Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall Flush

Of course, nothing can compare with the super abundant lushness of summer roses.  But there is incredible sweetness and romance in the final flush of blooms heading into October and sometimes even November.

Perhaps it is because they are the last soft pinks, yellows, whites and reds we’ll see for several months.  Perhaps it is because they are so few and are surrounded by the falling foliage and dried stalks and seed heads of their companion plants.  And perhaps it is because their fragrance, intensified by the low sun, mingles with all the musty autumn scents and the bees anxiously try to visit each blossom.

The English produce amazing roses and rose-patterned textiles.  Here is David Austin’s ‘Mary Rose’ with Bennison’s Roses (left) and Rosevine (right).  Did the rose inspire the fabrics or vice versa?  What’s interesting is that, while we associate David Austin Roses and Bennison Fabrics with English culture and design, they are both relatively new ventures in the history of English horticulture and fabric manufacture.

David Austin introduced his first rose, ‘Constance Spry’, in 1961 when he was still an amateur breeder.  He was hoping to recreate the full growth, softer colors, rich fragrance and slightly imperfect flowers of old shrub roses… a sharp contrast to Hybrid Tea Roses, which were dominating gardens at the time.  David Austin Roses formed as a business in 1969 and has introduced almost 200 roses since then that they encourage us to grow in the English cottage garden style… intermingled with other shrubs, vines, perennials, annuals and herbs.

Geoffrey Bennison was born in 1921 and worked from the 1940s on… first as an artist, then an antiques dealer and eventually a decorator.  He actually had very few residential clients but his rooms are still famous today for their sumptuousness and luxury.  He appreciated craftsmanship, whether ancient or 20th century, at a time when so many decorative items were being mass produced.  And he encouraged his customers to invest in truly unique pieces… often oversized, slightly distressed or worn or faded, but always constructed out of exquisite materials… ceramic, marble, leather, lacquer, mirror, and of course beautiful textiles.  Bennison Fabrics was established in 1985, after Geoffrey’s death, from his collection of 18th and 19th century French and English fabrics.  All Bennison fabrics are silkscreened by hand, usually on linen or silk, and the wallpapers are printed on handmade paper.

Here is Bennison’s Salzburg in an autumnal palette.
And their Roses, again, but in a not-so-traditional lipstick pink with Rosa ‘Cherry Parfait’.  ‘Cherry Parfait’ always looks a little garish to me at the peak of summer.  But by fall, its blooms seem more mellow.  Is it the light?  Or is the plant literally fading, becoming more quiet, before winter?
There are other English textile designers who draw regular inspiration from roses.  Jane Churchill’s Nerissa could easily have been embroidered from this Portland rose.

And Tricia Guild’s Zephirine, available in fabric and wallpaper from Designers Guild, reminds me of the open, smiling blossoms of Rosa ‘Carefree Wonder’.
All of these fabrics are gorgeous, but they may stretch our budgets beyond comfort.  So I visited Second Yard, a local furniture, fabric and home accessories shop, in search of rose-patterned textiles for under $100 a yard and found… a lot!  They had bolt after bolt of floral fabrics, including one whole section of roses in bronzes, burnished corals, faded yellows and mustards and muted plums and cerises that really made me think of autumn.
They had another whole room devoted to blues and reds where I found the following bolder fabrics.  I’ve always liked these casual, slightly grandmotherly patterns that are literally covered with blowsy blooms.   The patterns hide a multitude of sins, and cotton is easy care.  Can you tell the first fabric is quilted?  Imagine it on a family room sofa or mudroom bench.
What about a slipcovered headboard with lots of white linens in your guest bedroom?
Take a cue from nature… notice how all the green foliage highlights the blossoms’ delicate pink?  Use this traditional dark fabric to line linen drapery panels in pale, pale blush.
All very pretty, right?  But not quite the sophistication of the English fabrics.  So I dug through the cut yardage books and hanging samples at Second Yard to find… the appropriately named Faded Glory by P/Kaufmann.
Mecox Bay by Nautica Robert Allen is a herringbone weave with sepia tones.  I’ve actually used this fabric for throw pillows in a friend’s living room… a single, male friend, in fact.  We were looking for something to soften his very conservative, very dark upholstery and this worked perfectly.  It would look beautiful in a bedroom or home office as well.
Both Kravet and Portfolio Textiles still handle some of the older Laura Ashley patterns, including this lovely rose floral called Santorini (Pattern LA1337).  I especially like it in salmon (Color 1619), but it also comes in icier tones.
This amazing wallpaper is Josephine Floral from Schumacher’s Silk Road Sojourn collection.  The overscaled, almost Art Deco motif really captures the architecture of a rose blossom.
Duralee’s Laurelton Collection (Book 2639) includes many beautiful floral designs.  I especially like this one (41994-137), because it reminds me of Rosa ‘Johann Strauss’ which starts as a soft apricot and fades to almost white.
And finally, I found the charming Confection by Richloom Fabrics Group.  They call this color geranium but it’s really more of a paprika.  I hope I’ve inspired you to plant roses around your garden and house!  And I hope you take a moment to enjoy the roses that are in bloom right now.

