How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes

https://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/growing-tomatoes

Tomatoes are the one veggie most people use in all their meals from salads to casseroles, but depending on the weather sometime they don’t survive for too many days after buying. There are a variety of tomatoes and depending which is your favorite growing them in the back yard is a great idea. Head down to the nursery or hardware store to see what plants are available. Check out the recommendations from http://www.southernliving.com complete guide to the tomato plant and also the biggest mistakes to avoid when growing tomatoes:

Select

The smallest slicing tomatoes are about the size of a baseball; the biggest ones can be larger than a softball. Choose from hybrids or heirlooms in a rainbow of hues—red, pink, black, orange, or yellow. For classic reds, try ‘Big Boy,’ ‘Better Boy,’ and ‘Celebrity.’ For pinks, pick ‘Arkansas Traveler,’ ‘Pink Girl,’ and ‘Watermelon Beefsteak.’ Black selections offer some of the most flavorful tomatoes. Try ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple.’ Orange ones such as ‘Persimmon’ and ‘Kellogg’s Breakfast’ have fruity flavors, while yellows such as ‘Taxi’ and ‘Lemon Boy’ are sweet. Buy them online from totallytomato.com

Try

New to many gardeners are grafted tomatoes, created when one plant is cut and joined to a different one with vigorous rootstock. Grafting offers improved yields and disease resistance. It can be a good choice if space is limited and you need maximum production from each plant. Some heirloom tomatoes, for example, are not as productive as new hybrids, but if you love their flavors and want a bigger yield, you can try a grafted heirloom for the best of both worlds. The benefits of grafting come at a price—up to $12 for a grafted tomato plant in a 1-gallon container. Smaller, less expensive grafted plants are available online from burpee.com.

Grow

Tomatoes love full sun, whether in your vegetable garden or large containers (earthbox.com). They like soil that has been amended with lots of organic matter, such as mushroom compost, chopped leaves, or soil conditioner. Rich soil will nourish your plants. Supplement feeding with organic fertilizers. To keep vines off the ground, use twine to tie them to economical bamboo or wooden stakes. You may need to tie plants every other day as they grow. If you are short on time, invest in convenient, reusable tomato cages; try tomatocage.com.

The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Tomatoes

Irregular Watering

Like all plants, tomato plants need consistent soil moisture; keep the soil wet enough to prevent wilting of the tomatoes but not so wet that the roots develop soggy feet. Garden tomatoes generally require 1-2 inches of water per week, but that can change depending on weather conditions, such as excessive drought, and the size of the plant. When the plants are young, drip irrigation is preferred in order to avoid strong streams of water that erodes the soil. As the tomato plants mature, water more slowly and deeply. The roots of a tomato plant can grow 2-3 feet deep in loose soil, so the plant needs to be watered around 18″ deep. This is especially important in the summer heat. Remember, irregular moisture swings and dry soil can lead to problems such as blossom end rot and fruit splitting.

Improper Spacing

First, a quick lesson on the two types of tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to about 3 feet in height and begin to set flowers for fruit. Determinate tomatoes can be easily well-managed in a home gardenand containers. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow and produce both new leaves and new flowers and should be staked or started in tomato cages. Unless damaged by disease or insects, indeterminate tomato plants will continue to grow and produce fruit all summer and into early fall. Know your tomato type before you put them in a container or the ground and make allowances for their growth pattern. If plants are spaced too closely, either in a pot or ground bed, the plants will crowd each other, restricting air flow, sun light and water supply.

Too Much Fertilizer

It is advisable to provide additional nitrogen and nutrients to tomatoes after transplanting and once tomatoes begin to produce fruit. Adding too much nitrogen, however, can result in rapid growth of lush, carbohydrate-loaded leaves that attract insect infestation, and slowed or reduced yields. Reduce or discontinue fertilizing with nitrogen after early summer to avoid growth spurts and an overly leafy plant that will wilt during summer heat.

