Just a reminder to be alert when out in the garden – when opening a drawer to the console behind the pool to get swim toys out for the grandchildren I found a surprise. Curled up in the drawer was a very fat, contented grass snake.
Apparently, Mr. Sneaky Snake was eating insects that found their way into the drawer. Fortunately, I opened the drawer completely before reaching in to get toys, and it was a harmless variety of snake. Definitely got my heart rate up!
Every year, the first weekend in August, we host a family gathering. Thankfully, the extreme hot weather diminished, and an inch of rain fell a few days before, revitalizing the garden.
For a little quick fix and a little color, I planted some blooming hot pink Pentas and golden yellow Rudbeckia at the entrance of the courtyard. To complete this little facelift, I added a couple of Dwarf Powder Puffs to containers just inside the courtyard.
I was looking for plants that tolerate a lot of heat to put in the containers, when I found the Dwarf Powder Puffs (Calliandra haematocephala Nana). The plants, native to India, Mexico, Madagascar, South America and United States, are covered in rosy red powder puff blooms all summer. Each showy bloom is made up of hundreds of stamens that are attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. They have bipinnately compound leaves that emerge with a pink cast but mature to dark green. The oblong shaped leaves fold up in the heat of the day and at night.
Powder Puffs belong to a large genus of tropical plants that is made up of small ornamental trees and flowering shrubs. Powder Puffs can reach 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Dwarf varieties grow 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. To maintain their size and shape, prune after flowering is over in the spring. They should be planted in full sun in well-drained soil. While the information on them says they are hardy to zone 9, I lost one this year when we had two consecutive days in the 20s. So make that hardy in a protected location.
They can be grown from seed. For best results, pour hot tap water over the seeds and allow them to soak for 24-48 hours. Germination takes one to three weeks. They can also be propagated with stem tip cuttings taken in the spring. Dip cuts in a rooting hormone and place in a peat moss/perlite mix until cuttings are well rooted.
Be sure to check plants regularly for pests. They are susceptible to infestations of spider mites, aphids and mealybugs. They are a beautiful shrub and well worth the effort.
Since I was getting ready for the party, I spent some time cleaning up my office and found a recipe. Not just any ordinary recipe, but a recipe for Daylily Soup! To make Daylily Soup, it’s important to use edible flowers from your own garden that are unsprayed. Edible flowers can also be obtained from mail-order outlets.
The recipe is as follows:
• 2 cups yellow or orange daylily buds (they should be on the verge of opening)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 medium shallots (finely chopped)
• 1 clove garlic (minced)
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 2 teaspoons shredded lemon peel
• 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
• 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup whipping cream or half-and-half.
Remove the green daylily stems. Wash the daylilies; drain well. Coarsely chop the buds.
In medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for two minutes, stirring often. Add the daylilies and chicken broth. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat, then simmer, covered, for five minutes or until daylilies are tender. In a colander, strain the daylily mixture, reserving the cooking liquid.
To puree, place half of the daylily mixture into a food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth. Set aside the pureed and coarsely chopped daylilies.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour, lemon peel, thyme, pepper and salt. Add the reserved cooking liquid. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the pureed daylily mixture, the reserved coarsely chopped daylily mixture and whipping cream. Cook over low heat until heated through. Ladle into warm soup bowls. Recipe makes four servings.
I haven’t made the soup yet because it’s so hard to pick the blooms – but one day! Guess I’ll just have to plant more daylilies so I can have soup!