Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sowing Amsonia


Though easy to grow, this plant is rarely to be seen in the gardens; in Croatia probably not at all. As I love to try growing something new each season, I have ordered the package of Amsonia too.
This is a hardy perennial wild plant coming from America (New Jersey to Tennessee to Texas) growing on the river banks and wooded areas. Plants prefer full sun or partial shade and fertile soil. They look good in wild/natural gardens grouped in 3-5-7 plants together in  mixed borders and flower beds. It blooms in May and June, baring clusters of star-like blue flowers on the top of the stems. Additional attraction is foliage that turns yellow in Autumn.

I sow so early ( end of December and January) only the plants that germinate slow or need some special treatment such as period of chilling. In the case of Amsonia, both of it is valid.

Prior to sowing, I kept the seed in the water for a  few hours. There was about 30 seeds in the package. I use plastic containers or trays to sow the seeds. For this small amount of seed I used plastic containers. These are used to pack meat I buy in the supermarket. They come in various size, and I always keep them for gardening purpose. I made holes on the bottom of one container with a hot nail.

Te container is then filled with peat-based compost and moistened well. This bottle top rose is ingenious - you can slowly water the compost without being splashed out of the container.

Amsonia seeds need light to germinate so, I simply placed the seeds on the moist compost. Label is a must, especially if you are going to sow many seeds later. Believe me, you won't be able to remember which is which. At least, until it germinates. I usually write the name and the date on the label.

I used another container of the same size to cover the seeds and keep the moisture inside. The container will be placed on bright place e.g. window sill at 15 - 18°C for three weeks.

Then the container goes in a refrigerator for 5 - 6 weeks, after which it returns to 15- 18°C. The compost has to be kept moist at all times.
The seeds of some species need chilling period to break the dormancy, which is the case with Amsonia.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Best Christmas Present

People who know me well never make mistake by giving me a book as present. I love all the books but, if it's related to horticulture there is no end to my joy. So, I got this book from my mum; a gardening book, of course, the one I wanted so much. It is called "The Green Square" and is written by our (Croatian) popular TV gardener Kornelija Beyovsky Šoštarić.

Kornelija makes TV presentations about organic gardening and also writes about gardening in a few magazines. What I love about her as well as about this book is the fact she can be trusted when she speaks about gardening this and that. 'Cause, she speaks from her own experience and heart. Though academically educated on Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb, field horticulture and landscaping, she believes that nothing is really learnt until you learn it from one's own  experience. As she said: " How can tell people to do something if I didn't do it myself before?" One day out filming the new TV report in a small village Lepa ves (literally meaning Pretty Village!), she spotted an old deserted traditional house with neglected garden and instantly found the way to buy it! Since then, she films her reports in her own garden. She travels every weekend from Zagreb to the village where her garden is. In the book, she describes how her garden grew from the scratch to today by giving a plenty of advices about every step she took.

She was not happy to clear the ground by using heavy machinery but it was not really the other way; she tried it to clear it by hand! The machinery destroyed and compacted the valuable soil but she managed to recover it slowly by adding plenty of organic matter to it.

She believes in natural looking, organic gardens, where flowers, fruits and vegetables grow happily together. This is what English call a cottage garden. There is no room for herbicides or pesticides or mineral fertilizers. She also was driven by the notion to do something for her family - to eat organic vegetables and fruits, to exercise by digging and planting the garden and breathe the fresh country air. Her daughter is already infected by "green virus".

All the beautiful photographs in the book are taken by her husband Nino Šoštarić, a professional camera man. And, the clothing made of natural materials, all these lovely cotton blouses, trousers, skirts and aprons she wears, are designed especially for Kornelija by fashion designer Nataša Jeletić.

Kornelija is certainly my soul-mate because, like me, she wanted to study painting but her parents, like mine, wanted her to study something more "reliable". But, the painting talent can be very well applied to create the gardens and this tranquil atmosphere in the garden she created. I am sure, her book will be placed at hand and read many times all over again.

