Sunday, November 8, 2009

Osage Orange - Maclura Pomifera

They look like alien pods, but in the Ozarks we call them hedge apples, as did Captain Meriwether Lewis when he sent samples home to President Jefferson. A resident of St. Louis, Pierre Chouteau, had received slips of this tree from the Osage Indians in Missouri, and shared samples with Lewis, who seemed to be fascinated by the fruit of the tree. We are not much impressed with them around here. At this particular time of year, the fruit can be found all over the ground beneath the host tree. Most people don’t grow these trees on purpose anymore , and many are found growing wild along the roadside. I dislike driving under a hedge apple tree, as I’m afraid one will fall off the tree and land on my car, causing a considerable dent.

According to the book, another name for the tree is “bois d’arc” or bow-tree. I found this interesting because there is a small town not far from here that is named “Bois D’Arc”. A can only assume that the towns original settlers found an abundance of osage apples.

I also learned from this book that the common name of ‘hedge apple’ was probably derived from the old custom of using the tree as a hedge for cattle.

Common to This Country, Botanical Discoveries of Lewis & Clark by Susan H. Munger

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

The rain has finally stopped and the weather is more seasonal rather than so cold and damp, so we may have lots of little goblins knocking on the door tonight. We will also have a full moon tonight. Perfect timing. I wish I had a scary movie to watch, but the best I can do is "The Great Pumpkin".

There was a brief reprieve from the rain on Wednesday, so I took the opportunity to get the garlic planted. Almost 70 cloves of garlic! I had three heads of Ajo Rojo, which had about 17 cloves each, then I had three head of Old German which had about 6-8 cloves each. We will have plenty of garlic next year, since almost one-quarter of one of my beds is now full of garlic. At least I don't have to worry about keeping it moist, since it has rained for almost an entire month.

The swiss chard is doing well. I'm not sure when it will be ready. We had a frost a couple of weeks ago, so most of the garden is finished now. By Christmas, school will be over for the semester and I will need something to do for a couple of weeks, so it will be time to get serious about planning next years garden. I love looking at seed catalogs in the winter, when the world is cold and dark and I need to be reminded that there will be new life in the spring. It's something to look forward to.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This is the extent of my autumn garden right now; a few little Swiss Chard plants. We had frost on the ground this morning, and it has been about 20 degrees below normal every day for two weeks now. We have had a lot of rain, almost seven inches at our house in a 24 hour period.

The roses continue to bloom and I still have plenty of parsley (despite the continued presence of caterpillars on the plant) and chives. As cold as it has been, I think it is safe to go ahead and plant the garlic and grape hyacinths, just as soon as I have a few free moments from school.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Today in the garden

I found this little beauty busily eating away on my parsley plant. No matter, there is plenty to share.

I just noticed the spider on its web beneath the caterpillar. EEK!

I hope the roses will last a while longer. They seem to do best in spring and fall, when there are no beetles around to torment them.

The red long beans are still producing, although very sparsely. It's just too cold now. Maybe in another three weeks or so, the swiss chard will be ready. The plants are about an inch tall right now and are already showing how colorful they will be when ready to harvest.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall is here, but the last remnants of summer are hanging on. Flowers still bloom at the Greenways trails, but not for long because there is a definite bite in the air this week. I love this season! Night temperatures are becoming quite cool, 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. I look forward to the falling leaves and I'm ready to fill the porch with pumpkins.

Last week I ordered garlic from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I ordered my usual hardneck variety, German Extra Hardy OG, but this year I decided to try a new variety, as well. Ajo Rojo is a softneck garlic originally from Spain and brought to the new world by the conquistadors. The outer skin is white, but the cloves are a beautiful red.
I should receive the garlic around mid-October and will probably plant the cloves around Halloween, or whenever my school schedule allows. I'm already excited about next summers harvest!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The summer garden is over, but there is still plenty of life in the garden. The roses are happily blooming now that the dreaded Japanese beetles are long gone. The crepe myrtles are still blooming, and the parsley is a beautiful, huge green mound, ready to eat.

There was a heavy mist going on when I took these pictures yesterday. It felt wonderful. Although officially it is still a few days away, the scent of autumn is already in the air. I love it! I'm ready for pumpkins and scarecrows and leaves blowing in the wind. I will miss the flowers, though, and especially the fresh tomatoes.

These are the Texas Bluebonnets that I planted in June. I became fascinated by the raindrops puddled in the center of the leaves. They did not bloom this year; hopefully they will come back next year.

