Saturday, April 26, 2008

Verticillium Wilt, a Primer

Jocularity aside for just a moment, my innate Master Gardener side has come out and demands an opportunity to educate. So please bear with her and she'll eventually get bored and go away...

This is a picture of a thus far healthy Canada Red Chokeberry tree. Notice the full crown and the lush foliage.

And now we have its 'brother'. This tree was planted in the same year (9 years ago). Notice the thin crown and the smaller leaves. Verticillium wilt is a naturally occurring virus in the soil that migrates into a susceptible host where the fungus effectively clogs the xylem tissues (the water way) of the affected plant. As a result, essential nutrients are unavailable to the host plant and it will eventually die.

Effective Diagnosis can be obtained by pruning a plant that is suspected to be infected. Streaking or a dark ring can be found in the cross section of the wood. For more information, please refer to articles such as this.

Unfortunately, at this time there is no cure for this disease and the offending organisms can and will remain in the soil for many years to come. The only recourse is to plant resistant specimens in the area and to practice good hygiene (it's always good to sanitize one's tools between tending to different plants) in regards to pruning and trimming plants and trees.

Spring Salutations from Southern Indiana, Part III
I'll let you in on a poorly kept secret: the two or so weeks when the vibrant redbuds and the white dogwoods bloom constitute my favorite time of the year. And as the two native trees prefer to grow in similar situations (both are understory trees, often found at the edge of wooded areas), they can usually be found growing side by side. And isn't that a beautiful sight, with the purple blooms of the redbuds being set off by the white of the dogwoods?).

The redbuds bloom first, but wait patiently for the white dogwoods to appear.

Oh, and by the way? I really don't recommend trying to drive while taking pictures at the same time. Just do as I say and not as I do.

I need to stop one day and get a better picture of this, but as my daughter and I were on our way to see my new grandson, this was not the day. At any rate, some inconsiderate person insists upon parking their truck right smack dab in the middle of what would be the perfect picture. Idiot.

Thankfully, my dear daughter took these pictures as I concentrated on driving.

And now we are back home. My Canada Red Chokeberries are blooming. I just wish you could smell these blooms.

My old fashioned bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are blooming. Just ignore the dandelion.

This is my neighbor's redbud and my favorite barn behind us. I keep planning on planting a couple of redbuds in our own 'back forty', but still haven't gotten around to it.

A true Murphy's Law (gardener's version) story: the previous owners of our house had a redbud planted by our front porch. So I planted a white dogwood to complement it. And the very next year the redbud died. It turns out we have verticillium wilt in our soil and that killed the redbud. Unfortunately, it is also killing one of my Canada Red Chokeberries. And there is nothing I can do about it, except to research suitable, resistant trees.

My white dogwood is blooming next to two fothergilla gardenii bushes. The pink dogwood, which was planted to replace the dead redbud, is in the background.

Enjoy the blooms of this Canada Red Chokeberry, as this is the tree that is infected with verticillium wilt. The question is how many more months or years does this 30 foot tall tree have left? On a brighter note, again I will ask you to remember this image of this tree as I have a surprise in store for you in a few weeks.

My Iberis (candytuft) is blooming now. I planted three plants nine years ago and they have gone to town. Iberis is an evergreen perennial that acts as a groundcover and it blooms in late April to early May.

The fothergilla gardenii are blooming. These bushes are equally beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn orange and yellow.

Cornus florida 'alba' (white flowering dogwood). Now remember, the white "petals" are not part of the flowers. Those "petals" are actually bracts, with the small green nubs in the center being the true flowers.

My pink dogwood in bloom, with iberis carpeting the ground below.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring Salutations from Southern Indiana, Part II

Between the recent rains I have been able to get a few things done in my garden. Come along and see...

Along with 6 bricks and one perforated pizza pan and about 18 gallons of water, we have a dwarf giant papyrus (hey, I don't make these things up), a variegated water celery plant and a bog spiderwort. And I know that in a couple of months we will have tadpoles.

Now if you recall, I showed you this pot a month or so ago. The chives and the thyme were just awakening from their long winter's rest. I have added oregano to the pot.

I found a mix of mesclun and have potted that, along with some garlic and shallots.

I am trying something new here. As these pots must be in the full southern sun from sunrise to sunset, the plants must necessarily be hardy and drought resistant. Believe me when I tell you that even watering once a day - everyday - is not enough here.

Now admit it. You are in envy of my beautiful potting shed. I designed this myself. I even made the potting bench myself. I am so proud of me.

My white dogwood is just beginning to bloom.

And so is the pink dogwood.

And here is my latest plant, a fuchsia.

Oh, all right. This is my 'potting shed'. Unfortunately for me, the real thing is not nearly as nice. Must you be so mean?

