Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Different Perspective

I took some shots of the garden while I was up on the roof pruning the wisteria today. I thought it was interesting to get this different perspective. Too bad not as much is blooming in the flower garden right now. I should redo these shots in May and July when my garden is usually at its best. You can’t see the kitchen garden too well in these pictures because of a butterfly bush and hydrangea that are so big they are blocking most of it.

View of the garden from the roof.

View of the garden from the roof.

FINALLY!!!! Time to break out the champagne!

I am still in a state of shock and disbelief. After waiting four years for the neighbor to finish the fence, it is FINALLY DONE!!!!! When I came home from work on Friday, I was standing on the back porch looking out over the garden. I saw a glimmer of white through the garden where I usually see the neighbor’s broken down boat. I exclaimed, “Oh my God, it’s done!” and went running through the yard to take a closer look. I was practically jumping up and down with joy. I know I was talking out loud to myself because my neighbor on the other side caught me. I told her I couldn’t help myself, that after four years of waiting the other neighbor finally finished the fence!

Here’s some shots of the FINISHED fence. Not perfect, but I’ll still take it.

Below is the section that hadn’t been finished for the past year or two. Yeh, there’s about a two foot gap there on the right and I’m not so thrilled about that, but my Crape Myrtle that is in front of it will eventually get big enough to cover that area.

I haven’t gotten that bottle of champagne yet that I had promised myself I would get when the fence was finally finished, but you better believe I will. And it is worth splurging for REAL French champagne! WAHOOOOOO!!!!!

Time to Prune the Wisteria

I usually like to prune the wisteria twice a year, however, this year I hadn’t had time to get to it yet. It is always pretty much an all-day chore. I start with the ladder and work my way pruning around the greenhouse and shed, then I clean up the mess, then I get on the roof and tackle it from above, then clean up that mess. This is what the wisteria looked like before I pruned it today:


This is what it looked like from the roof – I promise you there is a greenhouse under there somewhere:


Ah-ha! There’s the greenhouse:

Wisteria after some pruning.

It is amazing how much more light I get in the greenhouse now. Also, so much more light in the area around the greenhouse and in the corner that I call my “secret garden.”

Let there be light – The Secret Garden area after the wisteria was pruned.

Speaking of wisteria, my tree wisteria has a couple of blooms on it right now. How strange. Not that I’m complaining.

Tree wisteria.

String Beans

The string beans like to play hide-and-go-seek in the vines. I managed to find several today. The variety that I planted this spring are Stringless Blue Lake Pole String Beans, grown from Ferry-Morse seed. I think I will make my favorite string bean dish: Parmesan-Roasted Green Beans.

Stringless Blue Lake Pole String Beans

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fence Farce Continues

I first mentioned “the fence farce” in a post in May of 2011, but a refresher may be in order. In the spring of 2010, the landlord who owns the house behind us said he was putting up a fence “next week” and wondered if I wanted his friend to help me clear out the overgrown hedge we had back there. His friend gave me a cheap price that I couldn’t turn down and he cleared out most of the hedge, which extended the entire length of our back yard and was probably about 6 feet deep. I spent a greater part of that year digging up roots, like honeysuckle, wisteria, ivy, etc, until it no longer came back. Needless to say, the fence did not go up “next week.” Nor did it go up the next year. It was May of 2012 before we started to see any sign of a fence going up. It was an ugly, white vinyl fence and they did a really shoddy job of putting it in, but hey, at least it kept me from having to look at the tons of cars he had in his driveway that he’s always working on and gave us a bit more privacy. I was ready to rejoice – Hallelujah a fence!...however...he never finished it. They got about 3/4 of it done when they ran into a stump and couldn’t get one of the fence posts in. And there is stalled...and is still stalled. Hence, we still have a LOVELY view of his broken down boat on the right side of the back yard.

Unfinished section of the neighbor’s fence.

I had a fence farce scare the other day. When I came home from work on Friday, Brian said, “You’re not going to be happy. Take a long out back.” This is what I saw:

A gap in the neighbor’s fence.

Imagine my horror as I saw a missing panel from the fence that I have been waiting four years for. While I was working in the kitchen garden on Saturday, the neighbor said that his father-in-law was helping him reinstall the fence properly, so that it was more straight and looked better. However, he made no indication of any plans to finish it. He said there is still the stump issue and they also ran out of the metal brackets that hold the fencing to the posts and those are $7.95 a piece. Sigh...always an obstacle. Will that bloody fence ever be finished?! If or when it does get finished, you better believe I will be celebrating. It might be the one and only time you see a picture of me on this blog. It will be a picture of me drinking a big bottle of champagne while hugging that (expletive) fence.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Did That Get There?

