Monday, December 29, 2008

Snap Peas

Snap peas are a great cold weather plant for Southern California. I didn't plant as many as I would have liked to but the ones I did plant are doing quite well, thank you very much. The blossoms looked stunning last week when I "snapped" this photo. This variety of peas is one which has edible pods.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Cool weather vegetables are growing with vigor in my California garden. After weeks of cold--well cool--weather I discovered the garden had not lost sight of its number one function. Three beautiful heads of cauliflower are ready for harvesting.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beautiful Broccoli

Heavy rains and the holiday season kept me from my usual garden visits over the past few weeks. Today was sunny and I had to take advantage of the situation and do a little garden inspection. Wow! This is just one of the surprises I got. I will post a few more over the next few days.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

From the 80s--A Garden in Cincinnati

I've had the good fortune to find another photo of my past garden in Anderson Township in Ohio. Looks like I was growing beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes and various flowers. Despite the fact that we were growing this on the edge of the woods, it seems we got enough sun to get a great garden.

Fashion notes...check out shoulder pads in polo shirt! Also, that's a gray Swatch watch I'm sporting on my wrist. Also, note to girlfriends, that's my purse on my shoulder...even back then...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Apple Picking in Ohio, 1974

I found a stash of old photos from my college days in Ohio. Here I am in the autumn with my Dad. We had picked apples from the backyard apple tree and were wrapping them in paper for storage in the cold cellar (garage) over the winter.

Eggplant Update

My eggplants are going wild. I counted atleast six eggplants growing. The daytime weather has chilled down considerably so I am not sure how large these will get. Still fun to be growing so late in the fall.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Autumnal Eggplant

When clearing my garden a few weeks ago to make way for the planting of cool season vegetables and lettuces, I wrestled with a decision to clear away the eggplant plant or not. Here was the situation. The plant was quite large and could make way for some additional cabbage or broccoli plants. However, it was choc-a-bloc with purple blossoms suggesting I just might get one or two more eggplants this season. Given that we were experiencing a toasty October, I opted to leave the plant in and see what developed.

It turned out to be a good decision because today I found some tiny eggplants growing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunflowers Provide Multiple Gifts to the Garden

I was busy harvesting the seeds of the giant sunflowers when I noticed my smaller sunflowers were blocking the walkway through my garden. I decided to select a few flowers from the plant to reign it in. These flowers look spectacular in my kitchen.

Sunflower Seeds in Abundance

My first harvest of sunflower seeds was quite productive. It was a bit of work. First, I hand picked the seeds from the flower head. Some seeds had not pollinated and those were composted. Next I sorted through the seeds to remove any flower parts which remained. After a quick rinse and dry, the seeds pod is ready to crack open to reveal a delicious nugget.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tomato Reverie Actualized

Who doesn't love tomato harvest time when the spring dreams of home grown tomatoes become reality? We are inundated with tomatoes of all colors and sizes. Last night's dinner included green fried tomatoes, which I actually prefer if the tomato has a touch of pink. They were magnificent.

As the "home chef", I have a minimalist approach to cooking. I like the fresh flavors of the food to stand out. Therefore, my green fried tomato recipe is not the traditional batter-based recipe. This lighter flouring lets the flavor of the tomato shine though and lightens the recipe as the flour does not absorb as much oil as traditional batters do. You must be mindful during the turning process to use the spatula carefully to make sure you do not leave behind the golden crispiness.

Green Fried Tomatoes (For one or two)
1 large Tomato (green with a touch of pink)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons oil (vegetable or olive)
1 tablspoon butter

Slice tomato. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a flat plate. Dredge both sides of the tomato in the flour mixture. Pat flour in place to make sure if is adhering to the tomato.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 tablesoon of butter in a large non-stick pan. Carefully place in hot oil. Brown on first side. Turn carefully and add the remaining oil and butter, as needed, to brown the second side.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Name These Seeds

While on a visit to L.A. to see my son, I found a plant growing near his apartment. Mother nature is one amazing lady. She can make things grow where if we humans tried to grow things, we would have no success.

