Posted on 19 Comments

Odds and Ends

Seeds for Sharing Dec 2011

How exciting to get such an enthusiastic response to the offering of seeds in my last post! I have a little follow-up to do on that project, plus a few other miscellaneous bits of information that I thought you might find interesting or amusing.

Seeds on the Move

I’ve been happily busy packing and sending out over 200 packets of seed during the last few weeks. I hope I didn’t miss anyone. If you asked for seeds and haven’t heard from me, please leave me a note below. Also, consider this a gentle reminder to those of you who requested seed but haven’t yet sent me the SASE or let me know that it will be coming. I still have your requests set aside, but I’d like to get this project wrapped up soon.

Gossypium herbaceum 'Nigrum' (cotton) seeds

This whole seed-sharing experiment has been great fun, and I’m hoping to make it yearly event. To that end, I encourage all of you to let me know if you see plants that you’d like seed of in any of my posts through the next year. If they set seed, and if I think that it’s likely to come true, they’ll appear in next fall’s list.

For those of you who requested seed and asked for germination advice, I’m afraid that I don’t have time to write out detailed sowing information for each offering, but I can give you a few very basic tips.

Gossypium herbaceum 'Nigrum' (cotton) seedlings

Those I start indoors under lights, and usually on a heat mat: Aristolochia fimbriata (white-veined Dutchman’s pipe); Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’ (black-leaved cotton, seedlings shown above – they turn dark later); Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Axminster Streaked’ (balloon flower); Solanum atropurpureum (malevolence); Talinum paniculatum ‘Kingwood Gold’ (jewels-of-Opar; this one also self-sows nicely, so you could instead try direct-sowing in spring)

Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) seedlings

Those that I just let self-sow (I’ve not tried to start them in pots): Datisca cannabina (false hemp; these seeds are very tiny, so you may want to try them in a pot indoors or outdoors); Nigella damascena ‘Cramer’s Plum’ (love-in-a-mist, seedlings shown above; doesn’t like being transplanted); Patrinia scabiosifolia (golden lace); Persicaria capitata and Persicaria orientalis ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’ (pink knotweed and variegated kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate; both of these seem to need a cold period before sprouting, so try sowing outdoors before March); Tinantia erecta (widow’s tears)

Zea mays 'Tiger Cub' seedlings

Those you can start indoors or direct-sow in spring (I usually let most of them self-sow): Amaranthus gangeticus ‘Elephant Head’ (amaranth; self-sown seedlings have sturdier stems); Dianthus barbatus ‘Black Adder’ (sweet William); Nicotiana “Ondra’s Brown Mix” and “Ondra’s Green Mix” (flowering tobaccos); Zea mays ‘Tiger Cub’ and ‘Old Gold’ (variegated corns, seedlings of ‘Tiger Cub’ shown above;  start them in individual 3- or 4-inch pots or sow directly in the garden in late spring; they don’t self-sow)


Those that I usually sow in pots in fall or winter, set outside, and wait for spring or summer germination: Amsonia hubrichtii (Arkansas bluestar); Eucomis comosa from ‘Oakhurst’ (pineapple lily); Phytolacca americana ‘Silberstein’ (variegated pokeweed); Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea’ (golden wafer ash or hop tree); Silene ‘Ray’s Golden Campion’ (campion, seedlings shown above; prick out the green ones early on so they don’t crowd out the golden ones)

You should be able to find more detailed germination information for any of these through your favorite search engine.

The Eyes Have It

Potato 'Catalina' Oct 5 2008

Not being much interested in cooking, I can assure you that Hayefield will always be about plants, not food. At the moment, though, I’m in the middle of a big project writing about, cooking, and photographing nearly 40 varieties of potatoes and over a dozen different sweet potatoes, and I’ve been spending a lot of time poking around cooking sites and food blogs looking for fun recipes to try. Yesterday was sweet-potato-cooking day, and I taste-tested orange, white, and purple kinds steamed, boiled, baked, twice-baked, as fries, in cupcakes, and in pie. At the moment, I think I’ll be fine if I never eat another sweet potato. Ever. (Well, I’d be happy to have sweet potato pie again. How did I live this long without ever experiencing that particular culinary delight?)

