What’s Blooming in My Garden?

It’s early Autumn in the garden.  The weather changed drastically practically overnight from hot and dry to cool and damp.  It’s at that stage where it’s too warm for a fire, but just warm enough to leave the bedroom window cracked at night time.  I’m putting away the summer decorations and starting to change over to Autumn colored accents.  I love decorating for the fall.

The garden is looking much, much happier with the little rainfall we’ve had.  It was a very hot, dry summer here in the PNW.  A few roses have some reblooms, the clerodendrons are pretty much done blooming.  The only crocosmia still going is the lovely dark yellow “Solfaterre” which would look even better if I planted some autumn crocus in front of it for next year.  Always planning!  I have pockets of autumn crocus planted in various spots throughout the garden.  I also like it next to a creeping burgundy sedum, and in front of a big stand of sedum “Autumn Joy.”  Autumn Joy is the standout right now.  It is at its peak.  The ornamental grasses haven’t bloomed yet.  The hypericum “mystical orange” has passed its orange stage and gone straight to black – a little early for Halloween decorations.  I would plant more asters as they are so beautiful this time of year, but the deer seem to find them and enjoy them on their salads.  We’ve had a doe with two little toddlers hanging around the yard lately.

A few maple trees are starting to show signs of turning into their fall colors.  The Shasta Viburnum is usually the first shrub to turn color, but it hasn’t really started quite yet.  Usually I’m thinking “no- no – don’t turn color yet! it’s too early!” but not this year.  It should color up right on time. I personally don’t want to see fall colors until it is cool outside and I am in the proper Autumn Mood.

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The clerodendron tree
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Rose of Sharon “Woodbridge”
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Hypericum “Mystical Orange”
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Japanese Anenome
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Autumn Crocus
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Sedum “Autumn Joy”
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Asters
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Erica “Dark Beauty” with salal
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Busy Bee Season

This summer was a bad year for bees all over our metro area. Less mosquitoes, but more bees.  The bees were rather annoying when trying to sit outdoors for dinner.  I was sitting outside at our patio table when I suddenly noticed this gigantic wasp’s nest in the tree nearby.  I can’t believe I never noticed it being built – it seemed to appear just overnight.  It is a masterpiece of nature when you think of all the work the bees had to go through to create it’s paper-like shell.  I’d love to tear it down and look inside, but would rather leave it to nature.

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Tea on Tuesday: A Taste Test

A very unscientific taste test comparison

of the many “English Breakfast” teas available out there.

I love an afternoon cup of tea.  English breakfast is my tea of choice, and I am forever on the hunt for the perfect, consistent cup of tea.  English Breakfast seems to be a universal standard, with almost every brand having their own version. I somehow doubt they all are equally good though. For this test, I will use bagged teas. IMG_1288-1

I’ve been choosing more loose leaf teas nowadays, as I really don’t need to add to problem by requiring all the extra packaging that comes with a tea bag.  Think about it… someone is printing the tags, making the string, making the bag itself, gluing the bag or stapling the bag together, enclosing it in a printed envelope, and shipping those supplies to the teamaker… a lot of unnecessary steps I could avoid by just scooping tea into a stainless steel steeping infuser.  (I know…someone has to make that stainless steel infuser, but at least it is reusable!)

Sorry for the sidetrack there… but in my search for the perfect cup of English Breakfast, I have managed to find the following tea bags in my possession.  I decided to do as scientific taste test as I can by brewing multiple cups all at once and comparing.

My method:  Same size cups.  Bring a full pot of water to boil using my electric tea kettle.  Measure out 1 cup of hot water for each tea bag.  Let steep for 2 minutes.  Remove the tea bags.  Taste.  Make notes.  Add one tablespoon whole milk.  Stir and taste again.  Make notes.IMG_1289

IMG_1292Results:

All colored nicely and held up to milk without looking watery.

Plain hot tea (no milk or sugar) winner: Bigelow, 2nd place Tazo, 3rd place Twinings

With milk: winner: Tazo, 2nd place Twinings, 3rd place, Bigelow

Tazo was good and and a more floral taste

Stash had an off-taste different from the others

Choice was milder and weaker

Bigelow was good, but lost a little in flavor when milk added

Twinings was good overall

PG Tips was o.k. and a bit weak when milk added.

My Notes: Surprising was that PG tips came in lower as that is the brand we buy large quantities of as it is my son’s favorite.  I was disappointed in Stash Tea’s flavor as I generally like their teas, and they’re local.  Choice tea is the type you may find at a hotel or in a doctor’s office, so I wasn’t surprised it was of lower quality.

My son’s notes: He found Stash tea bland, PG tips strong, Tazo good, Choice had a hint of cinnamon taste which may have come being stored near another bag as it is only wrapped in paper.  He thought Bigelow and Twinings tasted the same.

Next time…. mint teas?