While I was working in the garden this weekend, I spotted this lone, renegade pink phlox in the middle of the purple coneflowers.

Mysterious Pink Phlox.

I haven’t had pink phlox in my garden for years. I had tried it once and it didn’t survive. So how in the world did this get there? I peaked in my neighbors’ yards to see if they had pink phlox and I didn’t see any. Interesting. I think I’ll leave it there and see if it comes back next year.

Fairy-sized Eggplant

I know this is called Fairy Tale Eggplant, but this is a bit ridiculous. These eggplants are only about an inch and a half, two inches at the most.

Fairy Tale Eggplant

I planted this in the early spring, so it has had plenty of time (and rain) to grow, but yet it is still fairy-sized. Each eggplant is supposed to be 4-5 inches long. For perspective, here is my pinky finger next to the eggplant.

Fairy-sized Fairy Tale Eggplant

It’s like some kind of joke. I have been watching these for several weeks and I don’t feel like they are getting any bigger. I applied an organic fertilizer this weekend, so we’ll see if that does anything. Silly little eggplants...sheesh. Too bad I don’t have real fairies in the garden to enjoy them.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recipe from the Garden: Basil Citrus Cooler

Basil Citrus Cooler is a recipe from Martha Stewart’s website. I was intrigued with the idea of basil in a drink and I have PLENTY of sweet basil in the garden. Here is a link to the recipe. I suggest letting it sit for an hour or so in the fridge so that the basil flavor has a chance to develop.

Basil Citrus Cooler, with some white rum added.

This was very refreshing, however, after a long day working in the garden and after squeezing all of those oranges by hand, I felt like I needed an ADULT beverage (or as they say in my favorite old British comedy, Black Adder, something a wee bit more “medicinal”), so I added a wee bit of white rum. In hindsight, I could’ve used Tequila and it might have been a bit margarita-like. I only had six oranges, so I didn’t make as much as the recipe called for. If I feel up to squeezing all of those oranges again, I might try adding club soda instead of water. If you like orange juice and basil, you’ll like this drink. It won’t replace my favorite Mojito, though!

Farm Stand Finds

As I have mentioned before, this has not been a good year for tomatoes in my garden. I have been forced to buy them from local farm stands. At least I’m supporting the local farmers that way!

I was vacationing at Lake Wallenpaupak, PA for part of last week and stopped at our favorite farm stand in that area on the way home. Howell’s is in Greentown, PA on Route 507. We stop there every year because they carry this delicious local cheese called Leraysville. Their Baby Swiss is the best I have ever tasted. Too bad they stopped making my favorite, Portelet. The Udder Delight and Cheddars are excellent, as well. While I was in there, I saw the most gorgeous orange tomatoes – I couldn’t resist buying a couple. They grew them themselves.

Today I stopped at Lew’s farm stand on Lenola Road in Moorestown, NJ. I stop there every now and then. The have produce and a really decent selection of reasonably priced plants – mostly annuals and vegetables, but some perennials, as well. When I was there I saw they had grown their own Chinese White Eggplant. It was so white and beautiful – again, I couldn’t resist.

Orange tomato and white Chinese eggplant from two different farmstands.

Really, aren’t those so perfect?! So even though I grow a lot of my own produce, I still love to see what the farm stands have and support the local farmers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Neglected Kitchen Garden in August

A little while ago I posted pictures of my neglected flower garden, now it’s the kitchen garden’s turn. I was so focused on my web design classes that I just couldn’t keep up with things in the garden. Now that I have a break in between semesters, I can refocus my attention. However, with the kitchen garden, some irreversible damage has been least to this year’s crop.

Neglect, plus a lot of rain, equals a lot of stuff growing...and some things suffering from TOO much rain.

Rain on the door to the back porch.

As soon as you enter the kitchen garden, you notice things are not as neat and tidy as usual. No, that is not grass growing in my gravel path, it’s garlic chives! My own fault, though, because I did not cut off the seed-heads at the end of last year and they obviously reseeded in the path.

Entrance to the kitchen/vegetable garden.

Vegetable vines and the overgrown Beautyberry bush are taking over one side of the gravel path.

