Monday, February 16, 2015

ROSE COMPANIONS: Seed-Grown Favorites to Compliment the Beauty of Roses – with Desserts!

The lush blossoms and complex perfume of blooming roses makes them the true queens of the garden. And every season I also plan and plant a new court of companion flowers, grown from seed, to set off and nurture my roses. These flowers attract pollinators and add beauty and grace to the landscape surrounding the rose bushes, and many are pretty in bouquets along with roses. All can be handily started from spring sowing for a long season of enjoyment. Here are a few favorites.

Compact Cosmos
Cosmos Sonata
Dwarf Sonata Cosmos are dainty looking but sturdy, reliable and easy to grow. These compact 2 ½ foot tall plants have fine-cut, lacy, bright green foliage and flowers in pretty magenta rose, white, and pink, all with bright yellow centers that nod gracefully around rose bushes, adding a tapestry background.

My own favorites are the Cosmos Snow Sonata, and we sell them in a separate packet. They are milk-white dancing blossoms that form a soft but striking background for dramatic rose colors. Sonata Cosmos are carefree and simple flowers to grow from seed and they attract butterflies and pollinators to your garden. They can be sown directly into the garden each spring in any good soil in full sun. I often make several sowings of Sonata, so I can have a continuous sea of their satiny blooms to display with my ever-blooming roses all summer long both indoors and out.

A Sweet Carpet of Alyssum
Alyssum makes a perfect ground cover to sow at the feet of rose bushes. These low-growing spreading plants quickly flower creating lovely patterns. We offer them in peach, or mixtures of pastel rose, pink, lavender, violet, and white. Their dense, tiny flower clusters have a deliciously honey-scented fragrance. Alyssum is one of the best flowers to bring regular visits from a wide variety of pollinators and beneficial insects. These scented low growing flowers bloom vigorously to mid summer; then I cut them back with shears, water well and am rewarded with another flush of soft velvety bloom that covers the ground beautifully around my mature roses. Click here to see our selections.

Charming Nigella
Nigella’s common name “Love in a Mist” gives you some sense of this old-fashioned cottage garden flower's charm. The very filigreed, lace-like foliage fronds almost float in the air around delicate stems of faceted flowers in pastel hues. The seed pods that follow the flowers make wonderful everlasting displays. Nigella blooms effortlessly in early spring and self-sows itself easily. Plants reach about 12 inches tall, and provide a romantic backdrop for roses first full blushes of spring bloom. Click here to see our selections.

Lovely Perfumed Lavender
Lavender can be tricky to start from seed, but with new cultivars like our French Perfume and White Ice you can have reliably grow dozens of sturdy handsome plants from packets. Follow our growing instructions carefully, and by the middle of spring, you can plant 2-3 inch seedlings into the rose garden, 2 feet apart and 2 feet from your rose bushes. Seed-grown lavender gets established and will have just a few flowers their first season, but will mature nicely so that in their 2nd and 3rd year they form handsome mounds of narrow gray-green foliage. In mid to late June their deep purple or snowy white, richly scented spikes flower gloriously along with summer roses at their peak. Even after their flowering is finished, the silvery aromatic foliage of lavender is a perfect compliment to roses in the garden.

Special Desserts To Enjoy in Your Rose Garden
Because roses and their floral companions lend themselves to garden parties, here are several of my favorite dessert recipes to help celebrate. These are wishes to serve for a tea party, a candlelit dinner, or a special brunch.

Coriander Spice Cake
This is a moist, gingerbread-like cake that keeps very well and actually improves in flavor the second or third day — if it lasts that long.

2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup light molasses
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and all the spices together. In a bowl, blend the sugar with the melted butter. Beat in the molasses and eggs. Stir in raisins, walnuts and orange peel. Add sifted dry ingredients and hot water alternately to egg mixture, beating after each addition until just combined. Don’t over-mix.

Pour into baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or top with our Orange Butter icing.
Serves 16-18

Orange Butter Icing
1 pound sifted powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (orange part of the peel)

Sift powdered sugar into mixing bowl, add salt and mix. Beat in the butter and add the orange juice a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add orange zest and frost cooled cake.
Makes about 2 cups   

Luscious Lemon Pudding Cake
A tempting dessert with lovely lemon flavors. Not at all rich, so you can indulge yourself!

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (yellow part of the peel)
5 tablespoons lemon juice
3 egg yolks
1 ½ cups milk
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
¼ cup sugar

Garnish: Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F
Lightly grease a 1 ½-quart baking dish or 6 custard cups. Set into a slightly larger pan, at least 2 inches deep. In a mixing bowl, combine the 3/4 cup sugar, flour and salt. Add butter, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly blended. With a whisk, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored; add milk and mix well. Combine with lemon mixture, stirring until blended.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add the ¼ cup of sugar gradually and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold the whites into lemon mixture. Spoon into baking dish or custard cups. Pour 1 inch of hot water around them.

Bake until set and top is golden brown, about 35 minutes for custard cups or 45 minutes for baking dish. Remove from water and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

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