Thursday, May 31, 2012

Looking Back at May

The idiom 'April showers bring May flowers' certainly did come into play this past month here in the Delaware valley.  We were graced with some pretty spectacular blooms throughout the month, but it seems as if those April showers stuck around for a good part of it.  My only regret was not photographing those gorgeous azaleas I so wanted to capture for you.  Every time I wanted to photograph the flowers, it would be too dark & cloudy or it would be raining with no end in sight.  By the time we actually had some sunny days, the flowers were spent and no longer in their prime.  I, of course, was not happy.  There's always next year, right?  I know, I keep telling myself that.

Let's look back at May here on the blog because there was a lot I covered.  Rather than having a long introduction, let's jump right into it so that I can discuss a bit about each post.

Do you realize that there was a time in which I didn't care for peanut butter cookies?  It was around my college years when I gave up on them, but if you must know, I haven't the faintest idea as to why.  It just happened.  Lucky for me, I came across a good recipe one day and made a batch of these cookies, falling in love with them all over again.  Ever since then I've been making peanut butter cookies several times a year for my cookie jar and to share with friends and family.  No one has complained about them yet!

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich cookie is a must if you've never had one!  I got some nice emails and notes from people who made these cookies for their families.  Thank you for trying them and I'm glad you had success with the recipe!

I love these cookie cutters!  They have allowed me to make some wonderful cookies over the years and I couldn't be happier with them.  The summertime images are timeless, classic and quite beautiful.  It's up to you, the baker, to decorate and make one-of-a-kind cookies using these.  They are quite spectacular for a garden party, a child's birthday party or for that special someone who happens to like sunflowers and butterflies.  I'm glad this was a very popular post with some of you. 

Cities of the Week

I'm not providing a link to this because it speaks for itself.  Ever since I added a tracker on my blog, I've been absolutely fascinated with the number of readers and where they come from.  Originally I was only going to list 3 cities per week, but with the constant influx of readers from all over the world, I thought it would be nice to acknowledge more of you more often.  I currently have one dozen cities listed.  That will change on a weekly basis, so keep an eye out for your city!  

This is such an easy thing to make and an essential item to have on hand during the summer when we're all busy making ice cold drinks.  Adding regular granulated sugar to iced tea or lemonade is not the best way to sweeten that type of drink.  A few splashes of simple syrup is the easiest and quickest way to do so; you can even make your own sodas using this.  All you need is sugar, water and a pot.  Voila!  You can tailor the flavor of the syrup with fresh herbs, citrus peels or even certain spices (think cinnamon sticks or star anise).  Keep a jar of simple syrup in the refrigerator to enjoy your favorite cold beverage this summer.  You'll be glad you did!  

Can you imagine a summer without some lemonade?  I certainly can't.  It's one of those drinks steeped in tradition, whether we had some from a lemonade stand as a kid or from having some at the numerous cookouts & barbecues.  I love making a carafe of lemonade whenever I get the craving for a glass of it.  For me it's easy because I always have lemons on hand.  Although I've had lemonade made from powders (gasp!), concentrates and even the premade type found in gallon containers from the supermarket, nothing beats the flavor of freshly squeezed.  Treat yourself to some soon.  Lemonade is refreshing!

A pink lemonade is always welcomed on a hot day!

One word: delicious!  Again, very easy to make and enjoy when the weather gets warm, hibiscus iced tea is inimitable.  Whenever I take my trips out to California I scour the markets for bags of these dried flowers, because they're a bit difficult to come by in my area.  I decant the dried buds into a large apothecary jar and use them up as soon as I get a hankering for some of this invigorating drink.  Picking some fresh mint from the herb garden is a good way to embellish and enhance my glass.  This good thing is a must for all of you!  Make some this summer and enjoy it!

A flowering hibiscus plant is always nice to have around one's home.  Look for these at the nursery now and buy one.

I'm glad I was finally able to write about one of my favorite stores.  At one point I was shopping there so often that I became acquainted with the associates on a first name basis.  They used to scramble and clear away whenever they'd see me enter, because they knew that I preferred to be left to my shopping.  The Mauviel Copper is something I yearn for.  It's such expensive cookware and I know I'll probably never own any, but it's nice to dream! 

Among the best blooms of the season, rhododendrons are quite a sight to behold.  I love the various shades they come in because they are gorgeous.  Looking into these species rhododendrons up close is fun.  Their delicate petals and unique markings greatly enhance any landscape.  Go back to this story and have a look at what our neighborhood looked like a few weeks ago.  Nature is beautiful!