The overgrown kitchen garden.

My Heliopsis Summer Nights, which usually looks so gorgeous all season, is falling over into the path, along with the Beautyberry bush.

Heliopsis and Beautyberry bush taking over a path.

The purple Butterfly Bush is taking over the path on the other side.

Butterfly Bush taking over the other path.

You have to seriously duck to get on the other side of it.

Butterfly Bush taking over.

Hey wait, what’s that on the other side of the Butterfly Bush? It’s the neighbor’s cat enjoying the warmth of the compost bin lid. Instead of a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, it’s a Cat on a Hot Compost Bin. Along with some greens that have gone to seed in the bed in front of him...or her.

Cat on a hot compost bin.

Between this cat and Stubby, the one that looks similar but with a short tail, I almost always run into a cat in the garden.

Cat close-up.

This is the view the cat has of the overgrown kitchen garden.

Kitchen Garden.

There’s that Beautyberry Bush again, this time from the other side.

Overgrown kitchen garden.

The green beans are big and full. They are just starting to show some actual beans.

Parsley, hot peppers, green beans, swiss chard, to name a few.

I was so excited that it looked like I would actually have blackberries this year on the blackberry bush that we have had for years...

Blackberry bush.

...but alas, this is as big as the berries ever got...

Pitiful looking blackberries.

My cucumbers were doing really well there for awhile...


...but then something happened and they took a turn for the worse. I blame all of the rain we have had this year.

Some ugly looking cucumber leaves.

The same thing happened to the squash. It was looking pretty nice there for a bit...


...then it got what looked like a powdery mildew. Again, I blame the extraordinarily wet weather.

Mildew on squash leaves.

My one tomato plant has yet to ripen and my other one, this grape-sized one, looks pretty much dead. Rain, rain, go away, come again another day...or at least a few days later instead of tomorrow yet again.

Sorry-looking grape-sized tomatoes.

This is the first time I have ever tried to grow lima beans. Nothing yet other than green leaves, but at least it is one of the healthier looking plants in the garden.

Pole lima beans.

One thing that doesn’t seem to mind all of this rain is the parsley. I have both curly and flat-leafed parsley. This is the first year I have done the curly variety and it seems to do much better than the flat-leaved kind.

Two different kinds of parsley.

The Sweet Basil and Sorrel are doing well, too.

Sorrel and Sweet Basil.

The succulents on this miniature birdhouse seem to be doing ok, as well.

“Green roof” birdhouse.

The Mariachi Hot Peppers are forming fast. Soon I will have a plethora of ready-to-eat hot peppers.

Mariachi Hot Pepper plant.

Not sure how this Morning Glory vine got in the Garlic Chives. Ah right, it was neglect.

Garlic Chives, with a random Morning Glory vine.

Yes neglect, the theme of this post. Neglect is not such a good thing when it comes to a kitchen garden. At least I have still managed to enjoy some fruits of my bounty.

The kitchen garden.

And if you don’t look TOO closely, it still is kinda pretty.

The kitchen garden looking towards the flower garden.

My plan this weekend is to try to get some of this under control. Wish me luck! Hope I don’t get attacked by the overgrown Beautyberry Bush or the Butterfly Bush!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recipe from the Garden: Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Herbs

Can you tell I love cheese? I don’t think I can go a single day without some sort of cheese. For some girls their weakness is chocolate, for me it’s cheese. Put any kind of cheese in front of me and I’ll eat it. I used to HATE blue cheese. Really hated it. Then all of a sudden one day I liked it. Now I love putting it in salads. I’m especially fond of this buttermilk blue cheese that I can get at Wegmans. That’s what I use in this recipe.

Tomatoes, Blue Cheese, and Fresh Herbs.

This started out as a recipe from my “Grow” magazine, originally from “Fine Cooking” magazine, but I didn’t have all of the ingredients so it’s a simplified version. For the full version go to the recipe on “Fine Cooking.” Here is my simple version:

Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Herbs

• Tomatoes
• Blue Cheese crumbles (or Gorgonzola)
• Balsamic Vinegar (I have found it is worth it to splurge for the good kind)
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Chopped fresh herbs (I use Parsley and Chives, as well as a bit of Garlic Chives)
• Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. Instead of chopping my herbs, I have found they bruise less if I use scissors to cut them up right on top of the tomatoes. Then top with the crumbled blue cheese.