It misted rain most of the day yesterday, except for when it flat out poured down (known around here as a "toad-strangler"). It was a nice day to stay in with a cup of hot tea and a good mystery.

Most of the vegetable garden has been put to bed for the winter. We pulled up all the tomato plants today, along with the two remaining squash plants. We were still getting a few squash every couple of days, but they were tough and a little bitter. It was time for them to go. We still have a couple of red long bean plants and I planted a patch of Swiss Chard a couple of weeks ago which has started sprouting.

We pulled up one patch of zinnias, but there are many more to go. They looked good for a long time, but that time is over, I'm afraid. I need to order garlic this week. I usually plant it around Halloween. I already have a couple of packs of hyacinths and grape hyacinths that I will plant at the same time. I would still like to get a couple of rose plants in the ground before winter. Since school has started, it has been hard to find time for the garden. Winter holiday is twelve weeks away, and believe me, I am counting down every single day! It will be time for a long nap and a chance to plan my spring garden. That's what cold winter days are for, right?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Now that the tomato plants are almost dead they have begun to produce heavily. The rabbit must have had its fill and has stopped eating them, so now we have plenty to eat. Too bad the plants are almost finished for the year. This evening I will be pulling up what is left of the squash and cucumber plants. It's time to clean up and give the beds a rest for the winter. Soon I will be ordering garlic, which I usually plant around Halloween; it will be ready to harvest early next summer. I'm also going to plant a small section of Swiss Chard, which will hopefully be ready to harvest before the first hard freeze. The red long beans should be ready soon, so we will have a colorful fall season in the garden.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The flesh of the Israel melon is cream-colored and juicy sweet. This one weighed 7 lbs.; our biggest one was 8 lbs. This has been our most productive year for melons, as we have had six melons from one plant. A couple more have been eaten, either by a mole or the resident rabbit.

We bought the seeds a few years ago at the St. Louis Botanical Garden. They had a good variety of interesting and unusual seeds in the gift shop.

Brandywine tomato and a Pink Grapefruit tomato. There is nothing better than a Brandywine tomato. It is a constant in the tomato garden every year. The Pink Grapefruit is a good tasting tomato, very mild and sweet, low acid flavor.

I think this tomato is a Golden Pineapple. By the time I get them in the house, I have forgotten which plant they came from. It weighted in at 1 1/2 lbs! Wonderful flavor, very juicy. Another constant in our tomato garden is the Snow White Cherry. They are sweet with a slight tartness that is irresistible. One plant is so productive that it is almost impossible to keep all the fruit picked.

The vegetable garden is about to come to an end for the year. The cucumber plants are finished; The squash plants have just a little life left in them. The tomato plants didn't do very well at all this year. They produced a lot of fruit, most of which either got eaten by the rabbit (if I ever catch the little rodent we will be having Hassenfeffer for dinner) or rotted on the vine. Extremely disappointing. We have had about the right amount of rain this year, but it has been rather cool, and I don't think the tomatoes liked the cooler weather at all. It is very discouraging to have seven tomato plants and still not be able to count on have fresh tomatoes everyday. Only the Snow White is doing well, but still not as well as it should be. Next year I will probably put chicken wire around the tomato patch. Hopefully I can find a way to make it look semi-attractive for they sake of the neighbors. I just can't have half my tomatoes get eaten by rabbits. They can have all the cucumbers they want, but the tomatoes are mine!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I have all these little tags laying around that came in plants I have bought, so I'm going to make a list of them so I can throw them away. I found one in my tea drawer this morning!

Lavender Cotton - Santolina pinnata - subsp. neapolitana - planted in herb garden June 2008, 2 plants
Chives - 4 small plants, herb garden June 2008
Yarrow - Achillea Millefolium "Cerise Queen", 1 plant in herb garden June 2008
Golden Oregano - 1 plant, herb garden June 2008
Summer Savory - Satureja hortensis, 1 plant in herb garden June 2008 - I thought it was an annual, but it came back this year.
Lamb's Ear - Stachys byzantina - 3 plants in herb garden 2008
Greek Oregano - 1 plants in herb garden June 2008
Silver-edged Thyme - Thymus 'Argenteus' - 1 plant in herb garden June 2008
Prairie Splendor Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea 'Prairie Splendor' - 1 plant in herb garden June 2008
Ruby Star Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea 'Rubinstern' - 1 plant in herb garden June 2008 (I thought I had two of the same type of coneflower. I just now found out otherwise. I'm really on top of things in my garden, huh.)
Wall Germander - Teucrium chamaedrys" - 17 plants in herb garden June 2008 - bought from Mountain Valley Growers
Rose - Flower Carpet 'Scarlet'
One Lemon Balm plant
One Oriental Poppy plant
Two Anise Hyssop plants, can't find the tag; it will probably turn up in some strange place when I'm not looking for it.

