Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sunshine in a Jar - Part 2

~ lemon-lavender salted honey ~
Or: The Continuing Experimentation into Preserving Citrus

I went out early this morning for the Annual Bird Count & by the time I returned home - soggy, frozen & miserable - I wished that I had done this recipe months ago.

Also - it's a blend of recipe ideas, so I won't really know just what the end result will be for many more weeks.

I took my remaining 2 lemons (just your regular grocery store variety), sliced them up, stuffed them into a jam jar with a few pinches of lavender, a few slices of fresh ginger, a couple shakes of salt & some melted honey.

Sweet, salty, herbal & tangy.... I really could have used a teaspoon of this in my tea to make me feel better.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sunshine in a Jar

~ preserving citrus ~
Meyer lemons are back in the grocery stores! This means Seville oranges will soon arrive & that means it will be marmalade season in about a month! But first - the Meyer lemons...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not Fully Admitting to the Winter Season

~ red peppers ~
 I'm just not 100% ready to admit that it's winter... That's such a hard season to visualize in this town. We live so close to the water that the temperatures remain pretty moderate, even during those 'deep freeze' times we have where the water lines freeze & explode.

I remembered just the other day that I still had some peppers in the greenhouse. I'm so glad I did - I ate them right there while talking with my pots of rosemary & other herbs I hauled in for overwintering. Those peppers were the sweetest peppers I had ever eaten! Just shows that leaving them on the plant to fully ripen is the best way to enjoy their flavour!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Now Finally Winter

 I'm slowly getting back into my gardens - strange, now that it's the end of the gardening season... But I am finally finding the time & the energy to explore & see what's happened while I've been 'away' - not physically, just mentally.

Winter sunshine is also that much more special, so I try to get outside to enjoy it as much as possible.

Things take on a different look too. Like the frosty mornings - love how everything sparkles - even if there isn't much colour in a leaf - it's got some great shapes to appreciate.
 There will come a day, very soon, when I won't be able to go outside to nibble on fresh raspberries. I see that the Stellar Jays have finally found them & are eating those they can find, but I really don't mind sharing at this time of year.
 I love calendula - I wish I had planted up a few pots that I could have brought up to the deck for the winter. They usually flower right on through the cold dreary days, as long as they are protected from too much rain & are able to warm up during the day. For now, I'll enjoy the remaining blooms out in the garden & hope that all the seeds that I didn't save, somehow make it through to the spring & reseed themselves.

Primroses are darlings too - tuck them in any dry or rocky spot & they'll survive with minimal care. Again, another plant that if protected from too much rain or soggy soil & able to warm up during the day, will flower right on through winter. 

I'm still not finished with all the garden chores - there are a few plants that need to be cut back & other random tasks to be done, but for now, I'll just enjoy the sunshine & the frost as it melts.

We'll see what this week brings - I can tell there is a storm brewing because we are holding our community Craft Sale on Saturday & it's tradition to have snow & a power outage on that day! Well, it just wouldn't feel very festive if it were sunny & warm, now would it?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Minute Garden Chores in the Near-Dark

~ gunnera ~
 Yesterday was a wonderful West Coast day - full of sunshine & unexpected warm temperatures. It was pure torture having to work inside all day!!

I'm lucky that I was home shortly after 4:00 so I could run outside & play for a very short time. My main goal was to cut back my gunnera. Sunshine in the winter on the Coast = frost the next morning!

So, this is one of my older gunnera - about 3 years old now & finally starting to take to it's place in the front yard. I don't have anything to show the size of the leaves, but they are almost 5 feet across - well, the biggest ones are. The stems are thicker than my wrist & I really should dig out my machete for when I need to cut these down - the pruners are really difficult to use!

~ gunnera ready for winter ~

This is how my gunnera will survive the winter on the Coast. It is important to cut back the stems & leaves & cover up the main body of the plant as it is a 'tropical' plant & will be damaged by frost & freezing.

