Hello everyone! We had the most wonderful and warm weather for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been busily working away, with the help of my sweet hubby, to get the garden ready for vegetable planting, actually planting some items, and finally this last weekend I could turn my attention to the flowers. I went to a couple of plant sales and garden centers and picked up a few choice items to use in my garden this year. Plus, I’ve been hardening off 6 flats of flower starts that I grew from seed under lights this spring, so they would be ready to go for planting the hanging baskets and containers that I like to do each year.
After we got back from the sales, I decided to set up my planting operations where I always do, on a little step up on the garage roof nearby where my biggest container garden is. I sorted plants out by variety in rows to make it easier:
I got some of the plants and that little green stool at the sales:
Looks like I’m getting ready to open my own nursery, doesn’t it?? I’ve found it’s way easier and quicker to work on the plantings when all of my options are put together in one place, so I can see what I have to work with and can combine plants on the fly, inspired by the container and where they will eventually be placed in the garden.
After I worked on baskets for a while (you can see a DIY for making your own hanging baskets that I posted), I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures of the flowers that all came into bloom recently. Enjoy!
There’s a lot of flowers in the pink and yellow shades in bloom right now, in a wide range of those colors, plus a little peach and lavender thrown in for fun:
From left to right: the white flowers of Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, ‘Rose de Rescht’ rose and an unknown variety of yellow iris. The hummingbird is having a snack at the feeder, too.
The David Austin rose ‘Graham Thomas’ growing up a blue arbor:
The bright chartreuse of Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ coupled with the new growth of a sword fern:
I love variegated sage next to something blue:
One of my favorite clematis –’Fujimusume’:
One of the only repeat-blooming rambling roses, the antique rose ‘Phyllis Bide’, here partnered with lavender-purple Clematis ‘Daniel Deronda’:
Conditions were right this year so that ‘Daniel’ decided to throw out some double blossoms along with his usual single ones:
Hummingbird and bee favorites Jupiter’s Beard and pink Foxglove:
One of my favorite flower combinations: the light pink buds of old garden rose ‘Jacques Cartier’ along with the huge blossoms of clematis ‘Kardinal Wyszinski’ (pronounced “war-SHIN-ski”)
The thornless (yay!) climbing rose ‘Zephrine Drouhin’:
The deep-burgundy clematis ‘Niobe’:
Flowers on the side of the house: from left to right is the climbing hybrid tea rose ‘Golden Showers’, pink ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ and a lavender lilac:
Glad you could stop by the garden today for a visit!
Do you love roses and clematis, and do you grow them in your garden? I’d love to hear about it down in the comments, so feel free to stop by and say hi!
Hello all! Glad to be able to spend some time here today with you. In between rain showers, I ran out while the sun was shining and snapped a few pictures of my springtime garden.
Come along with me . . .
This is an annual that winters over in my garden called Cerinthe major ‘Purpurescense’–love it!
The hummingbirds enjoy this one a lot.
Now how about some tulips and daffodils?
This tulip is called ‘Golden Appledorn’:
And this is one of my favorite daffs–’Tahiti’–I love double daffodils!
Now for a little side trip to England for some English daisies. Their small size belies their fierce and rugged nature. I never give them any protection during the winter, and they come back every year in my containers . . .
I also love parrot tulips, and this one of an unknown variety just started opening for me today:
You can always tells it’s springtime at Minerva’s Garden because the apple trees are in bloom:
Love all the shades of pink that appear . . .
Spring is also the time for pretty foliage. Look at all the different shapes, colors and textures:
Thanks for taking a springtime walk with me around Minerva’s Garden!
Is your garden starting to look nice for spring? Are you thinking about putting in a new garden this year? I’d love to hear about it down in the comments, so feel free to stop by and say hi!
Hello all! I’ve enjoyed the last several days this week that brought some warm weather and sunshine to our rain-soaked garden. I’ve been mostly just doing winter clean-up chores to get the garden looking tidy and fresh for the spring bulbs, perennials and shrubs that are starting to bloom.
One of the tasks that I recently accomplished was to start my seeds indoors. These seeds will germinate and grow under lights until later in the spring, when the nighttime temperatures warm up enough so that I can safely plant them outside. For where I live, this means that most flower starts can go outside in containers in the middle of May, and it really varies depending upon the vegetable variety we’re talking about. All manner of salad greens, seeds and starts, can often go outside in late March, although I do give them some extra protection under clear plastic just to give them a headstart and protect them from rogue cold nights, and tomatoes can go out (usually) the first week of June. I usually wait a bit later to plant the eggplant and peppers, because they are such heat lovers. All of these dates are what I do in my location; if you live south of me, you can probably put plants out a couple of weeks before me with no harm, and if you live north of me, a couple of weeks later.