Improper Pruning

You do not need to prune determinate tomatoes; doing so may reduce the harvest. Prune indeterminate varieties to improve airflow; this keeps air and sunshine flowing freely in and around the plants and helps in preventing disease. Pruning also increases more yield per plant as well as helps with producing larger fruit. Pinch indeterminate varieties back when about 8 inches tall. This will help to encourage lateral growth of the plant or spreading of the plant.

Not Mulching Properly

One reason Southerners love tomato plants is that tomatoes do so well in the heat. You need to keep the soil around the plants moist and cool, however. Dry soil can lead to dry and diseased plants. Layer mulch 2 – 4 inches deep around the plant and pull it back about 2 inches from the stem itself. Form a small “moat” with the mulch, which will allow for water to get deep into the roots. Mulching not only holds in moisture but helps to control weeds and prevent the spread of disease.

Portobello Mushroom Burger

Barbeque time, beautiful weather and being around friends and family again June is a great month! Make your shopping list don’t forget to add Portobello mushrooms for those none meat-eaters coming by. Check out this great recipe from http://www.loveandlemons, add a nice salad and fries:

Ingredients

  • 4 large portobello mushrooms
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Tamari, for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Serving

Instructions

  • Prepare the mushrooms by removing the stems and cleaning the caps with a damp cloth or paper towel. Place the mushrooms in a rimmed plate and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tamari, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to help coat the mushrooms on both sides.
  • Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Place the mushrooms, gill side up onto the grill pan. Cook 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until mushrooms are tender.
  • Place the mushrooms onto the buns and serve with desired fixings.

Boozy Hard Peach Lemonade

Summer time fun time and having an adult drink to beat the heat is not a bad idea! What better refreshing drink lemonade we some kick, for adults only of course. Try out this recipe from Tiffani Thiessen oldie but goodie and maybe switch up some ingredients to try a different mix:

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons) 

12 ounces peach brandy 

6 lemon slices, for garnish

6 mint sprigs, for garnish 

Directions

  1. Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a heavy-bottomed pot. Heat over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
  2. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the cooled simple syrup into a 2-quart pitcher. (Reserve the remaining syrup for another use.) Add the lemon juice and 4 cups water and stir to combine.
  3. To serve, fill an 8-ounce glass with ice. Add 2 ounces of the peach brandy, then fill with the peach lemonade to just short of an inch below the rim.
  4. Garnish with a lemon slice and a mint sprig.

Fresh Figs with Ricotta and Lavender Honey

Went to the store today and saw fresh figs which I love especially in yogurt or salad! Great morning breakfast or a quick lunchtime snack. Check out this quick recipe from Tiffani-Thiessen:

Ingredients

2 cups fresh ricotta cheese

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 cups ripe, plump fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

2 tablespoons lavender honey

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Directions

  1. Combine the ricotta and yogurt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whip on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scoop 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture attractively into 4 small dessert bowls. Top with the figs and drizzle each portion generously with honey. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve at room temperature.

Memorial Day Cupcakes

Happy Memorial Day and what is the choice activity for today barbeque!!! And if you want something easy and sweet to enjoy after your meal here are a few recipes. Better Homes & Gardens put together 13 great cupcake ideas check out a few below:

Spiked Raspberry-Lemonade Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur or milk
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • Red food coloring
  • 1 recipe Creamy Raspberry Frosting
  • Thin lemon wedges (optional)
  • Fresh raspberries (optional)

Directions

  1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line eighteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, and liqueur; beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Tint batter pink with a few drops of food coloring.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups.
  4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.

*Test Kitchen Tip:

To make 2/3 cup sour milk, place 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 2/3 cup liquid; stir. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using.

Island Bananas Foster Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted
  • ¼ cup rum or unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 recipe Bananas Foster Topping
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Shredded coconut, lightly toasted (optional)

Directions

  1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and the 3/4 cup coconut milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fold in the 3/4 cup coconut and the rum.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups.
  4. Bake about 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.
  5. Spoon Bananas Foster Topping over warm cupcakes. If desired, pipe or spoon whipped cream onto cupcakes and sprinkle with additional coconut. Makes 24 (2-1/2-inch) cupcakes.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 2-layer-size package chocolate cake mix
  • 1 12 ounce jar hot fudge ice cream topping
  • 1 16 ounce can creamy white frosting
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate pieces*
  • 1 teaspoon shortening*
  • Chopped nuts
  • 1 10 ounce jar maraschino cherries with stems, well drained

