Flowers in the garden

Mid-Michigan is still experiencing chilly days even though our Spring flowers are blooming.  Today it is only in the 40’s, and we are expecting rain.  My garden is producing a spectacular display of flowers this year, perhaps because it is aging.

We moved to this home ten years ago this coming Fall.  Just saying that sentence is difficult for me to believe, as the time has passed so quickly.  However, when I walk about my yard and garden, it is easy to understand.  So many of the very small plants that I planted in 2008, 2009, and 2010 are growing into loving blooming shrubs, colorful ground covers, classic plantings and interesting additions to my surroundings.

Each one has a story, came from a certain plant nursery, plant sale or a new Michigan friend. I even have a tree from a friend from West Virginia who visited me and brought me a sapling the first Winter.  I remember being hesitant to even put it into the ground, but it is growing into a lovely Japanese Maple today. I received seeds from other WV friends and those flowers have grown into beautiful plants as well.  Some of my plants I have lost along the way, but somehow others have crept in to cover up the open spots.

I often say that I have a Spring garden because I like my garden the best this time of year. I have many plants, shrubs and bulbs that bloom and flower throughout the Summer and Fall, but it is the Spring season that makes me the happiest.  Coming through a cold Winter and realizing that the perennials with a story will be back to greet me just makes gardening all worthwhile.

One of my favorite ground covers has to be Lily of the Valley.  I took a clump from my mother’s garden in 2009 and placed it in a featured spot near my front entrance, that is now filled with my bridal bouquet flower every Spring. The entire bed is almost completed covered in Lily of the Valley.  It has woven around the Virginia bluebells, the varying sized hosta, the lirope, and the English ivy. My blue periwinkle is a sea of blue around the front perimeter of my property. I planted a few small clumps here and there and somehow it became a lovely border.

My herbs are growing and my fenced garden has been cleaned and cleared from the winter leaf cover.  Now to make my planting list for the summer patch of edibles.

Here are some photos of my flowering trees and shrubs, along with other Spring plants in bloom. I did not plant my garden to be a showcase, so don’t look for anything spectacular. This is just a garden where I have learned to understand the beauty of the seasons. And I appreciate the smallest and the most delicate plants, hoping to see them again every Spring.

Applewood Estate 100 years

We visited Applewood Estates in September for their 100 year celebration. It is the former home of Charles S. Mott and his wife Ruth Mott in Flint Michigan.  The home is lovely with gardens and several buildings to tour and experience.  I wanted to share some of the photos of the lovely estate which was open this year for their special celebration. We especially love their herb gardens and perennial gardens. The home is a lovely Michigan landmark, and the history of the Mott family is equally charming.

Michigan cherry pork chops

Fruit and pork marry very well.  In fact, most people serve apples every time they serve pork chops.  I think it has been written somewhere in every cookbook, that fruit should be served with pork roast, pork chops, or pork loin.

I tried a cherry glaze made from frozen cherries and feel like it has that Michigan vibe.  With cherry festival coming up next month in Northern Michigan, I just had to give a salute to the Michigan cherry and try out the Deen Brother’s glaze.

Basically, I browned four bone in pork chops in a non stick electric skillet in a dash of olive oil. I stirred in some chopped onion, and two cloves of chopped and minced garlic.  I added a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and cooked that through.

Then, I added one bag or about 3 cups of chopped, formerly frozen, black cherries to the pan.   I also added about 1/2 cup of chicken stock.

Allowing the chops and the glaze to cook further, about 10 minutes until it was thickened, I added 2 tablespoons of margarine to give the mixture a glossy sheen.

And, the dish is complete. The taste was on point, not too sweet at all, as the vinegar balances the natural sweet cherry taste.  And the glaze allows the chops to remain tender and moist.  This is one recipe that I will make again.

Sweet Annie garden wreath

A couple of weeks ago I was gifted a fresh bundle of Sweet Annie, an herb also known as annual wormwood.  The plant is a variety of Artemisia with fern-like foliage. Sweet Annie has long been used for making dried wreaths, arrangements, sachets and decades ago, simply for hanging to deter insects.

I happen to be very lucky to know a horticulturist who tends an herb garden for education and display in my hometown.  When I work with her, I learn so much about plants, their history and usage. I watched as a fellow Master Gardener worked with some Sweet Annie in the garden fashioning it into a wreath.  I decided to try it myself at home.

