Friday, May 29, 2015

Pansies, peanuts, pears and pots. Oh and eggs!

 I love this time of year when I no longer have to depend on store bought flowers. Making little bouquets from the garden to scatter about around the house brings me joy.

I will now always grow kohlrabi in my planters each spring. I love it's beautiful, purple ribbed, upright leaf amongst pansies and trailing vines. And what a fun surprise to look down to find it's hidden, bright purple bulb.

I have always wanted to grow peanuts and am trying them this year in a container. They prefer a light well drained soil so I thought they may do well in a pot. These guys won't be ready until September. 

I have been unhappy with my window box plantings over the last few years. I have tried many different varieties of plants (many of which prefer sun) with disappointing results. This year I decided to keep it simple and plant a few tried and true shade lovers, begonias, licorice vine and Tradescantia.  Everything seems very happy in it's shady spot.

 Our dwarf Bartlet pear tree is one happy camper this year. Last season it did not produce a single fruit. This year there are over 50 pears!
I like to incorporate at least one perennial into each of my pots. Since they come back every year, it saves a bit of money on annuals and if they outgrow the pot into the garden they go!  This pot got a purple leaf Heuchera (Coral Bells). I love how it looks paired with the licorice vine, purple sweet potato vine, begonia and pansies. It gives a little height to the arrangement.
After a very long winter of no eggs our girls are laying daily. Since I eat an omelette almost every morning and my sage is in full bloom,  I can't wait to try Annabelle's recipe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sage flowers omelet

In our backyard a lot of flowers are in bloom. The sage is really spectacular. We do use sage a lot in our cooking but mostly leaves and in the fall we make sage sticks.

We forget that a lot of flowers are edible, and I am always tempted to add a little elegant touch to a meal with fresh flowers.  Always know from where the flowers come from if you want to use them for cooking and check here the list of edible flowers.
This week I share with you a simple idea of a pretty and tasty breakfast, an omelet with sage flowers. 

It's very simple. Beat the eggs together until you see a lot of bubbles on the surface. Add salt and pepper. 
Slice finely sage leaves and add them to the eggs, along with the flowers you washed before hand and mix it together. 

Be mindful of how much sage you put in, it has a strong flavor.

I like to cook an omelet on a not sticking pan, a little bit like a crepe or pancake. I like it brownish on the outside but not too cooked inside. For that I wait the omelet is hard enough to be folded in two and I don't let it cook for too long. Adjust it to the way you like your omelet and enjoy ! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dandelions: Part 1

Dandelions are one of the most recognizable plants throughout the world.  A hardy perennial that are well-established growers worldwide, dandelions have deep roots and grow throughout the year in many climates.

I've seen various ways to get rid of dandelions - pouring boiling water at the roots, pouring vinegar at the roots, burning them with a blow torch-  but I have my preferred method.  I've noticed that big, fat earthworms love living around the roots of dandelions, and since I perfer not to harm the worms, I don't use any of the above methods.  When I need to get rid of dandelions, I've learned that hand pulling each one is the best method.  The tricks are to get as much of the root as possible, pull them when they are young, and pull them before they go to seed and spread.

There are lots of tools available specifically for dandelion removal.  I use a sturdy trowel or my trusty Dewit weeding tool.

 After finding the weed you'd like to pull, isolate the top of the taproot, where the root top is flush with the ground. 

Insert your trowel or weeding tool right next to the rood.

Push straight down, or slightly away from the plant.  If you push down in toward the root, you may cut through and break the root, making it harder to remove the entire root system.

Once you're down several inches, start to gently loosen the root system.

Ideally, you will remove the entire taproot, with the veins and all.  And no harm done to the happy worms!

Join me next week while I share a medicinal way to use the roots.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Recently I noticed my honeysuckle was looking a bit stressed. As I looked a bit closer I saw the tell tale sign of aphids. Several leaves were yellowing and looking a bit distorted and stunted covered in a sticky substance.

Aphids are soft-bodied insects, about a tenth of an inch long. They're typically green or black, though you may also run into gray or black ones in your garden. Aphids suck the sap out of tender plant shoots and leaves. As aphids feed, they secrete a sticky substance, called honeydew, which can quickly become infested with sooty mold. This mold can spread viruses, many of which are incurable. For this reason, it’s important to take steps for controlling aphids in the garden. The good news is if caught early, they are pretty easy to combat.

Killing aphids naturally is not only better for the environment, but it is also a more effective way of killing the insect. Aphids don’t respond well to insecticides, but you can get them under control by taking advantage of their weaknesses and making a few changes in the way you manage your garden.

Aphids have a number of natural enemies. Pampering and nurturing these insects is an excellent method of organic aphid control. I have mint, fennel, dill and yarrow planted about to help attract these insects to my garden which will then feed to on those pesky aphids.

If you have a big enough property,  you can create aphid traps by growing plants that are attractive to aphids. Growing plants such as nasturtium, aster, cosmos, hollyhock, larkspur, verbena, dahlia and zinnia far from other favorite plants will lure aphids away and keep the garden aphid-free.