The tang of the blue cheese is pretty awesome with fresh tomatoes and also goes well with the balsamic. I am sad to say that I have yet to get ANY tomatoes from my garden this year, other than a few grape-sized ones. I have heard other people in my area say the same thing. Too much rain – the tomatoes just aren’t ripening. These tomatoes came from my favorite family-owned farm stand, Hunter’s, which I have mentioned before since they have the world’s best corn on the cob. Luckily I have PLENTY of fresh herbs in the garden to top this off. This is a nice alternative to Caprese salad, which is something else I have blogged about and eat often.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It Takes a Garden

Despite the torrential downpours we had earlier today, it turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous evening. I gathered some herbs from the garden to have with my tilapia (sage, lemon thyme, marjoram, parsley, basil, and garlic chives), then enjoyed a peaceful dinner on the screened-in back porch (safe from the mosquitoes!). As I sat there looking out at the garden, I counted eight yellow Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies. Wow, EIGHT! Five were on the white butterfly bush and three were on the purple butterfly bush. There’s a reason they call it a butterfly bush! I’m used to seeing that many of the white Cabbage Butterflies because they love the catmint, but I have never seen that many Swallowtails at one time in the garden. I tried to get a couple of videos, but it doesn’t really give the sense of how many were there. Here is one on the purple butterfly bush.

Here are three on the white butterfly bush. Hard to see all three of them in here.

I also saw one Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly, three white Cabbage Butterflies, one Hummingbird, one Goldfinch, two neighborhood cats, and a mommy bird feeding her babies in one of the birdfeeders on the shed (the same birdhouse I showed in my blog recently, but different babies this time). All of these creatures were happily living in perfect harmony in the garden. One of the cats briefly chased some Cabbage Butterflies...some of the butterflies chased each other..all seemingly very happy and playful.

Maybe the answer to peace on earth is more gardens in the world.

Mosquito Heaven

I don’t need any more mosquitoes in my yard than I already have, so I practice prevention by dumping standing water. This year, however, with all of the rain we’ve had, it has been difficult to keep up with it.

Waterlogged shells.

Today, in our area we had torrential downpours that totaled about 6.5 inches of rain in four hours. We’ve had so many bursts of storms this year that I have heard several people say it’s like living in Florida. I haven’t been to Florida since I was a kid, so I can’t really say. All I know is it is a change from most summers when we are begging for rain.

Below is a so-called self-watering pot, one of two that I purchased early this spring. They have become ponds, complete with their own algae. I need to drill drainage holes unless I want to become a mosquito breeder.

Waterlogged pot.

On a positive note, my water bill is a lot less than in past summers. I can count on one hand how many times I have had to water the garden this year. That’s just crazy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Neglected Flower Garden in August

I always kinda wondered what would happen if I didn’t keep up with my weeding and dead-heading during the season. Now I know. I have been so focused on my web design classes and homework, that I have not spent nearly as much time as I usually do in the garden. I miss it...and apparently it misses me.

A sure-fire sign of neglect: Morning Glory vines self-seeding in the grass, in the path, and everywhere. Believe it or not, this is my arbor: Climbing hydrangea on the left and climbing rose and Morning Glory vine on the right...and on the ground. Yes, there still is a gravel path in there...somewhere. Between the Morning Glory and the leaning Monarda and Purple Coneflowers, good luck finding it.

Overgrown arbor.

This is the arbor as seen from the back of the path, from where my statue “Winnie” stands. See, there IS a path in there. Watch out for the bees, though. They love the Monarda and Purple Coneflowers. I just planted the Joe Pye Weed last year and it seems to be thriving on neglect, hence the word “weed” in the name, I guess.

Ah-ha, there IS a path in  there.

Yep, that Joe Pye Weed sure has made itself at home in the back of the flower garden. I had planted it to try to shield the view of the neighbor’s yard and it has taken that job very seriously.

Joe Pye Weed.

Another sure-fire sign of neglect: Wisteria taking over the greenhouse, the shed, and the roof of the family well as spreading all over the ground.

There’s a greenhouse in there somewhere.

The wisteria is traveling from the greenhouse to the shed overhead, almost completely blocking out the sun. As I say often in this blog, I have a love/hate relationship with my wisteria. LOVE it in the spring when it’s blooming because it’s absolutely gorgeous and smells heavenly, but HATE it the rest of the year because it grows an average of 10 feet per year. I’m guessing it has grown more than that this year with all the rain we’ve had to keep it going.

