bibliophile, gardening, vintage

Sweet April Showers…

“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers,” wrote Thomas Tusser in 1557.

“When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; Fresh violets open every day: To some new bird each hour we listen,” penned Lucy Larcom.

If the earth does indeed laugh in flowers, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, it surely must be May that binds poetry and botany forever together.

“May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year…”~ Peter Loewer

stock in pottery

“The May-pole is up, now give me the cup; I’ll drink to the garlands around it; But first unto those whose hands did compose the glory of flowers that crown’d it.” ~ Robert Herrick, The Maypole

tea may with book

Come take a tour of the melodious garden, located in zone 8a, southern Denton County, Texas, and see what is blooming this first day of May, 2018.

“Horticulturally, the month of May is opening night, homecoming and graduation day all rolled into one.” ~ Tam Mossman

clematis

This deep purple clematis is always a show-stopper. And a reminder that I simply must plant more! While many vines are aggressive overachievers (I am talking to you, trumpet vine!), most varieties of clematis are well-behaved and grow lightly over rose branches or trellis.

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~ Virgil

winecup1

Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata) are a native wildflower that rivals the best patch of bluebonnets, in my honest opinion. It grows from a rhizome, with foliage branching out along the ground. The hot magenta flowers (shaped like… wine cups!) attract bees and butterflies. It is extremely drought tolerant and slowly reseeds in the garden. I thin out the older rhizomes when the Wine Cups have finished blooming, then I thin out a few more so I can share this beautiful flower with fellow gardeners.

“Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses…” George Herbert

green ice rose

Green Ice, a unique miniature rose, is one of the few roses in my garden that survived the plague that is Rose Rosette Virus. I am not sure why or how not one, but two! Green Ice roses survived when the other roses in the area were infected. Miniature roses are not known to be exceptionally hardy, after all. But here they are. Beautiful. The white blooms will take on a greenish cast over the next few weeks, hence its name. Green. Ice.

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” Edwin Way Teale

winecup and green icie

The photo above shows the mini rose Green Ice with Wine Cups scrambling through its branches. Wine Cups do not smother out other plants, in my experience.

“Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.” ~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

poppy

Ah. One lone poppy. I have no idea why, but after years of not growing in my garden, I had one lone poppy pop up this year. It is a stunner, isn’t it?

“A little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the king.” ~ Emily Dickinson

penstemon

I love plants that reseed here and there. Above is Penstemon tenuis, the perfect reseeding perennial. Tough as nails, not aggressive, lovely shade of lavender. What more could one ask for? Well, it also makes a great cut flower. I do not dead-head this plant when it is done flowering. Rather, I let the seed pods dry completely on the plant, then I cut them way back and cast the seed heads here and there, wherever I would like to see it spread. On-site composting and super easy seed sowing all in one.

“O the month of May, the merry month of May, so frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!” ~ Thomas Dekker

hosta

I love the greenness that hostas add to the garden. While flowers are lovely, sometimes green – different shades of green, different textures of green – are a welcome relief to the riot of color that is spring. The above hosta, Curly Fries, has been a great container plant in my garden, nestled back into my one shady spot.

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?” ~ Edward Giobbi

amarylis

And who can resist a shot of bright red on the first day of May? Hippeastrum (amaryllis) is a great addition to any southern garden. It is often dug up, divided and passed along to others after it is done blooming.

“Sweet May hath come to love us, flowers, trees, their blossoms don’ and through the blue heavens above us the very clouds move on.” ~ Heinrich Heine, Book of Songs

veilchenblau

While there is no such thing as a blue rose, Veilchenblau may come closest of all. This is another RRV survivor in my garden. A rambling old rose, its blooms start out crimson colored, then fade out to the above colored grayish mauve. While it only blooms in the spring, it is worth the garden space!

“Among the changing months, May stands confest the sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed.” ~ James Thomson, On May

winecup and mallow

As I was contemplating my RRV devastated garden a few years back and wondering how I would ever be able to garden again, something hit me. Orange. Bright orange! Gone are the soft pinks of my dear antique roses. I am now playing more with colors and adding in splashes of oranges, yellows and reds. Above, Munro’s Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) blooms happily alongside Wine Cups.

“Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.” Kahlil Gibran

dandelion

I couldn’t resist. She was blooming in my garden today and I just could not overlook her. The dandelion. The lowly dandelion. Why it has that reputation, I do not know. Please, please leave dandelions in your garden. They are an important source of nectar for honeybees!

bibliophile, gardening, nature

The Praying Mantis

In the insect world, there are good bugs and there are bad bugs. And then there is the praying mantis. The indiscriminate hunter. The dinosaur of the insect world. The hunter and the hunted. Both intriguing and deadly.

Watching a praying mantis stalk its prey feels a bit like Jurassic Park. They will sit still, waiting the perfect moment to ambush the unexpecting. Insect. Lizard. Small bird. They don’t care. They will take down a nasty grasshopper just as easily as a beautiful butterfly or a beneficial honeybee. They are carnivores, eating meat instead of vegetation like many garden insects. The mantis: both good bug and bad bug. All in one fascinating package.

Mary Ann, a child’s picture book by Betsy James, was a favorite at our home when my son was young.

elf on mantis 2

Amy, sad that her best friend Mary Ann moved away, told her daddy that she wished there were hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns. “Then if one ever moves away, it wouldn’t matter,” she says. When Amy finds a praying mantis in her clubhouse, she names the mantis Mary Ann and puts the mantis in a terrarium inside their home. Every day the mantis gets larger and larger, until one day, “when summer was over, she pushed a ball of foam out of her tail, onto a fern stem.” This foam hardens, thus protecting the eggs inside. Mary Ann, the mantis, passes away after laying her eggs, as often happens in the insect world. Time passes, and the lid falls off the terrarium. Then.. one day… the family returns home to find…the egg has hatched!

“Look at all the Mary Anns!”

Hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns.

mantis2

Mary Anns in the teacups. Mary Anns on the toaster and the telephone, under the soap, behind the vegetables! Mary Anns all over the house! “I had hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns,” the excited girl in the story exclaims!

And such it is when a praying mantis egg hatches. A small hard foamy egg about the diameter of a quarter, home to hundreds of babies!

mantis5

The babies, about the size of half a grain of rice, emerge in bunches, by the hundreds.

mantis1

It is an amazing sight to behold.

The female mantis lays one egg case in the fall – a foamy capsule, generally attached to a small stem or branch. She then dies. Come spring, the egg case hatches.

Praying mantis egg cases may be purchased from science supply companies, online garden sources or at some local nurseries. Place the egg case in a (well!) covered terrarium (so you don’t have Mary Anns in your teacups!)  Make sure the terrarium is out of direct sunlight! And then…wait patiently…ever so patiently…until one day you will notice – movement! The egg case is…covered…with itty bitty baby praying mantis.

There are around 2,000 species of mantis around the world. Depending on the species, one praying mantis may lay up to 400 eggs.

mantis4

The praying mantis has an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that the nymph (young insect) that emerges looks like a mini replica of the adult praying mantis. Triangular head. Bulging compound eyes. Elongated body. Large forelegs, perfectly adapted for catching prey.

elf on mantis 3

Fierce hunter, right from the beginning. Once hatched, the terrarium lid needs to be removed so the mantis can scatter. They are hungry and ready to eat immediately and, if not able to find other food, they will turn cannibal.

praying mantis

Insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis have three stages of life – egg, nymph and adult. They will shed their hard exoskeleton as they grow, molting, discarding one exoskeleton for another, several times throughout their short lives. Most of the praying mantis species in our country grow to about three inches in length.

Never pick up a praying mantis, as they are easily injured. However, you can place your hand near them and they will walk onto you. No need to worry about being bit.

Whether they are beneficial to an organic garden or not is debatable, but hatching a mantis egg is a fun spring-time science experiment for children – of all ages!

elf on praying mantis

bibliophile, nature

Mr. Crinkleroot

I would like to introduce another long-time friend of mine.

Mr. Crinkleroot.

I could tell you all about him, but I think I will let him speak for himself. “Crinkleroot was born in a tree and raised by bees.” How cool is that? “He can whistle in a hundred languages and speak caterpillar, salamander, and turtle, too.” I want that Super Power! But most importantly, “he knows all about wild animals, even the ones that live around your house.”