I thought you might find it interesting to see what was on my vegetable seed list this year. You will discover that I am opinionated about seed varieties as well as seed purveyors. This is because I’ve spent and lost a lot of money over the years with seed that was no good, or the variety was not suitable for our area and climate. I have kept very careful notes in my garden notebooks over the years, and now I know exactly what I like to shop for when the new seeds are presented at the local garden nurseries, because I’ve tested them and I know I’ll get good results from them.
I’m also quite opinionated about shipping and handling charges exacted by seed companies. These costs to the home gardener have skyrocketed in recent years, so much so that last year and this I decided to buy all my seeds locally rather than do it through mail order, and I have no regrets. I do have to say that I live in an area that is blessed with a couple of excellent garden nurseries that are well-stocked with seeds, and I do realize that mail order may be the only option for some gardeners depending upon their locale. Do what works best for you, as I am doing.
For your information, I garden in garden zone 8 in the Pacific Northwest, specifically the southwest part of Washington State. We have rainy and fairly mild winters, rainy springs (it often rains a lot until July 4th around here) that take a super-long time for the overnight temperatures to warm up, cool and often quite dry summers with a (usually) short growing season and warm temperatures often extending through the end of September and even beginning of October, and rainy late autumns. If you live in this climate region, the seeds that I list below should work well for you. If you live in an area with a different garden zone and amount of rainfall, you will want to make some substitutions for seeds that work best in your location and climate. I also garden on a single-city lot that includes our home, garage and a little potting shed. I have several beds (usually 9 depending upon how I arrange things) in the backyard that are devoted to vegetable gardening, and one bed in the front terraces, as well as several containers that become home to herbs for the summer.
Here are the seeds that made it onto my list this year:
Bush Green Beans ‘Royal Burgundy’ (2 packets, Botanical Interests Seeds)
Pole Filet Green Beans ‘Emerite’ (2 packets, Renee’s Garden Seeds)
Slicing Cucumber ‘Summer Top Hybrid’ (1 packet, Nichols Garden Nursery). My favorite slicing cuke is ‘Green Slam’ from Territorial Seeds Company, but the seed is not available locally, and I couldn’t see paying $7.50 in shipping and handling for 1 packet of seed, so I decided to try something new. I am hopeful about this new one because it’s supposed to be ready in only 55 days, and we have a short growing season here, so hopefully it will produce well. We shall see how this variety stacks up to my beloved ‘Green Slam’.)
Eggplant ‘Nadia’ (1 packet, Nichols Garden Nursery) This is the best purple large-size eggplant to grow in the Pacific Northwest, in my humble opinion. Before, the only place I could find it was mail-order from Maine, but happily I found it locally from this seed source, which is a new one for me this year. We’ll see how their seeds perform.
Lettuce ‘New Red Fire’ (1 packet, Territorial Seed Company)
Seed Potatoes: I had good success with the varieties that I grew last year, but not all were available this year, so I am trying some new ones. I bought: 10 ‘French Fingerling’, 10 ‘Rose Finn Apple’, as well as 10 ‘Modock’ early-season red-skinned, 5 ‘German Butterball’, 5 ‘Chieftan mid-season red-skinned, and 3 ‘All Blue’ seed potatoes. This is the same amount that I bought last year, and it filled a large bed and produced a lot of potatoes.
Tomato Indeterminate ‘San Marzano Gigante 3′ (1 packet, Territorial Seed Company) This is a new variety that I’m trying this year, but so far I am really impressed with how well it germinated. I have had very good production from the ‘San Marzano’ and ‘Super San Marzano’ tomatoes that I’ve grown from seed, so any variety of these I am ready to try. They are excellent for drying, for eating fresh in salads, and they ripen the best when I bring the green tomatoes indoors in the fall for winter consumption.)
Those are the seeds that we purchased this year, but I do have to say that I have several others from a few years past that I also used this year as well. Most seeds will remain viable for at least 3 years from the year you purchase them, and I often buy a larger size packet of seed that I use regularly because it is often less expensive that way, and it should germinate just fine.
These are the seeds that I already had on hand that I routinely start from seed each year:
Acorn Squash ‘Mesa Queen Hybrid’ (Territorial Seeds Company–I am finishing up a packet of this variety, and I won’t get it again. They germinate okay, but hardly produce anything here. Which is not uncommon, because squash need really warm temperatures to produce well. But even so, the production values of this one was not great.)
