Thursday, December 31, 2009


Ah, the lovely, lowly Philodendron. Why do I say lowly? It is a very common plant, but I don’t really consider it lowly. It is a wonderful plant because it is so undemanding. It doesn’t need much light, but it will also take a lot of light. (We’re talking indoor light here as it is almost always used as a houseplant.) It will suffer patiently if you forget to water it. It almost seems to like to get a little dry. It actually grows better root-bound. And, if you don’t keep it sodden, it is perfectly content in containers with no drain holes. What more could you ask for in a houseplant?

Did you know there is a flecked variety? Now, before you go rushing off to your local nursery, let me assure you, the flecked variety only shows up in ideal circumstances for it. Like in my bathroom, on the bathroom sink, where teeth get brushed. Light dawning yet? (Disclaimer: I am not the only one using that sink, so don't blame me.)

The vignette sits on my coffee table. I love it. The teapot was my very first piece of blue and white transfer ware. And I have always used it for a plant container. For years and years, in California, it was on my vanity table with a Pothos in it by a window. So beautiful! Here there is not really enough light in my bedroom on the vanity for a plant, so the tea pot, adorned with a philodendron, graces my coffee table.

Have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Naturalizing Bulbs...

The Altadena Library is located on a tree lined street and surrounded with naturalistic plantings, so it seems a fitting place to discover a delightful gardening book. That is where I found Rob Proctor’s "Naturalizing Bulbs."

First of all, I love the concept of naturalizing bulbs; tucking them in the ground and letting them live from year to year, multiplying themselves and spreading out, or some being transplanted to form new colonies. Then Rob Proctor’s writing style and book layout is enjoyable to read in addition to being packed full of information. This is not a cut and dried, “Just the facts, ma’am,” kinda book. It is conversational and friendly. You feel like you are sitting down to tea with a friend and chatting about bulbs. And the pictures are lovely.

The Altadena Library’s copy of "Naturalizing Bulbs" seemed to live at my house more than it did at the library, so I finally decided, to be fair to others who might want to naturalize bulbs, that I should get my own copy. I bought it used but I think it is funny that my own copy is a former library edition from some other county library. I can’t believe that no one in Heenepin County (where is that, anyway?) wanted to check out this beautiful book.

Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It is freezing outside. It is muddy. There is still some snow on the ground. All (well, lots, anyway) of the plants are dead. Did I mention that it is cold? This is so depressing. Everything looks so brown and so messy. And so sad.

I am aching to go out and clean up. To remove the lifeless stuff and plant little Johnnies. To make it clean and neat and cheerful again. Unfortunately, it is not a good idea to mess in clay when it is sopping wet. And the poor little violas, to be thrust from their cozy little six-packs into sloppy, chilly soil. I know they would endure it bravely, but I don’t want to put them through that.

I will just have to wait for another day. Not only for the plants’ and soil’s sake, but I have other responsibilities today, so the pleasures of the garden will have to wait for another time. Maybe in a few days things will have dried out a little more and I will be able go out and de-stress in my garden.

Have a beautiful day!

P.S. I have added a link in the Hoya carnosa post to the article about houseplants cleaning the air.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Planting Wintergreen...

What would you do if you had sweet, lively, energetic, helpful nephews staying with you? Put them to work? Of course! My Gaultheria procumbens ‘Red Baron,’ a.k.a. Creeping Wintergreen, needed to be potted up so I thought, hey, why not. Here are my eager helpers, ready to get under way. Well, except the snow needed to be trampled in first.

We finally got the pot ready (long story, not worth repeating) and found the freezing potting soil.

The shovel was used because both of them considered it undignified to get their hands dirty. Hhmmm. Maybe they need to come visit their Aunt Ruth and work in the garden more often. I admit I was merciful this time because the soil was very damp and the weather was chilly and windy. But, now, if it was summer…

A job finished and 2 exceedingly cold nephews, submitting to yet one more picture before retiring to the house to thaw out. Thanks for all your help, guys!