Mr. Crinkleroot, you see, is a rugged naturalist, a creation of Jim Arnosky, self taught writer, artist and natural scientist.

arnosky books1

My son and I first met Mr. Crinkleroot when my son was just a wee thing, maybe preschool or kindergarten age. We had read this wonderful book called Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and my son wanted to learn more about owls. A library catalog search led us to All About Owls by Jim Arnosky, which led us to dissecting our first of many owl pellets and thus began a long relationship with Mr. Arnosky and Mr. Crinkleroot.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” wrote William Butler Yeats. Lighting that fire, raising the curiosity, that is what Mr. Crinkleroot did in our household and what he has done for a great many other children.

Our family has kept a nature collection for many years. Throughout this post, there will be photographs of Mr. Arnosky’s books, along with items from our nature collection. For us, the two went hand in hand. The more we read about and studied nature, the more we discovered, even when we weren’t looking for it. Suddenly that dead moth on our driveway wasn’t just a dead moth on our driveway. It was something to observe, something to admire, something to collect. No animals or insects were harmed in the making of our nature collection. (The tree was harmed, but it needed to go and a dozen better adapted trees were planted in its place. The turtle shell was found on our property as is. I fear it was our neighbor’s turtle that escaped their yard several years before I found its remains.) Please be sure to look at Mr. Arnosky’s art work in the photographs. The attention to detail is what drew us into his work.

nature collection

We now own more than a dozen of Mr. Arnosky’s books. Don’t be impressed by our collection. He has written and published more than 130-some books! I obviously have more book collecting to do before I even make a dent in his publications.

Besides Mr. Arnosky’s amazingly detailed illustrations, the drawings are often life size.  Thunder Birds, in particular, has fold out pages that show the real size of a pelican’s beak and an osprey’s wing span. Did I mention he is a self-taught artist?! That fact is even more impressive when you see his illustrations on that larger scale.

arnosky book turtle

Big Jim and The White-Legged Moose, thankfully, is not drawn life size. The tall-tale was inspired by Mr. Arnosky’s real life encounter with a bull moose in the fall of 1987.  “Big Jim dropped his art supplies and climbed a nearby birch. With the bull below, Jim prayed, as if he were in church.” I won’t give away the ending, but it is a fun book worth seeking out.

arnosky snake

Crinkleroot’s guide books inspired a great many nature hunts and explorations of us. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing…  The Trees… Butterflies and Moths… Walking in Wild Places… Animal Habitats… These books are very informative, with practical information like how to identify poison ivy and poison sumac. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats details the three most common types of wetlands – marsh, bog and swamp – along with drawings of what animals might be found in each place. As with many of his drawings, every butterfly and moth featured in Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths is shown real size. His information – as detailed as it is – is always presented in such a way that even the youngest child can appreciate.

arnosky tree ring

Mr. Arnosky’s books reflect his admiration of other naturalists before him, such as John Muir and John Burroughs. Field Trips, a book that continues to inspire me to grab my binoculars and field guides and head out on a hike, was dedicated to the great ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson. Field Trips, like all of his books, is a treasure trove of his art work – more than 300 drawings and 175 identification silhouettes.

arnosky shells

If you are looking for a book for an older child, or even for yourself, Nearer Nature is Mr. Arnosky’s reflections and observations of life on his Vermont farm. Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher is another great book for older readers, as it explains how to find and observe wild animals in their various habitats.

arnosky books dragonfly

“When you witness an intimate tidbit of a wild animal’s private life, glean all you can from the experience. Pay attention to the details, and wonder about what you see… Don’t just look. Observe…You can always be sharpening your powers of observation.” (page 44 of Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher) Whenever I read that quote, I am reminded that some medical schools today require their students to study art, as that power of observation, being able to look and find the smallest detail, is fading away, yet it is an important skill to have and to hone.

I would like to end this post with a direct quote, as I couldn’t say it better myself. “(Crinkleroot) can find puzzles hidden among the leaves and stories written in the snow. There’s nothing he’d like better than to share them with you.” ~ Jim Arnosky

gardening, herbal fare

If you give a friend some eggs…

…with apologizes to the mouse and the boy who let him in the house…

If you give a friend some eggs,

eggs6

she is going to ask for some milk and cream. When she gets some milk and cream, she will probably ask for some sugar. When she gets the sugar, she will likely need some flour. Then she will want an iPad so she can search for some recipes. When she looks on Pintrest, she might realize that she also needs some strawberries and vanilla. She will probably ask for a whisk. When she is finished baking,

german pancake

she will want a broom to sweep up her mess. She will start sweeping. She might get carried away and sweep every room in the…Oh, who are we kidding? She would never get carried away sweeping. Especially in the spring when she has raking to do yet.