Arugula (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)
Basil ‘Genovese’ (Botanical Interests organic)
Beet ‘Bull’s Blood’ (I’ve had good luck with both Lake Valley Seeds and Territorial Seeds in this variety)
Bok Choy ‘Tatsoi’ (Botanical Interests)
Dill ‘Bouquet’ (Botanical Interests Seeds)
Eggplant ‘Casper’ (Territorial Seeds Company–again, another good eggplant that works well and produces in our short growing season, but alas it seems to be only available through mail-order and not locally. A shame–it’s worth growing.)
Pole Green Beans ‘Scarlet Emperor and ‘Violet Podded Stringless’–(both from Territorial Seeds Company–These both have beautiful flowers and grow very well here. They produce big beans, though, and I prefer a thinner, filet-style bean instead, so I am going with ‘Emerite’ instead for now.)
Asian Greens ‘Mizuna’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds–although other companies do carry good seed of this variety as well–I got a better price here when I bought a large-size packet)
Lettuce ‘Concept’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, although good seed is also available from Territorial Seeds)
Lettuce ‘Jericho’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, although good seed is also available from Territorial Seeds)
Onions ‘Walla Walla Sweet’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds–I just grow these for green onions)
Orach ‘Double Purple’–a dark purple salad green that tastes a bit like spinach (Territorial Seeds Company)
Parsley ‘Italian Flat Leaf (Botanical Interests)
Radicchio ‘Chioggia Red Preco #1 (Johnny’s Selected Seeds–this is a great radicchio for here, but I am discovering that there are other varieties that grow just as well and I don’t have to pay for shipping to get them, so have been making the switch to local seed sources.)
Radicchio ‘Rossa di Treviso Precoce’ (Territorial Seeds Company–I could not find this locally this year, so maybe it’s mail-order only, and it does grow well here, but see above)
Radish ‘French Breakfast’ (Botanical Interests)
Spinach ‘Tyee’ (Territorial Seeds Company)
Swiss Chard ‘Rhubarb Chard’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds–although I have had great luck with the Botanical Interests variety of this as well)
Tomato Indeterminate Cherry ‘Gardener’s Delight’ (Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply–this may be available elsewhere, but so far I haven’t found it anywhere else, and it is worth seeking out. The big problem I have with cherry tomatoes is that right as they get ripe, they split open on the vine. This variety does not do that, and produces a large amount of fruit.)
Zucchini ‘Black Hawk Hybrid’ (Territorial Seeds Company–this was such disappointing seed from what is an otherwise outstanding seed company. They sold 10 of these super-expensive hybrid seeds for $6.95, and the big selling point was that they were supposed to vine up tall so you can grow them on a trellis and they wouldn’t take up so much room in the garden. They absolutely did not vine up tall at all, and only produced minimally. I would never spend the money on this variety again.)
Are you starting vegetable seeds this year? What are your favorite veggi seed varieties? I’d love to hear about it down in the comments, so feel free to stop by and say hi!
Hello everyone! I am sorry I’ve been missing in action for a while now. I’ve been quite sick for almost 3 weeks, and just didn’t have the energy to make, shoot, and post projects. I am still getting over this nasty cold–I was coughing so hard one night that I couldn’t breathe at all at one point, and was a hairs-breadth away from calling the paramedics–so not fun. Now I just have a malingering cough and congestion mostly–but today I finally started feeling like my old self again, so here I am!
I am happy to say I had some good nurse kitties to help me get better.
While I was still recovering, I went in to do callbacks for the Shakespeare play that I had auditioned for last month, and I just found out that I got cast! (My vocal range was basso profundo that day due to so much coughing–maybe that’s why I got cast as 2 male characters! Shakespeare is pretty fluid when it comes to gender roles and casting :) So excited–this is a Shakespeare in the Parks production, so we’ll be performing free to the public shows outdoors this summer in parks throughout Portland, Oregon and even in Washington State up the Columbia River Gorge at a museum. People bring lawn chairs and picnics with them to enjoy the shows, and it’s a lot of fun! Looking forward to working with the director, cast and crew at Portland Actors Ensemble, and I’m already memorizing :)
I am also doing my best to find some type of job or jobs that will bring in some extra money. The acting jobs are great and pay, and it’s my favorite type of work, so I am going to as many auditions as I am able. But I am also exploring other avenues of employment–getting creative and broadening my scope of potential jobs. So I have the job search going on as well as all my regular activities.
Because I’ve been so out of it, I thought what I would do is share with you a timely post that I wrote last spring around this time. It’s a tutorial about how to prune an espaliered Belgian fence of pear and apple trees. I learned how to graft fruit trees a few years ago, and created our fence! It is at the point where it is producing lots of fruit each fall, and we still are enjoying dried apple rings that we prepared from our fall harvest.
