Friday, July 31

Foliage Friday (July 31)

I am working on all of the fun stuff still--a badge, the little function that allows you to include a link to your post in mine, etc.--but the lack of those bells and whistles just doesn't seem like a good reason to let Foliage Friday fall by the wayside!

I am also running out the door right now, on my way to work at the garden center for the afternoon and early evening. I'll be back later tonight to see what foliage has been highlighted around the garden blogosphere (explain why I'm still at the garden center in late July!) but I will leave you with a few things that have caught my eye in the backyard this morning.

A lovely (and untagged, when I brought it home from the garden center at the end of last year) hosta, which absolutely glows when backlit by the morning sun:

The luscious leaves of 'Key Lime Pie' heuchera, dotted with droplets from last night's rain:

Both of the above are in the "currant bed," which is the first thing I see when I step out my back door. As I round the corner of the house, the Japanese bloodgrass always catches my eye. This is my first view of it during every trip to the backyard:

As I continue into the backyard, I stop to admire how both it and the Russian sage behind it pick up fresh, chartreuse-y green tones when the sun comes streaming through them:

As I round the corner of the bed, the bloodgrass colors flatten out a little bit once the sunshine is more "in their face." I still love the contrast between the grass, the cascade of woolly thyme behind, and the sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' at its base:

I think that foliage combinations are even more necessary to add interest when the floral show wilts in the heat of midsummer, don't you? What kinds of foliage combinations do you have featured in your yard? I could use some more inspiration for a few particular areas in my gardens... so I'm looking forward to seeing your foliage posts when I return tonight!

Friday, July 17

Currant Events

While weeding and mulching the side bed this week, I made a fun discovery: It was time to harvest my first currants!

Last year, I planted two 'Red Lake' red currant bushes in the bed directly across from my side door. Currants were supposed to be able to take some shade, and could be trained to be fairly compact... both key for that area, and I was excited to be able to add some more fruit production in that kind of space. I didn't let them flower or set fruit last year, but this year I did get quite a few strands (my word for them, not necessarily the right word!) of currants from the smaller of the two bushes:

Once they were harvested, it was time to figure out what to do with them. I removed the berries from the stems, rinsed them, and dried them in the open air. Then I went online to search for recipes and figure out how to use them.

This was a harder search than one might think, as what we usually think of as currants is really the dried fruit of the Zante grape. Red currants are an entirely different fruit, and are most often used cooked (because they are so tart when they're fresh--I can vouch for that personally, because I tried one raw) in jams, fruit soups, tarts, etc.

I had really wanted to make jam, but since my harvest was not exactly bountiful--I only had slightly more than 1 cup of fruit to use--I decided to try to make a freeform tart instead. The recipe I cobbled together used pie crust, sugar, cornstarch, a pinch each of cinnamon and salt, and all of my crushed currants. Here is the final result:

Looks really pretty, doesn't it? It's tasty, too, but as you can see at least half of the currants managed to jump ship and escape the tart crust! They bubbled and baked on the outside of the pan, turning into a tart/sweet jam of sorts on their own. I used some of the crust to scoop up extra filling as I sampled it.

Next time, I will leave these freeform tarts to the sturdier fillings (plums, apples--anything that holds its shape better) and instead make a smaller pie out of regular crust or maybe incorporate them into a cobbler or crisp. Ideally... well, ideally I'll just have a larger harvest next year, and plenty of currants to use in multiple recipes. But as always, we'll just have to wait and see what next year's gardening season brings!

Foliage Friday

This month, Frances combined Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day with "Weed Wednesday," an idea she got from The Home Garden blog. That got me to thinking: If Weeds get to have their own day, then why wouldn't we also have a special day to celebrate some of the prettiest greenery? (And yellow-ery, and silver-ery, and blue-ery... you get the idea!)

I'm a foliage gardener in general anyway, so here's a post in celebration of Foliage Friday. First up: Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea', pictured here in my shade garden.

Many people see this plant grown over the sides of containers, and for good reason. Its cascade of gold is a wonderful effect as a "spiller" in many different color combinations. I like to grow it in my shade garden, though, where it rambles nicely around and sometimes over plants like miniature hostas and dark-leaf ajuga (above) and ferns, 'Jack Frost' brunnera, and broadleaf sedge (carex platyphylla) below.

A word of caution: Golden Creeping Jenny isn't as aggressive as her green-leaf cousin, but she does spread. I have a very dry garden, however, so the lack of moisture here really keeps her in check. The photos above show her at her height of spread, and in a few weeks I'll go out, rip her out from around anything she's really choking out, and then ignore her again for the rest of the summer.

