Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now...

...Is my 'Bright Star' Yucca. I have three of them in my gravel garden, all doing well so far. At least one is looking so robust, I'm hoping it flowers next summer. I noticed them yesterday when I went out to take photos of my grasses for Wildflower Wednesday (you can read that post here). Purely by luck, I did something right when I planted them. All three seem to like the spots I chose for them. And I always have to keep in mind that they have yet to go through a difficult winter (other than being wet). Although they did get some snow on them last winter, it didn't last long.

Plenty of new growth coming up in the center

With Euphorbia foliage (those tips are very poky)

A couple of blades are looking a little rough!

Doing well amidst the grasses, next to a tall Agastache. This is the only one that is showing signs of the pinkish coloring that Bright Star is known for.

With lamb's ear

This is the one that really caught my eye yesterday -- Look at all those blades!

I hope it flowers next year
According to the Monrovia website, over time it will produce a short, broad trunk, giving it a tree-like appearance. The foliage is evergreen, and in cold temps or when stressed it has a pink cast to it. According to the San Marcos website: "This selection was a vegetative sport that was discovered in 2000 on a plant thought to be Yucca gloriosa by Albert Timothy Crowther at his nursery in Arundel, Great Britain. The sport was removed and rooted and a subsequent selection was made from shoots that emerged the following year with the final selection having a uniform and significant degree of golden variegation throughout the rosette. The plant has since been reproduced in a tissue culture laboratory." Its full name is Yucca gloriosa var. recurvifolia 'Bright Star' or 'Walbristar.'

Reputedly a slow grower, mine have produced many more blades than they had when I planted them last year, soon after the gravel garden was built.

Here are some stats:

Height: 1-2 ft. (3 feet with flowers)
Width: 3-5 ft.
Hardiness: Zone 7-10
Light: Full Sun
Soil: Very well-drained (will die in standing water)

You can buy it online from:

Sooner Plant Farm

The My Favorite Plant in the Garden meme is hosted by Loree at danger garden. Check out her post here, where she is focusing on Mangave 'Macho Mocha.' Other bloggers leave comments with links to their own posts, so be sure and check them out too!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Few Grasses in My Garden on a Wet, Gray Day

Fall is for grasses! I went out in the dampness to see if I could find an interesting plant to focus on for Wildflower Wednesday. There is very little flowering, and it was really hard to find a stand-out plant in the gray morning light. But many of my grasses are named varieties of native grasses, and their whip-like leaves and seedheads that catch the rain did make them stand out.

So, I thought I would focus on my grasses for Wildflower Wednesday. Not all of them are North American natives, but many are.

Native Chasmanthium latifolium/Northern Sea Oats

There are three good-size clumps right at the front of the bed that runs along the south side of my garden, as well as loads of others scattered throughout.

Another native grass, Panicum 'Blood Brothers' in the same bed

The seedheads catch the raindrops, which makes them look like they are dripping with jewels.

'Blood Brothers' has the reddest leaves and stems of any grass I've seen.

Stipa gigantea in the gravel garden on the other side of the driveway droops over a small pot with an Aloe.

Bamboo, technically a grass, but definitely not a North American native, also leans over the same area

Lots and lots of clumps of black mondo grass dotted throughout the edges of the gravel garden

Black mondo grass is an ideal companion for just about anything. Here it is with ornamental oregano

New offsets popping up amidst the hens and chicks

With the very wet lamb's ear, which has rather taken over the gravel garden in spots. I'm not happy with its wet cat look and its aggressive spreading, and I've started removing it.

The sharp bright orange blades of Libertia peregrinans makes a nice corona behind a blue Mexican-style sun face, mixed with more Northern sea oats.

I have three clumps of Sesleria autumnalis/Autumn Moor Grass, a European native

It's got great brown seedheads that arch over other plants in the bed.

Technically not really a grass, Carex elata 'Bowles Golden' works well as a companion to Heuchera

The eyebrow-like seedheads of  Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition,' a named variety of a native Western grass, hang over the lawn

The orange blades of Carex testacea work well with reblooming Spanish lavender. Many sedges are native.

Nasella tenuissimia/Mexican feather grass, a native of southwestern North America with companion plant Agastache

Aren't ornamental grasses great? On this gray rainy day, they make a statement that is so very autumnal.

Check out Wildflower Wednesday on Gail Eichelberger's blog clay and limestone, and see what plants she and other bloggers are writing about today.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Day at the Fair

On Friday, Nigel had a day off work, so we decided to go to the Puyallup Fair, figuring it would be somewhat less crowded on a weekday. It was, and we had a good time. We dispensed with healthy eating for the day, and had some bad-for-us food -- cheese fries and a bacon-wrapped hotdog on a stick for Nigel, and a scone with butter and jam and deep-fried Oreos for me (actually Nigel shared the Oreos with me).

I had to check out the chickens. They're so pretty and sweet.

I just love the feathers, outlined in black.

A black Cochin giving me the eye.

Aren't these fluffy pantaloons just the funniest thing?

Pretty laced feathers.

So adorable!

It was hard to see exactly which end of this Bearded Buff Laced Frizzle was the head. For the chicken I'm sure it was just hard to see.

Look at this handsome guy! There were quite a few roosters of various ages there, practicing their crowing. This one was the quintessential roo, the one you see on all that French crockery.

If some day I ever do get chickens, this is what I want -- Buff Orpingtons. Isn't she a beauty?

