Serendipity Discovered, My Banister Garden and Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche

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As you stroll through my garden’s you’ll notice many unusual things sprinkled here and there… peaking out of a cluster of tulips or bowing over a rash planting of zinnias… Friends say that I have a flair for mixing my passion for plants and garden junque, marrying them together into welcoming and intriguing garden rooms. As I place these abandoned and unappreciated objects throughout my gardens it allows me to express my passions using my innate creativity.

Recycling things that no one else wants is something I enjoy doing… I can see the ‘practical’ and artistic use of an old fashioned metal canner… a rusty old wagon wheel… wooden crates or drawers… a wash tub or even more exciting, a derelict water trough… tin buckets, old wheel barrows… garden bikes, chairs… oh the list could go on and on! In my last post I talked about that discovered element… stumbling upon some tiny treasure you’ve been unknowingly looking for. My eye has become quite keen to spotting usable junque at estate sales, thrift shops and even along the curbside. My minds eye is in tune with what I love in my gardens. I’ve been to sales and there and behold an old wooden crate and tin bucket cast off in a corner… yes that will sit beautifully on my porch topped by that tin bucket over flowing with double petunia’s in it!

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As my friends and I walk and talk meandering here and there I watch their faces… I delight in seeing the shocked look at how cute 'they think' my antique metal canner's look planted up with purple pansies… how whimsical that old banister appears in the garden surrounded by a cascade of nasturtiums… and the 'wow' when they see hot pink geraniums in a white enamelware bucket that now sits on a rickety old chair… I love inspiring people, especially in the home and garden.

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I name all of my gardens. When we bought our home the upstairs railing was kicked in and totally destroyed by the previous owners… but a beautiful, old white banister still stood. As the men were removing what was left of it and getting ready to toss everything in a ‘junk’ pile, I was quick to say, “Hold on to that! That’s not junk… that is going in a garden!”… and so was born my Banister Garden.

Legend for The Banister Garden
Here is my rendition of my Banister Garden. This garden is just under 200 square feet.

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1. Knock Out Rose Bushes- 2 pink
2. Daylily- 2 orange
3. Creeping Phlox- 3 lavender
4. Burning Bush shrub
5. Lavender- Hidcotte
6. Peony- 2 pink
7. Bee’s Balm planted behind Antique Two Burner Antique Canner filled with geraniums. The Banister stands behind the Bee’s Balm
8. Hydrangea- old fashioned white- just planted last summer
9. Iris- purple
10. Purple Bell Flower
11. Varrigated Sedum
12. Purple Ruffles Basil
13. Spirea- pink
~I have a garden chair that sets in the garden and I usually have a tin bucket planted up on it.
This garden like the Side and Bistro was dug up and replanted as well. I didn’t do all of these gardens in one year, it has been a process going on since 2009. This garden has had many faces as you will see in the photo’s at the end of this post under the recipes.

I’m a bargain shopper when it comes to plants as well as for garden junque. If I can’t grow it myself, swap or get from a family member or friend then I wait for stuff to go on clearance. In 2011 I ‘stumbled’ upon a great deal at a big box store on a couple Knock Out rose bushes. They were discounted 75%… now I never would have paid the full price for these even with all the hype about them… I can’t say that anymore! They are worth every penny… honestly, they don’t stop blooming except for about two weeks in mid summer. I would like to get several more and make a hedge with them in another garden… I always have a garden plan in mind!

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Here are some idea’s for things to combine in your gardens!
*Tin or Enamelware buckets with either geraniums or double petunias.
*Wash tubs- I purchase nice big hanging baskets and plant them right into them… instant wow! I have also planted them with cascading nasturtiums. (see photo).
*Wooden crates and drawers- I like to incorporate right into my gardens. I will take the bottoms out bury part way, fill with dirt and then plant herbs or again hanging baskets. I also like to use crates on my front porch as both planters and as objects to place other pots on.

