Friday, November 27, 2009

More Fall Color

Just a few more photos that I took earlier in the week. The first is Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii x major 'Mount Airy') which is a fantastic shrub, beautiful in all seasons. The fall foliage is particularly colorful. Visit my website to see photos of fothergilla in the spring.

I get more questions about Burning Bush (Euonymus alata "Compactus") than any other plant. I have no idea why.

This is Yucca 'Golden Sword' growing with Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Cake Roll

Thanksgiving is just around the corner so let's turn our attention from gardening to another of my favorite subjects - food! Everyone loves my Pumpkin Cake Roll and I always make it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although it looks intimidating, it is not! Trust me, if I can do it, anybody can.

Here are all the ingredients that you will need:

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup powdered sugar
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 TB. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla

First, beat the eggs at high speed for about 5 minutes. Gradually add the sugar.

The egg and sugar mixture should be lighter in color and look like this -

Stir in the pumpkin and lemon juice. Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt together and FOLD it into the mixture.

Spread the mixture into a greased 15 x 10 x 1 pan. Lining the bottom of the pan with a piece of wax paper will make it easier to remove from the pan later!

Now sprinkle the pecans over the top -

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes. (Always have your oven pre-heated in advance).

While the cake is baking, spread a towel out and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. The towel I'm using here is really too large - a smaller one will work. Don't use a terry-cloth towel.

When the cake is done, turn it out immediately on the towel. This is the trickiest part for me. It is difficult to flip the pan over and powdered sugar usually flies everywhere when it hits the towel. The method that works best for me is to lean the pan up on the longer side and quickly flip it forward. Whatever works best for you - I'll leave that dilemma up to you.

Now, carefully remove the wax paper.

Fold the excess of the towel over the narrow end over the cake.

This is the part that scares people but trust me, it is not that hard. Slowly begin to roll the towel with the cake inside it.

Place it on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely, usually at least an hour or more. When the towel is totally cool to the touch, it will be ready for the next step.

While you are waiting on the cake roll to cool, you can mix the filling. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter (it should be at room temperature) and add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix thoroughly.

When the cake roll has cooled. slowly unroll it and spread the cream cheese filling over it.

Roll the cake up again, this time without the towel!

I've learned that it is sometimes easier to just push it with the towel rolled up behind it.

You are done! Wrap the cake roll with plastic wrap and chill or freeze. It should be refrigerated before serving and the taste is even better after a day or more.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A walk through the fall garden

After blowing the leaves (again!), I took some photos yesterday of the garden. I mentioned earlier that fall seemed to arrive late this year and now it is lingering. Our first average frost date is November 4. It is now November 22 and we still haven't had a killer frost yet. The color is peaking now and the leaves are falling in a frenzy.

The border alongside the driveway is planted with dogwood, oakleaf hydrangea, azalea, mahonia and rhododendron.

Around the corner, another border with Encore azalea, hydrangeas and camellias.

The Japanese maples are wonderful this time of year -

The garden on the north side of the house lies under a yoshino cherry tree planted with hydrangea, camellias, cast iron plant and perennials.

Around the corner to the front of the house with the new no-mow lawn. The Japanese Maple is "Boskoop Glory".

Over to the south end of the house and the pathway alongside the patio which sits above the lower garden-

In the lower garden. This is the area where I used recycled concrete, rescued from our local landfill, to create steps and another patio area.

Looking up from the opposite direction -

On the opposite end of the lower garden is the secret garden. It needs some tidying up. The rocks are for a possible future waterfall project.

One of the gates to the secret garden -

I took some more photos of individual plants. I'll share those later in the week.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Persian Shield

Strobilanthes dyerianus, better known as "Persian Shield", features iridescent, colorful leaves of purple, green and silver. I've always grown it in a container, where it starts out slow but eventually gets very tall (about 2-3 ft.) by mid-summer. This plant loves the heat but wilts easily and it prefers semi-shade during the hottest part of the day. Unfortunately, it is very tender and turns to mush after the first frost. Cuttings can be taken and I read that it can be treated as a houseplant, although I haven't tried this. In containers, it looks nice with ferns, coleus, impatiens, caladiums or begonia. In the ground, I would use it with tropical-type plants like canna, elephant's ear and gingers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seasonal oddity

Things that make you go hmmm?

Only one branch of our kousa dogwood has fall color - a deep burgundy and the rest of the tree is still green. Very odd, don't you think?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Florida Pie

This recipe comes from the book Baking: From My Home to Yoursby Dorie Greenspan. I've tried several recipes from this book and they have been good. This is a key lime pie that has a layer of coconut-cream on the bottom. It is served frozen. It would be a great for a summer dessert but it is good any time of year.

