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Posts from the ‘Garden’ Category

Marigoldish Scent

My mother always planted a row of Marigolds and Zinnias in her vegetable garden along the edge. Zinnias are easy to grow, proliferate wildly and show a variety of colorations. Marigolds on the other hand are always bright orange and gold; their scent being repulsive.

Rabbits and deer do not like marigolds. They will eat potato plants, tomato plants, and love lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and all the other vegetables you plan to grow in your garden.

I tried raised beds here in Southeast Texas where the local soil will harden like fired piece of pottery if insufficient rain–and if there is sufficient rain glues itself together. And San Augustine grass loves to crawl across the top of it, engulfing your preferred vegetation.

I did fairly well the first couple of years, then the grass invaded and despite my best efforts dominated the raised beds. I also had a few back surgeries making leaning over to the ground challenging.

My next attempt was stock tanks filled with rocks and soil. The first year rain was adequately spaced; this year not so. I have revised my watering system several times–this year a soaker hose with a timer.

Marigolds have flourished in these stock tanks, my tomatoes had their leaves completely eaten twice; the okra have produced enough for a couple of gallon bags in the freezer but not nearly as productive as past years.

Most gardeners always hope for a better year—next year—but here in Southeast Texas we get to have a winter garden….in the North, we could only drool over the seed catalogs which always seemed to appear in January–the dead of winter when the only green thing to be seen were winter jackets.marigolds20view20two-m

Okra, Kumquats, and Cherries

mount20rainier20cherries-mAugust is the season to find cherries in our local grocery store. My favorites are the Mount Ranier Cherries–golden with pinky-rose spots–they are sweet but  not too sweet.

okra20blossom-mThen there is Okra–the blossoms are so pretty—like cotton and hollyhock blooms. I haven’t had a lot of success in my garden in past years and I had hoped to have a bountiful harvest of okra this year—the first year I planted it–I could pick it in the morning and in the afternoon—it grew so fast. This year has been quite a bit slower but still I have a nice amount set aside in the freezer for winter days–and have sampled more than a few as a vegetable stir fry medley.

Citrus trees supposedly grow really well here—and we have had good luck with our lemon tree. The past winter had freezing temperatures for several days and we were really afraid we had lost the tree–we covered it as best we could with sheets held down with tent pegs–it lost all the leaves–a few feeble blossoms early in the spring–and later a wealth of blossoms and the tree is covered once again with fruit.

kumquat20tree-mThe kumquat tree is still quite short–but has fruit on it again–last year there was a handful of kumquats–this year promises a bowlful.

some20sort20of20wild20orange20tree-mAnd finally there is this. I don’t remember what kind of citrus it was supposed to be but that part died off–and now we have this root stock producing this fruit. If I really wanted fruit, I would hack it down and replant–but its outright ugliness is somehow appealing along with its will to survive despite all odds.

Pink Snow Season

peony20snow-mEvery year around this time I see pink snow.

Until this year I thought it was a Southeast Texas phenomenon. Our house is surrounded by hundred year old crepe myrtles in pink and purple. The trees grow rapidly in rainy weather, shedding their bark in huge strips that drape like strangely colored icicles from their branches.

The blossoms drip nectar constantly and fall to the ground creating the illusion of pink snow. Perhaps people raised in the south call it something different—but to me—it is pink snow.

And then I discovered pink snow in Wisconsin.

My mother loved peonies–she pronounced it ‘piney’s’ as rhyming with pine. There are several planted around the farm-house and at my friend’s house–in pink and white. After a hard rain, the petals fall.

Peonies require the assistance of ants to open their blossoms–a requirement that I always found rather odd.pink20peony-mimg_8238-mcreoe20myrtle-mcm20close20up-m


Exotic and Every Day

marigold20blossom-mI grew up in rural southwestern Wisconsin. Everyone had a garden of vegetables–tomatoes, carrots, beans, potatoes, cabbage. With long days of sun-light, things grew like crazy–along with ragweed. Corn grew so fast you could hear it growing–always a good field crop if it was knee high by the Fourth—-a traditional photo for many farmers.

zinnia20blossom-mBut everyone also planted flowers–zinnias and marigolds. Marigolds supposedly repelled rabbits and other things that liked to sample garden vegetation. And then zinnias–so colorful and so easy to grow. Both will reseed themselves given a chance–much to the dismay of one of my sister-in-laws in Virginia.

orchid-mBut then there are orchids–here they are exotic and raised in fancy greenhouses or in my case on my dining room table and back-yard. But where they are native–they grow like crazy in the wild–cross-pollinating themselves.

This past Sunday, the local orchid society met–and there were so many lovely blooms to be seen–all grown by other orchid afficionados.



I missed the assignment of ‘stripes’ but was able to complete the ‘dreamscape’ assignment.

About a block away from my house is a lovely old home that is now a museum. (McFadden-Ward Museum). The house sits on a full block with a large garden. Behind it on another block is the carriage house and behind that is a modern steel building with the offices of the people who manage the museum plus some of their collection that rotates in and out seasonally. Beside that building is a small garden.

It has large clumps of marigolds, zinnias, and a few garden vegetables–dill weed and tomatoes. There are also two cats patrolling the area.

This photo is of that garden–with a rooftop of a neighboring house erased. I wish I could have a flower garden as vibrant and colorful–but with dogs who wear paths around the fence I must content myself with finding other gardens to view.

Sylvia Weir Week 19 Dreamscape


img_8085-mI don’t remember smelling things like blackberries in bloom or apple trees when I was younger. I do remember the antiseptic smell of the hospital and the smell of binder’s glue in the library. The first floral scent was the carnation I wore for Confirmation Sunday and high school graduation.

