July 15, 2011

Hosta Luego Baby!

At the time we built our home twenty-three years ago, we had been breeding and showing Longhaired Dachshunds for about ten years.  We also had two small children, Drew and Mary Kathryn who were ages 8 and 4 at the time.  We had been very successful showing our dogs but decided raising our kids was more important than finishing another champion, so we hung up our leashes and retired our remaining dogs to just being our pets. Having quite a few dogs when we moved in, it was decided that the back yard would belong to the dogs until their time had passed.  As the number of Dachshunds dwindled over the years they were replaced by our son's Rhodesian Ridgeback 'Jade', our daughter's Rat Terrier 'Susie', 'Duncan' the rescue smooth mini Dachshund,  'Boomer' the rescue Rhodesian and 'Belle' my dad's "Dingo looking dog" I inherited when he passed away.

Belle, Jade, Boomer and Duncan 


The backyard is heavily wooded with some large hardwoods and unfortunately some equally large pine trees. I attempted to introduce some new plants in the landscape that would do well under the canopy such as hydrangeas, acubas, hostas, and a few other shade loving plants. Jade and Boomer decided that I had planted them for their own personal use and they pulled up and ate everything I planted in their domain. After several failed attempts I finally threw up my hands and cried uncle.  Two years ago at age 12 we had to put Jade down due to cancer and recently we bid Boomer farewell at age 13. The three remaining dogs, Belle, Duncan, and Susie who are 10, 17, and 8  do not share the herbivore/beaver palate of their departed friends.  I am sad that Jade and Boomer are no longer with us, but after twenty-three years of patiently waiting, " I can now start developing the backyard".

"The Final Frontier"

The backyard is 77x77 or 5929 square feet. It gently slopes away from the house and as I mentioned heavily wooded.  I plan on removing some of the smaller saplings and trees and possibly the large pines and replacing with Japanese Maples, hydrangeas, and lots of hostas.  Recently I went on a "hosta insanity"  buying spree and obtained 24 new hostas from the "Hosta Farm" that had a clearance sale going on at prices I couldn't refuse for some really great varieties. I think the average price was around
$ 5.17 each. 

I received the plants nicely packaged  and labeled in plastic bags and wrapped in newspaper.  I did receive 3 or 4 bare root plants that had really nice root systems. I immediately potted them up and have been nursing them on the deck for the past couple of weeks. The bare rooted ones have already put out new growth. The varieties include: 'Blue Mouse Ears', 'Big Daddy', 'Captain Kirk', 'First Frost', 'Golden Tiara', 'August Moon', 'Rainforest Sunrise', 'Earth Angel', 'Vulcan', 'Praying Hands', 'Maui Buttercups', 'American Sweetheart', 'Allen P. McConell', 'Blue Angel', 'Brother Stefan', 'Sagae', 'Yankee Blue', 'Queen of the Seas', 'Pineapple Upside Down Cake', 'Komodo Dragon', 'Touch of Class', 'Orange Marmalade', 'Empress Wu' and 'Thunderbolt'. 

I am looking forward to incorporating the hostas into the backyard in addition to the other plants mentioned earlier. I have already bought four "Snowflake Hydrangeas" that will be prominent in the new development.  I am also planning a new water feature in the coming year to include Koi.  

I can't wait for these hostas to mature and become part of the new landscape. Until then, "Hosta Luego Baby".

July 6, 2011

"Play it again Sam"

It's time again for one of my favorite oriental lilies "Casa blanca" whose name also brings to mind one of favorite movies of the same name. This lily has one of the most beautiful fragrances . It is much stronger and more pleasant than any of the other oriental lilies in my experience.  The flowers are big and beautiful and really stand out in the garden.  The only negative aspect of this lily is it's short blooming period which is common with most oriental lilies.

Botanical name: Lilium Casa Blanca

Attributes:  A fragrant, large Oriental hybrid lily that is easy to grow and tolerant of summer heat. It is a hardy perennial bulb that can be grown outdoors in zones 4-8(Peninsula Zone 7) and is very disease-resistant. Casa Blanca lilies usually grow 3 to 4 feet tall and hold up well without staking.  (Mine were reaching for the sun so I had to stake them.)  I think I will move them to a full sun location before next season.

 My other favorite oriental lily is the "Stargazer " oriental lily. While not as fragrant as the Casa Blanca in my opinion, it is still a truly beautiful lily and a great addition to any garden.

From the garden:

I am really bummed about my tomatoes. It appears that wilt is rampant in all my SWC's (self watering containers) which has me somewhat mystified. Typically wilt in tomatoes is caused by lack of water or by vascular wilts Verticillium and Fusarium  which are caused by soil-borne fungi that invade the tomato plants through injured roots. The fungi then spreads into the water-conducting tissue in the stem and blocks the flow of water to the foliage. Foliage of the affected plants turn yellow, then wilts and dies. I'm mystified because with the SWC the water should be consistently wicked to the root system of the plant. Secondly, the soil in the containers was garden and flower soil bought at Lowe's, so I would imagine that it would not contain any fungi.  I am resolved that the container tomatoes are a lost cause at least for this year until I can figure out what I did wrong. What tomatoes I harvested were very good, I'm just not happy with the production.  I still have quite a few tomatoes in the garden that are doing ok without any signs of wilt but are already about four feet tall and kind of spindly in my opinion and are just now starting to set flower. I have a soaker hose that I use to water them and usually water them 1-2 times a week as needed. I am concerned that they may not be getting enough hours of sunlight.  Anyway, live and learn. Thus are the woes of a farmer.

I have been harvesting the "Rattlesnake Pole Beans" the past couple of weeks and they are delicious in addition to the red okra which although limited in quantity is still very good.

The eggplants are doing well in the SWC's .

Finally, meet the newest addition to the family. "Thumbs" She is a polydactyl kitty with six toes  on both front feet.  Looking at the pictures you can see how she got her name.

July 3, 2011

"As American as Tomato Pie"

The first time someone asked me if I had ever had tomato pie, I thought they were kidding. Who in their right mind would ever think of putting tomatoes in a pie?  I must admit the thought of a tomato pie seemed repugnant and I'm sure my facial expression further confirmed that "this shall never pass my lips". However, my wife can be very convincing at times and finally persuaded me to just try " a brownie bite" a ploy often used on our kids to get them to try something new. I could not believe how something so terrible sounding could be so good. If you like tomato sandwiches (which I do) then you are going to love this pie. It is ridiculously simple to put together and only takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.
                                                                       Tomato Pie

Use a regular deep dish (9 in) pie crust. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes, let cool.

While crust is cooling, peel and slice several tomatoes and place on paper towels to absorb moisture.

Add tomatoes to cooled crust along with sliced (or diced) onion (Vadalia works great) if you want. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sweet basil. Sprinkle a little regular flour to absorb moisture.
Continue layering tomatoes......

Mix 3/4 cup of mayo, 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese of choice (we like sharp cheddar). Spread
on top of tomatoes.

Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until brown.