the fall into winter garden

I start this morning with a picture of one of my November roses. I have a handful of rose bushes still blooming, and yesterday I was able to cut a small bouquet.

Another oddity given the weather, is this morning I picked fresh raspberries from my raspberry bush. Yes, really!

I have not only planted a “layered” garden, I have done my best to make this garden four seasons. The beauty is different in the fall and in the dead of winter, but if you open your eyes and look around you see it.

I planted a lot of the red twig dogwood shrubs throughout my garden. Some have a variegated leaf some a solid green leaf. Once they start to shed their leaves, the other part of their attractiveness shines through. These shrubs get brilliant red stems that give you the most glorious color from late fall through the winter. There are few things as pretty as seeing a red twig dogwood against freshly fallen snow!

And my hydrangeas – they also provide their own four season attraction. The hydrangeas keep their flowers through most of the winter until winds and what not start to knock them off. (I finish dead heading them in the spring which is NOT the same as pruning. ) It becomes more like a dried flower still life versus the crazy vibrant colors of the growing season.

A lot of my herbs overwinter nicely in this garden as they have enough protection in the beds. I will never get things like basil to overwinter outside, but I have even had tarragon over winter here, which I hadn’t had before. My two big pots on the front walk are filled with lavender and thyme. I will not cut them back I will leave those herbs exactly as is. I finally figured out the trick to lavender was NOT cutting it back if you found a spot where it can overwinter.

I have a much more laissez faire attitude to my garden in the fall then a lot of people. First of all I have a lot of garden and I have to accept that I can’t do everything. So much to the surprise of many, I kind of let my fall garden do what it wants to do. I do not dead head everything. Among other things if you leave the seedpods and whatnot on your shrubs and perennials, it’s food for birds.

But I have discovered if I let my fall garden do what it wants I have this whole other display. It’s almost like looking at a whole other garden. Instead of nothing, I have interest.

We do rake and blow the leaves, and our forest and woods are mostly oak trees, so we put the leaves on the flower beds.

A garden in fall and winter doesn’t have the lush beauty of spring and summer and the riot of color. It’s more subdued and it’s also more structural. You are, after all, looking at the plants without their spring and summer finery.

I do spray everything for deer around now, and I will have to do so again even in the dead of winter. That is the trade-off for having a garden in deer country.

I planted the last of my fall perennials that I picked up on sale and one more shrub. After this weekend I just have some bulbs to plant. But I hadn’t felt like planting them because honestly it was too warm.

I plant mostly daffodils and Narcissus. I gave up on tulips years ago as they are just squirrel food. I like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs for mail order bulbs. Most local nurseries do not get the variety I like, and they are simply more expensive. I have also used a company out of Connecticut called Color Blends.

Today I bought the ceramic vintages birdbaths in and put them in their winter homes in the basement. I bought in one concrete birdbath top, leaving the largest one for my sweet man to flip over and cover for me. It’s just too heavy for me to move.

The kitchen herbs that I have in pots that I do not overwinter inside I will take out of the ceramic and clay pots and put into the flowerbeds. As a result I have a healthy bed of thyme (makes an awesome ground cover), and returning sage and other things like oregano and even some rosemary. I just dig them in and they get covered with leaves and what survives is meant to be and that’s the way it is.

My house looks sort of like a jungle because the Boston ferns have come in from their hooks in the backyard and once a week they get a good water and misting every other day.

During the winter months I will keep myself busy with my ivy topiaries, clivia, and my ferns. I used to do a lot of amaryllis bulbs but I really don’t have the room anymore and the last few years of bulbs I have purchased I have been disappointed in.

Anyway, the time has come for the gardens to sleep. We will be getting a hard freeze over the next couple of days. I will get in the balance of my bulbs, and look to my gardening magazines and catalogs for inspiration for next year. But I will also enjoy my garden in fall and winter. I hope you will too.

Thanks for stopping by.

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snow food: mushroom and pea risotto with chicken and sausage

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Okay who doesn’t love risotto? I(I guess if you don’t love risotto then you don’t want to read this post….)

Anyway comfort food doesn’t have to be the same old same old. Risotto makes some awesome snow food. However, if you don’t have the time to devote to making risotto, don’t because the enemy of a risotto his time and adding the ingredients wrong. Risotto is a dish that requires babysitting from start to finish.

Here is my go to recipe. I will alter the ingredients depending on what I have in the kitchen on hand at the time. Usually a risotto is what I do with leftovers.

If I don’t have chicken or sausage I might use ham or shrimp or something else. Sometimes I do it with just mushrooms and pick a bunch of mushroom varieties, not just one. In other words …..lots and lots of mushrooms (yum). If I do it an all mushroom risotto I also add roasted sweet peppers and a small log of goat cheese about 4 – 5 ounces or a similar size container of crème fraîche in addition to the Parmesan.

6 cups chicken stock (hold back one cup until towards end of recipe)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 vidalia or sweet onion, chopped
12 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thin
2 grated medium sized carrots
3 medium-size ribs of celery diced small
1 teaspoon each of thyme and sage and tarragon and basil and smoked paprika
3 cloves of garlic minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1½ cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 fresh tomato (medium and round) diced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of ½ small orange
1 pound of sweet sausage cut into small chunks (you can also use ground sausage without the casing)
1/2 a roast chicken shredded- no skin from chicken!

