The Last Of Our Fall Bloomers

This is Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ and it is one of the last things to bloom for the season here on Glen Road.  It’s hard to imagine Fall without the appearance of our Colchicums.  Their bright blooms rise without warning and shine in the sharp light of Autumn.   We planted our bulbs at the base of our Japanese maple trees several years ago.  Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ produces several double, lilac-pink flowers.  Their silky texture is a great contrast to the ruddy complexion of Fall.

Sometimes called the Autumn Crocus, the Colchicum is a one-of-a-kind wonder in the flower kingdom.  They grow from corms, which are available in late summer, and the astonishing thing about them is that they will flower without being planted at all.  Just setting them on a sunny window sill is enough.  They can, however, be arranged in a shallow dish of gravel, pebbles, etc.  The best thing to do is plant them like we did outside in shallow soil in a sunny area where they will not be disturbed so that you can easily enjoy them on a yearly basis with minimal, if any, work involved.

Colchicums come in various tones of pink and lavender and never fail to surprise with their delicate appearance amid the rougher weather of Fall.  It all starts in Spring, when a clump of broad, deer-proof leaves emerge, stay for a while and then vanish by midsummer.  Then in Fall, these dainty flowers emerge to show off their brilliant color.  Here is an older shot of their Spring appearance.  See their leaves on the right?

So we are officially near the end of the 2011 garden season with the blooming of our Colchicums.  It is a good feeling mixed with some sadness.  Like the plants, all gardeners need to re-energize during the Winter, but we will miss all of the pretty blooms that we have seen over the Spring and Summer.  What final blooms do you see in your garden that signal the end of the growing season?

Fried Ricotta Cheese – Two Ways

This is the question-if you decide to fry ricotta cheese, do you make it a savory appetizer or a sweet dessert?  That was the decision we had in front of us and so we decided to do both in the same meal.  This means we started off our little dinner party with a savory fried ricotta dish and ended the meal with the same fried ricotta made into a sweet dessert.  Most people equate fried cheese to the fried mozzarella sticks you get in your typical bar or tavern fare.  However, our Italian recipe for fried ricotta, known as ricotta fritta, has a subtle texture and flavor that works better being turned into a first course or dessert than its more famous mozzarella cousin.  The creamy texture of the ricotta fritta also cannot be beat.  So here is our recipe for ricotta-two ways.

Ingredients:

  • 15 ounces fresh ricotta , drained overnight
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Savory:

  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • Fresh basil leaves

Sweet:

  • 2 cups fruit jam or preserves (I used a jar of cherry preserves)
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Directions:

Put the drained ricotta in a bowl.

With an ice-cream scoop, scoop out tablespoon-sized balls of ricotta, and set them on a parchment-lined tray or sheet pan (you should have about twenty-four ricotta balls total).  Set the tray in the freezer, and chill the balls until firm, about 30 minutes.

Spread the flour on a small plate and the bread crumbs on a large plate. Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt in a wide, shallow bowl.

Dredge the balls in the flour and gently flatten them into thick patties.  Coat the patties in egg, then dredge them until well coated in the bread crumbs, but not heavily so.  Return the breaded patties to the parchment-lined tray.

When you are ready to fry the patties, pour the vegetable oil in the skillet and set over medium heat.  The oil is ready when the tip of a patty sizzles on contact.  Drop the patties into the skillet in batches, so they are not crowded, and fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy.  Lift them from the skillet with a slotted spatula and drain briefly on paper towels.  Serve ricotta fritta while still hot.

For a savory appetizer or main course:  spoon a pool of hot marinara sauce onto each serving plate, set 3 fried patties in the sauce and scatter basil on top.

For a dessert dish:  top 3 patties with warmed preserves (or any fruit jam or poached fruit) and whipped cream.

In our little experiment, we found we liked the sweet version the best which is surprising because most of us at the dinner are not real dessert lovers.  Somehow the sweet taste of the preserves and cream played nicely off the creamy and tangy flavor of the fried ricotta.  Don’t get us wrong….there wasn’t any of the savory fried ricotta left over, so it must have been a crowd pleaser as well.  We’ll definitely be giving this versatile dish another go in our kitchen.  We hope you will too.  Do you have any cheese recipes that you use for dessert or for an appetizer that you would like to share?