This weekend will be devoted to cooking up the potato-potatoes. One really simple but fancy-looking technique I ran across in my research was Hasselback or accordion potatoes. Basically, you make a series of cuts close together all along the length of a potato, about 3/4 of the way through from top to bottom. (To prevent your knife going all the way through, try setting a wooden chopstick on either side of the potato.) I described the technique to Mom at breakfast, and she surprised me with this later that day.

Potato Hasselback Style Baked 003

The outer parts of the potato get crispy but the inside stays soft. She just drizzled the cut potatoes with olive oil and baked them for about an hour. We now have a new favorite way to bake potatoes! You can find all kind of variations if you Google “Hasselback potatoes” or “accordion potatoes.” It works on sweet potatoes, too. I found it difficult to cut them neatly, but Mom did a beautiful job with both orange and white ones.

Have you ever tried purple sweet potatoes? I managed to find ‘Okinawan Purple’ and plain old ‘Purple’, and they are very fun to cook with. The ‘Purple’, in particular, made for very interesting cupcakes: a funky purple-blue on the inside.

'Purple' sweet potato cupcake

Another bit of trivia: alpacas (those named Daniel, at least) like sweet potatoes, both raw chips and the cooked skins.

Word of the Day

I’m about as knowledgeable about birds as I am about cooking. But just as I can enjoy eating without knowing all the niceties of food preparation, I can enjoy watching birds while I’m out in the garden without knowing exactly which ones they are or how they normally act. Still, some sorts of bird behavior are hard to miss. Have you ever watched large flocks of starlings or grackles and been entranced by the way they swirl around in the sky before settling down to roost?

Murmuration Oct 16 2008

I recently found out that there’s a word for the phenomenon: it’s a mumuration. Isn’t that an absolutely delicious word? If you want to see some much better pictures, check out this Google Images search: Murmuration.

Spam, Eggs, Spam, and Spam

Do you ever check your blog’s spam filter? Spam is mostly annoying, but some of the comments are so ridiculous as to be quite amusing. Some of my recent favorites:

“Any time you are affected by watery ventures on Egypt, your thoughts quite possibly changes to help Sharm el Sheikh as well as snorkeling inside the coral reefs, still it’s possibly not the only real desired destination around the Inflammed Beach designed for travelers who would like to get off typically the beach and into the drinking water.”

I rarely travel, but if I ever do end up in Egypt, I’ll give the Inflammed Beach a miss. And, I will be sure to bring my own drinking water.

“I recently planned to appreciate you all over again. I am not sure things i would have labored on even without the those imaginative ideas demonstrated through an individual directly on such issue. I am sure you’ve never run into anybody.”

Always nice to be appreciated repeatedly. And thanks for the vote of confidence in my driving skills.

“||This is an anti-spam message|| Join the anti-spam movement! Accept this comment and do your part spreading the word that we will NOT be spammed anymore. Do your part and pass it on by posting on a friends blog!”

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the spam comments from the real ones, so it’s immensely helpful to be reassured that a message is in fact not spam. Except that it is.

For more fun with spam, check out this post: Conversations with Robots. It’s on Forget What Did, the blog of John Finnemore, creator of the delightfully silly BBC radio comedy Cabin Pressure. He’s also one of the performers, along with two of my other favorites: Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock and Stephanie Cole of Waiting for God. If you enjoy British comedy, I highly recommend giving it a listen; both seasons are available through iTunes. John’s rendition of “Get Dressed You Merry Gentlemen” from last year’s Christmas special is one of the few holiday songs that I can still bear to listen to. You can find the episode on You Tube: Molokai Part 1 and Molokai Part 2.

I Plan to Appreciate You All Over Again

A final note: Many, many thanks to those of you who have already purchased my latest book, Tried and True Perennials, either in person, through Amazon, or as an e-book through this site. If you haven’t seen it yet and are interested in the e-book version, it’s now available for just $6 (usually $9) through the month of December. You can find the ordering information on this page: Tried and True Perennials.

Posted on 19 Comments

19 thoughts on “Odds and Ends

  1. Those potatoes look great! And just in time to get in a few practice runs before Christmas Day. I hope when I check my spam filter it will be as entertaining as yours, and thanks for the link to John Finnemore’s blog.

