27 August 2009

Souped Up

Cooler weather is starting to make an appearance (although after the summer we've had in Ontario, "continuing" might be a better choice of words than "starting"...) You can definitely feel autumn in the air now. Some might lament summer's end, but I eagerly anticipate this time of year: comfortable temperatures, dahlias and sunflowers and zinnias, fresh tomatoes, changing leaves, pumpkins, and soup.

I'm a soup fan any time but there's something about the changing seasons that just calls out for it. And with the abundance of fresh, local vegetables available, it's the perfect time to take advantage of both the weather and the harvest.

Domicile's Use-What-You-Have Soup

1 Tbs (approx) olive oil
1 large onion (mine came with greens attached, which I also used), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large potato, washed but unpeeled, chopped
2 large orange carrots, sliced
1 med-large white carrot, sliced
handful of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2" pcs
salt and pepper to taste
fresh or dried herbs, if desired (savoury would be good in this, or possibly a touch of curry powder. Feel free to experiment)
5 cups (approx) chicken stock

Heat oil in medium stockpot over med-low heat. Add onion; cook until soft. Add garlic; cook until soft (do not burn). Add stock. Add potatoes and seasonings. Cover pot, turn heat to med-high, and bring to simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes and add carrots. Continue simmering, covered, until potatoes and carrots are soft enough to pierce with a fork, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add green beans earlier or later, depending on how soft you like them (add at the last minute for near-raw crunchiness; in the last 10 minutes for a soft texture). Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls and serve with buttered slices of fresh, crusty bread.

Serves 4

This recipe lends itself perfectly to experimentation. Feel free to add or substitute ingredients. Good options include sweet potato, canned beans, pasta, leeks, greens, mushrooms, or squash. Bear in mind that some ingredients (pasta) require extra liquid. You can substitute beef or vegetable stock for the chicken stock. You can even double or quadruple the recipe, if you wish (and since the soup is even better the next day, leftovers are a plus).

When the weather is cool outside, there's nothing nicer than the delicious smell of food cooking in a cozy kitchen. Enjoy!

(Photo by Domicile)

17 August 2009

Welcome to Hellebores

I believe I've mentioned my love of hellebores (helleborus spp) before. They're beautiful, early blooming, hardy perennials. They're also poisonous, but that's for another post.

Anyone with a garden knows how expensive it can get, especially plants--and particularly when the truth is that plants look best in multiples. At this point in my life, I can't justify spending $15 to $20 per hellebore. At least not when I can grow my own from seed!

All right, so growing hellebores from seed is an undertaking that requires skill, luck, and patience. And since my skill, luck, and patience with seeds in general is, at best, hit or miss I was reluctant to gamble on a $6 packet of hellebore seeds that may or may not germinate for as long as 18 months. Was reluctant, but no more. It finally dawned on me that if I'd just taken the gamble when I first came across said seeds (far longer than 18 months ago) I might have had my coveted plants by now. But better late than never, and especially so in the garden.

According to the directions on the package, you can sow hellebore seeds at any time of the year (although I'm not sure how well that would work with two feet of snow on the ground) in a small pot of "good, well-drained seed compost." I'm using peat pots and Miracle-Gro potting soil. As instructed, I covered the seeds with the soil, watered lightly, and then buried the pots up to their rims outside "in a sheltered position" (in my case, next to the hedge) before covering with a jam jar or piece of glass. Well pieces of glass have a tendency to get moved or broken, and I'm all out of jam jars, so I collected pickle, pasta sauce, and mason jars and used those. I plan to add more seeds as I acquire more empty jars (luckily my mom had a couple of rather large spare jars--usually used to protect young roses--on hand when I asked, so that's two more seeds to try my luck with). Now I just need to make sure the soil doesn't dry out (which I hope to achieve by watering around the jars). And if you don't want to use the jar method, you can also place the small pots in a cold frame.

I'll update with my progress (and the next steps) if and when I have any progress to mention. Hopefully it won't be too long before my garden is graced with flowers like this in late winter/early spring:

And I thought I'd also share the latest photo of the furry bird-feeder invaders. As annoying as they are, I can't resist taking photos of these cute little buggers (Jules was so right--personality really does go a long way). This guy was resting on my pantry roof and was quite obliging about posing for the camera. Now if only they'd be as considerate about staying away from my tomatoes!

