Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Growing in Austin

Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides)

Rieger Begonia (Begonia x hiemalis)

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum 'Mammy')

Artemisia 'Powis Castle'

Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana)

Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) and unknown fern

Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)

Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii)

Rooted coleus (Solenostemon scuttelarioides)

Thanks to Sherry Richardson and Jacque Gregory for sharing their beautiful greenhouse and gardens with me during my visit to Austin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It Really is Better Than THAT...

Better than pumpkin pie!  (What were YOU thinking??) Here's a repost of my pumpkin torte recipe that everyone loves so much.  Enjoy!


Every year, I get requests for my recipe for pumpkin torte. I don't remember now how I got this recipe myself years ago, but my family insists I make it every Thanksgiving. They're nearly delirious with joy if it happens to turn up at other times of the year as well.

I wish I could have a dollar for every time someone asked me for this recipe. I could hire someone to make it for me. But it's not difficult. Here it is:

Kylee's Pumpkin Torte

1 yellow cake mix (take out 1 cup)
3 eggs
1¼ cup white sugar

¾ cup butter

¾ cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large can pumpkin pie mix

: Mix the cake mix (less 1 cup) with one egg and ½ cup butter. Press into the bottom of a greased jelly roll pan (10½ x 15½ x 1).
Filling: Mix until smooth - pumpkin pie mix, 2 eggs, and evaporated milk. Pour on top of the crust.
: Mix 1 cup cake mix, sugar, cinnamon and ¼ cup butter. Sprinkle on top of the pumpkin mixture. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend Giveaway With P. Allen Smith

You know one of my favorite gardening people is P. Allen Smith, right? He's not only done a lot to promote gardening, he's just a downright good guy and a lot of fun to be around. So when I was asked if I wanted to host a giveaway of a wreath that's part of his 2012 Holiday Collection, I jumped at the chance. (I'd love to win this myself!)

There are actually four different collections, and I chose a wreath from the Chocolate & Spice Collection.

It was the chocolate that got me. No, there isn't actually chocolate in this wreath, but I liked the thought of that! The 20" wreath is handmade by the Berry Family of Nurseries from sustainably harvested Noble Fir boughs from the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon. It has fragrant pine cones attached, along with chocolate colored ribbon, bittersweet-inspired berries, and persimmon decorative balls.

For a chance to win one, just leave a comment to this blog post, telling me about your favorite chocolate treat. (Mine is English Toffee, even though the chocolate isn't really the part that I love so much about it!) Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you if you're the winner!

The giveaway will end on Sunday, November 25, 2012, at midnight, EST.  That's a busy weekend - better enter now so you don't forget!

If you want to see other items in the P. Allen Smith Holiday Collection, they're featured on his website. The Colonial, Chocolate & Spice, Williamsburg, Lodge, and Classic Collections can be purchased online at and the Rustic Collection at The Collection is also available at independent garden centers across the country and Reasor's in northeast Oklahoma.

For more chances to win a wreath, visit these blogs, which are also hosting giveaways:

Shawna Coronado: Memories of Colonial Williamsburg and a Holiday Wreath Give-Away on Black Friday

J. Peterson Garden Design: Holiday Wreath Giveaway!

The Garden Buzz: Holiday Giveaway! Enter to Win a Beautiful Evergreen Wreath

Evolved Mommy:  Holiday Giveaway: P. Allen Smith Colonial Wreath

BG Garden: Cheerful Original Classic Wreath Giveaway

Where Plants Rock: Holiday Giveaway from WherePlantsRock

bwisegardening: Win a Williamsburg Christmas Wreath! 

Aunt Nubby's Kitchen: Some Holiday Cheer . . . For You

Gardening With Confidence:  P. Allen Smith Holiday Collection Wreath Giveaway. Let the Season Begin!

From the Soil: Holiday Wreath Giveaway with P. Allen Smith

UPDATE:  As of 10:00 PM, Tuesday, November 20, 2012, the Rafflecopter form and all information entered there has disappeared. :-(  This is why I always have people enter both by leaving a comment and filling out the Rafflecopter form.  Since this has occurred, I will just use to choose a winner from all those that have left comments. This is how Rafflecopter chooses a winner anyway, but it's a nice way to have contact information (as long as it doesn't disappear). Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in your comment. Thanks for your understanding!


In full disclosure, I have received no monetary or in-kind compensation for hosting this giveaway. I just thought it would be fun to let one of my readers win a wreath for their holiday decorating. Thank you to the Berry Family of Nurseries and to Allen for allowing me to host.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Late Season Surprises

The week has ended on a much better note weatherwise than it began. Though we didn't experience the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy that the East Coast did, she managed to affect us in smaller ways. We had continual winds, rain, and even a little sleet and snow before things calmed down yesterday.

I've been busy with writing tasks and travel, as well as helping out with our new little granddaughter, Hannah, and the gardens have been a little neglected. Finally, today I was able to get out there to do a little cleaning up. With temperatures in the high 40s, you might think I'd be a bit chilly, but nothing a coat and expending some energy couldn't deal with!

As I worked at cleaning out excess leaves, trimming dead branches and pulling mushy perennial foliage, I noticed little things that I wouldn't have otherwise. Simply strolling through the garden, I would have missed so much.

Tucked behind plants that have buckled in the winds, I found two irises ready to bloom! I've never seen this one bloom this late before and even 'Immortality', a known reblooming German bearded iris, has never bloomed in November.

Who would have thought we'd still be picking and eating fresh
strawberries in November either?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd never come across a monarch chrysalis in the garden this summer. The monarchs were fairly plentiful, especially the latter half of the summer, and I found several caterpillars on the milkweed, so I knew metamorphosis was taking place. Today, I found proof:

Monarch caterpillars crawl away from the milkweed to form their chrysalides in a protected location up to 30 feet away. I found an empty chrysalis on the underside of a Heuchera leaf, about six feet
away from the nearest milkweed.

But the most astonishing thing I found was a monarch caterpillar. A tiny one.  It was so small, it's a wonder I even noticed it. The milkweed it was on was mostly yellow and dying, but did show some fresh new growth at the top. Still, the cold temperatures and lateness of the season have caused most of the milkweed to lose their leaves and they're left as bare stems standing sentinel in the garden.

This tiny monarch caterpillar is no more than half an inch long.

I thought at first that the tiny caterpillar was dead and somehow stuck in place on the leaf.  But as I gently touched it to see, it slowly moved its antennae. I picked it up to move it from the Asclepias syriaca, which only had a few yellowing leaves at the top, over to the greener Asclepias curassavica, so it would have more to eat.

I held it in my hand and it slowly crept around my palm. Gently, I placed it on a leaf where it curled up for moment and then crawled to the underneath side. It's virtually impossible for it to grow large enough to pupate, metamorphose, eclose, and then fly to Mexico for the winter. And even if it would live long enough to complete its life cycle and become a butterfly, it's too late for it to escape our cold temperatures.

Briefly, I entertained the thought of the possibility of taking some milkweed plants into the greenhouse, along with the caterpillar so that it at least might have a chance. I even wondered if a monarch butterfly could spend the winter in a 50-degree greenhouse.  The odds are overwhelming that it could be possible.

Sadly, this little guy will likely live out his last days right here in my garden. It seems that even some of nature is dragging its feet about the approaching winter, just like I am.

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