Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Slowly getting back in the kitchen and decided to go the easy route for a quick recipe. Michael loves these. Some call it "Mexican Cake" or "Tea Cookies". They have a shortbread type texture and very addictive. The recipe comes from an old Home Economics Teacher's cookbook that both our mothers used.  

Mexican Wedding Cookies
(adapted from "Favorite Recipes of Alabama Vocational Home Economics Teachers") 
(Makes about 3 dozen)

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and sugar.
Add flour gradually, mixing well.
Add the nuts and vanilla.
Shape the dough into small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350.
Roll the cookies in powdered sugar before they cool.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, June 19, 2017


As a follow-up to my Bloom Day post, I am doing one especially on the roses that are currently blooming. I have planted about two dozen roses if my mental count is correct. Almost all of them are blooming or have bloomed. Some are still very tiny but most have grown quite a bit. The largest is the climber 'Westerland' and it is stunning. I grew this one in Alabama but it was in way too much shade and never really took off. The one in our new garden is growing on next to an archway. It needs some assistance with climbing the structure and that is on my list of things to do.

'Westerland' close-up

The very first rose I planted - 'Lady of Shallot', a David Austin variety, is also quite large, about 4' high and wide, growing along the fence row near the street. I hate that I did not get a photo of it blooming in its full glory earlier in the spring. I did take on on my Instagram account but even it was not a full-length shot.

'The Lady of Shallot'
 You will notice a peachy/orange theme going on here. I am suddenly crazy about orange in the garden, especially roses. The following is 'Peachy Creeper,' a rose that stunned on our visit to Heirloom Roses last year.

'Peachy Creeper'

Another purchase from Heirloom was 'The Impressionist', a stunning rose, but the bush itself has been a bit wimpy and the canes tend to nod. However, I do believe that the location where I planted it (alongside the driveway) is not as fertile as other locations in the garden. I will probably be moving it this winter.
A rose that has really impressed me is 'Kardinal Kolorscape', a Kordes rose. New growth has really shot up since spring (4' ft. tall so far), and it is almost always loaded with blooms and I had yet to see a speck of blackspot. Mental note - look for more of the Kordes roses. This came from my "go-to" source for roses - Chamblee's in Tyler, Texas. Even though shipping prices are God-awful expensive, their rose prices are unbeatable and their quality is superb.

I said I would not buy roses on a whim - of course I did not hold true to that. This rose - 'Sunbelt Plum Perfect' was an impulse buy at City Farm, a nifty little nursery in St. Johns. The label on the plant, however, was from Xera, another fabulous nursery in Portland. It has been a nice little rose and a blooming machine.

'Marie Pavie', a rose that I loved in Alabama, has quickly formed a 3' x 3' mound right off the deck in the Pan Garden. A truly hassle-free rose for me.

I tend to avoid Hybrid Tea and Grandiflora roses but one that Michael and I always loved was 'Gold Medal.' The blooms on this bush have been incredible. It isn't planted in the best location - along the back wall of the house and underneath an eave - but as long as I keep it watered, it seems to be happy.
And to close, probably my favorite hybrid tea - 'Double Delight'. It was also planted along the back wall of the house and looked miserable last year. I transplanted it earlier this year and it has improved tremendously.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, June 15, 2017

June Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

Ah, June in the Pacific Northwest! It is kind of like April in Alabama - it seems like everything starts to bloom overnight. Here, the rainy season begins to fade, sunnier skies begin to appear and the temperatures climb into the 70s. Of course, that is "on average". There is an occasional hot day (upper 80s one day last week) and some cold, gray days (earlier in the week, it barely got out of the 50s). But, overall is it sublime.

There is a lot going on in our garden and I am pretty amazed at what all we have accomplished in just one year. That is the garden gate in the photo above and Clematis 'Jackmanii Superba' has reached the top and it blooming nicely. On the opposite side, 'Princess Diana' has been moved to the back garden and 'Madame Julia Corevon' has taken her place. She is already scampering up near the top and some buds are appearing. And take a look at that Spanish Lavender - it loves it here. The red rose on the left is 'Dublin Bay' and the blooms are beautiful but it really needs some help with climbing assistance. I have yet to do that.

A close-up look at 'Jackmanii Superba' - I can see this from our front window and it brings me much happiness.
'Princess Diana' would probably have been fine if I had left it alone but I am an impatient gardener. It has handled the transplant well and is beginning to bloom in the back garden -

Clematis 'Princess Diana'

I am discovering a world of new plants that I have never grown before. One of them is Cistus, a shrub of various sizes that like dry conditions. Since the summers here are typically dry, they do well if situated in a well-drained area. Cistus 'Decanso' is planted on a terraced slope that I am working on and it seems to be very happy.

Cistus 'Decanso'

I have grown very fond of Salvia and Penstemon. They performed so nicely last year and the hummingbirds love them. 'Amistad' is a new variety that I am trying. I hear that it is not reliably hardy here but that the huge blooms are worth growing it for, if for just a season.

Salvia 'Amistad'
I don't think I have added any new Penstemons this year but 'Windwalker Garnet', a favorite from last year, has returned with flying colors.

Penstemon x mexicali 'Windwalker Garnet'

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker or Torchlily) grows big and robust here. I have planted two and the first one to bloom (just starting earlier this week) is 'Shining Sceptre'.

Kniphofia 'Shining Sceptre'
I don't know why I haven't grown more Veronicas (Speedwell). We have several varieties at the nursery where I work and so far, I have only brought home one. This is Veronica 'Royal Candles'. I have this planted in the terraced bed and may have to move it to a more moist area later.

Veronica spicata 'Royal Candles'
More spikiness - this is Primrose Orchid (Primula vialii), a return from last year. Despite the fact that this plant prefers moist conditions, it appears happy at the moment. It grows next to the urn fountain in the Pan Garden and though it resides next to a water feature, the ground isn't that wet.

Primrose Orchid (Primula vialii) and Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenissima)
The hydrangeas are just beginning to bloom. We only have a few so far (nowhere near the 30+ we had in our former garden).

Hydrangea 'Endless Summer Bloomstruck'

Honeysuckle (Lonicera x americana)

Shasta Daisy 'Gold Rush'
Cornus kousa 'Wolf's Eyes'. This was in our Alabama garden but in a very shady area. Here, we have it in full sun and it looks like an entirely different plant. Loads of blooms and a much more pronounced edge along the leaf tips.
We just finished the pots on the deck. We have quite a few of fuchsias - Michael has gone nuts over them. They were hard to grow in the South because of the humidity. I will do a post about them later. This is Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispida) that I brought home from work. I don't recall ever growing this.
Sweet Alyssum
You may be wondering - where are the roses? I think they deserve their own post. I will get to them later in the week!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted by May Dreams Gardens. Check out what is blooming in other blogger's gardens around the world. 

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy