Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend Walkabout: Just a Pretty Dawn

Not much to report today, except a really beautiful sunrise:
Dawn, Zone 10, MR, October 2014
This is my favorite time of day, so peaceful. I'm going to walk on the beach and play my crystal singing bowls on the patio. Oh, yeah, and do some gardening. The green zinnias and snapdragons are blooming. Have a wonderful weekend and happy gardening!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chef Riccardo's Taste of the Garden: Pumpkin Soup

Chef Riccardo knows his way around a soup pot, and my favorite of his recipes is one he made for me every autumn: Pumpkin Soup.  This is a very hearty, delicious dish best served with crusty artisan bread, and a few sprigs of fresh dill. It's an Italian specialty:

1 kg fresh pumpkin
2 potatoes
2 leeks
1 onion
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Peel and cube the pumpkin and potatoes and  boil in 2 litres of water, chicken, or vegetable broth until soft. Blend or puree the broth when cool. Fry the washed and chopped leeks and onion in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Add to the pumpkin broth.  Heat gently and add a bit of nutmeg. Stir in ½ cup of cream. Serve with shaved parmesan and a little drizzled olive oil. Eat with your favorite type of crusty bread.
Pumpkin Soup
Of course, down here in the Tropics we add a dash of habanero sauce, but I think that may be an aquired taste. ;-)

Thank you, Chef Riccardo, for a wonderful and warming autumn recipe!
Chef Riccardo

Monday, October 13, 2014

More Plants Now: Online Stores

Alert Gardeners tend to specialize in particular types of plants. This inevitably leads us to the online nursery. As with all plant shopping venues, this one has pluses and minuses. For me, the pluses are all about acquiring uncommon plants, and the minuses are all about the weather. Let's talk Tillies:
T. caliginosa, available online

Tillandsias travel very well in a box for a week. They can be soaked prior to shipping, carefully wrapped, and sent on their way. As long as they don't freeze or cook, they will survive the trip. Not needing dirt is a very good thing! Other plants are much more fragile and can only be shipped during narrow time windows because of weather/temperature concerns. Some just don't like to travel; Lithops are a good example of plants that really prefer to say in one spot, and can freak out and collapse into goo when shipped. 
Lithops prefer a quiet life.

Another down side is that you cannot inspect the plants for diseases or pests. I've never had a problem with either from my online plants, but it happens. So it's imperative to find a dealer you trust who will address any problems that come up. 

I've purchased about a third of my Tillie collection from online dealers, and they are all thriving. I collect some pretty obscure species, so online sellers are high on my list. What have your experiences been?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend Plant Portrait: Phal and Tillie

Tillandsia crocata makes a very subtle, silvery background for a flashy Phalaenopsis....
Phal and Tillie, MR, Oct 2014
However, the Phal has no scent, and when T. crocata blooms, its gorgeous perfume fills a room. Have a wonderful weekend in the garden!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It Stares Into Your Soul....

Oh my, Huernia zebrina had a surprise for me this week, a double bloom that was a little...disconcerting.
Huernia in Bloom, MR, Oct 2014
Any strange creatures staring at you in YOUR garden??

NOTE: Alert Gardener Jim asked me if I posed the flowers. I did not. It has been blooming like crazy and two of the blooms were in that exact position when I watered it. They still are!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lithops and Oncidium Portrait

Two lovely plants that have earthy speckles and blotches in common....
Lithops and Oncidium, MR, Sept2014
This seemed like the perfect plant portrait for the beginning of autumn. They go so well together!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Local and Specialist Nurseries: My Favorite Places to Shop

When it comes to buying plants, I really value the specialists. They truly love the plants they work with. They strive to give them an excellent growing environment. They love to educate their customers so that the plants they sell continue to thrive in their new gardens.
I am blessed to have several tropical nurseries in the area, and one, my favorite, grows and sells only native plants. I'm happy to drive for an hour to stock up at such a nursery. The prices are usually a very good value for the high quality you get.  And if you have any follow-up questions or concerns, you can just call the nursery; they are nearly always extremely helpful.

Access seems to be the only downside to buying plants from the specialists. Not everyone has several special nurseries in their area. I know of some gardeners who make annual treks to far-flung nurseries to stock up on their favorite plants. However, online sales sites are becoming more common, and that will get a separate post. What I particularly love is that I can often find unusual plants from the specialists, such as this Rue, and Patchouli:
No Big Box Store is ever going to sell these guys! For those of us who like to learn everything we can about a particular group of plants (say, medicinals, or mesembs), specialists are our gurus. They don't have an easy time these days, as small businesses are under pressure just about everywhere, but they have their customers' eternal gratitude.