Thursday, 28 July 2011

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Some months ago, my friend Nena and I paid the visit to one of her friends (who's name is also Vesna, like mine, and who's garden will be presented in one of my future posts). On our way back home, to my great surprise, I noticed this Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) in front of one house. I saw it once before, in Kew gardens, but never in Croatia, especially not grown this way -  as an ornamental tree in a private garden.
It is an evergreen tree, native to Chile and Argentina. It grows above 1000 m, in regions with heavy snowfall. It may be 40 m tall. This is actually a coniferous tree, but the foliage is not needle-like as in most of conifers. It is broad, triangular, with sharp edges and a pointed tip. 
Young trees have this typical conical shape, whereas the older trees loose lover branches and form an umbrella.

left side images credit: conifers

Araucaria araucana is a national tree of Chile.
This species is fully protected under Appendix I of CITES. Despite of harvest prohibition in Chile, this tree is at some risk of extinction. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Garden Report

Firstly, it was 40°C, now we have the coldest July in the past eighty years! The lowest temperature is measured in the town Gospić, 9.5°C. My town had fresh 12 °C. Day temperatures were not upper than 22°C. The rain was falling down almost every day. Momentarily, we have some sun but it wont be lasting for a long time. Tomorrow comes the rain again. Suits me.
I have just come in the house from my garden. The ground is perfectly wet for an easy weeding and I have done lots of it. I also cut down some roses and dead flowers.
I picked up 3 kg of tomatoes. The kale and celery are looking wonderful. Broad beans and mangel suffered the drought but who knows, they might come alive again.

As for flowers, hemerocalises,  rudbeckia and echinacea are still flowering. Japanese anemones have the very first blooms. The tiger lilies look good too.

This wild onion made himself home in my garden. For years I tried to eradicate it, obviously with no success. It produced this tiny flowers this year and I must admit, they look so cute. So, wild onion stays.

It will be lots of walnuts this year. Again.

Friday, 22 July 2011

How Do You Like Your Melon?

Besides ice cream, cantaloupe melons are my favourite dessert for hot summer days. This is how I prefer it. Very simple.

Cut the melon in halves and scoop out the seeds.
Scoop out the flesh and put it in a dish. If you have that special tool for scooping out little balls, use it! If not, cut the flesh into small pieces.
You can use the melon halves as bowls. If you like, cut the brim in a zigzag line to decorate it.
Add four spoons of sugar and two spoons of rum to the melon balls, stir and fill in the 'bowls'.
I put the bowls into a deep freezer for an hour because I like them cold.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Rain at Last!

The clouds are still coming.

Dear friends, after having read your comments on my 'Drought' post, I  have to thank you for suggestions and concern. I am happily announcing that the rain started at 4 o'clock this morning; I almost could not believe it! We had a very good shower that lasted fifteen minutes. Then, another one came, and another one... Thanks God.
Removing my lawn and replacing it with a gravel as you suggested, is a wonderful idea but, it functions in small gardens and surfaces. My lawn is too big. Anyway, this drought is really something extreme this year. Usually, it is not so. Momentarily, the sun appeared but, new clouds are coming. Tomorrow should be changeable and new rain is announced for Friday. How good.
Unfortunately, some parts of Croatia suffered the storm with hail and strong wind that pulled down the trees and took off the house roofs. All the crop is ruined and the material damage is big too.

Nerium oleander, tolerates dry conditions and blooms well.

Personally, besides the rain, the best thing that happens is temperature drop. I hardly stand the heat and love cooler weather conditions. My town was for weeks at the top of the list of the warmest towns in Croatia, many times taking the first position. From 38 - 40°C (104 F!) to today's pleasantly 25°C (77 F) - what a relief ! It surely does good to plants too.


PS. Pop up to this page and, please, sign the petition. Maybe we can do something this way.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Sometimes I wander, is the big garden a blessing or the curse? At present, this is how most of the grass looks like - scorched and dry. Only shady areas are partly spared of this terrible look. Please, take a notice of green spots in the grass -  this tough little fellows we consider weeds keep up in this horrible growing conditions.
Well, you might ask why I don't water the lawn. We are already following the first degree of water spare, and I only water flowers and vegetable garden just about so much to keep it alive. No need to tell you that such measures have great impact on plants look, but forget the aesthetic. At this point, I just want plants to stay alive.

Helianthus helianthoides 'Lorraine Sunshine'

This Helianthus, a cousin of sunflower,  loves sun and dry conditions as it's name suggested; Greek helios means sun. 
I need about two hours to water the garden properly so, from this point of view, a big garden might be a curse. Anyway, on my scale 'the blessing' side prevails.

Hosta plantaginea suffers the most of all Hostas I got. It's tender leaves simply have sun burns! I use to water in the evening ( finished watering at 23 h yesterday!) to diminish evaporation; nights are not so hot as the days. Besides, if you water during the day and drops of water remain on foliage, each of them will act as tiny lens and cause additional burn up.

Hemerocalis 'Bonanza'

As I pulled down the walnut tree, they remained exposed to the sun. I think I will transfer most of my Hostas to shady areas in October and replaced them with some sun loving plants. That's what I love about gardening, nothing is defined and there is always a room for changes.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Catch a Thief!

