Ruthless

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I do believe I am becoming a wee bit ruthless as I grow older and more crotchety. This winter, I tossed a couple of underperforming orchids and a grapefruit that I had started from seed because it had scale and I couldn’t get rid of it. I felt no remorse, only relief. What’s happening to me?????

A couple of years ago, I planted two Buddleia “Blue Chip” because they were supposed to stay relatively small. They didn’t really, but the pollinators and I enjoyed them anyway. I planted one in each bed, on either side of the stairs. One of them got a little out of  control and I kept meaning to move it, but I never got around to it.

Here’s a look at the Buddliea in question, on the far left of the bed near the stairs.

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This week, while preparing my beds for the season, I took a closer look at it and it appeared for all the world to have died. And it was much too big for its spot. So out it went. The second Buddliea is less intrusive, and looks a little more alive, so it can stay –  for now.

Here is The Doomed One, awaiting the truck which will take it far away.

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Bye bye.

 

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Spring splurges

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When spring finally arrives, some people feel the urge to buy new spring wardrobes or remodel their homes. My thoughts turn to one thing and one thing only: soil. The way I see it, spending time and money to have the best possible soil will make everything grow better, so you don’t have to get all finicky with the plants.

That’s splurge number one. Splurge number two was getting someone else to put it where it needed to be. When you’re “of a certain age” and you’ve had major surgery a few years back, you probably shouldn’t be doing that much heavy lifting.

So not only did I go wild and buy a few yards of the best compost I could find, I asked the guy who makes it to schlep it onto my beds and rake it in. This is the same nice young man who cuts our lawn. He composts chemical-free clippings and other stuff. The compost he delivered was five years old, and it will have time to settle even more because I won’t be putting anything in the beds until Memorial Day.

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Here’s the load for the front bed, awaiting delivery.  I thought I’d give this side the same love the back beds got last year. This is a work in progress and I’ll be adding plants over the summer. They’ll now have an even nicer place to grow.

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A visit to Logee’s

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As we in the northeast await signs of spring, I recently spent a pleasant couple of hours immersed in the tropics at Logee’s greenhouse in Danielson, CT. Logee’s is a fascinating place and a source of unusual houseplants. It is also a funky, old rambling place, where labeling is not always evident. This means I cannot identify the plants in the photos in this post, so please enjoy them on a more existential level and accept my apologies. (I do know that the plant in the above photo is a bougainvillea.)

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This is what the greenhouses look like. The old stone walls are alive with creeping plants. Watch your step.

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I have no idea what this plant is, but I think it could easily devour my dog.

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These interesting flowers belong to a large, vining plant.

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This stag horn fern had amazing patterning on its fronds.

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This is an immense fruit on the famous Ponderosa lemon tree that has dwelled in one of the greenhouses for over 100 years. Logee’s specializes in citrus, among other things.

IMG_1594The aisles are very narrow. It’s a steamy, close, environment and not always easy to browse in.

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The air is rich with tropical scents. This plant, which, if I recall, is NOT a jasmine despite its appearance, smelled wonderful, as did the blooming citrus trees. There are also some poisonous plants wearing signs that warn you not to touch them. Don’t think I’d want that in my home…

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This is a fun place to visit when you need a little break from winter. Yes, I did buy something: a strange bonzaied-looking begonia with lovely maple-shaped leaves and a lacy fern.

 

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Knowledge Is Power

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Here’s a spring offering from our good friend, HerbDoc:

There seem to be so many questions these days about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and when/why they are used. Since I try to be as organic as possible in my growing practices and food purchasing and preparation, I do a lot of reading on the subject.

The first thing to know is that GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants and animals that have been genetically engineered by using DNA from viruses, bacteria, or other plants and animals.  These are experimental combinations of genes from different species and cannot occur in nature.  Be aware that this is not the traditional crossbreeding of plants that provide hybrid species for your garden.

Almost all GMOs were engineered to either withstand herbicide application or to produce an insecticide.  Although the biotech industry proclaimed that there would be multiple advantages to GMO use, none currently in use have given us increased yields, better nutrition or drought tolerance.

Although the USDA prohibits the use of GMOs in organic products, it does not require the labelling of produce and groceries with a GMO tag. Rather the onus is on the organic farmer to prove that he has not planted GMO seeds or that his produce has come into contact with the GMO crops flowering at the same time in the conventional farm next door, causing cross contamination of his crop. He must designate a buffer zone between properties where he can manage the land organically but cannot sell any of the crops grown there as organic.  If he shares farm or processing equipment, it must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent any unwanted contamination.  And you wondered why organic products are more expensive?