Espaliered trees are pruned and trained to grow flat, in a 2-dimensional shape, so they take up very little room, especially if you use mini-dwarf fruit trees such as I do, which only reach 4-6 feet tall at maturity. So it’s a great way to add fruit trees to even the smallest yard.
I hope you enjoy this!
From the end of February to anytime now is a good time to go out and prune your pear and apple trees, and this is especially important if you are growing them espalier-style in a Belgian-fence pattern. I’ve been interested in growing fruit trees for several years, and around six or so years ago I took a class at the Home Orchard Society that taught me how to graft fruit trees–well worth it. I then went to their Rootstock Sale and Scion Exchange–held every year in March, and this year happening on March 17th if you live in Oregon–and bought several rootstocks and then was able to select all the scion wood I wanted for free! When you consider that buying grafted mini-dwarf fruit trees will cost you around at least $25 each at a gardening center, and I was able to make mine for around $5 apiece, you could see why this appealed to my frugal gardening nature.
As they grew, my husband put up the framework of cedar posts and orchard wire that they would need to grow upon in order to achieve the espalier effect that I wanted. Espalier is what the artist Monet (or more likely, his hoard of gardeners) used to train the lovely apple trees that grace the perimeter of his garden at Giverny, which are absolutely stunning when they are in bloom in the spring. Espaliered forms of fruit trees are nice in that the fruit is easy to pick, because it is most often done on mini-dwarf fruit trees that will only reach 4-6 feet tall at maturity–no ladders needed, another distinct advantage. (They can even be grown in large containers!)
These trees are basically pruned so that they are rather two-dimentional, kind of flat, and each tree resembles a letter “Y” in shape, with the trunk the bottom of the Y, and just two main arms that come out from the trunk. When the trees are positioned close together, the arms of the trees eventually at maturity form a diamond pattern. These arms are tied to slender sticks, and then I can position them at any angle I want on the wires, so that I don’t have to cut all the strings to reposition each time.
This style of growing allows you to pack in several mini-dwarf fruit trees in a small amount of space. I have eight trees in a fifteen-foot run that’s only about 15 inches wide, with trees grown on two-foot centers. (If you go to my garden book recommendations page, I have a book listed that talks about pruning and training plants that I recommend you look at if you are interested in trying this.)
Once the trees are well on their way to maturity, at least 3 years old, you can add bulbs and other flowers to the row, which I’ve done to coincide with when the fruit trees are in bloom. Late tulips usually bloom at the same time. Be sure to give the tree roots enough room–they are shallow rooted, and you don’t want them to have to compete for root space with an aggressive bed partner, because the tree might not win.
Crabapple in bloom, with ‘Angelique’ pink late tulips and lots of blue forget-me-nots
So it was the end of February a couple of weeks ago, and out I went on a sunny afternoon to deal with pruning the apples and pear. Here are the varieties of apple and pear trees that I grow:
1. Bartlett pear, grown on a a OHXF333 rootstock, a pear rootstock
2. Liberty apple, grown on a P-22 apple rootstock (mini-dwarf apple rootstock)
3. Hudson’s Golden Gem apple, grown on a M-27 apple rootstock (this rootstock is basically the same as the P- 22, so they are essentially interchangeable for apples)
4. Whitney crabapple, grown on a M-27 apple rootstock (this I am growing as a polinator for some of the other trees)
5. Kingston Black cider apple, grown on an M-27 apple rootstock (normally you need a sweet and savory apple variety to make good cider, but this apple is great on it’s own for cider-making)
6. Stayman Winesap apple, grown on an M-27 apple rootstock (this is the second Winesap I’ve tried–so far the first one died after three years, and this one is pretty small compared to the other apple variety I started the same year. They taste wonderful, however, so I am being patient and will see what happens over time.)
7. Tompkin’s King apple, grown on an M-27 apple rootstock (I cannot recommend this apple variety enough. The flavor is amazing, and the apples are quite large. Our best tree so far, in my opinion.)
8. Spitzenburg apple, grown on a B-9 apple rootstock (this rootstock would not have been my first choice, as this one creates a tree that reaches 9-12 feet tall, but I put it on the end of the row, and am letting one of the arms get quite long, and so far it’s happy.)
I also put the pear on the other end of the row, because pears always want to get big, even on mini-dwarf rootstock, so again I can let one of the Y-arms grow out way long, and it seems to be working.)