For those who are curious about my 40-pound Chicken Challenge, I did reach my 40 pound goal earlier this year, but still haven't gotten chickens. I have a choice of either getting a greenhouse or a chicken coop, and at this point I'd prefer the greenhouse. But I still enjoy looking at them.

After a stroll around the fair, we ended up at one of the small stadiums where they were about to hold a mutton bustin' competition, where kids age 4-7 weighing less than 60 lbs. get to ride sheep and see how long they can hold on.

Boy, this was fun to watch, especially for me -- having grown up as a typical suburban kid, whose primary fall recreation consisted of going into Boston on the subway with my mom to shop for school clothes at Filene's Basement.

I don't know if you can hear the announcer's voice at the very end of the video. He says something like "Look at her, just stepping off." This little girl seemed to be in control the entire time. She knew what she was doing.

Well, that was my fun Friday. I hope you all have fun plans for the weekend.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer Hash and Fall/Winter Hash

Since the beginning of the year I've been trying to eat more vegetables, and less sugary baked goods. One of the ways I've been getting more veggies into my diet has been to eat veggie hash, topped with 2 poached eggs, or sometimes with scrambled eggs on the side, which has become a go-to meal for breakfast/lunch (often when I first get up I'm just not hungry, so I don't eat breakfast till I am hungry, which is often between 10 and noon).

Here's my recipe for summer hash. I've been growing all these veggies in my garden this year. It has been wonderful to just go out there and pick.

Summer Hash

1 small to medium zucchini
1 medium onion
1 carrot (two if they're small)
a couple of celery stalks
1 green or yellow or red pepper
Salt and pepper

Dice the zucchini, onion, celery and pepper, and grate the carrot (I use the food processor for the carrot). Chop everything up once a week, combine it all and store it in the fridge. Throw about a cup of the mixture in a hot frying pan with some ghee (what's ghee?) or olive oil. Saute it till it turns golden, sprinkle with some salt (and pepper if you like pepper, I'm not crazy about it), also some herbs, whichever ones you like. (I like dried oregano and basil, although I've also stirred in a cube of frozen pesto, which is so yummy!)

Serve topped with two poached eggs, cooked with the yolks still a bit runny, which runs all over the veggies like sauce when you cut into them. If I feel like I need a little more fat so the meal will stick with me longer, I add some avocado or bacon, in which case I cook the bacon first, and then the veggies in the bacon fat.

Chopping zucchini, green pepper awaiting the knife

Celery growing in the garden


Walla Walla onion in the garden, whenever I need one I just pull it out of the soil

Carrot grated small in the food processor

The carrot adds some color to all that green, if you use red or yellow pepper, it looks like confetti

Now that fall and winter squash is ripening out there in my garden, I've been alternating those summer veggies with a different hash that uses winter squash and apples. It's got a bit higher sugar content, but it's still veggies, and still really nutritious.

Fall/Winter Hash

1 butternut squash
1 onion
1 Granny Smith apple
Salt and pepper

Peel and dice the squash, then toss it with some salt and melted ghee or olive oil and spread it out in a single layer on a foil-covered sheet pan. Roast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then take the pan out and toss the cubes around a bit so they'll cook evenly. Roast them for another 15 minutes, till the edges have some caramelization on them. Peel and dice the apple and the onion.

Saute 1/4 cup of the onion and all of the apple in a hot pan with some ghee or olive oil, sprinkle with salt (pepper if you like it), and saute till it's cooked and gets some color on it, then add about 1/2 cup of the pre-cooked squash to the pan for just long enough that it heats up. Add your favorite herbs. (Store the rest of the squash and onion in the fridge so you can have this meal again the next day, and the next...)

Serve with a couple of poached eggs, again cooked just long enough so that the white is fully set but the yolk is still runny.

Peeling butternut squash is such a pain.

Half-inch cubes of squash

Butternut squash cubes tossed with melted ghee and salt

Roasted butternut squash

This recipe is also good with Delicata squash, which isn't quite as sweet as butternut, but has the advantage of edible peel. Roast it just like the butternut.

Dig in while it's hot!

Oh, it's good!

Are you trying to get more veggies into your diet? I hope you've enjoyed seeing what I've been eating for breakfast/lunch. If you try these recipes let me know!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Some Shrubs Should Come With a Warning Label

My Rubus lineatus has produced five suckers this year. When I bought it and looked it up online, I don't remember reading anything about it suckering so freely. (In contrast to all the warnings I saw about Tetrapanax, which so far hasn't suckered at all.)

Rubus lineatus in the gravel garden, directly to the left of the gabion pillar

I really should have known, given that it's a Rubus, which means it's a type of bramble/raspberry/blackberry relative. They came up pretty easily, possibly because they're still small. The roots that they were attached to were just under the surface. I potted up the three biggest ones and I'm going to see if maybe I can grow them on in pots and give them away at some point.

Five suckers growing up from the roots in the gravel






It's a wonderfully garden-worthy plant, with its pleated foliage that has a silvery underside. It's supposed to also get raspberry-like berries, but I haven't seen any sign of that yet. It has also proven to be drought-tolerant, because I've only watered it once this summer.

Lovely pleated leaves of Rubus lineatus, with the silvery underside of a new leaf emerging on the left

I'll have to keep on top of it and remember to check every year for more suckers, because I really don't want that bed to fill up with an entire grove of them. And now I'm also worried that pulling them up will stimulate the mother shrub to produce even more, rather like pruning stimulates branch growth. Removing them was painless, but still...finding them was a surprise.