Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Encore azaleas

In the early 1980s, a plant breeder by the name of Robert E. "Buddy" Lee, noticed a tray of azalea cuttings blooming during the summer at his Independence, Louisiana nursery. He started experimenting with crossing traditional spring-blooming azaleas with a rare Taiwanese summer-blooming azalea (Rhododendron oldhamii). The result - an azalea that blooms both in the spring and in the fall.

I only have one Encore azalea in the garden. They are expensive and I've always found azaleas to be rather temperamental despite the fact that they are reputed to be tailor-made for the South. I've not had any problems growing the Encore variety but the blooms have been a tad sparse. I read that these azaleas actually prefer more sun than their cousins so that could be the reason.

But, I do have a confession to make. Call me crazy but I just can't seem to warm up to an azalea that blooms in the fall. In my mind, azaleas are spring flowers and in the fall garden, they look like the red-headed stepchild at the family reunion.

My tastes may be changing thought because I am slowly warming up to my one and only Encore azalea. I was just noticing today how pretty the fuchsia color stood out in the landscape. I suppose breaking traditions can be a good thing.

I would like to thank the academy...

Just kidding, but I've always wanted to say that!

I would like to thank all the gardening blotanists who voted for my blog in the 2009 Blotanical Awards. This morning I discovered that I had won Best Alabama Blog. I appreciate the honor and I'll display my badge proudly!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Many thanks....

I was so surprised and excited to hear last night that my photo was selected as the winner of the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest for September! There were so many great entries (visit the GGW blog to see more) - well I'm just flabbergasted. Thanks so much for their site for having this contest, to High Country Gardens for the prize and for all the nice comments I've received.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie

The in-laws are coming in from Mississippi this weekend for their annual hair appointments (every 5 weeks) so I'm donning the baking apron and trying a new recipe. This one comes from one of my favorite books at the moment, "Baked" by Southern boys Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (they now live in Brooklyn and own a dessert shop, also called "Baked"). I've tried several of the recipes in this book and they have all been wonderful.

This recipe calls for a pie dough that they include on a separate page. I tried it and had a few problems with it but taste wise, it is fine. It was really, really sticky though as I was making it and almost impossible to work with. The next time I think I will try Ina Garten's dough recipe that I use for the apple tart. Or if you don't even want to fool with making your own, I'm sure a frozen one from your supermarket will work fine.

Baked’s Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie

* 1/2 recipe pie dough, chilled
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 2 eggs, room temperature
* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
* 1 tb whiskey (I used Southern Comfort)
* 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
* 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

On a lightly-floured surface, roll out dough to form a 12-inch round. Press into a pie dish, folding under edges. Freeze crust while you make the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, whisk together flour and sugars; set aside.

Fit an electric mixer with its whisk attachment, and beat eggs on high speed until foamy, about 3 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment, and mix in flour and sugars on low. Turn mixer to high and beat for 2 minutes; add butter and beat on high until combined. Scrape down sides, add whiskey, and beat on high for another minute, then fold in walnuts and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips.

Pour filling into chilled pie shell, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips over the top, and bake for 25 minutes. Cover edges of crust with foil and bake for another 25 minutes; remove from oven when inserted knife or pie tester comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack completely (at least one hour) before serving.

Tip: Store in refrigerator and heat up a slice for 15 seconds in the microwave. Serve with ice cream. YUM!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rains bring out the mushrooms

We've had lots of rain lately. Last week our rain gauge, which measures up to 5", overflowed. Since then, there has been at least one shower every day. Yesterday, we received 2" and overnight we got 2" more inches.

As I was leaving for work yesterday morning, I noticed a mushroom in our driveway. I rarely see mushrooms on our property and of all places, in the middle of a gravel driveway? I don't know anything about mushrooms but I do find this intriguing.

I wonder if it is edible?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest

Here is my entry for the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest for September. The subject is ornamental grasses. This is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'). The photo was taken last summer in Randy and Jamie's garden.

Can you identify this iris?

A friend has an iris that was at her home when she moved there 20 years ago. I thought it looked like "Beverly Sills" but I'm not an iris expert.

