Welcome to my Western Pennsylvania garden. Join me on a "Walk Down the Garden Path".

Monday, June 30, 2008

Coffee Blooms

Being that it is too wet to even walk in the swamp I call a vegetable garden, and the flower beds are pretty soaked as well, today I will write about one of our potted plants and our first coffee flowers. It's so very exciting. I didn't even think this plant would ever bloom, but would just be a nice foliage houseplant.

Let me introduce you to our coffee plant, formal name "Coffea arabica". We bought this plant at a local home store several years ago. At that time it was small enough that planted would fit very nicely into a styrofoam coffee cup. But how quickly it's grown. It doesn't like direct sunlight, especially outside. Some years we don't even bring it out in the summer, because even the slightest bit of direct sun causes the leaves to burn (as they are here) - and it's barely in the sun, just the tiniest bit of morning sun which can't be avoided as we don't have an awning over our deck.

The other morning John came to get me to show me something on the deck. Surprise! Flowers on the coffee plant. The flowers only last a couple of days and are lightly scented. I can't wait to see if we will get some beans, although I'm sure not enough for a cup of coffee.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Finished Planting - Finally !

Finally, I am finished planting. I thought I was finished a couple of days ago, then John reminded me that there was still one plant sitting on the sidewalk, still needing a home. And this morning, I found a spot for it. So now I am done.

I did a lot of planting the other day when I thought I was finishing up. But I actually didn't start out planting. I started out cleaning seashells. Yes, you read correctly, seashells. Almost two years ago now, we had gone on vacation to the North Carolina coast and took a day trip down to South Carolina where we went on a boat tour which included some shelling. Well John collected the mother lode of conch shells - which have been sitting in our basement, seemingly forgotten. But really not forgotten, I just hadn't figured out what to do with them. So I cleaned them up and now I have a little seashell garden area. They are where I can see them every day and remember what a great time we had on that trip.

Since I had cleaned up the flower bed to add the shells, I thought I might as well put those two remaining flowers in this bed as well, since there was room. I was going to just put them in pots to have on the deck but this is just as well. And hopefully they won't dry out as quickly as they would in pots.

Then I thought the only thing I had remaining was a monster of a Bleeding Heart that John's parents had dug out of their garden beds (the bed was overcrowded with it). Of course since I love Bleeding Heart we had to take it. I had actually been wanting to get a Bleeding Heart. Trying to find the right spot for this large specimen was the challenge. We decided to put half of it next to the Hellebore, where an azalea which didn't make it left a empty spot. The other, larger portion of the Bleeding Heart was to go where a Peony just wasn't performing. But that meant moving the Peony first. Which meant enlarging the Peony bed. You see, if it was just a matter of digging a hole, it would have been planted right away.

Well, I managed to get all that done, take pictures as I planned to post I was finished planting. It was then John informed me that there was still one lone plant on the sidewalk. But now, I can say, everything is planted.

Here is the Bleeding Heart, taking over the Peony's space.
And here is the Peony with the others, hopefully it will be happy here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deer De-Fences

So we have fortified our garden area against the deer.

It's not like we didn't have fences before, but deer being the tricky creatures they are, can jump quite high and over any fence we had up. So using a combination of stakes, garden twine, and trellises we have tried to make the garden area too crowded and undesirable for them to want to be there. So far it's been working. We'll see if it lasts.

What do you do to keep the deer and other pests out ? Let me know in the comments.

This reminds me of a fort. Let's hope it helps keep them out (unless they can figure out how to open the gate!)

I haven't seen any rabbits around this year, which is good, because this wouldn't keep them away from my little bean plants.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - June 2008

Many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again.

As I was walking around taking pictures yesterday, I was noticing how much work is to be done in my various beds. Not just in pulling weeds, but in moving plants around to areas which would better suit them and to fill in empty spots where plants didn't make it from years past. It was a bit overwhelming. But as it was pretty rainy yesterday, I didn't really have a chance to do much of anything.

