Friday, December 23, 2011

Tipsy Chai Toddy

Tipsy Chai Toddy

Spice mix:
Dash cinnamon
7-8 cardamom pods
3-4 star anise pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
8 oz water
(You may substitute 1 Tbsp of loose-leaf Chai for the spice mix)

Tea infuser
1 Tbsp loose-leaf black tea such as English Breakfast

1-2 oz aged rum
1 tsp honey
Lemon juice

Twist of lemon and cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine the spices with water in a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil for a strong decoction. Once boiling, remove cover and lower heat to simmer. Fill tea infuser with loose-leaf black tea and steep in pot for about 4 mins. Remove the tea infuser and simmer for 7 more mins. Strain the spiced decoction into your favorite mug. Add rum (if you haven’t already drank it by now), honey and a squirt of lemon stirring with cinnamon stick. If you want to get fancy, garnish with a lemon twist. Tip back and enjoy!

Single serving

Warm wishes, Christmas cheer, and a merry new year to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Going Native: Joe Pye Weed

Even though the holidays are only days away and I have a long list of things to do, here I am dreaming of Spring and planning changes for my garden ... you are too, aren't you?

Well, if there was one native plant I had to choose or recommend as a nectar source for pollinators, my choice would be Joe Pye Weed. If you do not have this beautiful American native and can grow it near you, be sure to include it in your plans. I have two patches started in two different areas of my garden. The minute Joe Pye comes into bloom, it is covered in bees, flies, butterflies, and even hummingbirds.

There are many varieties of Joe Pye to choose from. I am growing Eupatorium purp. maculatum Gateway, a cultivar which I purchased from Bluestone Perennials. It is so far, the tallest Joe Pye I have in my garden. This fall I discovered a few volunteers and have moved them into other areas of my garden.

Eupatorium Gateway
White Admiral Butterfly on Eupatorium Gateway

I am also growing Eupatorium maculatum or Spotted Joe Pye Weed, a true native I purchased from Prairie Moon.

Eupatorium maculatum
Monarch Butterfly on Eupatorium maculatum

A native choice for more shaded areas would be Eupatorium purpureum or Sweet Joe Pye Weed (which I have just added to my wish list for the north side of our garage/workshop). Its blooms have a vanilla scent and Prairie Moon notes that Native Americans used this plant to cure fevers.

I am also growing Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate,' or Snakeroot. Its leaves are burgundy and its blooms white. It blooms much later in the fall.

Just a note that on Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflowercenter site, the Joe Pye Weeds have been assigned to the genus Eupatoriadelphus to separate them from the Bonesets (Eupatorium). Some sources still refer to Joe Pye species as Eupatorium. The genus Eupatoriadelphus differs from the genus Eupatorium by whorled leaves, while Eupatorium has opposite leaves. I find that the blooms of either genus attract many pollinators. 

If you like merry butterflies, try growing a variety of Eupatorium, or Eupatoriadelphus. Maybe more than one?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What's Blooming

Here I am in zone 4 and believe it or not, I have blooms in the garden! Outside today the wind is howling, huffing, puffing and what sounds like, blowing our house down. The skies are slashing us with rain, maybe sleet, but I dared to step out on the front porch for a quick shot of our native Coral Honeysuckle. Hey, it's blooming in December and deserves to be seen crappy photo or not. Calendula is also still blooming in the garden but I am not venturing that far today and heck, the Calendula will probably bloom right through winter snow and all.

It's red and the grass is, ah, green. I suppose appropriate for Christmas, though we are used to white. Another red and green scheme, the white-winged bloom of this peace lily that seems to practically glow against the red wall by the dim light of the windows. A shot up close reveals more of its delicate details.

And what would a gardener's Christmas be without the blooms of a Christmas Cactus? Here in this tabletop garden, they are just beginning to bloom.

Short and sweet this month. I love the blooms of Pointsettias but can't seem to keep them alive much past Christmas time. I hate to throw them away so didn't purchase one this year. I opted for Paperwhites instead and they should be blooming in time for next month's garden bloggers bloom day, I hope.

Garden bloggers bloom day is hosted each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Stop by and see what's blooming out there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's Growing

I still like to wander outside and stroll through the garden, especially along the paths of the potager even though not much is happening. Today is cold but sunny. I notice the swiss chard has finally wilted but the broccoli rabe still looks edible. Sunflower stalks are still standing for the birds. The little snow we had has mostly melted. The ground is crunchy.

I harvested some of these carrots just last week for a favorite soup. I was able to clip some fresh thyme as well. The strawberries are red and green – colors of the season.

I was sure to plant lots of garlic. This time with space between rows for sowing lettuce come spring. I marked the rows with sticks and whatever I had on hand. Hopefully the garlic will deter any flea beetles from tasting my lettuce next year.

Inside I am trying to keep a few fresh herbs on my kitchen windowsill. This sill receives the best light in the house. So far, parsley, cilantro and basil are still growing. I usually reserve this spot for my two rosemary pots but this year they are on the kitchen table. I love to rub their leaves.

Beside the rosemary I am forcing paperwhites. Dirt still clings to their shoots. I am looking forward to their blooms and heavy fragrance.

I also have some in this fun pot I received as a gift. Hopefully this face will grow long, flowering hair. What a great gift idea for any gardener ... a beautiful pot and paperwhite bulbs.

This winter I hope to try my hand at sprouting – anything fresh. Let's see if sprouts will be on the menu by next month!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Project: Winter Boxes

Each year I arrange my outdoor containers with greens for the holidays and throughout the long days of Winter. This year is no exception.

Once again, I cut the bulk of my greens at our local dump where large limbs of pruned or taken down trees wait to be chipped into mulch. Very inexpensive.

This year I also drew inspiration from the garden. Seed heads of Sunflower, Black Eyed Susan, Sea Holly, and dried Hydrangea blooms add to the arrangements. I also looked to nature. Red Staghorn Sumac, branches, Pine Cones and Milkweed Pods are tucked in among the greenery.

A basket on our new back porch steps. (The greenboard makes for a festive backdrop. Hopefully by next year we will have permanent siding.) An old, twisted root winds its way through this arrangement.

I stick my greens right into dirt and then water them generously. If the dirt is frozen, I bring the containers indoors to defrost. Sometimes an old screwdriver helps to make a "planting hole." This incredibly warm Fall, I did not have to worry.

This year, I placed Summer containers throughout the garden so I also decided to create some Winter containers throughout the garden. The greenery will be welcome once the snow begins to fall.

This basket takes the place of ceramic bird bath tray.

These containers were filled with flowers but now they are green. The birds are enjoying the seed heads.

The window box to the shed.

A cedar box and galvanized tub on the front porch.

The matching baskets on our front steps with Milkweed Pods. If those seeds spread around the neighborhood and Milkweed pops up, oh well, the Monarchs will appreciate them.

I love the fuzzy antler-like stem of the Staghorn Sumac.

A few lighted grapevines, a Hemlock wreath on our front door made by our neighbor, and candle lights in the windows are the extent of my outdoor holiday decor. Inside, I am forcing Paper Whites, something I have not done in years. The anticipation lifts my spirits.

How do you deck your garden for the holidays?


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