Florida Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust, fully baked and cooked, or a store-bought crust
1 1/3 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, separated
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)
1/4 c. sugar

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the egg yolks on high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the remaining juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To finish the pie with Meringue:

Preheat the broiler. Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you’ve got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue). Return the pie for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

Serving: If the pie has been frozen long enough to be firm, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. You want it to be cold but not frozen.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gardens of the Shoals presentation

This Sunday I will be doing a presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Pine Street on "Gardens of the Shoals". I will be showing photos of gardens in the area, including our own garden, that I've written about for Alabama Gardener Magazine. So, if you need some motivation for next spring, do come by! The program starts at 11 a.m.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall camellias

I hate to sound like a broken record but I LOVE CAMELLIAS!

Right now, the sasanqua camellias are blooming. These are fall bloomers and their flowers are not as large and showy as the japonica camellias which bloom in late winter and early spring. The sasanquas have a delicate beauty about them with fragile blossoms that are quick to shatter if disturbed.

This first photo is of "Bonanza" that is planted by the back door steps. This was one of the first camellias I ever planted. It is about 10 years old. It always blooms in late October. I've never had success in getting a close-up photo because the color (a bright fushcia) is hard to capture with a digital camera.

"Cleopatra" - pale, delicate pink, crepe-like flowers.

"Chansonette" - I just planted this one last year and was excited to see it blooming when we returned from vacation last week.

"Pink Icicle" is a hybrid camellia with pink, peony-like flowers. This is one of the hardier varieties that does well farther north.

A dream of mine is to one day visit the Camellia Forest Nursery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There are a few camellias that I'd love to find - "Ville de Nantes", "E.G. Waterhouse" and "Donation". If you know a source for these, do let me know.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eden State Park

More vacation photos, this time from our annual visit to Eden State Park. We love this place and were pleased to see that they had done a lot of work during the past year. There were new stone pathways and a brand new entrance with a winding road surrounded by live oaks.

The focal point of the property is a magnificent two-story home, owned by the Wesley family, a timber farming family, in the 1800s. In 1963, Lois Maxon bought and renovated the home, creating a showplace for her family heirlooms and antiques. The collection of Louis XVI furniture is the second largest in the United States.

This house reminds me of the one in the film "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte". I keep expecting Bette Davis to appear on the top landing holding a rifle and yelling "YOU GIT OFF MY LAND!"

The Spanish Moss is spectacular -

And the ferns growing on the massive trees -

The Beautyberry (Callicarpa) is always spectacular -

The majority of plants on the property are camellias and I just realized that I didn't photograph any of them! Actually, there were only the sasanquas blooming at this time of the year. There is also a nice old rose garden that is usually filled with hybrid tea roses. However, it looked like most of them had been removed. I would love to see them plant old roses instead.

If you are in the Destin/Panana City area of Florida, be sure and visit Eden State Park. It is located in Point Washington, off U.S. 98 on C.R. 395.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Home again!

We just got home yesterday from a week at Seacrest Beach in Florida. We go to Florida every October - this year was extra special because it was our 25th anniversary. It was a nice, relaxing week. The weather was nice - only one day of rain (we went shopping that day) and much warmer than last year. In fact, they were having somewhat of a heatwave. One day there was a record high of 86, a little too hot for us, but that only happened a few days.

We didn't do much of anything except lay in the sun, read, eat and walk the beach. I read five books including the latest from my favorite writer Ruth Rendell ("The Monster In The Box") and the second book from Steig Larsson, "The Girl Who Played With Fire", both great books! The best thing was NOT listening to the news - I read somewhere to do that and what a stress reliever that is. I'm not a news junkie anyway but just not having to listen to people whine and grip about Obama, kids killing other kids, etc. I didn't even miss my Perez Hilton kick (Chastity Bono became a man!!??). It was all quite a relief (now I know why I love gardening so much!).

I'm posting just a few photos and will hopefully add more later if anyone is interested.

A new computer is on the way (what do you know about Windows 7??!!)! Hopefully the transition will be an easy one and I can catch up on my blog reading soon. Today I have tons of leaves to blow and limbs to pick up. We apparently had some storms and rain while we were away.

I'm not an early morning person but I was up one time to capture the sunrise. Most of the mornings were cloudy and it would clear up around 11.

The view from our house -

I don't know what this little flower was that growing next to the dunes. It reminded me of purslane.

And this grows everywhere -

The clouds begin to clear -

Constant companions when walking the beach -

More to come!