Some of these roses were photographed in my own garden.  Many more were taken at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia where they grow over 1,800 roses.  Lewis Ginter is hosting a Rose Fest this weekend, October 1 and 2, from noon until 3 pm, both days.  It’s really the last explosion of rose blooms… at least until next year!  Plus they are offering special demonstrations, rose and rosehip tea tastings, and tango lessons on Saturday and opera performances on Sunday.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is located at 1800 Lakeside Avenue, just north of Richmond, and is easily accessible from Interstates 64 and 95 and downtown Richmond.  The Garden is open 9-5 daily, except for a few holidays.  There is an admission fee.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chrysanthemums at Milmont

A few weekends ago, my friend Eleanor and I went in search of Chrysanthemums.  Our road trip took us “over the mountain” to Milmont Greenhouses and Garden Center.

Milmont has been owned and operated by the Miller family since 1973.  And they are famous for their quality and selection of Chrysanthemums, which they grow in-house.  What might look like pot after pot of sheared Boxwoods are actually well-groomed Chrysanthemums… enjoying the sun and a hazy view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I’ve always loved that deeply lobed, almost feathery, blue-green foliage of so many Chrysanthemums.  The leaves are clustered like flowers themselves.
And then each plant is simply packed with buds that open to reveal a beautifully complex layering of florets.
There is incredible diversity in Chrysanthemum flower, plant shape, blossom color and hardiness, especially in mums bred for bouquets and exhibition.  (The National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes 13 different groups!)  At Milmont, they offer perennial “garden mums”, with daisy-, powder puff- or dahlia-like blooms, which most of us use for seasonal color.  But you can plant these mums directly in your garden beds, and they may perennialize.  Chrysanthemums like full sun or very little shade and rich, well-drained soil.  And they can handle the heat of Indian summer.  It was almost 100 degrees the day we visited.

Milmont sells Chrysanthemums in all sizes.  By now, the plants in these photos will be bursting with color… whites, yellows, dusky pinks, reds, burgundies, purples and magentas, even lavenders and mauves and of course, lots of different oranges, peaches and corals.  All your favorite colors for fall (and replacements in the wings).
Milmont also has a nice selection of perennials, some shrubs, pottery, fountains, garden supplies and over 30,000 square feet of greenhouses full of house plants and annuals.  Their hanging baskets are stunning.
Milmont Greenhouses and Garden Center is located in the Shenandoah Valley on U.S. Highway 340 between Waynesboro and Stuarts Draft.  It is easily accessible from Interstates 64 and 81 and is open Monday through Saturday.  Tomorrow is their annual Customer Appreciation Day with special sales, door prizes, refreshments and activities.  But actually, Milmont is worth the trip on any day and at any time of the year.  Check it out for yourself!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deviled Eggs

In honor of the last day of summer tomorrow, I thought I would make a picnic and barbecue favorite: Deviled Eggs.  This recipe comes from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food.

To be honest, my fella and I are not the healthiest eaters.  So several years ago, I was looking for a way to add greater nutrition to our meals, and I discovered Jessica’s first cookbook.  The recipes are geared to family cooking and include a lot of vegetable (and some fruit) purees that essentially disappear once everything is assembled and cooked.
I’m normally just cooking for the two of us, so I don’t have to puree and “hide” healthy ingredients.  But it is helpful to have everything integrated… it kind of keeps us from over-thinking our food.  For example, steamed zucchini and yellow squash would never be Walter’s first choice as a side dish.  But he loves when I steam or sauté different squashes and add them to a starch like couscous.  I can then serve another vegetable on the side, and our meal includes a lot more vitamins and fiber.

