There’s something about having unexpected plants in our garden that tickles me. I like having things tucked in and flourishing that seem totally at odds with our region. I like surprises. I like a little dissonance. These tough hardy cactus plants more than fit the bill:
One of our first purchases the first time we attended our town’s garden club plant sale, I must admit that I don’t know much about this plant. I don’t know what it is beyond being a cactus. I don’t know the scientific name of the variety. I don’t even know a regional name for it.
I only know that the lady who had donated them to the sale insisted that they were easy to grow and hardy in our region. She advised us to just sort of throw it down on the dirt in a likely spot (a likely spot being a sunny one) and promised that the cactus would take care of the rest. My husband and I were intrigued. It sounded…ridiculous. She sort of came across like the garden club version of the flim-flam guy with the magic beans in Jack and the Beanstalk. Even though we believed that the first winter would absolutely kill it, for $0.25 we figured we’d humor her.
And, much like the bean guy in the fairy-tale, she turned out to be telling the truth. Growing this cactus took absolutely no skill or effort on our part. We dropped the original in the dirt in a sunny spot. Full stop.
It did the rest. This cactus has multiplied and spread a fair amount in the last 5 years or so. It graces us with glorious, desert-style blooms every summer. The bees LOVE it. And I love having an unexpected bit of Death Valley in our garden. $0.25 well spent. Sorry for doubting you, Cactus Lady!
My husband surprised me a few weeks ago by giving me my birthday gift early this year. He found and planted a lovely tricolor beech tree in our garden! I have been dreaming of adding one of these trees to our garden for several years. Although we’ve come across a few at the special plant sales we haunt, none of them looked like they were in good enough condition to purchase: they were all very small and spindly, with poor color, and a few of them were grafted specimens that looked pretty dodgy. And they were quite pricey, even though they all appeared to be on death’s door. Combine all of that with how slow-growing they are purported to be, and? Well. I’d pet the tree for a bit and pass on it, every time. Regretfully. None of them was the right one. Then?Just right! He found a lovely specimen and got it for our yard. He even magically found a roomy enough spot for it by revising some of his original ideas for part of the garden. I’m so excited. I hope it takes.
After an extra long workweek that kind of kicked my rear, it was extra nice to relax with my husband on our deck last night. The weather was perfect and I snapped a few pictures of him and some of our dogs enjoying those mellow-golden near-dusk moments. (And doesn’t our garden look lush???) Pretty much heaven on earth. Go have a great Sunday!
Our garden is looking rather magnificent. How lucky to have a spring with rain! One shrub that is currently in its full glory is our variegated mock orange. The petals on the flowers are so white they are nearly literally blinding and the bush is just bursting with them!Mock oranges are known for their scent. I find ours interestingly elusive. If I stick my nose right in the blossoms to smell, I don’t smell much of anything. But when I’m standing nearby-ish I’ll suddenly be surrounded by the scent. It reminds me pleasingly of crushed sweet tarts. Ours is supposed to be a variegated variety. Some of the leaves show some variegation, but honestly not that much overall. But it is well worth the space in the garden when this old-fashioned beauty is blooming. Wonderful!
Summer is on the way! My husband was inspired to make some fresh lemonade today. He used this recipe as his taking-off point: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_lemonade/. He followed the suggestion to use the lower amount of sugar listed in the recipe and he added one lime. Then he muddled about 8 leaves of holy basil, a variety of basil from India (Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as tulsi or tulasi) from our garden and added that to the lemon/lime juice. After chilling the completed mix in the fridge for a little bit, it was ready to drink.
Having a profound sweet tooth, I was a little sceptical about how lemonade would taste when made with less sugar, even though I liked the idea of cutting it. My verdict? Didn’t miss it at all. I would actually like to try cutting the amount of sugar down even more next time. Adding the basil really helped, I think. It was subtle, but it cut the tartness of the lemon in a nice way– it smoothed things out just a little.
