Sunday, October 29, 2017

Autumn lovelies

Blue Star (Amsonia hubrechtii) and Geranium 'Rozanne'

Salvia 'Amistad' and Pinus mugo 'Aurea'
Salvia 'Amistad' and Mugo Pine 'Aurea'

Lagerstoemia (Crape Myrtle 'Catawba')
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstoemia 'Catawba')

Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum)

Dogwood (Cornus florida) Fall foliage
Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Aster 'Monte Cassino'

Cuphea 'Strying Sunset'


Panicum 'Shenandoah'

 Candy Lily (Iris norrisii)

 Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

 Lettuce 'Multi-leaf Salanova'

 Sourwood (Oxydendrum)

Salvia 'Hot Lips'

 Snowbell (Styrax japonicus)

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mocha Chip Chiffon Cake

After a long hiatus, I think I am ready to get back in the kitchen and back to some Maida Heatter recipes! The weather here is rainy and cooler which spurs me on. I had bookmarked this recipe a long time ago - it is a very light cake (similar to an Angel Food cake) with a wonderfully subtle hint of coffee flavor.

Overall, it turned out wonderfully well. One thing I would do differently next time is to chop the chocolate much finer. As she explained in her recipe, the chocolate chips will sink to the bottom if they are too heavy. I decided to use ready-made chocolate chips and they are too heavy. I did chop them a bit but next time I will use a chocolate baking bar instead. That minor flub did not affect the taste of the cake though.

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 TBS. instant coffee or espresso (I use Medaglia D Oro Coffee Inst Expresso)
1 TBS. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 eggs, separated
1/2 cup Kahlua or Tia Maria or other coffee-flavored liquor
1/4 cup cold water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Optional: confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 325. You will need a non-stick tube pan, the type that has two pieces and which comes apart. Do not spray or butter the pan.

Chop the chocolate into pieces that are 1/4 diameter or less. As I noted earlier, I used chocolate chips and they were really too large, even though I chopped some of them. The larger pieces will sink to the bottom of the cake.

Sift together the flour, 1 1/4 cups of sugar (reserving the rest), the powdered coffee or espresso, baking powder and salt.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, egg yolks, coffee liqueur, water and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Use a large spatula to fold in the chopped chocolate. Set aside.

In a separate mixer bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high speed until soft peaks are formed. (I always put my bowl and beater in the freezer for a few minutes to get them nice and cold. Always use the whisk beater for egg whites. Start out slow and gradually increase the speed until full speed). Reduce the speed and add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Increase speed to high and beat again until stiff peaks are achieved. Beat for an additional minute to be sure the mixture is stiff.

In three additions, slightly fold in about 3/4 of the yolk mixture. Do not fold in thoroughly, just barely! Then fold the whites into the remaining yolk mixture, being a bit more thorough this time.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes until the top springs back when pressed. The top will crack during baking. (It took 1 hour and 10 minutes for mine to bake)

After removing the pan from the oven, invert it on a narrow bottle and let it cool completely.

After cooling, use a long, sharp knife and gently run it around the rim of the pan and around the center tube. Carefully slide the pan apart and run the knife along the bottom of the pan under the cake. Remove the cake from the pan. If it is still sticking, use the knife to saw it carefully from the pan.

Use a flat pan, dish or I like to use preformed cardboard circles to plate the cake.

Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, if desired.

I think the cake needs whipped cream, ice cream or fruit to accompany it. We tried it with buttered pecan ice cream and it is delicious!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fall color

I just returned home this week after a ten day visit to Alabama. The fall color there had not started yet but it is really beginning to show out here in the Pacific Northwest. 

Greeting me at the driveway entrance is Kelsey's Dwarf Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'). This small shrub was already here when we moved in. It is located in the most inhospitable site - a dry bed, next to the driveway and road, and in full blazing sun. When I finally identified the shrub, I was told that it is a lover of moist and wet soils. Well, I beg to differ!