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside. Prepare cake batter according to package directions.
  2. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups. Place a scant tablespoon room temperature ice cream topping on the top center of each cupcake.
  3. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.
  4. Spread some of the frosting over each cupcake. Place the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
  5. In a small saucepan melt the chocolate pieces and shortening over low heat; cool slightly. Spoon melted chocolate into a small heavy resealable plastic bag. Seal bag; snip off a small piece from one corner. Drizzle chocolate on top of frosted cupcakes.
  6. Sprinkle cupcakes with nuts. Pipe the remaining frosting on top of cupcakes. Place a cherry on top of each cupcake. Makes 24 (2-1/2-inch) cupcakes.

Cherry-Almond Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup buttermilk or sour milk*
  • ⅓ cup maraschino cherry juice
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 12 maraschino cherries, halved
  • 1 recipe Cherry-Almond Butter Frosting
  • Maraschino cherries with stems (optional)

Directions

  1. Allow butter and egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups (or coat with cooking spray). In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup combine buttermilk and cherry juice; set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups. Press a cherry half into batter in each cup.
  4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.
  5. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe Cherry-Almond Butter Frosting over tops of cupcakes. If desired, top with cherries. Makes 24 (2-1/2-inch) cupcakes.

*Test Kitchen Tip:

To make 3/4 cup sour milk, place 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 3/4 cup liquid; stir. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using.

Berry Cheesecakes

Ingredients

  • 16 ounce can cream cheese frosting
  • fresh blueberries and strawberries

Directions

  1. Place canned cream cheese frosting in a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Insert the tip into the top of each of twelve 2-1/2-inch white cupcakes, squeezing about 2 teaspoons frosting into each. Pipe swirls of frosting onto tops of cupcakes. Arrange fresh blueberries and strawberry halves on cupcakes; store in the refrigerator. If desired, dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Wedding Engagement Gift Ideas

June is Wedding month and as the world is opening up little by little wedding season will be back for sure! Need some engagement or wedding gifts ideas that won’t break the bank but will make a very personal gift. Up to you if you choose to buy or try to make yourself etsy.com has lots of great options check it out:

Stained Glass Flower Wedding Ring Dish, Spring & Summer Wedding Decor

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/717450790/stained-glass-flower-wedding-ring-dish?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sr_gallery-1-2&organic_search_click=1&pro=1&frs=1

Personalized Bridal Gown Hanger, Bride Engagement Gift, Wedding Dress Hanger, Custom Rustic Wire Shower Gift

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/559632548/personalized-jewelry-dish-jewelry-dish?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sr_gallery-1-1&organic_search_click=1&etp=1&variation0=785711724

Personalized Jewelry Dish / Jewelry Dish Date and Initials / Wedding Gift / Personalized Gift / Personalized / Engagement Gift / Bridesmaids

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/559632548/personalized-jewelry-dish-jewelry-dish?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sr_gallery-1-1&organic_search_click=1&etp=1&variation0=785711724

Engagement Gift| Engagement Party| Engagement Gift Box| Bride Box| Gift for Bride| Bride Gift| Bride Gift Box| Gift Box for Bride

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/805657840/engagement-gift-engagement-party?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sr_gallery-1-26&organic_search_click=1&pro=1&frs=1

Wedding Countdown Blocks – Personalized Mr and Mrs Countdown Blocks – Weeks/Days Until Marriage Custom Countdown Blocks – Engagement Gift

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/983989930/wedding-countdown-blocks-personalized-mr?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sr_gallery-1-16&organic_search_click=1&bes=1

Check out the custom chopping block, Engraved Coasters, and Wooden Spoon & Spatula Gift Set – Custom Wedding Gift, Engagement Gift, or Anniversary Gift

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/281235600/custom-chopping-block-engraved-coasters?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sr_gallery-1-3&organic_search_click=1&frs=1&etp=1

