MySecretGarden

U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Friday, October 29, 2010

Autumn Mood and Squash Mystery

Part 1. Autumn Mood


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Part 2. Squash Mystery?

Am I the only one who is puzzled with the shown squash shape? Not every squash, but the type shown above, with a distinctive ‘hat’? I never thought about this unusual shape before, but this year it struck me. How in the world can a vegetable have such two unique, absolutely different parts? I was thinking… and thinking… and thinking til I got the idea: it is not a real vegetable! Well, it’s real, but it’s made from parts taken from two different squashes. They took a squash and put a ‘hat’ on it. Where did they take a ‘hat’? Cut it from another squash! My boys joined my ‘brain storm’ and even tried to separate the two parts. “It’s glued” was their verdict! Only when I found a two year old picture of the piles of weirdly shaped squash on a farm we visited, we realized that the squash with a hat was real!

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They just couldn’t cut and glue so many vegetables. They would need to hire dozens of people to do that. Can you imagine such a picture: at night, under the light of burning torches, dozens of people sit around a pile of squash and craft acorn-like vegetables to fool the customers the next day?

So, it’s real! But was it like this all the time or has it been hybridized in some agricultural labs? My Internet search didn’t give any results, although I learned more about squash than I ever wanted to know.
Turban squash (Cucurbita maxima turbaniformis)
is a winter squash. As the name suggests, its shape resembles that of the Turkish hat, turban. Although, I personally would name it Acorn squash, because it looks exactly as an oak's acorn!!!


Photo from Wikipedia

I actually thought it was the acorn squash, but was corrected by Clare from Curbstone valley Farm (http://curbstonevalley.com/blog/)

The following information is about an acorn squash. It is easy to grow. “Seeds are started after all danger of frost is past and the soil is warm or within 3–4 weeks before the predicted last frost date in the area. Seeds directly sown are placed one inch deep, 5-6 to a hill; hills are 6 feet in all direction from other hills. Roughly 85 days after germinating, acorn squash are ready to be harvested. Curing takes a week to ten days in a sheltered area outside, or a warm dry place such as a garage, protected from frost”. (Wikipedia).
The seeds of the squash are also eaten, usually after being toasted. Acorn squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sautéd, and steamed. If you lack beta-carotene, you’d rather eat other winter squashes, but if you need a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, then acorn squash is a good choice. It also has vitamins C and B, foliate, thiamin, magnesium and manganese.
If you want to try an acorn squash dish, they say that baking an acorn squash is quite simple. In the easiest form, you can simply halve the squash, scoop out its seeds with a spoon, and bake it for approximately an hour. Some people cover the squash, or bake it in a dish surrounded with water so the top layer of the acorn squash does not harden. It isn’t necessary to peel the acorn squash. This can easily be accomplished after it is steamed or baked, or it can simply be served in its shell.

Acorn squash pairs well with sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In pureed form, if you really want to be decadent, you can add some butter and a bit of brown sugar for a sweet winter side dish. You should also consider acorn squash as one of the great winter squashes for vegan or vegetarian dishes. The size makes it perfect for individual stuffed portions, and it makes for a hearty meal. This info is from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-acorn-squash.htm
While I was pretending that I have nothing more to do than browse the Internet for more squash information, I found some very interesting and funny vegetable pictures here: http://www.frogview.com/show2.php?file=1508 Check it out, and you will never look at the vegetables the same way. You can show it to your kids too! My favorites are the cauliflower sheep, eggplant penguins and crying pumpkin (Missy( http://missyhomegarden.blogspot.com/) thinks it's an orange. She is probably right, but hey, it's pumpkin time! Let's pretend it's a pumpkin!).





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Have a wonderful autumn, fall or whatever you prefer: 秋季 , podzim, efterår, herfst, sügis, syksy, automne, der Herbst, φθινόπωρο, ősz, haust, musim gugur, autunno, 秋 , 가을, rudens, ruduo, høst, jesień, outono, toamnă, осень, jeseň, jesen, otoño, höst, sonbahar, فَصل الخَريف !

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P.S. I am still curious about how they managed to make turban squash wear a hat??? If you know anything about it, please let me know!
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gold of Calendula

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I am Calendula. I am a wonderful creation.

I never fail my gardener. She spread a packet of seeds 6 years ago in the garden, and since then, I return every year. I am easy to grow, I am independent, pest resistant, tough, reliable and above all else, I am beautiful. My name comes from the Latin kalendae, which means the first day of the month; and they say it refers to my long flowering season. I bloom for so long that there are pictures of my bright yellow and orange blooms poking from under the snow.

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The gardener’s boys pluck and eat my petals. The gardener decorates dishes with my blooms. She makes facial calendula water and calendula ice cubes. When her boys have cuts, scratches and bumps, they ask not for an ointment from a pharmacy, but for the calendula solution which is made with vodka and my dried or fresh blooms. When they have sore throats, they don’t ask for the pink gooey stuff, but instead gargle with my solution.

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My gardener loves me because her mother and grandmother loved me. People in old Russia probably didn’t know such words as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, but they sure knew how to use me for treating wounds and skin problems. Before big companies started to include me as an ingredient in their skin creams, lotions, tonics, etc., ordinary people already knew how helpful I am.

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Look at me! I have the warmth of the sun preserved in my petals. I have the happiness of summer absorbed in my blooms. I have healing power waiting to be released.

I am Calendula, and I am a wonder!

