MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Miracle Jerusalem Artichoke

People look at the plants and then ask me, "are these sunflowers?" Yes and No. When I tell the people the name of the plant, I get a very understanding nod with the exclamation, "Ah! Artichokes," or "Ah! Artichokes from Jerusalem." NOOOOOOOOO, these are not artichokes and they have nothing to do with Jerusalem.

It's a mystery why they are called Jerusalem Artichokes. One of the theory is that when Pilgrims landed on the US, they depended on this plant, which they learned from the Native Americans, to survive the harsh winter of North-East. Thus, they called this food as the divine food from Jerusalem. Another theory is that Jerusalem is the twisting of the Italian word for sunflower -- Girasol. Whatever the theories might be behind such a name, it is neither an Artichoke nor it came originally from Jerusalem.

Flowers have slowly started emerging

It is one of the true native plants of the USA and Canada and can be found from as far as north in Maine to all the way down to Texas. It can be grown under various weather conditions. The beauty and miraculous nature of this plant is mind-blowing. It will start blooming, from late September onward through October, early November, when all other plants are going dormant, dead and are hardly blooming. The plants can easily grow ten feet or more taller as slender plants. It's amazing that they hardly get toppled down by wind or storm. They stand proud, tall and erect. Then they burst into flames -- the whole plants get covered with cheerful yellow flowers. A row of these plants really create spectacular sight as these bright yellow flowers nod and move in the little breeze. Various kind of smaller bees (not the honey-bees or bumble-bees) can be found on these flowers.

Showy, beautiful flowers on the top and heart-healthy, super-food under -- what more can you demand from a plant? The thick potato-like tubers of this plant are what are known as Jerusalem Artichoke. It can be eaten raw, or cooked in any way one likes -- fried, roasted, boiled, made into flour or dehydrated. Potato contains starch and which is not good for diabetic people. That's why often nutritionists recommend JA to replace potato in one's diet. JA contains 80% Inulin, a kind of fructan compound that is very low on glycemic index and is a soluble fiber. Inulin is nowadays considered as a super-food and is a pre-biotic. I do not care about all these super-food gimmicks. I just love eating raw JA as they taste like something between walnut and chestnut.

Are we not pretty enough to be in your garden? Just think -- we will be saving you the cost of fertilizers and water and also provide you with food and flowers.

The tubers should be harvested during the colder months only, that is, in December, January, February or later. When the ground is frozen solid, covered with thick layer and snow and there are hardly any fresh food (unless one has a green-house), one can go out into the field and dig out these foods (Yes, I know what you are thinking -- lots of strength will be required to dig up a frozen solid ground, but just think how wonderfully nature works). Though it is a native sunflower plant, but people here do not grow it as it is considered a weed. And, it does indeed behave like a weed. Put one tuber of JA in the ground and in one single year, it will occupy a significant portion of the garden -- it spreads very fast. So, one has to be very careful while putting it down in a garden. It can also be grown successfully in big pots and will produce a significant amount of tubers (unlike potatoes which will not produce much in a pot unless someone uses a really large pot and/or puts just one potato per pot). One can put the tuber in the ground and then forget about it. It does not require any water, fertilizer or any care. During winter months, harvest whatever one requires and leave the rest in the ground. However, a word of caution -- leaving JA in ground changes it chemical composition -- much of inulin gets converted into fructose. How much of the super-food inulin left in the JA depends upon local weather, how long it was in the ground, harvest time, etc. So, if one is diabetic, one should consult a nutritionist before starting to consume JA.

JA also goes by various other names like sunchokes, sun-root, earth apple, etc. It's biological name is Helianthus Tuberosus, and thus it tells you that it is a sunflower, a perennial sunflower that will come back year after years. the plant with its big leaves, stems and flowers are easy fodder for live-stocks. So, do you have them in your garden, will you be growing them?