Champagne mangoes are my favorite variety of this scrumptious fruit.  When they go on sale at my local supermarket, I buy several to keep in the refrigerator.  Having some in the afternoon is always a good way to incorporate fruit and fiber into my diet.  I feel like I'm having dessert while doing my body some good.  The larger mangoes are good too, but it's the smaller ones that I look for.  If you must know, my cat Lion goes crazy whenever I cut up a mango.  I don't know what it is about it or him, but it's amazing to see the paw swiping & scratching just so that he can get a taste.  No joke.   

I was enjoying a millet muffin this morning with a cup of coffee.  These muffins always make me happy because they taste as good as they look.  The crunchy millet is delicious when toasted and the muffin batter itself is light and tender; a perfect muffin!  At home I always freeze a batch of these.  Pulling one out of the freezer and reheating it is a cinch to do in the wee hours of the morning.  Millet is readily available at the markets these days so look for it the next time you're shopping.  Keep your millet in the freezer so that it doesn't go rancid. 

Martha Stewart Living Television

I finally compiled some of my favorite television segments from the former Martha Stewart Living Television show.  I have the DVDs that were issued several years ago and I love going back to them every now and then, but personally, I would like to see more of these video clips released for us to enjoy so that we can revisit and relearn the basics from Martha.   You know, it's all in the details.  It's through this show that I became aware of Martha by Mail.  The various products that graced the sets of that studio were beautiful to see and I quickly became a collector as a result.  My passion for jadeite and yellowware originated from seeing select pieces used on the show; I've tried to do the same at my home.  Although some of things I've collected are considered collector's items, I make sure I use what I have and not let them collect dust.

I will keep a vigilant eye on YouTube for these videos and will add more as I come across them.  If you see any I haven't posted, bring them to my attention.  I hope you enjoy the videos just as much as I do. 

Oh my gosh, these are totally delish!  I made some this weekend and have yet to enjoy them.  They're sitting in my freezer awaiting my insatiable appetite soon.  Premade plain, without sprinkles, the chipwiches can keep for about a week or so if they're individually wrapped well.  Any embellishments can be added at the last minute.  You know, I think the cookies soften a bit if made ahead of time.  Either way, enjoy a fabulous chipwich the next time you want a special treat at your barbecue.  Everyone is going to want one.

I'm glad I reposted this blog entry, because I think it's important for all of us to be aware on how to use a basic fire extinguisher.  No one's life should ever be compromised.  Go through the post and acquaint yourself with the basics.

I hope everyone had a wonderful May.  Let's see what June has in store for us! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fire Safety Basics

I thought it would be appropriate to repost this blog entry from last year since I'm currently having my fire extinguishers serviced.  Take a moment to review the basics because they're pertinent for everyone and they just might save a life in the future.

Are you and your family prepared in case there is a fire in your home?  Have you checked to see if your smoke alarms are working properly & do you have them on every floor if you have more than one story?  What about fire extinguishers: do you have any & have you checked to see if they're properly charged?  What's more, does your household have a fire escape plan in case there is a mishap?  These are all questions you should be able to answer immediately without hesitation.  Fire safety is something everyone needs to consider.

A recent incident at my home prompted me to remind all of you about the importance of fire safety.  As a result of some carelessness on my part, a small amount of oil began burning on the floor of my oven as I was roasting something.  Smoke billowed from every nook in our range, but luckily nothing serious became of it.  After getting over the embarrassment & anger at myself, I thought of the lessons to be learned from this.  Had we stepped out of the house, would the fire alarms have sounded? In our case, yes.  If a fire had ensued outside of the range, would we have been prepared to deal with it?  Again, we would have.  

Fires within the home can come from a number of sources.  From dryers that aren't properly cleaned, to grease fires in the kitchen, or heating & electrical systems that fail; home fires can go from something minor to something catastrophic in a matter of minutes.  Smoke alarms are your first line of defense against potential fires.  Newer homes have hardwired systems that are always on (batteries are inserted to provide backup power in case of a blackout) and if you have a home alarm system, that too will be hardwired to alert the alarm company of any potential problems.  If you only have battery operated ones, check them monthly & replace the batteries twice a year (any "chirping" coming from a smoke alarm means that your battery power is running low).  A good way to remember this is by replacing the batteries whenever we go from daylight savings time to standard & vice versa.  Your fire extinguishers also need to be monitored & properly pressurized at all times.  This is what we do at my house.  

