Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Watering Can Girls

It's kind of nice to see these girls again. Usually they are peeking through plants, but in the winter they are the stars of the garden. Brrr, it's cold this morning, in the 30s.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Renegade Clematis

As I was doing the breakfast dishes and looking out my kitchen window this morning, I noticed this lone bloom in the backyard. From a distance I thought it was a cosmos, maybe the remains of a pot that I had tossed in the back garden?  It was so funny to see this spot of color in the back. Well, I got my shoes on and grabbed my camera, and when I got out there I realized it was a clematis in bloom! How strange is that, this is a clematis that blooms in the spring, the variety 'Ernest Markham.' Here it is just beginning to bloom on May 19 of this year.

Clematis and Wild Rose

I really don't have a lot of luck with clematis, but I keep trying. Mine seem to look great in the spring, bloom moderately, and then just kind of die. But they always come back the next year. They might have a disease called clematis wilt. I think I have a white clematis, too, called 'Henryi,' that occasionally makes an appearance--these are both clematis that I have probably had for 15 years.  Below is a 'Nelly Moser' that I got this year at Black Creek Nursery in Lancaster, PA. It actually had a few blooms this summer, unusual for the first year, so I'm hoping that's a good sign.

'Nelly Moser'

And then of course there is my out of control autumn clematis.  I have a little too much luck with this one. Some people call it invasive and I am almost in that camp.  It is pretty, though, when it is blooming, and it does a good job of covering the gate and fence.

Autumn Clematis

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Almost December?

"Love your garden, and work in it, and let it give you what it surely will of sweetness and health...and let no one feel that the benefit is all on the side of the garden. For truly you will receive more than you give."

--Louise B. Wilder (1879-1938), American writer


It was such a beautiful weekend that we worked outside quite a bit. I even washed the cars and then drained the hoses and put them away for the winter. We mulched and raked the leaves one more time... will these leaves never end? The only tree left is the Zelkova and this morning they are mostly down, of course, after the two days we spent mulching and raking.  I cut down my baptisia, as it was all blackened, and the rest of the phlox.  It's always a dilemma what to keep in the garden, because I like to see a little something of interest in the winter. But all in all, things are looking good. Most of my herbs are still doing well. A lot of our neighbors spent the weekend putting up Christmas lights, and it was quite a display walking down the street last night! It's a little hard to feel Christmasy when it is 70 degrees outside. It's nice to be able to do garden cleanup in warm weather, but I am ready for some cold.

Italian parsley


Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Julia and I did our part for Black Friday, going over to Reston Town Center and visiting a few stores. There was a huge holiday parade there today, so when we first got there it was packed, but as the parade finished it was not too bad. There were big sales everywhere and Julia got a few hard-to-resist items.

After a little dejeuner at Mon Ami Gabi, we headed home. Julia is going into Arlington with some friends tonight and Walt and I will relax.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Trot and More

Thanksgiving dinner at the Langes
We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at Bob and Carol's. The turkey was delicious and Carol made all the usual sides--mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing-- along with her traditional corn dish (Jackson's favorite) and a new cranberry chutney which I loved. Julia's rolls were a big hit and the pies were good, too, although the salted caramel apple pie did not live up to my expectations! Thanksgiving is all about pumpkin pie, in my opinion. We took a nice walk around their neighborhood after dinner, while the kids played ping pong. Another great holiday with the Langes.

Bob carving the turkey
The cousins

Walt and Julia ran in the annual Turkey Trot in D.C. this morning and it was a beautiful day for a run, sunny and chilly. Many of the runners were dressed up as turkeys and pilgrims and Julia is already pumped about buying a turkey costume for next year's run. Occupy D.C. was present but not intrusive (so says Walt).

When they got home around 10, Brooks came over and we all had pumpkin pecan pancakes and Pennsylvania bacon on my new griddle, just like Evie's!

After breakfast, Julia got to work on JoAnn's buttermilk rolls. I have already made my pies, pumpkin and salted caramel apple pie (below). This one was written up in a recent NYT article (it's from the Brooklyn restaurant Four and Twenty Blackbirds), so I hope it is as good as it sounds.

And after all that, it's time for a nap. We are off to Bob and Carol's later this afternoon, so will post more pictures later. Happy Thanksgiving! And Happy, Happy Birthday to JoAnn!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Thinking of Thanksgiving tomorrow has made me think of what I am thankful for in my garden. I am thankful for most of the plants in my garden, but if I had to choose one plant I am most thankful for it would have to be my tree peony. I have a lot of history with that tree peony. I first saw tree peonies back in the 1980s in Lancaster County. We were driving along a road in Strasburg, PA, and we kept passing houses with these large shrubs with masses of huge pink flowers on them, and we had no idea what they were. My friend Lisa finally stopped the car and knocked on the door of one of the houses and asked what the plants were. And that's how I found out about tree peonies.