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*Tea Kettles, coffee pots, old oil cans, any other type of metal container plant worthy. I have planted succulents like Hen’s & Chicks in these, pansies and petunias.
*Mailboxes- I have not done this, (yet) but I have seen some really cool ones done up. You need to use a ‘top’ door type- one where the top opens and the mail drops in (see photo at my blog 😉 )
…here are a few other ideas of some things I have seen, but haven’t done and don’t really fit into my garden scheme, but may be of interest to others…
*Old fashioned claw foot bath tubs- I would plant something tall down the entire center- zinnia’s, cosmos, cleome or all and then have something that trails out all around the edges- Wave Petunias, trailing nasturtiums.
*Row boat or other nautical piece- I would bury it and then do as with the bath tub- height and cascade
*Antique Metal Bed frame- Plant the bed’s legs or just set the frame down on the ground and then using appropriate flowers, plant a design of a quilt block- obviously not too detailed- maybe a Bow Tie, Diamond, Nine Patch or something along those lines.
… there are many other ‘found’ objects that you can use… be creative, you know what you like!
~The key to using any type of container is proper drainage!

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We are still in the grips of winter and here is Michigan we just got another six inches of the white stuff… so today I thinking comfort food! Enjoy friends!
Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche

All purpose flour for rolling
1 recipe Flaky Pie dough (below)
8 slices bacon (Off course Garden Gates!)
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
3/4 pound butternut squash, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced
8 large eggs
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
6 fresh sage leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 digress. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 11×15 inch rectangle. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking pan. Fold edges of dough so sides are about 1 inch high. Prick dough all over with a fork and freeze until firm, 15 minutes. Press on dough, draping over rim of pan. Bake until crust is firm and edges are lightly browned, about 35– 45 minutes or until bottom is dry and light golden.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until almost crisp, 10 minutes, flipping once. Drain bacon on paper towels. Add onion to skillet, season with salt & pepper, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 10 minutes. Spread mixture evenly in crust. Top with squash, overlapping slices and adding a piece of bacon every few rows.
3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and cream; season with salt 7 pepper. Pour enough egg mixture over filling to just reach top of crust. Top with sage. Bake until set in center and puffed at edges, 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.

FLAKY PIE DOUGH:

In a food processor, pulse 1 1/4 c all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp slat to combine. Add 1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch pieces; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tbsp more water, 1 tbsp at a time). Form dough in a 1 inch thick rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerated until firm, 1 hour or up to 3 days).

“So… what are you going to do with a rickety old wooden chair with chipped paint Jean?” my husband asks me…”It’s serendipity Neil….”
Happy Day,
Jean
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This photo was taken in Spring of 2009. This was the first ‘face’ she had… the tulips were beautiful and the creeping phlox looked stunning. Notice the lattice on the side of the front porch… The wisteria that now covers that side of the porch was just a baby in this photo.

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Here is a photo of the same garden, same spot but taken in 2012. You can see it is deeper and quite a bit different. The burning bush in the far left corner is larger and now there is the spirea bush in the front right corner.

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This photo was taken in Summer 2011. You can see the black ground cover still laying around the edges from the ‘re-do’ that this garden received early in the spring.

Choosing Perennials, Lavender Heart Card, Easy Flavored Sugar’s Gift & Yummy Apple Pie Oatmeal

Flavored Sugars make a super cute gift.
See how to below

Lavender Heart Card… see how to below

Our gardens are filled with love, patience and long suffering… these are attributes that we as spouses, parents, co-workers and such strive to maintain and build in our personal character.  I believe that gardening helps us grow these virtues.  I always tell my my friends that God made me to love gardening because that was the only way He was sure to get these virtues instilled in me.   Perennials I believe help along with this much more than annuals.  My closer friends know how much I enjoy ‘instant gratification’ 🙂 ~ which is why I probably will always incorporate my beloved annuals… petunias, nasturtiums, pansies and the likes~ they are ever faithful!  Today we will look at perennials and the pro’s and con’s to them along with some tips & hints on maintenance.

