With fall leaves whirling in the outdoor blender that is today’s weather, I realized it was past time to peel and slice a bag of beautiful homegrown Wealthy apples my parents grew on their northeast Iowa farm.
Few people seem to know Wealthy apples these days, and although I look for them at farmer’s markets and in stores, I never spot them. But they are the secret to my mother’s outstanding pie.
Wealthys, like their newer and absolutely wonderful cousins, Honeycrisp apples, were developed in Minnesota. The Honeycrisp, introduced in 1991, is the a cross of Macoun and Honeygold made by the University of Minnesota research team.
The Wealthy apple was selected about 1868 by horticulturist Peter Gideon, near Excelsior. “It was acclaimed as Grand Champion at a number of state fairs around the country and eventually became one of the five most-produced apples in all of America,” according to Minnesota Harvest. DNA testing showed it is, in fact, one of the parents of the great Haralson apple.
An obituary for Mr. Gideon states he named the apple in honor of his wife, whose maiden name was Wealthy Hull.
I found a mail-order source for Wealthy apple trees from Grandpa’s Orchard in Coloma, Missouri. The website says Red Wealthy “is a compact tree that bears very early and prolifically. It can tend to be biennial, so thinning early and vigorously to reduce an excessive crop will help with the next years. It blooms over a along period, so it is often used as a pollinator for other varieties.” All of that is true for my parents’ tree, which I believe must be at least 50 years old, if not older.
The flavor is sweet with a hint of tartness, and the apples bake down nicely into a just-mushy-enough consistency to be recognizable but not quite applesauce.
If you can find Wealthys, slice up some Wealthys and follow my mom’s pie recipe, shown here exactly as she gave it to me. And make the crust from scratch, please. You cannot make a better pie apple.
Orla Wiley’s Apple Pie
I really don`t have a recipe as such–just about a cup of sugar, about 1/3 cup of flour, cinnamon–probably at least a teaspoon and mix it all with the apples. After they are in the pan I put some pieces of butter scattered over the apples and put the crust on. I usually sprinkle some sugar on top and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 min. then reduce to 375 degrees for about 45 min.
Or take the easy way out as I did today: Make apple crisp.
Wealthy apple crisp
Either way, you’ll garner a wealth of compliments.
The Dallas Arboretum really knows how to dress for the season. On my visit there for last month’s Garden Writers Association symposium, I saw the early development of their famous Great Pumpkin Festival, home of the only Pumpkin Village in the world! (Click for link to even more color!)
If you’re in Dallas from now till November 14, check out 40,000 pumpkins and 150,000 fall-blooming flowers including chrysanthemums, salvia, coleus, ornamental grasses and impatiens.
Pumpkin House at Dallas Arboretum
Lining a flower bed with bright pumpkins sets off the edges
Orange orbs add more texture to gorgeous layers
Burgundy-black grass and orange pumpkin: Dynamic duo!
It’s sure pretty in the garden right now. Not much time to write; I’m going to try to get some more plants in the ground before it rains today. But here’s some eye candy that’s blooming right now. I have FOUR, count ‘em FOUR, beautiful yellow intersectional peonies (including Bartzella and Garden Treasure) blooming this year. Also called Itoh hybrids, these are a cross between a regular herbaceous peony and a tree peony, producing marvelous blooms and stunning foliage that looks great all year long. They’re expensive (often about $100) but worth the investment.
Wish I knew the name of the pale blue iris; it’s from Rainbow Iris Farm in southern Iowa. Love it. The golden one is ‘Private Treasure’. See how the difference in light changes the color of that golden iris? Yum!
Private Treasure and cultivar unknown blue iris
'Private Treasure' iris
'Sunrise Sunset' shrub rose
Clematis integrifolia with euphorbia
Gosh, it’s pretty in the garden today. At 81 degrees this afternoon in Des Moines, the weather is just plain crazy. I can’t believe how many things are blooming … the redbud is almost ready to burst … early daffodils are spent … pulmonaria, bleeding hearts and brunnera are in bloom or ready to unfurl. An early peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) looks like it’ll be blooming by the end of this week (a full month ahead of normal.)
Here’s a little show of what I saw in the garden today.
