Friday, August 26, 2016

Exbury Gardens

The Exbury Gardens, located in Hampshire, England, are a real treat for the eyes!  In fact, in December of 2011, they were awarded the Hudson's Heritage UK "Best Garden" award.                     

The gardens contains over 200 acres of rhododendrons, azaleas, and a plethora of rare trees  and shrubs.  They are the inspiration of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild  who passed away in 2009.  Today, his grandchildren carry on the legacy.

 There are several ways to view the gardens. You can walk on the numerous trails, you can ride a chauffer-driven buggy, or you can do my favorite thing:  ride a miniature steam locomotive through the gardens. 

The train will pass through the Summer Lane garden.  From there, you'll catch glimpses of the rock garden, followed by the wildlife pond.  Next, you'll pass the plant nursery and exotic fruit patch.  Then you'll pass by the sunflower field, which if you visit in the summer, is just amazing!  Finally, you'll loop around the oldest tree in the garden:  the Domesday Yew.  The train ride takes about 20 minutes.

The gardens are open daily from March to early November.  Admission for adults is 14 British pounds and 4 British pounds for children.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Five Things to Do with Your Garden Tomatoes

Did you plant tomatoes this year?  If you did, I bet you have a plethora of them now.  Are you wondering what to do with them?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Roast them:  Core the tomatoes and cut in half horizontally.  Place them in a glass baking dish.  Drizzle with about a 1/2 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place in a 200 degree oven and bake 2-3 hours.  Cool.  Refrigerate or freeze with the oil.  Roasted tomatoes can be used for pizza, rissoto, and salad dressing.

2.  Make a BLT.   These are great summer sandwiches.  Get some applewood smoked bacon, sourdough bread, lettuce, mayonaise, and of course, tomatoes.

3.  Make a super-easy sauce.  Core, seed, and dice your tomatoes.  Toss with 1/2 cup bottled Italian dressing, 1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic, and 2 Tablespoons of fresh cut up basil leaves.  Mix it all together and serve over hot pasta.

4.  Do you have more time?  Try making a cooked sauce.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add 1 diced onion and cook until soft.  Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and 1 cup of chopped carrots.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Add about 3 pounds of peeled, cored, and seeded tomatoes.  Cook on low for about an hour.  Cool and puree in batches in a food processor or blender.  Return to pot and add 2 teaspoons sugar, 1-2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon oregano.  Cook until sauce is desired consistancy.  Use immediately, or cool and freeze.

5.  Can them.  Peel and core your tomatoes.  Leave them whole.  Sterilize jars and keep them in a deep pot of hot water.  In each quart-sized jar, place 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pack tomatoes into the jar, leaving about an inch at the top.  Ladle boiling water into the jars.  Place lids and bands on.  Place jars in the deep pot, cover, and boil about 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat, wait 5 minutes, remove jars, and let them cool.

What do you do with your tomatoes?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Michigan 4-H Children's Garden

The Michigan 4-H Children's Garden is located on the campus of Michigan State University.  It opened in 1993, as one of five gardens that are part of the Michigan State University Horticulture Demonstration Gardens.

 The children's garden covers about half an acre, and it features 30 different play areas.  These include a dinosaur garden, a pizza garden, a Peter Rabbit garden, an ABC Kindergarten garden, a Teddy Bear and Animal garden, a Storybook garden, and an Alice in Wonderland Maze which leads to a secret garden.

  Some of the fun things kids can do are find lambs ear and feel the leaves, smell chocolate mint, dance on dance chimes, and cross over the Monet bridge.
 The garden is open Monday through Friday from dawn to dusk.  Admission is free, but parking is $3.00 for 1 1/2 hours or $5.00 for 3 hours.