Personalized Home Of The Future Mr. & Mrs. Doormat, Engagement Gift, Engagement Door Mat, New Home Door Mat

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/1012899643/personalized-home-of-the-future-mr-mrs?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sc_gallery-17-6&plkey=53e4e46709324c841aa6de9960d3cf5a1c19c57a%3A1012899643&pro=1

Family Last Name Sign for Personalized Wedding Gift in Pallet Sign Style, Farmhouse Decor Established Sign, Custom Wood Sign Engagement Gift

SOURCE: https://www.etsy.com/listing/933845708/family-last-name-sign-for-personalized?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=engagement+gifts&ref=sc_gallery-1-16&plkey=53abc45525497b6e8d563dfd405b4c546906c074%3A933845708&pro=1

Mother’s Day Muffins

What could make any Mother’s Day morning more great maybe a few of her favorite muffins? And vegan to keep Mom healthy for a long long time. This is why I love checking on http://www.loveandlemons.com they always have such great recipes for vegan friends and family. And for the record the unvegan folks don’t know the difference LOL! Try out any of the 3 recipes or all 3 a nice combo basket will really makes Mom’s day:

Strawberry Muffins Recipe

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups diced strawberries
  • ½ teaspoon flour to dust the strawberries

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the almond milk, olive oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  • Dust the strawberries with the ½ teaspoon of flour and toss to lightly coat them. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin cups.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients and stir to combine. Gently fold in the strawberries. Use a ⅓ cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 17 minutes, or until the muffin tops spring back to the touch. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup almond milk
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup olive oil, or any neutral oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly oil or spray a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, almond milk, maple syrup, olive oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips and use a ⅓-cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  • Bake for 22 minutes, or until the tops spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let cool for 15 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Blueberry Muffins Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups + 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour*
  • an additional 1/2 teaspoon flour to dust the blueberries
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon oil, optional
  • 1 ¼ cups blueberries

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the almond milk, olive oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon oil, if using.
  • Dust the blueberries with ½ teaspoon flour and toss to lightly coat them. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin cups.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients and stir to combine. Gently fold in the blueberries. Use a 1/3-cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 17 minutes or until the muffin tops spring back to the touch.

The Best White Hydrangea Varieties for Your Garden

Mother’s Day is coming and what mother doesn’t love Hydrangea, especially if it will grow year after year! I love getting potted Hydrangea instead of cut bunches. You can find everywhere Homedepot, Lowe, super markets or nurseries. Here are a few different white hydrangeas to check out thanks to bhg.com:

White Hydrangeas in the Garden

White Hydrangeas in the Garden
CREDIT: MARTY BALDWIN

White is an important color in the garden. It can be used to light up a shady area, give the space a sense of calm, act as a neutral foil against other colors, and serve as an exclamation or focal point. Thanks to their massive blooms, white hydrangea flowers fill this need perfectly.

2 of 15

Choosing the Best White Hydrangea

snowball hydrangea
CREDIT: MATTHEW BENSON

There are many types of white hydrangeas, each needing specific locations and care to perform best. These are the four most common types:

Smooth (H. arborescens): ‘Annabelle’ is the most popular variety. Smooth hydrangeas flower best in full sun, but southern gardeners should site the plants in part shade.

Bigleaf (H. macrophylla): Bigleaf hydrangeas are the classic florist types of hydrangea that everyone loves, but not everyone can grow. Bigleafs grow best with partial shade in moist, well-drained soils. Most are hardy to Zone 5 or to Zone 4 with winter protection.

Panicle (H. paniculata): Tough and easy to grow, panicle hydrangeas produce cone-shape flowers. They prefer full sun and survive in all but the coldest climates (Zone 3). Panicles bloom later than other varieties, usually midsummer. Heights can range from three to 10 feet, depending on variety.

Oakleaf (H. quercifolia): These plants have oak-shape leaves, which turn eye-catching shades of burgundy, rust, or orange in the fall. The white flower heads usually transform to pink or tan as weather cools. Cultivars of this native species, usually hardy to Zone 5, do well in dry soils and in sun to partial shade.

