The Echinacea Cultivar Control Board: A Modest Proposal

I’m very fond of purple coneflowers and other members of the genus Echinacea. However, there is something disconcerting about the multitude of occasionally bizarre Echinacea cultivars being put out by plant breeders. I mean, what was the thinking behind Echinacea ‘Double Decker’?

Echinacea 'Double Decker'
Echinacea ‘Double Decker’

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a straight species purist. I plant cultivars. But why develop cultivars that negate the essential character of the plant? For example, the whole idea of a coneflower is the central cone. It’s in the name, right? And yet, we have this.

Echinacea 'Secret Passion'
Echinacea ‘Secret Passion’

What’s this supposed to be, a dahlia? A double zinnia? It’s certainly no coneflower.

What’s more, based on the comments generated by my last post, it seems that the Echinacea cultivars are frequently not garden-worthy. I had written that I was considering Echinacea ‘Tikki Torch’ because I wanted a taller orange perennial. Almost without exception, the commenters advised against such a move. In their experience, the cultivars often had problems with disease resistance and making it through the winter.

Their reaction confirmed my reflexive resistance to Echinacea cultivars, which was based on a gut feeling that even the less peculiar ones just didn’t look right.

Echinacea 'Pink Poodle'
Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’. What an undignified name for what should be a dignified flower.

(NOTE: the above three photos all come from bluestoneperennials.com.)

In any case, we as gardeners must stand up for that great genus, Echinacea, before it’s too late. But how?

I would propose the creation of a Federal Echinacea Cultivar Control Board (FECCB). The FECCB would be empowered to prevent commercial production and sale of Echinacea varieties that are just too stupid for words. Doesn’t the European Union do something like this?

All Echinacea cultivars would be subject to FECCB approval. The Board would divide cultivars into three categories:

  1. Nice. These would be cleared for distribution without any restrictions.
  2. If You Must. These could be produced and sold, but only with an official FECCB sticker which reads: “WARNING: Purchase of this plant may make you feel silly in a year or two.”
  3. You’re Kidding, Right? These cultivars would be banned. Possession of a small number for sale would be a misdemeanor, massing for greater impact would be a felony.

With the creation of the FECCB, we can rest assured that Echinaceas have been saved for future generations. Thank you

Purple Coneflowers
What purple coneflowers are supposed to look like.

I Got the Orange Blues

I am not at all systematic about color. I mean, I do think about which plant combinations look good. But I have never had a color scheme for any of my flower beds as a whole.

Not that I felt the lack of a color scheme very acutely up until now. I was too busy figuring out how to jam in some plant I had just fallen love with.

Beautiful flower border
Raised bed along driveway and front walk.

But lately I’ve been overcome by a sense of inadequacy, and inadequacy that is most intense while I’m looking at illustrations of garden design books. And so now I must have a color scheme. I’m going to start with the raised bed that lies along the driveway and the walk to the front door.

My color scheme for this bed will be blue, orange, and yellow – with accents of white and mauve. Why? Well, two reasons.

First, I like these colors, and I’ve always been attracted to the contrast between the cooler blue and the warmer orange and yellow. I just like the combination. If I knew more about color theory I might have an explanation for this, but I don’t.

Celandine poppy, grape hyacinth
Celandine poppy with grape hyacinth. I just like blue and yellow.

Second, I don’t want to get rid of the many plants I already have that are blue, orange, or yellow. Or white (Oriental lilies ‘Casa Blanca’), or mauve (Eupatorium ‘Gateway’). Hence the accents.

But something must be sacrificed in order to make room for the new order. And that something is: purple coneflowers. I’ll be sad to say farewell, but I’m also tired of the aster yellows that seems to strike every year.

Here’s what I have currently that fits into my blue/orange/yellow  future.

Culver's Root 'Fascination'
Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’

Blue. Grape hyacinth for spring, cranesbill (Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’) and blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) for late spring and early summer, plus Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and catmint (Nepeta ‘kit kat’)  for summer. The bergamot is more lavender but that’s close enough.

Yellow. Celandine poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) for spring, gray headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) for summer, and bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) for fall.

Grey headed coneflower, Ratibida pinnata
Gray headed coneflower. More of these would be good.

Orange: Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Eye-yi-yi’) for summer, plus orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘fulgida’) for summer and fall. Though I always thought orange coneflower was actually more an orange-hued yellow, but whatever.

