October 5, 2010

Dahlia Farm Tour, part 2


I almost forgot to publish the other half of my post from two weeks ago, when we visited Pleasant Valley Glads & Dahlias, the  amazing farm and mail order company near us, just over the border in Connecticut. With acres and acres of colorful gladiolus and dahlias, it was overwhelming to photograph. So much color, so many varieties, that one quickly becomes numb. 

October 3, 2010

Autumn Blooms -Asters and Anemones

 Tall stems of Anemone hupehensis 'Whirlwind'(formerly A. japonica), wave in the early autumn breeze. This variety is a double white form.
 There are many named varieties of autumn blooming Anemone hupehensis, and all make excellent border plants for mass plantings. Try looking for them at garden centers now, since few carry them in the spring. They are long-lasting perennials that deliver color at a time of year when we expect to see pumpkins and squash. These are plants that will become better with age, but plant more than one plant, for  clump of 3 ,6 or 9 make the best displays.
 New England Asters are also rarely used anymore in borders. I prefer the tall, named varieties, not the dwarf, clipped and growth retarded forms one sees at supermarkets and farm stands. Look for good, study plants at your local garden centers in 1 or 2 gallon containers, and plant them now. Next spring, when the plants reach about a foot in height, trim them back with hedge shears to make the plants bushy ( I like to not cut mine however, since I adore 6 foot tall asters in my garden. My autumn asters this weekend were covered with bees and butterflies. Just count how many honey bees you can see in the above photo!

Native to New England, the autumn asters that have been selected are many, and although rarely used in its native country, these asters are very popular in European gardens. We Americans should rediscover some of our native species.

October 1, 2010

Canning Jar Round-Up

Look for French canning jars, such as this vintage fine on Etsy. Not secure enough a seal for true canning, but for quick pickles, this would be awesome.
In my mind, it's all about Ball. The Ball Company, as my mother would have said, "makes the best canning jars", and she may have been right from a functional perspective, but aesthetically, there are many options. The only issue may be that beyond the classic Mason or Ball jar, most other brands are not as secure for preserving food, and are best for refrigerator pickles. Use care and judgement if you are preserving any type of food, but for simple refrigerator pickles, here are some stylish options as our gardens over-load us with produce.
I don't know about your cellar, but in mine this is what I find lots of....classic blue glass Ball caning jars. They still show up at yard sales and on Etsy.

Weck Canning jars are available online, but most home canners agree that their seals are not secure for long-term storage. That said, the Weck collection is still the finest for form.
Images from hte great Katy Elliot blog. 

Leifheit Canning Jars are very stylish. look for them here.

Finally, someone is designing beautiful jars for home preserves. Still, best for refrigerator jams, and not for long-term storage, these jars from Burgan & Ball outshine any other jars available today. Come on Ball company.......let's keep up!
My favorite jars for Jelly, Jams or refrigerator pickles are these Burgon & Ball jars from the UK. Difficult to find in the US, Terrain now offers a 'pickle' version.( below).