Sunday, January 31, 2010

More snow...

So, what is there to say about more snow? Friday night and Saturday, over 8 inches of snow fell on our property. This morning, the thermometer read 9 degrees. That’s pretty chilly for a Southern California gal! The little birds didn’t mind tip-toeing in the snow and cold on my front steps, though.

The snow dusted the Johnnies on my porch.

I threw out extra bird seed for the birds and they came to my deck by the dozens and dozens! I love watching them. There were Titmice (is that the plural of Titmouse?), Chickadees, Juncos, Purple Finches, Gold Finches, a Towhee, a Bluebird, Cardinals, Sparrows and Blue Jays. Most of them behaved courteously, but the Blue Jays would scare everybody else away.

And sometime the Juncos didn’t want to share their space. But I think everyone got plenty to eat. The "snow cone" has yellow Johnnies and blue Muscari planted in it.

(How many birds can you count? Nope. No prize for the right answer.)

The snow sparkles so beautifully when the sun comes out. I actually captured the glints in this picture. In case you can’t tell, snow has been a rarity in my life.

These Johnnies are a little more exposed than the ones on my porch, but thankfully they weren’t completely buried so I can still enjoy them while I continue to wait for spring.

And wait. And wait. And wait.

Have a beautiful day!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A package...

Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. A weighty, crumpled box was handed to me, with a "Look out! It's heavy!" I, of course, quickly cut the straps and slit the layers of tape to find out what awaited me inside. Oh!!! It was the perfect thing for this week-end, since the weather forecast is calling for up to a foot of snow.

In my box was a whole stack of garden magazines! What more could you ask for on a cold, snowy winter day? Beautiful, beautiful pictures of brilliant, sunny, perfect gardens, inspiring me for my own garden, reminding me that, yes, one day, there will be green leaves and blooming flowers again.

All I have to do now is sit by the fire, sipping hot chocolate and slowly page through these gorgeous magazines. What? Oh, that’s right. Along with that stunning front porch that I don’t have, I also don’t have a fireplace. (What was I thinking when we bought this house???) Well, even though I don’t have a fireplace, and I don’t actually drink hot chocolate, I do have the lovely magazines that I will thoroughly enjoy.

In one of the magazines (I peeked already), I found this tidbit of information: “Women who were given flowers as part of a 2005 study by researchers at Rutgers University reported elevated moods for up to three days after receiving the bouquets. Those given fruit or candles reported no such change.” (Martha Stewart Living, March 2009, page 29)

So, thank you to that dear, special, wonderful person who sent me a bouquet of garden magazines in the middle of winter. You are a fine friend and a sweet sister.

Have a beautiful day!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My van...

A pick-up truck. That’s what I should have. A big, black serious pick-up truck. That’s what I always wanted as I was growing up and I still think it’s a good idea. But, I don’t have one, so I just make believe my van is a pick-up truck.

I permanently keep plastic in it for bringing home plants or potting soil or whatever other garden stuff I find. I have even hauled manure in it. I did put the manure in tubs before putting it in the back of the van, on plastic, but I lugged home manure in my van. See? I told you I need a pick-up truck. Just think how much more manure or compost or plants or whatever I could carry in a truck.

(O.K. So usually the potting soil is in the back.)

As a general rule, I don’t care for artificial flowers. They’re, well, artificial. But one of my exceptions is in my van. Each of these flowers has been homeless at some point. Poor, lost things, alone on the floor of different stores at different times. I rescued them and now they adorn the dashboard of my van. They're a little way of carrying a garden with me wherever I go.

Have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seed packets...

An apology is in order. Yesterday, in my P. S., I announced “the quick response gizmo thingy below” I added for my blog. Well, it is actually called “REACTIONS,” so if you weren’t able to find it, it wasn’t your fault. It is located just below the “Posted by Ruth” label, which is just below my post. One reader commented that there should also be, in addition to “amusing,” “helpful,” and “cute,” an option for “all of the above.” That is just sweet! I guess if you think, “all of the above,” you'll just have to put it in a comment.