Have a beautiful day!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hoya carnosa...

This was another one of those plants that called to me, like a Siren luring me to danger. Earlier this year there were a couple of them on the plant display at the local grocery store and every time I went in there, I looked at them but I managed to resist and finally they were each sold, so mercifully I could do my grocery shopping a little more comfortably.

But then another one showed up a couple of months ago. And this one was in a smaller pot and therefore had a smaller price, making it even more difficult to just keep on walking. Not too long after that, I read an article about houseplants helping to clean the indoor air and what a benefit it is to have them (which I already knew.) But this time, the waxy leaved plant was mentioned and that was something new to me. Well, that did it. Had to have the Hoya. It now adorns my laundry room.

Just a couple of days after that Hoya came home with me, my sister and I were out shopping and I saw a Hoya with variegated leaves. Oooo! Variegated leaves! But I had just bought a Hoya and really didn’t think I could get away with getting another one. Ugh! The dilemma! Please myself or please the CFO. My sweet sister came to the rescue and made it a gift to me. Thank you! It usually keeps the other Hoya company in the laundry room, but for the week-end I put it in a pot on the table and it looks so beautiful that I wish there was enough light for it so it could just stay there always.

Have a beautiful day!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Earlier this week, my neighbor brought me a poinsettia. The timing was perfect, because once winter arrives, I crave red. The rest of the year, I don’t really care much for red flowers. Well, except for the ones for my hummingbirds. Yes, I know. The poinsettias don’t have red flowers; the red is actually the bracts and the flowers are inconspicuous and yellow. But that doesn’t matter. It is still red and adds additional warmth and cheer to my dining room.

Even when I lived in California, I wanted red in the winter. But here, it seems to be a necessity, not just a desire. It gives such a glow of warmth and comfort when everything is cold and grey. So, between my Johnnies, and bits of red here and there, maybe I’ll make it until spring.

I was a sucker. The plant had reddish leaves and red berries. It sat there and called to me. How could I ignore it? I didn’t know what it was, didn’t know its requirements, and didn’t know where I would plant it. But did that stop me? No. It had to come home with me. I decided it would look charming in a pot, which is a really good thing because, when I looked it up in my Southern Living Garden Book, I found that it cannot tolerate clay. Guess what my “soil” is. Clay. It will look so nice in the seating area under the laurel oak. What, you ask? Do I have a seating area? No. But someday I will. And my little Gaultheria procumbens ‘Red Baron’ will add nicely to the ambiance.

Have a beautiful day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Last evening, I received word that a friend of mine has died of a heart attack. Barbara was always so genuinely cheerful and smiling and friendly. She was such a beautiful person. And this was in spite of the fact that she was confined to a wheelchair (which her husband always pushed for her). She was an older lady and had health problems, but that was not what she focused on. She was out-going, responsive, and wanted to share with others. She was such a joy to be acquainted with and I will always remember her fondly.

Winter somehow seems to fit with death. The cold, the dreariness, the absence of so many alive, green things. It can be a long, lonely, empty time. But after winter comes spring.

Out of the dead of the cold, new growth and new life starts again. Renewal. Hope. There is a resurrection. And there will be for Barbara, too. I pray for her husband’s comfort, for the two were inseparable, and I look forward to seeing, once again, my friend Barbara.

Have a beautiful day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Receding snowline...

The snow has been stunningly beautiful. It makes everything so clean and bright and wonderful, with all the clutter and busy-ness hidden away underneath it. I must say, though, it does make things trickier. Like walking across the garden. And backing out of the driveway. But who am I to complain? What is a mere 6 inches?

But now it is slowly disappearing, revealing some of my plants. The little pockets that show up in the snow are charming, like geodes, a window showing a different place. My lamb's ear plant seems to be curled up beneath its blanket, just waiting.

