Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brush Cherry; Drought Tolerant Screen Plant Profile


Brush Cherry, or Carolina Laurel is a pretty, dependable garden shrub that grows quickly into screens or hedges.  These shrubs can grow up to 30 feet tall and 10 - 12 feet wide.  I have seen mature stands of Carolina Laurel grow even taller. 

Carolina Laurel is versatile too, growing in full sun to part shade.  Once established they can survive drought conditions and are pretty low-maintenance.  However, in desert areas they prefer less sun and will appreciate more water during the hottest summer weather.  Keep an eye on the leaves.  If they wilt give them some water.  I little watering trick I use in hard clay soil is this; give the shrubs a small amount of water at first, then wait an hour or so for the soil to absorb it and loosen up.  Then come back and water them a second time.  The objective is for the water to go down deeper into the soil to the roots.  This also encourages deep roots which helps any plant to survive drought better [-- see how this all fits together in your Master Plan of a Carefree Drought Tolerant Garden?].   Follow up with a little mulch of compost, dead leaves or dry, loose grass clippings to hold moisture around your shrubs even longer.

A few times I've had a Brush Cherry or two succumb to an especially hot snap and lose all their leaves.  After an extra deep watering (without water-logging the soil), an apology and a few months wait, they came back.  Don't give up on them too soon if you think they're dead.  Just trim off the dead leaves and wait.


Carolina Laurel Cherry (Prunus caroliniana) Growing Conditions:

USDA Zone:  7 - 9
Sunset Zone:  5 - 24
Sun:  Full sun to part shade
Water:  Moderate to low

If you are growing Brush Cherries for hedges, they have a dense growth habit with lots of branches so they don't mind a heavy shearing every few months. They are also easily trimmed into simple shapes or fantastical living sculptures as topiaries. 

Left untrimmed, they will still maintain their neat, shrubby shape, but the interior growth will not have leaves.   This thatch should be cut out every few years. Brush Cherries can also be trained as small multi-trunk trees. 

New leaves are a pretty reddish rusty color, seen mainly in the spring.  Mature leaves turn a darker, deeper green.  They get sprays of white flowers followed by clusters of small, bright red cherries that give Brush Cherry their name.  The only complaint gardeners may have about these shrubs is that the cherries can stain your concrete and make a mess if you don't keep them picked up.  If you don't have enough birds in your area to take care of the cherries for you, just trim off the flowers before they set fruit.  This will also relieve the plant of the stress of producing seeds.

Carolina Laurel Cherry are pretty, versatile and forgiving of busy gardeners.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cranberry-Pear Or Apple Dessert For Abundant Autumn Gardens



If you are lucky enough to be harvesting lots of pears or apples this fall, or just looking for a new dessert dish, here are two simple and tempting recipes using fresh fruit from the garden.  One combines cranberries and pears, the other uses blackberries and apples.  Feel free to mix and match berries depending on what berries are in season in your area.  Both recipes are courtesy of one of my fellow eZineArticles authors.  If you're looking to buck tradition with a unique cranberry-themed recipe for Thanksgiving dinner, her Cranberry Pear dessert looks delish!

Recipes for Delicious Desserts Featuring Favorite Fall FruitsBy guest author Linda Carol Wilson

Is there anything better on a cool Fall day than coming into the house and smelling the aroma of the season's best fruits? Well, feeling the warmth of the oven might be a close second. Here are some recipes to enjoy this Fall and Winter (or anytime of the year), using some of our Fall favorites - pears, apples, and blackberries. Grab a cup of coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate and enjoy a real treat.

Snapping Cranberry-Pear Crisp


Fruit Mixture:

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tbsp flour
5 med pears, peeled and sliced*

Topping:

1 cup coarsely crushed gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the fruit mixture, combine cranberry sauce and flour in a medium mixing bowl; mix well. Add the pear slices, toss to coat evenly. Place fruit mixture in a baking dish and set aside.

For the topping, in a small mixing bowl, combine cookie crumbs, flour, brown sugar, and butter; mix well. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the fruit mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pears are tender and the topping is golden brown.
Note: This is just as good when you substitute apples for the pears.

