Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn Blooms

According to the local weather reporters, we have some  much colder weather coming next week, so today's sunny 70's were appreciated that much more.  The unique "blooms" of Fatsia japonica are already
 out, and I love how they contrast with the secondary bloom of the Encore azaleas behind.  Truth be told, 
I'm not a huge azalea fan, but there is no question they are effective in such a large drift.
We're making progress on the winter containers.  This one definitely leans toward classic Atlanta elegance, and I am loving the juniper called "Iowa" for containers.  They'll go out into the landscape in the spring.  The sedum "Angelina" will turn show bright orange streaks through that chartreuse as soon as it gets really cold for a couple of days.
 The prostrate rosemary is getting slightly out of control under the rose trellis, but it's also just starting to show those distinctive blue blooms that come in autumn and winter.  The "Snow 'n' Summer" Asiatic jasmine that is spilling out from behind the planter is a plant that I love for part shade.  According to the grower, only the new growth is white, but we do virtually nothing to it, and it has that awesome white and pink variegation.  We almost never use orange at the Big House, but it works so beautifully with these two planters (they're actually stained concrete, not metal).
The "Texas Tarragon" (Tagetes lucida) just started to bloom a week ago, and will keep that great color until a hard frost kills it back.  The added bonus is the distinct tarragon scent (and flavor, if so inclined). 
In the Stepchild Garden, "Ryan's Yellow" provides a great burst of color, and is another favorite perennial.  It requires virtually no care, and just continues to do its thing year after year.   
This rose, called "Mardi Gras" almost hit me in the face while walking Sadie the Dog this afternoon.  She almost seems to be screaming, "No, I'm not ready for winter!  Look at these hot colors!"  Let's hope Mother Nature listens to her......I'm not ready for winter, either..... 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Sloppy Chicks" Recipe

This one is for Gary at "A Day in the Life......."

We are still up to our eyeballs in the pansy planting, though we're about three-quarters finished at the Big House.  The lake house was done about a week ago, so we're now able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  More photos to follow later, but let's just say the greenhouse looks a little like a plant bomb exploded, with the remnants of all of the tender plants we've removed from containers lying around, waiting for their winter homes to rest for future plantings (like the 30 lb Alocasia bulbs!)

Since time is at a premium during these few weeks, I wanted a dinner that would come together quickly and easily.  I discovered this recipe on Pinterest the other day, for a vegan version of "Sloppy Joes," that is actually good for you (apologies to the Brits, but I don't know if "Sloppy Joe" is a recipe you are familiar with).  If not, consider this a healthy introduction to a delicious (but often not so good for you) American classic.

If you are turned off by the idea of "vegan," I think this recipe would be incredible with traditional ground beef.  I would just go ahead and brown the ground beef, drain off the fat, and insert the cooked meat into this recipe where the chickpeas are used.  The sauce flavor is really outstanding, and I'll definitely check out more of this blogger's recipes.

The only comment I would make is that it was a challenge to smash up the chickpeas with a fork.  I ended up stirring/smashing this during the cooking process with a potato masher, and that worked just great!  I didn't change a single thing with the seasoning or other ingredients.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cold Weather Chili

I've been doing the "almost vegan" thing for a couple of months now, so the chances aren't good that this is going to get made in my kitchen any time soon, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still an incredible chili recipe!  In this season of doing lots of yardwork (for myself and others), this is a great item to have on hand in the freezer.  It's great on its own, with a corn muffin, over a baked potato, and in lots of other forms.

Cold Weather Chili

3 T. vegetable oil, divided
3 c. chopped onions
2 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
2 t. crushed red pepper
1 T. oregano
1 t. salt
2 lb. beef for stew
1 lb. ground chuck
2 T. chopped garlic
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 c. beef broth
2 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat 1 T. of the oil, add in the onions, and sauté until translucent.  Add about half of the dry spice mixture,  and stir to combine thoroughly. 

In a separate skillet, heat the remaining oil, and begin browning the stewing beef in batches.  As it browns, add it to the large pot with the onions.  Once the beef chunks are browned, add the ground chuck to the same skillet, and brown it, adding in the balance of the dry spices and the chopped garlic.  Add this to the large pot with the onions and beef chunks.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the kidney beans, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook one hour, stirring occasionally.  If it gets too dry, add more beef broth (1 cup at a time).

Add in the kidney beans, cook for an additional half hour, and you’re done!  Add whatever other things you’d like for serving (sour cream, cheese, etc., etc).  We usually serve it with cornbread, as well.

I'm off to spend the day working in the Stepchild might require a flamethrower.....

Friday, October 19, 2012

And The Pansy Process Continues.......

It's mid-October, which means all of the gardeners in the Southeastern US are consumed with installing winter annual color!  It is actually something of a reunion at the wholesale growers, since this is one of those times when I bump into all of the people I know from the industry, and don't get a chance to see during the summer craziness.

At the Big House, we're bouncing between the large annual color beds and the containers around the property.  As Patti says, the creative process of doing the containers balances out the knee-breaking process of installing all of the pansies in the ground.  This year, the weather has been absolutely glorious, so it really has been a fun crisp mornings, delightful dry sunny afternoons, dodging the squirrels and chipmunks with cheeks loaded down by acorns, pine cones and hickory nuts.

In the wooded area, this is one of my favorite containers, though its size dictates that the planting always be fairly simple.  It's only a few years old, but because it is in part shade all the time and regularly gets sprayed with the irrigation sprinklers, it's aging beautifully.   For this season, it's just jammed with Pansy "Matrix Sunrise."  We pointedly left the Virginia Creeper climbing up the base of the planter, since it has such incredible fall color.  This particular pansy also really highlights the blooms of the surrounding Camellia sasanqua.  The woodland garden was designed and planted with two hundred camellias in large drifts of the same cultivar, so when they are in bloom, it's pretty spectacular.