Most of the plant lives above ground (you'll know if you ever have to transplant & move one), so ensuring winter protection that still allows for drainage is key to having them last for years.

So, that was me running out right at dusk last night to cut them back and I have about 7 of these on the property.

~ gunnera in the frosty morning ~
This is the protected gunnera about 10 minutes ago in the frosty morning just before the sun peaks over the horizon.
~ frosty gunnera ~
I love the frosty mornings around here - they are pretty to see & they disappear so quickly in the morning sunshine!

Monday, November 12, 2012


~ fresh picked just hours ago ~
I am simply astounded that I am still harvesting raspberries from the garden this late in the year! They are a little water-logged but check out the size of them! Once they warm up to room temperature, the flavour will knock your socks off - they are much more flavourful than the raspberries I was harvesting this summer & actually, much larger too!

~ fresh raspberries & raspberry-lavender jam ~

 I found enough to fill a sandwich bag - which went into the freezer after a few nibbles - mainly because I just don't know what to do with them today & I don't want to put them in the fridge, or else they will be forgotten & go bad within a day or so.

But it reminded me that I have to start getting my jams & jellies ready for the Christmas Craft Sale that is being held on December 1st at our community school.

This year I made raspberry-lavender jam & I put it into small 'sample' size jars (the 125 ml Bernardin jars) & I have it matched up in a 'hostess gift' set of 3. The other 2 flavours are either: Seville Orange Marmalade & Loganberry Spice jam or Spiced Pear Jelly & Loganberry Spice jam.

Hmmm - now that I'm thinking of all these different flavours of jams & jellies, I am thinking I should have made some raspberry scones & cracked open a few jars & had an afternoon tea!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Seeking Help for my Hoya

~ hoya ~
 I really need some help with my hoya plant. The poor thing has this white stuff growing in the crevices, under the leaves & along the flower buds.

This has been going on for many months & I'm now starting to wonder if the fate of my plant is not a positive one.

During the summer I have left it outside for a few days & hosed it off to rid the plant of whatever this is, but obviously I'm not doing enough.

~ hoya~
Now that I've finally taken an up-close photo, I can see that it is not necessarily a fungus but rather an insect!! Aphids??

When I squish/clean them off, they leave an orange residue.

This is not good & I'm very concerned for my poor hoya. I've had her for almost 9 years, grown from a cutting from a neighbour up the hill. It took 7 years for her to flower & every year, she blooms more & more.

She still seems relatively happy - dropping a few leaves now & again & she has gone through a bloom even with these nasties on her.

Anyone have any suggestions?? I've got her hanging outside right now & will hose her off, but I'm not too hopeful for her return to the house...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hope for Beans

~ scarlett runner beans ~
Ok, my love of beans has returned in the form of the runner bean. This was my first year for growing them & I didn't have very high expectations due to my previous (& continuing failure) with bush beans. Hence I probably didn't pay as much attention to them during the garden preparation, sowing & eventual growing as I might have if I had grown them before.

It might also have been the fact that the weather in September was incredible & the beans responded in kind.

Whatever my initial attitude, my response has brought some hope to my future choices in veggies for my gardens.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

~ blackberries & raspberries ~
What a wonderful weekend here on the West Coast! We've had record amounts of sunshine & warm temperatures but unfortunately also record lows for rainfall. Right now there are developing concerns for the fish returning to dry streams, creeks & rivers to spawn... many of us have high hopes for the return of the rains, even though it means the end to our glorious Autumn weather.

So, while the weather continues to be more like summer than summer actually was, I'm outside for as long as I can. I'm in the midst of one of the best Autumn harvests of raspberries that I've ever seen - they are actually larger than the blackberries that are still on the canes!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Winter Squash

~ Kabocha Buttercup Squash ~
My winter squash is holding up very well considering how late it is in the year, unless this is what squash do. I've not grown winter squash before, so am really just winging it.

This variety is a Japanese pumpkin: Kabocha Buttercup. The package says it has a sweet, yellow flesh - ideal for pies & tempura. I should expect fruit in the 1 kg size.

