Category Archives: oakleaf hydrangea

March 14, 2017

Yesterday we had a blizzard. Normally I wouldn’t write about a blizzard, but because it was so late in the year, March 14, I think it merits mention.

The fact that we had a blizzard a week before spring is notable in and of itself…and the fact that I had taken a robin under the wing (so to speak) added to the drama (at least in my mind). This robin showed up a few weeks ago. It had been unusually warm back then for that time of the year and the ground was starting to thaw. I saw the robin out on the lawn doing his little robin thing…running a few steps, turning his head and listening, over and over again. I didn’t give it much thought.

But then it got cold. Bitterly cold. The ground that was starting to thaw refroze and was hard as a rock. The robin was smart enough to not even bother with his running and listening routine. I would see him in the trees and wonder what he was eating. Then I thought “Maybe he’s not eating.” That did it, blueberries were on my shopping list.

So the next day I put some of the fresh blueberries on the ground near the big holly which would provide some protection. I watched and waited and after a while he showed up and ate them. Success! I fed him those blueberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day since then.

But then the blizzard arrived. I could have worried about losing power or having the big old pine tree blow over on the house or something fairly rational. But no, I’m worried about feeding the robin.

The snow started very early in the morning. I brushed a path out to the holly and deposited the berries. I watched from the window and saw him eating. But then the snow became heavier and the wind was howling. I didn’t think he had time to eat many berries before conditions deteriorated. And he didn’t get his usual lunch. At about 3 PM the snow let up and I shoveled a path to the holly and cleared an area. I didn’t see him or hear him. I put the berries down and watched from the window…no robin.

Then it started to rain and the rain switched back to snow.  It was now after 6 PM and I was sitting in my chair by the window in the den. I saw a movement out the window and turned my head and there appeared the robin on the sill knocking on the window. He had a frantic look on his face and panic in his eyes! I jumped up, grabbed the berries, and headed out the door.

A robin is rather an aloof type of bird. They do their own bird thing and really don’t pay attention to humans. In contrast, the chickadee is a very sociable little bird. He comes over to greet you and sing his little chick-a-dee-dee-dee to you. The catbird follows you around the yard, almost complaining that you are intruding on his personal domain. The hummingbird who comes every year shows up at either the window in the kitchen or den to tell me she’s here and thereafter when she needs more nectar.

I wondered how the robin knew I’d be at the den window? He must have been desperate to do something so out of character.

I put the blueberries down and watched from the window. It was getting dark and usually the robin would be bedded down for the night by now. No robin appeared.

I saw him early the next morning by the holly. I grabbed the berries and by the time I got outside he was singing up a storm. Things are back to normal. And normal is good.

March 14, 2017 snow:

wp-1489596992827.jpg

Photo of his berries:

wp-1489596972935.jpg

Pickled

My pole beans are growing about 4 inches a day now.  It will be a long time before they actually start to produce beans, but I’m already thinking about recipes for those beans.  I tend to eat lots of salads during the hot and humid days of summer as I can’t bear to heat up the kitchen even more than it already is with cooking! 

Pole Beans Growing Before My Eyes

Pole Beans Growing Before My Eyes

The bean wtih the dark stem and the purple veining to the leaf is the “Violetto” which has lovely violet colored flowers and dark purple beans.  It is not a prolific bean producer, but it is pretty!  The “Kentucky Wonder” beans are prolific and delicious.  The sugar snap beans are the oldest of the lot, stored in the fridge from 2011, and they are growing just fine. 

Seed Packets

Seed Packets

Recently, I came across a brand of bread and butter pickles in the store that I had never seen before.  (Believe me, I am not just rambling on about this and that…this will all come together nice and neatly.)  The brand is Woodstock and the pickles are organic.  This was the only bottle of these pickles on the shelf and it was marked down to $3 and something.  The normal price was just over $6.  It was a 24 ounce bottle, it looked interesting to me, and at that price for that size bottle, it was certainly worth purchasing.

Woodstock Organic Bread & Butter Pickles

Woodstock Organic Bread & Butter Pickles

Well, let me tell you….WOW!  You know how somethings taste so good you slowly savor each and every bite.  That’s how good these pickles are.  Even though I doled these out sparingly, the bottle was empty in no time at all.  But the juice…ahh, the juice…much too good to throw out.  I’d add a spoon to the coleslaw or potato salad every now and then but I still had a substantial amount left in the bottle.

