Archive for May, 2010

Long Hot Summer in the Garden ?

It’s certainly shaping up that way. Here in the Hudson Valley we’ve had temperatures in the high 80’s (and more) on and off for about a week now, making this our third blasting heat wave before the first of June.

thermometer showing 100 degrees

May 26th, 2010. Outdoor temperature on left, indoor on right. It WAS 4:30 in the afternoon, and the probe though in the shade is on the west-facing porch. But still...

It’s dry, too; the thunderstorms have missed our place, but even the people they’ve hit haven’t gotten much in the way of rain.

Midcoast Maine’s the same, in its cooler (but-not-as-cool-as-it-should-be) way, and now on the morning weather report, this:

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Peony ‘Sweet Marjorie’

peony 'sweet marjorie'

Sweet Marjorie, an impulse justified

The thermometer hit 100 (not a misprint, one hundred) degrees on the porch yesterday. The peonies are in overdrive and ‘Sweet Marjorie’ is already fading, just days after the first bud opened.  But while she lasted she was lovely – proof that irrational impulses can sometimes be worth following.

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Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) up close

Hyla versicolor, grey tree frog

Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor

Last night as I head back in from performing right-before-bed cutworm reconnaissance, there on the porch is what looks like a wad of leaves. Bend down to pick it up and no – it’s a little black and white toad. Bend down farther. It doesn’t move. Touch it gently. Completely still. Did I God forbid step on it when I was going out?

Nope, it’s just cold. The next time my warm hand hovers near it manages a sluggish hop.

By morning it has moved to the drainpipe and I have looked it up. Even though it’s notably bumpy and almost 2 inches long, it isn’t a toad. It’s a very large – as these things go – Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor, and it’s black and white because it’s sitting on the weathered cedar boards of the porch.

hyla versicolor grey tree frog grey form

I rotated the other picture so you could see him/her more clearly. Here’s the actual orientation. The porch is the same color as the wall on the left.

grey treefrog, green form, hyla versicolor

Gray Treefrog caught last summer on a hollyhock leaf; they don’t call ‘em versicolor for nothin’.

Ramp Recipes

The season is brief. Ramps are increasingly endangered and so to be enjoyed in mindful moderation. Generally, the only recipe you need is “sauté in butter; eat (with or without eggs and/or pasta or  toast points and maybe some ricotta).”

Or you can coat them with olive oil and put them on the grill.  But Bill has found several patches so vast that even very modest gathering has put us in ramp heaven.

spring vegetables: ramps, asparagus and herbs

Must be spring - but not for much longer

And as we are also swimming in asparagus, winecaps and morels

I have now made Pasta with Asparagus and Ramp Hollandaise; Ramp-wrapped Meatloaf; Ramp, Winecap and Ricotta Stuffed Ramp-Wrapped Sole and some quite spiffy Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes.

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Eric’s Pet Plant: Lettuce ( Letuca sativa)

When our friend Eric isn’t managing Yale’s Marsh Garden or playing music, he’s cultivating his own garden, and – at least in this one instance – ignoring his own excellent advice. Unless he’s selling the stuff on the side or donating it to a food pantry, he has succumbed to temptation and planted too much lettuce all at once, just for the sheer beauty of it.

assorted lettuce varieties

“Note the color and texture variation in the Larson Lettuce Bed,” says Eric. “ I prefer looseleaf and buttercrunch lettuce, but also grow Cos. But I love the salad bowl with red, green and even dark purple leaves. A very vigorous variety ‘Speckles’ is not pictured, but I’ll follow up in the fall with more.”

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Plant Shopping: Clerodendrum, Clematis and a bonus Tree Peony sighting

For those of us with willpower deficiencies, a car with a large cargo area is a dangerous thing. There’s always room for another plant or six, especially if you get to the annual Trade Secrets plant sale too late to find any interesting dwarf evergreens.

I did of course buy a few other little things, and then as usual a few more, at my annual TS day next stop, Greystone Greenhouses, on rt. 343 right outside of Sharon CT and no I can’t put in a link because they have no website. What they have – in addition to all sorts of gorgeous tropicals you didn’t know you needed but gee the prices are so reasonable –  is the tree peony of the century, in bloom early this year just like everything else.

giant tree peony in bloom

depending on the weather, you probably have two or three more days to see this on the way in to buy your never-saw-a-pink-one before Clerodendrum thompsonii and other necessities.

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Tree Peony Time

ezra pound tree peony

Ezra Pound, my latest adventure in tree peonies. There are purple flares inside but it rained hard the day Ezra opened and that was the end of that.

I have to say I’ve never had good luck with tree peonies, but that may not mean much;  in 40 years of gardening I’ve only had three of them.

The first, an unnamed white, did beautifully for about a decade, growing ever larger and ever more floriferous – until it went into a rapid decline for reason or reasons unknown.

white tree peony

The white tree peony in the Maine white garden, at about 5 years old

Next came a weed-buried mystery, discovered after we moved into the Hudson Valley house.

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Lambsquarter, Lamb’s Quarter, Chenopodium – Delicious whatever you call it

lambs quarter( chenopodium album)

Forager Bill meets Gardener Bill in this post about about lambsquarter, one of the all-time great greens. It tastes wonderful (like a cross between asparagus and spinach);  it’s easy to prepare and cook;  it’s good for you – the usual dark green “high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories”  – and as a major bonus, it not only plants itself, it starts so early and grows so fast that you can harvest multiple crops and still have time to  plant tomatoes, corn, squash, beans or whatever in the very same ground.

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Shallots to Scilla – Plan Now for Fall Planting

This year’s official* growing season started a full month earlier than usual in our part of the Hudson Valley. Although last week was spangled with frost, spring is already more or less over. Even late-flowering bulbs are toast. The lilacs are in full bloom.

Not wishing to miss the bandwagon, I’ll go ahead and be early too. It’s time to order bulbs for fall planting: pretties for the borders, shallots for the plate.

spring bulbs: muscari, chionodoxa,scilla, puschkinia

clockwise from left: chionodoxa, muscari, puschkinia, muscari, chionodoxa, scilla, puschkinia, chionodoxa, scilla

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