P.S. My formal name is Calendula officinalis. You might know me as Pot Marigold. I grow easily in sunny locations in most types of soils. I am a perennial, but I am treated as an annual in colder regions. You can find me in pale yellow, dark yellow, orange and even orange-red colors (there is a belief that only the common deep orange-flowered variety is of medicinal value), with single or double flower heads. My leaves and petals are edible. The petals can serve as a garnish to dishes , since they contain saffron. You can use my leaves in salads, although they can be bitter. I’ve been around and served people for ages. Ancient Romans, Greeks, Arabs and Indians used me as a medicinal herb and also as a dye for their fabrics, foods and cosmetics.

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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Friday, October 22, 2010

Four October Bouquets

Autumn bouquets are special. They give us a chance to enjoy the last bright blooms reminescent of summer. They also include dried remnants of the plants assuring us that the summer, whether we like it or not, is gone.
Weather permitting, some bouquets are made for the outside.


CLEAN-UP BOUQUET
Dry poppy, acanthus, agapanthus, mallow and astilber were very attractive and just ask to be displayed!
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Hydrangeas will go to another bunch for the second garden table.
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Here they are.


HYDRANGEA BOUQUET
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Final inspection:
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Closer look:
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And to the final destination, the garden table that can be seen from the windows.
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Can I be in the picture again? I was not looking at the camera in that first shot!
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I think I am very photogenic!
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Two other bouquets go inside. ______________________________________
HARVEST BOUQUET
It’s time to harvest my favorite herb, parsley, from my garden. The parsley will stay for several days on the kitchen counter, and everyone is welcome to munch on its green leaves. Then, it will be spread, dried and placed into a glass jar for storage and used in cooking. Blue and white porcelain is from my Russian Gzhel collection.
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“I AM THE BEST, DON’T STAY CLOSE TO ME” BOUQUET
Some flowers don’t want any competition. They think they are so beautiful, no one else deserves to be in the scene while they are performing. The lonely dahlia flower will decorate the breakfast table. But, before going inside, it posed for an outdoor shot.
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And one more
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didn’t dare move the Autumn Joy sedum from this view. It wanted to be in the picture too! Wait, maybe it wants to tell something? Maybe, it wants to have a bouquet of its own? Did you ever make an Autumn Joy sedum bouquet?
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For other October bouquets go to Noelle at Ramblings From A Desert Garden
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

bouquets art

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Won’t Show This To My Houseplants

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I have a confession to make . During my last travel, to the wonderful land of sunshine, breathtaking views, olives, lemons  and Limoncello, I didn’t miss my own garden!
I know,  it would be more appropriate to say that the thoughts of my own garden never left me. I could say that they followed my walks through the old narrow streets , stirred my mind during ferry rides from Sorrento to Capri and back and… well, you got the idea.  But, I am an honest person, and I am honestly saying: Nope. I didn’t miss my garden, I didn’t worry about it, and the only concern, related to it,  was: do they pick up my tomatoes? As I found out later, the did, but very few. Upon my return, I found many tomatoes rotten or eaten by slugs.  It was late summer, tomatoes came not at the end of July, as usual, but in September. That is why tomatoes were on my mind.
While on the Amalfi coast of Italy, I didn’t have time to think about my garden. All my time was consumed by walking, sightseeing, admiring what I saw and getting excited and inspired. Between the walks (and there were a LOT of them!),  I was sitting in a little outdoor café or on a bench near the town square and watching people.
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Not thinking much about my own garden, I caught myself thinking about my houseplants pretty often. Always, the thought would come in a form of a question : But why doesn’t MY plant grow like this? Let me show you some pictures with amazing philodendrons, pothos vines, orchids, birds of paradise, etc. which in some parts of the world, of course, grow in the wild, but in my place are used as houseplants.  Most of the pictures were taken in the beautiful hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano (except the next one, from the hotel Santa Caterina in Amalfi). No, we didn’t stay in Le Sirenuse, but we spent some time in its quiet, inviting sitting rooms  hiding from the rain and enjoying afternoon drinks.
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You might want to click on the pictures to see splendid  furniture and fine architectural details and oh so beautiful Italian tiles!
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For a fan of turquoise, green and blue colors, it was THE place to be! I think places like this can serve as a source of inspirational interior design ideas. How do you like this brilliant yellow color? Yellow is not my favorite color, but something tells me I could live with it during the grey days of our rainy season.
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I think I got carried away again. Back to house plants. Actually, I guess the answer to my question is pretty clear. To have my plants grow better, I need to remember to feed them, provide them with moss sticks, move them further from the heating vents, and set them outside in a shady spot during summer.
                                                         Since we are already here, in this beautiful hotel, let me show you what treasures they have outside.
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Lemon trees in terracotta pots, vines that are hugging the walls and columns and, again, this beautiful tile! And what views are there for everyone’s enjoyment! Even the low-hanging clouds couldn’t spoil them. They rather add some drama and mystery.
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Houses clinging on the side of the cliff, boats down there, rain water on the tile floor… Ahhh…
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             I think I will return to these pictures again and again. Did I tell you I have 1200 of them?
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Thanks for hanging around! Now, I need to go and take care of my houseplants… It’s time to bring my Chlorophytum  inside. It spent the summer  outside like its relatives in the pictures below. Although, it didn’t have such a picturesque location as those. BTW, is it an Aloe in the right  picture?
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And is it a Schefflera on the left?
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Why did I name this post ‘I Won’t Show This To My Houseplants ‘? I am afraid they can pack their suitcases and go to the Amalfi coast, the wonderful land of sunshine, breathtaking views, olives, lemons  and Limoncello, where they can grow big and beautiful.
Arrivederci, my friends, arrivederci!
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS
positano prints

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