Favorite Garden Photos of 2011

There's much to enjoy (and learn) from reviewing garden photos. Here are a few of my favorites from 2011 that I love for the colors. Some photos were taken near while others far away. Click the photos to view in a slideshow lightbox.

Hemaris thysbe (hummingbird moth)
visits the liatris ligulistylus in my meadow garden.

Zinnias in my cottage garden.
Fiery colors at Dole® Plantation in Hawaii.
Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, France.
Leopard's Bane in a garden in Paris, France.
Pink prevails in my deer resistant
meadow garden in June.
Rich red monarda 'Jacob Cline' in my east garden.
Blue nigella and pink autumn sage
in my cottage garden.
Battery Park in New York City.
In a North Carolina public garden.
Bright colors in my
meadow garden.
Stipa (grass) and spirea (shrubs) in
my front deer resistant  garden.
Ring around my sundial
in my cottage garden.
Agastache, flax and salvaia
in my deer resistant meadow garden.
Larkspur and rose campion
in my cottage garden.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Flipping Frittata! Have No Fear

Cooking is right up there with gardening and travel. The experience alone is rewarding and the result is usually satisfying. There are times when I love to spend hours in the kitchen purely for the creative outlet and enjoyment. I'd love to cook from scratch more often, but with only two in our empty nester household and a desire to remain healthy, I seldom make "big meals" anymore.

My pent up need to cook was released the other day when I decided to make a frittata for dinner, using an early birthday gift from my husband. I tend to use recipes as a loose guide to cooking unless baking a cake where ingredients and measurements must be precise. For most main courses, I add, subtract and substitute ingredients according to whim.

With that flexibility in mind, I embarked on making a frittata with the gift, a Calphalon Unison Slide Nonstick Fritta Pan Set from Williams-Sonoma®. In the past, I've used the stovetop to start a frittata and the oven to finish it. Nothing wrong with that method, but I was never sure if I was undercooking or overcooking the frittata. With the pan set, I can flip the frittata several times to finish the cooking.

A frittata is an egg-based Italian dish that I prefer to make instead of individual omelets and without the fuss of crust or calories of a quiche. Although we like our frittata served hot, it is often served at room temperature.

I have scanned through hundreds of frittata recipes published on the Web and buried in the pages of printed cookbooks in my kitchen for ideas. Once you master the cooking method, you can be creative and use the ingredients that you choose to combine.

Caramelized onions! Oh my, how I love the flavor, so reminiscent of onion tarts in France. With that ingredient on my short list, I started with the Wilted Greens and Gruyère Frittata as the basis for my experiment in mastering the art of flipping a frittata in the pan set without dashing the mixture all over the stovetop.

Thinly sliced yellow onions are required for proper caramelization. I tend to literally cry over this chore, rendering myself too blind to read the recipe while I recover. Using my mandoline makes quick work of onion slicing, producing only a teardrop or two from my eyes while delivering perfectly thin slices. This manual device is worth the investment for anyone who wants to turn out mounds of julienned, cubed or sliced veggies.

V-Blade mandoline produces thin slices of onion in a flash.
Cook onion slices slowly to caramelize.
You can make these a day ahead and
store in airtight jar in the fridge.
Almost caramelized, not burned.
I used the deep pan in the frittata set for prepping
the onions and sautéing mushrooms and wilting Swiss chard.
To caramelize onions takes an hour and patience. The slow cooking and light browning makes the onions quite sweet, a perfect compliment for the gruyère cheese. These onions are also wonderful for omelets, quiches, savory tarts and pizzas. The good news is that you can prepare the onions in advance. The onions must be cooled before adding to the whisked eggs in the recipe.

I altered the recipe with sautéed shiitake, oyster and baby bella mushrooms. I simply wiped out the pan to sauté the mushrooms once the onions were finished. The recipe also calls for wilted Swiss chard, and I used the same deep side of the frittata pan. If you want to use meat in this recipe, bacon is a good choice. Brown the bacon ahead of time, cool and crumble for delightful flavor.