When she is done sweeping, she will probably want a nap. You will need to make up the couch with her favorite blankie and pillow. She will lay down and make herself comfortable and call for her puppy. She will probably ask you to read them a story…

“Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator: Edible essays on city farming” might be the perfect book on such a day.

strawberry cafoutis

While our urban town has allowed chickens for the past few years, I still have not taken the urban chicken plunge. I don’t know why exactly, except that my life already seems overrun with animals. Two indoor cats. One puppy. A large garden that seems to attract every wild animal for miles around.

Recently a dear friend gave me a dozen eggs from her own urban chickens. What to do with them? How best to use a dozen fresh eggs? The first recipe was easy to chose, as I have long wanted to make the French dessert, clafoutis. Alas, I used strawberries instead of the usual cherries, which makes the dish a flaugnarde instead of a clafoutis. I like the word clafoutis best, so I am sticking with that. Either way, it is an egg-rich dish, much like crepe batter but baked in the oven instead of the stovetop one by one. The next dish – mini German pancakes – baked in muffin tins. Topped with strawberries and blood orange segments (above, on red and white plate), these will be good for breakfast or a quick snack.

egg shells

Look at these beautiful eggshells! They are almost too pretty to compost.

Eggshells have many garden applications and can be used directly in the garden. Just crush the shells. Scattered around your tomato plants, eggshells – high in calcium – can help to prevent blossom end rot in the ripening fruit. Scattered around hostas, the rough edges can ward off slugs and snails. Crushed eggshells can also be added to your birdfeeders in the spring, as female birds need extra calcium during nesting season.

bibliophile, herbal fare

Cranberry Easter

I introduced you to our dear friend, Mr. Whiskers, back at Thanksgiving. A lovable fellow, though Grandma says he has too many whiskers and not enough soap.

Cranberry Easter, part of Wende and Harry Devlin’s holiday-themed Cranberry series, features Mr. Whiskers, Maggie and Maggie’s grandma. Mr. Whiskers’ friend Seth, lonely after the death of his wife, wants to sell Cranberryport’s general store and move away. “Suffering codfish,” exclaims Mr. Whiskers, as he tries to come up with a plan to keep Seth in town.

cranberry easter 1

The importance of friendship is at the heart of the Cranberry books. Mr. Whiskers knows “friends always take care of one another. That’s the way it is in Cranberryport – on holidays and the whole year round.” There would always be a place for him at Grandmother’s table. And for Easter, there would be cranberry cobbler for dessert.

The Devlin’s always set the season where you can almost feel like you are in Cranberryport… “The trees began to bud and soon there was a magical green mist all over the land.” What a lovely description of spring! …a magical green mist all over the land…

If you have young children, be sure to check out Wende and Harry Devlin’s Cranberry books. Getting children attached to a series at a young age is a great way to foster a love of reading, as there is security in familiar characters and children will come to look at the characters as friends. What is better to a child than looking forward to Mr. Whiskers making a return visit every Easter or Thanksgiving? Inside family jokes, such as the loveable Mr. Whiskers having too many whiskers and not enough soap, only reinforce the characters and build upon the book and the pleasant memories associated with it. More importantly, getting children active in a book gives them another outlet to experience the book. As much as children love to be read to, they also love to pull up a chair or stepstool and cook with a loved one.  (Other books in the Cranberry series include: Christmas, Birthday and Valentine.)

The recipe at the end of Cranberry Easter is for cranberry cobbler. I have yet to make it, but I did want to share my favorite cranberry dessert recipe – cranberry apple crisp. Thanks to the Devlin’s, I have come to think of cranberries as a year-round ingredient, instead of just a seasonal treat.

cranberry easter 2

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

3 medium apples – peeled, cored and sliced

1 16-ounce can whole cranberry sauce

For the topping, in a medium mixing bowl, stir together the rolled oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the walnuts. Set aside.