Fire Extinguishers
A properly charged fire extinguisher should have its gauge in the green zone.  If it falls below, it must be recharged.

We have a fire extinguisher company that services these devices once a year.  Check your local yellow pages.  You can also inquire from your fire department whether or not they can provide this service.  The tags with the marked dates are always left on as reminders.

NOTE: After speaking with the company we employ, they informed me that many fire departments will no longer provide servicing fire extinguishers because of liability issues.  They also stated that if a fire department does offer to check & service them, be aware that more than likely they will outsource this service with a private company and charge you accordingly.

Instructions on how to use this device.  With so many types of extinguishers on the market to choose from, it's good to know what they are.
  • Class A: used for regular combustible materials such as paper, wood, plastic & cardboard. 
  • Class B: used for combustible & flammable liquids such as oils, grease, kerosene & gasoline. 
  • Class C: used for electrical equipment such as appliances, outlets, circuit breakers & wiring.  NEVER use water to put these types of fires out. 
  • Class D: used for chemical laboratories with combustible materials such as potassium, sodium, magnesium & titanium.
  • Class K: used for oils & fats found in commercial kitchens.
 An ABC class rating is good for the home.  We have one in our basement, one in the back hall of the first floor, one in our kitchen, one in the upstairs hallway, one in our master bedroom closet (pictured above) and one in the attic.  Give your extinguishers a good shake once a month to keep them from solidifying.

Extinguisher Use Reminder: P.A.S.S.
  • Pull the pin
  • Aim at the base of the flames
  • Squeeze the trigger
  • Sweep back and forth.
Smoke Alarms
These are hardwired to our alarm system.  The one above is in the center hall which abuts the living room, dining room & kitchen.

A view from the mudroom in the back hall shows you another smoke alarm.  My washer & dryer are located in the mudroom area; I highly recommend having one near these types of appliances. 

From the mudroom I have access to the upstairs and the basement through these doors.  There is an alarm in the basement which houses the heating unit & water heater. 

The upstairs hallway also has two alarms.  One is near the front bedrooms & the other is by the rear bedrooms and annex. 

Note:  It's a good idea to dust the smoke alarms on a weekly basis.  Dust or cobwebs can give a false reading and set off the alarm, so be diligent about this.
Further Suggestions: you don't want to throw water on a fire in the kitchen, especially a grease fire-- it can actually make it explode into something bigger.  Have some baking soda on hand to smother it with.
Take a class in fire safety and emergency preparedness if possible. 
Once a fire extinguisher has been used, even if you're only spraying a small fire with a quick burst, you must have the extinguisher reserviced & recharged.  DO NOT think you can reuse that extinguisher without having it recharged.  The unit will not work properly!
I hope I've motivated you to check your homes for adequate fire safety.  One shouldn't think of these things as extras or unimportant items, but rather as basic necessities for your home, your family & pets.  Everyone should also have a fire escape & safety plan in case anything does happen.  If you're having weekend guests or are perhaps thinking of having someone housesit for you, make sure you leave these instructions, along with contact phone numbers.  From my home to yours, I want everyone to have a comfortable and safe dwelling year round.   

Friday, May 25, 2012


Chipwiches are just the thing to serve for dessert when you're having a barbecue on any given summertime weekend.  Such a simple thing to make for the busy host, all one needs to assemble these treats is a batch of the best chocolate chip cookies and some of your favorite vanilla ice cream.   You can certainly try different ice creams like chocolate, mint-chocolate chip, cherry, soy, yogurt or any of the varieties your family & friends like.  What I would suggest is baking some chocolate chip cookies the day before your barbecue (they have to be homemade!) and then simply putting the sandwiches together the morning of your feast.  Leave a tray of them in the freezer and watch as they disappear the moment you serve them.  Take a peek at how quickly these can be put together.

The Ultimate Chipwich

This is all you need to make the most delectable chipwiches.  Of the utmost importance is using high quality ice cream and having a batch of my Best Chocolate Chip Cookies at the ready.  Flip one of the cookies upside down and place a generous scoop of ice cream in the center of it (I love vanilla!).  Top with another cookie and press down until the ice cream reaches the edges.  Immediately place it on a rimmed cookie sheet and pop it in the freezer.  Make as many chipwiches as you wish, but make sure you freeze them until completely set before serving them.  This should take about one hour.

