my franklinia tree is blooming

From the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Franklinia alatamaha, commonly called Franklin tree, typically grows as a single-trunk tree with a rounded crown or as a multi-stemmed shrub. As a single trunk tree, it can grow to 20’ tall or more, but is more often seen growing much shorter. Camellia-like, cup-shaped, 5-petaled, sweetly-fragrant, white flowers (to 3” diameter) bloom in late summer to early fall. Each flower sports a boss of egg-yolk yellow center stamens. Narrow, oblong-obovate, glossy dark green leaves (to 5” long) turn quality shades of orange, red and purple in autumn. John Bartram was appointed Royal Botanist for North America by King George III in 1765. In that same year, John Bartram and his son William discovered franklinia growing in a 2-3 acre tract along the banks of the Altamaha River in southeastern Georgia. Franklinia has never been observed growing in any other place than along the Altamaha River. In a return trip in 1773, William Bartram collected seed from this site and brought it back to the Bartram’s garden in Philadelphia where the tree was successfully grown. This tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803. It has been perpetuated in cultivation (all plants derive from the seed collected by Bartram) not only because of its rarity but also because of its attractive flowers and foliage. The current genetic base of this plant is quite narrow in large part because all plants currently in existence in the world come from the materials collected by the Bartrams. Franklinia belongs to the tea family and is closely related to Stewartia and Gordonia (loblolly bay). It is not known why this tree disappeared in the wild. Land along the Altamaha River was cleared for cotton plantations leading to one theory that a cotton pathogen found in the soil (carried downstream through erosion) was the main cause of the extinction of the colony. Other extinction theories include decline from climate change, destruction by man, single colony of plants was not genetically diverse enough to withstand pathogens or changing conditions, or a local disaster (flood or fire).

Genus name honors Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American printer, scientist, philosopher and statesman.

Specific epithet name has an extra “a” in it (apparently because of an alternate spelling for the river when the tree was named).

I love Franklinia trees. My old neighbor Johnny had one…until a drunk driver drove up onto his lawn and front garden and bulldozed it down. His tree was about 12 feet tall and I remember at the time the insurance adjusters from both sides didn’t see it as a big deal.

To a plant lover, it was a big deal.

It was. Franklinia trees are notoriously hard to grow, so once you get one established you celebrate the lovely little tree discovered by John Bartram and named in dedication of Benjamin Franklin.

It’s root system makes it persnickety and this is a tree that hates being moved or transplanted. Which means when you find the perfect spot in your garden, it must stay there.

Where mine is planted I wasn’t sure how it would fare. This was a bed I reclaimed from the crazy forsythia that tried to swallow parts of our property whole for 50 years or better. Yes off on a tangent, but I hate forsythia with a burning passion. It should be labeled an invasive plant.

But I digress.

When I reclaimed this particular planting area and one immediately adjacent I started with digging out as much forsythia as possible. Then there was the soil to deal with. This area of my gardens has heavy clay content. So bags of sand, bags of grit, leaf mold, mushroom soil, dehydrated manure, green sand, gypsum.

And I am still adding amendments every year at this point and still digging out forsythia. This week alone when I was planting two Bayberry bushes in the right corner of this bed, I had to amend the soil again and I dug out more forsythia and two five to six foot sections of root that were as wide as my wrist!

Franklinia trees like well drained soil. As per Fine Gardening:

Grow in organically rich, moist but very well-drained soil of acidic to neutral pH, in full sun. Resents transplanting and should not be disturbed in the landscape.

My Franklinia tree seems to be growing well with red rhododendrons, hydrangeas, a pair of blueberry bushes and various herbs and perennials. This is it’s first year to bloom since I bought it at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. Could I have bought it elsewhere? Probably but it seemed fitting to literally buy it from the source.

My tree came from Bartram’s Garden spring plant sale. There is a fall plant sale at their upcoming honey festival September 8th from 10 am to 4 pm.

I had been watching my Franklinia tree bud for a couple of weeks and this morning I went to take a peek and the lovely soft white flowers are starting to open. My tree is small so I am so happy it is happy and blooming.

And that is the thing about gardening: how happy these small triumphs after lots of hard work make you feel.