All of these were planted in a mad dash last year right before I had surgery. Also in the herb garden are two viburnum bushes, otherwise known as snowball bushes; a David Austin rose 'Mary Rose', and a miniature rose whose name I can't remember.

Tiny Ghost Asiatic Lily - Lilium asiaticum 'Tiny Ghost' PP16161 - 8 plants in two bed beside wisteria tree, planted summer 2008.

Sage plants I have killed: Golden Sage, Tricolor Sage (2), Common Sage.

This year I planted a Mandevilla 'Alice duPont' in the spot where the sage plants are supposed to be in the herb garden. Apparently, this location is cursed as the Mandevilla never has more than one bloom to its name and looks like it is barely hanging on to life.

Stonecrop - Sedum spectabile 'Neon' - planted this year in the back between the rose and crepe myrtles.

Salvia - 'Red Hot Sally' - 8 plants this summer; when we came back from Vancouver they had disappears entirely. I think the rabbit ate them.

Begonia 'Bronze Leaf Rose' - 4 plants in a pot out front this summer.
Evolvulus - 3 plants in a pot in from this summer. I love these pots; we got them a few years ago at the Dallas Farmers Market.
One pot on the front porch - 2 Trailing verbena (it isn't trailing, but instead growing straight up; makes the pot look a little silly), 4 vincas, and 2 coleus plants.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Butchart Gardens

We returned late last night from a whirlwind vacation to Vancouver, British Columbia. A must-see on our short trip was Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. The garden was born over 100 years ago in an old lime-stone quarry. Jennie Butchart wanted to make something wonderful out of her husbands spent quarry, and her dream was so successful that by the 1920's, Butchart Gardens was already a major tourist attraction. It still is; it was sometimes quite difficult to see the flowers through all the people.
Words can't possibly do justice to the garden, so I'll just quit talking and let the garden speak for itself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Golden Pineapple Tomato

Sweet, tart, luscious. Words can not adequately describe this tomato. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will almost taste the sweetness of summer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mary Rose

Mary Rose grows beautifully among the anise hyssop. I planted this one a few years ago in what was supposed to be a rose garden, but is now the herb garden. Since I haven't found a sage plant that I can't kill, I'm going to plant another David Austin rose in the herb garden instead. It should do well amidst the germander hedge where the sage was supposed to be.

David Austin roses are relatively easy to grow and smell absolutely wonderful. This one blooms repeatedly throughout the springtime and again during late summer into fall, slowing down only during Japanese beetle season. Most of the collection consists of repeat bloomers with between 50 and 100 petals.

I received a new David Austin catalog last week and am studying it thoroughly, trying to decide between dozens of beautiful roses. There are Old English roses, shrub roses, tree roses, climbers, ramblers, and even a few thornless roses. Gertrude Jekyll is at the top of the my list, as is Darcey Bussell, a rose so big and beautiful, it almost looks like a peony. I'll need to decide in time for fall planting. The David Austin website is helpful in trying to decide which variety is best for a particular growing zone.

Tyler, Texas (America's Rose capital) is home to the David Austin American headquarters, but Albrighton (UK) is home to the main garden center, tea room, and a multitude of rose gardens and sculptures. Unfortunately, it is not a very convenient commute from Missouri.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The wait is over......

Finally, we picked our first tomato, a Pink Grapefruit (plus a few Snow White cherries). We sliced it and ate it right away, even though it was slightly green. It was luscious!!! There is nothing like the first juicy tomato of the summer. Of course, in my case, it's usually almost fall before I get my first tomato. We have lots of jalapeno peppers, seen above in various stages of green, purple, and red. This is my mutant jalapeno; it isn't supposed to look like this. Next year my pepper plants will be isolated from each other.

It is official; the garden is out of control. The squash and cucumber plants are taking over the back yard, even as some of them are slowly dying. At least, I thought they were dying, but they are getting new leaves. I almost wish the cucumbers would die. I am so sick of cucumbers. I have four plants this year; next year I may only plant two. But we are still enjoying the squash, especially the lemon squash, and I will still plant several kinds again next year; maybe I'll get some more mutants.