It is good to see the color of my Johnnies and Purple Rain pansies again. Although, when all the whiteness is gone, then I will have to face the grey and dark of winter. Well, except for the Johnnies.

Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In the greenhouse...

As I started carrying plants into my wonderful greenhouse the other day, a thought hit me: I need a bigger greenhouse! Then I started looking at the plants I was putting inside. Almost all of them were plants that would be fine outside IF they were in the ground. Even if they were in their pots outside, they would probably make it through the winter here, but it will be a little easier on them in the greenhouse. So, if I had planted my perennials earlier in the year, I would now have more room in my greenhouse. Hhhmmmm.

Now, there are a few that do need to be in the greenhouse. Ones that need a zone 8 or a zone 9 or a zone 10 rather than a zone 7. Take, for example, J’s eucalyptus plant. In Southern California, no problem. Here, even to have it in the greenhouse is an experiment, because I am not sure my greenhouse will keep it warm enough. Then there is a salvia, whose species I can’t recall at the moment. (I know I have the plant tag somewhere.) It is said to be hardy to zone 8 and it will probably survive o.k. in my greenhouse. I sure hope so because I really like its grayish foliage and intense blue (I know, shock) flowers.

There also needs to be more water containers in my greenhouse. The water holds the sun’s energy to help the greenhouse stay a little warmer at night. I don’t have enough gallons so far for my greenhouse, but I am still working on it. Also, some of my containers haven’t yet been painted black, but I was kinda running out of time to get them into the greenhouse before it was getting too cold. Are you seeing a trend here?

Have a beautiful day!

Monday, December 21, 2009


O.K., so I was going to write about pagan things, like ancient ceremonies, the magic of evergreen plants to ward off evil, the lighting of fires to entice the sun to return, Newgrange and Stonehenge. (Wouldn’t Stonehenge make an amazing garden?)

(Photo taken by my dear brother)

But it wasn’t working right. I mean, after all, the winter solstice is simply the time when the earth has tilted at its furthest from the sun and seems to pause in its journey. Solstice literally means “stand still.” As the solstice passes, the days will get longer and the shadows will move back in the other direction.

I am a shadow watcher. All year long, I look at where the shadows are. For example, my front porch (if you can call it that) receives sun in the winter and the tipping of the earth will gradually move it back into the shade for summer. And the shadow of the house will recede away from the deck to leave it in the sun and then I will be able to fill my pots with flowers for the hummingbirds. So, to pass the time as the shadows shorten and the days lengthen, stay warm and enjoy your garden books!

Have a beautiful day!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I fell in love. It was instantaneous, deep, passionate and lasting. It was incredible. I saw my first snowflake. Yes, I have seen snow before – even when living in Southern California. I have seen snow falling, ridden through snow, played in the snow, gone skiing, etc., but I have never before seen an actual, true snowflake.

Friday and Saturday, seven inches of snow fell on our property, which is rare in this area. It was so beautiful to watch it drifting down and to see it accumulate. It piled itself on my flower pots and outlined the lacey designs on the trees and shrubs. It accented the bird tracks and kitty footprints. It showed off the birds looking for seeds in my garden.

But the most amazing thing was seeing a genuine snowflake. It was exquisite, this little bit of breathtaking ice that had tumbled through the atmosphere to steal my heart.

Have a beautiful day!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Woozy wheelbarrow...

Two or three years ago, a neighbor gave us this wheelbarrow. It has worked well for me, unlike two other wheelbarrows, which for quite some time have ceased to operate as designed. Anyhow, as I was moving this one the other day when I was cleaning up pots, I noticed how rusty it had become.

Now, it is not likely that I will get a new wheelbarrow any time soon. Period. So I figured that I should probably try preserving this one. There’s a “duh” for you. In preparation to paint it, I washed it with dish soap and water, scrubbed it with a wire brush, and rinsed it well.

I let it dry overnight and then I spray painted it (woozy, woozy, woozy) with Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer (“Stops Rust”). O.K., O.K. So the can says the temperature should be between 50 and 90 degrees and it was only 48 degrees. The humidity was really low and that counts for something, right?