If you’re concerned, as I am, about the use of products/seeds that contain GMOs, there are a few things you can do:

1) Look for seeds which are labelled “certified organic”.  To check a listing of seed companies who have signed a safe seed initiative pledge go to: http://www.purefood.org/seedindex.htm.

2) Look for the USDA organic label on products in the market; this will ensure their organic integrity from farm to market. The USDA also publishes a variety of blogs at:  http://blogs.usda.gov/

3) Buy locally grown produce, meat and eggs from known organic farmers at your Farmers’ Market.

4) Check the following website for information re:  availability of non-GMO options and frequently asked questions:  http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

 

 

 

 

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Caving in

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In a recent post, I wrote about how I was not planning to grow much from seed in my garden this year. But I still couldn’t resist buying some seeds, mostly vegetables but a couple of ornamentals, too.

(Is the instinct to grow things something we gardeners are born with, or something we acquire? Why the urge to plant seeds in the ground as soon as the days get longer?  I digress.)

I ordered this year’s seeds from Baker Heirloom Seeds, because I like their selection, and I get off on saving seeds from the previous year’s harvest even more. Buy once, grow for years. What’s better than that?

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In addition to growing “Cherokee Trail of Tears” from last season, and “Scarlet Runner,” as much for the hummingbirds as for ourselves, I am trying a new pole bean this year: “Gold Marie Vining.” I don’t have sufficient room to grow bush beans and I do love the yellow ones, so I’ll see if these fit the bill. The description on the package says they are “rampant” (great!) and produce “gorgeous” pods, which can be eaten even when they exceed eight inches. This variety was nearly lost, but thanks to backyard seed savers, it lives on.

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I am growing two varieties of peas. The first is:“Golden Sweet” which as its name implies is yellow. It’s delicious, so back into my garden it will go.

I’m also trying a pea that’s new to me: snow pea “Corne de Belier,” which, in French, means “Horn of Aries.” This pea is really old, dating back to 1860. The pods are large and flat, and good for eating raw, steamed or stir fried.

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In the ornamentals department, I bought a packet of “Giant Primrose” sunflower seeds, which grow up to 12 feet tall and have pale yellow petals and dark brown centers.

Finally, my old favorite, Tithonia “Torch.” This striking orange Mexican sunflower really livens up my garden. I’ve been planting it for years, but lately I’ve noticed it growing in many more gardens. I guess it’s catching on.

And they threw in these free lettuce seeds – “Red Romaine.”

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As always, I’l keep you posted on how everything does once I get it into the garden. Oh, and for the record,  I DO NOT have any commercial relationship with Baker, or any other seed company.

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Collections

When we go skiing, we often stop on the way home at the unpretentious “Wagon Wheel Country Drive-in” diner in a little town called Gill, MA.  Here’s a photo of the cozy interior – distinctly un-dinerish, I think.

IMG_1345This place is special for several reasons, in addition to that wonderful wood stove which we appreciate so much after skiing. I will begin with the food, which was “farm to table” before everyone started doing it. If you order a burger, the beef will be grass fed and from just up the road. Let’s just say that everything is delicious and interesting.

But then there’s the decor. This restaurant is filled with collections. In the front section, the walls are covered with paint by number paintings. I used to love doing these as a child, and many of those hanging on the walls I recognize from having done them myself. (I can still remember the smell of the tiny pots of paint.) Remember the horse? And the German Shepherds? Do kids still do these? Do they even sell them anymore?

IMG_1348In the second dining room, collections of old plates and funky clocks adorn the walls.

IMG_1343The curtains are vintage, too. Not fake, but real.

IMG_1344Even the restroom has its own collection – of old needlepoint and cross stitch. I thought this one was lovely.

IMG_1351Here’s my other favorite. A detailed scene featuring a purple martin house. I like those  sheep in the background.

IMG_1352A close-up  of the purple martins for your viewing pleasure.

IMG_1353When I look at these, I can’t help wondering about the people who created them. Are they from around here? Are they still  alive? How did their work end up at the Wagon Wheel? Same for the paint by numbers. Those must have been done decades ago.