The frittata cooking in the deep pan for 7-10 minutes.
After whisking eggs and adding all of the cooled ingredients, the mixture is poured into the deep pan. Using a spatula, you have to gently stir the raw eggs quickly at first before they firmly set. This ensures even cooking. Cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes.

The preheated and seasoned shallow pan is then placed on top, interlocking the rectangular handles. This is where the fun starts as you must swiftly flip the pans so that the deep pan is then on top and the shallow pan on the bottom. Cook for three minutes longer, then flip the frittata back into the deep side.

Pans are used in unison to flip the frittata.
1. Put shallow pan on top, then flip. Cook 3 minutes.
2. Flip to put deep side back on the bottom.
The frittata is ready! 
With a rubber spatula, I gently
loosened the edges.
The frittata slipped right onto the plate
without sticking to the pan.
The frittata was so delicious for dinner! It also refrigerated well and we microwaved individual slices for breakfast and another dinner the follow day. We still didn't finish it! This easily serves six generous slices for a main course or eight slices as a side dish.

I plan to make a frittata for an upcoming brunch to save time and serve more people at one time. Of course, I have a few ideas for other ingredients to use in the next frittata.

As for the flipping—I spilled only a little bit of egg on my first flip of the pans! From now on, I'll have no fear of flipping.

Disclaimer: I assure you that this story is not a paid advertisement, but I am a satisfied customer of Williams-Sonoma® and linked to their site to reference the products that I used to make this recipe. Nothing mentioned has been provided for free.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

A Carpet of Snow in December

Drifts of snow white blanket the cottage garden in December. On a sunny winter day, the few remaining pollinators buzz among the blossoms. So far undaunted by frost, Sweet Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' still flourishes.The honey fragrance of the blooms makes it nearly impossible to resist picking a stem to deeply inhale the scent. Braving the cold morning, I snapped a few photos of the alyssum, just before the sun warmed up the garden.

Sweet Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow'
(8:00 am, December 3, 2011)
Alyssum with burgundy leaves of loropetalum.
(December 3, 2011)
I sow seeds the tiny seeds of Sweet Alyssum (lobularia maritima) from October through March. Known as a cool climate annual, the small investment in seeds was worth the effort here in zone 7b of North Carolina.My cottage garden is a micro-climate more like zone 8a.

The alyssum patches spread remarkably wider in 2011 compared to 2010 and I believe this is due to some self-sowing.  The height is relatively low, less than twelve inches. Beginning in April, the fresh and new alyssum sprouts bloom and they gradually spread over the next few months.

The focus of my mass plantings is an edge of the cottage garden path that is seldom seen until September. The heaviest blooms crank up from September until...we shall see!

During the hottest, scorching months, I grow taller annuals and perennials to shade the south side of alyssum. The blooms take a break on the hottest days, but the foliage is still lush until re-bloom. I've found the annual to be remarkably drought-tolerant and rabbit resistant. Given that the rabbits haven't touched the alyssum, I've sown seeds outside the fence in deer territory. I'm optimistic that the annual will be deer resistant.

I am so enamored by alyssum that I have already sown seeds in a new cottage garden bed that is based upon white with nandina 'Alba', phlox 'David' and a few other favorites.

Alyssum is the perfect plant for hiding the stems and ankles of taller plants. I've given thought to growing this versatile annual in so many spots! It is a wonderful companion for annual dianthus and verbena 'Imagination' as both are still blooming on this December morning.

With the low cost of seeds, the many months of blooms, fragrant scent and food for pollinators, Sweet Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' has earned a permanent place in my garden.

Annual dianthus, verbena 'Imagination' as companions.
(September 2011)
Alyssum and tender perennial/annual salvia 'Victoria'.
(August 2011)
Alyssum blooms are fewer and smaller in the heat of July.

In the beginning.
The first white blooms of Sweet Alyssum in May 2011.
(Lower left hand corner)

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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