Put the stock in a pot over low heat. Or if you’re pressed for time you can warm a couple cups of the time by microwaving in a microwave proof measuring cup. Meanwhile, put the 1/4 of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. You may have to add a little more than a quarter cup just depends on your pot.

When it’s warming up but not hot, add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. This might take 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms, celery, carrots and season with salt and pepper. Add herbs.

Cook, stirring occasionally, maybe an additional 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the sausage, and when of the sausage starts to cook and turn color, add your shredded chicken. I originally started making this recipe to use up leftover chicken. Adding small bites of sweet sausage only makes it better!

Add the rice and stir until it looks sort of translucent and begins to stick together, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring once or twice, until it’s mostly absorbed by the rice.

Start adding the broth about 1/2 to 3/4 cup at a time, waiting until each stage of broth is pretty well absorbed into the rice before adding the next bunch of broth. Stir frequently and keep an eye on the heat so the liquid simmers gently NOT boils into oblivion. When I start adding the broth, I cover the pot a couple minutes at a time in between stirring.

After you add 5 cups of broth you were ready for the next step which is when the rice is tender, (after about 30 minutes of adding 5 of the 6 cups of stock), add the frozen peas along with last 1 cup of stock and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Turn off the heat and stir in an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil and the orange zest and juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve hot, garnished with parsley.

The feeds 4 to 6 and trust me there won’t be much in the way of leftovers. Even teenagers will eat it! Any leftovers you have should be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container. It’s only good for a few days after cooking so don’t let it hang around more than that.

Thanks for stopping by.

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ice, ice baby it’s a stay at home sunday

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When I was first awake at 6 a.m. it was super cold outside, but dry. But it is pouring and the roads are cold enough that there is a lot of ice out there….and accidents.

A lot of churches are canceling worship services too.

If you do not have to go anywhere, don’t.

For more information visit NBC10 Philadelphia or media outlet of your choice.

NBC10 Philadelphia Dangerous Road Conditions Across Region

loss.

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Loss is a big word.

I was thinking about the word “loss” yesterday as my arborist completed day five of our post-2014 ice storm clean up.

Our woods have experienced a loss. Many saplings and trees were damaged beyond salvation during Mother Nature’s winter ice storm whirlwind in February. A lot of trees were salvageable and as our arborist and his crew righted our trees and made them safe, I thought about loss in the context of the cycle of nature.

This loss to our woods, a nature made culling, has opened up the canopy of our trees. Light will reach the woodland floor where it hasn’t in years and years. That means with proper care and love, our woods will now renew itself.

So in a sense, the loss of tree and plantings courtesy of ice storm 2014 will have a positive side. That positive side is new growth and renewal.

But what I am also wondering is, can we as humans, apply that to our own existence as well?

We lose people in our lives for various reasons all wound up in the cycle of life and death. But what if we looked at it as God pruning our life canopy, much like Mother Nature did with the tree canopy of my woods during Ice Storm 2014 but a few weeks ago?

I am not trying to trivialize the losses we experience as human beings, only trying to see it as a life pruning that opens us up for renewal and new growth, or perhaps to say God’s plans for us are not originally what we thought and we need to have faith.

Whether the loss is of a friend or loved one, or the loss is due to death or life circumstance, it hurts. You are hurt and sad, you can be angry for a time, and then comes the life canopy opening to the sky for renewal and new growth. So if you can let go of the negativity and hurt, you get peace and acceptance. And one day, your heart is lighter and you are once again looking forward and are hopeful.

Getting to that forward place and feeling hopeful is work. I know because this is sometimes inner battle I have struggled with. But I figure at the end of the day we need to live and just let stuff go. Release it back. If you have ever had people in your life you could consider stuck for lack of a better description you can see what hanging onto the bitterness and negativity does to them. It is personal choice whether or not you accept that for yourself. Again, not trivializing this as it can be really hard work.

Losing people to death has a finality, obviously. So once you get though he cycle of grief and loss you can hope to put a period on it. Losing people to other life circumstances can be a little more tricky, and the emotions there can be quite complicated. But loss isn’t the end of everything, unless you allow it, right?

This week a dear friend’s little sister unexpectedly became a young widow. I understand the position all to well and a few short years ago I watched my sister struggle through the same thing.

It is so hard, no other way to describe it. Both of these women lost husbands who were extraordinary human beings. I wish my friend’s sister all the peace and love her world can give her because this is grief and pain you wish on NO human being. And when you are the loved one of someone going through this there are just periods of helplessness, because nothing you do feels like you are making it better.

Life is a cycle. Do we glow with it, grow with it , or rail against it? I don’t have those answers. I just saw what some will say is a weird parallel. But if you can think of certain events as life pruning, maybe it makes it easier to release the negative, embrace the positive, and retain the hope we as human beings need to grow?

Thanks for stopping by on a slightly contemplative Sunday before yet more snow. But the good thing is I have seen a few bits of green emerging as just the tiniest of green tips below some snow that melted. You know, renewal?

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portrait of a climber

DSC_3481This is our arborist, Robert Phipps. At the top of our giant beech this morning. hundreds of feet up. He loves what he does and it shows.  How cool is that?

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