Yesterday I took a good hard look at the patch - it's gone a bit wild, exploding through the deer netting & spreading down & around the yard. There are twining tendrils that help the plant grow up & secure itself to any surface.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Buzzing in the Blooms

~ hoverfly on goldenrod ~
 September sunshine is a glorious thing. It brings out so many things, including this gardener! I have returned to my gardens with a renewed sense of calm & enthusiasm. This summer was difficult in learning to adjust to working full-time (well, I still haven't adjusted, but am working on it) & realizing that I am skimping on some essentials that are required for growing food.
1) soil - I need to add fresh soil to all my veggie beds & should do so each year.
2) feeding - because of the heavy rains during the winter & the very well draining soil we have out here, I really do need to add compost teas on a more regular basis to help the plants.
3) watering - strange but true - we have mini-droughts through the summer (mostly August) & I need to water more consciously.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where did August go?

~ loganberries ~
Have you noticed the change in the air lately? I finally took a moment yesterday to stop & listen & breathe... August is such a crazy month that most times I forget that I'm growing food in the gardens. The end result is smaller crops & plants not growing to their potential. I'm lucky if I remember or find time to spend standing out there with the garden hose!

But there are many things in the gardens that take care of themselves & provide no matter how little attention you give them.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Harvesting in Summer

~ peas please ~
Looks like we've finally made it to summer weather! The sun is shining (no fog this morning) & it's hot. I actually watered the gardens today - first time in a long while...

The peas are still growing & producing lots - more than I can eat in one sitting, so I might have to get creative in the kitchen. I don't like freezing peas, they just don't taste the same.

I planted (multiple times) 3 different varieties & of course, promptly lost the labels or just didn't bother with them. So, I have snow peas, snap peas & shelling peas all coming up together. Doesn't bother me!

While I prefer the snow pea variety (thin & crisp), the husband prefers the 'thicker' peas - more than likely the shelling peas that I harvest before they develop the sweet little pea inside. I can't wait that long & the harvest of shelling peas in my small garden is hardly worth the effort.

So, peas are on the menu for tonight's dinner - or might be the whole dinner as I think I still have some in the fridge from last week's harvest!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Berry Harvest - Picking up!

~ July 16 ~
This seems to be the year of the (Wild) Berry - the bushes are LOADED and the birds seem to have something else to eat for the moment. I usually take my cue to get out there with my buckets & bags when I see the birds hanging out in my raspberry patch or leaving their berry breakfast evidence on my deck railings.

This year, they are strangely quiet in the berry bushes... lots of birds still... wonder what they are eating?

Anyway - my first huge harvest was last week & that was the elderberries. Half of them have been boiled, strained & frozen, waiting to be made into jelly & the other half are in the freezer with the rhubarb, waiting for strawberries....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lavender Jelly - Round 2

~ lavender infusion ~
Last night I went round 2 with lavender jelly, using some modifications to the recipe(s) I had found on the internet.

I used dried lavender this time & for my steeped infusion, I used 6 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of dried blossoms. I left it overnight (and actually all the next day as I ran out of time in the morning to strain out the blossoms). This is the colour of the infusion. Not really a joyful colour...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Start of the Jelly-Making Season

~ spiced pear jelly ~
The delightful sounds of can lids popping is echoing through the house & the amazing scent of spiced pears is wafting around the kitchen.... mmmm.... Wish I had a bowl of vanilla ice cream over which I could drizzle a bit of this jelly!!

With the 2012 berry harvest about to commence, it's time I worked on the abundant harvest from 2011, which is still in my berry freezer. Tonight I started off with something 'simple' - my spiced pear jelly. Since I've never had plain pear jelly, I don't know how it compares, but this blend reminds me of Christmas & would be simply astounding on a roasted duck or turkey with fresh cranberry sauce on the side... Or maybe mixed in with a pumpkin pie....

It is also very nicely paired with a creamy blue cheese & some fresh baguette!