Some more random photos from the garden:
Unknown flowers that grow in our garden. Bees of all sorts and butterflies love them. Is the first one some kind of native Aster? Looks like Aster-flowers but much smaller. I have asked a botanist but have not heard the verdict yet.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Seasonal Celebration

First of all, I would like to my dear blog-community -- I am just so busy that I am not getting the time to visit any of your blogs or update my blog. Hopefully, it will change soon. I will at least try my best to visit your blogs. This post is for the seasonal celebration meme that Donna of Gardens Eye View is hosting.

A field of yoder-mums, perennial mums, and sneezeweed. Okay, they are not exactly fields but are now profusely blooming in the garden.

Today, September 22, was the last day of the summer. However, it is still fighting over its last breath, refusing to lose its grip with temperature sometimes going above 80 degree Fahrenheit. Temperature soared to above 95 degree Fahrenheit on 9/11. Fall is not to be left behind; evenings and nights are becoming chilly. Both summer and winter crops are thriving in bright sunshine, cooler nights and few inches of rain every week.

This has been a year of tomatoes and beans. Tomatoes are always prolific in our garden but this year it has been exceptional due to the beautiful weather -- warm, bright days but not extremely high temperature; temperature dropping to about 70 or 75 degree Fahrenheit in the evening; rain and shower every week -- the optimal weather for abundant supply of fruits, flowers and vegetables. . Never did I get so much tomatoes and bean every day that I now do not even care to pick them -- many of them are just dropping off the plant and rotting away in ground. The late-season strawberries are in abundance now but again I do not bother to pick them up -- they are rotting away or becoming the food for insects and birds. Okra, pepper, eggplants and corns are still producing and ripening. Pumpkin-plants are done with their jobs; the pumpkins are stored away now, waiting to become good food during winter. The enormous gourd-vine is still trying to produce gourd though the imminent cooler fall is becoming its bane -- gourd does not like cold; it thrives in hot, muggy temperature. However, if everything goes nicely, I will be getting more than ten gourds from one plant. Jerusalem Artichokes are plumping up underground. The Asparagus plants are looking beautiful in their fern-like leaves and berries; they are storing up energies and becoming stronger to produce good asparagus next year.

I am slowly harvesting the potatoes. A huge amount has been produced. If I can store them properly, they will serve us for the whole next year. I have never done canning, storing, pickling or freezing garden bounties for winter consumption. This is my first year. So, now and then I am trying to take time out of my busy schedules to oven-roast tomatoes, freeze beans, tomatoes, okras and eggplants, wash, clean and store away potatoes, collect herbs and store them in olive oil and pickle other harvests. As I am doing these, my respect and admiration for the past generations is getting renewed -- harvesting, washing, cleaning, chopping, cutting, pickling, storing, freezing, cooking -- none of these '-ing' are easy jobs, especially without any of the modern amenities and facilities that we take for granted nowadays.

I am also busy planting the winter crops. There is a huge selection of plants that can be grown during winter with bare protection -- just few floating covers will do. However, the trick is that one needs to start planting them now so that they get all the bright sunshine to thrive and grow. Put them into ground sometimes in October before the ground freezes and one will have a whole winter supply of fresh greens and vegetables. Some of the crops that I am growing for winter are celery, Chinese Celery, Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Broccoli-Raarb, Pak-choi (bok-choi, whatever they are called), Asian Greens, Mustard, Spinach, Lettuce, Rutabaga, Turnip, Parsnip, Beet, Chives, Garlic, Onion, Parsley, Coriander and Carrot (did I include all? I seem to be growing more!!).

