra too many times. The more you cut it the more slimy it becomes. I have been steaming the tender pods and eating them as a snack, boy are they good. Fried okra is a favorite food in the South, breaded with cornmeal. Okra is also added to gumbo to thicken the broth, that's when the sliminess is welcome.
I'm finding okra easy to grow. My four plants are producing edible pods every day and my plants are only a about a foot and a half tall. I had four plants and I have put in 4 more, so I may have an overabundance of okra soon. If you're looking to try fresh okra, stop in for a visit, and I'll pick you some okra right off the plant.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Our lavender is finally mature this year after being in the ground almost 4 years and our harvest is plentiful. So we are offering a free bunch of lavender with each purchase in our gallery, Blue Starr Gallery, or our garden gift shop, Springville Lavender Gardens, while supplies last and limited to the supplies on hand each day. Limit one per customer per day please. That means when we run out of bunches each day, you'll have to wait till we pick more the next day, because lavender does best picked in the morning rather than in the hot sun. I do better, too, Ha!
Our gallery is located in our garden gift shop and we have ceramic art, mosaics, photographic gift cards, and mixed media collage on display for sale all made by yours truly. Each piece of art is an original design and is handmade. Our garden gift shop carries fresh and dried flowers, soaps, lotions, bath salts, potpourri, sachets, and much more. Our hours are posted on our message machine and under News and Events on our garden website. Hope to see you soon.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I had the pleasure of finding a copy of a rare book, From Fingers to Finger Bowls, written by Helen Walker Linsenmeyer, for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1972. The book is a "Sprightly History of California Cooking" and begins with Native American days and ends in the 1900's. Helen Linsenmeyer researched the book while living in Orange County in the 1960's and 1970s, pouring over diaries, personal journals, histories, autobiographies, cookbooks, and newspapers dealing with California's past.
The book contains full color plates by W.H.D. Koerner. Koerner, primarily an illustrator for various magazines of his day such as Harper's, Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and others, later painted Western and Native American subjects. The book also contains copies or woodcuts of original drawings by many illustrators of the day picturing people in their daily lives and many local scenes.
Linsenmeyer has compiled an impressive collection of typical and authentic recipes and methods of food preparation of each era of early California history. Methods and recipes of Native Americans included how acorns were prepared and "Piñon Nut Soup". Soap and candle making by the Padre's of the California Missions and "Bear Tongue" and "Rabbit Fricassee" recipes were detailed. Early Rancho recipes of "Barbequed Beef" and "Flan" and many others are listed. Gold Seeker recipes include "Boiled Bear Paws", "Chinese Roast Duck" and "Miner's Baked Beans".
One of the stagecoach travel commandments listed is, "Abstinence from liquor is requested. If you must drink, share your bottle; otherwise you will appear to be selfish and unneighborly". "Scripture Cake" and "Gooseberry Fool" are two recipes included during the time when cities and cuisines were being established in California. After the gold rush, California eventually became known for its mild climate and agricultural riches. Wine making, citrus and olive growing are discussed as well how many herbs came to be used and recipes to utilize for those who were ill.
From Fingers to Finger Bowls was recommended to me by a used book store proprietor. Sometimes it pays to take some time to peruse used book store shelves and query store proprietors about your interests. I am glad I purchased this book. The book not only satisfies my search for Native American recipes and cooking with herbs, but gives an historical perspective not often found in cookbooks.
Crape Myrtles are very fast growing and can be trained as standards (single trunk) as the tree above, as a multi-trunk tree, or there are shrub varieties. Crape Myrtle trees are a good tree to plant in a lawn and can be planted under power lines since their height will never reach that tall. And Crape Myrtles are drought tolerant, have few pests or diseases, and are easy to care for.