Annabelle’ Smooth Hydrangea

'Annabelle' Smooth Hydrangea
CREDIT: MARTY BALDWIN

‘Annabelle’ is a bit like Garrison Keillor’s famous Lake Woebegone, the little town that time forgot that the decades cannot improve. Smooth hydrangeas are native in much of the eastern United States, so changes were bound to occur. In the 1960s, a horticulture professor discovered that a smooth hydrangea growing in Anna, Illinois, grew bigger white flowers than the traditional species. Since then, the decades cannot improve this stalwart performer.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Sun to part sun. Provide extra water in extreme heat. Prune in late winter to early spring to encourage new growth and blooms. Flower heads may flatten with heavy rain and stalks may splay if the flower heads grow very large. Support blooms and stems with fencing or plant several shrubs close together, spacing about three feet apart, so they hold each other up.

Size: 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 9

Buy It: Annabelle Hydrangea ($12, Etsy)

Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea

Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea
CREDIT: BOB STEFKO

‘Incrediball’ white is ‘Annabelle’ with even bigger flower heads, as large as 12 inches wide, held on sturdy stems. This shrub is tall and wide, making it perfect as a screen or focal point in the landscape. Like ‘Annabelle’, it’s cold-hardy, so a tough winter won’t affect its summer blooming performance, and it might even perform a little better in northern climates than in the south.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball’

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Sun to part sun. Provide extra water in extreme heat. Prune in late winter to early spring to encourage new growth and blooms.

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, four to five feet wide

Zones: 3 to 9

Buy It: Incrediball Smooth Hydrangea ($60, Etsy)

‘Haas’ Halo’ Smooth Hydrangea

'Haas' Halo' Smooth Hydrangea
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PLANTS NOUVEAU

Imagine ‘Annabelle’ if you took the bloom and stretched it so it was about 14 inches wide and an inch or two deep. That would describe ‘Haas’ Halo’ with “some of the loveliest dried flowers I’ve seen in a long time,” according to Angela Treadwell-Palmer, founder of Plants Nouveau, which helps breeders introduce new plants to the market. ‘Haas’ Halo’ was selected by Frederick Ray, a former horticulture professor at Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania, from a batch of seedlings he got from Philadelphia-area plant lover Joan Haas. This white lacecap smooth hydrangea is touted as drought-, humidity- and heat-tolerant.

Name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’

Hydrangea Type: Smooth

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; prefers morning sun, afternoon shade.

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 9

Buy It: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Haas’ Halo’ ($39, White Flower Farm)

Snow Queen Oakleaf Hydrangea

Snow Queen Oakleaf Hydrangea
CREDIT: DOREEN WYNJA/MONROVIA

Oakleaf hydrangeas are native to the southeastern United States, so they tolerate hot, humid weather and aren’t quite as cold hardy as other types of hydrangeas. ‘Snow Queen’ has 4- to 12-inch-long white panicles that change to a rosy shade by fall, when they coordinate with the red-burgundy-purple color change of the leaves. Attractive peeling cinnamon-color bark adds interest in the winter after the leaves have dropped.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Part shade to sun (tolerates more sun the farther north it grows). Prune to 1 to 2 feet tall in late winter to promote new growth and blooms. Prefers well-draining soil with average moisture.

Size: 7 to 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Snow Queen Hydrangea ($55, Etsy)ADVERTISEMENT

Gatsby Gal Oakleaf Hydrangea

white hydrangea flowers
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

If you like ‘Snow Queen’ oakleaf hydrangea but don’t have quite enough room, take a gander at ‘Gatsby Gal’. The white flower cones are oversized for the shrub’s dimensions and held upright on strong stems, making what Tim Wood, product development manager at Spring Meadow Nursery, calls “a showy flower display.”

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Gatsby Gal’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Plant in moist, well-drained soil in sun to part sun. Avoid pruning; blooms form on last year’s growth.

Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Gatsby Gal Oakleaf Hydrangea ($14, Etsy)

Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea

Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

The individual flowers on the upright cones of ‘Gatsby Moon’ are packed so tightly together they present an attractive quilted look that makes you want to run your fingers across them. The white panicles age to green as time goes on, and the foliage turns a shiny burgundy in the fall. This white hydrangea almost seems to glow in the evening.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Gatsby Moon’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Plant in moist, well-drained soil in sun to part sun. Avoid pruning; blooms form on last year’s growth.

