Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Cool House

The Philadelphia home - and a bit of garden - of the people behind two Instagram accounts I love, Neal Santos and Andrew Olson, was featured on Design Sponge.

In Philadelphia, a Victorian Home with an Urban Farm

Check it out for lots of plants, creative design, and adorable dogs!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weekend Trip: United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC

We went on a quick trip to Washington, DC, this weekend, primarily for a holiday dinner for the husband's job. Among sightseeing, meeting up with friends and various wonderful meals we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the US Botanic Garden with its impeccably maintained greenhouse plantings. As always there was a lot to see, so here are just a few snapshots:

A picture-perfect cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) laden with fruit in the entrance hall

A big pot full of a Hippeastrum cultivar

One of many Paphiopedilum hybrids on display

A very delicate white Oncidium

 A lovely Cyclamen mirabile

The garden was busier than on any of my previous visits. It being a weekend close to the holidays there were lots of families with children, escaping the freezing temperatures outside and looking at the seasonal Christmas-themed displays. It made for a less peaceful experience, but it was also nice to see so many people and especially kids admire and get excited about plants.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Festive Reds

I was not really intentional but somehow most of the flowers blooming on my window sills right now are a Christmas-y red, as if to complement the season.

A red flowering maple (Abutilon x hybridum)

An impatiens (Impatiens walleriana cv.) that I brought in from the balcony before it got too cold

A pelargonium - somehow these always flower better for me in early winter and mid-spring right after they have been brought in and shortly before they go back outside than during the summer on the balcony

A potted chili plant I brought inside because it was still full of fruit

A little poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) - this one of course was an intentional Christmas addition

Outside meanwhile the garden is now beginning to really go dormant. Several days of hard freezes are predicted for the coming week. I do hope that we get a bit of snow before the worst of the cold so that the plants will at least be a bit more insulated.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Last Bouquet

The nights are getting frostier now, so today I cut some flowers still blooming in the garden in case the cold would get to them otherwise.

A little bouquet of late-season color

There are still chrysanthemums, of course, and the self-sown garland chrysanthemums (Glebionis coronaria) are still putting out new flowers, too. A lot of the lavender put out a second flush in fall that still continues on due to the chilly temperatures, and the perpetual carnations have set lots of buds since the weather has gotten cooler and wetter. What I did not expect was that strawflowers would hold out so long, producing new flowers through short days and near-freezing temperatures.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Rare Potatoes

Another piece on a cool heirloom vegetable and its relationship to a particular place:

Die schlauesten Bauern haben die teuersten Kartoffeln

Unfortunately it is only in German but there are some other articles in English about the Bonnotte potato and Noirmoutier to be found online, though most do not seem to be able to see much beyond the oddity of a pricey potato.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


A few days ago, I used some of my homegrown saffron and rice for the for the first time. The only rice variety of which I harvested enough that I felt that I could spare some seeds to try cooking with rather than keeping them all was the short grain 'Duborskian'. With short grain rice and saffron, I decided to give Risotto alla Milanese a try, a dish in which these two ingredients take center stage. I used this recipe from Saveur, though as a vegetarian I left out the bone marrow and replaced the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Some threads of my homegrown saffron and hulled 'Duborskian' rice

A closer look at the hulled rice grains

The most time-consuming part of the process was hulling the rice grains, which I did with my kitchen pestle and mortar. After dislodging the hulls this way, it took lots of tedious hand picking to separate out the grains.

The finished risotto

The preparation of the risotto itself was faster, even if it is not the quickest dish. It turned out rather well for being my first attempt at risotto. More importantly, perhaps, they rice and saffron I grew worked just as they should in this dish. Maybe next I will try the saffron in a sweet dish..