Monday, September 17, 2012

Get me that color!

It’s hard when surrounded by the temptations of spring shopping at garden centers and nurseries to remember that there’s a third season in your garden, the fall which needs to be planned out as thoughtfully as the rest of the year.

For many of us, by the time fall rolls around and the garden is looking a bit drab, all the nurseries for already sold out, to more thoughtful and less impulsive gardeners, the stars of September and October. This year is especially difficult, the whole season was skewed a month or so early, so many of us were facing August with less color than we’d anticipated.

So for those us with drab areas, here a few things worth hunting down. Beginning with the trees. Naturally, everyone should have a Ginko. The change of color doesn’t last for very long, but the shock of yellow the elegant leaves provide before they drop is shatteringly beautiful.

The best Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) lives at the base of Lake Road in Bridgehampton its leaves a rich mélange of russet, red and auburgine

River birches also turn a good golden shade, as does the Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) and the Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria painculata). It’s hard to ignore a Japanese stewartia, with leaves that transition from orange to scarlet, forgetting of course that it also has fantastic bark and camellia shaped white flowers in July. It’s a must have for your garden.

I could write a book on the fall colors of Japanese Maples, but I need not. All I have to do is to tell you to take a stroll past my father’s house on the corner of Main Street and Palmer Terrace in a few weeks and the tree speak for me. I think each one has a different color ranging from plum to orange to scarlet and there’s yellow there two. I tagged seedlings I had to have last year based on their color but was too busy to purloin them in the spring, a situation that must be rectified next year. Of course if you don’t have the room for my dad’s sized trees, try and track down one named 'Orange-ola' after its extraordinary flaming fall foliage. Or visit nurseries and watch to see which tree turns the best color – chances are it’ll be on sale too, which is always nice. I’m watching a couple, but I can’t tell you where for fear you’ll scarf them up before me.

Shrubs fall into the category of where to start. The maroon of the Oakleaf Hydrangea, the paprika of some deciduous azaleas, the electric Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) with the berries birds adore, the scarlet of the Red Chokeberry  (Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima’). Or think of the berries available and grab up every Viburnum you can, especially the one named ‘Winterthur’ whose berries color from pink to blue just as the leaves turn a deep shade of bloody maroon. And of course the Compact Burning Bush is a have to have for those of us with full sun.

Marders had a variegated Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) that I missed out on getting this year, bad Paige! So it was striking even before it set its fabulous fruits. And each year I swear I’m going to invest in an assortment of Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) whether it’s 'Sparkleberry,’ 'Red Sprite,’ 'Winter Red’ or 'Berry Heavy’ but there’s still a need for them in my yard. For the most startling orange, red, purple & yellow in autumn all you need is a fothergilla ‘Mount Airy.’ I never remember to buy them in the spring, and when I see one and try and find it, all the nurseries are always sold clean out.

 I’ve run out of room and I haven’t even touched on the perennials, bulbs or annuals one must have to be totally blessed out in the autumn. Sounds like my garden doesn’t it? Too many plants and not enough room. I of course didn’t have room for dahlias in either my column or my garden this year, and the color they add is now especially missed. And of course if you don’t have any Japanese anemones you’re crazy. My ‘Honorine Jobert’ is blooming its guts out and my annual salvias are looking spectacular.  It’s time to go shopping darlings, just make sure everyone grabs a witch hazel if you can find one. Not only will it light up you spring, but boy will it electrify your fall.

Paige Patterson’s husband just asked if she’d ever seen one of the peepers that are singing so sweet these last few evenings. Confessing she hadn’t, they’re now planning a peeper hunt. Any takers?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Can it be that time already?

Let’s talk about Weck jars. When it comes to the combination of form and function, Weck canning jars rock my world. I discovered them last year, but it suddenly seems they’re on all my favorite gardening websites this week. This is not only because Weck jars use these amazingly cool clips to fasten, but because today is Labor Day and there’s a slew of us that will be choosing to spend our time today not on a beach but in the kitchen over a hot stove. I know, I know, we’re crazy, but once you start learning how to save some stuff from your garden and local farm stands, once you’ve cracked open a jar of frozen peaches from the Halsey farm in February and used it to make a peach pie that still has the taste of September clinging to it, you will never escape.

Now I will confess that in our tiny little house we have very little storage room for canning supplies and so my big pot in which I boil things that need a heat bath has been sitting on the front porch since the end of apple season last year. It’s a little unHamptons of me, but we’re planning the get the basement useable soon, until then on the porch it lives and actually, I’m really late this year. I totally missed my blackberries, didn’t make a tomato sauce (bad Paige) and now I’m thinking of broadening my storage tricks and preserving with alcohol! And for that there’s no pot required!

There was a great article in the NYT a couple of years ago about preserving food this way, which mentioned a recipe for Boozy Concord Grapes. Where instead of making a jam – and lets face it I have almost all of last years jam staring back at me from the shelves – you could macerate the grapes in sugar and brandy. The alcohol eliminates any threat of bacteria, so once you’re finished it goes right into a cool dark place for a month or two and then voila, it’s time to eat it or use it in a recipe. And I’ve got a bunch of ways to use drunken fruit. Imagine these grapes with roasted duck, or pork! There’s an enormous arbor filled with concords at work that get picked and handed out to the staff every year. This year I’m bringing home a box!

I’m also going to try peaches with vanilla beans in brandy or maybe rum and some lemon.

Of course I’m also going to freeze some of those same peaches in my Weck jars by slicing them, pitting them and jamming them in and then trying a couple of different liquids to fill the gaps. suggested orange juice, which I really like as an idea and uses white grape juice, which is also a great idea. If you want your peaches to stay the right color, you should make up a citrus bath for them either using ¼ cup of lemon and 4 cups of water to dunk soak your slices in before your put them in the jars and pour your liquid over them or add a ½ teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder directly into each quart of the liquid you are using to cover the fruit. (Easy to find in the vitamin aisle of the drugstore or at any of our health food stores.)

When you are freezing fruit, it sometime wants to rise to the top of the jar. Margret Roach shares her trick on using plastic wrap to hold them down, but I just don’t fill up as far as she does, let them rise while they freeze and the top off with a little more liquid later (making sure I still leave room for that to expand too.  I’m also thinking of making a light syrup with this case of white wine we bought by mistake and freezing my peaches in that. Martha Stewart has a recipe that uses 2 cups of rose wine, ½ cup of sugar, lemon zest, lemon verbena and 1-½ cups of water that sounds perfect that she uses to serve peaches in at the table. I think it’ll pour into my jars perfectly.

 Of course, you know that canning is still going to happen. My pickles from last year were a disaster (I used lemon pickles which didn’t work) and this year I grew pickling cucumbers just to do pickles, but of course never picked them when they were the right size, so I’m going to have to get on the stick and make more regular trips out to the garden to get the pickles back on track. 

And I have to make the world okay by pickling up the peppers that I grew to excess to have something spicy and hot for Dereyk in jars for the winter. If it’s spicy enough, it’ll make him hiccup and there’s really nothing like the sound of you husband hiccupping through his meal to bring the summer back full bore in the doldrums of February.  

Paige Patterson is going to try and overwinter her fig tree this year, hahahahahaha.