Anyway here are the seeds of the plant which was growing in a precarious dirt patch wedged in the concrete jungle which is L.A. No obvious source of water, this plant grew and flowered.

And, I give you a hint by the number of seeds in the picture.

The answer is Four O'Clocks. This is a great plant I knew from my childhood. The blossom opens in the afternoon and range in color from yellows to pinks to whites.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What to Do with All of Those Eggplants, Zucchinis, and Tomatoes

The kitchen counter is piled high with tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants. This year has created a bountiful record harvest.

William Sonoma has the answer with this recipe which uses all three of these garden items.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Only Mother Nature Can Paint Like This!

If you are in a decorating mode and someone says stick to a natural palette, you most likely think of browns, taupes, beiges. But Mother Nature is a bit more inventive with her natural colors. Look at the vivid, screaming tones of these sunflowers. AMAZING.

And look how effectively these sunflowers camouflage the two bees collecting pollen.

A Weekend Get-Away with Friends

A group of friends took a late summer weekend to visit Santa Barbara. I love ivy covered buildings.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yellow Zucchini

Renee's Garden loves to package seeds from like vegetables with color variations in the same package. I love it, too. I love my tri-color beans (gold, burgundy, green) and tri-color zucchini (under squash) which are fancy pastel green, buttercup yellow and dark green. I often prepare zucchini by slicing with skin on then sauteeing in a little butter. With the various color skins, the dish takes on a whole new look.

Planting an Eagle Scout Project

We helped with an Eagle Scout project on Saturday. The project was for the city of Mission Viejo. We helped a soon to be Eagle candidate plant 1200 gallon plants on a good sized slope at a local park. The city had decided a few years ago to have the whole slope help local boy scouts achieve their Eagle rank. The slope stretches throughout the park and the entire area was planted by boy scouts. The city official thinks it has saved the city over $100,000.

Our troop kicked it up and started around 8:00. We were finished by 10:30. This was amazing. Lucky for us the hillside was just about perfect for digging--although a few patchy areas were like concrete. Additionally, we had a good mix of adults, past Eagles, and scouts. Most did division of labor--one person dig, the other person plant. Worked out beautifully.

The mix of plants are plumbago and honeysuckle.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Three Cloud Nines

This is the year of the eggplant. I have had great success with my standard eggplant, my Japanese eggplants and my cloud nines. We've friend eggplant twice and I think some ratatouille is in order for the weekend.

Here is a great English recipe for ratatouille. I like using aubergines, courgettes and tinned tomatoes in my recipes...instead of eggplants, zucchinis, and canned tomatoes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Stephanotis always takes my breath away when I see it growing on the vine. Its thick, waxy flower is so stunning among these other plants. This vignette was located under a tree where it clearly was in partial shade throughout the day.


This sunflower is slowly opening its face to the world.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Nothing tastes better than a slice of garden tomato topped with a leaf of fresh basil. This robust basil plant should keep me satisfied for the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Garden and Gun...

Garden and Gun. Great alliteration...and an interesting magazine concept. It's a southern lifestyle magazine.

Purple Beans

First photos of the purple beans. They are a bit greener than I remember them from previous crops and definitely not as purple as the photo on Renee's web site. I still think they make for a very beautiful garden.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Japanese Cucumbers

Spiny and prickly, these cucumbers are a surprise to me. I thought I had purchased English cucumbers (hot house cucumber) and couldn't figure out why they looked so different.

Finally, I double checked the tag. Japanese cucumbers! I think the largest one is ready to harvest. My son is coming home from university tomorrow so it will be perfect to pick and prepare for his first night home.

Gardenias Ready for Round Two of Blooms

This is one tough little gardenia bush. I have two bushes which flank both sides of my entry doorway. It is a heavenly experience when they are in bloom to enter and exit the front door. The alcove of the entry creates an envelope of frangrance.