Oregon's Blackberry-Apple Crunch

Filling:

4 cups sliced Granny Smith apples
2 cups fresh blackberries (may use frozen but do not thaw)
3/4 cup sugar

Topping:

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, berries, and sugar. When well combined, pour mixture into a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan or dish.

In another large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, walnuts, butter and cinnamon; blend together using your fingers. Sprinkle over the top of the fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately an hour or until the top is brown and fruit is bubbly.

Enjoy!

For more of Linda's dessert recipes visit her blog at http://ladybugssweettreats.blogspot.com
For her diabetic dessert recipes visit her at http://diabeticenjoyingfood.squarespace.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?Recipes-for-Delicious-Desserts-Featuring-Favorite-Fall-Fruits&id=5106643] Recipes for Delicious Desserts Featuring Favorite Fall Fruits.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Solution For Preventing The Next Arcadia Woodlands Type Old-Growth Forest Destruction


My dear garden readers; Would you throw away pristine, nutrient-rich silt?  Would you hack down 11 acres of old-growth forest for a dumping ground for said silt?  No?  Then get ready to be called crazy, wacky, a tree-hugger and more.

Personally, for someone who calls herself a gardenholic, flower freak and other silly names the phrase "tree-hugger" just rolls off my back as unimaginative, but I digress.

Let me explain A) what I have been prattling on about and B) How it ties back to healthy plants and soil for our gardens.

The Recap

Here in So Cal we have extensive networks of dams and reservoirs across the foothills surrounding our fair cities.  Over time the basins fill up with silt and other debris and must be removed.  Unfortunately this "debris" is treated like garbage and dumped in a vast network of holding areas, landfills and other unsuitable areas.


The latest victim of this short-sighted policy is an old-growth valley of oak and sycamore trees dubbed the Arcadia Woodlands by "activists".  It was unlucky enough to be situated beneath the Santa Anita Dam and leased from the US Forest Service by the LA County Department of Public Works who is responsible for maintenance of the reservoir.  In their defense I will point out that LACDPW had always planned on using this land as a "debris field".  The grove was part of their "Sediment Placement Site" which is full of older silt.  So LACDPW planned on "reducing vegetation" to make room for the new silt.  

The short story is they clearcut 11 acres of old-growth oak and sycamore trees around 4 protesters who were up in the trees.  The Sheriff's Department got the "crazy tree-sitters" down after blocking off access to the area (including media).  The Erysichthonian Deed was finished during the dark of night.  In a final act of irony the LA County Supervisor who probably could have prevented the destruction, now wants to spend $650,000 on "restoration".  Anyone know were we can buy 147 mature oak trees?

I have written about the Arcadia Woodlands on my Los Angeles blog AngelCityArt and my fellow southern California garden blogger and native plant sage Barbara E posted an incredibly informative, organized and easy to read Woodlands Recap on her blog Wild Suburbia.

It's the Silt, Silly

One of the questions you may be asking yourself is; What does this have to do about my soil again?  If you haven't caught on yet it's about the silt, silly.  The Santa Anita Dam is used for drinking water and is located in Angeles National Forest.  Many other reservoirs dotting the foothills up and down the southland are either in or located directly adjacent to a pristine National or State park.  Interested yet?

When I first heard about this as a gardener I thought hey, if it's good enough for the Cradle of Civilization why not me?  A search on "silt recycling" finally turned up a brilliant program called Mud to Parks in Illinois. This program has restored the Illinois river and reclaimed several acres of land.  They just finished the bidding process on Phase II and now a company in the area is dredging silt for sale.

The Silt Recycling Solution

One of the complaints Certain Individuals (and Agencies) have about us "crazy environmentalists" is that we just scream not in my backyard without offering any solutions.  

Here is my solution; bring us a silt recycling program.  

Stop storing it, stop dumping it in landfills and start harvesting this incredibly rich natural resource.  And gosh, maybe we can save a few more oak groves along the way.

The Illinois program requires silt to be dredged and then 'dewatered' for a year or more.  In California we have silt that has been piled up across the state for decades!  In the immortal words of William Mulholland; "There it is.  Take it."

