Monday, August 19, 2013

My Favorite Hosta

Hostas are the bread and butter of Midwestern gardening. They are everywhere here in Michigan, in mind-boggling variety and overwhelming numbers. Even so, my favorite species is woefully underused. Hosta plantaginea is a fairly large species; it lacks the fancy variegation of most of the more popular cultivars but its elegantly veined leaves are a beautiful bright green and very shiny. What sets this Hosta apart, however, are its wonderful flowers which begin opening right around this time of year. Of the purest white and significantly larger than most other Hosta flowers, they open in the late afternoon and emanate a delicious fragrance that is sweet yet fresh, like a mixture of jasmine, tea, and citrus.

Hosta plantaginea

Provided it is planted in a spot with adequate shade and moisture, this plant has also proven completely carefree for me. In sunny and dry spots, however, it crashes rather spectacularly, as I have had to find out when I moved around a number of divisions in an effort to have more of that seductive scent throughout the garden.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


We took Willy the dog for a walk around the Cranbrook grounds yesterday, as he often gets bored of his regular routes around the neighborhood. The ponds were low and full of algae despite the relatively wet summer but in one corner a beautiful waterlily was still blooming amidst the sludgy mess.

Sitting pink and pretty

Considering the sheer number of small lakes and ponds around here, I actually wonder why waterlilies are not more popular. Some nearby bodies of water have awesome stands of the native white waterlily, but one rarely sees colorful ornamental cultivars of Nymphaea like this one outside the nurseries.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Peachy

Blessed with a glut of peaches, we did not stop at the Bellinis and platefuls of fresh sliced fruit but also baked a lovely peach cake.

We used a recipe my mom was once given by a family friend. Originally intended for plums, it lends itself equally well to any fruit that has a bit of tartness:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
6-7 peaches
Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a 9 inch spring form or other similarly-sized baking dish. Wash peaches, remove pits, and slice; I cut each peach in sixths.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and incorporate thoroughly. Add vanilla and mix again.

On low speed, gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until well combined.

Pour batter into baking pan and smooth with spatula. Put the cut peaches on top of the batter, quite closely packed. Sprinkle with some more sugar and a touch of cinnamon.

Bake for about one hour or until lightly browned and tooth pick comes out clean. You might have to reduce the temperature about halfway through.

Let cool and enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bellinis for Brunch

The peach tree is bearing well this year and we are scrambling to harvest and use the fruit before the chipmunks get to them all. So for Sunday brunch yesterday, my mom and I made ourselves Bellinis with our homegrown peaches. They were delicious.

The very simple recipe we used was this one by Nigella Lawson, my trusted go-to in most culinary matters. Of course, our peaches happen to have yellow flesh, so the drinks came out orange-yellow rather than white to soft pink as would have been the case with white peaches, but I think both versions are lovely.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back At Last

As of a day ago, I am back at my parents' place in Michigan. The roughly thirty-hour trip from Kuala Lumpur to Detroit via Frankfurt seemed to go by mercifully fast this time, especially since I managed to sleep through much of the first leg. Thus upon reaching home in the early afternoon I was actually fit enough to work in the garden for a bit. There are lots of things in bloom but also much weeding to be done. Here is just a little selection of what currently pleases me the most:

An early-morning view of the frontyard

Agastache rupestris

An inflorescence of the supposedly hardy Agapanthus 'Hardy Blue' that I planted earlier this year

Purple passionflower or maypop (Passiflora incarnata)

'Little Lime' hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Jane')

Striped giant reed (Arundo donax 'Variegata')

A look into the backyard

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Some late daylilies (Hemerocallis cv.)

It is a good year for peaches

There were also some surprises. My big, trusty Aloe vera, nicknamed Vera - the only one of my plants to have a such a name, by the way - has produced an inflorescence, unusual for this time of year. A pineapple plant grown a few years back from the head of leaves atop a bought fruit is similarly gearing up to flower, despite being much to small and rather ragged overall. I think it might be trying to bloom out of sheer desperation. Finally, I came home to find a pot in which I had sown Indian holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) early in the spring but from which only one sickly sprout had emerged in two months filled with sturdy, healthy seedlings.

Vera the Aloe vera being unseasonally floriferous

The sad little pineapple plant

Lots of basil babies

Now to be productive and get lots done the next couple of days...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eid Mubarak!

Or, as one would say here in Malaysia, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!

Masjid Putra, Putrajaya, Malaysia

عيد مبارك

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lovely Landscaping

The courtyard at the Troika apartment complex in Kuala Lumpur