And Now for the News

I learned this morning that I am now a grandmother. My son and his wife (well, her mostly!) have had a baby boy whom they have named Ethan Alexander. He weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces, was 21 1/4 inches long and he came into the world at 11:01 pm Monday evening.

There has been some discussion as to what I wish to be called by my first grandchild. I rather like Nana, as my favorite "She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Disobeyed" was deemed a bit cumbersome for a small child to say.

Now please excuse me while I go and try to figure out when I got older.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Tale of Three Sauces

I have been playing with sauces this week, much to the consternation of my family. I must admit to a certain fascination with the alchemy that is sauce-making. Add heat to the equation and things get even more interesting.

I found a recipe for Rosemary and Chocolate Sauce in Ellie Krieger's new cookbook, The Food You Crave. Here we have the ingredients for this sauce: carrot, celery, shallot, garlic, dry red wine, vegetable stock, cocoa powder, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and tomato paste. Since this is from a cookbook, I will not give you the recipe for the sauce. That only seems fair to Ms Krieger.

As directed, I diced all of the vegetables before cooking.

All of the ingredients except for the cocoa powder and the rosemary cook down for about 40 minutes. Then the reduction is strained before adding the remaining ingredients.

I found another recipe for a Jamaican sauce in another cookbook, The Low-Carb Cookbook, published by Publications International, Ltd. Again, as this is a proprietary recipe, I will not give exact measurements. The recipe calls for orange juice, lime juice, grated lime peel, brown sugar, garlic, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, grated ginger, ground black pepper and salt. The directions do not specify heating the sauce, but I chose to briefly heat the sauce in order to allow the brown sugar to fully incorporate into the sauce.

Here are the finished sauces. The verdict? While I liked the Jamaican sauce, my daughter thought it smelled too much like my world-famous potpourri. The Rosemary and Chocolate Sauce was rather strong, though it was passable when eaten with beef. In the end, I poured the remaining sauce down the drain, while I saved the remaining Jamaican Sauce.

Today I tried a new spin on barbecue sauce. This recipe for Applesauce Barbecue Sauce called for garlic powder, but I substituted grated garlic.

I combined 1 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup catsup, 2 cups unpacked brown sugar, 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 lemons) lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon each salt, ground black pepper, paprika, cinnamon and garlic powder (or 1/2 of a grated garlic clove).

Heat the mixture over medium heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and bottle in a heat-proof container. Allow to cool completely if storing in a plastic container.

Finding the original name somewhat cumbersome, I renamed it Apple Farms BBQ Sauce.

And now a personal post-script: even though 1/3 of these sauces were what could be considered a failure, I do not look at this as such. For every recipe that we attempt, we learn a bit more about our likes and dislikes and we gain just a bit more understanding about how ingredients interact with each other. And while I can certainly understand that these 'experiments' are not cheap, I think that it is very important that we 'foodies' continue to stretch ourselves and to keep on learning what we like and what we don't like.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

An Evening at the Scottish Rite

As an officer's lady (wife or significant other), I was invited to a nice dinner this past Friday evening. As an officer's lady, I was expected to attend. Fortunately, this year I was able to ride up with my husband. I was relieved, as traveling 60 miles in rush hour traffic on a Friday evening was not appealing.

60 miles later we arrive.

I arrived in time for the social time, where waiters passed hors d'oeuvre, which were grilled pineapple barbecue shrimp skewers. Also available were wines for our enjoyment. Then it was time for us to sit down and be served our dinner.

First we were served our salad. This artful presentation is a tabbouleh stuffed tomato salad with a shaved and folded slice of cucumber on top, with a small block of feta cheese and a drizzle of a pesto sauce and a pipette of lemon vinaigrette inserted in the tomato. Breadsmith rolls and butter accompanied our dinner.

The entree was Sauteed chicken breast with tomato and arugula salsa cruda on top of seared oregano polenta.
Ah, I see that some of you remember that I am allergic to chicken. Not to fear. The caterer had instructions to make one dinner "with no chicken product made with red snapper" instead.
The salsa cruda also contained slivers of shallots and was dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

The dessert was an ooey gooey toffee butter cake. What? There's no picture? Hmm, I guess someone was too eager to dive in and eat it. It was delicious. Rich and gooey, but absolutely delicious.
Thomas Caterer's of Distinction always does a wonderful job for us. Thank you for such a lovely dinner.
In contrast, my husband had to go across the street and buy his own dinner. Sometimes it's nice to be treated like a lady.

The Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral at night.

And across the street is the Grand Lodge building of Indiana.

Friday, April 18, 2008

News Flash from Southern Indiana

Just in case all of you wonderful people have heard the news this morning, I wish to allay your fears. We are fine, but we were awakened at 5:37 am to a shaking house. The epicenter of the 5.2 - 5.4 magnitude quake (on the Wabash Valley Fault Zone) is about 75 miles from us and no damage seems to have occured here. Just a bit of excitement in an otherwise dull life, folks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Salutations from Southern Indiana

But first, here's an update on my orchid's new stalk. This picture was taken 7 days after I first blogged its discovery.