Size: 6 to 10 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Gatsby Moon Oakleaf Hydrangea ($14, Etsy)

Gatsby Star Oakleaf Hydrangea

Close up of white hydrangeas
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

When it comes to double-flowered oakleaf hydrangeas, the beautiful ‘Snowflake’ has been a great choice since it went on the market in the 1970s. Now, ‘Gatsby Star’ is ascending, sporting gorgeous white double petals that are pointed instead of rounded. In the fall, the flower color turns pink and the leaves transform to burgundy. This is a white hydrangea you’ll want to see up close.

Name: Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Gatsby Star’

Hydrangea Type: Oakleaf

Growing Conditions: Plant in moist, well-drained soil in sun to part sun. Avoid pruning; blooms form on last year’s growth.

Size: 5 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 5 to 9; may need winter protection in northern gardens

Buy It: Gatsby Star Oakleaf Hydrangea ($14, Etsy)ADVERTISEMENT

‘Little Lamb’ Panicle Hydrangea

'Little Lamb' Panicle Hydrangea
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

‘Little Lamb’ is as cute as its namesake. White panicles with tiny, densely clustered blooms begin blooming in midsummer. It’s small enough to plant in a large container. It may take a year or two to look its best, but the wait will be worth it because this dwarf hydrangea has delicate, petite blooms that turn a rich pink in the fall.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Little Lamb’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun to part shade. May not need pruning but if needed, cut in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Average water requirements. Tolerates drought. Fertilize in early spring with a time-release fertilizer for trees and shrubs.

Size: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 8

Buy It: Little Lamb Hydrangea ($30, Plant Addicts)

Polar Ball Panicle Hydrangea

Polar Ball Panicle Hydrangea
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

You want it supersize? Look for ‘Polar Ball’, standing 6 to 8 feet tall with “outrageously oversize” white flowers. “I’d say the sepals—the large decorative petals—are about four times as large and the flower head is 50 percent larger [than an average white hydrangea],” Wood says. It’s a panicle that’s likely bigger than your head!

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Polar Ball’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun to part shade. May not need pruning but if needed, cut in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Average water requirements. Tolerates drought. Fertilize in early spring with a time-release fertilizer for trees and shrubs.

Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3 to 8

Buy It: Polar Ball Hydrangea ($22, Etsy)

White Diamonds Panicle Hydrangea

White Diamonds Panicle Hydrangea
CREDIT: JANE MILLIMAN

Diamonds are among the toughest substances on the planet. While this white hydrangea can’t be used to drill holes, it stands up to heat and drought better than some others. Upright, sturdy stems hold white panicles that transition by fall to a pale tan.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘First Editions White Diamonds’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Plant in full sun to part shade. May not need pruning but if needed, cut in late winter or early spring before growth begins. Average water requirements. Tolerates drought. Fertilize in early spring with a time-release fertilizer for trees and shrubs. Prune or deadhead after final frost or in early spring to encourage strong stem growth and encourage bloom development.

Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, 5 to 6 feet wide

Zones: 4 to 8

Buy It: White Diamonds Hydrangea (from $39, Sooner Plant Farm)https://86803e0c83278d7e824c1691a8ef0115.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlADVERTISEMENT

Bobo Panicle Hydrangea

Bobo Panicle Hydrangea
CREDIT: COURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

If you have room for a large container, you have enough space to grow ‘Bobo’, a dwarf white hydrangea that reaches 3 feet if it’s feeling tall. But don’t let its small size turn you away. ‘Bobo’ is a show stopper with flowers that almost appears to glow in the garden. “This dwarf hydrangea has so many flowers it looks like a little puff ball of blooms; you can hardly see the leaves,” Wood says.

Name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’

Hydrangea Type: Panicle

Growing Conditions: Grow in part sun and afternoon shade. Prune in spring before growth begins. Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms but don’t prune the shrub unless necessary. If you do prune, clip in late summer just after they are done flowering. Grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer in early spring. Apply mulch to conserve moisture.