So... anyone else care to join me for Foliage Fridays? I would love seeing the interesting foliage combinations that you all have going on! Just leave a comment in the notes to direct me over to your place to see what you've posted.

And if I ever get all of this weeding done in my own yard, I promise to put up one of those cool "add your post link here" widgets like Carol has on the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts. Just... um... don't look for that any time soon. (Back to weeding, ASAP!)

Wednesday, July 15

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2009

July is a time of transition in my garden... when the spring bloomers are definitely finished, and the late summer blooms are just beginning. The change is just beginning, too: I have a LOT of work to do in the garden today, including ripping out pea plants and getting the last of the veggie garden in the ground! So without further ado, here's a mostly pictorial rundown of what's blooming in my garden today.

Vines & Shrubs: 'Jackmanii' clematis and coral honeysuckle are both in bloom on the vine side. Only one shrub is showing off right now, though. It's the pretty 'Sykes' Dwarf' oakleaf hydrangea, shown here with 'Black & Blue' salvia guaranitica and magenta snapdragon blooms:

Herbs, Veggies, Fruits (Edibles): 'Ozark' strawberries, my thornless blackberries (which also have berries close to harvest), 3 different eggplants, 6 different peppers, 8 different tomatoes, 2 kinds of basil, 2 kinds of oregano, marjoram, 'Grosso' lavender, and one branch of my 'Newe Ya'ar' salvia officinalis. That's a lot to choose from in terms of photo subject matter, but after comments on my last posts, I couldn't resist showing this 6ft tall bronze fennel stand in all its glory:

Grasses & Perennials: 4 different kinds of hosta and 3 different heuchera are in bloom--only because I haven't gotten around to cutting down the stalks yet! (I would only leave them if they were scented.) 'Samobor' geranium and 'Copper King' lilies are blooming their last, and 'Rotstrahlbusch' switchgrass is just beginning to throw up a few airy plumes. Several other lilies are showing bud color now, 3 different lamiums are in bloom, and my non-climbing clematis has its first bloom, and the lavender cotton is covered in little yellow button flowers.

Several perennials are in prime flower now, though, starting with echinops ritro-I purposely sited this to take advantage of the contrast of the globe thistle against the silky miscanthus:

'Summerwine' Yarrow, which picks up the warm tones in both this rock and a nearby peachy-leaf heuchera:

'Cinderella' milkweed, which was started from seed generously shared by another garden blogger:

And another asclepias, the orange a. tuberosa (aka butterfly weed) which is (finally) living up to its common name this year, as you can see:

Annuals, tropicals and houseplants: These (okay, and leaf/texture color and contrast) really carry me through the month of July! My sanseviera has thrown up some more flower stalks this year, and two fuchsias were recently cut back or they would be adding to the party. 'Vodka' wax begonias, and red and magenta snapdragons, are dependable bloomers in my summer garden, along with the salvia mentioned above.

A few more plants in this category that keep catching my eye include the 'Vancouver Centennial' geranium and pretty callibrachoa in the urn planter. I can't wait until the brugmansia in the middle joins this party:

A dahlia that I just couldn't resist at the local garden center, although I think I like the blooms even better when they're darker and not yet fully open:

My crown of thorns plant, daringly placed at the top of my porch stairs because I like the way it looks against the brick:

An echeveria that blooms in all the colors of a gorgeous sunset. In fact, I think that Steve and I saw all of these shades on Monday as we were finishing up a post-volleyball walk at Edgewater Park:

One of my favorite self-sowers, 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth:

Last but not least, more photos from those tile planters that I just can't seem to get enough of. 'Angelface Blue' angelonia:

'Yubi Red' portulaca blooms:

'Desert Sunrise' (I think?) lantana and a different portulaca:

And a close-up of the multicolored lantana blooms:

Maybe I should have lumped this last one in the with the edibles... but here are the first blooms on my Meyer (Improved) lemon. Even if I get nothing edible from them, I adore their sweet scent:

Okay, enough procrastination... time to get back outside and get back to work! (For me, at least.) When you get a free moment, check out what's blooming around the world via Carol's July Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, July 8

A Working Vacation

I closed up my office late Monday afternoon, with the rest of the week free and two weeks worth of loooong days at work behind me. The laundry, the garden, the house, the dog, the boyfriend... all had been relatively neglected during our big summer event, and all needed some attention.

On Tuesday, I slept in, had a nice breakfast, took the dog for a very long walk, and then got out into the garden to enjoy all of the beautiful sunshine. First destination: The back yard, where some veggies are still in need of planting out and the weeds have been allowed to run rampant.