Chionodoxa forbesii (glory-of-the-snow) with Anemone blanda below
Early cut-leaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia)
Daffodils (not sure which cultivar; perhaps 'Faith'?)
Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)'Ivory Prince' hellebore
Well, the lawn has been growing rather well with all the heat and rain but I’m not talking about mowing. The grass you need to cut RIGHT NOW is ornamental.
Ornamental grasses are some of the easiest and low-maintenance plants you can grow. Divide them when the centers start showing no growth, and cut them back in the spring before new shoots emerge. That’s about all they need. And they’re deer resistant! What’s not to love?
I saw a stand of ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass this weekend in a parking lot and noticed that green shoots are already coming up through the old, dead strands. If you wait too long, you won’t be able to easily snip out the old stuff.
I just use a hand pruner, but for large, established grasses, a hedge trimmer works really well.
Here’s how some of my dwarf miscanthus looked before and after cutting about two weeks ago.
It seemed so wrong, but felt so right.
I just had to go naked today.
In the garden. I mean, the garden went naked. What were you thinking?
It’s not even April, but there I was, raking and pulling back the accumulated leaves and other debris that insulate my garden beds over the winter. Normally, I would not exhibit this kind of behavior, no matter how good it felt. It’s just a little too early.
But nature is the wild card in gardening. We had so much snow cover this winter everything looks great. Hellebore leaves are green, not shriveled and sere after wind and ice burns. The roses are already pushing out new leaves from their tips. Sedums, chrysanthemums and many other perennials are up and at ‘em. Everything seems way ahead of schedule.
But even more important: We’re supposed to hit 70-degree weather this week. I mean HIGH 70s this Thursday. April Fool! That means everything’s going to go into a wild growth spurt. And they’ll do it whether or not they’re covered up.
I know, I know. Mother Nature could still send frost and snow, wrecking all these budding beauties. But, oh, it did feel good today.
Hellebore in my garden
We had 6.75 inches of snow in Des Moines last Friday and by Sunday, when most of it melted away, spring was everywhere. Ever since we set our clocks ahead one hour, time seems to have gotten away from me and is moving at warp speed.
There’s still a curious mound of snow on the north side of the house where we shoveled off our porch roof. But here are various signs of life. I’m waiting to do my full spring garden cleanup for another week or two … it’s still early. But boy, is it exciting! Here’s what’s blooming now.
Even the sedums are growing!
My garden friend Mary Walters is celebrating her birthday today. (No, I don’t know which one and even if I did, I’d never tell!) But I think I’ll celebrate by buying a few ‘Burning Hearts’ bleeding hearts from her Great Garden Plants mail-order company, based in Michigan.
‘Burning Hearts’ flame with crimson-blue flowers etched with white rims above blue-gray, lacy, fernlike foliage. It’s part of a series of bleeding hearts bred from the Dicentra eximia family (check out the beautiful pink ‘Candy Hearts’ and white ‘Ivory Hearts’.) According to Mary’s blog, ‘Burning Hearts’ is a cross between D. peregrina, D. formosa, and D. eximia from Japanese breeder Akira Shiozaki.
Unlike their cousin, the graceful and perhaps better-known Dicentra spectabilis, the fringed bleeding hearts seem to last forever in the garden instead of going dormant by early summer.
According to Great Garden Plants, they are also fragrant! Guess I’ll have to get down on my tummy to get a whiff.
But best of all: These are tough perennials that love the shade. Plant them in moist, well-drained soil. They’ll grow 10 inches high and 12 inches wide and keep blooming until fall. But even without their luscious hearts, the touch-me foliage alone is a good reason to grow these.
Now back to our Birthday Girl. I know I’ve got pix of her I’ve taken when visiting her garden in the Holland, Michigan, area, but I’ll just poach this cute photo of her with Chloe, the golden doodle who loves to chomp at and romp in this season’s snow.
Her effervescent business partner, Chris Hansen, reveals more about Mary (along with a 25 percent discount for orders more than $100 today only!) on their website. He lists 12 things you might not know about Mary.
And this is neat: Check out number 11, her favorite “goosebump” plant which I truly did not see until I reached this point in the writing of this blog. Wow! Great minds, kindred souls, and all that.
She’s headed to England this summer and will report on her trip at www.GreatGardenPlantsBlog.com. Can’t wait to read the report.