Just saying - jams & jellies are not just for morning toast & this blend should definitely not be eaten with peanut butter!! (pb just gets in the way of the flavour!)

(Flavour Hint: star anise, green cardamon, black cardamon, fresh ginger - this is cooked with the pear pieces & then strained out through a jelly bag)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lavender Dream Jelly

~ Spanish lavender ~
It's getting close to harvest time out in Bamfield. Now, I'm not talking about harvesting much out of my veggie beds - I harvest mainly wild things - which seem to do better out here.

I have already done one 'large' harvest off my lavender plants a few weeks ago & was just waiting for the next batch of flowers to mature a bit more when I somehow stumbled across chatter about lavender jelly...

That got my inner crafty goddess stirring!! The picture on the right is of my Spanish lavender - about a dozen cuttings taken off one plant have now started to become giants of their own! The Spanish lavender seems to do better out in the gardens & yard than my more traditional English lavender which prefers living up in deck pots. Drier conditions suit the English lavender better out here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

First Wild Berry Harvest of the Year

~ wild elderberries ~
I noticed this week that there were red berries smiling at me from the bushes, but it didn't register til almost the weekend that they were the wild red elderberries!

And the bushes are LOADED this year. Last year I didn't bother picking any (or much of any) because the pigeons ate all the berries before they were ripe. This year, there are either fewer pigeons, more cats or more food for the birds elsewhere...

I got out for a few hours on Saturday & went along the roadside - where elderberries tend to like to grow - moist areas with relatively little disturbance.

I got 4 grocery bags within less than 2 hours....

Monday, July 9, 2012

~ fingerling potatoes & garlic ~
It was quite a great weekend out here - we seem to finally be getting some summer sunshine!

For the most part, I just wandered around deadheading, pulling grass & checking out each area of the garden to see what's happening.

In one of my veggie beds - the 'herb' bed, I noticed the garlic was starting to fall over. Now, I'm still new to growing garlic & I think it's been in the ground for almost 2 years. I recall planting my first garlic in the wrong season & have since lost track of it all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

~ dwarf red lily ~
Who can ever really do a 'Wordless Wednesday' completely without words? Well, I can't...

I FINALLY got some photos of some of the things in bloom. I'm making it a morning habit to walk the gardens with my coffee in hand & to see how things are doing. If there's a weed, it gets pulled, if there's a spent flower, it gets nipped, if there's a ripe (whatever) it just might get eaten!

This morning was just such a fine morning. Here are a few of my beauties:

~ dwarf orange lily ~

~ Sweet William ~

~ Sweet William ~

~ perennial bachelor button ~

~ white peony ~

~ white foxglove ~

~ moth mullein ~

~ wall of foxgloves ~

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New Visitor

~ net-winged beetle ~
Yesterday I bumped into something new in the gardens. This lovely beetle was caught in a spider web & it's the first time I've seen one in my yard.

It's quite fascinating to see new & interesting things appearing in the gardens & it seems more & more are making themselves known as the gardens start to fill in & mature.

The net-winged beetle is quite possibly a nectarivore - meaning it consumes nectar from plants. I wonder if this means it also aides in pollination as a minor side-affect. Could it possibly be consuming smaller insects too?

Either way, it's a very interesting beetle & quite large - about 15 mm long & very visible.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Flags & Beards

~ blue flag iris ~
Yesterday was my 'Iris Day'. I enjoy watching the gardens go through their changes & it seems I've gotten a bit more of a handle on having a continuous parade of blooms throughout the yard.

The first of the iris to emerge in bloom are my blue flag iris. I love the details of the petals with that extra hit of yellow. This particular patch now has the characteristic 'donut' hole in the centre, which means I'll be digging up the patch this fall, dividing & replanting. Perfect! I want to move some of them around the rest of the yard.

~ yellow bearded iris ~

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Growing Vertical

~ pea trellis ~
It's taken a while for the peas to get started - as in months! I think I started planting them way too early, possibly in February when it was warm (the ground temp this February was 5 degrees Celsius!)