When we moved to this house in 1989, the first plant I bought for my garden was the pink tree peony pictured above. I bought it at the old Reston Farm Market, and I think it was $15.00, an enormous amount of money to spend on a plant back then. And now I have had that very same plant for 21 years  and it has never failed to thrill. Every year I rave and gush to anyone who will listen about the size and beauty of these blooms. I have friends who come over just to see my tree peony. I have had parties just so people can see my tree peony. I remember one of Julia's friends when she was little, coming over "to see the tree peony." Of course it is me who encourages this obsession.

The blooms are as a big as a dinner plate--truly--and are so paper thin and of the clearest pink you can imagine. They are very short-lived. They bloom right around the first of May, and there have been times when they are just beginning to bloom and then we get a big storm and they are done. But that is part of the thrill of them. They bring me so much pleasure, even if for the shortest time.

I even love my tree peony right now, on a cold and rainy November morning.

Mostly, of course, I am thankful that I have a garden,  even this little piece of earth in suburbia. It is my own garden, that I can plan for, experiment with, get my hands dirty in, photograph, pick flowers from, obsess about, write a blog about...I read a lot of books about gardens and visit many beautiful gardens, and while I would love to have a big cottage garden in the country, or on a lake, or with a mountain view, I am just happy and thankful to have my little garden--every day of the year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Julia Coming Home!

Rainy Tuesday
It's a rainy morning and I am getting ready for Julia coming home today from Chapel Hill.  I work until 9 tonight,  so I am making a chicken pot pie for her and Walt for dinner. It's a busy week, getting ready for Thanksgiving, although my only job is to make pies, as we are going to Bob and Carol's for Thanksgiving Day. Julia is going to make rolls again--JoAnn's buttermilk rolls --which she first tried last year.  It took two attempts, phone calls to JoAnn, but her first (well, second) try at yeast rolls turned out delicious.

In garden news, those bulbs I got last week were planted on Sunday. Well, I came outside on Monday morning to find squirrels had dug up at least three of them! So mad! I replanted, and we'll see how it goes...What is it with the animals around here? Squirrels, skunks, groundhogs...They must just have a party around here at night.

I was looking for some color in the garden this rainy morning, and found these pretty oakleaf hydrangeas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Books On My Nightstand

I thought it was time for another look at the books on my nightstand. JoAnn and I talked last week and we traded book ideas again, as she was getting ready for  a trip and needed something to read. So here is what I am reading and getting ready to read right now.

The Affair, by Lee Child. I love Jack Reacher. Need I say more? 

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. I am reading this right now and could not put it down when I first started it. He's kind of a wacky person as we all know, but the story of the beginning of Apple and the development of computers is fascinating.

The Garden in Autumn, by Allen Lacy. I always have a gardening book going and this is one by a classic garden writer that I am re-reading now.

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Burns. For my book group next week. I have never read this, so am looking forward to it as it was very popular back in the day.

The Bird Artist, by Howard Norman. While weeding out the fiction section in the library last week, this book caught my eye because of the title and because it is set in Newfoundland. The Shipping News (also set in Newfoundland) is one of my favorite books, so this one interested me.

The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. Recommended by JoAnn and about a woman who teaches a cooking class and and the stories behind the people in the class.

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I am listening to Middlesex right now and am enjoying it so much that I picked up his first book, recommended by Biff.

True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris, by Lucinda Holdforth. JoAnn sent this to me after reading it and thought I would like it.

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. Great book. I am listening to it on CD and often drive long distances so I can continue listening.

Friday, November 18, 2011

'There's Hope in Daffodils'

Narcissus 'Geranium'

"There's hope in daffodils. That's a dangerously fragile commodity at the best of times, but now is the time to indulge it." -- Anna Pavord, in The Curious Gardener (2010).

I had to plant some bulbs after reading that. Also, even though I have a lot of daffodils already, mostly old varieties that I planted 20 years ago (Carlton, Ice Follies, Flower Record, Thalia, Mt. Hood, Cheerfulness), I like the idea of planting a handful of a new variety every year. Most of those daffs still bloom, too. How amazing is that, 20 years later? A good investment for sure.

