Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tiptoe Around the Tulips, please

They're in! 150 tulips, 100 muscari and a bag of 50 daffodils less 2 or 3 that were mushy or dried up.

There's no picture of my work. Imagine an area of 18 large holes and a sort of trench across the back where I got tired and dark was coming and the daffodils weren't done. It will be interesting to see how it looks since I deviated from my careful plan.

This is Longfield Gardens' Tulip Photo.
 I'm hoping that my display is somewhat like this. The lighter color tulips are 'Shirley.'

Tulips and Muscari were from Longfield Gardens who has generous contests and gives away nice fat bulbs. The bulbs were chilling in a dedicated refrigerator for the past 12 weeks. The 'due date' was December 31 so I was barely ahead of schedule.

If I hadn't won Tulip bulbs, I've have daffodils only. I might have added some hyacinths instead of putting all of them in pots, which is easier. I made a post in 2011 on Tulips  showing that I have successfully grown Tulips.  There is another Illustraing my tulip-growing confidence  with old photos from my efforts at growing Tulips to prove that I did indeed grow Tulips in the Coasal South. It takes an amount of effort I had all but given up. The hardest part is leaving tulips in a refrigerator for 12 weeks.

I scattered Poppy Seeds over the whole bed and then added a thin layer of pine straw to discourage digging, help hold soil and mark the site. Hopeful that voles leave the bulbs alone since there are daffodils in the bed, that the soil doesn't harbor diseases and the weather blesses us. The soil was damp and cool and we are having rain in the next few days.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Seedscattering 2013 in Review

My favorite part of blogging is looking back to previous seasons. Sometimes I ask myself, "Was that really my garden?" In winter, it's hard to remember just what blousy blossoms grow in Spring in the Coastal South.
Winter has Camellias and Tea Olive for 
beautiful blooms and marvelous scent.

We have Evergreens and we have Camellia blooms and an occasional brave Gerbera Daisy but never such lushness as is seen in Spring and Summer.

Spring brings daffodils and other delightful bulbs, here with California Poppies.

From late spring through the summer, my favorite rose is Belinda's Dream, among others.

Agapanthus and a Butterfly, May.
I planted Agapanthus seeds. So far there's one tiny seedling, 

Larkspur disguises ripening spring daffodil foliage.
Oakleaf hydrangea in the distance.
Gulf Muhly grasses emerging from roots.
The box and wisteria at upper left, taken out.

My biggest spring project was to prune Camellias into trees.
In late fall, I transplanted some suckers, with mild success.
I planted out two-year seedling Camellias, none more than 6" tall.

2013 was a year for editing, and I'm still considering plants and shrubs that may go.

In July, I pruned Gardenias waist-high so they wouldn't hide Spring's Azalea show.
They grew back more quickly than I expected; Azaleas will once again hide behind a wall of green.

Crinum lily Jagus, fragrance of vanilla.
A good year for true Lilies; Orania was quite spectacular.

Lycoris squamagera with coordinating Daylily, Byzantine Emperor.

Brugmansias and Daturas have delicious nighttime fragrance. Tithonia attracted butterflies along with Lantana, Pentas and Porterweed.
First time in years to see a Zebra Longwing here.

Crape Myrtle and Salvia Leucantha -- 
colors of Autumn

Camellias bloom from late November through Winter and Spring until the weather warms. Summer pruning had no effect on bloom.
White Camellias, my favorite. No fragrance.
At the opposite time of year, June's Gardenias take your breath away with their sweet smell.

Have  you reviewed your 2013 Garden?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Foraging for Christmas Dinner

I gathered black Kale and Cabbage from my Cabbage patch and cut what few Broccoli Florets remain.

I forgot to make pictures before I cut the Kale. What remains is old tough leaves which help new tender leaves to grow. Cabbages are heading.

I cut this one, or a similar one. Cabbages look pretty much alike. The one I cut had the firmest head, plenty of cabbage for Christmas dinner.

Someone gave us a smoked Boston butt, so we'll have barbecue and stew. And Cabbage.