What I need to complete the new color scheme is more summer yellow or orange at the northern end of the bed – near the anise hyssop. Also, more blue for summer and fall at the southern end, near the ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye weed. Though I’m less worried about fall, because the surrounding beds have lots of blue/purple asters.

Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa
Butterflyweed

For the yellow/orange, I’m thinking either more grey headed coneflower or the new purple coneflower cultivar ‘Tikki Torch’, which is a nice orange.  I’ve always resisted these new Echinacea varieties, the colors often seemed just wrong, but now I’m tempted. I also want to plant more butterflyweed just behind the nepeta.

For the blue, I’ve got some ideas I’m excited about. First, I’d like to put in a shorter butterfly bush (Buddleia), something like ‘Adonis Blue’ that grows 4-5′. Second, I’d go with 2-3 bluebeard ‘Longwood Blue’ (Caryopteris x clandonensis). Though if I had to eliminate one of these, I think it would be the Buddleia.

Nepeta and hummingbird moth
Nepeta and hummingbird moth.

Finally, I’d grow morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’) up some kind of tutuer near the Joe Pye. Wouldn’t that be a great combination?

Any suggestions? Would you go with the grey headed coneflower or the purple coneflower ‘Tikki Torch’? Or do you have another suggestion for orange or yellow? And the catalogs say you can integrate Buddleia ‘Adonis Blue’ into a flower bed – would you be skeptical? All feedback gratefully accepted!

Snow Drought?

The Chicago Botanic Garden blog has just added a new post regarding the “snow drought” we are apparently experiencing here in Chicago. This makes an interesting follow-up to my last post looking back at 2012’s unsettling weather.

melting snowman
Image from pureparents.org

I had always thought that drought was something we experienced only during the growing season. Apparently, this is not the case. There are three aspects of this: lack of snow, lack of precipitation generally, and temperature.

Our part of the state is still considered to be in a condition of “moderate drought” – due to a moisture deficit that built up over the course of 2012. That deficit has not been erased, even though the last few months have brought above average precipitation.

In addition, the lack of snow cover compounds the drying effects of winter winds upon the soil. Apparently the scanty snowfall has broken a whole grab bag full of climate records. Oh, and we can probably expect a bumper crop of aphids and other garden pests next year thanks to the mild winter. Happy New Year to you, too, CBG!

According to the post, we can protect our plants with plenty of winter mulch – and even winter watering. That last leaves me a little puzzled, though, since the ground is pretty much frozen.

Anyhow, this is a worthwhile article for gardeners in Chicago and the Midwest  especially. You can find it here.

2012, the Year of Unnerving Weather

Extreme weather dominates my thoughts about gardening for this past year. It started with extreme winter mildness. This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it was unnerving for those of us accustomed to harsh Chicago winters. January was about 8 degrees warmer than normal on average. Snow melted, the snowdrops (Galanthus) came up early.

Snowdrops
Snowdrops in January

The unusual warmth intensified by March, and all kinds of stuff started blooming early by a month or more. On the whole, March was about 15 degrees F warmer than normal.

Species tulip 'Fusilier'
Species tulips in March – the red Tulipa praestans ‘Fusilier’ is one of my favorites.

But if March lulled us with warmth, April slammed us with a frigid sucker punch. A new flowering dogwood I had planted early was annihilated, and stone fruits like cherries and peaches were devastated. Fortunately, many of my spring flowers are extremely hardy, and these bloomed through the cold snap without missing stride.

Celandine Poppies, Grape Hyacinths
Celandine Poppies and Grape Hyacinths.

It was in May that I got the first intimations of the drought that was to dominate the summer. The whole year had been on the dry side to date, but I think it was in May when I really noticed how few and far between the rain showers had become. One change I had made in the front garden was fortuitous for a dry year, however. Inspired by the river of blue Salvia at the Lurie Garden, I had pulled out a long patch of wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and replaced it with Salvia ‘May Night’ and ‘Blue Hill’. The wild geranium will go dormant in a dry summer, but the Salvia is relatively drought tolerant.

Salvia 'May Night', Golden Alexander
Salvia ‘May Night’ with Golden Alexander

In June, I invested in some soaker hoses that I could move from bed to bed. I also had to dig out some purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) infested with aster yellows. I replaced them with yellow coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) and Culver’s root ‘Fascination’ (Veronicastrum virginicum). I was pleased with these choices.