Happy Birthday, Mary!
I don’t know if you remember the G.B. Trudeau book, “We’re Eating More Beets!” The cover art lampooned USA Today’s incessant use of graphics to show trends.
Well, I think we really ARE eating more beets. Or tomatoes. Or lettuce, at least. The Garden Writers Association just released the 2009 Edibles Gardening Trends Research Report.
The survey showed that 92% had previous gardening experience with edibles but 7% (7.7 million households) were new. One-third of the experienced gardeners said they grew more edibles in 2009 than in the previous year.
And this year, 37% of households plan to increase their edible gardens.
Why the increase? Three in five (59%) respondents who plan on growing more edibles next year are doing so for better nutrition. But almost as many, 58%, are growing edibles for personal satisfaction, and 52% for better taste, variety or selection.
Other interesting data:
Households doing vegetable gardening were highest in the South and lowest in the West.
Vegetable gardening was highest with the 25-44 age group and lowest with the 18-24 age group.
First-time edibles gardeners came mostly from the South and least from the Northeast.
The more experienced edibles gardeners came mostly from the South and least from the West.
About 38 percent of the respondents planted vegetables, with 15 percent planting fruits and 18 percent herbs.
What will YOU be growing in 2010?
Newer, when it comes to plants, is not always better. Take, for example, the selection of Baptisia australis as the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.
Baptisia australis photo by PPA
It’s a gorgeous, easy-care North American native plant with year-round interest.
Sadly, I don’t grow it because I don’t have much full-sun space (it can take some shade but needs staking—and I’m just not up for that).
But I should find a spot for it somewhere; it’s resistant to deer browsing because alkaloids in the plant give it a bitter taste.
Plant in well-drained soil; it’s drought-tolerant once established.
It’s hardy almost anywhere, from Zones 3 to 9.
Violet-blue flowers in early summer last about 3 to 4 weeks, then create beautiful brown seed pods that look great in dried flower arrangements.
Use it in the back of the border; it grows 3 to 4 feet tall in a clump about that wide.
Don’t divide and move baptisia. Because it grows with a long tap root, once you plant it, it wants to stay put. That’s part of its low-maintenance charm.
The common name, false indigo, comes because it was used as a substitute dye for the true indigo plant. The Latin name is derived from the Greek word bapto, meaning to dip or immerse; australis is Latin for southern.
Check out plantsman Tony Avent’s article about baptisias—he calls them “Redneck Lupines.”
Where can you get it? Baptisia is available from many mail-order sources, including Tony’s Plant Delights (he carries six different baptisias), Jung Seed (with four from the PrairieBlues series developed at the Chicago Botanic Garden) and Garden Crossings, a Michigan-based mail-order company (six kinds).
Go with this oldie. It’s a goodie.
Don’t you love knowing what’s new? Get close to the horticultural action this summer by visiting one of the 200 All-America Selections Display Gardens.
- 2010 winner Echinacea ‘Powwow Wild Berry’/AAS photo
What IS the All-America Selections? The organization exists “to promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.”
Every year, AAS (based in the Chicago area) tests new flower, fruit and vegetable seeds in trial grounds around the country. A panel of judges decides if each variety is improved enough in at least two of these areas: earliness to bloom or harvest; disease or pest tolerance; novel colors or flavors; novel flower forms; total yield; length of flowering or harvest; and overall performance.
AAS trials have been conducted every year since 1932. It’s a true education to visit to the trial or display gardens, where you can literally compare various types of say, begonias, side by side. I love to compare the various growth habits and size differences. Below you see a view of a begonia trials at Bluebird Nursery, a wholesale grower in Clarkson, Nebraska, last year. No, it’s not as gorgeous as a botanic garden, but certainly useful to see.
This year’s AAS winners include ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ coneflower; ‘Mesa Yellow’ gaillardia; ‘Moonsong Deep Orange’ African marigold; ‘Twinny Peach’ snapdragon; ‘Endurio Sky Blue Martien’ viola; ‘Double Zahara Cherry’ zinnia; ‘Double Zahara Fire’ zinnia; ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’ zinnia; and ‘Shiny Boy’ watermelon. Though AAS classified the watermelon as a “vegetable,” usually there are several veggie winners. Not this year, proving that none of the new veggies tested were innovative enough to be dubbed winners. Read more about each on the AAS website.