Note: these can be assembled several hours ahead of time or the day before.  Cover the cookie sheet well with a double layer of plastic wrap to prevent any freezer burn. 

You can serve them plain (first picture) or you can enhance them with sprinkles, non-pareils or even mini chocolate chips.  Remove the chipwiches from the freezer and quickly roll the edges in your preferred 'sprinkle'.  Serve immediately! 

Deliciously enhanced!

Well, there you have it.  Chipwiches that are loved by kids of all ages are quick to make, delicious to eat and the perfect thing to serve to a crowd of hungry guests at your next get together.  To my mind, these are best served the day they're assembled, but they can be made a day ahead of time as long as they're well wrapped in the freezer.  My chocolate chip cookies are the easiest thing in the world to make, so do make lots.  Aren't you tempted to enjoy a chipwich this weekend?  Have fun making them!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Martha Stewart Living Television ~ Desserts

I don't know if you're like me, but I love the old television segments from Martha Stewart Living Television that were taped at the Westport, Connecticut studios many years ago.  I learned so much from them in terms of cooking, baking, crafting, collecting, homekeeping and design.  From the Martha Stewart Channel on youtube, I've compiled several videos that cover sweets things.  Go through your favorites and revisit the former studios and wonderful lessons, along with some great recipes from Martha.  Enjoy!
Oat Scones with Dried Sour Cherries

Turkey Cupcakes
Congo Bars
Blueberry Pie
 Pecan Pie (with big Martha!)
Alexis' Sweet Potato Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Buttermilk Biscuits
Cranberry Butter

Martha Stewart Living Television ~ Main Courses & Sides

Martha is due to return to television this fall with a new show on PBS called, Martha Stewart's Cooking School.  The half hour lessons on how to cook the basics will once again be a part of our must-see weekend programming, and I for one, can't wait.  The format of the new show promises to be scripted, edited & polished much like the original T.V. shows, From Martha's Kitchen and Martha Stewart Living.

I decided to compile clips of the former show on one page for you to enjoy.  The classic segments below, from Martha Stewart Living Television, bring us main courses and sides that have become favorites.  What I love about going back to these clips is that so much of the content is evergreen and wonderfully produced; one can still learn so much from them.  I'm hoping that in the near future the vast archives of Martha Stewart Living Television become available to everyone who wants access them.  In the meantime, let's enjoy the segments we do have access to!  

Corn Zucchini Quesadillas
Healthy Lunches & Snacks
Healthy Chicken Tacos
Bearnaise with Jacques P├ępin & Julia Child
Macaroni & Cheese 101
Burger Four Ways
Eggs with Madeleine Kamman (Part I)
Eggs with Madeleine Kamman (Part II)
Eggs with Madeleine Kamman (Part III)
Eggs Benedict
Easter Pie with John Barricelli
Greek Easter Treats with Diane Kochilas
Red Snapper with Chef Simpson Wong
Special Barbecue Sauce
BBQ Ribs
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts

Parker House Rolls
Cornbread Stuffing
Stuffing 101 (Turkey Hill Road Kitchen)
Conan O'Brien touring the
Westport Television Studios:
This comedic segment gives one a sneak
peek at what the former studios were like.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Millet Muffins

Millet muffins are delicious to have for breakfast with a cup of coffee or in the afternoon with a pot of tea.  This ancient grain which has been around for thousands of years brings a nutty flavor & a pleasant crunch to a muffin batter made with brown sugar, a small amount of butter, good quality flour and the freshest of eggs.  A muffin with a light crumb, delicate texture and a perfectly domed top is what this recipe is all about.  Using the easy muffin method to mix the batter allows one to whip up a batch of these treats in a matter of minutes.  This technique requires nothing more than adding dry ingredients to one bowl and mixing in the wet ingredients until incorporated.  There is no need for creaming butter & sugar in a mixer and having a dozen bowls for this recipe. 

I do find that toasting the millet in a dry pan brings out the essence of the grain, so it's a step I highly recommend you not omit.  Adding a bit of low fat sour cream not only enhances the flavor of the muffin, it makes for a moist breakfast treat that is light and delicate, not at all the heavy, sugary things that try to pass for muffins these days at the supermarket.

Let's start baking!

A split millet muffin is perfect for breakfast.

The Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup millet
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup lowfat sour cream, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yield: 12 standard muffins

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or butter and flour the wells completely and set the pan aside.