Romaine lettuce, skirted by woolly thyme, with a blueberry and 'Rotstrahlbusch' switchgrass

Looking across the bed closest to the house, I notice the absence of canna foliage. I was too busy to plant up the cannas this spring, and now that it's too late to buy more, my tubers are all shriveled or rotten. Too bad--this bed could have used their bold texture:

Maybe once the eggplants really take off, they will offer a little relief from the fine texture of the Russian sage and grasses. On the bright side, the clay tile planters are looking great again this year. I love the funky feel they add to this space:

And the way that they combine with the red of the Japanese bloodgrass to make a line of warm color through the cool blues, greens and purples:

Here's a close-up of the first tile planter--unfortunately, it's too early in the morning for the portulaca flowers to be showing off yet:

'Desert Sunset' lantana, a portulaca that was supposed to be 'Yubi Red' but isn't--the flower petals are "broken" in red and gold instead of being all red--and a coleus whose tag I will have to find to give you a proper ID.

And you can see that I've repeated the portulaca and orange-y coleus combination in the second tile, too:

'Sedona' coleus, 'Yubi Red' portulaca, and 'Angelface Blue' angelonia.
Surrounding cast: 'The Blues' little bluestem, 'Black Lace' elderberry, rhododendron, zebra grass, and 'Fuldaglut' sedum

If last year is any indication, the portulaca will eventually cascade all the way down to the ground. I love how it falls flat against the tile, so it still shows off the squareness of the planter. I also love the way the purplish stems and leaf centers of the 'Sedona' coleus pick up the deep color of the angelonia blooms:

Take a look back across this bed, over the second tile planter toward the first (and toward the driveway)... this is what I see from the corner of the main veggie area:

Continuing the orange-y theme, as you walk around the bed, these tile planters line up to lead your eye right to the native honeysuckle, lonicera sempervirens, growing along the fence. From far away, you can see that it adds height to the "back" of the bed:

Closer, you can see the pretty blooms on the honeysuckle as it towers above a stand of 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth:

Coco likes this corner of the garden, for a few reasons: 1) It's usually cool there. 2) The neighbors on this side have a chocolate lab named "Hugs" (whose siblings are named "Kisses," "Hershey," etc.!) who likes to meet her for a sniff here. 3) There's a knothole in the front panel that gives her a great view of what's going on in the street.

I like that she tramples the sweet woodruff there, and keeps it in check:

I'm taking a new approach to my self-sowing annuals this year. They each will have their own area of the garden--the bronze fennel gets the front driveway area, the ruby mountain spinach gets the back area by the grape arbor, and the 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth gets to add some pizazz, height and color here to Coco's corner:

'All Gold' hakonechloa, 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth, hellebores, sweet woodruff, goatsbeard, and 'Hillside Black Beauty' cimicifuga/actaea.

There's still a little work to do in this bed. I didn't really wade in to weed, and there's lots of clover growing--along with many little 'Othello' ligularia babies, which have convinced me that deadheading this plant is the way to go in spite of how pretty the dead flower stalks look. Check out all of the little 'Othellos' at the feet of the nearby bugbane:

The ligularia seedlings aren't very useful, but many of my reseeders do double duty when pulled. The 'Ruby Orach' mountain spinach can be eaten like regular spinach. As I weed out some errant amaranth seedlings, I cut the ends and throw them into a vase for an arrangement that will pretty up the dining room table:

I'll probably throw in some lady's mantle blooms, and possibly some baptisia foliage, before I bring the vase inside. Here you see the lady's mantle flowers picking up the shades of yellow in a variegated sedum that, oddly enough, hates being in full sun but glows in this semi-shade area:

It might be nice to add in some of the orange butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) flowers, or the drumstick alliums, too:

But enough of that. There's still a LOT to do in the backyard today, from weeding to planting veggies to moving a few things that have gotten crowded along the way, like this poor fern:

This is one of those compositions that probably "shouldn't" work, but really does--for me, at least! 'Jack Frost' brunnera, carex platyphylla, and Scaly Buckler Fern surrounded by golden creeping jenny.

Somebody better whip my gardening assistant into shape before I need her help today, though. After just an hour of "hard labor" (supervising, mostly, but also eating raspberries and peas) in the garden yesterday, she disappeared. This is where I found her:

What a lightweight!!! LOL. We have two more gorgeous days of sunshine and great gardening weather ahead of us--and probably a mulch delivery, too--so there's still lots of work to be done. Time to get out there, and get busy... I hope that everyone else is enjoying the wonderful gardening weather that I'm getting this week!