How about pickled pole beans?  I looked on the internet, and sure enough people were saving their pickle juice and using it to pickle beans, carrots, cauliflower, etc.  What the heck, you could even pickle hardboiled eggs and cooked shrimp in the stuff!  A whole new culinary world of pickling was unfolding before me. 

But if I were going to jump into the pickling pool, I’d have to get more Woodstock Organic pickles.  I buy my vitamins and herbal supplements from www.vitacost.com and they also carry Woodstock Organic foods.  The price for the 24 ounce jar of pickles was $5 something but shipping is free for orders totalling $49 or more.  So I bought more Woodstock pickles from them.  Woodstock also carries a variety of dill pickles which I haven’t yet tried. 

Anticipating delivery of my shipment of Woodstock pickles, I continued to research pickle juice recipes and I spotted something on the web.  This something was called a “Pickletini”. 

Pickletini

Pickletini

I’ve heard of a “dirty” martini where you add a little of the olive brine to your drink.  So why not pickle juice?  There are different variations of recipes out there for the Pickletini.  My first attempt was a gin martini with a couple of drops of dry vermouth and about one teaspoon of pickle juice.  Delicious!  You could tell there was something slightly different about the taste but you wouldn’t know there was pickle juice in it.  So I added another teaspoon.  Again, very good.  But after a few sips, it seemed to me the pickle juice was a little too much.  One teaspoon was perfect, two was a little too much of a good thing to my taste.

As I didn’t yet have my new shipment of pickles, I skewered one of those large flat sandwich style bread and butter pickles onto my cocktail pick and took the photo above.  These pickles were a well known brand name and I thought they were okay on a sandwich or burger.  But they didn’t skewer well, they were kind of mushy.  And once I put them in the martini, I could see the martini turning yellow.  The taste of the martini became quite unpleasant.  I looked at the ingredients on that pickle jar…high fructose corn syrup and “yellow 5” dye.   A perfectly good Pickletini ruined.  The Woodstock pickles do not contain dye or high fructose corn syrup.  In the future, I think I would add a pickled onion to the pickletini.

As I actually start “pickling” things in my pickle juice, I’ll report back.

Summer is here…the oakleaf hydrangea is in bloom.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

And the black-eyed Susans are waiving in the breeze.

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan

That’s the way it is, July 1, 2014.

Looking Out My Back Door – June 28, 2013

Well, summer is here.  The hot and humid weather has settled in for several days now and it’s in the forecast for the foreseable future.  I can take the heat, but that humidity is a killer!  It’s been rainy too.  The sun will be out one minute and then we’ll have a tropical downpour the next…I’m talking over and over, day after day.

But it could be worse!  I’m not complaining!  I remember one summer it was dry as a bone.  The lawn had turned brown and crunched to walk on.  Even the rhododendron leaves had shrivelled.  I lost several large, established shrubs that year because of the drought. 

So water them, you say?  I’m on a well.  I didn’t waste a drop of water for my own use within the house, never mind water the lawn, shrubs and flowers.  I even took my clothes to the laundromat that summer.  It was awful.  I did, however, fill the birdbaths with water because the birds were in desperate need of it.

So, now, here we are with lots of heat, humidity and water.  The roses seem to be enjoying it thus far.

Morning Sun on New Dawn Rose
Morning Sun on New Dawn Rose
Shrub Rose
Shrub Rose
White New Dawn Rose
White New Dawn Rose

The astilbe is popping up in shades of pink and white here and there.

Astilbe
Astilbe

The traditional summer blooming daylilies (as opposed to the spring varieties) are just about to kick in.  You can see the buds ready to pop with a few of them already beginning.

Summer Daylily
Summer Daylily

And the Black-Eyed Susans are gorgeous!

Black-Eyed Susan
Black-Eyed Susan

The flowers on the oak leaf hydrangea have grown and are turning white and look marvelous over a sea of yellow sundrop flowers.

Oak Leaf Hydrangea and Sundrops
Oak Leaf Hydrangea and Sundrops

And the flowers on my giant hosta continue to grow.  The veronicastrum (Culver’s Root) next to it is over 6 feet tall now and you’ll see photos of that in another post.

Giant Hosta
Giant Hosta

So the flora seems to be florishing in the heat and humidity.  My pole beans are doing very nicely too!

And the titmouse is now a frequent visitor to the hummingbird feeders!  It’s weird to look out the window and see those big black eyes staring back in at me as he sucks it down.  The hummers don’t seem to mind…but the refills sure have to be made a lot more often!