Deviled Eggs comes from the chapter on Mealtime Recipes and reads as follows:

Prep and serve: 25 minutes
Serves 6

6 large eggs
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup cauliflower or carrot puree
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pepper and paprika to taste and for presentation (optional)

Place the eggs in a saucepan and add cold water to cover.  Set the saucepan over high heat, cover, and bring the water to a boil.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat and let stand, still covered, for exactly 15 minutes.  Drain the eggs, cool under cold running water, and peel.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks.  Put three of the yolks in a bowl and discard the rest (or save for another meal).

Add the mayonnaise, vegetable puree, and salt, and mash together with a fork.

Fill each egg half with the yolk mixture.

Jessica’s method of cooking the eggs is truly sure fire.  There is a lot of disagreement about whether you should add salt to the cooking water.  I do, and it seems to simplify the peeling process.

I always use carrots, because they add a lovely sweetness and color to the yolks.  I steam and mash but don’t worry about pureeing them.  My family knows there are carrots in the eggs.  And when I serve them at larger parties, most people think I’ve just used some sort of special eggs to achieve the color.

A couple other changes I make to the recipe:

I don’t use reduced-fat mayonnaise.  I use Duke’s Real Mayonnaise.  Duke’s has that creamy-eggy-vinegary-tangy-taste mayonnaise should have and is the perfect complement to Southern salads.  It’s basically a grocery staple further south but is sometimes difficult to find here in Central Virginia.  Duke’s does make Fat-Free, Light and Cholesterol-Free Mayonnaises, but I figure the recipe only calls for 3 tablespoons or 300 calories and 36 grams of fat over 6 servings.

I also use all the eggs yolks.  I know it makes each egg very full of filling, but isn’t that kind of the point?  Unfortunately, my photos are looking a little sad and don’t really capture how yummy… to the eyes and the taste buds… these eggs are.

I usually sprinkle the finished eggs with pepper instead of salt or paprika, but I don’t see why you couldn’t dress the eggs with garlic or celery salt, hot sauce or capers.  And if you’re serving them to an adventurous crowd, why not try adding dill or horseradish or even a little wasabi to the mix?  Experiment!  And make these eggs whenever you want a taste of summer.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Agastache and Others

As promised, here are a few plant names that are somewhat difficult to pronounce.  And… clues to help you remember their pronunciations.

I regularly use common plant names in conversation.  It would be obnoxious to do otherwise.  I call Daylily, Daylily, not Hemerocallis.  And Boxwood is Boxwood, not Buxus sempevirens.  But it’s important to know and understand a plant’s Latin name when we are shopping and seeking information.  So, I might mention to a friend, “our Serviceberry is blooming”.  But if she wanted one just like mine, I would direct her to Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’.

So, let’s get started with Agastache
As in…
aga                                         (the upscale stove company)
STACK                                    (that’s a large stack of papers)
ee                                          (the tail end of wee).
The emphasis is on STACK.
You could also think of it as…
aga                                         (the beginning of Agatha Christie)
STACKy                                  (“that’s so tacky” if you run the words together).
Agastache is mostly native to North America.  It is commonly known as Hyssop, Anise, Anise Hyssop, Licorice Mint or Hummingbird Mint and has gained popularity for its drought tolerance, late summer blooms and ability to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Most plants found at garden centers are varieties of Agastache cana, A. foeniculum or A. rupestris.

FYI, Hyssopus officinalis, (hi-SO-pus   oh-fish-eh-NAH-lis), which is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, is also commonly called Hyssop.  It is distantly related to Agastache.

I planted two Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ last year.  Then we suffered through the hottest summer on record, followed by a very early and cold winter, and the plants struggled.  I thought they were both goners, but one of them rebounded and has actually spread.  Hopefully by next year, I can divide it and place it strategically around the garden.

As in…
bap                                        (like rap with a b)
TIZ                                         (and Liz with a T)
ee-ah                                     (the end of Bolivia or Ethiopia).
The emphasis is on TIZ.

Baptisia is also native to North America.  It is commonly known as Wild Indigo or False Indigo, because it was adopted by European settlers as a replacement dye when actual Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) was too expensive or difficult to find.  Most varieties do have purple-blue flowers, but some have white or yellow.  They can often reach 3’-4’ in the garden, and gardeners in hot, dry areas appreciate the perennial’s Lupine-like flowers and dark seedpods (some people even call them Redneck Lupines).  Plants found at garden centers are usually cultivars of Baptisia australis, B. sphaerocarpa or B. alba.
FYI, Baptisia australis is native to the U.S. not Australia.  Australis = southern.

