Friday, March 30, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Journey's End'

You know I love me some pie crust edge hostas!  So I just had to have 'Journey's End'!  It's a sport of 'Choo Choo Train' (which I also love).  It has huge bright gold leaves with dark green margins.  The leaves are very pointed and have a pie crust edge.  It has been a very fast growing hosta in my garden, as evident from the pictures below.  Pair this one with white edged or blue hostas, and remember to give it lots of room to grow.
Hosta 'Journey's End' 2011
Hosta 'Journey's End' 2009

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Jaz'

Hosta 'Jaz' has very glossy, greenish yellow leaves.  The leaves are very, very thick which makes this hosta very slug resistant.  Slugs prefer leaves that are thin and easy to eat, I guess they don't like to work for their dinner.  These leaves feel almost like they are made out of rubber.  It is a medium sized hosta with off white flowers in late fall.  It will definitely add a different texture to your hosta bed.  Pair this one with dark green or blue waxy hostas that will let it's glossy leaves shine.
Hosta 'Jaz' 2009
Hosta 'Jaz' 2011

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shade Plant of the Week - Ligularia

I really love Ligularia!  It is a great addition to any shade garden.  Varieties such as 'Desdemona' and 'Britt Marie Crawford' have large waxy leaves that are lily pad shaped.  The leaves are often green colored on top with reddish undersides.  Other varieties such as 'Japonica', 'Rocket', and 'Dragon's Breath' have more feathery shaped leaves.  The plants are usually quite large and showy, no matter what the variety.  Though there is also miniature varieties out there, such as Ligularia Osiris Fantaisie.  Ligularia is not for the dry shade garden, as it is a water loving plant.  If you plant it in dry shade, be prepared to water it quite often.  The foliage on these plants is great, but a welcome surprise in fall is their yellow daisy like flowers.  Lots of new varieties of Ligularia have come out in the past several years, so be on the look out as it gains popularity!
Ligularia 'Othello'

Ligularia 'Desdemona'

Blooms on Ligularia 'Japonica'

Blooms on Ligularia 'Desdemona'
Ligularia 'Japonica'
Ligularia Osiris Fantaisie (much smaller then other Ligularia)

Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford'

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Jewel of the Nile'

Last week when writing about streaked hostas I mentioned hosta unstability and reverting.  I decided to feature Hosta 'Jewel of the Nile' to show what that looks like in hostas.  'Jewel of the Nile' is an unstable sport of hosta 'Dee's Golden Jewel'.  'Jewel of the Nile' is unique in that every leaf can have a different look to it.  Some will be green with gold margins, others gold with green streaks, etc.  I have seen some beautiful 'Jewel of the Nile's which is why I decided to take a chance on it.  Below you will see mine.  In 2009 all of the leaves are green with a gold margin, but by 2011 half of my plant has reverted back to all gold ('Dee's Golden Jewel').  You can dig up the hosta and separate off the part that has reverted back to all gold, but this is a hosta that reverts very quickly compared to others.  So I am not going to tell you not to buy this hosta, but if you do, you will probably have to do maintenance on this plant to keep it from reverting back to all gold (and even that can't be guaranteed).
'Jewel of the Nile' 2009
'Jewel of the Nile' 2011

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'June'

If you ask any hosta lover to name their top 5 hostas, hosta 'June' is sure to be somewhere in their top 5.  What's not to love?  It is a strong growing hosta that looks beautiful no matter where you put it.  The unique thing about 'June' is that you can have more then one plant, and depending on the light they will look like two different plants.  The more light it receives, the more green in color it will appear.  The less light, the more blue in color it will appear.  Either way it's beautiful!  The leaves are blue with chartreuse centers that turn more towards gold as the growing season progresses.  Place this hosta somewhere near the front of the border, as it will draw lots of attention and it's medium in size.  It will look great paired with gold and/or light green hostas.
Hosta 'June' 2009
Hosta 'June' 2011

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Somoa Inspired Brownie Cupcakes

I know this is normally a gardening blog, but another one of my hobbies is baking.  I would bake even more if someone else would clean up after me.  Love to bake, hate to clean!

A couple of weeks ago I bought a jar of virgin coconut oil out of curiosity.  I have some friends who have totally switched over to coconut oil over butter, margarine, or even olive oil.  They claim it has great health benefits, so I thought I would give it a try.  Upon opening the jar, I found a new love.   I love coconut, and I swear could eat this stuff with a spoon right out of the jar.  I knew when I first smelled it that I had to make something really good with it.  Mix that with watching Cupcake Wars and you get = Somoa Inspired Brownie Cupcakes!

Here is my easy recipe:

Somoa Inspired Brownie Cupcakes
1 box brownie mix (I prefer Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie Mix)
2 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Melt butter and coconut oil and then mix with brownie mix, eggs, and chocolate chips until moistened.  Pour brownie mixture into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners.
Bake at 350 for approximately 15 minutes.  Ovens vary, so check them after 15 minutes.  If you put a toothpick in them and it doesn't come out clean put them back in for about 4 minutes and try again.
Once toothpick comes out clean, take out of oven and allow to cool.

Caramel Coconut Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Cream together butter and coconut oil.  Then add caramel topping and vanilla, and mix until smooth.  Slowly add powdered sugar until smooth and holds form well.

