Sunday, November 30, 2008

Color too nice not to post

These are old photos taken earlier this fall. I've been so busy I haven't had the time to post them until now. The colors this fall was exceptional and long lasting.

Service berry, Shadblow, Amelanchier laevis?

Blueberry, Vaccinium. This particular bush planted right outside our backdoor produced a load of berries and this colorful sight in the fall.

Witch hazel, Hammamelis × intermedia - yellow flower variety.

Burning bush, Euonymus alatus.

Witch hazel, Hammamelis × intermedia - red flower variety.

Witch alder, Fothergilla gardenii.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas cactus blooming and Bhut Jolokia pepper taste test

The so called "Christmas cactus" is in full bloom before Thanksgiving. We put it outdoors last summer shaded from the afternoon hot sun by a maple tree and despite the pale looking plant parts it obviously has thrived. This is the most blooms it has produced since we first bought it several years ago.

The long awaited Bhut Jolokia Taste Test.

Well, I finally worked up the courage to give the world's hottest pepper a taste. I was cutting the peppers in half this weekend to speed the drying and cut a small sliver the size of 1/2 a grain of long grain rice. I popped it into my mouth and almost immediately spit it out as I could feel the burn happening. The burn continued to migrate to every part of the mouth so I'm glad I didn't try a larger piece or kept it in longer. The burn lasted a good 10-15 minutes. I made sure I cut the piece out of the wall of the pepper and not the placental membrane to which the seeds are attached - purported to be the hottest part of the pepper.

So it lives up to its reputation even when grown in less than ideal conditions in New Jersey. I would guess that smaller than grain of rice piece of Bhut Jolokia was the equivalent of a whole tiny round chilipiquin pepper. It also tastes much like a Habanero.

Interestingly, although the NMSU The Chili Pepper Institute mentions that the Bhut Jolokia pepper produce only very few seeds, but the peppers I grew have about 30 seeds in each pod. I expected about 5 seeds for each pod after reading the TCPI article.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bhut Jolokia (world's hottest pepper) update

I got tired bringing in the Bhut Jolokia pepper plants for the cold nights and taking them out on sunny days. My original intention was to see if I could overwinter the peppers indoors but the aphids infested the plants despite three sprayings of neem and insecticidal soap. The aphids hid under the leaves so it was difficult to knock them off with a blast of water from the hose and they seem to survive in enough numbers after the insecticidal spray and came back in ever greater numbers.

So, I picked the peppers. Hopefully there will be seeds to plant next year. The Bhut Jolokia peppers are purported to have only very few seeds in each pod so we'll see when I get enough courage to open one up for a taste. I only grew this variety of pepper this year so the plants should breed true.

Surprisingly there were a good many decent sized peppers on the little bush. The leaves hid many so I didn't realize 30+ peppers were growing on the bush. I'll let you know how hot those devils are. I don't think we have enough hot sunny days in New Jersey to develop the maximum hotness. At least that has been our experience growing Jalapenos, Tepin, Piquin, Thai, Cayenne peppers in previous years.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fall colors of Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku'

Acer palmatum, 'Sango kaku' 3 weeks ago. Leaves have a slight greenish tint.

'Sango kaku' one week ago - peak color.

Sango kaku today, Saturday November 08, 2008 - past peak but still nice. .

Another of the coral bark Japanese maples - 'Beni kawa', literally, red skin or bark.

The Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, 'Sango kaku' was nicely turning color just before I left on a trip to Seattle 2 weeks ago. I am amazed that almost all the leaves on the tree will turn at the same time with the exception of new branches that put on a growth spurt in late summer. When I got back from the trip, the tree was almost past peak and a week later definitely past it's prime but still quite nice to look at. We've had a mild fall so far and that accounts for the still good color.

This was a tree I almost gave up on. I planted it in a north western exposure where the winter winds blasted it unmercifully. After three years of no growth, I finally moved it to a sheltered place in the backyard and the tree immediately put on a growth spurt. When I bought the tree it was about 4 feet tall. It is now about 10 feet tall, more than double it's original size in 3 years.

If you plant but one Japanese maple, this cultivar would be my recommendation. Even after the leaves drop the red branches provide some color in an otherwise drab winter scene.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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