Photo of hellebores in bloom from Thompson & Morgan. Other photos by Domicile.

07 August 2009

Definition of a Plethora

So if life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, then posts are what happen when photos pile up. I'd meant to sort through and post all these photos quite a while ago (I mean peonies are long gone and the delphiniums and larkspurs are getting ready to re-bloom). But then other things kept coming along, including a major new project (Blood Lines) and the Tabula Rasa series of posts. But I finally got them up (and more or less in chronological order, to boot), so get comfortable and (hopefully) enjoy the plethora of garden photos ahead...

Starting with my Explorer series climbing rose (wish I could remember its name!)

Then on to the peonies, beautiful while they lasted.

I think this one is called "Sorbet." It seems to be the only peony we have of this variety, and for two years now it's only produced one flower per year. But so pretty!

Back to the Explorer rose for a bit :)

"Sealand Gem" clematis on the verge of opening...

...fully open...
...and tucked in among the roses.

The last blooms of my Apothecary rose.

"Midnight Showers" clematis and "Black Knight" delphinium.

And with the mysterious red rose that snuck along when we moved.

Morning glory just before opening.

Spent morning glory flowers.

One of three hydrangeas (including a "Limelight" with creamy/green flowers that I keep forgetting to get a picture of). I was acidifying the soil to try to get blue blooms on this one, but I don't think I acidified it enough. Still, I got some lavender tinge in there! Will try again next year.

Hosta flowers. Sadly, they're just about done now.

"Viking" rose--still blooming.

I inherited this clematis from my mom. I think it's a "Jackmanii." It's the latest-blooming of the three but prolific.

Another gift from mom. I think it's "The Fairy" rose (profuse mini blooms on a large plant), but it (sadly) has no scent. Still a great rose to grow, though--very hardy and healthy.

Interwoven with a sprig of English lavender.

It's the lavender that ate Toronto! Not sure what's up with my two English lavender plants this year (could be all the manure and compost), but next spring they're getting a serious pruning!

The nameless pink rose we brought with us when we moved. This rose is amazing. It was already at the last place when we moved in, and it had been poorly sited. The whole garden there was overgrown with weeds (really a nightmare), particularly around this rose. And it never got any sun. Yet it always bloomed! I couldn't leave it behind when we moved and now it seems much happier with proper light and nutrients (and no weed competition). The red rose I mentioned earlier somehow came along with it, which was a real surprise as we never even knew it was there! But a nice surprise nonetheless.

My one surviving larkspur. I wish it would seed itself. At least it's re-blooming for me.

And the almost identical delphinium I put in across the yard! I am definitely consistent with the colours I like!

Poppies! Not so great in containers, it seems (not these ones, anyway), but I plan on putting them in throughout the garden next year.

I didn't notice the squirrel was still there until after I'd taken the picture. It had come running as soon as I stepped outside. I guess it was still hoping I had something more edible than a camera in my hands. We might spoil them a little!

Pansies that seeded themselves from ones I bought last year (the gift that keeps on giving).

And morning glories that always re-seed themselves. The only ones I need to start every year now are the "Heavenly Blue" morning glories (which have yet to bloom, I might add. It's been an odd summer.) I think the purple ones are "Grandpa Ott" but purple morning glories are common and easy to find.

With nothing to climb, they end up spilling over the edge of the deck--very pretty. Although they will wrap around anything even slightly vertical, including one another!

I think this pink morning glory originally came from a packet of mixed seeds, but I'm happy to see it return every year.

More poppies. This one is a "peony" poppy called, appropriately enough, "Black Peony." I love the colour! Unfortunately, I didn't get many blooms. I'll try planting more of them next year.

And this was an exciting find growing up the side of the hedge. Yes, that is a dandelion. The SO's foot (for reference) actually is about 12" long, so you can work out how tall that thing was. At least you have to admire its persistence! I'm sure we'll be seeing it again next year as we couldn't get much of the root. There's always something to look forward to in a garden ;)

(All photos by me)