Flowery Prose link-a-thon – December 2012.

A combination of time-crunch and my exceeding talent (?) for procrastination means my inbox is perpetually stuffed to the brim with e-mails (not chocolate, unfortunately – that would be SWEET!).   Although I don’t always get around to reading everything as expeditiously as I would like, over the past few months I’ve been collecting links to some excellent “flowery” blog entries and articles that I thought I would share with you now.  So grab some Christmas cookies and eggnog and enjoy!

  • Read all about cattails and their fascinating uses at Garden’s Eye View.
  • The chalara dieback of ash trees in Europe is the focus of this article in Veg Plotting.
  • Take a look at the beautiful Sekkan Sugi Japanese Cedar, showcased by RainyLeaf.
  • Check out how to force spring bulbs indoors at Growing Grace Farm.  These are really timely tips – you can set this up now!
  • The Sproutling Writes offers a HILARIOUS quiz – take it to find out what kind of gardener you are!  (I’m a “Dreamer”!).
  • Do you know what tonka beans are?  (I didn’t!).  Read about them and find a delicious recipe to use them in at Words and Herbs.
  • Garden In a City’s humorous look at the difference between a drupe and a berry is spot-on!  Don’t miss this one!
  • Do you think garden centres and nurseries should offer guarantees on the plants they sell?  Consider the perspectives at Whole Life Gardening.
  • If you are planning to plant trees in the near future, read up on Kew’s Top Tips for Tree Care.
  • Are you interested in growing sprouts?  Try this method for starting rye sprouts from Addicted to Veggies.
  • Some interesting tests are being conducted using corncob grit and compressed air as a “sandblasting” method of weed control – read about it here.
  • I love the perfect geometric patterning of the flowers of Callicarpa pilossisima (beautyberries) – this is something you don’t see very often!  Take a look at this UBC Botany Photo of the Day link.

Recipe: Pickled horseradish.

Like coriander or capers, horseradish root packs a flavor that divides taste buds – you either like it or you don’t.

I happen to be one of those who love the hot, spicy kick, but only in very small amounts. As my hubby absolutely loathes horseradish, it’s not really worth it to grow it just for myself.

It’s probably just as well, as this very cold hardy (to zone 2) perennial has the potential to spread like crazy in the garden. Horseradish needs just a tiny segment of buried root to form new plants. You can check the progress of aggressive plants by completely removing the roots for harvest in autumn. Apparently, it’s a far better idea to grow horseradish in containers – but they have to be very deep and large to accommodate each plant’s large taproot.

Horseradish is one of the most low-maintenance members of the family Brassicaceae, which includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Once established, there’s no need to water horseradish unless there is a long period of drought, and no applications of fertilizer are necessary. Give plants a full sun location and they should perform mightily. Just watch out for cabbage worms, a common Brassicaceae pest.

Horseradish root

We recently received a fairly sizeable (and not terribly photogenic) chunk of horseradish root as part of our bi-weekly CSA share, and I was initially flummoxed as to what to do with it all! It’s not recommended to freeze whole pieces, so after gifting a couple of slices to some horseradish-loving co-workers, I set out to pickle my leftovers. Here’s how I did it:

Pickled Horseradish

(Don’t be alarmed by the lack of measurements in this recipe! There are only three ingredients, and the measurements depend on how much horseradish root you use).

Horseradish root
White vinegar
Salt

Peel the horseradish root. Grate root into a small bowl. If you are using a hand grater, try not to breathe in the fumes from the freshly-grated root. (The experience is a million times worse than slicing onions!). You can make the job a little less odoriferous by slicing the root into 3” chunks and throwing them in the blender. Make sure the lid is in place, then pulse on grate a few times until the root is finely shredded.

Remove the grated root from the blender jar, and place in a small bowl. Pour over enough vinegar to just cover the grated root. (It shouldn’t be floating!). Add a pinch of salt. Then set the bowl aside, uncovered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Carefully strain the grated horseradish through a fine sieve, reserving all of the vinegar in a separate bowl. Get out the blender again, and scrape all of the root into the jar. Add half of the reserved vinegar to the root in the blender and secure the lid in place. Pulse on puree until the root and vinegar mixture resembles a thick paste. If you need to add more vinegar, go ahead, but don’t make the mixture too runny (unless you like it that way). I left my sauce a bit on the chunky side – that’s okay, too. If you want to add a bit of salt, do so to taste. Transfer the prepared horseradish sauce into a clean Mason jar, and seal. There’s no need to process this sauce in a canner – but make sure you refrigerate it. It will keep for 2 months. Horseradish sauce is traditionally used on roasted beef, but you can also add a smidgen to fresh green salads or alongside other condiments on hotdogs, hamburgers, or tofu patties.

Horseradish FP2

Are you a fan of horseradish?  What is your favourite way to eat it?  Have you ever grown it in your garden? 

Book review: The Northern Gardener.

The Northern Gardener:  Perennials That Survive and Thrive – Barbara Rayment (2012, Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd., British Columbia)

Barbara Rayment says it all in her dedication:  this book is for any gardener whose little patch of earth is afflicted with

short growing seasons, poor soil, untimely frosts, drought, windstorms, rainstorms, (and) hailstorms….