Size: 3 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide

Zones: 3 to 8

Buy It: Bobo Dwarf Hydrangea ($21, Etsy)

Wedding Gown Bigleaf Hydrangea

Wedding Gown Bigleaf Hydrangea
CREDIT: COURTESY OF BALL ORNAMENTALS

Say “I do!” to ‘Wedding Gown’, a bigleaf white hydrangea that starts out as a lacecap but fills in to become a mophead. Each of the small blossoms that forms the flower head features double petals, like a wedding bouquet on a stem. This smaller garden variety also works well in containers.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Wedding Gown’

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Growing Conditions: Grow in part sun and afternoon shade. Prune in spring before growth begins. Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms but don’t prune the shrub unless necessary. If you do prune, clip in late summer just after they are done flowering. Grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer in early spring. Apply mulch to conserve moisture.

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide

Zones: 5 to 8

Buy It: Wedding Gown Hydrangea ($55, Etsy)

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea

Blushing Bride Bigleaf Hydrangea
CREDIT: DEAN SCHOEPPNER

This daughter of ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea blooms on both new and old wood. Round white blooms about 6 inches wide age to a pretty pale pink or Carolina blue, depending on the soil pH. Very strong stems keep the large white mopheads upright. Pruning can be done in fall or dried blooms can be left on the stems for winter interest until spring.

Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’

Hydrangea Type: Bigleaf

Growing Conditions: Grow in part sun and afternoon shade. Prune in spring before growth begins. Deadheading flowers encourages more blooms but don’t prune the shrub unless necessary. If you do prune, clip in late summer just after they are done flowering. Grows best in evenly moist, well-drained soil. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer in early spring. Apply mulch to conserve moisture.

Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4 to 9

Buy It: Blushing Bride Hydrangea Shrubs ($27 Woodies Garden Goods)

Strawberry Love

Summer is coming in we need to start finding great summertime recipes to enjoy with the family, and strawberry is one of the berries always available! Check out these great recipes form http://www.williams-sonoma.com:

Strawberry and Pistachio Yogurt Tart

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3/4 cup (4 oz./125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) almond flour
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes


For the filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz./90 g) sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt


For the topping:

  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 3 cups (12 oz./375 g) strawberries, halved through the stem end
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped pistachios
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

To make the crust, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, water and almond extract. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a handheld whisk, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, cardamom and salt. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the flat beater. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and beat until pea-size pieces form, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly stream in the egg yolk mixture and beat until the dough just comes together, 1 to 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Roll out the dough into a 13-inch (33-cm) round about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Fold the dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 10-inch (25-cm) tart pan with a removable bottom; pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the tart shell for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).

Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Bake until the crust is starting to set on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour into the warm crust and bake until set, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

To make the topping, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, sugar and cardamom and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

To finish the tart, arrange the strawberries decoratively on top of the tart as desired. Brush the strawberries lightly with the cardamom syrup (you may not need all of it). Sprinkle with the pistachios and lemon zest, cut the tart into slices and serve. Serves 8.

A touch of cardamom adds layers of flavor to both the crust and the simple syrup that’s brushed over the fruit. Keep in mind that the baked tart needs to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-and-half until steam begins to rise from the surface, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Gradually add the hot half-and-half, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl and stir in the strawberries and vanilla. Nestle the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving. Makes about 1 quart. 

Prepare this ice cream at the peak of strawberry season, from April to June, when the berries will have an intensely sweet aroma and flavor. If you can find the wild strawberries known as fraises des bois, use this variety.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Extra recipe for Strawberry Jam

Fresh Strawberry Jam Recipe

4 cups finely chopped strawberries

1 cup sugar

1 large lemon

Place berries with sugar and the juice and zest from the lemon into a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Cook stirring often until mixture has reduced almost in half and has thickened.  Store jam in a clean jar for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. 

Pro Tips:

If you can’t eat this much jam in 2 weeks, freeze a portion to be enjoyed at a later time.

Berries will get sweeter as the season progresses, cut back on the sugar to taste.