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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


      Monday, December 26, 2011

      MORE CONFUSION, NYC

      Up on the rooftop Christmas day, in my container garden, not Santa but Rosa'Graham Thomas',
      the annual Calibrachoa 'Million Bells',new self-seeded calendula plants and California poppies, waiting to bloom.and at my bus stop, a few flowering pear blossoms.
      All is not right with the world.

      Sunday, December 18, 2011

      I'm confused. And I'm not the only one.

      Last week in Central Park:

      Some plants think it's August.

      Some think it's September.


      At least one thinks it's May.


      But the one I'm really worried about is this little beauty.


      What are they going to do come next March?

      Wednesday, December 14, 2011

      WIN A FREE BOOK

      Win a copy of Art Wolk's informative and hilarious book," Bulb Forcing: for beginners and the seriously smitten." All you have to do is comment directly below this post or for the tech challenged, email me and I'll add your comment section: 75 words or less describing your greatest success or failure in bulb forcing.

      Garden Bytes publishers Ellen Spector Platt and Ellen Zachos will judge your comments and announce the winner on the blog. Entry deadline, Jan 2, 2012. The book is a beautiful hardback, signed by the author, published at $32.95 with free shipping courtesy of GardenBytes.com .(above, Crocus tomasinianus, 'Ruby Giant' forced in a pot)

      Now is the time for New York City gardeners and all urban gardeners with tiny or non-existent outdoor spaces to think of growing bulbs indoors. Ok, you people with huge gardens are also invited to add the pleasure of winter blooms to your indoor space.

      I've been forcing bulbs since girlhood but as I read Wolk's book I kept thinking with wonderment, 'I didn't know that.' He reveals all from his vast experience; how using a heat mat under a pot or increasing room heat forces the two or three amaryllis flower stalks within a bulb to shoot up and bloom simultaneously for a grand display.
      I never realized that tap water that contains fluoride would probably kill the freesias I was trying to force (OMG, so THAT'S why...) Try layering your bulbs, explore a different species like anemones or ranunculus, plant a multi-species pot.(three photos above courtesy Art Wolk, from his book "Bulb Forcing." Directly above, Wolk's 13-division daffodil display at the 1999 Phila. Flower Show)

      Maybe you don't want to compete for the big blue ribbon wins as Wolk does. I'm happy with a few hyacinths in water in a color to compliment my new gift African violet (see below). But in "Bulb Forcing" I discovered why my hyacinth stems are so short. If you want to learn the secret, win the book, or even (gasp) buy it.

      Thursday, December 8, 2011

      Membrillo

      (giant Cydonia oblonga v. petite Chaenomeles japonica)

      'Tis the season to cook with quinces.

      I've extolled the virtues of the traditional quince in the past, but these days I'm looking at edible plants from a different point of view.

      The ornamental quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is grown primarily for its flowers. When I was growing up we had a beauty in our garden, and my parents told me the fruit wasn't edible. I'm sure they weren't intentionally lying to me. Most people just don't realize these hard, yellow fruit can be delicious.

      Ornamental quince grows well in containers and new hybrids have expanded the flowers' color palette from shades of pink to include orange and red. Please note that some of these hybrids (specifically the Proven Winners Double Take series) do NOT produce fruit. So sad. Were they bred that way on purpose? Did someone think that was a good thing?

      Spring is the pretty time for these shrubs, but fall is when they get interesting. Small ripe fruit looks like lumpy tennis balls. They're often marred by large black spots, but these can be cut away during preparation and do nothing to mar the sour, complex taste and fragrance of the fruit.

      Flowering quince is great for making jelly. It has loads of pectin and jells easily. But why not be a little more adventurous and experiment with membrillo?

      Membrillo (aka quince paste) is a classic Spanish dessert. Most recipes call for traditional quinces, sugar, and water...that's it. I used ornamental quinces, and added a vanilla bean and a Meyer lemon. It's time consuming, because basically what you're doing is cooking all the liquid out of the fruit mixture, which literally takes hours. But boy oh boy is it worth it.

      Serve it with slices of manchego or sharp cheddar and you'll impress the hell out of your dinner guests. After they've enjoyed it and praised your culinary skills, you can tell them you picked the fruit from the flowering shrub on your terrace. If you don't have a terrace, you may be able to score some ornamental quince fruit in your local park. Most people let them fall and rot.

      I harvest from the same spot every year, offering the shrub's owner some jelly or membrillo in return.

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