Homemade Basil-Infused Lemonade

005Summer 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.

003My 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.004Next 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!

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Primordial Texture

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)

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?

I love this picture that 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!

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...! :)

I know exactly what I’d do first if I had a winning lottery ticket…! 🙂

Beautiful Blooming Buckeyes

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

Aesculus pavia ‘Ohio State Scarlet’, Ohio State Scarlet Buckeye in Chadwick Arboretum

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blossoms on the Ohio State Scarlet Buckeye

Blooming buckeyes and horse-chestnuts at Dawes Arboretum.

Blooming buckeyes and horse-chestnuts at Dawes Arboretum.

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A ruby red horse-chestnut blooms in the foreground.

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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.

Current Blooms Bouquet

008Threw together this little bouquet of flowers currently blooming in our garden yesterday morning. Ah, peonies! I love them so much. I actually got two more peony plants at the Dawes sale: one pink and extra fragrant, one a mystery plant that is not quite yet in bloom. The false indigo is also rather spectacular. Must run now and weed a bit before work!

Azalea Glen at Dawes Arboretum

It amazes me how wide a range there can be, year-to-year, in peak bloom time for plants. The Dawes Arboretum plant sale has been held, as far as I can remember, on the third Saturday of May for at least the last 7 years. Some years when we’re there for the sale, we’ve missed the azaleas entirely. Some years, we get to see them at the height of their glory. This year was an example of the latter!

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178175022036Because we’ve been blessed with plenty of rain this spring, things looked lush and wonderful. It was actually raining while we walked around the glen, appreciating the wide sweeps of color and the close-up beauty of individual blossoms. The colors were so intense on some of the plants that they practically seemed to vibrate! The rain ended up giving some of our pictures a weird texture or blur. Small price to pay to see such a spectacular floral display.

If you get out to Dawes you can’t miss the azalea glen. It’s located off of the larger parking lot near the visitor center, and you can see much of it if you drive the auto loop. But to really appreciate all the glen has to offer, I highly recommend parking and walking around. There is just so much beauty to drink in, it’s too much to take in while just driving past.065