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