Nearby, there is a large drift of white Camellias, where are also in full bloom.

Rhododendrons really struggle in Georgia, because the clay soil is so heavy, the winters don't usually get quite cold enough for them, and the summers are so hot.  As a result, their bloom cycles are never predictable.  While walking through the garden this morning, this one was blooming in the midst of all the white camellias.   Usually they bloom in March here, but I'll take what I can get for a rhododendron bloom in Georgia!

The Japanese Silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis "Cabaret") really is at is showiest now, and the blooms are just incredible against the foliage of the "October Glory" maple.  It spreads itself around just a little bit here, but is certainly not something I would consider invasive.  

At the pool, we're about a third of the way through the winter planters.  This bed above the waterfall has been filled with mondo grass for the past few years, so the current look with the planters and massed pansies is new.  I can't wait to see how this fills out as the season goes along.

Here's another view of that same area.  The conifer in the containers is Juniper "Iowa," which I think is just great for color and structure.  Again we've used the pansy, "Matrix Sunrise," and in the containers have added Dusty Miller, Heuchera "Citronelle" and "Autumn Bride," Autumn Ferns, Rhodea japonica, and ajuga "Caitlin's Giant."

I often get asked how I approach a large number of containers on one property, and how we tie the whole thing together.  I'm not sure there is any "correct" way of doing it,but we tend to use the same color family in flowers throughout (or at least throughout one large area).  From there, we have calculated the number of  complimentary plants needed per bed or container,  and use the same selection of five or six plants in large quantity across the property.  Rather than treating each container separately, we treat them all as one group, so they all have the same generally "family" of color, texture, etc.  More about this later.

For now, get outside and enjoy this incredible autumn weather!

Monday, October 15, 2012

843 In the Ground, 4827 To Go!

It's pansy planting time again at the Big House!

The first round of pansies arrived last week and we were able to get a little jump on some of the beds.  So far the weather is cooperating and has been delightfully pleasant for planting.  Every year I worry about the inevitable bursts of hot or cold at this time of year, but so far we're having wonderful warm days and cool nights...perfect for planting!
 The beds look to be a little sparse when the annual color first goes in, but fill in very quickly; I'll follow this up with posts showing the progress.

This photo also shows a container anchored by "Angelina" sedum (which has awesome winter color) and a Juniper called "Iowa" that I'm really liking this year.  Those two items will stay until spring, and we'll move annuals in and out of the containers to work with the season - once these crysanthemums fade, we'll replace them with pansies, then another switch for Christmas holidays, and then finally back to pansies and snapdragons for spring.

The "Limelight" paniculata hydrangeas are showing their Autumn colors, which we'll leave until around Thanksgiving, and then cut them back.  I like the juxtaposition of the aging hydrangea blooms with the fresh and perky new pansies.
The hydrangeas were installed a couple of years ago, and I'm still delighted with them!  They replaced a rather "stand offish" clipped holly hedge, and I think the hydrangeas add a suitable romantic feel that suits the home and "the Missus".  If there is a negative, it's that they are completely naked in winter, which is why we have an evergreen holly hedge behind them under the windows.  When we set up for Christmas (typically the weekend after Thanksgiving), we'll give the hydrangeas a good whack to neaten them up for the winter.  For reference, these were cut to 30 inches last year, and are now more than 8 feet tall.  This time we're going to cut them to 30 inches at Thanksgiving,and then back to 18 inches in spring before the new growth starts (the beauty of paniculatas is that they take full sun and bloom on new growth).

Over just a little along the front of the house, we also plugged Pyracantha "America" into the holly hedge, and I'm thrilled with the way it's now breaking up all of that dark green.  As long as we hand prune a couple of times a season, we are able maintain it at about 5 feet, and it's still covered with those great berries for a long showy period in autumn and winter.
Only 4827 more pansies to plant, lots of containers to get done, and winter veggies to go into the ground, so more pictures on the way.  For now, enjoy this glorious time of year in your garden!

One Last Whiff

We're in the midst of switching out the summer annuals for pansies and other cool weather blossoms.  I was just about to pull the dying annual verbena from this container when I realized the concrete bunny appears to be savoring that last little whiff of summer fragrance.  Perhaps I'll wait another day or two......

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Late Bloomers

This has been the perfect morning to grab a cup of coffee and take a little stroll through the Stepchild Garden with Sadie the Dog.  It’s in the mid-50’s at the moment, so there’s lot of residual moisture on the plants, which doesn’t really please Her Majesty, but she loves to just hang out in the sun pretending to be interested in what I’m doing.

Many of the summer perennials are ready to be cut down for the season, but the late bloomers are going crazy with these cool nights and the abundant rain from earlier this week.  Every year at this time I am reminded of that basic plant cycle of  “ grow, bloom, and then collapse.” I was speaking to a Master Gardener group recently and we were discussing the importance of including late blooming plants in the landscape, because they are generally easier to manage.  Since most plants don’t tend to collapse until AFTER they bloom, the autumn bloomers give you great green structure all summer, mightl require the “Chelsea Chop” once or twice during the course of the spring and summer, but generally will still look amazing long after some of the other perennials are reduced to brown sticks.

Many people say that gardening in the south doesn’t allow them to mix things like geranium, geum, wallflowers, etc., that can’t tolerate out hot summers.  If looking at it from another angle, we actually get TWO seasons of those flowers in the south.  Walking around this morning, I was amazed at all of the old-fashioned things that have resurfaced after their hot summer hiatus.

Go out and enjoy your garden today.