Again, I let it dry overnight, and then applied the top coat of Rust-Oleum Gloss Protective Enamel (“Stops Rust”). What? You are surprised that I painted it blue? Well, sometimes I just go and do something really shocking. Oh, well! Hopefully my wheelbarrow will now last for a few more years.

Have a beautiful day!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


One of the things I enjoy about plants is the different ways in which they multiply. I love it when they reseed! (Except, of course, when it is the weeds that are reseeding!) It is so exciting to find a little plantlet, like this coral bells (Heuchera) that has reseeded itself in a container near the original plant.

I am careful when I am weeding, always looking to see what else may have reseeded itself. Maybe I will have to move the seedling to a different location, but I always try to keep the plants that have volunteered themselves. Free plants! Can't beat that! In this pot full of weeds, there is a little Johnnie seedling, waiting to be transplanted.

You never know where a seedling will appear. And often they show up in the most charming places. The columbine (Aquilegia) plant my mom gave me several years ago (I tried so hard to kill that plant, but that is another story) has reseeded itself and should bloom this spring.

Have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Earlier this year, much earlier this year, I grew coleus from seed. I hadn’t done that before and I thought it would be fun to try. Now, if I had planted just one seed, it wouldn’t have sprouted, so I planted the WHOLE seed pack. Do you know how small a coleus seed is? Do you know how many coleus seeds are in a seed pack? Well, let me tell you…

Anyhow, of course the seedlings were way too cute to thin out. I transplanted quite a few of them to make a couple of terrariums for a centerpiece and that was interesting for awhile.

Eventually, they all got put outside in one way or another. Some went into the pots on the front porch (if you can call it a porch), others went into a pot on the deck, some went into K’s shady garden and many of the green and white ones went into J’s white garden. And a number just got left in six packs.

Most of the plants were just typical shade coleus (I’m not a big fan of the sun coleus; somehow it just doesn’t seem right to grow coleus in the sun). But there was one plant that had the most gorgeous markings. It was the only one like it out of all the coleus seedlings and I didn’t want to loose it. I took cuttings of it before it frosted and now it is growing on my kitchen window sill. I hope to keep propagating it through the winter and grow enough of it to make a semi-mass planting of it. In the mean time, isn’t it beautiful in my kitchen?

Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


As fall darkens into winter, the bleakness increases, drawing me down. It is easy to think that months must pass before there are any signs of life and newness reappearing in my garden. But I have noticed, if I look carefully, I find niches of hope for the coming warmth. Even as the leaves of a hydrangea are falling, the beginnings of young ones are emerging.

New leaves of Iris pallida are forming.

Hidden bulbs are starting to show, telling me to hang in there, that spring will come.

The tendrils of sweet peas show the promises of a much larger vine and of the fragrance of the blooms to come in spring, while the little Johnnies will bolster me through the coming winter.

Have a beautiful day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A thank you...

My sister-in-law arrived for Thanksgiving with a thank-you card for me featuring a photo of a beautiful African violet plant. I thought, now that was just sweet, especially since she had written that the violet plant reminded them of me.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I walked into my bedroom a little while later to find THE plant sitting on my bedroom floor! Of course, I instantly forgot why I had gone into the room and had to carry the African violet (Saintpaulia) back out to thank her and to show it to everyone else.

Can I actually give it what it needs? You know, plenty of light, enough humidity, the right room temperature, no drafts, keep it evenly moist, watering from the bottom, making sure the leaves don't get wet, and making sure the water is not too cold, give is the right amount of fertilizer at the right time, repotting it every six months. Uhmmm, I think that's all. I'll do my best because it sure is a charming plant and I would like to keep it around for a long time! Thank you, M!

Oh, and Luca thinks that having his chin rubbed is MUCH more important than photographing an African violet!

Have a beautiful day!