If any iris aficionados out there can offer some suggestions, it will be greatly appreciated!

Clarification: This iris isn't blooming now (or at least I don't think it is). I will have to ask and see. I think the photo is from the spring time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Bloom Day

We've had nice temperatures but it is muggy and uncomfortable outside. The mosquitoes are out in full force! Here is what is blooming in the mid-September garden:

First, a few roses -

"Lyda Rose"
"Gartendirektor Otto Linne"
"Caldwell Pink"
Purslane, which I prefer over Portulaca
Sedum, more than likely "Autumn Joy"
Begonia "Bonfire"
Hardy Orange (Poncirus Trifoliata)
Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispida)
Lycoris radiata
Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha)
Fallopia japonica 'Crimson Beauty' (aka Japanese Knotweed, Mexican Bamboo)

Many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens who started Bloom Day. To see more blooms, visit her blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gardens of the Shoals

Tonight I will be doing a presentation to the Shoals Wildflower Society about local gardens that I have written about in Alabama Gardener magazine. This will mainly be a slide show of photos I've taken. Here is a sample:

Margie Anderton's beautiful wildflower paradise in Killen, Alabama (the article is in the current edition)

Leon Perry's azalea wonderland in Muscle Shoals

Dee Hubbert's garden here in Florence (this article hasn't been published yet)

and Charles Moore's magnificent waterfall garden (also in Florence)

There are other gardens as well. Their meetings are held at the Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Florence and their is tons of food and usually door prizes. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The September slump

Another gardening season seems to be winding down although the fall garden is always a joy to look forward to. By the time August and September roll around though, my enthusiasm level for the garden is at it's lowest point. I'm sure the weather has something to do with this although I can't complain this year. We've had mild temperatures (well, if you consider upper 80s and lower 90s to be mild) and regular rainfall. However, it is getting dry again and we are back in the phase where it rains every day but not in our neighborhood. I can't tell you how much that irks me...

I think a lot of gardeners though are just tired and wiped out by the end of summer no matter what the weather is doing. I am trying to get over feeling guilty when I'm not out in the garden working, especially on a nice day. I probably could use some therapy for that.

So, since there is no news on the gardening front, I have been catching up on my reading. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was awesome. Very unique and un-put-downable! I also enjoyed The Strain, the first in a series by Guillermo Del Toro (yes, he is the film director).

My Julia Child kick continues. I've started reading her book My Life in France and Michael and I recently rented The French Chef from Netflix.

I also read a biography on film director Vincente Minnelli and have been recording his films off of Turner Classic Movies. I just watched Home From The Hill and Lust for Life which I can't believe I've never seen before. I rewatched The Bad and the Beautiful (great film!) and being a Jennifer Jones fan, I've seen Madame Bovary numerous times. The only Minnelli film I couldn't get into was The Cobweb which I found incredibly boring.

I usually have a gardening book going and I just picked up Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd's Our Life in Gardens.

I promise to return to gardening soon!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Am I next?

As we get older, do we begin to downsize and want our lives to be more simpler? That seems to be happening in our household and the latest casualty is the Christmas decorating. Our outlandish Christmas decorations are now a thing of the past. Actually, we didn't decorate last year, which was kind of ironic because a local magazine ran a story about our house at Christmas.

It all comes down to it all being a lot of hard work and Michael says that he is just not feeling it anymore. He has always been the decorator and the lover of Christmas. He usually starts in mid-September and gets everything up by Thanksgiving. Every room in the house has a tree and garlands and what-nots. Our closets are filled to the max with Christmas ornaments and the storage house out back is packed with the trees. So, I really don't blame him if he is over it. I have to say though that it is somewhat sad for me although I surely won't miss the work and taking it all down which I do since I'm off work after the holidays. We will still put up the main tree this year and maybe even the garlands in the living room.

Everything else is for sale! So, if you'd like to pick up some decorations, trees, garlands, bows, etc., stop by Michael's Salon and pick up some bargains. We may even be listing some items on E-bay as we continue to clear out.