Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After Every Storm The Sun Will Smile...*

Before Hurricane Irene, my husband and I hurriedly put away the deck and patio furniture, decorative garden hanging ornaments and wind chimes, planters, fountains, and yard art. The prediction was for 80 to 100 mph winds that could lift and hurl almost anything we had out in the yard. Afterwards, we waited. Saturday morning sprinkles and breezes soon turned into driving rain and powerful winds that increased in intensity as the day wore on.

The hummingbirds were feeding from the feeders and displayed more aggressive territorial behavior than usual. Perhaps they sensed that food sources soon may be scarce. When the winds got so high that this feeder rocked back and forth, I was forced to take it down.

However, I left the other feeder up because it was located in a somewhat protected area. This particular male remained at the feeder and protected it tirelessly the entire day--even through the driving rain.

There were times when the wind gusts were so high he would fly to a nearby maple tree and clutch a twig as the wind whipped him and the twig up and down and all around. (He is close to the center of the photo.)

After all the worrying and hoping for the best, we really did sustain very little damage. A few tree branches broke or are torn and hang drooping by the trunks. Some young trees in our wooded area are leaning, having been partially uprooted. A few of the larger perennials are damaged but not demolished.

Our two Autumn Olive trees were thrust to the ground by the high winds.

These trees provided a natural screen between the yard and our patio and were much beloved by the birds. Wrens, robins, and cardinals perched on the limbs and sang morning tunes. In autumn, they ate the sweet red berries--if the squirrels did not get them first.

I am somewhat sad that we lost these trees. They were some of my favorite trees in the yard. Besides attracting wildlife, they had a unique form and structure. And I am wondering if it was the dense foliage that became caught by the wind and then pulled down to the ground. Luckily, I have some seedlings in a pot that I may plant elsewhere. Here, I am thinking of adding one or two Japanese maples. When change is forced upon us, it is an opportunity for a new direction.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, there were huge trees that were uprooted.

A gust of wind must have come through here and hit several trees at once.

When I walked through, I discovered that these fallen and arched trunks had created a window.

I looked through this nature-made window and saw the glimmer of the morning sun.

And somehow I was compelled to make a silent wish.................for a calm and peaceful autumn.

*William R. Alger
©Michelle A. Potter

Friday, August 26, 2011

Searching for the Tranquil Garden

Our region experienced an earthquake this week that surprised us all. Earthquakes in this area are not very common with the last one over 75 years ago. I have never experienced an earthquake, and it was very strange to literally feel the earth move beneath my feet. The odd part of it was that I did not really know what actually happened until it was almost over. I, my family, and my cats are fine. Only a few small items are broken from the shaking. And when I checked the garden, nothing was damaged at all. Even the garden statues remained standing. Still, in that chaotic and tumultuous event, the garden remained tranquil.

A day ago, we had a severe thunderstorm that left my house intact but my garden in complete disarray.

There were leaves and branches strewn all over the lawn, the deck, the patio, and the garden.

And a huge branch of a very tall oak tree fell inside our yard breaking a fence post and damaging some of my plants.

The branch must be about 20 feet long--almost the size of a small tree. It crushed a milkweed plant and a Buddleia alternifolia (spring blooming butterfly bush) with its force and massive size. A small Duarte peach tree also was crushed. They only appear damaged, so I am grateful for that. It could have been much worse. In other areas, fallen trees landed on parked cars and roofs.

My husband and I attempted to move this very large branch into the woods beyond the fence but it was much too heavy. We will need to use the chainsaw and cut it up into small pieces this weekend.

My tranquil garden does not appear to be tranquil at the moment with all of the damage from the storm.  However, I know appearances are not everything. As I walked around inspecting the damage, I noticed the bees and butterflies going about their business as if nothing had happened.

The plants also seem to be carrying on--reaching for the sun and swaying with the breeze. Nature has a way of showing us how to adjust to the upsets and the lulls, to simply go on. I will try to take that lesson to heart as hurricane Irene approaches and threatens more upheaval, but I will be yearning for my Tranquil Garden.

©Michelle A. Potter

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Romance, Collections, Tenacity - New Blotanical Bloggers

Although I recently attained Guru status on Blotanical Blog Directory, I still feel like somewhat of a novice as I am still learning new things about Blotanical, blogging, and garden bloggers. However, I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the Blotanical blogging community with all that it has to offer--especially all of the wonderful garden bloggers who have chosen to be a part of this incredible blog directory. It continues to be a joy to learn about other gardens and gardeners from all over the world.

As a Guru, I am offered the opportunity to mentor some new garden bloggers as they learn all of the ins and outs of Blotanical. My mentor was Donna from Garden's Eye View, and she offered assistance when I needed it and provided me with a good example of how to become involved in the Blotanical community.

Meet my new BlotSprouts.

Romantic Gardening

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. -- Hanne Rion

Lorraine's blog explores the garden using the senses. In her most recent post, she features her lush and lovely cottage garden. The photos of this lovely garden transport you to another time when romantic and lush cottage gardens were the norm, and sitting amid the garden plants was more than a pastime. Older posts explore other gardens, gardening books, and particular plants.

Mama Nene's Garden

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas. --Elizabeth Murray

Perla's blog delves into plant collecting in the Philipines. She explores a variety of tropical plants, from roses to cacti to orchids. Her enthusiasm for gardening is evident through her beautiful macro photographs of her plants and her tender care for each element of their needs. She is not hesitant to describe her struggles, as well as her successes, as she learns more and more about her plant collection.

