July 29, 2010

Sweet Basil Pesto from the Potager

I've said it often enough......if it weren't for zinnias, sunflowers, and basil in the dead of summer, I'd go crazy.  I kind of go crazy anyway, but that's because of the heat and humidity.  Here it is almost August, and my oldest son has been asking me and asking me       When are you going to make pesto?! Well, finally the slow-poke basil, stymied by the hail and flood, is now performing in sufficient quantities to make a LARGE batch of pesto........which is the only size that works around here.
So let's pick some sweet basil.......
Ignore the other types, just cut the sweet basil........
Yes, this tiny pot of boxwood basil is cute, but save it for a garnish.......even though it tastes just like the sweet stuff
okay......you can bring it in to keep you company, just because it's soooo cute
the big one is nice too in its mossy Guy Wolfe pot

Wash the pretty basil.........the smell of summer     then gather your ingredients:  Basil, of course, Walnuts (because I had them, and I didn't have any pine nuts which are more expensive, anyway.....) Garlic (lots), Parmesan (and Romano if you have it, which I didn't), salt

oh........I forgot.......toast the walnuts

they smell pretty dern good too

put your pasta water on to boil.......I like penne pasta with my pesto (alliteration too, it appears...) this SmartTaste brand is great because it has a TON of fiber in each serving.........then just put as much as you want of each ingredient in the food processor......and give it a whir
penne cooked al dente?
green, glisteny.......gluttony soon to follow

what'd I tell you?           Now serve this delicious yellow watermelon that Sunshine brought over

and there you have it.  The first pesto of the summer......there you go, son!

July 28, 2010

Surprises in Literature, Gifts, Gardens and Life


You know it's going to be an unusual day when you wake up to strains of the song The Wichita Lineman running through your head.  This happens when your husband mistakenly has the digital radio programmed to  Easy Listening  instead of the usual Smooth Jazz or Pop Standards station right before you go to sleep. I had not planned to start the morning with Glenn Campbell; it was just one of a few little surprises to start my day.  I have categorized them for you, dear readers,  to give you a little glimpse into the nature and variety of a day's surprises.

Literary Surprises  Are you bi-literate?  Do you often read two books at a time?  Don't you just love it when Book A (In this case Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott) is alluded to in Book B (What to Where For the Rest of Your Life by Kim Johnson Gross)?  Two completely and absolutely different types of books and reading experiences......connected.  I love it when that happens.

My favorite example of this was when I was reading A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf and was concurrently picking through VITA AND HAROLD, The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson..............and discovered, quite surprisingly, in the course of reading that the two were lovers for a period of time.  I guess I was the last to know.

Garden Surprises  Just when you thought all of the Amaranthus tricolor (Joseph's Coat) seed that you bought at the Monticello Gift Store last fall had washed away in the great flood, you spot.........what?.......what is that???........well, if it isn't that gaudy colored Joseph's Coat I planted earlier this spring.  Only one made it, but oh does that make it special.



Then there are the naked ladies that never fail to shock me each summer.  First by their very appearance (I always forget about them), and then, well.........by there unapologetic nakedness.

First, just one kind of shyly steps forward......

then, two        and three.....as the first beckons and encourages the others

soon      a whole friggin' nudist colony is prancing about  in nothing but their......     stems!

Shocking!  I mean, really          I thought this was a prim and proper.........English Garden.

Shocking.  Ever so surprising that this could be going on under my very nose, and yet caught me so unawares.  And as long as we are talking about surprises a la nude, let me tell you about

Spousal Surprises  This is when you are working on this blog and your husband comes to talk to you with nothing but

this little white apron on.  Hmmmmmm.  Trying to decide which I like better, naked ladies or naked husband.  Cast your ballot please.  When was the last time you had a surprise from this category?  Well pardner........... that's too long!

Surprise Gifts  A friend of mine recently moved to Asheville, N. C. and I'm sure was ever so sad to leave her Birmingham garden behind.  To ease the pain (and because I knew she would be so surprised) I sent her a housewarming gift of a beautiful leather- bound, ten-year garden journal from the Lee Valley Catalog.

I've had one since 2007 and love it, even though my enthusiasm ebbs and flows in making entries.  I also like to give them as wedding presents,

and, one day (not too soon, I hope)  I think it will make a wonderful keepsake, heirloom
to pass down to my gardening progeny.

I've been bad, and have stuffed mine with so many pictures and tear-out sheets that I am probably ruining its binding.  I should know better, dang it.

Zen Surprises  Finally, I was surprised to get this post from  Zen Habits espousing the merits of NOT being goal oriented.   Surprisingly common-sensical.