But the big tragedy happened overnight. It was such a travesty, I actually cried for about 10 minutes this morning. Ok, maybe 15 minutes. Long enough that it woke up the sleeping baby and then she was crying too. The bloody deer had wrecked havoc on the vegetable garden. All of the sweet potato plants were eaten down, the rosemary plant was not eaten, but had been crushed, the lettuce was munched on, and the peas, my beautiful peas, which I was going to pick today had been chomped down and at first glance it looked like there were no peas left for us. Once the crying stopped, I was able to salvage some peas that they had missed.

So the majority of the day was spent in trying to make the area unwelcome to the deer. But today is Bloom day so enough of this grousing and onto some beauty.

Here are the Red Hot Pokers. Blooming very nice.

And here is some Blue Salvia (I think). It's been a few years since it's been planted.

Here is a close up of the yarrow.

Here is the clematis area, you can see two different types blooming. You can see lots of Lamb's Ear as well. It seems that once you have Lamb's Ear in one place, you have it everywhere. Which is where I have it.

This is the same bed and you can see the Cone Flower is just starting to bloom. I have some other Cone Flowers not yet blooming. I don't know why this one blooms earlier, I think they are all the same variety. And you can see more Lamb's Ear.
Here in the herb garden, guarded by the Gnomes, is the English Thyme and the Woolly Thyme.
This is a bed in the front. The Mock Orange is blooming very nice, as is a pink rose and some Shasta Daisies. Although the picture doesn't show them very well.

Over to the Shade Garden area, the Spiderwort and Lanium are making a showing. Around to the Annual Bed which is finally all planted. The boxes have pansies and bed has many various favorites My Husband and I can't resist each year at the nurseries. Of special note this year is a Eucalyptus plant.
And here is a view from the other side with the marigolds making their showing.
And the rambling red rose and honeysuckle are just a buzz with bees.
And finally, my most precious bloom - my Lillian.

Of final note about the deer. I hope to post a full report of my battle against them. But I did sprinkle all plants I thought might get munched with cayenne pepper. So they will get a mouthful if they try to defeat me tonight.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Salad Greens and A Salad Recipe

This is the first year that I have sowed seeds in April and in my raised beds I put in spinach, arugula, bibb lettuce, romaine lettuce, and swiss chard. I have to say, it pays to put your seeds in early. I never had any success with spinach but this year I actually had spinach grow. Now, the whole row did not germinate but I had four of five plants which I had to pick all of since the 90 degree heat last week was sending them to want to bolt ( do you blame them ? )

The lettuces are still looking good. I've had the bibb lettuce a couple of times now. Each time I pick it, I try to thin out the row. I haven't picked any romaine yet, but I probably will this weekend. We had some arugula when I was thinning the rows. Now it has all gone to flower but I will leave it since it brings the bees to the garden.

Here is a picture of the cleaned lettuce and spinach. To prepare it I picked it early in the morning so it would be refreshed from the cooler overnight. I let it soak in a sink of cool water, swished it around and made sure all the dirt and creepy crawlies were out of it, and then I spun it in my wonderful salad spinner. I stored it in the refrigerator, loosely packed in a large plastic bag with paper towels.

Now, with all these wonderful greens I didn't just make a regular salad. I made something new from Pillsbury Potlucks (one of those recipe magazines you find at the grocery checkout). I made the Layered Tortellini Pesto Chicken Salad with some modifications. Instead of the pesto dressing which they make I made Green Goddess Dressing with a mix I had from Penzeys Spice. This turned out very good. And it even was good the next day, although the lettuce was getting kind of wilty by the third day. But by then there was just the tiniest bit left so I ate it anyway. Here's my version.

Layered Tortellini Pesto Chicken Salad
Prep time: 40 minutes; Start to Finish: 2 hours 40 minutes; 8 Servings

1 package (9 oz) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
1 cup Frozen Sweet Peas (I used the whole package)
5 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 1/2 cups julienne carrots (I used 3 carrots)
2 cups chopped or strips of grilled chicken (I used 3 chicken breasts I had grilled, chopped up)
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup basil pesto
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
(In place of the mayo, pesto, and buttermilk, I used 3 Tablespoons of Green Goddess Dressing, the dry mixture, soaked in 6 Tablespoons of Water before mixing with 1 1/2 cups of reduced fat mayo.)