My husband used this nifty little vintage Juice-O-Mat of ours to juice the citrus. We picked it up somewhere along the way several years ago, either at an auction or perhaps at a garage sale. Frankly, we got it primarily for its good looks –and because it was a deal. It sat on a shelf for quite some– until today. I’m happy to say that beauty runs bone-deep for our little Juice-O-Mat. Not only is it good-looking, it is also well-designed. It was so easy to use! (Although this was my husband’s project, I did assist with harvesting the lemon juice.) No strain at all and it was very efficient at squeezing every last drop out of the lemons and limes. Now that we’ve given it a try, I suspect that we’ll be using it quite a lot from here forward. Nothing tastes as good as fresh does. Plus, I really value being able to control how much sugar is in my drink.Next time we’re thinking it would be fun to muddle some fresh mint in place of the holy basil. Can’t wait to try it. Until then? Cheers!
Given that winter can seem so long, I have become a bigger and bigger fan of trees with interesting barks the longer I garden. I love exfoliating barks, like that of a river birch, and I love muscular, colorful barks, like you find on a lacebark pine or a Japanese Stewartia. I also love craggley, deeply furrowed barks. Like this beauty we saw at Dawes Arboretum:
Bark of a common persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana)
Isn’t that just something? Nevermind that this native tree produces delicious sweet fruits or that the wood is very strong –I could see planting it just for that wonderful, primordial, alligator-skin bark. Doesn’t it seem like it would be completely feasible to see a dinosaur come strolling by this tree?
Check out the picture my husband took of me taking a picture of one of the persimmon trees- I love how my braid looks lined up with the bark!
Although, come to think of it, I had some persimmon pie once and it was pretty heavenly. So not just for the bark. If only I had room in my yard! I would plant some persimmon trees. And you do need to plant ‘some’ to get fruit from these trees. Some trees bear male flowers while others have female flowers. One tree won’t have both. So to properly pollinate and end up with fruit, you need a few of these trees. And they want to get rather tall.
Which brings me to a little wish to the lottery gods…a sizable chunk of land adjacent to Dawes Arboretum is for sale by owner. We saw the signs while driving on the motor loop. Wouldn’t it be beyond wonderful to buy that land and turn it into an arboretum west? I’d donate it to the arboretum when I died, but I’d sure enjoy planting a bunch of trees on it while I lived!
I know exactly what I’d do first if I had a winning lottery ticket…!
The Buckeye is a symbol of the state of Ohio. The nut from the Buckeye tree, also called a buckeye, is even the mascot for the Ohio State University. (I can’t imagine many other schools choosing to be represented by a toxic nut!) No surprise, then, that the Chadwick Arboretum has several spectacular Buckeye trees in their collection.
Dawes Arboretum also has an amazing collection of Ohio Buckeyes (Aesculus glabra), Buckeyes (Aesculus pavia), Bottlebrush Buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) and Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) trees. The Buckeyes and Horse-Chestnuts look quite similar, but the Horse-Chestnut is a European native. The Buckeye is native to North America. Both are pretty spectacular when in bloom. The blooms persist for a few weeks…take a look at few!
Aesculus pavia ‘Ohio State Scarlet’, Ohio State Scarlet Buckeye in Chadwick Arboretum
blossoms on the Ohio State Scarlet Buckeye
Blooming buckeyes and horse-chestnuts at Dawes Arboretum.
A ruby red horse-chestnut blooms in the foreground.
Close-up of the blooms on the ruby red horse-chestnut (Aesculus x carnea ‘Briotii’)
I find myself especially drawn to the ruby red horse-chestnut. The individual blossoms almost look orchid-like to me. Alas, they get much too large to have one in our garden. But Buckeyes tend to be smaller, so I’m hoping that we’ll be able to squeeze one in somewhere! For now, I’ll have to content myself with visiting some of the spectacular specimens in our area.