When we first discovered this diner, I was delighted to see the attention and care the owners had taken in decorating the place. That attention to detail is reflected in the food, of course, but seeing these bits of creativity on the walls, many of which seem so personal, makes the experience more special. A little poignant, too.

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Changing times, changing clime

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This patch of snow, which I think bears a resemblance to Cuba, is all that remains on our lawn, and probably all that remains of winter…although you never know…..

Here we are at one of those benchmarks in the year, the night where we move our clocks one hour forward. It’s a sure sign of spring, but it kind of messes me up for a few days. Even the dog is a bit perturbed. Why do we go through the clock changing ritual twice a year anyway? Who decides this?

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There are plenty of other signs of spring, most notably tumbleweeds of shed corgi coat rolling across the prairie that is our floor. I try to put it to use by leaving it outside for the birds, some of whom are at least in the planning stages of nest-building. I like to think that there will be all kinds of nests in our neighborhood  lined with soft, warm corgi hair.

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Speaking of birds, I’m starting to see some breeding plumage on the house finches and goldfinches at my feeder. As you can see, the male house finches are quite red already, while the goldfinches, which breed much later in the season, are just starting to show hints of yellow.

I really do like the natural signs of spring best.

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Seedless in RI

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Last year’s harvest. Awesome.

How many of you are starting vegetables and flowers from seed this year? For years I enjoyed choosing my seeds from all those great catalogs, making lists, planning where to grow things, getting my seed starting equipment ready, soaking the seeds if necessary, and finally planting them in their little starter cells.

But that was only the beginning. Timing the seeds was tough. Usually I started them too early and they grew leggy. Then there’s the process of hardening off. Bring the trays out, bring them back in. Every day. For a week. Is the sun too strong? Is it windy? When will the soil be warm enough to plant them in the garden?

After all this effort, I had to admit that despite all the TLC,  my seedlings were just not as robust as the plants at the nursery. So last year, I simply bought my peppers, eggplants and tomatoes there. I also restrained myself from buying too many. We have a great nursery in our area that sells organic plants and offers a wide selection. I do stay away from the big box stores.

Last year I had my best harvest ever, without the hassle of seed starting. I still bought tithonia seeds and a few other flowers that I could direct sow. And pole beans and snap peas. I direct sowed those, too.

Call me a sell-out, but working full time, it’s the best I can do, and I love the results.

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Another first

One thing that really makes orchid geeks like me happy is getting a new plant to bloom for the first time. They are often in bloom when you buy them, but that doesn’t count. It’s all about getting them to flower in your house – the true test of orchid happiness.

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This interesting flower belongs to Epicattleya (Epc) Rene Marques ‘Flame Thrower.’ I don’t usually go for larger plants (this one isn’t huge, but it is about two feet tall) because our house is small. But while I do adore my minis, I was smitten when I set eyes on this stunner at the 2013 Cape and Islands Orchid Show.

This orchid lives in the sunniest south-facing window, and is watered weekly and fertilized like my other orchids every second week, with alternating Superthrive and Michigan State University Tap Water Special. I have been told not to cut the spike back when it is finished blooming, because it could produce more flowers.

I think the combination of green, yellow and pink produce a brightness at a time of year when we need it most.

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Whiteout

We are currently living through the snowiest winter in recent memory here in RI. To hear the moaning, you’d think it was the apocalypse. I will admit that the snow has made commuting rather annoying, and that school and meetings have been cancelled. But let’s step out of our little boxes and go forth into the whiteness, shall we?

IMG_1404This is the salt pond at the end of our street. It was a beautiful, peaceful sunny afternoon, perfect for a dog walk.

IMG_1392Fidgit loves running through the snow, and it makes her clean and fluffy. Bonus!

The other great thing about snow is that you can see who stopped by during the night. Lots of cottontails, a skunk or two, or even a fox.

IMG_1395There’s a little beach at the end of a dirt road. There’s never anyone there.

IMG_1406The only tracks that day were ours.

IMG_1411As I write this we are preparing for another snowstorm. The birds are busy at the feeder and those birds that don’t frequent feeders, like the poor Northern mockingbird, will hunker down somewhere and ride out the weather.

Rhode Islanders have a quaint custom, hailing back to the epic “Blizzard of ’78” I am told, of stocking up on bread and milk when there’s snow in the forecast. That means the supermarket will be crowded, and many of the shelves will be bare.  I’m heading over there soon, before someone else snaps up my groceries!

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