Yesterday I was going through a pile of receipts from several months ago and I came across a folded paper towel. Now, lest you think I am totally crazy, let me explain. I have this handy-dandy outside zippered area on my purse into which I put my credit card receipts. And any notes I jot down. And business cards I acquire. And… You get the idea. So, obviously, I just stuck this folded paper towel in with all these other important papers and it got shifted to a different location with everything else. At first I thought I must have used it to wipe away tears at some point and I should just go ahead and put it into the trash pile. Then I started to slowly unfold it. Inside were seeds. Teeny tiny seeds. No, I don’t know what kind of seeds. I don’t even remember collecting them. But they are definitely seeds.

I have this thing about seeds. I love seeds. Seeds are amazing. They hold so much promise. Of beauty. And fragrance. Of food. Of garden dreams come true. And my garden dreams are so much bigger than my reality at the moment. You know that saying regarding, when you get too much food, your eyes being bigger than your stomach? I think there must be some correlation that would work somehow with seed packets. I seem to continually add to the ones I have from previous years. Not to mention the seeds I have saved from plants I have actually grown.

You’ve heard “whoever dies with the most toys, wins,” or something like that. Is there one about “whoever dies with the most seed packets, wins”? I think I could seriously be in the running for that one. Every year there are new seed packets in the stores and in the catalogs and online, with their glorious promises of amazing flowers and yummy vegetable and luscious herbs. And I succumb. The only thing is, although they sell thyme seeds, they don’t sell time seeds.

Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lacy globes...

O.K., so first I thought about telling you everything there is to know about these little guys: how to propagate them, how to grow them, how to use them in food. But then I realized that wouldn’t be a very clever thing to do, because, you see, I’ve only grown them once. They grew because they are good at growing and they were lucky enough to be stuck in REALLY good soil. I don’t really know anything about them and I have never cooked with them. So, that’s out.

Then I thought I would do a “Guess What This Is” contest. You could leave a comment about what you thought these were. And then you would win, what, an all expenses paid trip to….your own backyard? Recognition on my internationally known (not) blog? After thinking about that one, it didn’t seem too brilliant, either.

So, I will just tell you. I tried growing tomatillos last summer. And they grew very well, but it wasn’t my fault. They made very charming little yellow flowers and plenty of tomatillos. Well, I’ve never used tomatillos and even growing them didn’t get me started. Next summer? Yup. That’s what I’m thinking, too.

This is what is left of the plants and fruit. There are seeds inside these lacy globes. Maybe they will plant themselves for me. Or maybe I will try to collect the seeds and start them myself. Or maybe both.

(Look! An Agastache has survived winter! So far.)

Have a beautiful day!

P.S. I have added something new to my blog. I realize that often you are just dying to leave a comment for me, but simply don't have time. Now you can just use the quick response gizmo thingy below! The words I wanted to use were “entertaining,” “informative,” and “enjoyable,” but that was “something for which the apparatus doesn’t begin to allow.” In other words, they were too long for the space provided. But these words will work, too. Have fun!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Be tenacious...

Does a daffodil ever feel like giving up? Does it ever say to itself, “Is it worth the effort? Does anyone even see me? Does anyone care?”

Or what about the poor bulbs in this pile? They were planted in a container and took their time about growing. But the tree roots underneath the pot didn’t. They filled the container.

Then, one day, needing the pot, and thinking the bulbs hadn’t survived, I tipped out the soil filled with tree roots. The next spring, the bulbs came up and have ever since. Did they ever think they should quit?

Does this hyacinth complain about the soil being too shallow in its dish? And being crowded by tree roots? Does it care that it is covered with leaves?

What about these crocuses? Did they feel defeated at some point? The tree roots didn’t stop them. Nor the leaves. They broke holes in the leaves and came straight though them. They even defied the gardener who was too busy to put them in a proper bed. Being tenacious is a good thing; it brings flowers in the spring.

Have a beautiful day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

California Garden...