Another easy way to get rid of aphids is a strong spray of water from a hose which will knock many of the pests off the plant, making it pretty impossible for them to return. It also rinses off some of the honeydew. Spray the plant every day until the plant is aphid free.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

popping in

Hello!  I meant to post yesterday, but did not manage to get over here in time.  While I won't be posting regularly due to my growing workload, I'm happy to provide a mid-to-deep south garden glimpse from time to time. 

My garden has changed drastically since last year.  We adopted a second lab in July and then unexpectedly found ourselves caring for a Great Pyrenees in the fall.  My garden shows the strain of three big dogs so I'm limiting my gardening to my front yard raised beds and my galvanized tub planters this year.  And like so much of the country, Memphis had a rough winter and I very sadly lost both of my hives at the beginning of the spring.  They both had plenty of food in their feeders, but no honeystores and they did not avail themselves of the feeders.  I was devastated by the loss and hope to try again next year, unless a swarm just happens to land in my yard the way they did last year.

On my birthday, in mid-March, it was finally warm enough to plant peas.  Everything was still frozen when we usually plant peas and potatoes in February, and my peas are beginning to come in.
 The radishes I planted with them are beginning to bolt, so I set my bowl down to pull the radishes and take them to the chickens (all five girls are fine and laying still, even though the two eldest are five this year!) and discovered that someone else likes peas, too.

Ajax ate half the bowl.  He has always been a veggie-dog.  If I find myself with more peas (two of my big tubs are planted in pea teepees, and they're really just beginning to produce), I hope to pickle peas like I did last year- they were a very nice addition to a cheese tray.  These were quickly rinsed and eaten with my lunch.

Candied flowers - lilac

I remember as a child eating once some candied violets. I thought it was extraordinary to eat a real flower as a candy. 

I love lilac it's perfume is so enchanting to me, my only regret is the flowers don't last long enough and I have to wait another year.

So this week I decided to share with you a recipe of candied flowers.
The recipe is very simple but it takes a little time to be honest with you. But think of the reward of having pretty flowers decorating your desserts. It tastes good too.

You will need :

- Fresh lilac flowers 
( make sure no one used pesticides on them )

- 1 large egg white at room temperature 
( use pasteurized egg white if you prefer )

- Some superfine sugar 
You can find superfine sugar at the store but I just blended some regular sugar in my blender.

- A small paint brush

- Waxed paper 

Rinse the flowers quickly and put them on a waxed paper. You don't want them to be soaked in water. They need to be dry, I rinse the possible dust out of them but you could also not rinse them at all. 

In a small bowl beat the egg until the white shows a few bubbles. Place the sugar in a small bowl. Pick a flower hold it with your fingers, with the paint brush cover evenly the flower on both sides with egg white, not excessively. Hold the flower over the sugar and sprinkle sugar evenly all over on both sides. Place the flower on a waxed paper to dry and keep going with the rest of the flowers. 

It is meticulous but quite easy. 

Let the flowers dry until they are hard. Try to find a place where it's not humid.
Keep them in a container  in the dark, you can keep them up to a year but I would recommend to consume them sooner. 

You can use this recipe for any other edible flower. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Favorite Viburnums

 I have really fallen in love with viburnums over the years. It all started when we bought our home in 2004 and there was planted a Shoshoni Doublefile Viburnum.  The shrub started out small, planted between a peach tree and a royal star magnolia.  With a little bit of compost each year, it has now completely outgrown it's expected size range and has overtaken the space.  I've trained it to be a small tree rather than a shrub.  I love the shade it offers the shade-loving perennials under it.  Each year it grows bigger and bigger!  This next year, I need to consider pulling or transplanting the two trees on either side of it.

Another favorite of mine is the Eastern Snowball.  I just love the happy, white snowballs that blossom this time of year.  They remind me of cheerleaders!  One feature that I love about this variety are the generous blossoms they give.  Even the smaller, younger shrubs produce lots of blooms.  I have a few smaller shrubs growing around my garden and they each bloom every year.  I love the way the snowball blossoms look in a vase or in an arrangement.

A few other varieties that I have growing in my garden that I love are Korean Spice, Burkwood, Pink Dawn,  and Diana Koreanspice.  They are all so hardy, add great color throughout the seasons, and some of them smell so wonderful.   Here's a great link that explains more about viburnums.  If can't say enough about viburnums!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A new season in our urban garden

It's with a lot of joy I am starting to write this post. I feel I have been waiting for this all winter. Even if I really like the cold it felt it was never ending and I was starting to be so tired of it.

Spring is definitely here and has shown its first colors with crocus, daffodils, trees in bloom, I am already thinking of the delicious fruits we might harvest in the summer.

I contemplate my garden and I imagine all the things we want to do. Every year is different and we learn so much from every season. The shape of the garden is different, the trees, plants are bigger or didn't make through winter.

We already had our first greens for a fresh salad, I have some starts inside waiting to be big enough to be outside, a lot of basil, I guess when I planted the seeds I was thinking of pesto so much!

It's late the windows are opened and I can smell the strong enchanting perfume of our lilac.

What about your garden ?

Happy spring !