Yep, count me in – here in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, my garden has all of those “symptoms” at one time or another during any given year.  (I say “year” when I really mean “the two months we can actually produce any sort of flower or veggie crops.”  I joke, but just barely).  And I’m big on perennials, so to say this book is right up my alley is a mild understatement.  The Northern Gardener is the go-to reference we cold climate gardeners should all have at hand as we peruse the seed catalogues and glossy gardening magazines this winter, looking for the best plants to grow next spring.  I sure wish it had been written when I was working in the garden centre years ago – it would have been a massive help!

The Northern Gardener is divided by “habitat,” not according to plant family or colour or any other category.  Rain garden, herb garden, pond and water, prairie, woodland, rockery…they’re all here and more.  Rayment offers up planting tips and cultural maintenance for each habitat and gives examples and photos of each.  Then she follows it all up with an “A to Z” listing of perennials for each category – from Achillea to Zizia, it’s all here.  The plant descriptions are short (you won’t find massive detail) but there are hundreds of listings, and small, but beautifully-shot photos for nearly every one.  Peppered throughout the plant listings are panels that further break down concepts such as drainage, mulching, and pest control – and offer separate categories for perennials with clay tolerance, for example, or deer resistance.   This wonderfully comprehensive list is the perfect starting point for more investigative research (or a rush trip to the garden centre to pick up a particularly desireable selection!).  In some northern regions, you still have time to put in perennials, so grab this book, and go shopping!  🙂

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I’m taking part in September’s Garden Book Reviews!  Click on over to Roses and Other Gardening Joys to check out the wonderful reviews by all the participating bloggers!

Garden tour: Silver Springs Botanical Gardens.

If you’re ever in northwest Calgary during the growing season, make the Silver Springs Botanical Gardens a priority stop on your list of places to visit.  I can’t believe I’ve lived a little ways down the road from this gem for years and never got out to experience it until a couple of weeks ago!  A stroll through this 13,000 square feet sequence of flower beds alongside the Crowchild Trail sound barrier is a serious treat.  Adjoined by heavily bark-mulched walking trails and the cool quiet of the two acre 2002 Birthplace Forest, touring the Silver Springs Botanical Gardens is a great relaxing way to spend a sunny afternoon.  I didn’t want to leave!  🙂

Flowery spotlight: Dwarf golden flax.

In the summer of 2005 I purchased a dwarf golden flax (Linum flavum ‘Compactum’) plant in a 10 cm pot from a garden centre.  I was in a blue flax phase (still am, as all the plants I bought then have blithely reseeded themselves everywhere) and I was thrilled by the promise of the bright yellow colour of this new-to-me flax.  I just stuck it in the ground in full sun, up against a wall, near some Salvia x superba and a ‘Confetti Cherry Red’ dianthus.

Fast-forward to summer 2012, and my dwarf golden flax was just LOADED with blooms this year…it’s finally finished now, but the blooming period is long (about six weeks, from mid-June to the end of July/early August).   It’s one of my favourite perennials in the garden, so cheerful and delicate-looking.  It’s a perfect, tidy mound, about 30 cm tall and 45 cm wide.  I never have to do anything with it and yet it performs like a star.  It’s amazingly drought-tolerant (which is great, because I am ghastly at watering regularly).  Dwarf golden flax doesn’t seem to reseed itself in the garden in the mad fashion of blue flax, so I haven’t had any volunteers pop up…to my dismay.  Maybe this year I should finally save some seed!

Are you growing dwarf golden flax? 

Sunday spotlight: Phlox subulata ‘Candy Stripe’.

Drought tolerant plant selections may not be on the top of the lists of Alberta gardeners right now, given the extremely wet weather we’ve been experiencing, but we all know the rain can’t last forever (one more day and I’ll go nutty, I swear!).   Perennial creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) ‘Candy Stripe’ is a lovely rockery plant that would fit in nicely with a xeriscaping design.  This sun lover is a great choice to attract bees and butterflies to the garden – and don’t you think the flowers are just so cute and cheery?  You couldn’t walk past without smiling!  Are you growing any types of phlox (creeping or otherwise) in your garden?  What are your favourite rockery plants?

 

Link to photos of ‘Candy Stripe’ creeping phlox

Sunday spotlight: Basket of gold.

One of my very favourites in the spring garden, perennial Aurinia saxatilis  is a rounded mound of gold bling, giving brilliant colour when other plants are just getting ready to put on their own shows.  Although short-blooming, basket of gold has beautiful grey-green leaves and a tidy, compact habit for a great look throughout the summer and into autumn.  Best of all, I’ve noticed, most critters won’t bug basket of gold (although once I caught a young snowshoe hare taking a snooze in the middle of mine – at least he wasn’t gnawing on it!), and in several seasons, I’ve yet to have problems with diseases of any sort – and that’s in both dry and unusually wet summers.  Easy-care and gorgeous – what more can you ask for?

The name gameAurinia saxatilis is commonly called basket of gold, or more rarely, cloth of gold;  it is also known as goldentuft or perennial alyssum due to it’s former taxonomic placement as Alyssum saxatile.  You’ll still find it listed as Alyssum in some publications.

Cool cultivars:  ‘Citrina’, ‘Summit’, ‘Dudley Nevill Variegated’, ‘Mountain Gold’

Are you growing basket of gold in your garden?

Related articles:  Sunday spotlight:  Mayday.

Sunday spotlight:  Saskatoon.

Sunday spotlight:  ‘White Russian’ supertunia.