Culver's Root 'Fascination', Veronicastrum virginicum
Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’ with Asiatic lilies in the background.

The drought, combined with a heat wave, hit its peak in July. I spent a LOT of time dragging around the soaker hoses. We’re lucky enough to live in the Lake Michigan watershed, which means we have no watering restrictions. However, that doesn’t make it free, and when the summer water bills arrive from the city I pretty much have to be scraped off the ceiling. Between the watering and my drought tolerant, mostly native plants, I was able to keep things looking pretty good.

'Casa Blanca' Oriental Lilies, Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway', Joe Pye Weed
Front garden with ‘Casa Blanca’ Oriental Lilies and Eupatorium ‘Gateway’.

We turned the corner on the drought in August. Rainfall and temperatures were normal, though we still had an enormous moisture deficit to make up. And of course, a “normal” August means, for me, days drenched in perspiration. In any case, I was pleased that in its second year my Joe Pye Weed ‘Gateway’ was doing fine even though I had put it in a freely draining raised bed. (Joe Pye Weed likes LOTS of water.)

front garden, anise hyssop, purple coneflower, brown eyed susan
Grass path through the front garden in August.

The arrival of September was a relief. Things were cooling off. The asters and the goldenrods began blooming.

Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolius, Anise Scented Goldenrod, Solidago odora
Aromatic Aster with Anise-Scented Goldenrod.

Fall foliage came into its glory as September turned into October.

Serviceberry 'Autumn Brilliance', Amelanchier
Serviceberry ‘Autumn Brilliance’

And November reminded me why it is such a good idea to devote significant space to grasses.

Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium
Northern Sea Oats

So there you have it, the 2012 garden year. The garden did all right, thanks to lots of supplemental watering. But climate change worries me, and I think it should worry all of us. “Normal” weather is becoming a thing of the past, and gardeners as much as anyone need to let policy makers know that we expect them to get a grip on this emerging reality.

Happy Birthday, Gardeninacity!

In the Spring of 2012, a few months after I started Gardeninacity, I was dismayed to read that there was a workshop at the Spring Fling for garden bloggers that asked the question: is garden blogging dead?

Goldfinch on purple coneflower

My reaction: WAIT! NOT YET! I’M JUST GETTING THE HANG OF THIS!

Actually, I recently received an email from WordPress informing me that Gardeninacity is one year old. I have to say that my first year of blogging has been very rewarding.

The idea of starting a garden blog appealed to me for several reasons. First, I like to show off my garden, which has become something closer to a mania than a hobby. Though I am a reserved sort of person, shy really, the fact is that I crave recognition for my garden the way a new mother wants her baby to be admired.

Second, I do enjoy writing. What’s more, I enjoy writing short essays of several hundred words that I cannot post on Facebook or Twitter.

Bumble bee on Knautia macedonica

Finally, I needed more distraction so that I was not constantly thinking about my job. I love and admire many of the people I work with, and I believe in what we do. However, we work in a field where cynicism can reach toxic levels, and I need an antidote.

Well, this blogging stuff has provided distraction in spades. The first few months, my goal was to write one post per week. Then it was two posts. Now I write something roughly every other day. Over the course of the year, I’ve written more than 100 posts.

It has not always been easy. For me the biggest challenge was hitting the right tone: friendly, conversational, upbeat. I do a fair amount of writing at work, and the style I need to use there is very different: factual, understated, occasionally a bit sarcastic. What’s more, people who know me would not call me upbeat. I’ve been told that if I were a character from Winnie the Pooh, it would be Eeyore.

So when I sit down to write a blog post I have to change my mindset, and that is a good thing. Moreover, I feel that I’ve had some success along those lines. For instance, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with the use of exclamation points!

Purple coneflowers and Casa Blanca lilies

And I’ve come to understand the meaning of “on-line community”, which I had thought to be a phrase without meaning. But I was genuinely excited when people like yourselves started commenting on my blog. And through your comments and your blogs, I did in fact get to know a community of people.

This has been gratifying not just because I’ve discovered so many folks with good hearts who are full of useful knowledge and entertaining observations, but also because these people are from all over the USA and all over the world: the UK, Canada, Italy, Russia, Malaysia, the Philippines … in fact, gardeninacity has been viewed by people in 90 countries.