I finally got my bulbs this week. I have been determined to get some in the ground this fall, and the way I see it, I have until next week (Thanksgiving) to get them in the ground. That is the deadline.  I bought some Narcissus 'Geranium' which has white petals with orange centers and 'Cheerfulness', which was Henry Mitchell's favorite. I have some 'Cheerfulness' already, but I figured I could always use some more Cheerfulness.

Narcissus 'Cheerfulness'

Bulbs at Merrifield
I have to work all day today and tomorrow, so I hope the weather is nice on Sunday so I can finally get these bulbs in the ground. The problem is finding an empty space to plant them, but I think I have somewhere in mind...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Last Gasp for Roses

It is cold and dreary this morning after the rains yesterday. I took an early morning walk and the air felt so good. I love this weather. I love the wind, the leaves falling, the gray skies. I guess because I love winter and I like knowing what is coming.

January 2010

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Plants That Disappear

It's interesting how some plants just disappear in the winter. I like to watch hostas because you can literally see them almost evaporate. First they get kind of wilty and then they go sort of transparent and then they just disappear.

I love how you can see right through this leaf

Another plant that gracefully disappears is Solomon's Seal. It goes from dark green and white variegation to this pale yellow color before it totally melts away.

Many perennials do not disappear, of course, like my asters, coreopsis, baptisia, geraniums, anemones, echinacea. I like to keep most of these around for a little winter interest. Here is my front garden on this rainy Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

These Are Just Wrong

Saw these at Espenshades in Lancaster County over the weekend and at first I thought they were fake. But they are not. They are called "Blue Mystique" orchids and here is what I found online:

The Blue Mystique blue orchid is not painted, and it's not hybridized. It is the result of a patented process that infuses white orchids with a special medium. This technique has been perfected after many years of research and testing, using naturally derived elements and remaining environmentally conscious.

Medium schmedium, they are dyed. They kind of give me the creeps.

Paperwhite bulbs

Also, it's getting to be time for paperwhites, so I bought myself 10 bulbs for the holidays. I plant the first 5 in a shallow bowl in early December and they will be blooming for Christmas. Then I save the next 5 for some blooms in the dreary days of January. Did you know that adding some alcohol to the water will keep them from getting too leggy and falling over?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Weekend in Lancaster County

One of Evie and Earl's pygmy goats

We had a great fall weekend at Landis Farm, even though we missed you, Eileen!  It was much more relaxing than our spring weekend as we weren't racing all over Lancaster County to Amish nurseries and greenhouses and shoving flats of plants and bags of mulch into our cars.  We made our usual stops at Weavers (6 lbs of bacon), Lititz for Wilbur Chocolate (salted caramels for me,  buds for Walt, chocolate covered pretzels for Brooks,  and chocolate covered marshmallows for Julia).  We all have our favs and we buy a lot of chocolate at Wilburs. And a lot of bacon at Weavers. Oh well, on to Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market for bread and sticky buns and fresh produce (the biggest heads of cauliflower you can imagine), the Country Store for spices and noodles, to Espenshades to look at plants and garden stuff (guess who bought Chrismas cactus?? NOT me) and even made it up to Ephrata for shopping and lattes at 10,000 Villages. Every year we love going to the Old Mill Shop near Strasbourg to look at all their Christmas decorations, and we were very restrained in our purchases this year, but they do have beautiful things. We made a shoe stop at the Outlets but our hearts weren't in it so no shoes for any of us.

What we love the most about Lancaster County, though, is just driving around the back roads and stopping at farm markets for jams and jellies and brooms,  and Amish dairy farms for their homemade ice cream. The farms are just beautiful in the fall. My favorite road is called Butter Road--shouldn't I be living on Butter Road?

Judy and Prudy at Wilbur's
Wilbur Chocolate Co.
This is what 6 lbs of bacon look like

Of course one of the highlights of our weekends in PA is always the food--Amish pumpkin pie (much lighter than our pumpkin pie), lunch at Country Table, the apple dumplings and baked oatmeal Evie brought over to us, and finally the pumpkin creme brulee that Prudy made for us Sunday morning. She even brought her torch so she could carmelize the sugared topping. They were delicious.

Evie made us apple dumplings
The cottage
Prudy made us pumpkin creme brulee
Chillin on the porch
Our favorite Amish farm stand
Jams and jellies
Amish-made brooms

It's hard to explain how much we love our weekends in PA. We have been going to this cottage twice a year for over 20 years now and we appreciate our time there, as well as our friendship with Earl and Evie Landis, more each time we visit.