Last year was the first main year that I allowed several of these trees to bear fruit. Up to that time, you pluck all the flowers off so that they don’t produce fruit too early, because when they start to produce fruit, they will stop growing, and if they haven’t filled in the frame or shape in which you want them to grow, then you are messed up. My trees are taking around five years from grafting to fruit production stage.
I was by myself when doing this recent pruning, and I discovered very quickly that it is hard to hold a pruner in place and take a picture with your other hand (I am not an octopus!) But I will show a few pictures to give you a little idea of how it went.
A before-pruning jungle. The tree on the far left is the pear, and notice that there are a lot of branches coming out of the center of the tree–these will need attention.
Another shot of the before pruning jungle
Tools I used: hand pruners, eye protection, gloves, and a lopper, which is in a later picture
More of a close-up before pruning shot. The first step is to get rid of the obvious: any dead or broken branches, cut them out of there. Branches that are rubbing and crossing each other, cut one of them out. Notice how long the side branches are growing off the main arm–these will be shortened in the pruning process.
You will notice that I am growing these trees up a steep slope. Ideally, you’d do it on a flat gardening area, but this is what I had to work with, and I’m not going to let a slope stop me from having wonderful fresh fruit!. I have to get a little creative on the arm angles of the trees so that the patterns look right on the slope, but it’s just a matter of stepping back and looking at the overall shape, and then making adjustments to it.
After you have cleaned out all the obviously dead, diseased, rotted stuff and crossing branches, then the next step is to actually step back and take a look at what you have. You’ll have several side-shoot branches coming off the main arm of each tree. If there are any that are really tiny and weak, I tend to prune those back to the arm, because they won’t be able to support the fruit as it grows. (Apples get heavy as they grow.)
Next, step back up to the tree and start with one side-shoot. You are looking at those little bumps along the side shoot, which are buds. You want to trim it back so that there are around 5-6 buds per side-shoot. This may mean you’ll be cutting a lot of length off those shoots, but that’s okay. If you don’t, what happens is that those long floppy side shoots produce flowers at the end of the branch, and then you are left with big heavy apples growing way out on the end of the branch, which can result in the branch breaking under the weight. You want to keep the side shoots fairly short, 12 inches approximately should be the longest. (You will see as I go along that I break that “rule at times”. Pruning is a little like art, and a little like zen–probably no two gardeners will do it exactly the same, but if you follow these basic principles for most of the tree branches, you should be fine.)
The fewer buds you leave, the larger the fruit will be, but there will be less of it, so keep this in mind. Also don’t leave the maximum number of buds on a weak little side shoot, because it will break under the weight of the ripening fruit. Don’t be afraid to step away and back from the tree, so that you can see what the results of your pruning look like from a bit of a distance. This also helps to prevent mistakes, and cutting where you didn’t exactly intend to.
This shows what buds look like on a branch–they are the little bumpy things that are sticking out along the branch.
You want to prune your trees when they have these little buds on the branches, rather than after they are leafing out or blossoming, because the idea is to shorten all the side branches before they start producing leaves and flowers. If you wait too long, they will produce flowers way out at the ends of all those long branches.
Now, the pear tree . . .
After the fact–this is how much I had to cut out of the crotch of the pear tree–yikes!
I took a pruning class, and one phrase stuck with me: always have clean crotches when you prune (I know . . . now you’ll never forget that, will you???) Meaning, these trees are formed in a Y-shape, so at the base of that Y, where the two arms meet the trunk, you want to make sure to cut out any branches that start to grow there, because they will be suckers and sap the energy from the tree as it tries to produce fruit. I am a pruning wuss at heart, and have a hard time whacking back a plant, but this had gone on way too long, and it was ruining the shape of the espalier, so out those extra branches came!
Pear with a clean crotch, baby!
Notice that this tree always wants to get too big for this frame, and so I trick it a little and let it think it’s growing big by running the left arm of the tree up and along the top wire. This just gives a nice finished edge to your espalier, but if you prefer you could just cut it off a tiny bit higher than the top wire, and that would work as well. But I want art, so I create an edging.
A closeup of the top of the espalier–this is what I mean by edging the top of the frame with one of the arm branches from each tree–it creates a line along the top, and to my aesthetic sense looks more finished and pleasing to the eye.
Remember that that top edging is one of the productive arms of the tree, so I have short branches coming out of this arm that I prune back to 5-6 buds, because I don’t want to cut all the fruit off that arm. I want fruit, and as much as they will produce!
These two trees are partly pruned on the lower parts of the arms, and I haven’t gotten to the top yet, as you can tell by the long branches that are sticking out at the top. These arms I continue to tie down to the top wire to create the edge along the whole top.
