A Kansas Country Garden - Fourth Week of July

The Surprise Lily, Lycoris squamigera, makes a sudden, but very welcome appearance.
You won't be seeing my garden at its best this week. A string of 100+ degree days takes a toll on the flower garden. And on humans and animals. We all whimper and wither a bit in the heat. While people and animals must have access to plenty of water, I'm not willing to pour unlimited amounts of water on ornamental plants. We've got a drought going on here, folks! 

A container of vinca and salvia adds color to the garden.
I do hand water almost every day. Most plants in containers need daily watering. The exception is the succulents who seem to most at home in our hot, dry weather. They would protest more if were always damp and do better drying out before watering. I've had to water some established shrubs and trees. Normally, I would not. The loss of several established shrubs to last summer's heat and drought was a warning not to neglect them. Some plants simply do dormant during this heat and drought. They aren't pretty, but they'll be back. And I can wait.

An assortment of coleus grace this container under the redbud tree.

A pale pink hibiscus begins its bloom.
Though tropical looking, hibiscus does relatively well in the dry heat.
Old fashion phlox suffers in the dry heat--but it will be back next year.
A low growing zinnia continues to bloom.
Dahlberg daisies grow no more than about 5 inches.
This rudbeckia is one a few flowers grown from seed this year.
This lantana is a vibrant red and is unfazed by the blazing heat.
Another photo of a Surprise Lily--which photo is better? The top one or the bottom one?

Nothing Complicated: Pizza for Any Day

Yes, you can. Yes, you. You can make your own pizza. Start with the crust. There's just five simple ingredients. It mixes together quickly. A little kneading, a little resting and then you're patting it into your pizza pans and prebaking it for a few minutes before adding your toppings. See, you can do that.

A few simple ingredients make a wonderful pizza crust.
The recipe that I'm sharing is enough for four pizza crusts. That's more than most families need for one meal so the extras can be slipped into a bag and frozen for a faster than fast food meal later. 
Place 1 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon yeast and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Use bread flour if you have it, but I've used all-purpose many, many times and its fine, too. 

Add 1 1/3 cups very warm tap water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix well. Add additional flour, about another 1 1/2 cups until dough forms a loose ball. Knead for 3-5 minutes. Cover and allow to rise for about an hour. Rising time is somewhat flexible. I wouldn't hesitate to use it after 15-30 minutes if I was in a hurry. 
Divide into four portions.

Place each portion on a sprayed pizza pan or cookie sheet and pat out into about a 12-inch circle. I know some people toss pizza dough or stretch it somehow, but the best way I've found to deal with pizza dough is to press it out using the flat part of my fingers. Keep trying, experience goes a long way. 

If your dough is sticky, add a little flour. If it resists stretching, let it rest for a little bit. A minute or two can make a big difference.
We had a little pizza party and everyone made their own crust. Some we topped and ate for lunch and some were taken home to be enjoyed later.

Poke those holes!
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Use a fork to poke holes all over the pizza. Bake for about 5-9 minutes until crust is set and remove from oven before it begins to brown too much. Add pizza sauce, desired toppings and shredded cheese, usually mozzarella. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes.  Remove from oven when cheese is melted.


Extra prebaked pizza crusts fit perfectly into a 2 1/2 gallon freezer bag. When needed remove from bag, place on pizza pan and top as desired. No need to thaw. Bake at 425 degrees until cheese is melted.
To make pizza sauce mix:
2 cups tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 

Simple and tasty.

Some ideas for pizza toppings:
Hawaiian Pizza-Pineapple, Ham, Green Pepper with Mozzarella Cheese.

Always a favorite: Sausage with Caramelized Onions and Anaheim Peppers.

What do you like on your pizza? I'd like to hear about it. Tell me in the comment section below.

A Kansas Country Garden - Second Week of July

Sunflowers tower over the vegetable garden and attract hungry birds.
A mystery plant, aka as a wildflower, this plant grew where I planted the parsley and was the lone survivor after bunnies helped themselves. I protected it under a wire cage and though the leaves are similar, I was surprised to find that it wasn't parsley after all.

Verbena bonariensis (the purple flower) is a wonderful addition to any Kansas garden. It has a long bloom season, often overwinters or drops seed, and its tall, leggy flowers sway in the wind and add interest to the garden.

Yellow hollyhocks glow in early light.
Pink Missouri Primrose are reblooming.
Hollyhock, daylilies and echinop are good companions.
Morning glories have heart shaped leaves.

The hibiscus continues to bloom, but may be winding down for the year.
What a treat to go to the vegetable garden and find lots of tomatoes!
They were washed.
They were cut up and placed on the stove to cook. We have several orange tomato plants this year and I cooked some separately.
After several hours, they looked like this.
I'm not sure there is a better way to separate the juice from the seeds and skin than this old-fashioned cone shaped strainer.
Twenty-four pints of home canned tomato sauce!

A Kansas Country Garden - First Week of July

Tiger Lilies are brilliant orange with black dots and are easy to grow.
Hibiscus is a fine companion to the Tiger Lilies.
Daylilies bloom in front of the oregano, hibiscus and tiger lilies.
A bee on the oregano flower. Photos of insects are a challenge!
On a warm afternoon, there is a hum emanating from the garden. An amazing array of insects are finding nectar in the flowers. First choice among the insects seems to be the oregano which is a bit surprising since the flowers are small and not particularly showy. Bumble bees, honey bees and many others bees which I can't identify are enjoying the garden. Some are very tiny. Some look a little like flies, but something tells me they are really bees, too. Some bees seem to have preferences. A certain kind of bee will congregate on a certain kind of flower while another kind of bee chooses a different one. There are wasps, too. Sometimes human visitors are a bit alarmed by all the insect activity. "Are you a flower?", I asked a squealing little girl. "Because that's all the bees want." 
Early morning in the garden. Russian Sage is a tall and sturdy plant.
Enjoy the "triplets" today for tomorrow they'll be gone.
A single hibiscus purchased many years ago has been divided quite a few times and planted all over the gardens.

Apple Mint has begun its angular bloom. Apple Mint is a spreader like all mints.
I prefer the simple single orange daylily  to its double counterpart.
Soft yellow blooms of a happy daylily.
This one is a light peach color.
Butterfly weed reblooms. The purple flower is verbena, a favorite found throughout the garden.
In front of the house a wild white "flower" has taken over. It adds an architectural  interest as they sway in the wind. These plants came by way of a fall bouquet picked from my dad's pasture and shaken out in the garden. Perhaps not the wisest way to garden, but I'm okay with it.
One of my few annual purchases this year is the lovely lantana which is more red than orange.

 Lots of Veggies
Tomatoes on every sandwich!

 We just have a few okra plants so we haven't had enough for a meal.
Squash blooms are quite pretty.