The herb garden's glory days seem to be over for the summer. I cut back the spent flowers from the lamb's ear and the lavender cotton a long time ago. The anise hyssop and the yarrow seem to be finished blooming. I need to dead-head the purple cone flowers, but a couple of days ago we saw a little yellow finch perched on a flower head eating the seeds. I guess I don't have to dead-head just yet. The only thing left to bloom are the roses, which should still do well for quite a while, now that the Japanese beetles have moved on. The germander still looks good, even though it isn't blooming anymore. At least now I can walk in the garden without the continual humming of bumble bees. I leaned to co-exist with them but they still made me nervous.

I have killed six sage plants. Tricolor, bicolor, every color of sage you can imagine, I have killed it. Why???

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cross Pollination

Today was a successful day because I learned something new. I didn't know a thing about cross pollination until late this afternoon when I picked a Black Beauty zucchini from a Golden Zucchini plant. I first noticed the bright yellow coloring on the green zucchini, then realized that I had plucked it from the golden and not the black plant. This has never happened in my garden before (that I know of)! After doing some research online, I now know why my purple jalapenos don't look like jalapeno peppers at all. I've grown plants from the same seed packet for about three years, but this year they have a different shape. I didn't have a clue before, but now I am blaming it on cross pollination. It's good to have answers.

I've also learned a thing or two about the dreaded squash vine borer. Aunt Susie has asked me several times if I have trouble with worms on my squash. I smugly assured her that I did not. I guess now I've gotten my comeuppance for being smug. When I told a co-worker about my dying zucchini plant, she told me the most disgusting tale about slicing open the root of her squash plant and removing a worm! I told her if that was the problem with my plant, the worm could have it. I think she was right, though. I removed some dead leaves from around the plant base and found that it was indeed mushy and oozing and totally repulsive. I found a link that show the worm inside a plant stem, as well as the adult moth.

I don't want the zucchini enough to dissect the plant and go looking for a worm. I'm a history major; I don't do dissections. The worm can have it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Butterfly Festival

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Butterfly Festival at Close park. They have a butterfly garden, which, strangely, appeared to be butterfly free. All the butterflies were in the new butterfly house, along caterpillars and demonstrations of the entire butterfly life cycle. It was geared to educating children, but it seemed the house was just as full of adults hoping to see a chrysalis transform to a butterfly.

No such luck, but there were plenty of beautiful butterflies to chase around the building with my camera.

We had been to Close Park before and had enjoyed the rose garden and the hosta garden, then walked around the lake. But until this event, we had no idea of the many gardens that were in the park. There is an English garden, a Lily garden, an ornamental grass garden, and many others. This will be a place I will return to again and again to see what is blooming throughout each season. Did I mention that it is free?

The amazing thing is that the garden is strictly a volunteer effort. Donations and public funds keep the garden up and running, and each garden is designed and maintained by volunteers. Ultimately, there are a total of 41 different garden styles planned. Volunteers (Friends of the Garden) have worked for years to raise interest and money for a Botanical Center in the park. That goal has been reached, surprisingly enough, during the most difficult economic environment in many years. The Center is scheduled to open in 2010.

As for my garden, the Black Beauty zucchini is dying and the Lemon squash is producing heavily and taking over the back yard. The Lemon cucumbers are doing pretty good, as well. The rat-tailed radish plant is still producing, thankfully in much smaller quantities. Long beans everyday, along with a few snow peas. The zinnias are blooming all over the place, but they look horrible because of the blasted Japanese beetles. I have a row of pink crepe myrtles (plus one white one, it was an accident) along the neighbor's fence in back , but they only have blooms on the bottom because the beetles apparently started feasting at the top of the plants.

I'm not tired of squash anymore since we started grilling it or roasting it in the oven. Steamed or sauteed squash was really getting old. I'm still waiting impatiently for some tomatoes. I found two perfectly ripe Snow White cherries on the plant this evening, but something had partially eaten them. I'm really not into sharing my tomatoes with birds or rabbits.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tonight I picked sixteen squash, four cucumbers, and a handful of long beans. There may have been more to pick, but I was having trouble getting to everything. I didn't wear my garden gloves because they are dirty and I didn't want to mess up my manicure, so I was trying to pick squash bare-handed. It was very painful, so I didn't dig too deep under the leaves. Besides, lately every time I lift a squash leaf I come face to face with an angry sounding bumble bee. So I just move on and try to pretend I don't notice.