The finished results:
Espaliered Belgian fence after spring pruning–note the nice line along the top of the frame! You can see the diamond pattern much more clearly now!
You will notice there are some gaps in the line. This is because I have 3 trees that I had to restart, so they are a few years younger than the big ones. They will catch up in time. You have to be patient with trees–plant them and then wait five years for fruit!
Another shot of the pruned espalier Belgian fence.
I have a short video from about three years ago that covers a little bit more about grafting fruit trees and espalier. (I always smile when I watch these videos from a few years ago–since then, I’ve lost about 25 pounds and cut my hair short! Seeing yourself on video gives you motivation, I’ll tell you:)
Are you growing fruit trees this season? What types do you grow? Would you like to learn how to grow or graft and prune fruit trees? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
My sweetie got me a neat book for Valentine’s Day. It’s called OK! The Story of Oklahoma! by Max Wilk, and, as the name implies, it gives all the background scoop on what it was like during the creation, production and early performances of the ground-breaking American musical.
I haven’t been able to put it down. I loved reading about Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart and how they worked together, and eventually didn’t, and so Oscar Hammerstein was eventually partnered with Rogers to come up with the memorable songs and book from this show.
It got us thinking of another song with music by Rogers and lyrics by Hammerstein that’s perfect for this time of year, and the theme for my tablescape today:
It Might As Well Be Spring
We’re at that point in the year, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, where there are days when the sun comes out, the temperatures warm, the bulbs start opening, and you definitely get a sense that spring is nearly upon us.
I wanted a pretty tablescape using some of my thrifted finds that would remind me that spring is almost here.
I liked the idea of green–it reminds me of the awakening earth.
I added in some purple, because purple and green is a favorite combination of mine.
I also wanted some blue, for the clear blue skies that we are enjoying today.
And some bright yellow for the sunshine.
Now, if you happen to know Oscar Hammerstein’s song lyric, which comes from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Academy Award-winning 1945 film musical State Fair, the singer of this song is not someone who, at the moment, is content with her life. In actuality, the song is not sung in the springtime, but the singer is feeling discontent with the current state of affairs in her life, and comes to the conclusion that it “might as well be spring” in the hopes that by joining her family in their annual trip to the Iowa State Fair, she will leave her depressed feelings behind for something better.
(And what do you know, she meets heart-throb Dana Andrews at the State Fair, so things definitely start to look up!)
And frankly, don’t you feel a little bit like that at this time of year, with cold weather still in the offing, but feeling hopeful that something better is just around the corner?
I know I do sometimes.
And, for those who are curious, here is a rendition of the song “It Might As Well Be Spring”, sung by Liz Callaway–enjoy!
Yellow dishes, yellow silk tulips, blue check napkins: Dollar Tree
Purple vase, green and purple serving dish: Salvation Army Thrift Store
Green placemats: Homegoods
Green water glasses, purple floral tablecloth, green coffee mugs, clear glass cakeplate, purple glass serving plate: Goodwill
Green platter: Thrift store going out of business sale
White candle holder, tiny bottles: Camas Antiques
Silverware: Reed and Barton “French Renaissance” pattern
Blue and white plates: from Goodwill, imprint on back says, “Made in Czechoslovakia, Bohemia, Inglazed”
Yellow coasters: Made from tiles from The Rebuilding Center, Portland, OR
Green floral-motif chairs: picked up several years ago as part of a table and chair patio set at a Mother’s Day Plant Sale
Happy Valentine’s Day! For someone who hasn’t really decorated for this holiday in quite some time, I rather enjoyed myself with it all this year. In the dreary winter months, any excuse for a celebration is fantastic in my book!
Today I have a delicious recipe for scones, and this is a recipe that comes from a high-end New York City hotel, no less. This is Pastry Chef Jasmina Bojic’s scone recipe, which is served at the Palm Court of the Plaza Hotel for their high tea. I made it as written, with the one exception that I cut the sugar from 1/2 cup down to 1/4 cup–I usually find most recipes to taste too sweet for my tastebuds, and I found that even with 1/4 cup sugar plus the fruit that they were still quite sweet in flavor. I also opted to use dried cranberries as the dried fruit in these flaky and delectable goodies, perfect for Valentine’s Day breakfast, or anytime when you want something special for a leisurely morning meal. You will also want to keep an eye on these as they bake; the goal is to end up with a scone that is lightly golden brown on the bottom, and it’s quite easy to over-cook them.
I decided to make my scones, which are depicted as cut into round shapes in the recipe, a little more appropriate for this lover’s holiday, and I cut mine out with a cute heart-shaped cookie cutter that I got at our local antique store. The fluted edge of that cookie cutter makes me happy:
I put them on a silver tray, which I lined with a white lace doily.
