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Posts Tagged ‘blossoms’

Bloom Day in April, 2016

Hellebore

The first blossom in my garden this year was a hellebore. Of four varieties, one was in bloom in December and held its blossoms through January. The hellebore in this photo opened as the crocuses faded in March and has turned from nearly white to this green-pink look over the course of six weeks.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day celebrates flowers. The brainchild of Carol Michel, this blogging event has gone on since February of 2007 more than a year before I started blogging.

The idea of Bloom Day is for bloggers to share photos of what’s abloom in their gardens. Discounting weed flowers, there’s less happening in my garden than is typical for April. Extreme cold after flowering started reduced bunches of blooms to florist rejects.

Feeling particularly abused by a cold virus on top of my chemotherapy (which riles up the post-Whipple intestinal tract), I managed to drag myself around the yard and capture a few decent photos. Not much to offer, but it’s a start.

Candytuft

A new plant in our garden in 2015, candytuft surprised us when it was one of the earliest bloomers this spring. It continues to produce new buds and blossoms and may still be in bloom when nearby dianthus and foxgloves start their flower shows.

Snowdrops

Another early bloomer, blue snowdrops are nearly done. These got into the garden 2 years ago when I spotted some growing out of a dirt heap someone had moved from their yard to a public walkway. I was able to dig up one bulb which I set along the east side of the house. In two seasons, it has multiplied into, perhaps, 8 plants, so I’ve great hope it will spread widely through the planting bed in another six-to-ten years.

Primrose

The primroses have been in bloom for about three weeks. These have been in the garden for several years, and showed promise of spreading aggressively. However, as much as the plants seem to expand during the summer, by spring they look no bigger than on the day I planted them.

Viola

I set several violas in a new planting bed in late summer. Thankfully, they had time to get settled and they surprised me with an early display this spring. I love the golden glow at the center of the blossoms and would love to see the planting bed develop a carpet of these striking flowers.

Daffodil

Daffodils got beat up this year; they had just put up flower stalks when the temperature plunged from about 60F degrees down to 22F degrees. A few nights of punishing cold made many of the flowers droop—or simply fall over. A few stragglers have bloomed since the cold spell ended, but they’re disappointing compared to daffodils in more forgiving years.

Hyacinth

Hyacinths have suffered along with the daffodils. Cold made the flowers droop. Even without that, the spikes are generally “loose” with fewer flowers and wide gaps between them.

Peach blossoms

I’m so glad to be able to show a food photo on April’s Bloom Day. The peach trees have been in bloom for a few days, though many blossoms look abused and many others haven’t yet opened. With luck, enough buds were tight during the cold snap that they’ll still be able to produce fruit.

Cranberry blossoms

A surprise entry for 2016: cranberry blossoms! I received four cranberry plants in the mail and am nursing them along on the dining room table until the temperature rises a bit. Had the plants arrived dormant, I’d already have planted them in the garden. Unfortunately, they arrived awake and ready for action, and I don’t want to chance freezing the new growth by setting them out too early.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Bloom Day in April, 2016

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A Patch of Sundrops

You Can Grow That!

Patch of fast-spreading Sundrops

A lot of what’s in my dad’s garden was there when he moved into his apartment. There’s a boxwood on each side of his entrance walk and an impressive assortment of hostas for such a small space. At first, there might have been a Sundrop or two. Three years later, when I captured this photo, there was a jungle of Sundrops.

I’m still learning to want to grow ornamental plants. For me, gardening has always been about food. Touring show gardens, writing about gardening, and having many friends who are geniuses at landscape architecture and garden design has awakened in me a desire to have a pretty yard. Last summer a planting bed at my dad’s apartment reinforced that desire.

In very early summer, my dad’s garden sported a dense cloud of yellow: Flowers that glowed in the sunlight on 12-to-18-inch stalks. It was one of the most striking features I’d seen in any private garden, and I’ve visited a lot of stunning private gardens.

My Sundrop Awakening

I asked my dad if he knew what plant produced these arresting flowers and, happily, he did! “Sundrops,” he said.