Merry Christmas to all and very Best Wishes for a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blooming in Unseasonal Christmas Season Weather

We had temperatures near 80º today. I keep expecting a storm with high winds related to unseasonal temperatures.  Rain is expected tonight with a low of 68º ending tomorrow with a low tomorrow night of 38º which is a preciptious drop. Tuesday night is predicted a freeze with a Sunny Christmas to follow.

The warm days of late brought out blooms:

 Gerbera Daisies

Persian Shield blooming is rarely seen in the garden. Usually frost takes out the plants before blooms appear. Short day blooms, we usually see them in the greenhouse in late winter.

Pentas that frost didn't kill. Yet. Many of the Pentas plants are already killed to the ground.

I see an occasional butterfly, sulfurs or a Gulf Frit. Lantana is mostly the attraction, blooming in areas under pines where frost has not touched it..
Lantana montevidensis on the steps to the Upper Garden.

 Camellia season is starting.
 White Camellias are my favorite.

'Mathotiana' Camellia Japonica. Formal form with a stunning color.

After Christmas Eve, every blossom will be brown. A few warm days and we'll have blooms again.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blonde Fruitcake

All ingredients are flexible. Some prefer more butter, some more flour, some fewer cherries and pineapple. Coconut is optional, as are raisins. Dates are acceptable if you prefer them over raisins.
The amount of pecans, a quart is kind of dear if you don't grow your own. You might use walnuts if they are more readily available or even almonds or mixed nuts. Optional spices make a darker cake.

Here's what I put in mine this year:

1 pound of candied cherries
1 pound of candied pineapple
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup of flaked coconut
4 cups of pecans

1 cup of butter
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla -- you could use half lemon flavoring, or rum flavoring or even brandy.
2 cups of flour.

I use self rising flour. If you use plain, you'll likely need to add a bit of baking powder but if you beat the batter a long time,  it's like pound cake, not necessary.

Dredge all the fruits and nuts in a little of the flour. I leave everything whole. Chop if you wish before you dredge.

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, add the flavoring, then the flour, divided, just like making a pound cake.

Pour the batter over the dredged fruits and nuts. Mix well -- a real task.

Bake at 350º for 30 minutes, then 1 hour at 250º -- check for doneness before removing from oven.

Oh, did I talk about greasing the pans and putting wax paper in the bottom? Do that.

This makes 6 pounds of fruitcake. I baked mine in a big tube pan and two small loaf pans. You could put it in a tube pan and only one loaf for thicker cakes, or make several small cakes for gifts.

Fruitcake is an art, not a science. We've never had one we couldn't eat.

After the cake cools, immediate begin to eat one of the small loaves. The rest of the cakes should be wrapped in waxed paper or Cheesecloth and put into an airtight container with an apple or two until Christmas or a time you get a notion to eat the cake. All that soaking in spirits is another optional treatment that I do not do. I like cake and I like fruits and I like nuts. I am not so fond of the taste of spirits, so I just leave off that part.

Claxton fruitcake was on sale at the grocery and He Who Mows bought one. It tastes of citron, but it's still delicious. There's not much left. It cost $3.99 on sale. Six pounds would cost about $27.00 with the tax, cheaper than baking homemade.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fruitcake Secrets

FRUITCAKE Secrets -- Seedscatterers have not only secrets in the garden, there are secrets in the kitchen. I've been making fruitcake for 50 years. I am about to share with you some of what I know about fruitcake.

Leave candied cherries, candied pineapple pieces and pecans whole. I use a full pound of cherries, a pound of pineapple and a quart of hand shelled pecans. When I arrived in south Georgia in 1961, I was introduced to White Fruitcake and fell in love. White fruitcake has coconut and golden raisins, which are made from white grapes.

Fruitcake is rich and must be sliced thin; that takes care of the chopping and the sliced fruitcake is pretty.

Omit any fruit peel and citron. Citrons are a field weed here. Mr. Floyd Allen used to walk every 40-acre field here in late fall and pick up citrons so they could not grow the following year. I am not a fan of candied fruit peel either unless you candied some kumquats.

Dates are okay if you like dates, my Mother did. She called it Date Nut Cake even though it was full of cherries and pineapple too. Years ago I used to just use Date Bread Mix and add fruit. I gave up mixes since then.