I am in love with colored glass dishes, and enjoy collecting them. I have a few pink ones that are favorites. I will often bring these out for Sunday brunch, but they are perfect for Valentine’s Day breakfast as well. This one I picked up last year at Goodwill.
I wish you and your loved ones a very special and happy Valentine’s Day today!
Hello all! Today I want to share with you a fantastic family of evergreen shrubs that provide wonderful flowers and berries for many months of the year, but really come into their own during the colder winter months. They are easy plants to grow, very low maintenance, and produce flowers just at a time of year when you want them most.
I speak of Viburnum tinus:
I have two viburnum shrubs in my garden. One is a quite compact one, which has topped out around 6 feet tall, and I believe it might be ‘Spring Bouquet’ or ‘Davidii’, but it’s been so long I honestly don’t remember the exact variety anymore (Bad gardener! But this was planted before I was keeping detailed notes about the garden . . .) The other one is quite a bit taller, probably closer to 12 feet tall. We purchased it at the end of the season from a hardware store in October when we first moved into our home back in 2001, and it was unlabeled, so I have no idea as to the variety.
Here you can see what the tall viburnum looks like now (I’ve got a bed full of arugula under the plastic):
And what it will look like in a couple of weeks–I took this shot last year (with a different camera), and it’s blooming with a yellow forsythia:
Even though I am unaware of their exact names, I can tell you they are the perfect guests to invite into your garden. Mine start blooming at the end of August, and bloom through the winter and finish up in late spring. They are evergreen shrubs, so they provide structure to the garden year round. Hardy to garden zones 7-11, Viburnum like partial sun to sunny locations, and now that they are mature shrubs, I never provide them with water other than the rainfall that we receive here, which is a ton in the fall, winter and spring and none in the summer–you might need to provide water if you garden in a drier climate. I never fertilize them, either–they thrive without it in our rich acidic clay soils.
A big reason I love these shrubs, both short and tall, is that they provide winter nectar flowers for the hummingbirds that like to winter over in our garden. The buds are pink:
And the tiny tubular flowers, which are produced in clusters, are white. Those tubes are perfect for a hummingbird’s long beak! I love that the shrubs also produce shiny blue berries. The birds enjoy these, although they are not fit for human consumption, and if we didn’t have indoor pets, I would be inclined to include them in indoor floral arrangements in the autumn because of that gorgeous deep color. (I am afraid that those bright berries would be too tempting for our crew of curious felines, and even though Viburnum are not listed on the ASPCA list of plants toxic to cats, I don’t like taking any chances.) In any event, they don’t make particularly good cut flowers, so I usually just enjoy them every time I look out our dining room and bedroom windows.
Do you grow viburnum in your garden? Tell me all about it down in the comments!
Happy Monday, everyone! I hope your weekend was fabulous. Ours was–spent again at the theatre all weekend, still working on my Shakespeare audition piece, and was able to share it with my acting class and get some great feedback on it. I’m looking forward to the audition, but I still have to do and print up a new headshot this week, so another busy week in store.
I’ve got our little sideboard that we have behind out couch for your today, all decked out in Valentine’s finery.
I decided to keep it super-simple, and use items I found while out thrifting or inexpensive supplies from Dollar Tree. The ivory fabric is actually a table runner from Dollar Tree, and the floral fabric I’ve had forever in my stash. I used part of it to cover the old bulletin board in my office, and I just love it. The white plate, cake stand and cloche all came from Goodwill over the course of last year’s shopping expeditions.
I decided to fill the cloche up with big, fat ribbon spirals. The red rose ribbon came from Dollar Tree, and the center red and rose tapestry-looking ribbon was a Christmas gift from my Mom. To me, it looked perfect for either Christmas or Valentine’s Day, so into the cloche it went!
The pretty white container holding the red silk Dollar Tree roses came from our local antique store, and I paid around $7 for it. The pink rippled plate under it is part of a set that includes a pretty pink glass bowl, and it came from Goodwill from several years ago–I’m sure I didn’t pay more than $4 or $5 for the pair. I’ve been on the lookout for more containers the shape of the white one–sort of low, squatty and oval, because I like to use them for flower arrangements all year long, but especially when I’ve got fresh flowers from my garden.
Did you do some quick decorating projects for Valentine’s Day? Tell me all about it down in the comments!