I have to acknowledge a special debt to my loving and talented wife Judy, who encouraged me to start this blog, and who provides almost all the photographs. She may be having second thoughts now that I frequently badger her to take more pictures for new posts. I am also extremely appreciative of all the people who read and write comments on Gardeninacity.

Monarch Butterflies on Zinnia

I am still new to this, but my experience over the last year is that garden blogging is not dead. Perhaps it is contracting because of other social media, I don’t know. For now, it seems to me that blogging provides a depth of expression, both written and graphic, that other media do not. And that’s good, because I’d like to have at least another couple of years.

Hold the Fort, for We Are Coming

This is my final post on our Christmas vacation. I want to start by noting that the Short Ones and I are history buffs, with a particular interest in historic forts, battlefields, etc. Judy, on the other hand, has limited enthusiasm for such things. Sadly for her, she is outnumbered on this point. (Perhaps the addition of daughters-in-law will even up the sides some day.)

Fort Pulaski
Outer moat and walls of Fort Pulaski.

On this trip, she did stand her ground in insisting that we could visit ONLY ONE fort or related Civil War site. That is how we found ourselves at Fort Pulaski near Savannah. The fort was built to defend the city from the British after the War of 1812. Taken by the Union Army early in the Civil War, it was used to implement the Northern blockade of the Confederacy. It’s also where the first photograph of a baseball game (played by Union soldiers) was taken.

Fort Pulaski
Inside Fort Pulaski

We could have gone to Fort Sumter, but that requires a ferry trip and a good deal more time than we wanted to spend. Fort Pulaski, on the other hand, is a 15 minute drive east of Savannah. You can climb to the battlements and walk round, taking in the view of the river and surrounding country. I recommend it for people who are interested in such things.

Fort Pulaski was a side trip on the day we spent in Savannah, about a two-hour drive south of Edisto Island. Like Charleston, Savannah is one of the earliest Colonial cities. It has a sizable historic district that is excellent for walking and wandering. While Charleston has an aristocratic ambiance, Savannah seems more bohemian, funkier. This is probably due to the substantial presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Savannah squares
One of the squares around which historic Savannah is built.
Angel's BBQ
Angel’s BBQ, located in a Savannah alley. Highly recommended.

Historic Savannah is one of the earliest examples of urban planning, with grids of residential blocks laid out around a series of squares. The squares serve as common green spaces.

Forsyth Park Savannah
Forsyth Park in Savannah

It also includes the lovely Forsyth park, part of which is an arboretum.

Forsyth Park fountain
Forsyth Park fountain

Like Charleston, Savannah seems to have many beautiful private gardens, which on an ordinary day you can get glimpses of by looking over or through the fences. Just try not to be too obvious about it.

Savannah garden
Savannah garden

Another side trip we took was to Boone Plantation, one of the country’s oldest. Located outside of Charleston, it has yet another breathtaking allee of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.

Live oaks Spanish moss
More Spanish Moss than you can shake a stick at.

There is a plantation house which was actually built in the 1930s, though using elements from the historic buildings. Indigo and cotton were the original cash crops. By the beginning of the last century, however, the plantation served primarily as a home for various very wealth people. While some farming continues, it no longer is a source of significant income for the owners.

Boone Plantation house
Boone Plantation house

Boone Plantation also has  historic gardens. When we were there, poppies, pansies, camellias, and some roses were blooming. At one time, the plantation was famous for Noisette roses, though I’m not sure exactly what those are.

Boone Hall garden
Boone Plantation gardens

Boone Hall gardens

One thing that makes Boone plantation stand out is its focus on the slaves who were the foundation of the antebellum Southern economy. There are nine brick slave cabins, made with the original 18th Century bricks, that still stand. These were the homes of higher status slaves, house servants and skilled workers. Most slaves lived in much cruder wooden buildings that disappeared long ago.

Boone Hall slave cabins
Slave cabins

The cabins are used now to house exhibits on slavery and African-American history. There are also talks given on the history of slavery, as well as the African heritage of the Low Country.

So that was our trip. On December 31st we headed back to the frigid North. Judy rejected my suggestion that we look into getting jobs as Civil War re-enactors at Fort Pulaski.

Doing the Charleston

Charleston was one of the first major towns in the American colonies. The historic district is full of well-preserved buildings from the early 19th and 18th Centuries. In fact, it seems every building in that part of town had a plaque attesting to its age and historic significance.

Poinsettia
Would we have ponsettias without Charleston?

