Welcome to Sassy Plants - a blog about urban gardening, edible landscaping, and other plant rants.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Red Twig Dogwood

Northwest gardeners don't always get weak in the knees at the mention of a Red Twig Dogwood.  It is a native plant that is fairly low maintenance, which gives it two thumbs up in my book...  but, because of those qualities it is frequently used as the default space filler plant.
But the name really says it all. The beauty of this plant lies in it's bright red bark.

Here is a photo of Red Twig Dogwood that I took at the
Platt Garden two years ago:

The dirt on Red Twig Dogwood:

Botanical Name: Cornus sericea
Origin: California to Alaska
Plant Type: Deciduous Shrub
Hardiness: Sunset A1-A3; 1-9; 14-21
Size:7' high, 12' wide.  There are many smaller cultivars. 'Isanti' grows to 5' high.
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Light Shade

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Gift of Seeds

Earlier this year I was surprised to have a few of my gardening friends tell me that they never save their seeds!  It is probably apparent from previous posts that I really like to save my garden seeds.  From a practical perspective it saves me the time and money of buying all new seeds every year.  But, more than that, saving seeds makes gardening a continuum as opposed to a temporary, seasonal event.  The same snap peas that I ate with my neighbors this Fourth of July were from the peas that we ate together last year, and the year before, and so on.
Another reason I like to save seeds is so I can share them! It is said that people usually give the gifts that they themselves want to receive.  I try to be mindful of this, but the giving of seeds might be an exception.
Last year I made little seed books that I gave to my gardening family & friends. This year I found some origami paper that I have turned into seed envelopes.

I have turned them over so the labels won't show and I don't completely ruin the surprise for anyone.

I think the giving of things you want to receive has paid off, because I was also the recipient of several neat seeds packages this year.  I am not entirely sure if this is legal, so the giver shall remain nameless, but a friend of mine went to France twice this year and brought back seed packs for me on both occasions!  From the first visit came seeds for a small round eggplant called 'Ronde de Valence'.  When I looked it up online it was categorized as 'extinct' in the United States! The eggplant was delicious, and a perfect size for making eggplant parmesan sandwiches.  Mmmm.  I also received spinach and mache.  The second trip was recent, so I didn't grow any of these seeds this year, but they included endive, leeks, a variety of white onion called 'Hatif de Paris', lettuce, and cherry tomatoes. I am intrigued by the cherry tomato package.  My French isn't fantastic, but I recognize the word 'cocktail' when I see it!

The mixology department may need to conduct some research.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

We're still making our way through this year's Backyard Butternut Squash. Here's a yummy recipe that I made today:

1 Large Butternut Squash
6 Cups Broth
1 Onion
1/2 Cup Soy Milk (or other milk product)
2 Tablespoons Curry Powder
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
Salt to taste

Cut squash in half, remove seeds, cut into 2-3" cubes, cut off skin.
Put squash in a large pot with broth and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until squash is soft.
Heat olive oil, curry and cinnamon in a pan.  Chop onion, add to pan and saute on low-medium heat until onions are cooked - approx. 5 minutes.
Combine onions with cooked squash and broth.
Puree the soup in a blender.  It will take two or three batches to blend it all.  Return pureed soup to the pot, add soy milk, lemon juice and salt.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


You have to appreciate it when you see a nice winter garden here in Puddletown.  I've been taking advantage of our sunny weather this week by going for walks to check out various neighbors' yards and see what treasures I can find. One of the more unusual looking winter interest plants I have seen is Beautyberry.  Beautyberry is an arching shrub that is covered with clusters of purple fruit.  The cool thing about Beautyberry is that long after it has lost it's leaves, those crazy violet berries are still covering the shrub.  It looks great combined with the contrasting foliage of yellow or chartreuse evergreen shrubs.

Here's the dirt on Beautyberry:

Botanical name:  Callicarpa americana
Origin:  Eastern United States
Plant type:  Deciduous Shrub
Hardiness:  USDA Zones 6-10; Sunset 3-9, 14-24
Size:   6' tall, 5' wide.
Light Requirements: Full Sun or Light Shade
Maintenance:  Low. 
Berries: Purple color - NOT edible.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chili Peppers

Like many gardeners I console myself on these short,
cold days by planning which seeds I will be starting in
just a few months. One plant that I will be growing
more of next year is chili pepper.  While my sweet
peppers were struggling along this summer, the chili
peppers were booming.  Chilis are beautiful plants, too! I'm planning to use them next year as I would use an ornamental plant, with some in containers and some mixed in with perennials.

Here is a photo of our peppers - fresh, dried, and crushed.  The crushed pepper flakes have some kick!  They are twice as hot as our store bought flakes.
Making your own crushed pepper flakes is simple. You can dry your peppers either by hanging them up for a few weeks or by cooking them in the oven on the lowest setting - about 170 to 200 degrees.  If you are starting with fresh peppers it will probably take a good 8 or 9 hours to dry them in the oven.  I hung my peppers, but decided to cook them in the oven about a week or so later, so my peppers took about 5 hours to cook. 
When your peppers are dried just put them in a plastic bag, cover with a dish towel, and use a rolling pin to crush. Voila.  One small pepper plant provided us with enough peppers to fill the two containers in the photo.