And now, on with the show.

Flowering ornamental pear trees seem to be a favorite tree in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, many of these older trees are Bradford pears and storms and age will often destroy large sections of these shapely trees.

My Cleveland Select Pear trees are in bloom. This variety is an improved cultivar of the flowering pear.

Getting up close and personal with a pansy or two.

My Canada Red Chokeberry (Prunus Virginiana) tree is leafed out and is getting ready to bloom. Now, remember this picture, as you will be seeing pictures of these trees again. I promise, it will be worth the wait.

Yes, I am perfectly aware that this is a picture of a Christmas cactus and I also know that it is not that time of year, but apparently, my Christmas cactus doesn't know that. So just hush and enjoy the picture.

And yet another sign that spring is here. This is my first American tree frog sighting of the year. I adore my "Croakies." They frequently show up on both my front porch as well as our rear deck. In fact, it is wise to watch where you sit and if you are sitting at the table under the umbrella you might even be treated to falling frogs.

The past couple of years they have even been spawning in my water garden tub on the deck and we get to watch the tadpoles grow throughout the season. American tree frogs take three years to mature and tend to stay near the site of their spawning.

Just One of Those Days

You would have loved my day yesterday. First, I was getting ready to go out and was trying to dry my hair. The day before I had noticed that the hair dryer was trying to die. "Why, yes, I had noticed it, but I thought you already knew," says the hubby. Um, how would I know? I don't blow dry my hair when I'm staying home. Just thought I'd warn you so you wouldn't expect me to look like a movie star if you happen to drop in on me unannounced.

Anyway, I may be jumping to conclusions, but I would tend to think the fact that the hair dryer burst into flames in my hand just might be confirmation that it is dying (or now dead). Not to worry, it didn't hurt me, just startled me.

Then, I went to get my allergy shots and admitted that I've been having trouble breathing the past couple of weeks because of my asthma. So they wouldn't give me the shots. I haven't even needed to use my emergency inhaler. They were just being mean. Note to self: next time lie. Disclaimer: lying is not a good thing. You shouldn't lie to your doctor.

And later that day, I got the call from the health insurance nurse. Our health insurance is apparently concerned because I have been costing them money, so they want me to participate in a special program called "ConditionCare", which is proscribed for members with certain medical condtions. The nurse asked if I knew why they wanted me in the "voluntary" and "free" program. I responded with, "so they could save money on me." She didn't like that answer. "No, no. We just want to educate you so you can better take care of your health." Yeah, right. And that's what the internet is for.

Days like this make me very glad that there are only 24 hours in each day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A New Twist on a Pasta Salad

Since my family has been so finicky lately, I decided to up the ante. Tonight's dinner was a pork loin roast with apples and onions and a pasta salad. Now, you may recall that I made a similar salad for our family's Easter dinner, but tonight's version has a different vinaigrette, giving it an entirely different identity.

I added broccoli (which I later blanched for a few seconds), red bell pepper, carrot, green onion, celery and roma tomato.

I cooked farfalle pasta for the dish.

On a whim, I decided to toss in a few blue cheese crumbles. Unfortunately, I didn't have any feta cheese on hand, or I would have used that instead.

Now it's time for the vinaigrette. The ingredients: one lemon, juiced, dijon mustard, salt, black pepper and olive oil. After tasting, I decided to add a bit of honey to round out the flavors.

What do you know? My family actually liked this. I had begun to give up on them.

What's that, you say? What about the pork roast? Once again, I forgot to take the after pictures. But since you asked so nicely, I will give you an idea of what you missed.

Earlier in the day, I prepared a marinade of balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, salt, black pepper, a smashed garlic clove and canola oil. The pork loin marinated for several hours in the refrigerator.

And now it's time to cook. I went out on my deck and pinched off a couple of small sprigs of my now-growing thyme, and a few leaves off my new sage plant. Then I roughly chopped some onion, and pulled a cup of homemade turkey stock out of the freezer. After some thought, I also grabbed an apple and sliced that thinly.

I seared the pork loin in canola oil, added the sage, thyme, apple and onion and allowed them to cook for a bit before adding the remaining marinade and the turkey stock. I placed a remote temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat and baked this in a 350 degree oven until the meat reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

I pulled the meat out and covered it with foil. I then placed the pot back on the stove top and reduced the liquid. After about 10 minutes, I sliced the pork loin and laid it on top of the apples and onions.

Now, you clever readers might notice that there are no more pictures. I really do need to work on remembering to take pictures of the finished dishes. Bad blogger, bad blogger.