I snapped a few photos and moved along but Sundrops were now in my mental catalog of plants to consider for my own yard. I hadn’t yet tracked down a nursery or garden center that sold Sundrops when this spring I once again visited my dad.

With virtually nothing growing, my dad’s garden still caught my eye. Where last summer there had been stalks of gorgeous yellow flowers, this spring there was a dense ground cover of green-and-purple-leafed plants. They were already growing despite spring having barely started.

Bucket of Sundrop plants

My dad’s Sundrop plants had shallow roots and I was able to dig about ten of them in just a few minutes. I’ll probably plant them in the corner of the yard under the apple trees and see how quickly they spread.

So, I asked my dad, “Are those Sundrops?”

He gave an affirmative and told me they were getting out of control. I was thrilled when he agreed I should dig some from around the edges of the patch. I filled a bucket with plants and quickly realized they spread via rhizomes: root-like shoots that radiated out through the soil specifically to push up new plants.

I’ve been warned that Sundrops spread aggressively… which was obvious from my dad’s Sundrop patch. When he moved into his apartment four years ago, I didn’t notice Sundrops there; in only three years they took over a six foot diameter area.

Sundrops in your garden

I did a little reading and found that Sundrops — also known as Evening Primrose — are hardy in zones 5 through 8. Supposedly, they need lots of sunlight, but sunlight reaching my dad’s garden is best suited for hostas; his Sundrops were doing fine.

Your Sundrops will do best in well-conditioned soil, but they grow naturally in many soil types from sand to loam. They handle drought well and once they’re established you may need to be brutal to keep them from spreading beyond your flower bed.

With gorgeous yellow flowers, attractive bi-colored foliage, and a tendency to spread aggressively, Sundrops make a terrific ground cover whose character changes from season to season.

Want a fast-spreading patch of bi-colored leaves that throw up a cloud of bright yellow flowers in late spring? You can grow that with Sundrops.

I reviewed the following websites for information about growing Sundrops:
www.perennialreference.com
www.newmoonnursery.com

 
Small Kitchen Garden – A Patch of Sundrops

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Frost Flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Frost flowers on lilac twigs

My lilac bush last flowered many months ago. Five days ago, freezing temperatures and saturated air combined to decorate every lilac twig with water crystal blossoms.

I seriously cheated for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day this month. That’s ironic because for the first time ever, there are blossoms in my garden in December. I have photos of those flowers, but I’m not posting them.

You see, a few days before Bloom Day this month, we experienced an unusual two-day atmospheric event: the air was cold and saturated. Nearly every leaf and twig remained at about 32F degrees for those two days, and fog hung heavy. The combination brought dead flower stalks into full bloom.

I captured dozens of photos of these delightful frost flowers, and present a few here. I hope you don’t mind too much that I cheated for Bloom Day.

Frosted cone flower

Expired cone flowers in the front ornamental bed captured ice crystals and barely resembled their summer selves.

Ice blossoms on basil

A stand of purple basil plants flowered hard in early autumn, dropped seeds, and dried out. Fog and cold 3D-printed frost petals on the spent blossoms.

Frosted goldenrod against a frosted meadow

Every meadow plant, though dead and dry, sprouted ice blossoms, turning the meadow white. The foreground here is goldenrod.

Icy aster blossom

Asters bloomed profusely in summer, and captured a lot of ice crystals last week.

Goldenrod frost flower

Frost flowers on goldenrod.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Frost Flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

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November 2015 Bloom Day

Late season pak choi blossoms

One of two annuals still abloom in my garden: a volunteer pak choi plant probably self-seeded from one of last year’s volunteers. Several of these popped up in random places throughout my various planting beds in 2015.

Autumn has taken its time in central Pennsylvania. It was slow to arrive, its colors lingered for weeks, and it has held off frigid winter temperatures well into its second month. But for a handful of nighttime lows, autumn hasn’t been itself. In fact it is tallying an impressive count of warm days reminiscent of early or late summer.