For filling, in a large mixing bowl, stir together the apples and the cranberry sauce. Transfer the filling to an ungreased 8×8 baking pan.

Sprinkle the topping on the filling. Bake at 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

If desired, top with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes 6 servings.

*** This recipe can easily be made gluten-free.

pink flowers

bibliophile, gardening

If ever there was a spring day so perfect…

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

… … … part of Billy Collins’ poem Today

 

First day of spring blooms, North Texas, zone 8a

Dutch iris, below

dutch iris

I feel a bit like Bubba in Forrest Gump… You got your bearded iris, your reticulata iris, Dutch iris, Louisiana iris, Japanese iris, Siberian iris… some are bulbous irises, some are rhizome irises… some are bearded, some are beardless… Someday I will blog about the different irises that grow well in this area.
For now: Dutch irises are perennial, grown from a bulb planted in the fall.

And now… daffodils, the harbinger of spring…
I love the shadow cast by these daffodils, below.

daffodils 2

“When the winds of March are wakening the crocuses and crickets,
Did you ever find a fairy near some budding little thickets,…
And when she sees you creeping up to get a closer peek
She tumbles through the daffodils, a playing hide and seek.”
~Marjorie Barrows

A happy little clump of daffodils, below.

daffodils 1

Leucojum, pictured below. If you ever need proof that fairies dance in the garden, this is it. Just look at that little green dot, along the scalloped blossom.

“And as the seasons come and go, here’s something you might like to know. There are fairies everywhere: under bushes, in the air, playing games just like you play, singing through their busy day. So listen, touch, and look around — in the air and on the ground. And if you watch all nature’s things, you might just see a fairy’s wing.” ~Author Unknown

lecojium

I know. We aren’t suppose to believe in fairies past a certain age…

“Every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.” ~James Matthew Barrie, Peter Pan

Hyacinth, below.

hyacinth

The above bulbs are all planted in the fall for spring blooms. Make a note now of any bulbs you see and like. Mail order catalogs will start taking orders in late summer for fall shipment. Garden centers will receive bulbs in early fall, but hold off on planting until Thanksgiving.

Now, for some spring blooming shrubs…

Shrubs can be planted year-round in North Texas, just know that all new plantings (even many Texas natives) require frequent watering until they get established. Garden centers generally have their best selection of shrubs in the spring, though some also receive fall shipments.

Bridal wreath spirea, below.

bridal wreath spirea

And loropetalum, aka fringe flower. Please, please don’t prune these into round balls or square cubes. They look best when allowed to grow naturally. Loropetalum are evergreen.

fringe flower

Cherry laurel. While I didn’t capture any honeybees in this photo, the shrub was buzzing with life. It is also evergreen.

cherry laurel

Sigh… My bright orange tulips are done blooming, but I had to include a photo anyway. Because. Pollen! Just look at all that pollen!

tulip
“If we opened our minds to enjoyment, we might find tranquil pleasures spread about us on every side. We might live with the angels that visit us on every sunbeam, and sit with the fairies who wait on every flower.” ~Samuel Smiles

gardening

the melodious garden’s garden mascot

It has been brought to my attention that I have been negligent in introducing the melodious garden’s new garden mascot.

THE Garden Mascot.

The Great Ravioli Thief.

The Ferocious Rabbit Chaser. (Thankfully, so far Unsuccessful Ferocious Rabbit Chaser! Though she seems to have driven our resident wild rabbits on to another garden, which is successful enough for me!)

Catcher of Crane Flies.

The Official Hole Digger.

So, without further ado…

leia 2

Leia… Princess Leia. (Er… ignore that spot of dirt hanging from her mouth. See above mentioned title Official Hole Digger. She was, um, digging right before I snapped her picture…)

Leia was adopted from Humane Tomorrow just a few days before Christmas. We were told she is a PBGV/dachshund mix. (PBGV is short for… Petite Brussels Griffon Verdeen. Yeah. We weren’t familiar with that, either.)

I call her my little platypus… Her tricolor coat looks beagle-ish. Her coat texture looks wire hair fox terrier-ish. She stands like a Welsh corgi. Her ears? No clue, aside from adorable!

leia 3

One ear goes up.