    You obviously have a similar sense of humor, Lyn. I’m glad you enjoyed John’s blog too. Happy spam hunting!

  2. Thanks again for the seeds-looking forward to receiving mine soon and will definitely post pics of those that grow!

    Oh dear, Nicole – I’m pretty sure that I sent them out well over a week ago, so they should have arrived by now. If you don’t get them in another week or so, please let me know.

  3. I was very surprised when I find the “Hasselback potatoes” because the recipe is from Sweden!
    “Hasselbacken” (hazel slope) was a very famous restaurant on the little island Djurgarden (animal garden) in the middle of Stockholm. This little green island have several museums and a lot of restaurants, a fun fair and also a huge animalpark called “Skansen” (redoubt). Its a nice place for families and this time of the year they also have a very traditional och famous Christmas Market.

    I’d run across the name of the hotel while reading about the potatoes but didn’t know any more about the area. Now I do, thanks to you! It sounds like a wonderful place to visit.

  4. Thanks for the seeds! Yours are on the way.

    It’s been a strange fall – warm and snow-free. By this time my plants are usually mashed down by heavy snowfall, but this year I have a brown garden. I’m amazed how well some of them look all in brown. Have you ever considered a winter/ brown&black / goth garden?

    I also saw the murmuration video, and have seen the birds do that in real life, and it reminds me of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.

    Have a great holiday!

    Unfortunately, the voles have made winter gardening a non-starter here. For the last few years, I’ve had to cut everything down in November. And yes, I found that video too; it was amazing. I’d run across “murmuration” in a story and looked it up on Google, only to find that many other people already knew the word because of that video. Ah well. Happy holidays to you too!

  5. Thank you for the tips on starting the different seeds. I am trying not to feel overwhelmed, and reading this helped!!

    That’s great, Katie; I’m so glad it made things seem a bit less daunting. Good luck with the seeds!

  6. Is it too late to request seeds and send SASE? I would LOVE some seeds! I had my back yard cleared of trees and am looking forward to planting perennials. I am looking to next spring. Starting from scratch! My yard looks Ohh so empty right now.

    How exciting to have a new space to fill. I might have a few things left to share. I’ll e-mail you.

    1. Nan, the seeds arrived in the mail today!! Heart felt thank you for sending along those seeds. Looking forward to getting them started! (Did a ‘happy dance’ when I found them in my mailbox.) But also confused to see the addressed envelope which had the postal stamps were tampered/torn open and 2 seed envelopes were torn open and empty. Hopefully it was another excited gardener who will enjoy those seeds. Pictures will be sent next year of my progress. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

      Oh noooo – that’s the first mishap I’ve heard of. I’ll be glad to replace what was lost; check your e-mail.

      1. Not necessary. The seeds that you’ve sent are plenty to keep me busy. I will be investing in stronger envelopes :) Thank you for kindly offering to replace those lost in transit.

  7. Nan, What a fun post. You are so nice to send out all those seeds. I can’t wait to plant the dianthus you sent me–not sure which category it falls into. Funny you should mention spam. I seem to be getting much more of it lately, and it is actually going into my pending comments instead of my spam file. Everyone should check their spam because I regularly find real comments in there. I can’t wait to read your eBook. Carolyn

    ‘Black Adder’ sweet William (dianthus) falls into the “Those you can start indoors or direct-sow in spring” category for me. Good reminder about looking through spam to make sure that “real” comments aren’t in there too.

  8. Thanks so much for the seeds, they arrived a couple of days ago. I’m very much looking forward to planting them next year, especially the malevolence. Sorting them out must have been a lot of work for you, and I wanted to let you know I appreciate it. Thanks also for the tips on planting them.

    I’m pleased to know that they arrived safely, Alison. You’re most welcome for the seeds and for the advice. This has been a great experience for me too!

  9. So happy the seed offer was such a success…and thank you for the seed-starting tips…they are VERY helpful for those (like me) who sometimes feel a little lost when growing things from seed! I can’t believe I’ve never seen that method for baking potatoes…I’m definitely going to give that a try tonight.

    Best of luck with the seeds, Scott. And, I hope your potatoes turned out well. I tried the technique again today with blue- and red-fleshed varieties, and they came out looking really nice.