Do tell!  What kind of surprises did you get today?    Oh, and don't you love that little (almost) naked baby on the beach?  My gift surprise to you........

And may I ever so meekly ask a favor of you, sweet Reader?  If you like my little blog, would you please forward to someone else who might enjoy it.... or who just needs a little cheering up.....or who might want to know you're thinking of them?  Sometimes I feel like I'm preachin' to an empty church.  Thank you ever so much,  Linda. 

July 25, 2010

Friday Prunings......on Sunday

Just to demonstrate that I am not completely unreliable, I am giving you, belatedly, Friday Prunings....on Sunday.  Better late than never, especially because these are some pretty good tips, if I do say so myself, and I do.  So, here we go:

Oh, and I'll blame my post-less Friday on Linda Cavanaugh, because I did a segment on KFOR (to watch it, click here) that day, so of course I didn't have the time to do my post.  (Just pretend you buy that excuse)

  • Join the Home Depot Garden Club and take advantage of their coupons, information, and DIY tips.  In all honesty, I've only taken advantage of the coupons because I am too impatient to read through the other stuff............but, you might feel otherwise.......so check it out for me please.  Right now there is a coupon for organic fertilizer if I'm not mistaken.      
  • Use a basket of these beautiful, jewel-colored plums as a centerpiece for your table.  Even if you're NOT having company.  My friend Bubba at Southern Living took this luscious picture at a Farmer's Market in Birmingham.  I replicated the all-plum and peach idea in my kitchen on a three tier wrought iron plate holder next to my sink.  Every day the tasty mounds get smaller though...

  • My eyes have been giving me fits this year, and I have been rubbing and gouging them entirely too much.  Consequently, my eyelashes started to thin out and I began to look at some of these thickening and lengthening products.  I decided to try Rapidlash available at CVS and on-line. (You can check out some reviews here at Dermastore).  I've been using it for about three weeks, and by golly, it really seems to work!  It's a lot less expensive than the prescription Latisse, and I'm very pleased.  Give it a try, ladies.  From what I hear, eyelashes are the new lips.  

  • As long as we are talking beauty talk, Spitfire says this about Post Gardening Hair Trauma:   "All of us gardeners have been there – work, work, work and then – poof! There is a husband or a friend saying,” Let's go out and do …(whatever) ”  There is no salvaging sweat ridden hair – or is there?????   I say YES!! Salvation is here in the form of OJON Rub-Out Dry Cleanser (available at Sephora online).  You shake it up, shake your head like a wet dog, simultaneously spraying it all over.  Result, clean smelling, loads of volume, hair.  I look like a chrysanthemum. However, I have moisture sensitive hair.  I have a home in South Carolina and neighbors there estimate humidity percentages by the diameter of my hair.  Normal hair people just look freshly washed.  I recommend it for all but the bashful chrysanthemums."

          Well, there you go.  Sounds like an endorsement to me.

  • My final tip comes from a horticulturalist at the Dallas Arboretum:   " Your mulch should never be more colorful that your flowers."    I wholeheartedly agree.  Happy Sunday, Everyone.

July 24, 2010

Here They Are.......My Favorite Tulips

I am feeling neither perky nor peaceful today.  I received some very bad news  about a friend of mine, and it has cast its gray pall on my little world.  Bad news is such a nasty, insidious thing.  First it slaps you hard to shock you, then it insinuates its way into your thoughts, growing and magnifying with each breath, until it permeates everything.  I have low resistance to its infectious nature.

Still, a promise is a promise, and at such times gardening can be good and blessed therapy.  So let's talk tulips.  My favorite tulips. Comforting, optimistic, hopeful tulips.

In the Van Engelen catalog, I generally make my selections from the Single Late, Giant Darwin Hybrid, and Impression Tulip categories.  I like their height,their dramatic, large blossoms, the timing of their blooms, and their overall reliability and vigor.  My tulip palette trends to the softer,sorbet colors:  raspberry, orange, pineapple, lemon, coconut.  So I think of my personal tulip mixture as Linda' Sorbet Collection.  Here are my favorite varieties.  (It differs ever so slightly from year to year, as I always experiment with at least one new type each spring).

*  Dordogne

*  Godushnik               
*  Menton
*  Big Smile
*  Renown
*  John Scheepers
*  Maureen
*  Dreamland
*  Pink Impression
*  Big Chief
*  La Courtine
*  Shirley
*  Cri de Coeur
*  Sorbet

Each fall I plant anywhere from 600-800 tulips in my front yard with different mixes of the varieties listed above.  Any blend of these gives a long, seasonal show, MUCH color, and breath-taking (back up your car and look again) beauty.