Preheat the oven to 400° F

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat until very hot before adding the millet.  Toast the grain for about 4 minutes, tossing the entire time, or until it begins to turn a golden color and takes on a nutty aroma.  Don't let the millet burn.  When done, let the millet cool completely in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt (I always sift my leavening agents because they tend to clump).  Whisk to combine evenly.

Add the toasted millet and whisk to combine.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients by pushing them to the outer edges of the bowl.

Add the eggs, sour cream, melted butter, oil, brown sugar & vanilla into the well.  Using a rubber spatula, break up the brown sugar and begin incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet.  Use as few strokes as possible when doing this and try to mix everything quickly.  You don't want to see any dry flour in the mix.

Note: Overmixing the batter will activate too much gluten and will result in a tough, heavy muffin.

The batter will be quite thick when done.  This is what you want to see.

Quickly divide the batter between the prepared muffin pan and promptly pop it into the preheated oven.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes
The tops should be golden brown and feel springy when lightly touched.  Don't overbake them or they will be dry. 

Straight out of the oven, the muffins will be beautifully domed.  Let them sit in the tins for about one minute before removing them from the pan.

As soon as they're cool enough to handle, enjoy one with your favorite coffee or tea.  Delicious!

To enjoy a good muffin within the hour doesn't mean one has to step out of the house and visit a nearby bakery or supermarket.  With only a handful of ingredients and a single bowl, anyone can whip up a batch of millet muffins on the weekend and fill the kitchen with a most enticing aroma.  Although I highly recommend eating the treats the day they're baked, these tasty muffins will keep an extra day if stored in an airtight container.  If you wish, the baked muffins can easily be frozen and stored in zip top freezer bags; simply thaw the muffins on the countertop (they thaw within an hour) or in a toaster oven for 5-10 minutes if you can't wait that long.  I do hope you treat yourself to my millet muffins because they're tasty any time of day with or without coffee.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Enjoying a Mango

How does one describe the virtues of a mango?  Silky smooth in texture, exotically citrusy & floral in scent, and sweet with just a hint of sour in the background is how I would attempt to do so.  Plentiful and ripe at the moment, these tropical fruits come in several varieties.  It seems that mangoes are available year round, but not all types are in season every month of the year.  Grown in several parts of the world, the ones we consume the most here in the United States come from the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America.  It's fun to try different types whenever they're available at the markets, because each one has just a slightly different flavor and texture. 

Although I will eat just about any mango, I do seem to be partial to champagne mangoes (Ataulfo) which come from Mexico; they are the smallest of all mangoes.  Every mango has a large seed at its core, but the champagne ones have the smallest, giving one more fruit to enjoy.  Mangoes can be bought unripe at the supermarket and then ripened at home.  They can be left out on the counter until they give to pressure when gently squeezed.  However, if you want to enjoy a mango that very same day, make sure it's ripe.  My favorite way of eating a mango is having it sliced as thinly as possible and straight from the refrigerator; it has to be cold for me.  This is especially welcomed after a spicy meal of curry, a hot dish of Mexican or some ultra zippy meal from the Caribbean.  One mango can usually placate two people, but if you must know, I've been known to eat an entire one myself!

In terms of peeling and cutting them, there are several methods out there and if you have a particular favorite, stick with it.  My own method requires nothing more than a sharp knife and a steady hand.  Let me show you what I do in my kitchen.

This champagne mango is ripe and ready to be eaten.  It's glistening because I just removed it from the refrigerator.

With the point of a sharp knife, cut long vertical slits down the length of the mango in an X pattern.

 The peel will come off in 4 quadrants.

Beginning from the top of the mango, pull down the peels until you almost reach the bottom. 

Holding the peel ends together, slice off each 'cheek' until you have removed them in one big piece.

My personal taste is to have each of these halves sliced as thinly as possible.  Cut the remaining flesh of the mango off the pit.

When all is said and done, your mango pit should look like this.  No flesh left whatsoever.

Arrange the mango on a plate and enjoy!

Are you craving a mango yet?  I certainly hope so because these fruits are loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A and fiber.  According to, one cup of cut up mango contains only 100 calories, so this is dessert without the guilt.  The next time you're at the supermarket and notice the bins full of mangoes, buy a few to enjoy at home.  Once ripe, the mangoes can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week before being sliced up.  A sliced up mango will keep chilled in the refrigerator, well covered, for up to one day without any problems.  Delight in a mango soon!        