Dorks for Dirt

I am calling on my fellow gardeners and nature lovers to start a revolution of common sense.  A Silt Recycling Revolution.  If you happen to live in Southern California, drop me a note.  But I'm betting that this is happening all across the nation.  The pilot program for the first Mud to Parks program cost $75,000. 

Perhaps locally we can use some of that $650,000 for an Arcadia Woodlands Memorial Get Smart With Silt Project.

You need to find out about the silt issues in your area and which agency is responsible for maintenance.  It may be from an overflowing reservoir or a clogged waterway.  Where does the sediment go?  How much is going to waste across your state? 

Perhaps you might gently ask your friendly local US Army Corps of Engineers rep to speak to their counterparts in Illinois for ideas on implementing a similar program in your area.  Ask your local agencies and elected officials and/or environmental groups to start a program.  Don't forget to tell them how the Fox Waterway Agency is selling their silt for $12 a cubic yard.  Perhaps that will get their attention.

At the very least you may be able to get a simple recycling program started.  Los Angeles allows residents to bring their own containers and pick up shredded plant material collected in the city's green recycling bins.  I would have loved the opportunity to swing by the old Sediment Placement Site for some of their existing "debris", laughing all the way to my compost pile and vegetable garden.

You're in Good Company

The Mud to Parks program was started by one scientist protesting the waste of sediment in Illinois. I'm sure they called him a crazy scientist.  I call on all my nutty plant pals to proudly carry on the tradition in their areas.  I would also pray that my fellow bloggers cover the issue in their areas and start their own Dirt Revolution.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Green Bean Garden Bonanza? Garden Fresh Recipes, Lore and Labels

When my son was about 6 years old he used to pick green beans right off the vine and eat them in the garden.  As a mom I was thrilled he was getting his organic vegetables fresh as a gardener I was happy to overlook the occasional damage caused by his harvesting technique.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden overflowing with wonderful stringy, snappy green beans I thought you might be looking for some fun info about them and a few ideas on how to cook up all your green goodness.

Beans; Healthy and With A History

Both snap and dried beans are known by the Latin name Phaseolus vulgarisSnap beans or runner beans are healthy, high in fiber and are good sources of iron, vitamins and minerals.  Pole beans can grow up to ten feet or more and bear over a longer time.  Bush beans average in the two foot range and are useful in container gardens or small spaces.

Open pollinated (non-hybrid), heritage or heirloom beans are easy to save from seed each year and many families take pride in their special strains passed down from generation to generation.  Varieties can be green, yellow or purple, with flower colors in similar shades.

Beans are reported to make good companion plants for strawberries and most other vegetables and herbs.  An excellent string bean page by Grow It Organically recommends planting summer savory around green beans to repel Mexican bean beetles, flea beetles and aphids and attracts beneficial insects like tiny parasitic wasps to attack pests.

Culpeper's herbal tells us that beans are ruled by Venus, the planet of beauty.  Ancient Egyptians felt beans were too sacred to be eaten.  Beans and pork were given as offerings and served at the festivals celebrating the Roman goddess Carna.  Yet Roman priests would not speak their name and priestesses at the oracles would not let their vision be clouded by beans.  

Beans form part of the Three Sisters story and Native American technique of planting groups of beans, corn and squash (or pumpkins) together.  The corn supports the beans, the beans help feed the corn and squash grows around the base to shade the corn and keep down weeds.  Today in many parts of the world beans are eaten on New Year's Day to ensure a lucky year.

Here are some simple, nutritious green bean recipes from a fellow eZine Articles contributor:

Fresh Green Beans - Add a Healthy Dish to Your Meal
By Wendy Pan

Fresh green beans should be crisp and break easily when they are bent. If the green bean folds over easily it is not as fresh as it should be. It can still be used but the freshness of the bean is gone. There is nothing tastier than good fresh green bean recipes and I will give you some of my favorites.

Before I get into the recipes I would like to tell you how you can freeze fresh green beans. Strip the green bean of its string and snap off the ends. Place the beans in a strainer and blanch with very hot water. Immediately place the beans in a plastic freezer bag and place in your freezer on the shelf where you would place all instant freeze foods.