If, however, you like to play with bright, primary kindergarten color in your crayola box, try these performers (you will see some overlap with the above list):

*  Avignon              
*  Big Smile
*  Kingsblood
*  Renown
*  Red Impression
*  Perestroyka
*  King's Orange
*  Tulip Parade
*  Orange Bowls
*  Red and Yellow Appledorn

Of course, when I am at nurseries or garden centers with their own retail bulb temptations, I will buy a few that meet my color criterion, and then add them to
the mix, or my windowboxes, or pots, or whatever. 

You cannot be too rich, or too thin, or have too many tulips........that's my motto.

I usually buy 100 of each variety, dump them all into a wheel barrow and mix and tumble them about.  When it's time to plant this fall, I'll revisit this tulip talk with planting tips and techniques.  Fall, the REAL beginning to the gardening year.  

Tulips.                      The promise of a bulb.   

Even on bad days. 

                                            I promise.

And may I ever so meekly ask a favor of you, sweet Reader?  If you like my little blog, would you please forward to someone else who might enjoy it.... or who just needs a little cheering up.....or who might want to know you're thinking of them?  Sometimes I feel like I'm preachin' to an empty church.  Thank you ever so much,  Linda. 

July 22, 2010

Why the Heck Are You Talking About Tulips Now?

Why the heck am I blogging about tulips now (in the middle of summer!), you ask?  Well let me back up, and start again.

I have a boyfriend.  Let's call him John-boy.  (Not in a Walton-y kind of way, but in a boy-toy kind of way, because he is ever so much fun to spend time with, has exquisitely good taste, and is annoyingly right about many things.....).  So I get an email from him about, not just one, but TWO of my blog posts.

Which leads me to my first ever "the publisher regrets the errorcorrection here.  The spelling of Vega-meta-mitamen (as spelled in my post of July 6, George I hardly knew you.......) is, well, apparently wrong.  John-boy corrected this misrepresentation by telling me the correct spelling is vita - meat -avegamin, and that he should know.  He told me that in 1989 he spent the afternoon with Lucy's sister and nephew.  Or as John-boy told me:

"1989 Lucille and Cleo were "raised as sisters" but Cleo Smith was actually Lucille's first cousin. Anyway, Cleo was still quite attractive in '89, same pretty lips and high cheekbones. Her husband Cecil was a journalist for the L.A. Times, so the numerous photos in their house reflected the connections to Hollywood and the celebs of the time. Have you ever been to San Miguel Allende?  Remote location in the high desert, historical, charming, beautiful haciendas and gardens, full of writers and artists, many Europeans and Americans. It's been almost 20 yrs since I last visited  :-( "

Obviously, John-boy wants to go back to Mexico.  Anyway, you've GOT to love a man that would know such a thing, and who hangs out with celebrity sibs.  Which is one of the reasons he is my boyfriend.  Which leads me to comment number two he sent me, "Non-gardeners will want to know why you are talking about tulips NOW."

Well, he is right.  One can accuse me of many things, but being seasonally incorrect is not one of them.  So, I tell him (and you, dears) that if you want to get the really good selections and varieties of tulips from the mail-order catalogs before they sell out, you need to order them in the next few weeks.  Nothing is worse than having your tulip choices all figured out for next spring, and then they are out of your favorite variety.  (Well, there might be a FEW things worse, but not many......) 

So, right now go to John Scheepers, Inc. and order their Beauty from Bulbs catalog. Also request the Van Engelen Inc. catalog (both places can send you both catalogs; they are sister companies ------ Van Engelen is the wholesale price list for large quantities ---- with its better prices, it is usually the one I order from ----- but the Scheepers catalog has the pretty pictures, so get both  :) )  Or, of course, you can just look on-line, but I am not that kind of person.

And THAT'S why I am talking about tulips now.  So tomorrow, get your supplies, think about what colors you like, how tall you want them, and which ones go with your house.......etc. etc. etc. (why do I always here the voice of Yul Brenner in my head when I type those words.....etc., etc. etc.?)

Thank you, John-boy for your comments.  Oh, dear readers, I am getting all sorts of great feedback on my posts, mostly in the form of emails.  But I want your wonderful remarks to be shared with other readers, so why not post them as a comment?  That way, everyone can enjoy them!  So, here's my challenge for today's post: leave me a comment after you read this!

..........and thank you, John-boy.  :)

And may I ever so meekly ask a favor of you, sweet Reader?  If you like my little blog, would you please forward to someone else who might enjoy it.... or who just needs a little cheering up.....or who might want to know you're thinking of them?  Sometimes I feel like I'm preachin' to an empty church.  Thank you ever so much,  Linda.