Anyway, these bushes have been subjected to a host of problems. First the landscape company changed the grade by the door and their crowns are below grade. Next, the landscape company topped of the beds with three to four inches of soil topper. Then the landscape company flooded the beds with massive irrigation. About this time, the leaves were turning yellow and brown, blossoms were dropping unbloomed and leaves were dropping to the ground. Not realizing all of these things were happening, I purchased a little soil amendment with low pH (which gardenias prefer). I went to apply the amendment, and found out all of the above. I cut back the watering, removed all of the topper, applied cottonseed meal (lowers pH). Slowly the plant has responded. Now, it is ready for the second bloom of the summer. You can see some flowers are already present and buds for scores more.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Peach Rose

This beautiful blossom is on a favorite rose bush. The color is vibrant as a bud and mellows as the blossom unfurls.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Zucchini in My Vegetable Garden

My zucchini plant has tried to be prolific this year. The problem is the zucchini is a single speciman. This leads to a problem. As growers of zucchini know, there are male and female flowers on a zucchini plant. The female flower sits atop a very small zucchini waiting to be fertilized. The male flower sits atop a stalk. To have fertilization, both flowers need to be present in the same window of opportunity. If you have multiple plants, the likelihood of having both a male and female flower in bloom is much higher.

In the photo, you can see one zucchini which has been fertilized. It appears healthy and green. You can see the yellowish, withering stub of an unfertilized zucchini under a leaf. You can also see the growing male and female flowers at about 8 and 9 o'clock in the photo. The female flower is less developed and is at 8 o'clock. The male flower is at 9 o'clock.

So far, I have had two occurences of the simultaneous blooming the male and female flowers. And since I help nature along by assisting in the pollination process, I have had two zukes this summer. Currently there is a maturing zuke on the vine which probably will be harvested within the next 12 hours.

Oh, note to year more than one zucchini plant, please.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Artemisia: Fragrant Plant for the Garden

I'm not sure about this plant which is an addition to my garden. It does have a nice fragrance. It seems to grow quickly but the inside of the plant becomes unattractive with browning folliage. This particular plant is young and a near perfect speciman at this point. It is just beyond this stage that things start to run amuck

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sunflower for The Great Sunflower Project

I have been cheering this little seedling on since it was the only one of twenty which germinated. The little guy is about 18 inches high. Once the flower blossoms, I will count the bees which visit it in a 30 minute period. The project is one from SFU trying to get a picture of the bee population around the U.S.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bush Beans

I grabbed a four-pack of beans earlier this summer when my garden had such a late start. I was sure I got pole beans and planted them near my bamboo pole and cotton string trellis. As it turns out, these little guys are bush beans. Never mind. They'll still taste great

Sedum Spurium Tricolor in my Garden

This is a sedum plant which I am adoring. I love the way the pink color of the plant hides under the green and white external leaves. Sedums love full sun, is heat tolerant and needs minimual water. This plant creeps to create a low, mat ground cover.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


We just had an earthquake. It was the second one of size since we moved here nine years ago. The first one was during the night after we had lived in California for one week! I was not pleased. This one was smaller than that earthquake and the house joustled around for about 15 seconds. I was expecting/hoping for shorter time. After about 5 seconds when the shaking continued, I picked up the dog in case things got more violent and we would need to vacate the house. One interesting feature which accompanies the earthquakes are the sloshing of the water in pools and spas.

All has settled down now. Life as usual.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flowers at the Orange County Fair

Saturday's trip to the OC Fair was fun as always. The fairway was nicely presented with displays of flowers around the ticket booths.

Caution: Tomatoes at Work

Under the canopy of green aromatic leaves, my tomato plants are busy manufacturing gorgeous tomatoes. This variety will be yellow when mature.