Perennials can create a challenge for some due to the simple fact there are so many to choose from.  Several factors come into play when deciding on what, where and when.  I will touch base on what I believe to be the most important factors to take into consideration. Perennials will be where ever you place them for a long while and if they are larger plants such as shrubs and trees, you need to make sure you love what you choose!  The color of your home, whether it be dark, light or painted brick, vinyl siding or painted wood~ all play into the choices. You wouldn’t want to put a white flowering pear in front of your white house- you would loose all interest because when the tree is in full bloom you would loose the tree into your home.  A pink flowering crab on the other hand would be much more stunning.
Many of the factors listed with annuals are also relevant for perennial, for instance sun & shade tolerances.
~Size is one factor with perennials that does differ from perennials.  You will be looking at trees and shrubs as well as bush types, ground covers, small to mid-size growers. 
~I would suggest that first you go to a nursery or garden center with a note book, plan on spending some serious time there.  Go through each category of plant that you are interested in; jot down what you like and the details to that plant.  If you have a really good plant encyclopedia at home, you won’t need too much of the detail, but if you don’t be sure to get these details- sun requirements, blooming time, height & width at mature stage and any special requirements that might be listed.
~Bloom time is one factor to pay close attention to.  You will want to be sure to incorporate plants that will give you seasonal blooming.  Here are a few more common perennials and there bloom time:
*Spring bloomers: Ajuga, bergina, bleeding heart, columbine, coral bells, hellebore, lady’s mantle, peony, poppy, primrose, viola and of course bulbs such as snow drops, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and my favorite of all, tulips.
*Summer bloomers: Astible, baby’s breath, bee balm, coreopsis, day lily, delphinium, dianthus, helianthus, hosta, lupine, obedient plant, phlox, purple corn flower, black eyed susan, Shasta daisies, Russian sage, scabiosa, sedum, verbena, veronica and yarrow.
*Fall bloomers: Aster, chrysanthemum, lobelia, Japanese anemone and goldenrod.
The next thing to take into consideration when you are ready to purchase is, “What size plant/shrub/tree do I start with?” Well the fact of the matter here is truly how much money and patience do you have! I most often times want the biggest bang for my buck and therefore typically will go with a smaller plant and be patient with growth.  There are a few ‘slow’ growers that I don’t, like trees for instance.  I’ve done the catalog mail order and get a ‘twig’ in the mail, which has in every situation been mowed over, run over by a child, week wacked or dug up by an animal! No thanks~ too many disappointments and wasted time in this area.  What I do is wait until August and go to the garden centers when everything is typically marked down 50% and buy the 8′ to 12′ trees.  I mulch heavily and water deeply and regularly so the tree will have plenty of time to take root and make it through the cold Michigan weather I live in.  I have not lost one yet!  This is also what I do with some of my larger shrubs if they are going to be in a ‘high risk’ area. Otherwise I go for the small pots here too.  Mulching and watering is the key to success.
* A few other tips:
~Prepare the soil well- add plenty of organic matter to ensure adequate water and air circulation.
~Always plant the plant to the same depth of the size of the pot that you purchased it in.
~Water often the first season. This will aid the plant in developing a strong root base.
~Fertilize in spring- most growth happens during this time.  Choose appropriate fertilizers according to type of plant.
~Mulch year round- this aids in maintaining moisture and protecting roots.
~Get more blooms!  Dead heading certain varieties, such as roses will stimulate more blooming.
~Division of plants, especially Iris’s and bulbs are crucial to long life and better blooming.  Be sure to read on each plant before dividing, some prefer spring, others fall!
There is so much to be said and time and space would never allow me to do it all in a day’s blog.  I hope this helps you get started!

For a thoughtful gift, create on of these simple Lavender Filled Heart Cards. 
*First you will need to choose a sheet of card stock and cut to the desired size;  fold vertically in the center. Cut two heart shapes from a piece of printed muslin to fit nicely on the front of your card; stitch them together, outsides in, leaving a small opening; invert the hearts; loosely fill with dried lavender; stitch the opening closed and attach the heart to the card.  See attached photo!      

Flavored Sugars are an easy thing to make, here is a quick recipe that you can use on oatmeal or in your tea.  They make super cute gifts as well.  See attached photo!
Start with 2 cups organic raw sugar.
For Vanilla Sugar: Split 1 vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar; then bury the bean in the sugar.
For Cinnamon Sugar:  add 1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon and 2 sticks.
For Cardamon Sugar: add 1/4 cup whole green cardamom pods.
The sugars will stay flavorful i a sealed container for up to one year. 

To make it gift worthy put the sugar’s in pint size jelly jars; using pinking shears cut a cute piece of fabric circle 1 1/2 inch’s wider in diameter than the metal lid; place fabric circle over the lid, place on filled jar and then seal with ring.  Create a cute contents label to put on the front of jar. Happy giving!

Oatmeal doesn’t have to be the way grandma made it- goopy & thick!  This alternative to an already hearty breakfast goes a long way when it tastes like Apple Pie.  Sometimes we are really busy in the morning and getting a good breakfast can be a challenge.  Here is a quick, forget about it in the crock pot till morning meal that is sure to please!
Apple Pie Oatmeal

2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup steel cut oats, uncooked
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. apple pie spice
1 apple, cored, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup raisins, optional
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker sprayed with non stick spray; stir well until well mixed. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Happy Day,
Jean