Enjoy the day! It’s beautiful outside with a nice little breeze.

sweet potato gnocchi with a sage corn pancetta cream sauce

I’m going to admit this pasta dish rocks. I’m also going to admit I didn’t use anyone’s recipe it came together as I started to plan it.

I have written down both the recipe for the sauce and the pasta as best I can. I hope it comes together for you like it did for me.

I think the sauce is amazing and could easily be translated to a fettuccine or something.

The Creamy Pancetta Sage Sauce

  • • 4 ounces diced pancetta (Wegmans sells it)
  • • 4 tablespoons butter
  • • 2 small vidalia onions chopped
  • • 1 small red hot pepper diced (no seeds!)
  • • 2 ears of cooked corn off the cob
  • • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • • 1 pint light cream (2 cups)
  • • 2 tablespoons Wondra flour (super fine for sauces)
  • • 2/3 cup fine grated Parmesan
  • Melt the butter. Add the onion and the red pepper and some salt to taste. Add the corn. Chop fine the fresh sage and add that. Cook until the onion starts to get translucent.

    This should all be low to the bare minimum of medium heat. You don’t want anything to burn.

    Add the flour. Stir briskly in the pan so nothing sticks and the flour is absorbed.

    Add the wine. Stir briskly. Let that cook for a minute or two and add the light cream.

    Allow the sauce to come together and stir constantly until an even warm temperature. You want it to come to almost a boil but not a boil because you don’t want to scald the cream.

    Add the Parmesan cheese gradually till all incorporate it and let it cook on low a little while longer. Let it cook down, and it will cook down some and thicken a bit. It doesn’t get stand your spoon upright thick, but it thickens in consistency.

    Gnocchi

    The gnocchi are an approximation. I make my pasta by feel.

    • 1 1/2 cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes.
    • 2 cups of semolina flour
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • A few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil

    Combine everything in a bowl and bring your dough together. After everything is evenly mixed place a damp cloth over the bowl that your dough is in and let it rest for an hour.

    Roll out between your hands thin “snakes” of dough and with a sharp knife cut even sized bite-size pieces.

    Your pasta should be laid out on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking pad. You should have enough for two layers of bite-size pieces and the layers should be separated with parchment paper and covered with parchment paper and a linen towel and put in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook your pasta.

    Fresh gnocchi only take a few scant minutes to cook in boiling water. They will rise to the surface as they cook.

    As you remove your gnocchi add a little bit of sauce in between and then finish with sauce on top.

    Mangia!

    everything old is new again…

    I actually love Country Living Magazine. I have for years. And according to their September, 2019 issue I might be shockingly trendy.

    Well except for the stock tanks. I don’t have a stock tank as a bath tub, nor do I want to and THAT made me giggle. Apparently stock tanks as bath tubs are a thing.

    So that’s a little silly to me as I am a claw foot tub girl. No, I don’t currently have one but I did for a while growing up. Awesome tub to take a soak in!

    Next up this month as one of their trends? Pie safes. But why buy an expensive reproduction from places like Plow and Hearth? I see them all over. Brandywine View Antiques, Smithfield Barn, Cricket’s Antiques and Garden Market, Creekside Antiques Downingtown by the Brandywine, Brandywine River Antiques Market in Chaddsford, and the Shoppes at Whitehorse Mill (just over the Chester County border in Lancaster County) just to name a few places!!

    All of these places have Facebook pages and they post new merchandise all of the time! You don’t need pricey replicas when you can buy the real deal antiques which are always better made. You can also still find these pieces at country estate sales and auctions. Or special shows and sales like the seasonal genius of Life’s Patina.

    The sad thing is so many people are geared towards new reproductions that they completely don’t realize the real deal is available and affordable. Sometimes these dealers will have wiggle room in their pricing especially if you bundle a few items but please, be respectful. I have seen some truly rude hondlers out there and well, these folks aren’t running a charity, they are trying to make a living.

    Other things that are showing up in the pages of Country Living this month as a trend are vintage dog portraits. I see them all of the time at Brandywine View Antiques and Brandywine River Antiques Market in particular.

    Another trend is vintage and antique occasional tables. They are everywhere and at all price points. You can also score some fine ones at auctions at Pook and Pook as well as Converse Auctions and Wiederseim Auctions. Don’t be afraid of auctions or auction houses. Yes, a lot of the auctions are online these days but most of the auction houses will also have a preview day where you can go look at an item that you are interested in before you bid.

