Monday, July 28, 2014

Fifty-Two Loaves

Okay, okay, this blog entry is not about flowers or birds or the Kansas prairie.  Mea culpa.  It's not even about gardening, in a strict sense.  But it is about a book whose author, William Alexander, previously wrote about gardening in the form of a bestseller that many of you will know;  The $64 Tomato.   When I saw 52 Loaves on display two weeks ago at a Half-Price Books store, I recognized the author and snatched it for my garden book collection.

52 Loaves is an engaging story about a year spent in search of the "perfect loaf" of bread.  Alexander becomes intrigued by the process of making bread and he resolves to make one loaf every week until he achieves a perfect loaf.  The book is three parallel tales woven into one wonderful read.  First, he weaves a lively tale of the history of bread-making, the connection of particular breads to their cultures, and his travels and efforts to improve his doughy attempts.  Second, there is a shining lesson here of the development of an obsession, an all-engaging search that sets aside (at times) marriage, family, work, and play in the pursuit of goal.  Last, there is a humorous story through the book of life and family living under an obsession.  The choice of attention to bread over a chance of marital intimacy, for example.  The celebrated escape from Sunday church for the excuse of needing to be present for the bread-making process.  The family's weekly critical assessments of the loaves.

The tale concludes with Williams's short experience in a 1300 year old French monastery, where he brings his expertise, his levain (a bread starter) and the on site process of bread-making back to the monks.  Just his priceless description of trying to bring levain through the TSA from America to Europe is worth the price of the book.  I've leave you to discover what hair conditioner has to do with the story.

ProfessorRoush is no stranger to obsession, and, as a lifelong bread aficionado, 52 Loaves started my own.  I spent the last four days making my own local levain from the yeast clinging to grape skins in my garden.  And right now, while I write, I am waiting for my first loaf of peasant bread (page 328) to rise.  Nirvana awaits me, a few short hours hence.

(Update:  My boule was flat.  But delicious.  Must make stiffer dough next time or at least knead it more.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

White Dove

If you have been searching for a white rose that will stand the heat of summer, cold winters, and wet springs, 'Paloma Blanca', a 1984 Griffith Buck introduction, is a rose that you need to consider.  Her name translates to "White Dove" in English, an apt metaphor for this beautiful white rose.

In my estimate, the factor that places 'Paloma Blanca' above other white roses is its staying power.  I've always been impressed by how long a bloom of 'Paloma Blanca' will last indoors or out.  I've seen garden clusters last for weeks in reasonable weather without fading or dropping.  Other touted white roses such as 'Blanc Double de Coubert', or 'Frau Karl Druschi' may have better form, but they won't last as long on the bush and they'll be brown ugly sacks by the time 'Paloma Blanca' starts to fade.  And the famous 'Iceberg' is a dud here in my climate, while 'Paloma Blanca' just keeps plugging along.  Other positives in her favor are that she blooms her head off from the time she is a very small bush (see the photo below of a few months old bush) and that she never seems to fade to brown as most white roses do;  petals seem to fall before they turn ugly.

'Paloma Blanca' is officially a white or near white Shrub Rose that has very double blooms (35-40 petals) but only a light rose scent.  Those double blooms are large and presented in clusters, but I wouldn't try to claim that they have a classic Hybrid Tea form.  They seem to start as fat buds and then "half open", displaying a little of the center for a long time without opening completely flat.    The blooms are a very pure white for the majority of their time on earth, although at colder temperatures I detect a little blush in their petals and in some lighting the center can have a slight yellow tone.  'Paloma Blanca' blooms continuously.

My 'Paloma Blanca' is only one complete season old, but I used to grow her at my previous home and I can attest to both her winter hardiness and her foliage health.  This is a very disease resistant rose.  I don't have to spray 'Paloma Blanca' for fungus here.  The picture at the left, taken just last week, is a bush that froze back to the ground last winter and has not been sprayed all summer.  At full growth, she reached 4 feet tall in my old garden, a columnar rose who doesn't get very wide.  Her breeding was a very complex mix of 'Vera Dalton' crossed with a seedling whose heredity included 'Lillian Gibson', 'Pink Princess', 'Florence Mary Morse', Rosa laxa, and 'Joseph Rothmand'.

In your search for a white rose, I hope I've convinced you to consider 'Paloma Blanca'.  A White Dove in the garden is always a welcome sight.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oops, is this better?

Couldn't stand the lousy iPhone picture in yesterday's post so I recaptured it this morning with the Nikon.  Blooms are a day older, but I think this is better, don't you?  And it's 'Blue Skies', not 'Blue Girl'.  I don't grow 'Blue Girl'.


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