The first of my fresh green bean recipes:  Green Beans and Almonds

Ingredients: 2 lbs of fresh green beans
1 cup of toasted almonds less if you don't like a lot of almonds
1/2 stick of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: Wash and remove the string from the green beans and snap off the ends.  Boil or steam the green beans until cooked but still crisp.  In a skillet melt the butter and add the cooked green beans.  Mix well and add the almonds and salt and pepper.  Mix all of the ingredients together well and on a low flame let the mixture.  Cook until done but the beans are still crisp.

This recipe can be used as a side dish with either meat or fish dishes and will serve four with moderate appetites.

The second of my fresh green bean recipes:  Green Beans and Scallions

Ingredients: 2 lbs of fresh green beans
About eight scallions or less if you don't like onions
1/2 stick of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: Wash and remove the string from the green beans and snap off the ends. Boil or steam the green beans until cooked but still crisp. In a skillet melt the butter and add the cooked green beans. Cut and chop the scallions and add them to the green beans with salt and pepper. Mix well and let the mixture cook until the scallions are soft.
This recipe can be used as a side dish with either meat or fish dishes and will serve four with moderate appetites.

Another of my fresh green bean recipe:  Fresh Green Beans In Vegetable Soup

Ingredients: 1 lb of fresh green beans
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of fresh peas
1 cup of fresh whole kernel corn
1 large potato cubed
A dash of rosemary, thyme and any other herb you enjoy
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: Remove the string and snap off the ends, snap the green beans in half, and place into a large pot adding the other fresh and canned vegetables with it. Add the herbs and place enough water to cover the vegetable completely. Cook until all of the vegetables are cooked through.
This recipe is for a vegetarian vegetable soup. If you prefer a soup that is not meatless then you can use the following: _ lb hamburger plain or made into meatballs, _ lbs of beef stew cut into small cubes, or 1 large chicken breast cut into cubes. Add any one of these ingredients into the soup and cook until done. I hope you enjoy my fresh green bean recipes and will use them often.
Wendy Pan is an accomplished niche website developer and author.  To learn more about fresh green bean recipes please visit Green Organic Garden for current articles and discussions.  Article Source: Fresh Green Beans - Add a Healthy Dish to Your Meal

Green Bean Canning Labels; Mania or Marvelous?

What began as an innocent search for an image to go with this post grew like a magic beanstalk into an art obsession and a new section of green bean designs at my Zazzle store.  First I found the green beans and decided on green and blue bean sprinkles then I added a copper frying pan to the mix.  The next thing you know I was whipping up a little country yellow plaid background pattern to tie it all together.   

Then I thought the design might look cute on stickers for homemade canning or freezer labels.  Then of course I had to try my creation on a few other things and before I knew it I had a whole patch of green beans overflowing on their own page. Anyway, here's my Country Green Bean Art section, at or visit my store at http://www.zazzle.com/theGardenPages* and say hello.

Thanks for dropping by and happy cooking and gardening!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Towering, Drought Tolerant Pink Hollyhocks in California for Friday Floral



My neighbor's hollyhocks are blooming again.  They tower over her garden with huge flowers and I admit to being a wee bit jealous.  The old-fashioned garden hollyhock of my childhood storybooks is also called Althaea rosea.  They are native to the Mediteranian region which means they make perfect flowers for a low water yard.  See? You can have a drought tolerant garden without cactus and succulent plants (not that there's anything wrong with that). 

Hollyhocks do well in alkaline soil, like the heavy clay dirt common in my area.  Colors range from white, pinks and the deep red spectrum. The non-hybrid varieties will overseed and come back next year.  Try them in the back of the border; they can grow up to 9 feet tall!

I have found several US native hollyhock at the USDA
Some are endangered; Peter's Mountain Mallow (Iliamna corei) native in general to the US and Iliamna remota from Virginia and Indiana.  These hollyhocks have glowing white flowers that must look stunning in moonlight. They can grow from 4 to 6 feet in height.

I found a few seed suppliers using Google Shopping, but perhaps some of my seed saver friends will consider saving seed and offering it to other home gardeners; not only for it's ethereal beauty but to help save a species!  

I always recommend you try to plant a few native plants in your garden, they are the easiest to take care of because they don't really need you; they're already adapted to your climate.

Happy gardening!





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