I diced up about a dozen squash and froze them. They were ones that had been laying around for a couple of days and I hated for them to go to waste (and I did just pick 16 more), so I thought I would just freeze them and this winter they would be good in soups or stews.

Tonight I read in Organic Gardening magazine that many heirloom tomatoes can take as long as 100 days to ripen. That made me feel better about my lack of ripe tomatoes. I thought it was some gardening defect on my part, but it is apparently just the nature of the kind of tomatoes I grow. That's OK, they are well worth the wait!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I don't know why I do this to myself. Planting a boatload of onions means I have to dig up and wash a boatload of onions. This is why I don't plant lettuce anymore. I found out I had to pick each leaf, wash each leaf, then spin the whole mess dry. Forget it. I'll buy my lettuce bagged, thank you. But for some reason, I want my own onions. Last year I planted 160. We had onions around all winter long. This year I cut back by about half. Today I plucked 72 onions. It sounds like a lot, but unfortunately, I did a lousy job of keeping the weeds away from the onions and so the majority of them are quite small because they didn't have room to grow. Lesson learned.
I wash the onions outside under the faucet before bringing them in, cleaning off all the dirt and excess skin. By the time I'm about half way through, it no longer matters so much if I take dirty onions into the house. After all, the dirt will clean off easier once it has dried and caked on, right? Anyway, besides the onions, I picked one lemon squash, a lemon cucumber, a Chinese yellow cucumber, and three kinds of yellow squash, one of them a double-header.
Something had dug a crater between the long beans and the former onion patch. Probably a mole. Moles get blamed for everything in our yard.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rat-tail update

I rushed home after work to pick the radish bean pods before the rain started, and in no time I had picked 400 rat-tail beans! No kidding! Plus various squash, cucumber, snow peas, and long beans. A few squash and cucumbers got a bit larger than I would have liked, but the green varieties stay well-hidden behind the huge leaves. The lemon cucumber plant is finally producing, although the cucumbers look white to me. The lemon squash plant is loaded with what look like miniature lemons dangling everywhere. I planted a couple of red long-bean seeds last week and one has sprouted. I can't wait to see these!

Back to the beans, after washing 400 rat-tail radish beans, I chopped off the ends of one and popped it into my mouth. Guess what? It tasted like a radish. Go figure. It was somewhat hot and spicy, and not being much of a radish fan, I wondered what in the world I would do with 400 beans. I went ahead and chopped up a few and added them to our salads, and mixed in with everything else they weren't half bad. So, we can use a handful of them for salads, but I don't know what I am going to do with 400 bead pods. Did I mention that I picked 400 beans today, with more growing of the bush as we speak? Once I was finished with the picking, it didn't really look like that many beans, but it sure sounds like a lot.

Still no sign of any tomatoes turning red, or white, or yellow, or whatever color they are supposed to be besides green. I should have planted nothing but Green Zebra plants this year, then I would have a reason to still have nothing but green tomatoes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rat-Tailed Radish

According to Seed Savers Exchange, the rat-tailed radish is native to South Asia and used not for the root, but for the bean pods the bush produces. It is a rather large bush covered profusely with lovely lavender flowers that serve as a warning as to just how many beans it will soon be producing.

The root is large and unappetizing, to say the least. Radishes are part of the Mustard family, and the name comes from the Latin word radix, meaning "root". The common radishes that most of us are familiar with may have originated in China, but eventually made their way to Egypt, Greece, and Italy. They were introduced to the New World around 1500, and were one of the crops grown by English colonists in America. The rat-tailed radishes (Raphanus sativus 'caudatus') may have originated in India sometime in the 1800's.

The bead pods grow vertically on the branches of the bush. The catalogue says to harvest them before they are fully grown, which is at 4-6" in length, so they are ready for harvest now. I planted the seeds directly outside on May 23rd, so they have taken about eight weeks to be ready to harvest. I bought these seeds because I like to grow unusual vegetables, and I have not been disappointed. Apparently, the are supposed to be eaten raw, though they look rather sharp to me, with the ends growing up all straight and pointy.

Our first zinnia of the season. I forgot to record which varieties I planted where, so I don't know what kind it is. I'm looking forward to all the butterflies the zinnias will attract.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Squash is everywhere. The Lemon squash are particularly lovely and tasty. Last night when I went out to the garden, I discovered it was full of birds. Then I discovered they had been trying to eat my squash! I didn't know that birds liked squash, but a couple of the golden zucchini had peck marks all over them. Who ever heard of needing a scarecrow in a squash patch?

Summer school is over in one week; be back then.