Monday, November 28, 2016

Love From Above

This is my Mom's Christmas Cactus...but Mom love Thanksgiving and it always blooms for me on Thanksgiving....I get it Mom.

Much love ....

Friday, November 25, 2016

Some Sage Advice

Yes…it is Sage, but specifically Salvia officials ‘Berggarten’.  I love this sage, the leaves are such a beautiful shape, much more attractive than the sharp pointed narrow leaves of garden sage. Yet, it has just as good as flavor if not better. 
The bright green new growth in the spring gradually fades to a soft downy gray. If this plant is grown in the full sun, the plant can develop a purple hue. What I love about this variety is that it stays much more compact and beautiful. It rarely blooms, so that energy is put back in to the plant and so it stays very handsome longer. My regular garden sage tends to get straggly and I have to cut away back every spring. This variety is just flat out prettier. 
My ‘Berggarten’  is planted in full sun and continues to comfortably spread throughout the garden. 
I trim it often usually about 3 to 4 inches at a time. I use the trimmings for not only culinary but also decorations and drying as well.  Would stop this process early fall, as I feel it can weekend the plant. 
Right now it is still a mass of soft grayish pillows in a winter garden. Try it you will love it. I used it in my homemade turkey stock yesterday as well as my stuffing. Both were packed with flavor. Nothing makes me happier than being able to walk outside and pick fresh herbs, even at this late date, I still have plenty that can be used. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tarragon...but not a True Tarragon

This one was a little tougher…..  it is  Tagetes lucida  or Tarragon, Four Seasons. It is not a true tarragon but a good substitute.  It is also sometimes mistakenly referred to as Mexican Mint Marigold as it is from the same family. I have also heard it referred to as Spanish Tarragon. 

The long narrow bright green leaves have a sweet anise smell and taste. Thus making it a good substitute for French Tarragon. (Artemisia dracunculus).  Since I fail miserably at growing the real tarragon, I have used this as a substitute in many of my fish and chicken recipes that call for tarragon.  It dries nicely so I have substituted it in my blends like Fines Herbes, Herbes de Provence, and Bouquet Garni.  I have not tried to use it in Herb Vinegar, but I will let you know as that is part of my harvest plan for this herb. 

The bright daisy like blossom is adorable but taste like grass, not a great additive to most dishes. It blooms late summer to early fall. It is still blooming proud and strong today in my garden. 

I love the way this plant stands straight up (up to 30’) and spreads out. It is only hardy in zones 8-10, so has to be treated as an annual in my neck of the woods. Mine is in full sun and responded nicely to it’s summer home. It resists drought and likes poor soil. Perhaps that is why it has done well this year.   

Time for me to either bring it in or harvest the leaves. It survived the last light frost last week but I think I am pushing my luck.  My plan for next year is to buy two, put one in the ground and one into a container.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Beautiful Mexico Sage....

Yes…it is Mexican Sage ( Salvia leucantha) and it is blooming in my garden now.  I love the purple and white velvet blossoms.  They resemble  a lavender blossom on steroids. Plus they dry so nicely. Just bundle up a few and hang upside down. I love to use them in wreaths, they add such a great pop of color. 

Here is the low down:
Common Name: Mexican sage, Mexican bush sage
Varieties To Look For: ‘All Purple’
Color: Purple or white flowers, gray-green foliage
Blooming Period: Depending on your location, blooming starts in late August to mid-September and continues to frost. This is November 12th and it is still blooming!!
Type: Tender perennial or warm-weather annual
Size: 2 to 4 feet
Exposure: Full sun …don’t crowd them. 
When to Plant: Mid to late spring
How to Plant: Level with soil surface
Soil: Well-drained, average to rich fertility
Watering: Evenly moist, no wet feet

This plant needs to have a commanding spot in the garden. It will be a show piece in your fall garden and attract hummingbirds and butterflies get the last nip of nectar. 

Thanks to  for the low down info. Now I am heading to the Herb Garden at the Park to cut the Mexican Sage to dry. We are expecting a hard frost tonight and I cannot let the blossoms go….

Monday, October 31, 2016

YES...They are Toad Lilies is my excuse for taking so long to answer the What is it Wednesday Question.....
Visitors over the weekend and who could stay inside and write?

Anyway...this one was no fun! Everyone guessed it correctly. It was Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis hirta)

These first photos are of the common Toad Lily. It is an easy to care for, slow spreading, clump forming perennial

The leaves alternate along many stems about 30" to 36" long and produce an orchid like blooms. These bloom from late summer well into the fall. (They are still blooming now)

The blooms are very intricate and special. They are either white or pale yellow to a pinkish color but the coolest thing are all the spots. Each flower boost hundreds of dark purple to burgundy colored spots.  Get it....the toad part of the name!!

There are several different varieties, all very unique. These little gems like a moist environment with partial shade of full shade.  The leaf damage on the last picture, I believe is due in part to the dry late summer and fall we are currently experiencing.

I have never tried to grow these from seed, but has been one of the easiest shade plants I have grown. I love anything that blooms late.....well worth a try!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Where Cotton is King!!

Yes... So many of you  guessed the correct answer.   The "What is it Wednesday" was cotton.  I had picked up the stem at the Athens Georgia Farmers Market.

Interesting enough this corresponded to a visit to Waco Texas. I am a big fan of  "Fixer Upper" on HGTV and been watching the progress of the Magnolia Farms Store and Silos. So while in Dallas with my husband, I took the opportunity to drive on down.  Wow is this a super place. Plus it seems that they have many fans and the whole area was swamped.  I was struck by the details and the obvious unbelievable level of personal energy Chip and Joanna Gaines have put into this project. All the employees were so friendly and helpful. Here are some photos:

I think the Gaines's style stirs a sense of calm, family and better times. When life was just a bit simpler and we all slowed down more to enjoy each other. It certainly appeals to me. 

Oh yes....back to the cotton. It was everywhere in the decor. 

So if you are anywhere near Waco Texas or not this is a great place to visit. I left feeling very relaxed and excited about the future for a once deserted downtown.  Way to go Gaines!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What is it Wednesday .....the wait is over.

Time to end the suspense ….It is Japanese Perilla or Shiso (Perilla frutecens).  This purple, leafy plant used most commonly in oriental cooking. People often looked at it and think it is Opal Basil or Coleus. But it is not. I must admit, it is very pretty and adds nice color to a garden. 

 However, I do want to attach a very strong warning with this plant. It is definitely invasive. It reseeds readily and will quickly fill a space with pretty purple and green plants and blooms. I actually pull it like weeds and only plant it in a pot. After all it is a member of the mint family. 

Shiso also  known as beefsteak plant or purple mint, is a valuable herb to many and a problematic peak to many other. It is toxic to grazing animals and even deadly to coast, sheep, cattle and horses. 

This plant is defiantly part of the “If You Can’t Beat it, Eat it Family”  Personally, I have not used it culinarily but keep collecting recipes to give it a try.  It must be tasty since it is used in Japan, China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam and South Asia  cuisines. 

So give it a try, if you are adventurous but be ready to weed!!!


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