Tri-Color Beans

Tri-Color beans are a favorite crop of mine. The beans are three colors: dark green, light green/yellow, and purple. The purple bean has beautiful purple flowers and stems as it grows. When you cook them, the purple color of the beans changes to green.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Soybeans have been added to the crop list for this year's garden. It's fun to watch a plant grow for the first time. Today when I was out inspecting the garden, I discovered the flowers had set and small soybean pods have appeared. They have a bristly surface.

Corn--Eight Days Later

After eight days of water and sun, this corn is heading to the sky. Beautiful tassels are appearing at the top of each plant. One ear of corn has appeared with fuzzy silks at to top.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Corn as High as an Elephant's Eye?

Corn is a new crop for me this summer. With four stalks growing, it will be a small but much appreciated crop. As a Midwesterner, I have enjoyed corn so tender and fresh it melts in your mouth. I have not found that same quality of corn while living here in California. With luck, I will experience one of the wonders of summer when my corn reaches maturity.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Color Scheme for the Garden

The color scheme for my garden is a combination of blues, reds and yellows. The blues come from salvia (dusty purple/blue), agapanthus (medium blue), penstemon (purple/blue tone), the red comes from verbena, and the yellow comes from daylilies.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lawn Ornaments: Garden Gizmos

The chickens have come to roost. When we lived in Dallas I purchased these two lovlies from Nicholson Hardie Garden Shop. I have been waiting for things to settle down in the garden and decided these look great with a back drop of the hillside seat wall, the penstemon (purple) and acanthus mollis. These are a little memorabilia from the days when my spouse worked for KFC International.

I think Stephen Orr of the New York Times would approve of my placement of the chickens (to punctuate the walkway to the seating wall patio with a backdrop of plants. I'm not so sure he would like my concrete chickens, however. In his Q & A article, Picking Accessories for the Plants , he seems to prefer found objects (bowling balls/teacups), natural items, such as wood or stone, or architectural salvage pieces.

I think the key to using lawn ornments is not too many items and interesting locations. In some gardens, even the pink flamingo has its place.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tips on Cultivating Additional Tomato Plants

This is a little trick I discovered a few years ago which results in additional tomato plants at no cost to you. When you pinch a large sucker from the crotch of a tomato plant, stick the sucker into the dirt. I try to use the shade of the parent plant to protect the new start as it establishes roots. I make sure to provide plenty of "drinks" for the first few days. Before you know it, you have a new plant which will provide you a plant to share with a friend, or more tomatoes for you.

You can see the small sucker planted in front of the parent plant. In a few more days, I will transplant the small plant to an area which will allow the plant to have it's own space--sunlight and water.

Sweet Bell Peppers

I know when you purchase plants from the garden shop, you should choose plants which do not have fruit already set. The thought of the head start when I am already longing for home grown produce is just too much for this gardener to resist.

So here we have a lovely speciman on the plant. Should be ready soon.

Tomato Season has Started

Knowing the main vegetable garden was going to very late being planted, I casually stuck this tomato plant in the ground in the spring. Monster! I loves this location and has grown to behemouth proportions. And yummy tomotoes already ripening for inclusion on BLTs and summer salads.

This is a celebrity tomato.

Octopus's Garden in the Sun

The irrigation in my vegetable garden is a drip system. I asked for an eight port manifold which allows me to deliver custom water to eight different plants. This is a definite green watering solution. Best part...looks like a school of octopus have taken up residence in my garden.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


You are looking at an aerial view of two sunflower plants. These plants are from seeds given to me by the Development Department of St. Maragaret's Episcopal School where my children graduated.

I have a smaller sunflower growing which is part of The great Sunflower Project. It is much smaller and the only seed which germinated of the 20 or so seeds I planted. Once the flowers appear, I will collect data for a bee project, noting how many bees visit the flower head over a 30 minute period. I hope it hurries and grows. I want my data to be part of the project.

English Cucumber

One variety of cucumber in my garden this summer is the English cucumber. These cucumbers grow long and lean. They are sometimes described as being "burpless." Additionally, they tend to have smaller seeds.


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