On Friday, I looked at a blog by someone who gardens in urban Los Angeles. Seeing a few of her pictures made me miss my California garden so much. For one thing, she has an orange tree. I had THE most wonderful lemon tree. It produced tons of huge lemons which made awesome lemonade. And another of her pictures was of her string of pearls plant with blooms on it. I, too, had a string of pearls that bloomed for me. I think I must have given it to a friend when I left. Maybe I will have to find another one to grow here.

Missing my garden as I was, I had to dig through boxes and boxes of photographs (got to get those put into albums) to find some pictures of my California garden. I found a few. Not the one in particular I was looking for, of course. But these were enough for today. The little date stamped on the back (way before I had a digital camera) is Aug. 1998, so I had done quite a bit more in my garden by the time we moved.

It was a little city lot, only we were in more like a town, if you can call any place in Southern California a town. My simple rail fence really made a difference. It defined the space and provided a very charming back-drop for my border. (My garden here in North Carolina seriously needs the addition of a fence.)

My little doll with her little doll adorned the front porch for this picture. This morning she pointed out that the flowers in her doll’s dress matched the ones she was standing next to on the porch. What more could you ask for? (See? Even that porch is larger than the one I have here in the South, where porches are supposedly de rigueur.)

Have a beautiful day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rooting Ageratum...

Somewhere I read about a woman who would over-winter ageratum and make cuttings to root for bedding plants the next spring. That sounded like a very cool idea, so I thought I would try it. Last fall, before things froze, I dug up some of my ageratum plants and plopped them into, because I was in a hurry, a large metal mixing bowl. It was very charming to have the blue flowers and bright green leaves in this bowl. One day I actually needed the bowl, so I transferred the six plants into two plastic jugs cut down with a drainage hole added. They have been living in these make-shift homes for several months now.

Today I felt the need to start the cuttings. And I did something I have never done before. I used a razor blade to make the cuttings, like I was supposed to. I have always before used scissors or my pruners, which aren’t overly sharp, to make cuttings. The idea behind using a new razor blade is that it slices without crushing cells. If the cells are crushed, it can lead to the plant rotting from the damage rather than having an opportunity to grow roots.

Some of the stems had started making tiny flower buds, so I had to trim them off, along with the extra leaves, so the cuttings would put their energy into producing roots rather than blooms.

As I cut them, I put the little guys into perlite and water. There are 50 in this tray, so if I have a fairly high success rate, I should be able to satisfy my desire, maybe, for plenty of ageratum bedding plants without having to buy them at the nursery, leaving funds for other new and different plants. Good plan, huh? I stuck straws cut in half in about every other cell and covered the whole thing with a couple of sheets of plastic wrap to make its own little greenhouse. Ageratum roots fairly easily, but I thought I would help it out all I could. And now, to wait for spring and all those delightful blue flowers.

Have a beautiful day!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


So, I was at a friend’s house this morning and a plant with variegated leaves caught my eye. I mentioned to Lori that I liked it and asked her if she knew what it was. She said that it had been part of a 4-H project (which she told me about – sounded very cool) but that she had no idea what it was. I then asked her if I could have a cutting of it. She found the scissors for me.

I told her I thought maybe it was related to Creeping Charlie. I had a Creeping Charlie (Plectranthus verticillatus) in California with smooth, plain green leaves that lived outside in a shady corner that I really enjoyed (the plant and the corner), but it looked very little like this aromatic, furry plant. When I got home, I looked it up in my Southern Living Garden Book, and, sure enough, I was right. It was indeed a Plectranthus. I believe it is Plectranthus amboinicus ‘Variegatus,’ also called Cuban Oregano or Spanish Thyme or Indian Mint. It has a rather pungent smell, kind of like oregano and thyme.

One the way home, I stopped to buy, among many other things, some potting soil and perlite. The cashier asked me what “pretty things” I was going to plant. I told her that I kept potting soil on hand, you know, like you keep salt on hand, but that the perlite was for rooting a cutting. (I think I actually still have some in the shed, come to think of it.) She told me, with a laugh, that she gets cuttings and sets them on her dryer without doing anything with them and they never make it. I have put my cutting in a jar filled with perlite and water and put the whole thing in its own little greenhouse made of a Ziplock bag. I know I should have trimmed off a couple more leaves, but I just couldn’t bear to. Oh, and it is sitting on my dyer.