I found Waterfront Park and the Battery to be a little disappointing, though I appreciated looking out from the Battery to Fort Sumter on its island in the harbor. From that spot, crowds had cheered the shelling of the fort and the start of the Civil War, with little idea of the suffering to come. None of the monuments seemed to indicate any second thoughts on the matter – but more on the historic angle in my next post.

Charleston
Monument near the Battery.

What we enjoyed in Charleston was not so much specific sites as simply wandering through the mostly tiny streets. The streets, buildings, and gardens provide many, many views that please the eye. Charleston is a small city with an elegant and intimate feel.

Charleston

Live oaks apparently make an excellent street tree, and few if any can make a better canopy.

Live Oaks

There is plenty of architecture reflecting the wealth that still seems to shape the city’s aura.

Calhoun House
Calhoun House

DSC_0167

Palmettos
Palmettos line some streets.

Ornamental ironwork is plentiful.

Ornamental Ironwork

I have to mention that blooms could still be seen here and there. Lots of window boxes and other containers.

Window Box

Judy started to get weary taking pictures of every blooming flower we saw, so I took some of these with my cell phone.

Flowering Container

There were plenty of camelias.

Pink Camelia

Also lots of Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitorium), both in the city and growing wild in the countryside. The plentiful berries look good spilling over an old brick wall.

Yaupon Holly

Most Charleston gardens are enclosed, so it’s difficult to get a really good look. However, if you don’t mind sneak peeks you can get a few eyefulls.  Formal clipped boxwood seems to be pretty popular.

Formal Garden

We also visited the historic cemetery at the Charleston Unitarian Church, which is worth a visit. This is a cemetery that would be really good for a movie about ghosts. From the gravestones you can infer some sad tales about wives and children lost, as well as just how bad things must have been right around the end of the Civil War.

Charleston Unitarian Cemetary

There were also some roses and narcissus blooming.

Charleston Unitarian Cemetary

Now I know I said that I would talk about Savannah in this post, but Judy took upwards of 600 photographs on this trip and it’s just too difficult to winnow them down to the right number for just three posts. So to cover Savannah and a couple of other things, there will be one more post. Until then, cheers.

Strangers in a Strange Land

So there is more to holidays than food. We also had hikes to take, birds to watch, shells to collect.

As I mentioned before, we had rented a house on Edisto Island, near the town of Edisto Beach. The back of the house faced on to a tidal creek and salt marsh.

The dock on the tidal creek behind the house.
The dock on the tidal creek behind the house.

In the front, we had a vista of palmettos and dwarf palmettos, a dirt road, more salt marsh, the beach, and the Atlantic ocean.

DSC_0392

It was a very unfamiliar landscape, and waterscape (though spellcheck indicates this is not a word), for us Midwesterners. We had heard that this was a great area for bird watching, and we were not disappointed, though our time for bird photography was rather limited due to Short Ones restlessness.  (I should explain here that the title Short Ones is ironic. Short One the Elder is about 6′ 1″, Short One the Younger is 6′ 3″. I am 5′ 11″. So we spend a good deal of time accusing each other of being short. One of our favorite songs is Randy Newman’s Short People.)

We were especially interested in all the aquatic  birds that we had never seen before. We saw plenty of Great Egrets, just as Les at A Tidewater Gardener had assured us that we would.

DSC_0404

We also saw Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron

It was fun watching the Brown Pelicans diving for fish.

Brown Pelicans

Then there were the Sanderlings, little shorebirds that were very comical to watch. Over and over, they would chase the surf as it receded, then run away as it flowed back again, each time with a kind of manic energy, as if in a panic. There were many ibis, with their odd curved beaks, but we couldn’t get a good picture.

Sanderlings
Sanderlings

We were most excited to see a Kingfisher, a handsome fellow that we had not expected to come across. Sadly, we did not get a picture, so I’m cheating by borrowing one from Birdingisfun.com.

Kingfisher
Kingfisher.
Photo: Birdingisfun.com

In addition to the marshes and the beach, a great place to look for birds was the live oak behind our house, a very popular tree for winged creatures. We saw Northern Cardinals, many woodpeckers, and other birds I couldn’t identify.

Live Oak

We also went hiking at Edisto Beach State Park, which includes forests of live oak dripping with spanish moss. These don’t look like any woods back home.

