Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Creating Treasures for your Garden

Perhaps you've completed all your summer planting or maybe you've just run out of ideas when it comes to things to do with your outside spaces.  I always find myself looking for new ideas to express myself creatively, especially in the outdoors, especially during the summer months.  

Now that June is quickly turning into July, I've gathered some of those intended projects to share.

Revamp those terra cotta pots.  I love planting my herbs in terra cotta, but longed for a deeper, richer color. The generic clay pots just aren't doing it for me any longer.  Wipe your existing pots clean, apply two coats of a brown acrylic plaint to both the interior and exterior colors.  Let the paint dry completely between coats. 

Turn a yard sale find into a work of art.  Pick up an old bench for a couple of dollars, add a little paint and a lot of inspiration, and your favorite spot will become your new favorite seat in the garden.

Garden Signs.  Identify your garden as your own.  Paint your name or a favorite garden saying on a piece of painted wood or a large rock.  Use unique materials to spell out a word.  Hang it on a tree, your gate or a wall, or stake it in the ground. The possibilities are endless.

Garden Plant Markers.  Identify your plants with stones.  Gather some nice sized, smooth stones and paint the names of your plant species on them.  Cute and fun!

Make a simple and inexpensive bird bath.  Use a terra cotta and invert the typical position.  Use Liquid Nail to secure the top of the birdbath.  If you'd like, you can paint it as we described in our first craft.

Give your garden height with an old painted ladder.  If you're lucky enough to find an old ladder, paint it!  Pick a favorite color that compliments your home and landscape, or white wash it for an antique effect, then add part of a ladder or the entire ladder to a spot in your garden that needs height.  Place potted plants on the ladder steps and you've got a one of a kind plant stand.

Get inspired.  Let out your inner artist.  Visit a yard sale and hunt for hidden treasures in everyday items.  Have fun. And let us know what you've come up with.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Cornucopia of Coneflower

Very few flowers can beat the coneflower when it comes to both beauty and ease.  With a long bloom season, great height and a fantastic range of color choices, the coneflower requires minimal care and isn't bothered by pests or disease.  It's easily my favorite garden flower for exactly those reasons.

Although many people immediately think purple when it comes to coneflower, new hybrids are giving gardeners varied color, shape and size choices.  Lesser know by its scientific name, echinacea, the coneflower is a favorite of birds and butterflies and if allowed to seed becomes a favorite treat to certain bird species, especially the goldfinch.  

It's impossible to pick a favorite variety, but easy to admire them all.

Bravado Purple Coneflower.  Grows 4 feet tall with 4 to 5 inch blooms.  

Fragrant Angel Coneflower.  Five inch wide blooms with orange centers.

Green Envy Coneflower.  Mauve-purple flowers with petals tipped in lime green.  

Harvest Moon Coneflower.  Bright orange-yellow flowers with a deep orange center.

Magnus Purple Coneflower.  Bright rose petals with brownish-red centers.

Mango Meadowbrite Coneflower.  Bright orange petals with dark centers.

Pale Purple Coneflower.  Pale pink petals surround a tall, orange cone (center).

Tiki Torch Coneflower.  Bright orange, fragrant flowers that bloom into fall.

After Midnight.  Dwarf variety with deep magenta blooms and a dark black cone.

Fatal Attraction.  Purple Pink flowers with a double layer of petals.

Summer Sun.  Red orange flowers that turn golden orange.

Tomato Soup.  Bright tomato colored blooms.

Milkshake.  Double white flowers.

Pica Bella. Watermelon colored blooms.

Hot Papaya.  Papaya colored blooms with pom-pom centers.

Meringue.  Double white with pom-pom centers.

Vintage Wine.  Very intense, raspberry blooms.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Vivid Vincas

One of my favorite flowers for easy, annual color is the vinca.  It can handle full sun, can tolerate a little drought, comes in a huge variety of colors, grows quickly, fills out nicely, and doesn't get leggy. A vinca will pretty much tolerate whatever conditions you give it.  The leaves will stay bright and glossy and the flowers will keep on coming.  How can you not love it?

New varieties show up all the time, with such variety that there's sure to be one that (or two or three) to complete your color palette.  To help you decide, I've decided to showcase several of them today.

