Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It Was an Actual Cherry HARVEST!

Back in 2011, while attending a regional GWA (Garden Writers Association) meeting in Chicago, I received a couple of small seedlings of a dwarf sour cherry shrub - 'Carmine Jewel'. Gurney's supplied them to us as part of the swag that we usually get when we attend such meetings.

I brought them home and planted them back near our apple trees. They didn't grow much the first couple of years and then those pesky wabbits chewed them off at the ground one winter. (Grrr... That's what I get for boasting about never having any rabbit issues.) I was certain they were both goners, but they came back from the roots - like gangbusters!

Last year, we had three blooms on one shrub and ended up with one cherry. I couldn't decide what to make with that cherry, so I simply ate it. 

Did I mention these were sour cherries?

This year, I was taken aback when I saw how profusely both shrubs were blooming and I made plans for pies, cobbler, jelly... Once the cherries started turning red, I netted them so the birds didn't get to them before I did.

In the end, there weren't as many as I'd hoped there would be, but...


I haven't yet decided what I'm going to make (after I pit them...gah), but I think it might be this:

● Tart Cherry Crisp ●

(Recipe from Taste of Home)


The 'Carmine Jewel' Dwarf Cherry was bred at the University of Saskatchewan and was introduced to the public in 1999. It is a shrub-type cherry that reaches a maximum height of about 6½ feet and a spread of about 5 feet, making it ideal for limited space gardens. 

Self-pollinating, it is one of the first cherries to ripen in early summer, with stunningly heavy yields in its fifth year, with 20-30 pounds of cherries per shrub not uncommon.

'Carmine Jewel' is is rated for zones 2b-7, making it very hardy. It is a firm cherry with small pits, making it excellent for drying. It has few disease and pest problems, making it a good choice for organic production.

It seems that it's a common error among backyard gardeners to pick these cherries before they're completely ripe. They're nearly black when at their peak and will be quite a bit sweeter if you can be patient. I noticed a few cherries falling off the trees, so I started harvesting them - in error. They will still be fine to eat in recipes, but next year, I'll know to wait a little longer.


A tardy thanks to Gurney's for providing these shrubs free of charge at our GWA meeting.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Celebrating National Pollinator Week: Food For Thought

It's no secret the pollinators are in trouble. Oh sure, you see plenty of butterflies, bees, flies, and other insects out there and even bats (yes, they're pollinators), so really, what's the big deal, right?

Consider this:

One out of every three bites of food we eat relies on pollinators.

Still not convinced?

To carry that point further, some plants require specific pollinators in order to get good production of their fruit. (And I use "fruit" in the general definition of whatever edible the plant produces.) Bees are the most well-known of the pollinators, but other insects and birds are more efficient at pollinating certain plants.

Zucchini, anyone?

If you're one of the people who has asked me, "Does it really matter if the monarchs disappear?" I can wholeheartedly answer, "YES."

My philosophy in general is this:  I believe that every living thing on the earth is here because it has a purpose.

In regard to the monarchs, perhaps we can live without them, but it's more complicated than that. The monarchs are in decline because of several factors, not the least of which is that their habitat is disappearing due to urbanization, and to a greater extent, due to the agricultural use of pesticides* that kill milkweed, the only food their babies eat.

If you think that monarchs are the only pollinator that is being affected by the pesticides, think again. They're just more visible and recognizable than most. They're the poster child for the greater problem we humans are causing in the environment.

It's a complicated issue, for sure, but if nothing else, during this, National Pollinator Week, please give these things some consideration. Think before you use pesticides yourself. You may not only be saving the pollinator's meal, you could be helping to save your own.

* Pesticide is the general term used by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), the USDA and the EPA, which includes, but is not limited to herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Read more here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: The Tree Peonies

What a wackadoodle spring it's been. First, spring comes early, then winter returns, then it's summer, and now I'm sitting here wrapped up in a blanket in my flannel jammies, wearing my Uggs fringed moccasins to keep warm. I don't know what month it is behaving like, but it is not May.

But it is May. I know, because the peonies are blooming. I've got three types here at Our Little Acre: tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa), herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), and intersectional (Itoh) peonies, which are a cross between a tree peony and an herbaceous peony. I used to also have a fernleaf peony (Paeonia ternifolia), but it disappeared one year and has never returned. I loved it and if I ever find another one, I'll buy it again.

The tree peonies are always the first to bloom, followed by the herbaceous and then finally, the intersectionals. (The fernleaf peony, when I had it, bloomed before the tree peonies.)

The buds on the tree peonies are bulbous and larger than those of the
herbaceous peonies. Some of my buds were as large as a racquetball.

Herbaceous peonies are known for their beautiful fragrance - traditional rose-like in nature - but tree peonies not so much. Many people think those stink. But it depends! Of all my tree peonies, only a couple of them have stinky smells. The others have a nice fragrance to them including my largest one, this pink variety that I purchased in 2005 at the Cleveland Flower Show.

This was sold to me as Paeonia suffruticosa 'Sahohime', but it lacks
that cultivar's dark red eye zone.

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kamatanishiki' really is lavender.

I've purchased the 'Shimanishiki' tree peony twice, but both times, the bloom made it obvious that isn't what I got. I'll keep trying. Maybe the third time is a charm? I think I need to buy it when it's in bloom.

I had so many blooms this year that I cut several to bring in the house and put them in this silver bowl. These are from three different tree peonies, but most of them are from the not-Sahohime.

Tree peony blooms always look to me like they're made of crepe paper.


In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Rambling In the Garden. Go there to see more beautiful cut flowers and plants!

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