But that allowed us some time to finally figure out a system to get them growing vertical & in a modestly decent fashion. (Like gardening is about fashion skills...)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trying to Keep Up

 While I'm waiting for the grass to dry, it's a great time to catch up on some photos & notes on what's going on in the gardens. I think it's been at least 2 weeks since I've done a full manicure on the lawn & if there were more wild flowers hidden in the grass, I just might be tempted to let it go to meadow this year. Unfortunately, dandelions don't count...

The front flower bed has gone through one of its seasonal changes - the basket of gold alyssm & ajuga are now finished & since this photo have been dead-headed. Soon there will be other colours popping out - probably by the time I'm able to get back out there!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Greenhouse Green-ness

~ May 8 - peppers & tomatoes ~
I'm adjusting to a new 'lifestyle' in how I will be gardening this year. It's tough - I'm working a 9-5 job now, hopefully for just the summer months & I'm finding it really difficult finding time to spend in the gardens like I've become accustomed to.

It's amazing how some plants will just carry on without constant daily checks. Currently, my 'babies' in the greenhouse seem to be doing just fine & it's not until I study my photos that I see just how well they are doing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spring Blooms - Part 3 (Butchart Gardens)

~ Japanese Gardens ~
This is the last post for my trip to Butchart Gardens - I took many more pictures than I'm sharing here, but there has to be a limit to certain things in life (right....)

I made it a point to wander slowly through the Japanese Gardens, which is like stepping into another world compared to the rest of the estate. Very green, mossy, peaceful & intriguing. I hope to make it back again in the early fall to see changing of the leaves.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Blooms - Part 2 (Butchart Gardens)

 The tulips at Butchart were stunning, but they weren't the only things in bloom at this time of year. The rhododendrons are starting to put on their own display & surprisingly enough, the daffodils are still in bloom!

The following photos are of just a few of the different varieties of daffodils:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring Blooms - Part 1 (Butchart Gardens)

~ Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC ~
On Friday, my mom & I went to Butchart Gardens while we were down in Victoria. The morning started off a bit chilly & overcast, but that didn't stop us from arriving early - so early that we were the 2nd car in the lot & they weren't 'officially' open just yet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Raindrops and....

Well, it's not yet time for roses, but I do love the look of raindrops on emerging plants.

This happens to be a lily - it's a dwarf variety & will bloom a lovely orange. I just hope I'm around to see it happen!!

I stare longingly at my neglected gardens & yard & wish I had a week to spend tending them. But it's raining (can't you just hear the grass growing?) & I've a new Mon-Fri 9-5 job (swore I'd never have one of those!) & I'm taking a week away to visit my family.

The grass will just have to grow.

I just hope I don't miss out on too many blooming things!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Greenhouse Blooms

~ calendula ~
I'm playing a whole lot of catch-up over the next 2 days. It's been a busy time for me with work & today I'm unfortunately crashing.

I hope to get out to talk with my plants, but need to do a bit of computer work first.

Last week, the calendula that self-seeded in the greenhouse opened its first flower. I've noticed a few other calendula around - mostly the ones that overwintered, are also starting to bloom. The plants aren't a full & bushy as the self-seeded one, but it's still nice to have early flowers. Hope to be able to add some petals to some fresh green salads in the next few weeks.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Deer Sighting of the Year

The other day - early evening - I witnessed my first deer sighting on the property.

Sure, there was plenty of evidence that deer had previously been around: nibbled shrubs, spring bulbs pulled out, magically disappearing chives & other fresh greens, piles of droppings (fertilizer)...

But this was my first time to observe the critter(s). Looks quite healthy & was more concerned about the dogs barking up the hill on another property than about me watching it from the deck.

It very casually walked onto the property, by-passed the plum trees just starting to leaf out (thank you!) & stopped for a moment to eat some grass. It then carried on its merry way to the back of the property & exited through the snarly brush onto the wilds of the neighbour's land.

So long, farewell, hope you don't think my land is tastey...