Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Super Fall Plant Sale


It's almost time for fall planting and I can tell you where you can get some top-notch plants that will add the perfect touch to your garden for a fair price, at the perfect planting time.

Just go to the Coweta Extension Greenhouse on Pine Road on Saturday, October 4 and you will find some beautiful trees, shrubs, and plants for your home landscape. These plants have been lovingly planted, watered, and tended by the Coweta Master Gardeners (MGEVs) for this occasion.


Most of the plants have been donated to them by beautiful garden owners all around the county. The Master Gardeners planted them and have lovingly tended them all summer long. I asked one of the tenders how long it takes to water the garden and they said at least three hours. That is true dedication!


I can't begin to list all of the plants that will be available, but they have quite a few Japanese Maples and other nice trees and shrubs. They have both dug plants from gardens and have propagated plants and they will be ready on October 4 to sell you just what you need.

Fall is a great time to plant shrubs, trees and perennials because they will get a great start before cold weather since the rain is usually plentiful at this and their root systems will be well established for winter and spring.

Several great benefits about buying from the MGEVs is that the plants will be very healthy and have been lovingly cared for since being potted. The MGEVs will be able to give you guidance about where in your landscape your new plant should be planted and how to care for your plant. You can also feel good about knowing that the proceeds will go towards scholarships for Coweta graduates.

You can't say any of those things about plants at the big box stores! You will also know that these plants will do well in this area.

I can't wait to get my fall plants. I would LOVE to get a hydrangea. I know they have some but I don't know what kind or how many.

Some advice--get there early. There is usually a line to get in and the best plants (usually the shrubs and trees) will go fast!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Making Pear Preserves


One thing we always loved about summer when growing up in the South, was that you could count on getting plenty of pear preserves when the dog days of summer came along. They were so good!

My mother would peel the pears, cut them in slices and top them with mounds of sugar and let them sit overnight until the pears were watery and the sugar had "melted." Mother would then pour the whole lot into an 8 quart stock pan and let it cook for at least a couple of hours until the pears had reached the perfect golden color. That meant the preserves were ready to can. It also meant that we needed to make buttered biscuits, since the perfect way to serve these preserves is inside a light and fluffy buttermilk biscuit, liberally spread with butter.


I really loved the variety of the pears we used for making preserves. They are not the usual variety we see in the store, but a hard rounder pear that begins green and turns golden when ripe. They were very watery and sweet. They are perfect for canning and of course, preserves.

I believe the old-fashioned pear might be called the Orient pear, Pyrus communis. I am not sure of this, though it does fit the description of these pears. They are somewhat like Asian pears, not quite so round and they are such good producers and not subject to Fire Blight.

The texture is not as good as a Bartlett pear and can be rock hard and even somewhat grainy. When ripe they are a golden brown and will become softer and they ripen but they will remain criper than most pears. They aren't easy to peel and sometimes have hard places in them that I suspect could be insect damage. I always cut that out.

Growing up, we didn't actually have a pear tree in our backyard. We did have a couple of apple trees, including a crab apple tree that was also good for climbing; a peach tree that never produced anything; a wonderful pomegranate tree that was a good producer; and a persimmon tree that, when eaten prematurely, could actually make you pucker. I don't know why we didn't have a pear tree, but it might have been because my grandmother had one so we didn't need one, but that is where we got our pears.

My mother-in-law has a pear tree that is around 50 years old and is about 40 feet tall. I can remember that in years past, the tree limbs would be so heavy with pears that they would almost touch the ground. The tree is now so tall that we can't get all the fruit unless it falls to the ground. This was a good year for that tree because we have made quite a few jars of pear preserves and pear sauce.

To make my Mother's recipe, peel, core and thinly slice enough Orient pears to fill a heavy 8 quart stock pan. Cover with approximately three pounds of sugar. (You don't have to be exact for this to be good.) Lighter pans can tend to stick on the bottom. Cook on medium heat for two to three hours, uncovered. After that, you need to fill approximately 8 pint jars with the mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Clean off the jar rims. Add new lids and rings to the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. If you have any leftover preserves, store them in the refrigerator. You might have excess juice left, which is very good on pancakes or can be used as a simple syrup in teas or anytime simple syrup is recommended.

While you are waiting for the jars to cool, make some biscuits, because you will certainly need them.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What a surprise!


Though these lilies are sometimes called surprise lilies, they shouldn't be such a surprise to me since they have been blooming each year, in August, in the middle of my lily bed. They put on a better show than my white lilies that grow all around them.

Their common name is Spider Lily or Lycoris radiata and apparently, their thin green leaves make a showing in the spring, then die down and in August, they shoot up from the ground putting on a display I am always excited about.

At some point, someone either planted the bulbs, were mixed with the lilies already planted, or my favorite, some ingenious bird found a great spot to drop a "deposit" that contained something that became a Spider Lily.

I only know that I didn't plant them--yet I am thankful for them each year. Nothing else is blooming at this time of year so they are a very welcome sight.

They seem to appear, like a magic show, every year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Research and Education Garden


A little more than a week ago I visited the Education and Research Gardens in Griffin, Ga. It was a beautiful day and I saw some inspirational sights, including this grasshopper on a red leaf.

The great thing about the gardens is that they are open to the public and were built by donations and though they have a very experienced horticulturist on staff, much of the labor is provided by volunteers.