    With the side table trends I am going to put in a plug for Eastlake side tables. I love them, and I have owned a few over the course of my adulthood.

    Eastlake furniture belongs to the Victorian era but isn’t as over the top as other furniture of that era. The side tables are my favorite of the style although I also love Eastlake settees. I have seen Eastlake recently at the Smithfield Barn and also the Smithfield Barn’s floor at the Shoppes at Whitehorse Mill.

    Other trends as per Country Living are vintage salt and pepper sets and vintage glassware. The Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is definitely your source for those items! The owner I swear has super powers on these items and other fab vintage things like vintage and antique linens to use with them. I know because I have some amazing vintage linens drying on a towel rack from them right now!

    I love my vintage dishes and glasses. My every day dishes are vintage Fiestaware and my everyday glasses are vintage bar ware. I love my vintage and I use it. Most of the time it’s extremely durable too!

    Another trend the magazine is covering is a return to some better simplicity in furniture. Specifically Shaker style. From boxes to benches to tables and chairs and dressers.

    Traditional Shaker antiques can be very expensive but their design influences can be seen all over. Look for vintage and antique country furniture pieces that are sturdy and well made with simple lines. You can find these pieces all over for a steal because well, people are still stuck on the trend if they don’t want “brown wood”.

    Shaker furniture is a distinctive style of furniture developed by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as Shakers, a religious sect that had guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Shaker beliefs were reflected in the well-made furniture of simple designs. There is a great essay on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And as of 2017, according to Smithsonian Magazine there are only two Shakers left in the world.

    Other trends that seem to be occurring that I don’t understand is buying reproduction grandfather clocks when so many go to auction every year and often do not get sold.

    Of all the trends that seem to be cropping up everywhere I am heartened to see a return to loving wood furniture as in not everything I am seeing is covered with paint.

    Painted furniture has a place, but the past few years it has been really upsetting to see the gorgeous pieces of wooden furniture and good wood like mahoganies and walnuts and fabulous maples being covered up with things like chalk paint. I have literally watched people destroy beautiful wood dining room tables by trying to paint them. I can see painting something that’s so beat up it’s just more cost effective, but to me there is nothing better than the soft sheen and warmth of wood’s natural beauty. And maintaining wood furniture is a little bit of elbow grease once in a while but it’s simple. My favorite thing to use is Howard’s Feed and Wax.

    I love the thrill of the hunt of vintage and antiques. I have some things that I will always keep, and I have other things that I will love for a while and let go for something I like better. It makes it fun!

    Fall markets are just around the corner. Keep an eye peeled for things like the sale September 7th and 8th at Brandywine View Antiques. Their annual barn market and 4th anniversary sale and celebration at their current location.

    Happy Friday all!

    rose obelisks are in place!!

    I love my David Austin English Roses. But even the ones which are NOT climbers are truly vigorous growers. The ones I chose ALL seem to have a very rangy growth habit.

    I started out a few years ago with fleur de lis trellises from Achla Designs. They come in two sizes.

    For a couple of years they worked nicely. But the roses outgrew them completely. And I do prune my roses.

    So these trellises have been moved to assist other plants. They are brilliant to stake tomatoes with, especially if you grow tomatoes in large pots like I do. They give this tepee shape which beans and tomatoes like.

    I hunted for obelisks for a while. Some seem quite flimsy and others overly expensive.

    I settled on the Jardin Round Obelisks from Gardener’s Supply Company.

    I assembled the first one during a heatwave. Big mistake. Mostly for me wrestling with a large rose bush in the heat.

    You have to put it on a section at a time as it comes in pieces. But as is the case with trial and error, I learned after assembling the first one that I needed to basically tie up the rosebushes as much as possible with garden tape. (It’s made out of green vinyl, and I use it for things that I stake or need to have tied during the growing season.)

    The first obelisk I put together still seems a little wobbly to me and I need a good soaking rain to push it down into the ground more.

    But I have now assembled four of these obelisks and I did have to trim my roses back (and some canes broke too) to get them on but now they have more freedom growing through these and are less restricted as was the case with the trellises I was using.