Croatian reader may order the book here: Profile International Bookstore . The book is still on discount (219 kn), free delivery right to your doors in just two days, in Croatia, of course. To my opinion, the price is well worthed.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas to All

From Millan.Net

Merry Christmas to all my  friends, fellow Blotanists and Bloggers, and unknown people who has been visiting my blog and leaving kind comments; spend it in peace and joy...

From Millan.Net

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Cookies

Have you already made your Christmas cookies, biscuits, cakes? I always bake lots of them because I give them as present to those who have less or are too old to make them themselves. If I did not lost my count, I made 15 varieties of cookies and plan to make four gift-plates with assorted biscuits.
Yesterday evening I baked the last of them - ginger biscuits and honey cookies.

ginger biscuits

Honey cookies are really easy to make, but it took me three hours to decorate them; don't ask when I went to sleep last night! Here, there is the recipe:

Honey Cookies

300 g plain flour
350 g honey
100 g sugar
100 g butter
1 whole egg
cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg (all ground)

Sift the flour in a wide bowl, add spices. Place butter, honey and sugar in a bowl and heat it until it starts boiling. Pour hot honey mixture over the flour and mix. Add a bitten egg and mix until smooth. The dough is very soft but don't you worry about it. It has to stay aside over night, or at least three hours if you are inpatient.
Roll the dough, use moulds to make cookies and bake on 200°C until brown.

honey cookies ready to be decorated

To make icing, beat slightly one egg white, add so many sifted powder-sugar to make rather consistent and yet not too tick mixture. I add also lemon juice to the mixture. Mix it well.

Use edible colours to colour the icing. You also need pearls, colourful sugar sprinkles, ready-made icing tubes, etc. and your imagination to decorate the cookies.

I had some lemon curd leftovers from macaroons I have already made, and used it to stick the two ginger cookies together. Pink and white icing is used to decorate them.

ginger cookies decorated with chocolate

I keep my cookies in large metal boxes - clockwise: macaroons (my way), rafaello (coco) balls, ginger and honey cookies...

honey angels

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Nativity Scene

This nativity scene is placed on one of the town squares. The figures are made of corn-husks and hay.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

New Bird Feeder

I made a new bird feeder today out of small tree branches.

the feeder construction

To make the bird feeder like this, you will need: four flexibile, about 60 cm long branches, four 25 cm long sticks, one 35 long stick, some wire, one plate, and a wrath made of hay or e.g. ivy (which I used).
Firstly, make the bottom by tying up the four sticks together so they make a square. Attach the branches by placing each of them on one side of the square. Secure with wire, then bend them towards the top and tie the ends up. Place a plate on the bottom and surround it with a "nest" to hold it on place.

As soon as I place it on the terrace, the birds came!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Three Snowmen

This one is quite slim in compare to...

...this fellow but, if you think he's big, check it out the next one!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas Table Show

There is 'The Christmas Table Decoration' sow organized each year in town cultural center. Everyone can take a part in it so, the company is always diverse: private persons, schools, different societies, flower shops etc. It is not the competition, there is no first or second place, the idea is to socialize and to share the ideas. On the evening when we set our tables, there is a merry company of people of all ages and occupations, enjoying the chat, laughter and the very first cookies that are already baked for holidays. Well, if we carry on eating them like we did that evening, there would be none left until Christmas!

Mrs. Marija Solar

Cildren's Home (orphanage), Lipik town

Women's Society, Lipik

Women's Society, Pakrac town

Ms. Senka Hoffman

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Each year the 'Women's Society' in my town displays the work of it's members. Women meet once a week to exchange patterns, materials, do the handwork, drink some tee and chat. They do diverse handwork: embroidery, crafts, glass painting, etc. They make several exhibitions during the year. I have visited the Christmas exhibition this evening and took some photographs.

The decorations for the Christmas tree are made of corn-husk.