More dogwoods -

Our beloved 'Wolf's Eyes' which we also grew in Alabama. I never noticed such pink coloring in our previous garden but it is definitely pink here. It has suffered from sun scorch but it appears to be growing and it bloomed spectacularly this spring.

Dogwood 'Celestial Shadow' is another tree suffering from too much sun in our shade-deprived garden.

The existing dogwood in the back, the pink-flowering variety, is the largest tree in our garden.

On to more trees -

I just added this Dakota Pinnacle Birch (Betula platyphylla 'Fargo'). It is supposed to grow tall and narrow. I am very pleased with the fall color. I was discouraged by many about planting a Birch tree because of their propensity to borers and other diseases. Fingers crossed...
Betula platyphylla 'Fargo'

Another new tree for us - Japanese Maple 'Osakazuki'. There are so many varieties to choose from and it easily becomes overwhelming. I loved the shape and form of this one at the nursery and it is reputed to be one of the best reds.

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki'

Planted last year, Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) has not grown much but the color and flowers have been very nice.

Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)

Some shrubs -

This Korean Lilac (Springa meyeri 'Palibin') was another plant already in existence when we arrived. It is lovely in the spring and the fall color is quite spectacular. I don't recall noticing it last year.

Korean Lilac (Springa meyeri 'Palibin')

Rhododendron 'PJM'

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers'

Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanilla Strawberry')

Blue Star (Amsonia hubrechtii) and Geranium 'Rozanne'

And I cannot resist throwing a flower in - Aster 'Monte Casino White', from Joy Creek Nursery, just beginning to bloom -

Aster pringlei 'Monte Casino White'

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, October 1, 2017

End of the Month Favorites - September

Loree at Danger Garden has a monthly meme called "End of the Month Favorites" and while I am two days late, I am joining in. Plus, it has been ages since I've completed a blog post. :o

Fall is my favorite time of year and I have been doing lots of happy dances lately because it has started raining again. There are lots of plants perking up to the moisture and here are some of my faves for September.

Cosmos 'Redcrest' - one of the few annuals I grow successfully from seed. I get this one from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and I just love it.

Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset' - overwintered last year in our garage. I am debating whether or not I should leave it in the ground this year.
Euphorbia myrsinites (Myrtle Spurge) - doing great in a dry, raised bed in full sun.

Fuchsia 'Cardinal' - I read that this one can get about six feet tall! It has not grown much but the blooms are spectacular.

It is always rewarding when a plant does what you want it to do - Geranium 'Rozanne'

Hellebore 'Merlin' - the first one I have planted and I just got it in the ground a few weeks ago. I love the dark foliage on this one.

I am love with my Lemon Eucalyptis (Corymbia citriodora) - this has to be the most potent lemon fragrance around. It puts Lemon Verbena to shame! I am hoping I can overwinter this.

Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Golden Angel' (Japanese Shrub Mint) really lights up dark areas.

One of my favorite shrubs in Alabama was Sweet Olive (Osmanthus fragrans). I have not been able to locate it here. The one that is widely available is Osmathus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'. It has holly-like leaves with beautiful coloring. I haven't seen a bloom yet.

Pinus strobus "Mini-Twists' - I saw it in the window and just had to have it. It was actually looking pretty ragged at the nursery but it has improved since I have planted it.
The soft needles on this one are incredible.

Sumac 'Tiger Eyes', Michael's favorite. I planted it in the pot with the hole cut out of the bottom in fear of it spreading. I am considering moving it to the front garden over the winter.

I have went nuts over Asters and have bought every variety at Yard N' Garden since working there. This one is the standout right now - 'Purple Dome'

I know buddleias get a bad rap here but this one seems to be very well-behaved and it is so beautiful. It has the unfortunate name of 'Buzz Hot Raspberry'.
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers' starting to change colors.

Although the Mandevilla has still not reached the top of the mailbox and draped over it like I hoped it would, I include it because every neighbor has stopped and asked what it is and we have seen people stop and take photos of it.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy