Gardening is an ever evolving process for me, a constant learning experience. The more I plant and grow in my yard, the more I realize how little I actually know. That’s the wonderful thing about gardening: you may lose a plant once in a while, but you will learn from the experience and easily replace it. I gravitate toward plants that I’ve had great luck with, especially ones that take little care. I like to pick a few complementary colors and, most of all, blooms to attract pollinators. In today’s world, the importance of pollinating insects only grows and I do all I can to promote a sustainable environment for them. When looking for plants that can work for an area, Monrovia makes it easy. All plants are tagged with information letting you know for which climate zone they are designed, if pollinators are attracted to them, letting you know how they will hold up in dry conditions (being “water wise”) as well as their mature size. And honestly, having the right information takes away much of the guess work.
Why do we all get scared of planting a garden? Maybe it’s all the overwhelming choices we find in garden centers or maybe we’re just worried the plants will die. My passion for gardening was earned honestly. I grew up on a farm in the middle of corn fields in Iowa and I didn’t move too far away. Actually I live about one quarter of a mile down the road. Mom always loved gardening and flowers so it’s really no surprise that I put in my first brick patio as a 7th grader. Even though some of the elements have changed, that patio is still there, serving as a reminder of where my passion for gardening began.
While my aesthetic has since changed, my love for gardening has not. I’ve learned like everyone else: some plants live and some die and that’s the beauty of gardening. You learn from your mistakes and realize nature is much stronger than you. The mistakes I make also help me learn how to be better, select plants that work and chose plants that have been well grown.
This summer, I’m excited to partner with Monrovia on a series that aims to simplify gardening and inspire you. Gettin’ Dirty is all about planning, creating, planting and caring for a new garden. While the idea of landscaping can sometimes be overwhelming, breaking down the process step by step can bring to light the ease of a project. And that’s what I’m hoping to show you in my own yard. I’m adding a perennial bed with subtle color and year-round interest as well as the beginnings of a whole new vision, complete with a boxwood hedge and a little hardscaping. I’m going through all the steps so you too can see that your vision really can become a reality.
I’m a believer in choosing plants that give you a head start. That’s the reason I love Monrovia. When I buy any plant from Monrovia, I know that it has been grown to the highest standards of quality. Honestly, I used to think the growing process didn’t really make a huge difference. But with some unfortunate trial and error experiences, I now see the difference in my own yard.
As with most things in life, before you start, it’s best to have a plan. Whether you draw the whole thing out or just think it through in your head, the layout is a great starting point. Fact of the matter is, plants grow. Period. What you buy today will (most likely) be larger in the future. Planning out your area will help determine what and how much you can fit in. If you haven’t planted in the area before, you may need to remove sod and till the ground. Roots like good drainage and need oxygen. A little planning goes a long way no matter if you’re planting one plant or many!
Video and images by The Gray Boxwood
I hate to say the best was saved for the last day. All ice cream is, well, hello – ICE CREAM! I have to admit this one is special. For some reason, I don’t make blueberry pie a lot, but this really should change. I love when an ice cream not only has amazing flavor but also varying textures that remind you of other delicious treats. This ice cream answers all of your pie cravings and more.
When it is made well, French silk pie is a rich pie with deep chocolate flavor, not just a box of chocolate pudding in a pie shell. This ice cream is definitely the former: an extra deep chocolate ice cream that is thick and smooth, extremely decadent and dare I say almost guilty? Ok, food should never be guilty but enjoyed with abandon. Make this and enjoy the treat.
Peanut butter pie: just the name makes my mouth water. Growing up, this was the pie I looked for on any dessert table. In Iowa, peanut butter pie meant a vanilla peanut butter pudding with whipped cream. Oh, and peanut butter sugar pieces…mountains of the peanut butter pieces. Forming this pie into an ice cream was a perfect match: the exact flavors I wanted and of course mountains of peanut butter pieces.
I may have already mentioned that I am obsessed with bananas this year. I happen to do that: have obsessions. And thankfully bananas are extremely versatile. Recently there is a trend to freeze banana chucks and blend them. Can you believe people call that ice cream?! This is an actual banana ice cream with added egg yolks to make it more pudding-like, just like the pie.
Ice cream week has become a staple, at least for me. I look forward to this all year and start thinking of flavors and themes way in advance. In fact, I may already have ideas for next year. As you can probably guess, this year is inspired by my favorite pies. I mean, I love pie – all kinds of pie – and it’s really hard to decide my favorite. But this year’s flavors just seemed like amazing ice cream inspirations. As a bonus, these ice creams allow you to have your pie and ice cream, all in one!
As per usual, my base recipe is thickened with corn starch. In the past, I made a slurry, waited for the milk and cream to boil then added the slurry. This year, I decided to forgo that step and instead added the cornstarch to the milk base then brought it all to a boil. This worked really well for me. But as a word of caution, if you get little lumps of balls of unincorporated cornstarch, just strain the mixture after cooking.
- 1 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup prepared lemon curd
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Whisk together the milk, cream, sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup and salt.
- Place over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to steam. Continue to whisk and bring the mixture to a boil. When boiling throughout, remove from heat.
- Whisk in vanilla and lemon curd. Pass through strainer if needed.
- Cool off slightly, 5-8 minutes.
- Pour into airtight container and chill 8-10 hours.
- To freeze, remove from refrigerator and pour into ice cream freezer. Follow the directions with your freezer; each one can vary. My KitchenAid attachment takes about 20-25 minutes. While freezing, make Swiss meringue.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set over kettle of barely simmering water and add salt.
- Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Remove from heat and place bowl on the mixer fitted with the whisk beater and add vanilla.
- Beat until the mixture becomes white, voluminous and reaches room temperature, 8-10 minutes.
- Fold meringue into frozen ice cream and place in freezer for 4-6 hours.
You may think this just sounds like lemon ice cream – which would be good – but you are mistaken. This is amazing. It’s like eating lemon meringue pie that is frozen – refreshingly delicious!
Video and images by The Gray Boxwood