This is also the time to focus on my failure and contemplate about next summer. I have learned that cherry-tomato plants should never be pruned as pruning will result in fewer cherry tomatoes. However, big-plump tomato-plants always need to be pruned to produce more bigger, plumper tomatoes!! It is a bad idea to plant squashes, pumpkins and gourds with other smaller plants as these vines grow humongous, and their huge leaves block all the sun-lights. I have been growing only bush-beans. I tried other beans this year and learned that they will climb up over anything; they will also climb up against each other, get all inter-twined and the beans will get vanished in that jungle. I do not know if these beans can become giant stalks or not but they can surely become giant jungles of vines where one has to get down on knees and crawl and poke around to search for bean-pods! Potato, tomato, okra and egg-plants can compete with any huge vines, grow taller and produce. However, peppers and greens fail -- they surely need their own spaces with lots of sunshine and air. Zucchini plants also need their own spaces. Basil needs lots of sunshine; however, seems to thrive in the semi-dark jungle of tomatoes. Tomatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes can easily become weed in the garden. Bees love onion-flowers and is one of the earliest flower to bloom in spring when everything is still naked and frozen. However, the down-side is onions will be extremely small; hardly any onions can be harvested if their flowers are left to bloom for bees to enjoy. The up-side is at the end of the season one will gather about billion onion seeds to last a life-time!! These onion-seeds can be used in cooking (they are used in various Indian cooking) or can be put in ground to create future onions (or spring onion if you like the greens).

This is also the time to plant perennials so that they gather and store all the energy during the winter to be healthy and profuse in the spring and summer. So, I bought some native plants

Monday, September 2, 2013

Longwood Garden -- Roses and Orchids

Longwood Garden is located in Pennsylvania, and is considered one of the premiere botanical gardens in the US. It is spread across a thousand acres and consists of spectacular fountains, conservatory, historical musical-organs and buildings, meadows, forests, and innumerable gardens. Throughout the year it has lots of shows, exhibitions, various Philharmonic shows and fireworks. Some of its spectacular shows are autumn lantern shows (when tens of thousands of lanterns float in the water, hung in the air), Christmas lights (when lights hung from trees and everywhere creating a magical landscape), Chrysanthemum festival (when you not only have those small mum plants that you see in the garden, but even shrubs and trees full of all the spectacular color of the flower) and Labor Day fireworks. You can find more information about the garden here. The garden is easily accessible from NYC, NJ, Delaware, Philadelphia and Connecticut as it is located within two to three hours drive from these places/cities. We went there to enjoy the Labor Day fireworks on Saturday (August 31, 2013).

Rose Garden:
The rose-garden at Longwood is not that big as that in NY Botanical Garden. It has only couple of rose species compared to more than 650 species and more than 6000 rose plants in NYBG. Also the rose-garden is separated from a big central court-yard type area where the whole area is surrounded by rose arbors and arrangement of plants in pots.

Rose-arbors though no roses are blooming. Second-picture shows ground-cover rose (Rosa Meipsidue). It was amazing. I never saw roses as ground-cover! The third picture is that of large-flowered climber rose (Rosa Meiviolon)
Floribunda Rose (Rosa Harsherry) in the first picture. Hybrid Rugosa Rose (Rosa Jens Munk) in the second picture, Hybrid Tea Rose (Rosa BARbetod -- Bella Di Todi) in the third picture. This one had really good smell.
Hybrid Tea Rose (Rosa Meibedull) in the first picture, Can you read the name of the rose in the second picture? Gold Medal Grandiflora rose in the third picture.
Easy-Does-It Floribunda rose in the first picture. Belinda's Dream Shrub Rose in the second picture. Mister Lincoln Hybrid Tea rose in the third picture.
Belinda's Dream Shrub rose in the last two pictures. Many of these roses smell really beautiful, but I have forgotten which ones. I was just suffering from information overload :-).

Orchids: Longwood has a huge collection of orchids. They can be found at various locations in the conservatory and in open-ground. However, a whole large section of the conservatory is especially designated for orchids. Here are the pictures of the orchids from that section.
Display of orchids in metal pots along the wall of a huge hall and a corridor.

It has a huge collection of palm, cycad, ferns and other exquisite plants. According to its website, Exquisite flowers, majestic trees, dazzling fountains, extravagant conservatory, starlit theatre, thunderous organ—all describe the magic of Longwood Gardens, a horticultural showstopper where the gardening arts are encased in classic forms and enhanced by modern technology. More information and pictures would come in later posts. It also has a huge store and sells really nice perennials, among other things, which I do not find in any garden-centers in NJ. They are also cheap :-). So, I ended up buying Sneezeweed, NY-Aster, Windflower, Rose Mallow and Bluebeard.