And, there are blossoms. Sure, the cold-sensitive plants have melted away after freezing through on frosty nights, but a few stalwart annuals, and even more perennials continue on as if expecting autumn never to yield.

To celebrate Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I captured photos. I’m a tad late in posting, but what you see is what was in bloom on this November 15. I hope I don’t find flowers in my garden in December.

Late season petunia blossoms

Petunias along the south wall of the house continue to show healthy foliage and blossoms… though the blossoms are only on stems very close to the house. Guessing the wall of the house holds heat into the evening providing a sub-micro climate just warm enough to coax blooms.

Late season viola blossom

Under the lilac bush, barely sticking out above autumn leaves, a small clump of violas is till pushing up blossoms. These plants have been spreading for a few years, but a patch died back last winter; I’m hoping for a better outcome this year.

Late season viola blossom

Across the yard from the clump of tiny violas, I planted a new bed with two different varieties—both producing larger blossoms than the older clump. The plants aren’t well-established, but they’ve been in bloom since I planted them in July.

Late season pinchushion blossom

I must have found some Pincushion flowers on closeout in July. I don’t know the plant but photos online hold promise. So far mine have been dramatically unimpressive; my wife has spoken derisively about them. Still, there’s a blossom. I hope the plants spread a bit next year.

Late season echinacea blossom

This is most certainly my last Echinacea blossom of the season. I set the plant out in July. It hasn’t put out much growth but clearly it’s healthy. There’s one more bud behind this one, but it shows no signs of opening. This variety, Cheyenne Spirit, was an All America Selections winner in 2013.

Late season rose blossom

In my yard, Drift roses and Knockouts live up to their marketing hype. They’ve been in bloom for months and there are still many blossoms, though not all are in top form. This is on my only red rose plant; the rest are pink.

Late season dianthus in bloom

Still amazing me, this dianthus has been in bloom nearly continuously since I brought it back from a trade show in July. Sold as an annual, I’m hoping it survives central Pennsylvania winters. For blooms it has been a top performer. This variety, Interspecific Jolt, was an All America Selections winner in 2015.

Late season rudbeckia in bloom

Several of our Rudbeckia plants shriveled as summer ended. I suspect they’re not coming back next year. Several others continue to produce flowers. I guess the plants are deciding among themselves which are better suited to our garden.

Late season yarrow in bloom

Guessing this is Yarrow. I’ve often wondered whether my wife planted it some years ago; it appears each season not quite in a flower bed, but it’s so pretty (and insistent) that it seems intentional. This flower head lies on the most traveled pathway in our yard. The plant has been in bloom for several months.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – November 2015 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

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The Sunchoke Adventure

Sunchoke blossom

Sunchokes in the empty lot up the street put on a striking display in late summer and early fall.

That was a long, satisfying adventure! Adventure? My Sunchoke Adventure started in 2009 and reached a major milestone three minutes before I wrote this sentence.

Sunchoke sirens

In late summer of 2009, I noticed towering sunflower-like plants on the vacant corner lot up the street from the Cityslipper ranch. These produced bright yellow flowers that resembled small sunflowers. I took many photos over the years, but until 2014 I failed to capture the character of these dramatic plants.

In 2009 I knew way less about ornamental plants than I know now (which is impressively little), and I supposed these were wild sunflowers akin to prairie natives that grow as perennials (I’d read about prairie sunflowers years earlier from an article about making agriculture less destructive—before “sustainability” was a word).

Sunchoke blossom

A single stalk of a sunchoke plant can produce dozens of blossoms.

Wild sunflower non-germination

I wanted some. These flowers were gorgeous, and I thought they’d look great in my yard. So, I gathered seed heads when the blossoms faded, and let them dry out on the desk in my office.

Later, when I peeled apart the dried blossoms, I found nothing that resembled seeds. I tried again in 2010: I harvested spent flowers, let them dry in my office, and was unable to find seeds among the dried flower bits. I even planted the dried flower bits and kept the soil most for several weeks, but no seedlings emerged.

