Thinking of Spring

I have always loved planting spring flower bulbs.  Even as a teenager, passing by displays at the local nursery or in Home Depot, I would stop to see what was available and more likely than not, pick up a package to put in the ground.  Daffodils are my absolute favorite flower, but I also really love tulips.

This past April, J and I took a visit to the Netherlands for our April anniversary.  I have always wanted to see the tulip fields.  Interestingly, tulips are not native to the Netherlands – they were imported by Ogier de Busbecq, the ambassador of Ferdinand I to the Sultan of Turkey around 1554, and spread across the continent.  For some reason they took off in the Netherlands.

As our flight was landing at Schipol Airport, you could see these huge swaths of color dominating the landscape.  It was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.

Near Amsterdam, in the town of Lisse, is the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens, a flower park featuring more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.  We took a day trip out there to admire all the flowers:

Ice cream tulips

Keukenhof very thoughtfully has several tulip vendors situated within the park, where you can view their color catalogs of tulip bulbs, make your selections, place your order, and those vendors will very helpfully ship those bulbs to you in the fall for planting.  It’s not legal for you to pack the bulbs in your luggage because they must be inspected by USDA inspectors before shipment to the United States, and if you had to carry them back in your luggage you might feel more restrained in your purchasing.  By simply filling out the order form and handing over your credit card, buying tulips is virtually painless!
Until half of the 240 tulip bulbs you ordered show up on your front porch one cool October afternoon:
I will say that these bulbs appear to be the healthiest I have ever purchased – a quick inspection shows they are free of bug damage, rot and mold that have plagued purchases I have made in the U.S.  I would hope they would be a higher quality, given the cost associated with them.  However, the tulips were ones I had never seen here in the U.S., so they were worth it.  To me, anyway.
I can’t help but think that in 16th century Amsterdam, I might have been a victim of tulip mania.  Probably not, though.  I don’t play the stock market now, so I would have been unlikely to speculate on the value of something I would be most interested in planting in the ground.
“Every person is like a single tulip.  While they may blend when together, each one is special in its own light.” – Daniella Kessler 

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Once again we have outdone ourselves in the pumpkin department.  Every year we do better and better, and this year we actually have a fairly decent crop for decorating our front porch:

Remember that Batwing pumpkin I posted about, way back when?

It turned into this:

Amusingly, the bottom even sort of looks like a bat:

Ok, so you have to squint and use your imagination.  I’m just trying to keep it interesting, people.  There’s only so much excitement to be mined from writing about vegetables.

Once again, the Jack-be-Littles proved themselves to be stellar:

There were a total of 18; three went to my in-laws and three went to my neighbor’s children (for helping me plant fall mums in my window boxes) before I snapped this photo.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I should give some to my parents, too.
The Jack-be-Littles are scattered all over the downstairs of my house as decorations, safe until it’s time to change everything over to Christmas decorations.  But the large pumpkins on the porch?  Well, I think we all know what’s coming:



This year one of our experiments was to try and grow butternut squash.  Growing this type of squash is an exercise in patience, because it takes all season and you might not get that much.

We managed to get 4 vines to grow and ended up with about a half-dozen squash of varying sizes.  This one is one of our best:

What lovely color you have, my dear.  All the better to eat you!

That’s actually still sitting on our kitchen table even though it was picked about two weeks ago when the vines started to die off.  My memory of winter squash is that it will keep a while, so I’m just leaving it on the kitchen table with the Jack-be-Little pumpkins (more on them in another post) as an ornamental gourd.  I plan on peeling, chopping and cooking it for Thanksgiving.  If it starts to go soft before then, I will do what I did with some of the smaller ones – peel, chop & blanch before freezing.

We actually ate a couple of the smaller squash that we picked, figuring it was probably a good idea to see if they tasted okay before we make them a component of our Thanksgiving meal and they’re terrible.

I know you’re probably thinking, what a cute little squash!  Not so cute?  What was done to it:

It was not only the squash that was a victim of something’s teeth – a watermelon and a couple of pumpkins also fell victim to an all-you-can-eat buffet.  It was fine in both cases – the part of the rind that was nibbled got cut away, and we composted the pumpkin because it was starting to break down where teeth met skin.

We’re thinking it was probably not this guy that did it:

At least he’s on the right side of the road

It actually didn’t take me that long to try to figure out how to work putting a photo of a buffalo on a blog about gardening in New England, in case you were wondering.  It’s a quick leap from “rabbit” to “buffalo” in my world.  Also, this will allow me to add the tag “buffalo” to the list of labels for this blog, which amuses me immensely.

I will tell you that buffalo is an incredibly tasty meat if you like a carnivorous side with your vegetables for dinner.  No, we did not eat the guy in the photo.

Monsterous Vegetables

Hey, it’s October, and I am completely focused on Halloween, my favorite holiday.  In the spirit of that, I give you photos of monsterous and mutant vegetables.

This is one of the radishes that grew out back with the pumpkins.  The stalk on it got long enough that it trailed down and intertwined with the pumpkins, so it was not until the pumpkin vines started dying off that we noticed there was this monsterous mutant growing with the pumpkins.  It’s about the size of a softball:

Way too large for a radish.  It did make us wonder how long we could leave them there and just how big they would get.

As you know, our squash plants were decimated by squash beetles.  Our neighbors, J & S, just a few hundred feet from us, saw virtually no damage at all.  They planted quite a bit of zucchini & summer squash, and it often gets away from them, as is evidenced in the photo below:

They are arranged in an oversized mixing bowl in that photo, and the soda bottle you see in the upper right corner is actually a 2-liter bottle of soda, not a 16-oz one, just so you have perspective.
We actually consumed all that squash (I made epic amounts of chocolate chip zucchini bread, which freezes really well), but we chose to leave the radish for the rabbit.