1. Cook tortellini as directed on package, adding peas during last 2 minutes of cook time. Drain; rinse immediately with cold water. Pat with paper towels to remove moisture (I didn't do this because mine wasn't overly wet, but I put it in so you know the original recipe.)

2. In large clear bowl, layer the lettuce, the carrots, chicken, peas and tortellini, and the bell pepper.

3. In small bowl, mix mayo, pesto, and buttermilk. (Or in my case, make Green Goddess Dressing). Spread over peppers; sprinkle with parsley. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Stir just before serving.

Voila, the finished salad!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bird Sighting Update

Just a quick note to let you know that within 2 days of putting up the hummingbird feeder I saw a hummingbird stop at it for a quick drink. And I have seen at least 2 different hummers stop by every now and then. I love it when you are just sitting outside and all of a sudden you hear the tell tale buzzing, then you can look around and try to spot them.

As for the orioles, I haven't seen any at the feeder but I have seen one on our property, closer to the road. This was on my daily constitutional with Lillian down the driveway and back up (me pushing her in the stroller). When I saw the oriole on the fence I had my camera but the darn digital is too slow.

So no pictures yet. I will keep trying.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Queen Rose

Roses are blooming. I have to admit that my rose garden is not what it should be. Part of the problem is it is not in the right place. Where it is doesn't get enough sun and tends to be too wet. So the tea roses I have there don't tend to thrive. But I do get some nice blooms, I just know it could be better. And I would like to expand my rose collection but that isn't going to happen until we find a new place for the roses.

Here are two of the tea roses that are now blooming. We just had a nice morning rain and you can still see the raindrops on the blooms.

Here is a beautiful red rose that I can't take credit for planting (it was here when we bought the place), but my husband does keep it pruned so that it blooms so nice each year. In fact, he does the pruning on all the roses, so their beauty is largely due to his work on them. Back to the red rose - it's not with the tea roses but underneath a large honeysuckle plant that is just starting to bloom - it smells really nice over there.

And here is my unexpected rose. I was looking out from our family room and noticed a flower in the treed area between our house and our neighbors. It's not really an area that we cultivate, so when I saw something blooming bright there I had to investigate. It looks like a wild rose, I don't know how it got there and I don't remember it from previous years but I'll enjoy it just the same.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Beautiful Peonies !

Finally my peonies have bloomed. I don't know if it's because they are in the shade or because we live in Western Pa, but they never seem to bloom until we are into June. But the wait is well worth it. And I am very excited because the one plant which was given to me by my friend Peg, is blooming this year for the first time. She had gotten it from someone who had to dig up their peonies to widen a driveway or something. This was probably three years ago ! But finally this year it is blooming again.

The day that they actually did bloom (last Thursday, the 5th) I was afraid they were going to be ruined because that morning we had huge thunderstorms. But the blooms weathered it well and the scent is divine. As I was walking up the drive last night I could smell them. Oh how I love peonies, I think they are one of my favorite flowers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Calling all Birds...

Well, calling all Hummingbirds and Orioles. Yesterday I put out our feeders and now I will see how long it takes to see birds at them. And then how long it takes me to get a good photo of the birds. I will be using my film camera for that since the digital takes too long to get the image.

For the Hummingbirds - which we have seen a Ruby Throated Hummingbird around in the area, I made the food with the following recipe:

4 parts water to 1 part sugar (1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of sugar)
Boil the water, dissolve the sugar in it, let cool before using.
Keep any extra in the refrigerator.

Clean out feeder and refill at least once a week.
Do not use food coloring or artificial sweeteners.

For the Orioles I used a mix I had bought where you just add warm water and dissolve (no boiling required).

So I will keep you up to date on when I see my first specimens and hopefully I will have pictures to share with you.