    I really like the uniformity they present in the garden and I think they add a nice element. They also are not going to drive me crazy having to look at them in the winter when nothing is growing.

    I will be honest and say it took me 2 1/2 or 3 hours to assemble and place three of these yesterday. (and if you buy them make sure you are wearing gauntlet gloves when assembling them and wrestling with the rose bushes to place them!)

    I also had another kind obelisk thing I tried that was shorter and more squat that also came from Gardener’s Supply that was an epic fail. It arrived defective and missing parts and it’s a little finial top didn’t even fit the thread it was assigned to. It’s called the Jardin Birdcage Support. Save your money and don’t order it. It’s cheaply made and went into the recycling.

    Of course in the middle of all of this I discovered a rabbit’s nest under a shrub. I wasn’t looking for the nest they literally started screaming at me because I was too close to the nest. And yes baby bunnies sure can holler!

    Gardening is always an adventure!

    Now that the temperatures are becoming more temperate it’s time to get back to the business of weeding and cleaning up my flowerbeds. Because fall planting season is just around the corner.

    Happy gardening!

    oh yes, summer is ending and elections are coming…

    Elections are coming up and I think I need to clarify things with campaigns. I occasionally will write about a candidate if I either know them personally or meet them organically.

    Or I will write about politicians if I think they are such bad news based upon past behavior that I think people need to know so they make an informed choice. So far I have three candidates who fit into this category. Two for this coming November, 2019 and one for the spring primary of 2020.

    I don’t get “set up” to meet people and then write about them if that makes any sense.

    I am an independent so I am not beholden to either political party and if a particular candidate from a particular party gets a thumbs up from me it’s because I have met them organically and they struck a positive chord with me.

    I wrote about a candidate over the weekend and I have already been contacted by other campaigns of all levels of office. I don’t want to be rude or unfair but this is my thought process and I do not deviate from it. I do it my way, on my terms, and if I want political matchmakers involved to make an introduction, I do the asking.

    And the reason is simple: in years past I have had candidates literally sent to my door who were door knocking. I was used by those candidates for a good word. Once my good word was out there, they were done. I will not be used again. Been there, done that, got the proverbial T-shirt.

    I have met and conversed with lots of interesting people over the years including one First Lady whom I still wish would run for office. I was introduced and spoke with many amazing people at the RNC 2000 which was held in Philadelphia. There I was a media relations volunteer so I had the added education of being able to interact with top national and international media. You learn from all of these people if you pay attention.

    Also one reason I have been fortunate to meet all sorts of interesting political people over the years is I am open to meeting people from both political parties. I don’t think because someone is a Democrat or because someone is a Republican that they are going to be a good or bad person based on their political persuasion.

    I also am of the opinion that I don’t care what level of office nationally, locally, or regionally you’re running for, you should be able to have a conversation with an ordinary person like me who doesn’t write you big lovely donation checks.

    I personally look for candidates that I think can be independent of their respective political parties. Sometimes my instincts are right, other times my instincts have been wrong. I am thinking in two cases from last year I am not sure I made the right decision so I may be correcting that decision with future votes.

    I am not someone who donates to political campaigns. I have never done it, and I don’t believe in it. If someone wants my vote, they can earn it the old-fashioned way and talk to me.

    As Americans one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to exercise our power of the vote. And I encourage everyone no matter where they live to vote independently. I used to have a friend who would literally say to her other friends “Tell me how I should vote in this election.”

    Do not count on the opinions of others.

    Don’t be a sheeple.

    Become informed on your own. Learn about your candidates and don’t just pull the lever because you are one party or the other.

    The last days of summer are upon us and the midterm elections soon to follow. Do your own homework. Make informed decisions.

    Don’t be politically Stepford.

    My biggest thing with the political process in this country is we need more balance. One party over the other having supreme power is not healthy for us as Americans. We need moderation and an end to political extremism.

    Happy Monday!

    after the fire

    514 Pottstown Pike was the scene of a horrible fire August 7th, 2019. I wrote about it.

    We went by the location a few times this weekend and I captured these (poor) photos as a passenger in a car.

    The photo that gets me is the first one posted. There is a child’s cart on that “deck”.

    What happened to the displaced people?

    What will be happening to these structures?

    Who inspects these rental properties in Chester County and how often? Is it done at a local level or a county level?