You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to conclude - my little thief is back! I found yesterday these hollow nuts on the ground and I knew immediately - squirrels from the nearby park started to harvest my hazelnuts. I am not mad at all; I just enjoy the variety of wild life in my garden. The most amusing thing with squirrels is their need to dig up acorns into my vegetable garden! 
Well, I am just wandering when will I catch these little thieves, with my camera, of course! 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Summer Container

A big vase I have at the entrance of my house is a place for seasonal changes. This summer I planted contrasting colours - purple and gold with some pink. 
I placed Coleus in the middle; it has purple and green leaves. It is surrounded by violet coloured flowers of Verbena, two varieties of Ipomena - one with pale green and the other with purple leaves -  and, Helychrisum with golden foliage and one trailing Perlagonium with pink flowers.

Perlagonium peltatum

Velvety flowers of Verbena.

Friday, 8 July 2011


No matter how much I water the garden, some plants have enormous needs for moisture and have that wilting look. Hydrangeas are especially affected. As their name suggests (Greek hydros means water), they need lots of water and feel the best in moist, shady spot. Unfortunately, not all my Hydrangeas have the prefect growing conditions and sometimes they look like that one one the picture. They recover after a good portion of water.

The vegetable garden is also affected by the drought. Anyway, I have picked the first tomatoes, courgettes, and kohlrabi. Kale is growing on well but needs to be watered every day.

 I lost the count of the days without rain. Though, some plants are thriving; sage, for example. Echinacea, Monarda and Achillea are beautiful and in full bloom. Butterflies and other insects are their regular visitors.
Lawn started yellowing on some parts but I don't water it very much. Water needs to be used sparely.


Hard to catch, but I did it!

Thursday, 7 July 2011


image credit: growyourown

Yesterday evening I picked up jostaberries. The jostaberry is a hybrid fruit, a cross between the black currant and the gooseberry. Like black currant, it has a specific taste, not loveable by all people. It is really easy to grow and can be propagated from wood cuttings, which I did some years ago. With a proper pruning, jostaberry gives lots of fruit. Usually, I remove diseased or weak branches before winter and in June, prune the young shoots to keep the bush in shape. The shrub may grow up to 2 m high.

It is to be planted in autumn or spring, 80 - 100 cm apart. Flowers form in April and berries are ripe by the end of June to beginning of July. It will appreciate watering when the conditions are dry.
The fruit contains lots of vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant.
The berries are almost black and shiny, somewhat smaller than gooseberry. It is edible cooked or row and excellent for making jelly or jam. I made two jars of jam using the recipe I found on Coolinarika, greatest gastronomy site in Croatia, where I too have my pages.

Jostaberries Jam

1.5 kg jostaberries
700g sugar
lemon zest (2 lemons)
25 g pectin powder

Cook shortly crushed jostaberries and mash it though the sieve to remove skin and little pips. Put it back into a cooking pot, add sugar, pectin and lemon zest and cook until thick. It usually takes 10 minutes. The original recipe includes some Limoncino, the lemon liqueur, but the lemon zest alone adds pretty good flavour. 

PS. Yesterday was cloudy the whole day but, not a single drop of rain fell down! Next rainy day is announced for Monday. Well, we'll see...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura lindheimeri, the beeblossom

I have three young Gaura plants planted this Spring and they produced their very first flowers. This is a perennial native to North America where it grows wild from Louisiana and Texas to south to Mexico. Flowers are pink or white and remind of butterfly. 
They develop a very long tap root and need deep, well drained soil in full sun and are perfect for dry corners in the garden. 

Flower stalk are tall and should be cut back once the flowers fade away. It may take the second flowering later on in season.
Gaura can be grown from seed but if you want the plants true to the mother plant divide the clump in Spring. Gaura forms large lumps of branches that need to be pruned in order to keep neat appearance. Looks best mixed with ornamental grasses and Asters.

pink flowers; image credit:

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Abundancy Continues

 In spite of drought these past weeks, the garden is pretty abundant and in a good condition. The show must go on and now, hollyhocks, day lilies and red hot pokers are on the stage. Some roses already developed the second bloom.
We had a little rain yesterday afternoon but it only washed the dust away. I still have to water the plants every evening.

Ever water thirsty Hydrangeas keep up in a good condition.

Hemerocallis 'Kwanzo'

Hollyhock just started to open the flowers.

Hemerocallis 'Ed Murray'

Lysimachia clethroides

Friday, 1 July 2011

Cherry Jam

I don't have a cherry tree in my garden but my aunt does. She called me yesterday afternoon to pay her a visit and pick up as much cherries as I want. Who can say no to an invitation like that?

So, off I went. It was a real 'cherry day' yesterday. I ate nice fresh picked up cherries and, back home, made a cherry strudel and three jars of jam too. Three jars doesn't seems much but, I usually make jams and jellies of one or two kilogram of fruit as it comes - strawberries, red currant, cherries, raspberries, apricots etc. by winter the pantry is full of yummy marmalades. It is more than I actually need so, my friend get some too.
The recipe is simple. Wash cherries and remove the stone. Cook the fruit with 1 dl of water until soft. Add 600 to 700 g sugar on each 1 kg of cherries. You can add some special gelatine powder mixture for jams and marmalades. Cook the jam until it becomes thick.

In the evening, a friend of mine brought me one kilo of raspberries and I made another two jars of jam! I used to have raspberries in my garden but I eradicate them because they were too old and messy. I am planing to plant new raspberries this autumn.

1 kg = 2.20 pounds
100 g =  0.22 pounds
1 dl = 0.42 cup