P.S.  I finished this post at night and just looked out the kitchen door…the fireflies, or lightening bugs as we used to call them, are flashing their little lights like crazy out there!

Shrubs

Shrubs. Okay, I know, sounds pretty boring.  But there’s so much going on shrub-wise right now, I have to discuss the subject.

Hardy Orange Fruits

Hardy Orange Fruits

The little furry green hardy oranges on the poncirus trifoliata are doing extremely well.  The furry surface almost looks like the hideous grey shoes I had to wear at the high school I attended.  The uniform of plaid skirt and blazer I could handle. But where did they come up with furry grey shoes?  Furry!  I swear, I’m not making this up.  They were the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen.  But these little green oranges are kind of cute.

And speaking about oranges, the mock oranges are in bloom.

Mock Orange

Mock Orange

I have three varieties of mock orange.61113 020-35

The classic rounded petal mock orange is shown above.  The “nana” or miniature version is shown here to the left, and the pointed petal version is shown below.

You’ll see that the leaves on all three shrubs are similar.

And the aroma of these flowers is marvelous.  You can smell it clear across the yard.  It’s very similar to the “Orange Blossom” perfume that my mother loved.

Mock Orange

Mock Orange

The spirea are adding a pop of hot pink to the landscape.

Spirea

Spirea

And the purple smoke bush “flowers” are filling out.  I guess you could call them “flowers”…from a distance they do look like puffs of smoke.

Purple Smoke Bush

Purple Smoke Bush

The photos above and below were taken after rain had fallen.  The smoke bush looked like it was covered with diamonds.  I couldn’t really capture in a photograph what I was seeing.  The close-up of the leaves below was the best I could do. 

Droplets of Water on Smoke Bush Leaves

Droplets of Water on Smoke Bush Leaves

This blue spruce is next to the purple smoke bush.  It, too, had drops of water on it that looked like diamonds…again, couldn’t capture it in a photo.  The blue grey color of the spruce next to the dark purple smoke bush is fabulous.

Weeping Blue Spruce

Weeping Blue Spruce

The flowers on the oakleaf hydrangea are starting to appear.  These smallish green flowers will grow into gorgeous large white flowers a little later in the summer.  The foliage of this shrub is stunning as well…the leaves turn a purple bronze color in the fall and the white flowers turn pink.  You’ll see more photos as the year progresses.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

And did you ever think of using shrubs or trees as the subject of a floral arrangement?

Juniper Branch Faux Bonsai

Juniper Branch Faux Bonsai

I’ve been doing a little pruning and one of my junipers was starting to crawl up the stone wall next to it, so I snipped the end of the branch.  It was much too beautiful to toss out.  The form was so graceful…it looked like a bonsai tree.  Then I remembered the Ikebana dish that my sister, Anne, had given me several years back.  I’ve used this dish many times over the years.  It is a perfect container for one or several special flowers, or branches.  This dish has a pin frog attached to it so that it holds the stem securely within the dish.  The juniper branch looked like a little bonsai tree in the container.

Maple Ikebana

Maple Ikebana

The red stemmed maple tree growing near the juniper had some weak stems that also needed trimming and this branch tip looked wonderful in the dish as well.

The following was taken from Wikipedia:

“More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Contrary to the idea of floral arrangement as a collection of particolored or multicolored arrangement of blooms, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis toward shape, line, form. Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. The artist’s intention behind each arrangement is shown through a piece’s color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the usually implied meaning of the arrangement.

“Another aspect present in ikebana is its employment of minimalism. That is, an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, earth, and man and in others sun, moon, and earth. The container is a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery may be used in their construction.

“The spiritual aspect of ikebana is considered very important to its practitioners. Silence is a must during practices of ikebana. It is a time to appreciate things in nature that people often overlook because of their busy lives. One becomes more patient and tolerant of differences, not only in nature, but also in general. Ikebana can inspire one to identify with beauty in all art forms. This is also the time when one feels closeness to nature which provides relaxation for the mind, body, and soul.”

Another benefit of ikebana is that, if you have a yard, you can walk outside and choose a branch or flower of pleasing form and create a stunning arrangement without buying a bouquet at the store.  Evergreens especially last a very long time in the ikebana dish (as long as you remember to periodically add water!).  And during the Christmas season this dish is in continuous use!

So, since I only have one ikebana dish, was it the juniper or the maple?  Which one looked best?  Well, I took care of that in a hurry:

Juniper and Maple Arrangement

Juniper and Maple Arrangement

So that’s it for shrubs…hope it wasn’t too boring!