From my preview of this year’s winners, I vote for any of the zinnias. And I must say (completely immodestly) that I really like the photo I got of the new snapdragon, ‘Twinny Peach’.
AAS begonia trials/Deb Wiley photo
'Twinny Peach' snapdragon/Deb Wiley photo
Iowa readers: Visit one of these locations to see more this summer: Enabling Garden in Altoona; Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids; Vander Veer Botanical Park, Davenport; Discovery Garden (at the Iowa State Fair), Des Moines; Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens; ISU Home Demonstration Garden, Lewis; the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden, Urbandale; and the Cedar Valley Arboretum, Waterloo.
'Purple Viking' potato/Photo: seedsavers.org
Ah, the feast days of winter! No, I’m not talking about the Super Bowl goodies we’ll dish up on February 7. I’m salivating during my long, delicious forays into luscious-looking veggies so brightly displayed in print and online seed catalogs. Yum.
If I had to pick just one vegetable from each, these would be on my list. Take a look, then find your own faves.
Seed Savers Exchange, based in Decorah, Iowa, should be required reading for anyone who loves great photography. This is summer on a page! My pick: ‘Purple Viking’ potato. Not only does the name give a nod to my Norwegian heritage, the catalog says it’s ”gaining the reputation of a great tasting, slightly sweet, general purpose potato.”
I’m a sucker for the sweetness of black tomatoes, such as ‘Paul Robeson’. But just to try something different, I’d go for ‘Carbon’ from Tomato Growers Supply Company. They say: ”This is among the darkest of the ‘black’ tomatoes that we’ve seen and one of the very best tasting tomatoes of any kind that we’ve sampled. Its flavor is exceptionally rich yet sweet and the essence of delicious summer tomato flavor.”
'Carbon' tomato/Photo: www.tomatogrowers.com
The darling family—Jere and Emilee Gettle and their young daughter Sasha—that owns Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri, wins my vote for optimism. They host tons of special events, own a restaurant and are even setting up a shop in California. The catalog comes packed with 1,200 fruit and vegetable varieties and features recipes (great idea!) . They even put a quote on nearly every page, such as: “We have guided missiles and misguided men.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
'Extra Dwarf Pak Choy'/Photo: rareseeds.com
I am intrigued by ‘Extra Dwarf Pak Choy’:
“This tiny pak choy is picked when just 2 inches tall! It has dark green, wrinkled leaves with thick, white petioles and can be used whole to make amazing salads and stir-fries! Very tender and delicious!”
Renee Shepherd, the dynamic owner of Renee’s Garden, displays her seed packets with beautiful botanic drawings (but you can click on photos, too). One of her particular strengths is offering beautiful vegetable combinations. If you’re just starting out, try her Easy to Grow Collection Rainbow Kitchen Garden. It includes: Farmer’s Market lettuce mix: A rainbow of salad colors and textures; Garden Candy cherry tomatoes: Red, orange, yellow and sweet as sugar; Tasty Duo scallions: Red and green skinned, savory and crisp; Tricolor bush beans: scrumptious purple, yellow and green pods; Tricolor zucchini: gold, light and dark green, with buttery flavor.
'Garden Candy' cherry tomatoes/Photo: reneesgarden.com
Farmers Market Lettuce Blend/Photo: reneesgarden.com
Tricolor Bush Beans/Photo: reneesgarden.com
Tricolor zucchini/Photo: reneesgarden.com
Delicious Duo scallions/Photo: reneesgarden.com
Looking for other veggies? Sample the tried-and-true from Burpee’s, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Park Seed, Jung Quality Garden Seeds and more.
For the largest selection of organic seeds, I like to visit Seeds of Change. I’d probably get some leek seeds, since I’ve been cooking with leeks a lot more lately. Check out Thomas Keller’s amazing Leek Bread Pudding recipe printed in the New York Times from his new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. Some people think “YUCK!” when they hear the name. But when they taste this savory stuffing, they’re instantly converted! ‘Bandit’ leek looks like a winner.
'Bandit' F-1 leek/Photo: seedsofchange.com
Renee Shepherd, the vivacious and creative owner of Renee’s Garden seeds, gets excited easily when she’s talking about plants. But she almost salivates while describing one of her new introductions, an annual cosmos with a double pink flower called ‘Rose Bon Bon’.