They are learning areas, where you can learn to do what they do in your own landscape. Almost every kind of garden area you can imagine is included. There are pergolas, a shade, butterfly, water, rock, and container gardens. It is quite spectacular and I know I will have to go back just to get more inspiration. They also have experimental gardens you can walk through and I was fascinated by everything there.

Events are scheduled throughout the year and I can tell you this is one of those places a gardener would love to visit. In fact, you are invited anytime they are open.

Check them out at http://www.caes.uga.edu/campus/griffin/garden/ and go there for a real treat. My photo of the green grasshopper on a red leaf is pitiful compared to what you can see when you visit.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It's time for Apple Pie!!!


This is the time of year to go out into your backyard and pick apples. The only problem is that I don't have an apple tree. I keep thinking every fall that I will plant one, but so far I haven't gone to Ison's Nursery, (a great nursery in our area that specializes in fruit trees) to buy one. Thankfully, I have a good friend, Angela McRae, who gave me some really great apples from her father's apple tree.

These apples were so good that I knew they would make a GREAT apple pie--like my Mother's apple pies during my childhood years. My husband thought so too, and they is why he volunteered to peel the apples for me while I mixed up a crust. (That is pretty amazing.)


As I pulled out all the ingredients I thought I would just make it from scratch like my Mother did and to make it easy, I didn't measure very much or look in a cookbook, but did the following:

My Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, cold
Ice water

I mixed the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut up my cold butter in my flour mixture and drizzled on the honey. I then took a pastry blender and mixed in the butter, then added ice water in small amounts until it formed a dough ball. I wasn't too fussy about it and left some butter flecks I could see. I then rolled it out on some waxed paper sprinkled with flour. The bottom crust takes a little more dough. I put the bottom crust in the pie plate, then added the fruit filling. I rolled out the top crust, placed it on the top. Pressed the edges down into the bottom crust with a fork and then cut some slits into the top.

Here is my filling:

Apple Pie Filling

8 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 stick of butter

In a bowl mix the apples, corn starch, and sugar. Pour into an unbaked pie crust. Dot the top with the butter. Cook on 375 degrees for 1 hour.

We always have it with ice cream or whipped cream.

Some people add cinnamon but I didn't want that for this pie. Because of the great apple, it tasted like the apples from the tree in our backyard. Perfect!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pear sauce


We've been busy on a number of things this past weekend. One of them has been canning pear sauce. It's very much like applesauce but made with stewed pears.


My husband's mom has a huge backyard pear tree that he figures has been around for half a century. This antique tree that is at least thirty feet tall was filled with pears. In fact, we only picked up pears that had fallen on the ground. We canned a gallon of pear sauce and about the same amount of pear preserves.


Why pear sauce? It is tasty and sometimes easier on your stomach than applesauce. It is surprisingly smooth and flavorful and very good with a little honey added and good as a low-fat topping for oatmeal. It is good for babies and also older people who might have compromised digestion.


It is VERY easy to make. Just peel the pears. Cut them up into a large saucepan. Don't add water. Pears contain SO much water, and are more flavorful if cooked in their own juice. Just start them on low and let them slowly come to a boil. The pears will be covered in liquid in no time.

After they become soft, remove from the heat, allow to cool and strain out most of the water. Grind the pears in a blender or a food processor. The excess juice can be saved, too, for smoothies or other things.

Pear sauce can be canned or frozen. To can, just pour into clean jars, clean the tops of the jars and put on new lids and rings, tighten and out then in a bit water bath for 20 minutes. Carefully remove from pan and allow to cool. That's about it, but pear sauce is quite good as a low-cal treat with just a drizzle of honey.

Pears may not be an interesting and fun topic but it is great to know you have a gallon of pear sauce sitting on your shelf waiting to be used and it's fairly easy to make--good for you, too,

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Seed Sale!!


This is the time of year to get bargains for summer sale items, especially clothing. I usually try to stock up on things that go on sale in August, but this year I'm stocking up on a something different.

SEEDS!

I just LOVE seeds, and I have found that if you buy at the end of the season, the seeds still sprout and grow really well the next spring. After that, they probably won't sprout quite as well. That is why buying this year's seeds at the end of summer is such a bargain. I have used packs of two year old seeds that worked too, but I wouldn't recommend banking on the germination rate of seeds that have been kept that long.

You can get bargains almost anyplace that sells seeds, but I bought my bargain seeds from a reputable business, Arnall's Grocery in downtown Newnan, Ga. I have always used their seeds with good results and I think I am way ahead of the game this spring. I will already have enough seeds to give me a good head start 4 to 6 weeks before spring planting time.

Some of the seeds I will use right away. The lettuce, radishes, carrots, and cabbage I will use for my fall planting. I also purchased some spinach and beet seeds, but I didn't get a deal on those because the good folks there know they can be grown in the fall.

And, if you were in Arnall's yesterday, I was the crazy lady down on her knees digging through the basket and bucket of sale seeds. It was worth it, because rather than spending more than forty dollars, I only spent eight dollars.

As I dusted off my knees and paid for my seeds I was certainly happy because I now have the knowledge that I have most of my fall seeds (at a bargain) and also many of my spring seeds (again, a bargain). For now, I am prepared--a nice change from my usual practice of waiting till the last minute.