And last, but surely not least there is the peeling bark of the tree which reveals a smooth mahogany colored trunk. One of the reasons that many Crape Myrtle's are pruned as multi-trunked trees to reveal more of that luscious bark for the eye to behold. So next time you are looking for a fast growing and beautiful trees consider planting a Crape Myrtle.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Vitex is drought resistant and prefers well drained soil with moderate water. Vitex is classified as a large shrub or a small tree and is deciduous (looses its leaves in winter). You can grow Vitex as a single trunk or a multi-trunked tree. The leaves are palmate and are sometimes mistaken for a marijuana leaf. I purchased three Vitex four years ago in 5 gallon pots and they were already trained as multi-trunks.I planted each of the Vitex as an accent at the edge of three perennial beds. For the first two years I just let them grow whichever way they wished except I pruned off the seed heads at the end of the year. This past winter I pruned the lower branches and thinned out some of the crossing branches in the middle. Now the trees are very sculptural and during the winter its a pleasure to look through the bare branches. Vitex grows 10 to 20 feet tall and almost as wide. It forms a shapely sphere. My Vitex are about 7 feet tall now. The Vitex is the tree on the far left in the photo above.
If you plant a Vitex, do not disturb the root ball when you plant it, even if it is root bound. Vitex does not like its roots disturbed. I almost lost one when I planted it because I scored the roots. If you come to visit the gardens, see if you can tell which of my three Vitex is the one that almost succumbed.Vitex is also a medicinal plant. Clusters of seeds form after the flowers fade and these are harvested and used to make an herbal supplement to increase fertility, to help with PMS, and to improve menstrual cycles. Vitex is also called Monk's Pepper because it was used as an anti-libido by monks to help them to remain celibate.
This is a tree I highly recommend for your landscape.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
We went to a garage sale years ago and picked up this gate for five dollars. I have never used it as a gate, just as a garden decoration. Someone was really talented in converting discarded tools into this beautiful gate. Now the gate makes a normally bland, exterior brick fireplace wall look so much better.OK, this is getting ridiculous, even the lizards want to pose for the blog. I leave you with a photo of this handsome fellow and bid you adieu for today.
I picked up this mini tea cart up at a second hand store and couldn't resist it. Even though it is blue and doesn't go with the rest of the colors in my garden, I hate to paint it because it is so well preserved. It is the perfect height to put a glass of lemonade down while sitting in the lawn chair. I also have an old iron record stand that is perfect as an end table beside another lawn chair. You never know what you can use in the garden for furniture. I like iron or painted furniture because they hold up well under all types of weather.Here's a couple of my glass Victorian ladies (or totems as some call them) chatting in the shade of the garden cottage. One of them has had too much to drink and she is a little tipsy or maybe she's swooning in the heat. Anyway, the two ladies have been hanging around my garden for three years now and the glue has held the glass all that time. They are easy to make, just pick up the occasional mismatched vase and plate and glue them together in any sort of fashion. If you look closely you can see the ladies hat and their face and then their dress - maybe the heat has gotten to me too. If you look real close you can see the ducks around the ladies, I think they have been feeding them, because the ducks never leave their side.
I would love to see your garden treasures, in the comments section, please post a link so I can see them. I'll probably do one more post of garden treasures as I have a few more hanging around in the gardens.
We dragged the tub to the parking area and placed it in the center. We attached a PVC pipe to the drain in case we ever wanted to drain the tub. We then mounded soil around the whole bathtub up to the rim. Then we gathered rocks and placed them around the soil to keep it from sloughing off. Then we filled the pond up to the very top. I planted some shrubs like bottle brush, burgundy yucca, and cotoneaster to shade the pond. Keeping a pond in less than six hours of sunlight a day helps reduce the buildup of algae in the summer.I added bricks in the pond and set water plants on the bricks. About a month later I went to a discount store and purchased two gold fish and two bottom feeders and put them in the pond. They started out about 1.5 inches long and now, three years later, they are about 5 inches long. Even on the hottest days of summer, the water in the pond stays cool. This year I plan on getting a solar pump, I have been adding water each day to aerate the pond and the water plants add oxygen to the water too. I feed the fish a freeze dried fish food once a day. Now I see quail and lizards going to the pond to take a drink each day.This double washtub is perfect for a table near my vegetable bins. I can bring the tomatoes and peppers there to sort them into various sizes without bending over. Inside the tubs I can store containers, tools or flower heads to dry for seeds.
Have you turned some junk into a jewel for your garden or your home? I'd love to hear about your trash to treasure creations.