Cascade Magenta

Cascade Peach

Cascade Cherry

Jaio Dark Red

Mediterranean Deep Rose

Pacifico Burgundy Halo

Pacifica Punch

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in White

Tropical Rose


Cora Burgundy

Cora Deep Lavender

Cora Polka Dot

Heatwave Blue

Santa Fe

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spectacular Summer Sandwiches

Hot.  Humid.  Time for dinner?  Does anyone really want to heat up the kitchen?  Of course not!  That's why sandwiches have super special spot when it comes to summer meals.  There are literally thousands of sandwiches and even more variations of each, and nothing says summer like the taste of a delicious sandwich made from the harvest of your own garden.  And if your garden didn't produce this year, then there's always a farmer's market close by that offers locally grown, fresh produce.

Of course we have our favorites, but we also have some adventurous inventions that make a cool departure from the old standards.  

The sandwich!  It is definitely a life saver on super hot, 95 degree today!

Our all time favorite summer sandwich is the BLT.  The classic version.  Bacon, lettuce, slices of a juicy red tomato picked right off the vine liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper,  with Duke's mayonnaise generously spread on toasted slices of white bread.  Hungry yet?

Basil Tomato Sandwiches.  Spread some slices of ciabatta bread with some cream cheese or a couple of slices of fresh mozzarella, add some basil leaves picked from your herb garden, top with some fresh tomato slices.  If you'd like, you can lightly grill the tomato slices and drizzle them with a little olive oil.  Quick, easy, super flavorful.

If you love summer squash as much as I do, then this Squash Sandwich will quickly become a favorite.  All you need is yellow, green or a mixture of both squashes.    Cut the squash into long thin strips and combine with sliced onion.  Saute in olive oil for three or four minutes.  Add a couple of slices of Monterey Jack cheese to pan and stir until just melted.  To give it a true Southwestern take, add some freshly shucked corn into the mixture.  Place on your favorite toasted bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and be prepared to fall in love.

Cucumber Sandwiches with Dill are cool, refreshing, low calorie AND tasty!  The perfect summer shape up food.  Make a mixture of cream cheese, mayo, salt & pepper.  Gently spread on bead, top with cucumber slices and sprinkle with fresh, chopped dill.  They're even better made ahead and chilled for a couple of hours.

Ever try a Chicago-Style Pepper and Egg Sandwich?  Those green  peppers you have growing in your garden will give you the opportunity to try it out.  Chop a couple of green peppers and saute them in olive oil until tender.  Add a couple of beaten eggs into the pan and scramble.  Add salt and pepper and place on Italian style sub rolls.

Strawberry Peanut Butter Sandwich.  Who needs jam when you have strawberries around?  Slice strawberries and place one slice of bread, spread the other side with your favorite peanut butter.

Is there a summer sandwich recipe you love?  Share your favorite in our comments section.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tiny Treasures

Far too often I am like so many other gardeners and focus on the big impact plants, forgetting about those tiny beauties that can add incredible interest to your landscape.  Whether you use them as a ribbon of color along a border or a surprise treat that visitors stumble upon in some of the more remote spots of your landscape, their beauty offers your senses a visual and often fragrant delight.  Don't forget about these tiny treasures.  I have my favorites, hopefully some of them will become your favorites, as well.

China Blue Fumewort.  This one grows between 6 to 8 inches, and produces tiny, true blue flowers.  It has a lovely fragrance and enjoys the cooler areas of your yard.  A woodland perennial,  the flowers form in clusters.

Rokey's Purple Aubrieta.  A small cottage garden flower that works well in rock gardens or spilling over walls. Spreading to about 6 inches, it enjoys full sun.

Bath's Cheddar Pink (Dianthus).  Lovely pink blooms, this dianthus is a classic in rock gardens or cottage garden borders, and typically grows around 6 inches.

Dalmation Bellflower.  A neat, attractive groundcover that grows 4 to 8 inches tall.

Glowing Magenta Evening Primrose.  Loves the sun, thrives with good drainage and grows to a height of about 6 inches.  Its great color makes it a welcome addition to any garden.  

Red Mountain Ice Plant.  Loves the heat, is drought tolerant, blooms to early fall and only grows 4 inches tall.  

Little Treasure Rock Cress.  The name says it all, and the abundance of pink blossoms that grow between 4 to 6 inches tall make it perfect for both rock gardens and borders.

Black Magic Violet.  With its black flowers dotted with a golden center, this unique flower will pair well with a plant with lighter foliage.  While it can tolerate the full sun, it does prefer shade.

These are just a few of our favorites.  Try one in your garden.