Not wild sunflowers; sunchokes!

Over the years, I photographed sunchoke flowers on the corner lot repeatedly, but I gave up on trying to grow the plants in my yard. Of course, I didn’t yet know they were sunchokes. But some time in 2012, I started to wonder, and Google led me to photos of these striking plants and to articles about them.

Sunchoke stalks after frost

The containment ring in which I planted sunchokes simply doesn’t extend deep enough into the soil. Stalks grew this season on the outside of the ring. So far, I’ve excavated only those plants and have found tubers well below the bottom edge of the ring.

Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem Artichokes, are edible plants! The part people eat is a tuber somewhat like a potato (so I read), and the plants reproduce aggressively. I was most deeply moved by an article titled Before You Plant Sunchokes, You Need to Read This Post which remains among my most favorite Internet reads of all time.

In the spring of 2013, while browsing at a fundraising plant sale in Ithaca, NY, I found a sunchoke at a very reasonable price and bought it.

Sunchoke containment

Late in the 2013 season, I set a containment ring in the soil—the center third of a food-grade plastic barrel—and mixed a lot of sand and compost with the soil inside the ring. There I planted the sunchoke.

In 2014, the plant expanded to produce, perhaps, a dozen stalks inside the containment ring—but without flowers. I left the plants untouched that year. This year, the containment ring erupted with sunchoke stalks.

Sunchoke tubers

In a minute or two of digging, I found a decent handful of plump tubers. I’m confident that if I jammed the rooted stems at the bottom of the photo back into the soil, they’d bounce back in the spring and produce more food in coming seasons.

The plants appeared healthy all season, though they never produced flowers… and flowers were what had drawn me to the plants in the first place. I planned to take a hand trowel with me some evening and dig a sunchoke plant from the corner lot; those plants clearly knew how to make flowers.

A month ago, it dawned on me: I didn’t need a trowel. From what I’d read, it’s hard to kill a sunchoke plant. On a whim, while walking the dog one day, I singled out a short sunchoke stalk on the corner lot. When I pulled on the stalk, it popped loose from the soil, sporting healthy roots and several apparent young plants emerging from the base of the stem. I planted the stalk in a flower pot on my porch where it happily blossomed and is now going dormant. I’ll find a place for it in the yard before the soil freezes.

Sunchokes in the kitchen

As I started writing this article, the question arose: What about the harvest? Trowel in hand, I examined the sunchokes and their containment ring. Clearly the ring had failed; there were many stalks on the outside.

Sunchoke tubers ready for the kitchen

Sunchoke tubers washed and ready to eat. I immediately sliced one up, tasted it, and found it very pleasant: a soft crunch with a mild lettuce-like flavor. Minimally, I’d use these in salads, but I’m curious to try them cooked. I’ll give that a go in the next few weeks.

I dug most of those stalks and excavated a generous handful of sunchoke tubers. Minutes later, I’d washed off the soil and sliced up a tuber for a tasting; I’d never eaten sunchokes.

What a thrill! Sunchokes have a delightful crunch and a delicious, lettuce-like flavor. At the very least I’ll include them in salads over the next several weeks.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about cooked sunchokes, so I’ll have to prepare some for a second taste-test. However that goes, I look forward finally to having sunchoke flowers in my yard. I’ll plant the wild one without a containment ring and deal with the consequences as they arise… If a domestic sunchoke wouldn’t stay in its place, it seems pointless to try to contain a wild sunchoke.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – The Sunchoke Adventure

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in Central PA, September 2015

Ageratum up close and personal

I assembled a hanging planter this spring and included in it ageratum and begonia. It was cheaper to buy a six-pack of small plants than to buy a single pot holding a large plant. I bought the six-packs and extras ended up in our front planting bed. Ageratum, I think, looks best up close.

It was a beautiful day and I spent quite a bit of it in the garden taking photos. To participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I selected a mere fraction of those photos to post here. These blooms are from all over the Cityslipper ranch—both the vegetable beds and the various (and increasing) ornamental beds.