  10. Thanks so much for the seeds…received them yesterday. Can’t wait to start them in the spring. Gardeners are the BEST!

    You’re very welcome, Melanie. I hope they behave well for you!

  11. Hi Nan, YOU are such a good person!! I’ve been preoccupied lately, but it is nice to see how generous and helpful you’ve been to people. Perhaps I’ll be more observant the “next time ’round” if you decide to do this again next year! (What a lot of work!) ;-)

    Happy December to you!!

    You’re so kind, Shady. It was as much a treat for me as for everyone else.

  12. Thank you again for sharing your seeds Nan. Your amounts were so generous that I think I will even be able to share some of them with a gardening bud of mine who enjoys trying unusual plants as much as I do. ;-)

    Great info on how to start the seeds. I had been wondering about a couple of them. I got my very first grow light this past summer and am excited to use it this winter/early spring for seed starting. Until then it will be used to get some of my pelargonium cuttings going and keeping some overwintering hot peppers alive…
    Thanks a bunch!

    You’re most welcome, Christin. I tried to be free-handed with the amounts, except for the seeds I had relatively few of. My plant-light setup is a primitive affair composed of two 4-foot shop lights, but I very much look forward to seed-starting season to have the extra light in my office.

  13. Hi Nan! The Hasselback potatoes are gorgeous, and what a fun backstory! I’ll have to try them! Meanwhile, you should head over to the Landis Store website and check out their recipe for sweet potato souffle. It is so delicious it will make you want to eat sweet potatoes again!

    Hey, you! You should see how blue- and red-fleshed potatoes turn out prepared that way – gorgeous. I’ll check out the recipe, though I doubt my skills will ever extend to souffle-making.

  14. Nan, I’ll definitely get your book through Amazon today. I would have bought the ebook, but I like sitting down with your books and photos with a nice cup of tea to peruse and ponder.

    I have your pepper seeds and will get them to you. Thanks so much for the ones you sent. I’m forgetful sometimes. Merry almost Christmas, Dee

    Thanks, Dee. I really hope you like the book. Enjoy the seeds!

  15. Nan, sorry I was swamped with deadlines and the cold and didn’t get to explain: I had to wait for the courier to bring the seeds down to the caribbean for me! Got them with mucho thanks and will set out this weekend.

    On the sweet potatoes, I like the ones with the white dry insides, purple skin. Also had the purple ones in SE Asia, especially in croquettes, yum! But of course a big part of their taste is where they were grown as well as the freshness.

    Oh, right – glad they arrived safely. Gee, I didn’t know about a sweet potato with purple skin and white flesh. The other kind sounds like ube, a type of true yam (Dioscorea).

  16. Hi Nancy,

    Liked the post – I must say that I was reading through it the other morning with my coffee. I spent all day with flashes of those delicious looking potatoes entering my mind….Needless to say, you can guess what I had with my fish!

    I hope you enjoyed yours as much as we did, Jeannie.

  17. I can’t wait to start sowing your seeds after the holidays. Those tips are going to come in handy. Happy holidays!

    I am very excited about seed-starting time too, Denise, though I’ll have to wait another 6 weeks or so for serious indoor sowing. Good luck with yours!

  18. Hi Nan, the purple skin sweet potatoes were the most popular ones in the Caribbean. In SE Asia I enjoyed the Okinawa sweet potato as well as ube. The taste of many tropical fruits and vegetables are so different when grown in the tropics organically and are harvested/served fresh. Some of the best produce I have ever had were grown in some of the world’s poorest places. The best sweet potatoes I had were in Haiti.

    Thanks for the extra information, Nicole. I found references to a few purple-skinned, white-fleshed sweet potatoes here, such as ‘Violetta’. I’m sure the taste of the tropical produce we get, after it’s been long in the shipping process, can’t be nearly as good as it is closer to the source.

  19. I just got the corn… Thanks! I look forward to seeing whether I can get them to grow.
    I’ve had a difficult time with corn here…Nutrient issues…
    But I have the best of intentions for next year!

    You’re most welcome, Stone. I’m happy to hear that the seeds arrived safely. Good luck with them!

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