Monday, June 6, 2011


One of the things that the online gardening community did for me, or really for my long-suffering plants, was to save my potted plants. Every year I would watch with resignation and rue as my houseplants slowly died each winter, and the idea of plants in containers outdoors just stumped me.

But with the internet looking over my shoulder I felt both encouraged, and slightly embarrassed at accepting my incompetence in this area. It’s kind of like not minding that you’re a bad housewife until guests are coming over.

Of course, the only thing that houseplants and other potted plants need is care and attention, so once I started paying attention the attrition rate plummeted. I’ve got most of the “houseplants” staged around the pond for the summer, and this year I’ve put 90 petunias in pots on the porch.

I usually have a more exotic mix for my porch; somehow simple flowers in containers seems a waste of resources. But I decided to go for metaphor again with the porch pots. Last year I left them empty so they would “fill with possibilities” and they really did, in the form of clients, the Peterson Garden Project, and lots of new students. However, because I really have enough possibilities for now, I decided I needed to go entirely the opposite direction and do something simple and obvious.

So I planted a crayola box of petunias. Simple, obvious, instantly recognizable with color and bloom that will hit you over the head. There are about 80 on the porch, and the remaining ones tucked into various other pots staged around the garden, including a white one in the dragon’s mouth.

I generally avoid such obvious flowers; I like a subtler ratio of bloom to foliage. But the petunias on the the porch make a joyous statement that sometimes life is good without that much effort and that sometimes the obvious is the thing to do.

Chocolate cream cheese cookies
5 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped (or 2/3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips)
2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese
2/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
optional: 1/4 teaspoon mint, orange, or raspberry extract

optional: 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F/177C . Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the butter, cream cheese and honey until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate and beat until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour in stages, mixing until incorporated. Fold in the the nuts.

Drop in teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet 2" apart (these will spread quite a bit). The cookies are done when they are just barely set in the center. They should still be soft. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 30 large or 40 small cookies.

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