Friday Dance Party – Oh Darling by Plugin Stereo Featuring Cady Groves

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

So it seems that most of the children that are a part of our life are back in school now for the start of another academic year.  When I was (much) younger, I always liked the start of school.  While summer vacation was great, my friends and I eventually grew to miss the structure and extra-curricular activities that school had to offer.  Right before the start of school, my mom would take my brother and I to buy a few school clothes, which were jeans, shirts, shoes and sneakers and maybe a pair of dress slacks.  I can still remember going to Sears department store in Iowa and walking up and down the aisle of boy’s clothes several times to make sure I got the best that Sears had to offer.  I didn’t want to make any mistakes.  We also went and bought school supplies…lots of pencils, paper, erasers, pens.  I think that is where the similarities to today’s back to school preparations end.  Kids today seem to be a lot smarter in almost all area than what we were.  More stylish with the school clothes, more technologically advanced with the supplies and just smarter in terms of everyday life.  Maybe it’s better schools, the internet…many of the kids we know get homework to do over the Summer and even use computers now versus carrying around textbooks.  So enjoy this week’s dance number…a slow ballad by Plugin Stereo featuring Cady Groves, a great example of extremely young, but smart, kids singing a simple little song about young love.  Turn your speakers up and have fun with this song.  You’ve made it through another week and many of you should be proud that you got your kids back to school safe and sound.  Go ahead and do a little dancing.  You deserve it.  What did you have to do to get your kids ready to go back to school?

The Busy Bee Bush Is Now Buzzing

This is Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ that protects our front door from the front yard.  It is another one of the plants that bloom here on Glen Road in September.  When the blue flowers show their pretty faces, you will soon have every bee within a small radius of the house coming over to visit to collect some special end-of-the-season pollen and nectar.  The bees are so intent on collecting pollen and nectar that you can stand right next to the tree and they don’t care.  They don’t fly at you or swarm at you.  All the bees are intent on doing is collecting pollen and nectar and then going back to the hive to make preparations for the Winter.  Sometimes when there is no wind and you listen very closely, it almost sounds as if the Spirea is actually buzzing.

Our Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ is quite a grower.  By the time we hit September bloom time, the bush is over four feet high and about as many feet wide.  No matter how small I trim it down in the Winter and Spring, this Spirea always has a growth spurt in August as if to do so to show itself off to all the bees in the neighborhood.  At the start of the Spring, our Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ was pruned down to one foot tall and one foot wide.  That is some fast growing in a few short months to get to four feet and it does this in some of the hottest months of the year.

Caryopteris’s (the botanical name for Spirea ‘Blue Mist’) low mounding habit makes it perfect as a border plant for massing purposes and works wonders in dry, sunny spots.   There are blue foot-long flower spikes that cover this plant in September and this make for quite a visual display.  Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ is also many times referred to as a Bluebeard, which is not too difficult to understand where this name comes from due to the look of the blooms.

Did you ever hear of a bush that provides the house with lots of laughter?  Well, our Spirea does just that.  How?  Well, in terms of our friends, there are three groups:

  1. The first group that walks past the Spirea that is filled with bees and they don’t notice a thing.
  2. The second group are those people who notice the bees and take a look, but aren’t really scared
  3. The last group are those people who notice the bush filled with bees and become terrified and take off running to our front door screaming and yelling for us to open up as soon as possible!

Since no one has ever gotten stung by one of the Spirea bees, we always laugh at those terrified individuals that are part of group 3.  We know it is not right, but we can’t help it.  We apologize to those folks in advance.  So if you are interested in a late-blooming bush for your garden that can also add some comedy to your every day life, give Spirea ‘Blue Mist’ a shot.  Trust us, the neighborhood will be….buzzing.  What late season bloomers do you have in your garden?

How I Know Autumn Is Here

This is a Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and my sure-fire way of detecting Autumn’s presence among us.  The plant grows through Spring and Summer in our garden, but it is Autumn where the Sedum changes color from green to pinkish red.  It is my first wake up call that most things in our garden are now in their final stages and our appreciation of all things green is rapidly coming to a close with Winter only a few months away. 


Autumn starts a new season of flowers and blooms, second in spectacle only to Spring.  Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ stalks appear in Spring and its flower heads form in July.  The flat corymbs that it produces look like broccoli until they change color.  In September on Glen Road, the flowers start to color up, turning a pinkish red.  Slowly the flowers turn red, and late in Autumn, the flowers on the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ turn a deeper rusty-red.  When frost finally takes the final life out of the Sedum, we cut it completely to the ground and say goodbye until the coming Spring.  I have read that many people do not cut the spent blooms away at frost time because of its great Winter appeal against the back drop of white snow.

Th Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is an excellent plant for those places you just don’t water often.  It is very drought tolerant and will turn a lighter shade of color if given too much water.  Plant where the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ will see a lot of sunshine as the leaves can actually turn floppy with too much shade.

The coloring to pinkish red on the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is always a wake up call to begin Autumn chores.  When I see it change color, I think about getting Winter clothes out of storage, making sure the rakes can be found for leaf clean up and scheduling out our garden clean-up dates on my calendar.  From a gardener perspective, it makes me sad in a way to know that the garden will be leaving us for a while, but at the same time, this break is appreciated after a long season of planting and weeding.  As much as it reminds me that the garden is going to go away to re-energize for another season, it also reminds me of the fact that I too need this re-energizing period of time before I begin to think about my garden in 2012.  What things happen where you live that signal that Autumn is here?