Frost cooled brownie cupcakes and then top with toasted coconut.  (spread 1 cup coconut on cookie sheet and broil for a few minutes, be careful to watch as it burns easily)

These are not for the faint at heart, you need a real sweet tooth to enjoy these!  A giant glass of milk and you are ready to rock and roll!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Indy Parade Lap'

I know that people who read my blog do not like it when I post pictures of hostas they cannot easily find, but this hosta is just too cute not to blog about.  Hosta 'Indy Parade Lap' was a convention hosta in 2007.  Convention hosta means that it was given to those who attended the American Hosta Society convention in a given year.  I attended the one in Indianapolis, and attendees were given either 'Indy Parade Lap', 'Indy Finish Line', or 'Indy Winner Circle'.  'Indy Parade Lap' has long, narrow, twisty green leaves with a a very thin cream colored margin.  It's a very vigorous growing hosta, and has great dark blueish purple flowers in fall.  If you cannot find this hosta, look for hosta 'Stiletto' which is very similar. 
hosta 'Indy Parade Lap' 2009
hosta 'Indy Parade Lap' 2011
The flowers on hosta 'Indy Parade Lap'

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Illicit Affair'

Look at how cute today's hosta 'Illicit Affair' is!  'Illicit Affair' is a miniature hosta that comes up gold in the spring, but as the season progresses the leaves green up except the margins which remain a gold color.  It has small heart shaped leaves, and has a great rounded mound form.  This is a not a mini that will disappoint, as it's also a vigorous growing hosta.  Put this one in the front of your hosta bed or it would make a great hosta for a mini garden.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shade Plant of the Week - Astrantia ( Masterwort )

I've decided to add another segment to my blog, shade plant of the week.  There are so many other plants for the shade garden besides just hostas.  Hosta, of course, are the best shade plant in my opinion, but there are lot of other options.  One of my favorite spring blooming shade plants is Masterwort, otherwise known as Astrantia.  Astrantia have beautiful flowers that to me resemble strawflowers, and just like strawflowers, even after the flowers have past their time and dry out they still provide garden great garden interest.  The leaves on Astrantia provide great contrast to the big leafed hosta.  The plant forms a nice round mound of leaves of slightly fringed leaves.  Astrantia flowers come in a variety of colors, and there is even two varieties of Astrantia with variegated leaves.  Astrantia will also work in the a sunny garden, which makes it very versatile.
Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'

Astrantia major 'Ruby Cloud'

Astrantia major 'Roma'

Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'

Astrantia major 'Roma'

Astrantia major 'Ruby Wedding'

Astrantia in midsummer as the flowers start to dry out.

Astrantia major 'Ruby Cloud'

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Ice Age Trail'

Hosta 'Ice Age Trail' is a streaked hosta.   Streaked hostas have irregular color patterns in their leaves.  The coloring is very unstable, and usually every leaf will look different.  Streaked hostas are highly sought after in the hosta world for their unusual coloring and breeding characteristics.  Streaked hostas seeds have a higher percentage of creating streaked or variegated seedlings then other hostas.  However, because they are unstable in coloring a lot of streaked hostas will eventually revert back to an all solid color.  Hosta 'Ice Age Trails' has blue leaves with cream and white streaking.  It's leaves are very textured and corrugated.  Although it's parent is hosta 'Big Daddy', this plant is medium in size and a very slow grower from my experience.
Hosta 'Ice Age Trail' 2009
Hosta 'Ice Age Trail' 2011

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hosta of the Day - 'Inniswood'

Today's hosta is another one that only gets better with time.  Hosta 'Inniswood' has bright gold leaves with dark green margins.  As this plant matures the leaves become more and more corrugated.  It definitely adds brightness to a shady garden!  To bring out its color even more pair it with blue colored (mine is next to June), lighter green, and white margined hostas.
Hosta 'Inniswood' 2009
Hosta 'Inniswood' 2011

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Everyone is ready for spring but me

"It's hard to believe it's March," seems to be a common statement here in Wisconsin lately.  The past week the weather was in the 70's and this weekend we were close if not in the 80's.  Now when the weatherman says that we are going to have a cold spell by the end of the week, he means it's going to be in the 60's.  I go outside and there is so much that I want to do in the garden, but I have to keep reminding myself that's it's only March.  I can't ever remember a March where I was outside in a t-shirt and shorts for days on end (unless I was on vacation somewhere warm).  I see my neighbors and listen to my friends talk about how they have raked up all their flower beds and on the inside I just cringe.  I go outside and I am so tempted to rake out my flowers beds too, but my biggest fear is that it's not unusual for Wisconsin to have snow in March, April, and even into May.  I just think the more insulation you leave on the ground will help protect the plants that seem to think it's spring as much as every Wisconsinite.  I feel like the grim reaper when I try to remind people that this is Wisconsin and we could still have snow.  I seem to be the only person and plant who does not think that spring is here to stay.  Do you think I am being too cautious in my thinking?
Purple spring crocus, blooming before my Hellebores

Yellow spring crocus

Hosta nubs already showing up

Daylilies sprouting up all over the place

Buds on Forsythia 

Masterwort already coming up

Rhubarb sprouting

Buds on my Tree Peony

LA Lily already coming up

Vinca blooming and wrapping itself around Donkey-Tail Spurge

Bleeding Heart coming up

Daffodils setting up blooms