I chose to use a wire frame and gently misted the plant material to help it form into a circular wreath.  I cut the lengths of plant material in 6-7 inch lengths and then wired them and laid them on top of each other.  The garden wire is green and easily hides into the wreath.  I continued around the frame until I admired the look of the design.

I have the wreath hanging on my garage door which greats me every day as I access my home.  The fragrance of this plant is lovely and has stayed for quite a while after hanging.

Other ideas for combining Sweet Annie would be to add yarrow, dried herbs, such as: sage, tarragon, lavender, or even Chinese lanterns which also are prevalent this time of year.

So, here is another way to enjoy the garden after harvest.


Summertime gelato


IMG_3905Today feels like fall to me in Michigan. I already have a sweatshirt on after the bursts of rain came down these past couple of days. So, I decided that I better catch up with my blog, and post some of my favorite summertime memories.

We tasted some amazing gelato this summer up North at American Spoon in Petoskey, MI. Wow, the flavors were spectacular and I think the presentation was even better. The cafe is very cute with high ceilings and an old-fashioned but upscale feel. The room is bright with large windows. They also have some outdoor seating. We were there in the mid-afternoon for our gelato treat, and it was not busy at all. The cafe serves breakfast and lunch with the gelato until 10 p.m. during the summer months.

Now for the flavors–toasted marshmallow, blood orange, maple pecan, milk caramel,coffee, banana creme caramel, Michigan blueberry and so many more. Each flavor shines in the glass counter and the decision is difficult. Each small cup provides space for tasting up to three flavors. I loved visiting Petoskey and this shop made the trip even more fun.


chilled cherry soup

We are in the middle of summer and today is projected to be another hot summer day.  As I am considering what to prepare for the week ahead, I had to reflect back to one of the best tasting chilled soups I have ever ordered in a restaurant.

Last month, we were in Charlevoix Michigan and visited Stafford’s Weathervane Restaurant. Besides being a classic landmark, as the restaurant began as a grist mill, the view of the Pine River Channel is simply lovely.  The channel allows for many different types of vessels to pass through from Lake Charlevoix to Lake Michigan.  This waterway is always busy, and so much fun to dine either inside or out and watch the boat traffic.

Seated on the deck outside for our lunch, I ordered the chilled cherry soup.  The soup was a blend of sour and sweet cherries, yogurt, rum and brandy.  Perhaps it was the rum and brandy that gave the soup its’ amazing flavor. I am smiling now.

So, I have been searching my cookbooks and recipes online for one recipe that will match what I tasted that day.  So far, I have found many recipes which include directions for cooking the cherries on the stovetop, and adding a variety of ingredients.  Some include lemon juice, lime juice, buttermilk, sour cream, cream, yogurt, and even white wine.  So, I think I am going to have to experiment on my own and find that perfect blend.

All I know is cherry season is here in Michigan, and this should be a fun experiment.  Let me know if you have a great recipe for cherry soup.  By the way, the baked Brie was also excellent if you happen to visit the Weathervane.


A trip to the Vineyard

Last week we visited Northern Michigan and took a trip to the Ciccone Vineyard.  The vineyard is owned by Madonna’s father.  Yes, the one and only Madonna.  The vineyard was planted in 1996, and is situated on the Leelanau Peninsula. Suttons Bay is about 15 miles from Traverse City.  Ciccone has 14 acres of grape vineyards, and produces award-winning estate wines.

Michigan is an ideal location for the production of grapes.  With Lake Michigan to the west, and the West Grand Traverse Bay to the east, the moderate climate is perfect for growing fruit.  The hills on the peninsula allow for the cool breezes to circulate over the land. According to their website, they note that the lake effect delays the blossoms to appear on the vines, as well as the first frost from damaging the blossoms.  The vineyard is planted with 14 acres of vines.

They offer wine tastings for five dollars which includes the glass, which can be brought back for the lifetime of the glass.  There is also a restored turn of the century barn which adds to the beautiful vista for many scheduled events.

Ciccone offers both red and white wines, along with some specialty wines.  We purchased Eve 2014.  Ciccone “Eve” is a nice fruit wine made with Michigan Apples (60% Northern Spy, 20% Ida Red, 20% Golden Delicious). I was told that it is a little more light-bodied than 2013, and the alcohol content is slightly lower to balance it out. I am looking forward to serving it this fall with a cheese plate.

Although there was no sign of Madonna, we had a wonderful visit.