Sunday, December 31, 2006

Peaceful New Year

"We all need beauty, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike." - John Muir

Here's to a peaceful New Year. A cozy chair. A crackling fire. And, a stack of gardening magazines to take the chill out of a cold, winter day.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Blogging Mom and daughter, L. Rockefeller Center, NYC.
Here's wishing you peace and happiness this holiday season.

PS: Don't forget to water your Christmas Tree!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Christmas Cactus!

Jane doesn't know it yet, but she's becoming a team member on this blog, come January. She has too many great ideas to keep quiet any longer!

The Christmas tree didn't cheer me up. And, the parties have been a bore. But, a special little package from Jackson & Perkins really brightened my day. I knew it was from her before I opened it. (Soul sisters.)

Keep Christmas Cactus happy by ignoring the word 'cactus.' They prefer cool temperatures and moist soil for longest blooms. But, they cannot sit in water. Drain their saucers and wait until top soil is dry to water again.

These beauties are breathtaking for awhile but they look pretty ragged as the flowers tire out. That's a good time to cut back their sectioned leaves for stronger flowering. Propagate these leaves in moist vermiculite and they should bloom the following year.

* Schlumbergera truncata, the Christmas Cactus, feels right at home in high altitudes. It was originally a forest cactus at high (4,000+) elevations in Brazil.

* Cool nights, around 50 degrees F, get them on a blooming schedule for a bright Christmas show.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Starting Over

In a fit of temporary insanity, I gave away our Christmas tree.
I live in a duplex and I'm the worst excuse for a landlady you could ever imagine. Yesterday, we accidently knocked over my tenant's lovely tree and broke most of her ornaments. The kids were crying and I panicked. So, we hauled our tree over to their apartment to make amends.

As with most decisions made under duress, what seemed like a bright idea at the time now seems like the dumbest thing I've ever thought of! So, as of this morning, we're starting over ~ with a little help from our 4-legged friends.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Spending A Dime To Save A Nickel

It all started with a hair-brained idea to hire a new repairman because the old repairman (who was very good) was very expensive. Four hours and $200 later, the gas fireplace was no closer to being fixed. And, then he knocked over my tenant's beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Perhaps it's the gravitational pull. Because, when days start spiraling downward, bad stuff accelerates rather quickly. Right then, my tenant walked in with her two little kids. They took one look at that mess and started to cry. Me, too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Trees For Years To Come

The great debate continues... what's best for the environment?

Buy a fake tree? Buy a live tree?

Well, they're not exactly 'live' if they're leaning against a chain link fence in the Christmas tree lot at your local supermarket.

There is another option. Buy a real, live tree!

This afternoon, I tromped through the snow to pay a visit to our Christmas tree from 4 years ago. We bought it live and then transplanted it into the yard the following spring. This year, it's sporting a few twinkling lights.

If you opt for a truly live, potted evergreen keep it in the house for a maximum of ten days.

Set it outside, in the pot, in the shade, through the rest of the winter. (Water if there is no snow cover.)

Good Christmas trees to plant outdoors:

Norway Spruce is a popular cut Christmas tree but not so great in the garden. It drops its needles all year long.
  • Korean Fir (Abies koreana ) grows to approximately 40 ft, a perfect size for most yards. USDA zones 5-7.
  • Noble Fir (Abies procera) is a gorgeous silvery-blue tree with fragrant tips, though too tender for the mountains anywhere but the Pacific Northwest. USDA zones 7-10.
  • Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri) has soft needles and strong boughs, ideal for heavy ornaments. USDA zones 4-7. Happiest in high altitudes.
Lucky residents of Oregon can now 'rent' a live tree. Click here for more.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Good Things For Body & Soul

Art washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.
- Pablo Picasso

There’s Mapplethorpe at the Guggenheim. Ansel Adams across the street. Martinis in Moscow. Croissants in Paris, Chianti in Venice.

What you do in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Unless you're me. In that case it all gets packed in the truck for the drive back home: holiday gifts, French wines, gourmet treats and last, but not least, a rejuvenated spirit.

I have gambled, and lost, on the stock market and love. But, when this girl gets the blues, Vegas is a sure bet.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Blue Christmas

Six years ago I got my very first paid writing gig. I was ecstatic. I labored for days over the article and thought I was a shining star when it was approved, with no revisions. After that happened 3 months in a row, I began to suspect that the reason no one was editing the work was NOT because it was good writing. It was because the people who hired me didn't care enough to read it.

I put my theory to the test with a holiday article entitled: It's All Norman Rockwell's Fault.

If my company's legal department had gotten their hands on this, they would have fired me on the spot. But, they didn't. Because they didn't see it. In fact, nobody bothered to proofread it and whaddyaknow, it got published. Up until blogging was invented, it was the only heartfelt piece I'd ever written.

And that's because it is Norman's fault. Idealistic Norm and his happy housewife and grinning family and big, fat turkey (you know the painting I'm talking about...) If he'd never painted it, we never would have known what we were missing!

From blues to bliss and back again, I have been riding an emotional roller coaster and I'm not sure why. Can it be that being an orphan is that big a deal?

All I know is... I've lost the will to attend. I've been invited to more Christmas parties this year than ever before and I'm running out of lame excuses as to why I can't go.

I'd like to call off Christmas but that, like most things in life, is beyond my control. So, I'm trying. I really am. I hauled out the ornaments and plugged in the lights. I even bought a real Christmas tree, in hopes of finding my blithe spirit. (Though so far all I've done is grumble at the price.) Stay tuned...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Poinsettia, The Christmas Plant

If, or when, my ship comes in, I'll buy a little cottage on the island of Kauai. There, I will garden to my heart's content (instead of shoveling snow as I was doing earlier this morning.) This is what's called a pipe dream 'cause I can't even afford a parking space in Hawaii.

But, what is life without dreams? One of mine is to step out on the front porch of my little grass shack (in December, of course) and see a garden wildly blooming with scarlet Poinsettias. As it is, I only get to enjoy them once a year and they're not exactly wild.

Holiday Poinsettias:
Treat them kindly and they will bloom until Valentines Day. Pamper them and they can grow to be 10 feet tall.
  • Take care bringing them home. Poinsettias will drop their leaves if exposed to cold temps for as little as 10 minutes.
  • Remove the decorative foil, or plastic wrap, as soon as you get them home.
  • Roots need to breathe and soil should be slightly dry before watering. No fertilizer required.
  • Choose a cool spot with bright light for longest flowering.
You have to 'force' them to produce these gorgeous blooms. Forcing Poinsettias requires discipline and I've never known anyone to have great success. For 8 weeks they need a strict, daily routine: 10 hours of sunlight and 14 hours of total darkness. (Mess up even once and you have to start all over again.) Feeling brave? Force them during September and October, put them in a sunny window in November. Maybe, just maybe, you'll get a few red flowers.

* December 12th is National Poinsettia Day. Why wait? A dozen Poinsettias are cheaper than a live tree. Go nuts. :)