It looks, she says, like a chrysanthemum or dahlia.
“It’s an easy to grow flower that’s fully double,” Renee says. “It grows at a more manageable height than some cosmos and butterflies really like it.”
‘Rose Bon Bon’ certainly looks scrumptious, with its frilly, medium-pink blooms—and I don’t think that’s just because I’m trapped in the arctic tundra that passes for Iowa these days. Like most cosmos, you just cut the 3-inch flowers and more will appear on the stems.
Best of all? No calories. Yum.
'Rose Bon Bon' cosmos/Photo: reneesgarden.com
'Rose Bon Bon' cosmos/Photo: reneesgarden.com
'Rose Bon Bon' cosmos/Photo: reneesgarden.com
It’s 10 degrees below zero with a 15-below wind chill in Des Moines as I write this, and we’re hoping to push that mercury to zero today. Whoo hoo, heat wave! The best news: No more water from the ice dams on our roof will trickle inside. In that spirit of warming optimism, I offer 3 ways to beat the subzero blues: blooms, bananas and manure.
Cure #1: Grow houseplants! A velvety magenta moth orchid (Phalaenopsis) I bought at the Botanical Center in November will continue to bloom for several more months. I’m thrilled to report that a dendrobium orchid I got as a freebie several years ago will be reblooming soon. It summered outside last year in a spot with dappled shade where it got lots of rainwater. I rarely use chemical fertilizers but I did give it a dose or two this fall when I brought it inside. Finally, the first of the dozen or so amaryllis I bought at our local botanical center’s holiday bulb sale is starting to open. Nothing says tropical better than that (OK, other than a trip to the Caribbean but an amaryllis fits the budget better!) I’m so excited because this bulb is going to produce THREE flower stalks. It pays to spend more for a bigger, higher-quality bulb. Here’s ‘Lemon & Lime’ amaryllis, shot with my brand-new Canon G-11 camera.
Lemon & Lime Amaryllis
Cure #2: Visit your local botanical center. Even if you’re not a gardener, now is the time when your botanical center is truly there for you. (You can find yours at the American Public Gardens Association website.) One step inside a tropical dome or conservatory and you’re instantly transported to a warmer realm. My friend Chelsie and I recently visited the Des Moines Botanical Center, where we were entranced by bananas ripening and the moist scent of green growing things. Come to my Learn on Saturdays class January 30 at 10 a.m. on Garden Photography Basics and plan to attend the Tropical Heat Wave event on Friday, February 19 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Chelsie with bananas ripening inside the Des Moines Botanical Center
Cure #3: Laugh a lot! I chuckled out loud at the story in today’s Des Moines Register about Dick Kleis, a farmer from Zwingle, Iowa, who used 124,000 pounds of manure and a spreader to write “HAP B DAY LUV U” in his fields this week to mark his wife Carole’s birthday. The paper quotes Carole as saying that he’s done some strange things in the past to mark her birthday, “but maybe not this weird.” Dick said he wanted to include a heart but ran out of manure.
He won my heart with that trick! There’s going to be a fine crop in that field next year.
Great job, Dick, and congrats, Carole!
I love our house, surrounded by 100-year-old oaks in a older neighborhood of Des Moines. But I hate our neighbors. No, I’m not talking about the delightful Neumanns and Conyers. I mean Bambi, Rudolph, Prancer, Dancer and Olive the other reindeer. And their throngs of friends and families.
Working in my home office, I often see them mosey by, foraging in every season for the salad bar I so lovingly plant for them. Roses, yum! Yes, I do grow plants they like least such as pulmonarias, epimediums, brunnera and others—but every deer eats every thing if he/she is hungry enough. Barring an 8- to 10-foot fence around our back yard (Santa? Are you listening?) they’re here to stay.
Here are snapshots of two who’ve stopped by in the last two days: A hungry doe in the back yard and a fearless 11-point buck right outside my office who snacked on the holly bushes.
I just don’t want to get in their way. After all,
Grandma got run over by a reindeer,
walkin’ home from our house, Christmas eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
but as for me and Grandpa, we believe.
Olive the other reindeer
Run, run Rudolph
Ho, ho, ho.