Wisteria blocking the sun.

The path from the gate to the back yard is nice and shady now from all of that wisteria.

Path from the gate to the back yard. can’t even get into the shed. At least the birds have a quiet, forest-like setting for their home now. Check out those seed pods. Just another reason I have wisteria popping up all over.

Wisteria blocking the shed door.

Where the heck did this one come from? The only wisteria that is on this side of the yard is my tree wisteria and that doesn’t spread. I think these vines are coming from my neighbor’s yard and are snaking their way from the side of the yard, through the woodpile area, on its way to the kitchen garden. Better stop that pronto.

Wisteria vines.

One thing that is thriving on neglect is Brian’s hop vines. They are taking over the one side of the shed and spreading into the daisies. We need to string these up better next year so they go upward more and not outward so much. They have plenty of hop cones on them.

Hop vine.

Considering the state of neglect, the flower garden doesn’t look TOO bad from a distance. This is what we see while sitting on the screened-in back porch.

The flower garden.

Well, actually, you can see the arbor is overgrown from here...

The flower garden.

This was taken while standing by the shed and looking towards the back of the yard.

The flower garden in August.

If you stand in the back of the yard and look at the flower garden, it doesn’t look all that bad. One thing that is kind of nice is the garden is so full of plants now, I don’t have as much weeds to deal with.

The flower garden, as seen from the back of the yard.

The butterflies sure do love the garden. Every time I look at the garden, I see at least two of these yellow Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, plus tons of the white cabbage butterflies. The other day I saw four Tiger Swallowtails flitting about. They looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a purple Butterfly Bush.

The purple Butterfly Bush is leaning way over into my kitchen garden this year. I obviously didn’t prune it far enough in the spring.

Looking towards the house from the back of the yard.

The butterflies also really like the David Phlox, which is still blooming, but not as pretty as it was a few weeks ago.

White Phlox David.

I often see the hummingbird at the Black and Blue Salvia, but she (it’s a female) is so gosh-darn fast I can’t get a picture of her.

Black and Blue Salvia.

This yellow Showstar, an annual, is really a showstar this time of the year. It always takes the Melampodium a little while to get going, but once it gets going it is constant color and doesn’t even need dead-heading to keep pretty. Now that’s my kind of plant! How the heck did that orange cosmos get in there? I kind of like it. It’s like its playing hide and seek.

A yellow annual: Melampodium Showstar.

The purple Coneflowers are still hanging on, but not as pretty as they were. Of course, the Goldfinches still love them.

Purple Coneflowers and Joe Pye Weed.

I planted three Ice Plants in the front of the flower garden this year and they seem really happy and are spreading. I have actually tried to get rid of the Creeping Jenny and it keeps coming back. The bright yellow/green foliage is nice, but it will spread anywhere and everywhere. I have had this purple sedum in this cool pot ever since we moved into this house. I keep thinking I should transplant it, but then look how awesome it looks. I love the foliage color combinations in this photo. I am more into foliage colors now and wish I was when I first started this garden so it had more of this kind of contrast.

Ice Plant, Creeping Jenny, and a pot of purple sedum.

The right side of the flower garden usually looks best in the spring and summer, whereas the left side looks best in the late summer and fall. I pretty much planned it that way. There’s all sorts of stuff on this left side: From Hydrangeas to a Butterfly Bush, to Asters, Pineapple Sage, Black-Eyed Susans, Sedums, and Geranium (the perennial kind).

The left side of the flower garden.

Hydrangeas, Black-Eyed Susan, and a Butterfly Bush.

I wish I knew what the two Hydrangeas were called that are in this bed, but I don’t.

Black-Eyed Susan and a white Hydrangea.

This one really flops over in the rain and will also flop if I don’t prune it far enough back in the early spring.

White Hydrangea.

Ah-ha! There’s Winnie. Hard to see her anymore from the front of the garden since it’s so overgrown along the path. This is another white Hydrangea that has really gotten big over the past few years. I love it. (Still need to finish this path back here.)

Another white Hydrangea.

This was taken from behind the flower garden, looking towards the shed.

View from behind the flower garden.

So despite neglect, the flower garden really isn’t looking as bad as I thought, expect for maybe the arbor area. However, weeding and dead-heading are definitely in order. What does a neglected vegetable garden look like in August? Tune in soon to see.