Sunflower Acres is a revolutionary garden center and farm in the mid-Willamette Valley in Oregon.

December Spotlight

December Spotlight

December Spotlight

Fall has come and gone. Wintery shades of dark-green conifers and deep-brown twigs are everywhere. Winter doesn’t have to be just green and brown, though; you can add many other wonderful colors to your garden this time of year.

Top 5 Plant Picks
Farm To Table Recipes
December Container Combos

From brightly colored berries to fiery foliage, we’ve rounded up five plants that bring cheer to the landscape in December.

Callicarpa x boedneri ‘Profusion’

Callicarpa x boedneri ‘Profusion’

After the leaves are gone in the fall, most shrubs can be a but boring, not the case with this Callicarpa variety. Clusters of bright purple fruit appear in the late fall and last well into the winter, making it a real showstopper. Prune in late winter for bright orange new growth that gives way to pink flowers in the spring. ‘Profusion’ is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.

Nandina x domestica ‘Compacta’

Nandina x domestica ‘Compacta’
A dwarf nandina that displays all the holiday-season colors, highlighted with vibrant red foliage and berries. It has a compact habit that stays around 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, making it an excellent evergreen border plant choice.

 

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Silver Queen’

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Silver Queen’

The grey-green foliage and pyramid habit make for an interesting living Christmas tree to display before planting in the landscape. A great back drop or featured tree, it prefers full sun and will eventually reach up to 30 feet in height in twenty years. Very soft, textured foliage and improved disease resistance are bonus features.

Skimmia japonica (Female)

Skimmia japonica (Female)

Christmas colors are on full display this time of the year with dark-green foliage accented with bright red fruit. This slow-growing evergreen shrub does need a male pollinizer planted in the area to produce berries. Well-suited as a border or layering plant in the landscape, it likes partial shade exposure.

Rosmarinus varietals

Rosmarinus varietals

Rosemary is a plant of many uses, no matter which variety. Some can flower late into the fall, producing white, pink, or deep blue blooms, but our favorite feature of this drought-resistant genus is the wide range of culinary uses, boosting flavor profiles for everything, from soups to seasonings for meats and veggies. Also well-adapted for container uses.

Farm to Table Recipes

If your holidays are anything like ours are here at the farm, you are busy cooking and entertaining for days on end. This month we’ve pulled together two of our go-to recipes to help make things a bit easier — both in the kitchen and when you need a hearty meal to warm your guests inside and out.

Chicken Stock – for Soup or Meals

Stock, be it vegetable or chicken, is a must-have in our pantry. We use it in so many recipes throughout the week, whether as a base for soup or to deglaze a pan of vegetables. This recipe is easy to make and yields a good amount — perfect for using fresh and for storing or freezing.
Seeking a vegetarian option? Omit the chicken and add more hearty veggies.

Chicken Stock – for Soup or Meals

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 quarts of water
  • 1 whole chicken (roughly 3 lbs.), cleaned and inserts removed
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into quarters
  • 2 carrots peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable bouillon base
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. celery powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. whole peppercorns
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients except the bouillon base and bring to a soft boil for approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the chicken when fully cooked through. Skim pot to remove any excess fat that has boiled off. Stir in the bouillon base until dissolved and boil for 10 more minutes; add salt to taste. Pour through a sieve to collect veggies and bay leaves. Stock is now ready for fresh use, or to be refrigerated or frozen.
For fresh use: add veggies and shredded chicken for soup.
To store: refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze for up to six months.
Use or freeze chicken. Makes roughly 3-4 servings (32 oz. stock).

Hearty Beef Stew with Brussels & Beer

This time of year there is plenty of ham and turkey to go around at any feast you attend, so why not serve your guests, or family, a delicious hearty meal that will fill their hearts and tummies with warmth, and leave them asking you to make it more often than just around the holidays. We can’t get enough of this one — and the best part: the leftovers taste even better than the first night you cooked it, if you can believe that!

Hearty Beef Stew with Brussels & Beer

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat cut into bit-size pieces
  • 1-1/2 cup carrots peeled and cut into half-inch thick rounds
  • 1-1/2 cup chopped Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1-1/2 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 cup dark beer
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp. rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Season the stew meat with salt and pepper, and then lightly dredge in the flour. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the beef pieces. Once seared, set aside. Add beer to deglaze the pan and reduce by half. Pour remaining beer over reserved beef. Add remaining oil, then carrots, onions, celery, and garlic until slightly softened. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Pour in beef broth, and then add the reserved beef, beer, and bay leaves. Return to boil and then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes before adding potatoes, Brussel sprouts, thyme, and rosemary. Simmer for 20 minutes and then cover and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and simmer with the lid off on the stove until veggies are tender.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4-6.

 

December Container Combo

December Container Combo
Chances are you are about as cold as we are, given the way winter has started off here this season!
The garden is put to bed, and the soil is frozen in the outdoor containers—not so appealing to go out and plant! This month, instead of trying to dig in the dirt in our below-freezing temperatures, it’s time to turn up the heat inside and add a little color and warmth to the home.
(Picture with greens arrangement in vase)
This little combo is simple, sassy and brings the freshness of outdoors in for the holidays. We were inspired by this living-greens arrangement at a local restaurant in town and have been recreating renditions of it ever since.
Grab your favorite vase, some fresh-cut greens and twigs (from your garden or favorite garden center). Add a bow, and maybe something sparkly. Fill with water—and you have a colorful piece that will impress your guests this holiday season.
Pictured greens & twigs:

  • Curly willow branches
  • Hemlock branches
  • Western Red Cedar branches
  • Pine branches
  • Pine cones

Photos copyright by Crystal Cady. All rights reserved.

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Sunflower Acres Farm & Garden™

PO Box 5843
Salem, OR 97304
Phone: 503-967-5902

www.sunfloweracresfarm.com

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