The vegetable garden is still going strong, but with diminishing sunlight and cool nights, things must certainly be slowing down. I’d love to harvest another half bushel of tomatoes and a bit more winter squash before frost shuts things down. In any case, I hope you’ll have a my blossoms. Maybe you’ll agree I had a pleasant time in the yard.

Begonias as bedding plants

I don’t think I’ve met a begonia I didn’t like. This variety is super common in area gardens. The blossoms are spectacular though tiny. Planting a whole lot of these close so they grow together would make a dramatic display. Two or three of them in a large planting bed are no more than a color bump.

Flox blossoms

This is crazy. Flox plants in our south-facing planting bed are still putting out gorgeous flowers. In past years, flox has blossomed copiously but for a limited time; plants usually look rather ratty by mid-September.

Jolt Pink Dianthus

This dianthus won’t quit. I brought it home from Cultivate15 in July when it was in full bloom. By the time I set it in the garden, the blossoms had finished but a few weeks later it was back in full bloom! Since then, it has continued to blossom less dramatically but impressively. It hasn’t been tested for cold hardiness, so I can only hope it winters over and puts on another show next season. The variety is “Interspecific Jolt Pink” and it’s an All America Selections award winner.

Gaillardia in shadows

Hiding in morning shadows, the gaillardia has thrived in its second year. My wife had planted gaillardia several times over the years, but this is the first time any has survived a winter in our garden.

Gladiolus

We have three or four gladiolus beds. Blooms in the main bed finished almost a month ago. These blooms are from bulbs I planted late.

Viola blossoms

Just three feet from the gladiolus, violas are spreading in the shadow of a young hydrangea. I brought the violas home from Cultivate 15 and have been impressed at their enthusiasm to display blossoms even as they divide and conquer the planting bed.

Russian sage and photo bomber

Our Russian sage plant lacks the form of ones I see in photos on line. It puts up spindly branches that seem to fall every which-way which works for me cuz every which-way is an excellent description of our garden design style. I love the delicate blossoms and the silver-purple colors… and apparently they appeal even more to cabbage butterflies.

Gaillardia hanging on

I’m calling this gaillardia though it only vaguely resembles the gaillardia my wife planted. I sprinkled a bag of “instant wildflower meadow” on the bank of my rain garden and this is the only plant that emerged. In its second season, I don’t want it where it is… but I love having it in the garden.

Holly blossoms

We have a holly bush “next to” our front walk. It overhangs the walk, blocking about 1/3 the width. Clearly, it doesn’t belong in the space it was given and I’m afraid moving it would require removing some of the walkway. We’ll probably continue to abuse the poor plant for years. That said, it’s in bloom. The blossoms are gorgeous but you really have to lean in to get a look.

Sedum in bloom in the rock garden

Sedums in the new rock garden are in full bloom. I love the red here, and in the way back a pink that barely shows in the photo. There are clouds of white blossoms in a corner you can’t see… but still plenty of bare spots I’ll fill in with new additions next spring.

Late-blooming lavender

The lavender blossomed months ago and faded. I was a bit surprised to find several spikes of fresh blooms today.

Tomato blossom

Tomato blossom! It’s too late in the season for a tomato blossom to produce harvestable fruit before first frost. I guess the plants don’t know it… there are plenty of fresh, hopeful blossoms.

French Gold pole bean from Renee's Garden

By far my favorite bean is the French Gold Pole Filet Bean. The vines don’t overwhelm trellises as some bean vines do, but they produce well and the beans taste great. I’ve found seeds for these only at Renee’s Garden, and I plant them every year. These flowers hang below a trellis; that’s the tip of a ripening bean entering the frame from the top right.

Canna and humming bird

The most awesome moment in my garden today came when I was taking photos in the rock garden. A soft buzzy hum made me look up to see a humming bird drawing nectar from the canna flowers. The little photo-bomber managed to get into several compositions.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Sept 2015.

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