Live Oaks, Edisto Beach State Park

Of course, we spent lots of time at the beach, though it was colder than normal and not exactly beach weather. Sadly, houses have been built all along the edge of the beach in town, which bodes ill for the future of both the beach and the houses. We spent most of our time walking at the beach closer to our rented house, which was about a mile away. There were no houses or other man-made structures, and often we were the only ones there.

Edisto Beach
The Short Ones and I walking on the beach. I am furthest left.

This area is one of the best in the world for collecting sea shells, and we especially liked the whelks and sand dollars. A couple of times Judy and Short One the Elder picked up whelk shells that were still inhabited, and these quickly though briefly became flying whelks.

Edisto Beach
Sea shells by the sea shore.
whelk
Whelk shell, still occupied.
Photo: Savebay.org

In addition to all of the above, we had a good deal of time for sitting on the dock and watching the sunset. Next post: Savannah and Charleston.

Edisto Beach sunset

Have Yourself Another Little Helping (of BBQ)

We’re back! As I wrote a couple days before Christmas, Judy and I and the Short Ones stayed at a cabin in South Carolina for a holiday vacation. I’m glad to say we had a fine time, but more important, I obtained enough pictures and material for two or three posts.

Let’s start with the thing that lies at the heart of the Holidays, after you strip away all the commercialism, the presents, and the parties. Namely: food.

Banana Cream Pie
Banana Cream Pie

We ate well. The cabin (more of a vacation house, actually) had a well-equipped kitchen, so we did a lot of our own cooking, including Christmas dinner. In deference to our vacation location, we came up with the following menu: roast pork, biscuits, sweet potatoes, collard greens with bacon and garlic, and banana cream pie. The Short Ones helped with the cooking, both boys being pretty decent cooks especially given age and gender. Short One the Elder is a deft hand at biscuits.

Here’s a link to the banana cream pie recipe we used. It was delicious, as was the rest of the meal.

A primary goal of our vacation was to eat some good BBQ. Not that we are deprived at home. We actually have the world’s finest BBQ here in Evanston, Illinois, at a place called Hecky’s. However, this is more the thick, sweet, tomato-based sort of BBQ.

In South Carolina, it’s different. They have vinegar-based sauces. They have mustard-based sauces. We tried as many as we could, and loved them all.

Po' Pigs Bo-B-Q
Po’ Pigs Bo-B-Q

In my opinion, the best we had was at Po’ Pigs Bo-B-Q. Po’ Pigs is in Edisto Beach, where we stayed. It’s located in a gas station that also has a Domino’s Pizza for people with styrofoam palates. Po’ Pigs is a cafeteria. You can help yourself to pulled pork and chicken, various vegetables (although in South Carolina, macaroni and cheese counts as a vegetable), then head to your table. The BBQ sauces are on the table, so you can try them all.

Judy and the Short Ones favored Angel’s, a place we found in an alley during a day trip to Savannah, Georgia. Angel’s had a sweet Memphis-style sauce, as well as hot mustard and vinegar sauces. A truly tiny place, we called to ask when they were closing (it was a Sunday). Answer: when they run out of BBQ.

I have to mention the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina, even though it wasn’t a BBQ place and wasn’t located in a gas station or an alley.  It’s just a relaxed, comfortable place that serves incredibly delicious food, including shrimp and grits and the best meatloaf I have ever eaten in my life.

Oh yes, we were near the ocean, and there was sea food. One night we went to a nearby place and got a platter of crabs and shrimp to go. The crab was good and fresh, but as Midwesterners we were inexperienced at extracting the meat. We all agreed that crab was something we could eat just once a year.

Happy Holidays to Everyone

The last few years our family has started a new way of observing the holidays. We pretty much do without presents, and take a trip together instead. This year we’ve rented a cabin in South Carolina on a tidal creek, just a couple of miles from the ocean. Our two sons, both in their mid-twenties, will be with Judy and I. We intend to spend our time cooking, reading, eating, and bird watching, along with a bit of sight seeing. We’ll be back in Chicago for New Year’s Eve.

I'm hoping to see egrets while in South Carolina.
I’m hoping to see egrets while in South Carolina.

Judy and I are planning to take lots of pictures, and I expect to have fodder for several posts. There’s a chance I will write one post while we’re down there. There’s no internet access in the cabin, but there is a nearby bookstore with free wifi. I make no promises, however.

In the meantime, best wishes to all!

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