Hello everyone! Hope your weekend was fantastic–we spent it at the theatre, with myself doing box office and front of house duties while my sweetie played accordion in the lobby prior to performances and during intermission–fun, and we’ll be back for the final weekend coming up! I’m continuing with acting class every Saturday and still hard at work on my Shakespeare monologue–going to play one of the Merry wives of Windsor–those were some gals who knew how to have a good time :) Also getting ready to perform with Puddin’ River Jazz Band for the Mardi Gras party for the Portland Dixieland Jazz Society in February, so rehearsals for that will ensue soon. I’ll be popping in here as much as I can and sharing posts as I’m able. Life is crazy sometimes–there are times when nothing is going on and you’re a little bored, and then there are times when you are flying from morning til night, like now, but I love it all!
Today I’ve got a quick little post to share with you. Recently we went thrifting, and I found a little something that just cost a dollar, but it jumped out at me and I couldn’t resist. I decided that it was perfect for Valentine’s Day, and I liked that it was an unexpected choice–it just made me smile!
Isn’t this a cool toy car?? It’s a old one that is well made, out of metal, and all the doors, the hood and the trunk open! My husband loves vintage cars–we’ve been to several antique car museums and car shows over the years, so I knew he would appreciate this. Both plates and the cakestand as well as the lace doily are from Goodwill, and the bottles came from the local antique store–I have a thing for little, pretty bottles! The roses and led tea lights are from Dollar Tree.
Did you use something unexpected in your Valentine’s Day decor this year? Tell me all about it down in the comments!
I’ve noticed that there have been many, many sweet treats shared at various of the blog parties that I frequent that are in keeping with Valentine’s Day. I want to offer some savory Valentine’s food as an alternative.
I wanted some food that looked red and white, but wanted to break away from some of the more traditional foods that I could think of off the top of my head. I also wanted to use what I had on hand, because I didn’t have time to run to the store.
Today I’ve got my recipe for Creamy Clam Chowder with Paprika Croutons. Fairly quick to put together, and very tasty. I find that the addition of the thyme helps to heighten the flavor of the sherry in the recipe, and sets off the clams nicely.
Creamy Clam Chowder with Paprika Croutons
Makes: approximately 6 cups
Prep and cook time: Approximately 35 minutes
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 slice bacon
1/2 a medium onion, chopped fine
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
2 Tablespoons white unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups chicken stock (if you have it, you could do half clam or seafood stock and half chicken stock)
1/4 cup dry cooking sherry
2 cups half and half
1 1/4 cups small-diced potatoes
2 cans minced clams with juice
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and black pepper to taste
For the Paprika Croutons:
2 slices sourdough bread (day-old is fine for this)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon paprika
a little salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Fry the bacon, remove it from the pot when done, crumble it and set it aside. Add the onion and bay leaf to the pot and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often, and add the garlic for the last minute of cooking time. Sprinkle the white flour over the onions, along with the Old Bay Seasoning and thyme, and use a whisk to mix in all the flour and let it cook for 2 minutes more. Whisk in the chicken stock, cooking until the broth begins to thicken a little, about 5 minutes. Stir in half and half slowly, the juice from the canned clams (reserve the clams themselves until later), sherry, and the diced potatoes. Raise the heat to high, continue stirring and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat immediately so that it simmers. Let it simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender, stirring often. Add the clams and heat through, 3 more minutes. Add the chopped parsley and bacon, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. To make the croutons, melt the butter. While the butter melts, cut the sourdough into a dice, and place in a medium bowl. Drizzle the melted butter over the sourdough bread cubes and sprinkle with the paprika, tossing to combine everything well. Place the croutons on a parchment paper-lined small baking sheet, and toast them in a 250-degree F oven until toasted.
This is nice as a first course to a larger meal, or a great meal in itself when served with a green salad and rolls alongside, as well as your favorite Valentine’s sweet treat for dessert.
I created a Valentine’s setting for the soup and croutons:
Everything, with the exception of the placemats and tablecloth, are thrifted items. I picked up the rooster salt and pepper shakers for $1.50, and the bottom rose flower plate for $1 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on their half-price day. The rose flower plate has the marking “Waverly Garden Room Vintage Rose” on the back. On top of the Waverly plate is a small Johnson Brothers transferware plate that is part of the “Old Britain Castles” pattern–I love anything Johnson Brothers! The mug is from a set I got a few years ago from Goodwill, as is the soup spoon. The napkin is one of the flour sack kitchen towels that they used to sell at Dollar Tree (I wish they would bring those back!), and the pink bowl holding the croutons is another Goodwill find from a while back. The plate under that is a Ballard Designs saucer–I got 3 for $1 at the same Salvation Army sale! The placemats I got for $1 each at HomeGoods on sale.
Do you have some special savory foods that you like to serve for Valentine’s Day? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, so stop by for a visit!