Have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Letter to Tony...

Tony, your catalog is pure torture. How can you be so cruel as to dangle so many desirable, enticing, amazing plants in front of one person? What kind of madman are you?

Who wouldn’t want the pleasure of growing Climbing Ferns? Rain lilies? Ground Orchids? Voodoo lilies? And Crocosmia. And Pitcher Plants. And Agapanthus.

And Male Ferns (hmmm). And salvias. And dozens of different Hostas. And Fairy Wings. And… And… And… Yet to have them all is out of my reach. It is agony.

You were generous, though, to add the following advice in the “Guide to Using This Catalog Correctly:” “Before you begin, let us again warn you about the addictive nature of this catalog ... the owners or operators of Plant Delights Nursery have no responsibility for any loss of control, resulting in forfeiture of life savings, job, or family, which may result from viewing this catalog! If you need your catalog sent in a plain brown envelope to hide it from your therapist or spouse, we would be delighted to oblige.”

Nonetheless, I will say that the next time I visit Plant Delights Nursery, I will be bringing the obligatory box of chocolates so that I can continue to drool over your marvelous catalogs.

Have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


It is such a beautiful morning. The air is fresh and crisp; cool, but not cold. The weather is going to be so nice today. When I first went out this morning, the rising sun had turned the clouds amazing colors of deep rose and literal dusky purple. It was breath taking. It is the kind of morning that makes you feel on top of the world.

If I had my druthers today, I wouldn’t be doing laundry and cleaning the house and running errands and doing an insanely tedious job this afternoon. I wouldn’t be making dinner and vacuuming and answering demanding e-mails and sorting clutter.


Oh, no. Today I would live in my garden. I would pull up the dead, brown annuals from last fall and prune back some of the dead growth of my perennials in anticipation of their new spring growth. I would spread soil amendments. And fill the places the soil has sunk in my raised beds. I would plant out the Johnnies I still have in six-packs and the muscari on the ground under the oak. And the Tête-à-tête daffodils, who happen to already be looking happier that they are actually in soil.

I would wander around, looking for expanding leaf buds and green, spring things coming up out of the ground. I would think and plan and dream about what my garden will be like in spring and summer. I would pull weeds and rake leaves. I would check out the flower buds on my camellia and my daphnes and I would sit on my porch with my kitties, which would soon come to join me, and smile at my Johnnies.

Have a beautiful day!
P.S. In case you were wondering, none of these pictures were taken today. I have too much to do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tête-à-tête daffodils...

Sometimes I am not a very good plant mommy. O.K. Often I am not a very good plant mommy. Take, for example, the case of the Tête-à-tête daffodils. Several years ago, I saw them in bloom in a store and they were such cute little things that I had to bring them home. I figured they were a good investment because I knew they would return from year to year. I actually got them put in the ground and for a couple of years they bloomed.

Then last year, after they bloomed, I decided I was going to revamp a part of the garden bed they were in. So, I took them out along with a bunch of grape hyacinths, and lay them on the ground under the shade of the oak tree, planning to replant them once I had the other plants in place. Well…

When my sister came to visit, she asked me if they would be o.k. just left on the ground. I blithely informed her that they indeed would be o.k. there, but that I would shortly be replanting them. Ha!

Summer wore on. Fall came and covered them with leaves. Of course, the muscari just made themselves right at home. But the daffodils?

The other day, as I started to see other daffodil shoots poking up, I got curious about my poor Tête-à-tête daffodils. So I pulled back the leaves…. And what do you know! They sure are tough little guys.

I thought I should help them out a little by actually putting them in soil. I really am going to get them put back in their bed. Really. I am.

Oh, and yesterday, I saw some more Tête-à-tête daffodils in a pot in a shop. These weren’t blooming yet, but I know they will. And I know how charming they are, so, the story starts once again. (What? You wouldn’t risk putting a dirty plant on your tablecloth?)

Have a beautiful day!