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Rhododendrons are marvelous shrubs to have on a property because they are dramatic, showy plants that add texture.  Their round clusters of flowers really enhance the landscape with a bit of flair and a lot of color beginning in early May; bloom times will vary depending on the type of rhododendron.  Ranging in size from a compact 3 feet (such as Rhododendron degronianum) to a gigantic 18 feet (Rhododendron maximum), any one of the Rhododendron cultivars can be planted in a zone appropriate area, if one does some planning and takes certain things into consideration.  As for color, there is a wide spectrum from which to choose.  From pale creams & whites, to shades of pink, mauve, magenta and even purples can be had for the home.   

Most rhododendrons do well in light to partial shade and many prefer a northeastern exposure.  During the summer months, these shrubs should have shade during the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest.  Considerations for winter include protection from morning sun and blustery, cold wind.  Depending on the type of rhododendron (some are evergreen and some are deciduous), location and soil are key.  Rhododendrons are small when bought from a nursery, but they will grow an average of 4 to 6 inches annually.  Their growth pattern is both horizontal and vertical, so remember to give them plenty of space in which to grow.  The optimum soil for most of these shrubs should have a pH between 4.5-5.5 and should be well-draining.  Under no circumstances should rhododendrons be planted at the base of trees with shallow root systems, such as beeches, where they will compete for vital nutrients.  The root systems of these plants are shallow and quite fibrous, so it is highly recommended to mulch at the base of the plants and never to cultivate the surrounding soil.  Rhododendrons are best planted in very early spring before any growth occurs or in late summer after growth has ceased; planting, however, should be done before any cold weather commences.  

With this in mind, rhododendrons can still be planted even where optimal conditions don't exist.  Where soil does not drain well, consider planting on raised beds.  I've read that in England this is done with excellent results for gardens throughout the country.  At Brodick Castle Garden, in Scotland, on the Isle of Arran, the internationally acclaimed collection of rhododendrons are in full splendor during the spring.  If you happen to live there or are planning a trip in the future, it comes highly recommended.     

Around where I live, many properties have beautiful rhododendrons planted in various ways.  I love seeing them grouped together in one big mass along the border of homes, because they act as screens.  Let's take a closer look at Rhododendrons. 

At the edge of this property, where there is optimal partial shade, a wall of rhododendrons affords privacy and gorgeous beauty during the spring.

The throats of these clusters are a creamy white, yet the edges of the trumpets take on a pale pink shade that is utterly stunning.

A young rhododendron with lilac-colored clusters certainly brings a good amount of color to this yard.

A breathtaking, mature rhododendron is in full display.  As you can see, the lilac-colored flowers burst like pom poms all around the shrub.  This one has been nicely shaped.

At the edge of this property, which sits on a corner lot, the owners have managed to group several rhododendrons.  Notice that the house is completely sheltered from view.   

Do you know that the genus Rhododendron encompasses both rhododendron & azalea species in the botanical sense?  Azalea flowers usually have around 5 stamens, whereas rhododendron flowers have at least 10 or more.  This closeup photo clearly shows that.  Don't you just love this shade?   

A view from below to above (di sotto in su ), this beautiful rhododendron has no equal.

A closeup of the capsule shows the sepals just beginning to open up.  The dark red petals are emerging from this mid-May bloomer (considered early to mid season), which is planted near the eastern side of a colonial home.

This capsule is a bit further along in its blooming process.

As the sepals open up, the closed buds shoot upward and outward. 
Some flowers will open up before others. 

As soon as every flower has opened up, their unparalleled beauty is a sight to behold.  This is a very bold shade of pink.

Species rhododendrons are the most common available to the home gardener.  Their bloom time can range from early May through early July.  If you happen to live anywhere in zones 4-8, a series of them can be planted in order to enjoy successive bloom times.  Ironclad hybrid rhododendrons do well in zones 4-7 and are capable of withstanding harsh winter temperatures and windy conditions.  Dexter hybrids are a specialized group originating in Cape Cod that do well on the east coast in zones 6-8.  There are also Leach hybrids, Yakushimanum hybrids, small leaf rhododendrons and even those suitable for the mild climates of the Pacific Northwest.  Visit a nursery near you and inquire about these beautiful shrubs.  If you have the space and live in an appropriate zone for these plants, consider having one or two or more them.  Their blooms are certainly among my favorites.