Elderberry Berries Green on the Bushes Yet

Last year I must have lopped off too many branches on a couple elderberry plants because this year they have only a few bare sticks and very little greenery. I hope they come back stronger next year or I’ll have to go hunting for more bushes if we want some elderberry jam. That shouldn’t be too hard as elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, grows wild all around Pennsylvania at the edges of fields and along roads.

Pinnately compound, toothed leaves on branches that reach 10 or 12 feet tall will help you find them. The plants are easy to spot when in bloom, even from a distance, because of the broad clusters of white blossoms.

Once you find your elderberry plants make note of their location because they’re not as easy to find when in berry. Guess I should have mentioned that a couple weeks ago because the elderberries are growing fast with all the rain we’ve had.

Compound leaf of the elderberry.

Elderberry branches are starting to get weighed down with their fruit, even though the berries are still green.

Green elderberries.

Once they’re big enough the berries will turn a deep purple and then they’ll be ready to harvest.

Mid-July Flowers Can Handle the Heat

It’s been real hot around here lately. The last couple days have been lettuce-bolting days and the nights have been sticky. Bringing in the morning air – that’s our mountain air conditioning – started at 72 degrees at the crack of dawn today. I hear a siesta coming after lunch…!

In and around the vegetable and flower gardens we have lots of flowers blooming:

  1. purple cone flowers*
  2. marigolds*
  3. yarrow*
  4. catnip*
  5. foxglove
  6. nasturium
  7. rudbeckia
  8. cosmos
  9. geraniums
  10. portulaca*
  11. fennel
  12. cilantro*
  13. petunias
  14. pansies
  15. impatiens
  16. spiderflowers*
  17. sunflowers*
  18. orange tiger lilies
  19. rose campion*
  20. hawkweed
  21. begonias
  22. comfrey
  23. thimbleweed
  24. bee balm
  25. goldenrod
  26. evening primrose
  27. poke
  28. touch-me-not
  29. asiatic day lily
  30. lopseed
  31. anise hyssop*
  32. oregano*
  33. zinnias
  34. lettuce*
  35. zucchini
  36. tomatoes
  37. peppers
  38. cucumbers
  39. ground cherries
  40. watermelons
  41. oxeye daisy
  42. fleabane
  43. dill*

Not too many wild herbs on my summer list, but there are a few we can visit in another post! Pictures to come!

*Marks the happy re-seeders! All we have to do is transplant them where we want the volunteers to grow, or put them in a recycled pot to give to a friend or neighbor.

Sights and Sounds of Spring in Central Pennsylvania

Yesterday the weather cooperated in the afternoon just long enough for me to get in a little gardening. The air wasn’t real warm, but a touch of sun here and there after the previous days of rain felt really good. The vegetable garden is too wet to turn over, but at least it’s cleaned up and ready for that task.

The sights and sounds of Spring are many, and here’s my list of new life stirring in the last couple weeks here in Central Pennsylvania.

  • Canada geese and snow geese flying high, going back up North
  • blue birds settling into a blue bird nest box
  • tulips sprouting their greenery
  • Snow drops Gaultheria sp. emerging and flowering
  • lily vegetation growing again
  • Great Horned Owl hooting to a mate just before dawn
  • grass getting greener
  • rabbits enjoying the returning sorrel in the garden
  • giant blue hyssop sprouting up its first purple leaves
  • catnip growing up from last year’s plants
  • parsley and oregano greening up
  • fennel regrowing from bulb left in ground
  • return of a pair of nesting Eastern Kingbirds
  • Crocus bulbs up and flowering
  • songbirds singly loudly in the early morning
  • False Indigo Baptista just now sprouting

The maple trees will be opening their buds any day now, maybe today. The last three days their buds have been getting bigger and more noticeable.

Spring is always welcoming on the long side of Winter. So far, we seen and heard quite a few stirrings of Spring.

How about you? What is your favorite Spring sighting?

Fresh Winter Chives Snaz Up a Hearty Meal

Wintertime is the time of soups and homemade breads. Lots of baking is done here when it’s too cold outside for much activity. Really makes you feel good to see the smiles that homebaked goods can bring — unless too many calories are slipping down the hatch.

Let’s just say that we’re looking forward to the activity that Spring will bring! It’s only six weeks away on the calendar, but greenery will be starting to show before Winter has completely left us.

Before the big snow storm is to hit we’ve got firewood and kindling, food and water for several days on hand. Haven’t had much in the way of winter weather yet this season, so maybe we are due.

For something unusual in the dead of February, I picked a handful of chives on my way to the mailbox. Snow is nowhere in sight – just on the weatherman’s forecast. Tonight, I’ll have some wild, fresh herbs to flavor the dinner meal.

Back in the kitchen I snipped the long ends of the green chives and gave them a rinse. The clean chives were set aside until the cooking was done. Just before serving dinner I used scissors to snip very short pieces of chives on top of the mashed potatoes.

A few twigs of oregano from last growing season were tied together and now hangs in a corner of the kitchen. Holding a plate under the dried herb, I crushed a couple sprigs with my fingers and let the plate catch the falling pieces of now aromatic oregano. Mint, basil and rosemary are hanging in the same fashion.

Olive oil was drizzled over the chicken breasts, with a pinch of salt and pepper and a couple pinches of the crushed oregano on top. Chicken was baked in a covered casserole dish until done. The meal was rounded out with whole baby green beans and applesauce. Dinner smelled and tasted terrific!

Chives is our only herb harvested fresh outside during winter.

Chives is our only herb harvested fresh outside during winter.

We have chives growing wild here all the time. It may be one of the few plants that is hardy enough to keep going during the cold of winter. Certainly, in the northeast or mid-atlantic states chives is one hardy herb.

Chives grow close to the ground and may be shielded by the fallen oak leaves all around them in our woods. In the fields grazed by cows you can see clumps of chives that the cows have not consumed. Perhaps they don’t like the taste, or would simply rather eat the grass.

In any case chives have a delicate flavor that is destroyed on heating. Make sure to add chives to your potatoes, noodles, or any dish just before serving. Any dish with sour cream is begging for a little chives! Try some chives tonight!

Blooming Calendar in the Making

Considering features of my blooming calendar…what should go in the database?

Besides the obvious names and taxonomy of the individual plants, each will need to described with respect to their growing habits.

Does the plant sprout up, grow its greenery and then produce a flower in the usual sequence? Some plants show their flowers first and then put on the leaves. Coltsfoot comes to mind.

What time of year is the best for viewing the blooms of the plant? What color range do the blooms have and where can we see them?

These are some of the questions that I envision my blooming calendar will help answer. Stay tuned for more updates.

Anything blooming around you right now? Drop me a line and let me know!