Now, though, I can smell the magnolia trees in full bloom in my backyard and across the street, the wisteria that has bloomed and faded, the dewberries and blackberries, the lemon tree and the satsuma, honeysuckle and wild garlic.

So many lovely fragrances and although many people complain of their sense of taste and smell declining as they age–mine has not—.

Wish I could capture the smell of this Easter lily still putting out buds and in full flower in southern Louisiana.



Pickling Lemons

With a surfeit of lemons last fall harvested from one lone lemon tree barely four feet tall, I hunted down recipes and ideas for dealing with those lemons. I gave many away but still had a lot left–and so I pickled them in quart jars with a lot of salt.

The lemons shrunk in size filling about half of four quart jars. I added olive oil to them and ran them through the blender. One jar had a lovely sprig of dill added prior to blenderizing.

The result has been a lovely mush of salted lemony flavor–perfect for fish or chicken.

And we were both pleased to see blossoms on that lemon tree hoping it survived our snow and icy temps this winter.pickle20lemons-m


Lemon Tree Very Pretty

January and February of this year featured several intermittent weeks of cold–freezing cold. While this was not really all that remarkable if we still lived in Wisconsin; here in gulf coast Texas with citrus trees and poorly insulated houses it becomes a challenge.

Last summer the Meyer’s Lemon Tree produced in abundance. I had so many lemons I gave many away, froze some, made marmalade and pickled lemons–and still had some fresh to store in the refrigerator for cooking.

I wondered what I would do with the coming year’s crop.

Then the snow and the cold arrived and the rain.

we covered the lemon tree as bet we could with two old sheets. The satsuma (orange) was left on its own.. The lemon tree dropped all of its leaves and we were ready to go shopping for a new lemon tree. But then a few green tips appeared and then more and now that tree is covered with leaves. There is just one small sprig of flowers.l

The satsuma, however, was covered with flowers, filling the yard with its sweet scent.


Shaker Pie and Lemons


Last year we experimented with a Shaker Lemon Pie. We both agreed it was the best Lemon Pie we had ever eaten. Lemons are sliced paper-thin, covered with a pinch of salt and a lot of sugar and left to macerate for 24 to 36 hours at room temperature. Eggs are added and the resulting mixture is baked in a two crust pie.

There is always more filling than will fit into a pie tin–the resultant custardy type pudding is also quite tasty if a bit messy.pie20filling-m

But it only used three lemons and I still have a basket full–even though I gave them away to unsuspecting neighbors, family, and friends–anyone that did not have a visible lemon tree in their yard.

A bowl of finely chopped lemons is awaiting to be turned into a second batch of marmalade and that basket of lemons will be pickled. Some have already been frozen with a few reserved for fresh slices on fish.

Cold weather is hard on citrus fruits–with the orange trees being the most hardy. Limes are the least hardy–but this is a Meyer Lemon–not really a lemon and not really an orange. While I enjoy the scent of lemon that pervades my house I hope that tree survived the cold to present the same problem of abundance this next season.


Lemon Marmalade

Several years ago, we decided to plant a Meyer’s Lemon Tree. It was a scrawny thing–resembling Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.img_3596-m

Maybe not all that scrawny! We were delighted to find about half a dozen lemons on it the first year–huge sweet lemons.  A few more would have been nice–this was enough for lemon slices in water or tea and embellishing fish. We thought perhaps double that amount would be appropriate.

The next year we got our wish–I had a whole drawer in my refrigerator dedicated to lemons–they lasted nearly a year with only a few tossed in the end due to soft spots.

The following year the crop doubled and I had more lemons than I could fit into my refrigerator. Someone told me about freezing them–and so I gave it a try. Good for squeezing the juice over fish or baking with blueberries but not good for slices in water or tea or that particularly odd thing of putting a slice in a bottle of beer.

We tried a recipe for Shaker lemon pie—a pie made with paper thin slices of lemons soaked in sugar for 36 hours or so and baked in a two crust pie tin—it was wonderful but there are only so many pies two vintage persons can consume.

In spite of our odd weather for two years running and a vegetable garden that yielded two tomatoes and some lettuce, the lemon tree outdid itself this year. We had been picking one or two for table use, still green but quite satisfactory–now the branches were threatening to break. We picked two huge bags of lemons and left another third on the tree.

What to do with all those lemons?

And even worse, at a Christmas party, someone with the same dilemma gave everyone a large bag of lemons! Wish I’d thought of that first.

I considered the anonymous dropping off of lemons at various neighbor’s houses–ended up giving them a jar of my honey and a few lemons–perfect for winter colds. They were on their own for the whiskey addition.

But I still had a lot of lemons left. And more on the tree.

We now have two jars of pickled lemons made with an exorbitant amount of salt to be used in cooking sometime in February. The recipe called for cutting a cross into them, filling it with salt and sticking it into a Mason jar—I tried that but the lemons were far too large and I had to cut them into quarters just to fit them into the jars.

Then I tried making some marmalade.

This involves cutting up the lemons, soaking them in sugar for an extended time and then boiling off the liquid—-and playing where’s Waldo finding the seeds. My mother always put a small amount of whatever jelly she was making into a small cup for tasting–and so I did the same–except I was much lazier and just left a bit in the bottom of the pan.

Real hot biscuits or English muffins would have been better for taste testing but it was quite nice on a piece of whole wheat toast–certainly awakening the tasters.


And maybe another Shaker Lemon Pie is in the near future.