Friday, February 27, 2009


Yesterday was a warm and balmy day and as I was leaving campus, I noticed that the landscape guys were all out trimming back the monkey grass, planting new azaleas and spreading mulch. I could smell the rich odor of freshly dug earth and a hint of rain on the wind. There is a noticeable change in the air. The brown landscape is showing subtle hints of color. Spring is on the way!

Even though Spring hasn't officially arrived yet, there are still things to see in the garden. Helleborus (hellebores) are probably one of the most popular winter blooming plants. It took a while for me to discover these plants and I'm just now planting more in the garden. They start blooming in February and bloom for several months. I looked them up in the Southern Living Garden Book and I see that there are several types of hellebores and I'm sorry to report that I have no idea which kind I have. I'm guessing H. orientalis?

I just ordered a selection of 12 from Sunshine Farms and Gardens last fall and these are a hybrid mix of several species within the genus. So I'm even more confused. Anyway, I think I'll just enjoy the flowers for now.

Frances at Fairegarden has showcased many great photos of her hellebores and recently talked about pruning them. Hellebores are easy to grow and they like good soil ammended with organic material. Southern Living says that they like a neutral PH and to apply lime if necessary. They are slow to reestablish after transplanting so leave them in the same spot if you can. They make good cut flowers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscar party menu

Forget about the Super Bowl. There are no sports fans in this household but when it comes to the Oscars, move over! Actually, it is I who is the crazed fanatic. Michael humors me but the romantic comedies that he likes rarely gets nominated. :)

Our town is not metropolitan enough to attract those obscure little art films and anything with a limited release won't make it here. Needless to say, I hadn't seen any of the nominated films this year. Still, that's no reason to have friends over and have a load of food to eat.

On the menu this year -

Chicken Salad and Egg Salad sandwiches. Michael makes the egg salad with his own recipe. I used Barefoot Contessa's chicken salad recipe and it was delicious. Definitely a keeper!

An assortment of cheeses, grapes and crackers

Our friend Michael works at Target so he brought popcorn from their store as well as other goodies

I made cupcakes - Pina Colada, Chocolate with Peanut Butter frosting

Last but not least - M&Ms!

So, all this food for six people. I woke up Monday morning with a severe case of acid reflux and nausea, enough to keep me home from work for the day. I think I've learned a lesson this year - we don't need that much food and I'm getting too old to indulge myself with rich foods. Oh well, until next year...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bouquet for a friend

Yesterday we took a bouquet of flowers to a friend of ours who just had knee surgery. I picked the flowers and Michael put them together. These are daffodils, hellebores, star magnolia and Harry Lauder's walking stick.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A host of golden daffodils

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:—
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed, and gazed, but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
-William Wordsworth

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Flowers of February

Flowers are beginning to bloom in the dull brown February garden. The daffodils are slowly opening and should be around for a long time.

I didn't know we still had snowdrops (Galanthus). I vaguely recall planting them many moons ago. This little guy popped up next to the driveway.

Mahonia is always dependable. The yellow blooming spires are always dramatic in the winter landscape.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A birthday cake for Michael

Michael's birthday was earlier this week and he requested his favorite cake, Strawberries and Cream Cake. Unlike me, he doesn't have a sweet tooth. He would much prefer a bag of potato chips over chocolate. But this has been his favorite cake since I discovered the recipe a few years ago.

Strawberries & Cream Cake

2 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups white sugar
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberries, pureed

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberries for decoration

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9 inch round cake pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, gelatin and butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Mix flour and baking powder, and beat alternately with the milk into the sugar mixture. Fold in 1 teaspoon vanilla and pureed strawberries. Divide equally into three 9 inch round cake pans.
3. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then remove from pans and cool completely.
4. To make the filling: Beat whipping cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla on high until stiff. Fill each layer with 1/3 of the whipped cream and 3/4 cup sliced strawberries.
5. To make the frosting: Beat the margarine, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Spread over the sides of the cake, and pipe an edge of frosting around the top of the cake.
6. Spread remaining whipped cream on cake top. Top with strawberries.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Time for a paint job

Another beautiful day yesterday! I should have been pruning roses or cleaning up the garden but I decided that it was time to repaint the front gate and entryway. This pretty much took up my entire day and I ended up wearing more paint than I used on the structure. It looks so much better now (the gate, not me). Unfortunately, almost every other wood structure in our garden needs repainting this year. Some of these projects will probably have to wait until late summer and then it will be so hot that I won't want to do it.

I am longing for a picket fence around the front of our house to replace the rail fence that we now have. This time I'm going with the white plastic so I won't have to worry about repainting it. My neighbor has this fence and I can't tell that it is not made of wood. Hopefully, depending on the economy and our finances, we can do this sometimes this year. I know Michael thinks it is not needed but I think it would add a tremendous touch and feel to the garden. (He says that there are so many plants around it, you wouldn't be able to see the fence. He could have a point there!)


and After!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cutting back the ornamental grasses

I took advantage of the nice weather on Saturday to cut back my ornamental grasses. The grasses add interest to the winter landscape but it is good to trim them back before the new growth begins in the spring. I just use hedgetrimmers to whack them back.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Spring is coming!

The daffodils are emerging despite the frigid temperatures we've been having. Last night is got down to 15. A warming trend is on the way though and it is supposed to get close to 70 this weekend. I used to worry when I saw daffodils coming up out of the ground like this but I've learned that it is just what they do. The cold temperatures do not seem to harm them or affect their growth. In a month or so, we should have yellow daffodils all over the garden.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Empty nest

Yesterday I going to cut some branches off the possumhaw to bring in and enjoy and I noticed this cute little nest hanging from one of the lower limbs. I don't think it was there last week but I'm not positve. I have no idea what kind of nest it is or whether or not it has just been built or is leftover from last year. I think I would have noticed it earlier, so I think it is new. It is close to the ground, about two or three feet, which is low considering there are cats around. Do birds build nests this time of year? And what kind is it? Inquiring minds want to know!