The Stubborn Gardener

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. --Gertrude Jekyll

Sharie's blog endeavors to steadfastly commit to gardening as a task, not allowing any of the difficulties to discourage her. Through her tenacity, she teaches us all to never give up. Some of her posts include plant features that include ratings on pest and insect resistance, invasiveness, and disease resistance. One of her regular posts includes Tenacious Tuesday where she includes tips on tools, weeding, and other gardening subjects.

If and when you get the chance, take some time to explore these blogs and extend a welcome to these garden bloggers.
©Michelle A. Potter

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer's Epilogue - August GBBD

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida var. speciosa
There are those that believe that flowers and plants feel, communicate, and even, speak. They speak in a language perhaps only a gardener can understand. Blooming plants obviously speak loudly and clearly with their colorful and textural flowers. What are they saying? 'Here I am!' or 'I am beautiful!,' perhaps. Their blooms speak to insects, to animals, and to people, saying various things that would seem appropriate to each.

Knock-out roses
They also say different things at different times of the year--speaking other words in spring than in summer or fall, depending upon their seasonal stage of development. At this time of year in my garden, they are speaking their Summer Epilogue, a last word before the preparations for fall.

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida var. speciosa
Many summer blooms have gone or are going to seed. Even in their shedding of petals there is a beauty in the changing hues and growing seedhead. The singed edges curl up to give that last dance of shape and color.

Echinacea purpurea, Kim's Knee High
Some have chosen to wait for their epilogue, still transforming colors from white to pink to burgundy or white to green to green/pink. They take their brush and outline the edges to display a subtle surprise.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanilla Strawberry'

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Some are reaching their peak of color, waiting for this time to shout a vibrant burst into the sky.

Crape Myrtle

Mandevilla, Yellow

Caladium, 'Postman Joyner'

Penta variegata
Even the night bloomers are reaching their peak, sending out multiple blooms with heavenly fragrance.

Moonflower, Ipomoea Alba

The annuals are at their best at this time of year--full and lush.

The warm weather crops are slowing their production but are still sending out lots to pick and eat.

Tomato, raspberry, okra, pepper, squash
By this time, I am beginning to adjust to the changing of flowers to seed. I look forward to the cooler weather to come with a host of other colors of nature to cherish. I begin to welcome the end of the summer garden and the beginning of the autumn garden. Time slows a bit and there is less to do to maintain the garden but more to do to change or start a bed and to prepare for fall.

It is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day over at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her to see what other garden bloggers have blooming.
©Michelle A. Potter

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Giant Zucchini Dilemma

Every morning, as I enter my vegetable garden and gather tomatoes, beans, okra, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and zucchini, I search through the foliage to find the ripened ones to pick. Once in a while I miss a zucchini or squash because it has grown, unbeknownst to me, under the stem or so close to it that it is well-camouflaged. One such zucchini escaped my picking for quite a while to grow to about a foot long before I finally saw it bulging from beneath the zucchini plant stem.

I try to pick my zucchini when it is small because the flavor and texture is so much better, however this one hid from view. When this happens, I know there will be lots of unappetizing seeds in the center of the zucchini, so I scoop them out.

This zucchini will be stuffed and baked.

Stuffed Zucchini

1 large zucchini, halved
½ cup zucchini, chopped
½ cup tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
½ cup panko crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Scoop out seeds from zucchini halves. Bake halves on lightly greased pan for 30 to 35 minutes.

In the meantime, saute zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic until soft.

Transfer to mixing bowl. Add panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese and mix.

Add mixture to baked zucchini halves.

Bake stuffed zucchini for 30 to 35 minutes or until zucchini halves are tender.

Note:  The amount of ingredients may vary depending on the size of the zucchini.

©Michelle A. Potter

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sun-dried or Oven-dried Tomatoes

I usually grow a lot of tomatoes because they are delicious, good with so many dishes, and I like their flavor very much. One of the ways I like to enjoy tomatoes is to dry them in the sun. This is an easy way to preserve them and bring out their tangy flavor.

With the temperatures ranging between 90 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit, this is perfect weather for drying tomatoes.

Method for Sun Drying:

Lightly grease cookie sheets or shallow pans.

Slice tomatoes about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick (if you slice too thinly, the slices will be too thin to be of substance).

Spread slices in pans.

Place pans in a very sunny area for two to three days. (You can store the pans in the oven overnight.)

If you are worried about insects or debris, place a screen or fine netting over the pans without touching the tomatoes.

Method for Oven Drying

Sprinkle cut sides of tomatoes with salt. Place tomatoes on cheesecloth or dishtowel to drain for one hour.

Lightly grease cookie sheets or shallow pans.

Spread slices in pans.

Place pans in an oven at a temperature of 130 degrees to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for six to 12 hours.

The tomatoes are dry when there is no more moisture in the slices. The tomatoes will not be crispy but stiff and pliable like fruit roll-ups.

You can use them in salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes. In most cases, the tomatoes need to be reconstituted by soaking in water for about 30 minutes. Instead of water, broth, wine, or some other sauce can be used to reconstitute. In salads and pastas, the dry tomatoes can be chopped and sprinkled over the salad or pasta dish.

I usually freeze my sun-dried tomatoes, but they can also be packed in oil. To pack them in oil, fill a sterilized jar with tomatoes and oil. Garlic and herbs may be added as well.

I am joining A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa for Simple Lives Thursday.
©Michelle A. Potter

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