MIL seasoned her fruitcakes by packing them in a 5 gallon lard can with fresh whole apples for weeks. Fruitcake is tasty fresh from the oven, let me tell you. A ripened fruitcake that tastes of apple is better than any spirits soaked fruitcake that I ever ate, if you can wait for one to reach that point.

Homemade vanilla is better than boughten, but if you must buy it, get PURE vanilla, not imitation. It isn't cheap, pure vanilla. Homemade is dear because of the price of vanilla beans which come from a certain  orchid plant, not because of the cheap vodka they're soaked in. My neighbor made Vanilla Flavoring this year. I put about 2 tablespoons in my fruitcake.

I am not posting a recipe. Every year I get out my first fruitcake recipe, scribbled on the back of something with a date on it: 1964. I read that recipe, then I read Miz Jimmie Hatcher's White Fruitcake Recipe, different only in that she didn't add coconut. I read Mr. Darsey Nicholson's recipe that he had me hand copy from his own copy just before he died.

Pure Vanilla in the bottle with green label.
Mrs. Lenorah's finest homemade.

Mr. Darsey used only a pound and a half of mixed fruit, which contains citron and peel. He didn't add coconut, either. I forget where the idea for coconut came from, but it sure is tasty. I just dredge all the fruits and nuts in flour and make a pound cake batter to mix in. This year I didn't add nutmeg and cinnamon. Mr. Darsey used rum or brandy flavoring; Miz Jimmie used a half ounce each of vanilla and lemon flavorings. I believe homemade pure Vanilla is the very best flavoring.

There's a little bit of fruitcake left in every one of us ~ Jimmy Buffet

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Frozen Bright Spots

There are a number of Scandinavian blogs that I keep in my reader. Especially at Christmas they have so many wonderful ideas, like those woven hearts that are little baskets.

It was from one of them that I got the idea to put Graptopetalum in each single potted Hyacinth. She used a succulent; I used what I had rooted.

Today I scooped up some very fine bright green moss from the joint between the garage floor and the driveway to put in the pot with four Hyacinths bulbs. Then I found Hyacinths with Sedum acre growing in a Swedish blog. I have lots of that and Hyacinths already potted in 3s and 4s that can use companions.

I've saved bits of lichen and twigs, brown paper that came in shipping boxes as filler, and balls of twine are at the ready.

I depend on Google translate to really understand the text and sometimes It takes me a moment to figure out what is happening. Today Claus Dalby mentioned Frozen Bright Spots, with a link to Anne of Mosseplassen in Norway where I found beautiful ice candleholders that Claus calls islygter.  Beautiful torches made with balloons, flowers frozen in water and other wonderful shapes, all with a candle in the center  brighten the long nights of winter solstice.

I will make do with shades from multi-light fixtures, collected from thrift stores in previous years. I was surprised when I opened boxes and found more shades than I remembered having. Light shades sit in saucers, or tuna fish cans, or coasters, with a tea light. We used to call them 'Nigella's Lights' in honor of the Garden Web member who thought of them. My new name is Frozen Bright Spots despite a lack of ice.

 Twinkle lights in the grapevine that disguises something in the
greenhouse. I'm leaving them on instead of having a lighted tree.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Magnolia has Black Twig Borer

While most ambrosia beetles attack diseased or dying trees, the black twig borer, Xylosandrus compactus, attack apparently healthy trees and shrubs.

I noticed yesterday that Little Gem Magnolia on the right had clusters of dead leaves at the end of several twigs. Today I cut the dead twigs back to a crotch and will burn them.

These beetles also attack Dogwood and Redbud, which may account for some dead twigs on Dogwoods that I had blamed on some other cause.

Adult females begin to emerge about the time dogwoods bloom. They bore into the twigs and form brood chambers in the pith of the stem. As many as six generations per year are produced, so spraying does little good. I need to be vigilant about watching for wilting leaves come spring and prune away suspect limbs and twigs. 

I only noticed the dead twigs when I went to admire the newly swept paths with beds mulched with leaves and pine straw.