One ear goes down.

Both ears are fringed.

Now comes the part where I admit…

I had no idea it would be so hard to garden with a garden mascot! (See above mentioned comment about hole digging…) I just thought it was difficult to garden when my son was a toddler… (He was also a hole digger…)

But Leia is too adorable for words. Which makes the hole digging a bit more tolerable.

Oh. And she loves books almost as much as I do.

arnosky book2

 

bibliophile

Welcome, Spring!

Magdalen Walks

by Oscar Wilde

quince1

The little white clouds are racing over the sky,
And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March,
The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch
Sways and swings as the thrust goes hurrying by.

A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze,
The odour of leaves, and of grass, and of newly upturned earth,
The birds are singing for joy of the Spring’s glad birth,
Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.

And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.

And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tale of love
Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,
And the gloom of the wych-elm’s hollow is lit with the iris sheen
Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.

See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there,
Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew,
And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue!
The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.

dutchiris

gardening

Hellebores, aka Lenten Rose

Shade is precious in my North Texas garden. Though we have plenty of large trees, our property is situated at an odd corner of a cul-de-sac, with the house situated at an even odder angle. Both the front and back gardens receive sun from early morning to late evening year round. I have just a few shady spots, the perfect convergence of house, fence and tree.

helleboreNHG4

That is why, instead of purchasing garden plants in my normal “laissez le bon temps rouler” fashion, I carefully select my shade loving perennials. Hellebores are one of the plants I have deemed well worth every sacred bit of shade.

helleboreNHG3

Hellebores, or Lenten Rose, are evergreen perennials which bloom for several months on end. Their common name comes from the fact that the blooms look slightly like a rose blossom and they start blooming during the season of Lent. It is not unusual for this perennial to hold its blooms up to four months straight. The hellebores’ thick leathery foliage holds up well to our Texas summers and our winter cold.

helleborecloseupNHGflower

Hellebores come in a range of colors from near white to green to hot pink and dark purple, and may feature single, semi-double or double blooms. Be sure to shop your local specialty nurseries for hellebores in late winter, when you can see the colors available. Because hellebores are slow to propagate and grow to market size, they are seldom found for sale in box-garden centers.

helleboreNHG1

They are quite at home anywhere from quaint cottage gardens to shady tropical enclaves. The variegated foliage on the hellebore below is just screaming out to be featured in a tropical garden!

helleboreNGH2leaf

Hellelbores need moist, well drained soil, and are extremely hardy once established.

Their leaves are toxic, therefore the wild rabbits that inhabit (curse!) my garden leave them well enough alone.

Be sure to soak hellebores in diluted seaweed water and tease out their root system before planting.

 

herbal fare

Endive salad with basil and tomatoes

The garden centers are filling up with lush spring inventory, including tomatoes and basil. The perfect pairing. In North Texas, our last average freeze date is March 17th, which means Mother Nature can still throw us a curve ball. We have been known to have a freeze in the middle of April and snow on Easter. This does not mean you have to wait to plant frost-tender plants. It just means that you have to watch the forecast and be ready with frost cloth or old sheets. (I personally favor a five gallon bucket turned upside down over the plant and removed as soon as the air warms up.)

endive salad with basil

Endive salad with basil and tomatoes

2-3 endives, leaves separated
1 large naval orange, peeled and sliced into circles
1 large tomato, sliced (or a dozen cherry tomatoes, cut in half)
1/4 red onion, finely sliced (I prefer shallots, personally)
5-6 basil leaves, thinly sliced – extra for garnish, if desired

Dressing:
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Wash and prepare endive leaves and arrange on a large platter. Zest about half of the orange and set zest aside for dressing.

Cut off the peel of the orange, along with the outer white membrane. Slice into thin circles and arrange over the endive leaves. Slice the tomato and onion and arrange on platter. Top with sliced basil leaves.

To make the dressing, add the olive oil, lemon juice and honey to the bowl with the orange zest and whisk together. Pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the sea salt. Serve right away.

If making ahead, add the dressing just before serving so the endive leaves do not wilt.

Hint for slicing basil: Wash and pat dry basil leaves. Stack basil leaves and tightly roll from one end to the other. Thinly slice the rolled leaves. Separate basil slivers and use as desired.