I’ve had mixed luck with a Baptisia lactea in my own garden, mainly because we keep stepping on it.  So maybe it’s a problem with the placement and not the plant itself.

As in…
HUE                                        (“what a lovely hue of green”)
cur                                         (a mutt dog)
rah                                         (rah-rah-sis-boom-bah).
The emphasis is on HUE.
The truth is you should say…
But in real life, most people run the syllables together and kind of slur the “r”.

Commonly known as Alum Root or Coral Bells, Heuchera is usually grown for its dramatic foliage and hardiness.  In my garden, the leaves usually stay “green” throughout the winter.  I own varieties that are grass green, lime green, mottled and slightly blue-green, burgundy, deeply veined and red-green, peachy blond, bronze-purple and green dusted with white.  And it’s difficult for me to resist buying more.
You can tell Heuchera is related to other shade-loving perennials like Bergenia, Tiarella and Saxifraga that have beautiful leaves and delicate, almost insignificant, bell-shaped flowers.  They all look great together, and in fact, since the early 20th century, Heuchera has been crossed with Tiarella to create Heucherella.
FYI, just in case you were wondering…
Bergenia = ber-Gen (like Ken not Jen)-ee-ah.
Tiarella = tee-ar  (the beginning of tiara)-EL-lah  (and the end of Cinderella).
Saxifraga = saks (like the department store)-IF-rah-gah, but most everyone says saks-EH-frog-ah.

As in…
vak                                         (the beginning of vacuum or vaccine)
SIN                                         (a cardinal one)
ee-um                                    (the end of helium or millennium).
The emphasis is on SIN.

Renewed interest in producing food at home and the idea of the urban orchard means you can now often find a wide selection of Vaccinium among perennials and more decorative shrubs at your local nursery.  Blueberry, cranberry and ligonberry are all Vaccinium, usually V. corymbosum or V. angustifolium, V. ovatum and V. vitis-ideaa, respectively.

There is a common misconception that these plants only grow in very cold climates, but varieties of Vaccinium are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, even in the Southern U.S.  The trick is to find varieties and hybrids that work for you.  They are all native to acidic heaths, bogs and woodlands where dead vegetation continually amends the soil, and they require regular feeding and moisture in the garden.  Virginia Berry Farm is a wholesale grower of fruit plants and supplies many garden centers in the East.  Their website provides helpful information about Vaccinium.

I planted five blueberries this spring, including the creeping Vaccinium crassifolium ‘Well’s Delight’.  Its new growth is red that darkens to green.  It remains only 6-8” tall, spreads 2-3’ and hopefully will remain evergreen throughout the winter.  It produces white flowers in the spring followed by very small berries… too small for anyone but the birds.

And finally, one of the hardest of all, Sisyrinchium
As in…
sis-eh                                     (not your bro but your sis)
RIN                                         (the beginning of rinse)
kee-um                                   (key + the end of rum).
The emphasis is on RIN.
In real life, most people run the syllables together and add the “k” to “rin”: sis-eh-RINK-ee-um.

Sisyrinchium is native to North and South American meadows and open woodlands.  It is commonly known as Blue-Eyed, Yellow-Eyed or Golden-Eyed Grass, depending on flower color, and is often found in the ornamental grass sections of nurseries and plant catalogs.  It is not a grass at all but a perennial rhizome with grass-like leaves.

You can tell Sisyrinchium is a delicate relation of Iris, especially our native Flag Iris.  Its sword-like foliage grows 4-14” tall, and the flowers, in blue, purple, yellow or white with contrasting centers, appear to dance at the end of the blades, hence… Blue-Eyed Grass.  Sisyrinchium has become popular for use in rock gardens and even green roofs, but it is not very drought-tolerant and needs regular moisture through dry spells.  Most plants found at garden centers are varieties of Sisyrinchium bellum, S. angustifolium or S. montana.

Every once and awhile, a stray Sisyrinchium or two appears in my garden, usually among groundcover or bare patches of lawn.  However, they never seem to perennialize in the same spot.  So this year, I decided to plant two cultivars: Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’, which is about 8” tall with purple-blue flowers, and Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’ which is less than 6” tall with much paler, almost lilac blooms.  ‘Devon Skies’ is definitely the less hardy of the two.  It struggled through our hot months, and now I worry whether it can handle a cold winter.

That’s enough nomenclature for one day!  Check back often for more difficult plant names.