Sunday, January 22, 2023

Amaryllis - January's Best Blossoms

The view from my window. The view from up here.

 * lilting holiday music * Oh, the weather outside is frightful.. Normal

For the first time, in 7 years, we are experiencing an absolutely delightful, normal, cold, snowy, winter. 

And I gotta tell ya.. it is bringing me back to life. This break in the severe drought began long before the snows arrived. Utah experienced a monsoon season this summer! Albeit short, but who cares? It's a positive. Good news is hard to come by, these days. 

This is a $10 dollar flower bulb, purchased from Home Depot.

Indoors - everything is also normal. Well. As normal as it can be around here. When you live in a ski resort, experiencing the "Best Ever!" snow and your tiny mountain town has blossomed with an extra 80,000 people who showed up to ski. 

Never mind the fact that they don't know how to ski. This is instagram-able! So they booked a flight.

This variegated Amaryllis is one of my favorites. Another $10 bulb from HD.

I'm sure you've seen them. The boxes and boxes of Amaryllis bulbs adorning the shelves of the [aptly named] big box stores around the holidays. 

Like most fabulous blossoms, they do not care that you prefer instant gratification.

However! They are most definitely worth the wait. [Approximately 6 weeks after planting day.]

I saved this Amaryllis bulb. She was growing in a box in the store when I found her.

They are the most impressive bulbs. 

Amaryllis are so eager to bloom, they often grow, and blossom, without sunlight, soil or water. 


You've probably seen that, too. After the holidays, when the bulbs who weren't purchased are still sitting in the dark boxes, inside the store. Oftentimes you'll see a tall stem, with a large flower bud on top the stem, forcing her way out of the cardboard container.

Like this gal!  👇  I saved her. The minute I gave her a sunny window + a desperately needed drink of water... she decided to become a tree:

Pay no attention to that can of dog food next to this pretty flower. 

The cost of these stunningly beautiful houseplants - each flower is twice the size of my hand - is about $10 bucks.*

So if you see one struggling this time of year - Save Her! You'll be glad you did. And so will she.

Amaryllis petals sparkle in the sunlight.

If that sales pitch is not enough incentive for you to save a struggling bulb, here's one more. 

In the sunlight the petals sparkle - as if covered in fairy dust.

The beautiful view on my {filthy} kitchen counter.

* If you are already an Amaryllis aficionado, then you probably know that nursery grade bulbs produce even bigger flowers. Therefore they are considerably more expensive. American Meadows is a great resource for them. And, no, they did not pay me to say that. Every Christmas, a gardening friend of mine gifts me with one of their bulbs. Thanks, Hazel! My premium bulb hasn't bloomed. Yet.

Happy January Gardeners! Let's make it a pretty one.


Tip: 
Amaryllis bulbs will re-bloom. (Though they rarely bloom as prolifically as they did the first time.) I'm far too lazy to do this but here's how: Set your bulb flower pot in a shady spot in your garden. Leave her out there, all summer, until after the first light freeze. Snip the greenery. Store in a cool, dark box, or closet, for 6 weeks. Then bring her out, give her a sip of water and watch her do her stuff. (Probably 10 weeks to bloom time.)

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Let's Brighten Things Up

Yes I grow Lantana indoors. Why should Arizona gardeners have all the fun?

* cough, cough, splutter, splutter * 

Dusting off the old blog, haven't visited for quite some time. Clearly suffering from neglect. I realize the blog is online - relieved to see it's still here! But reality is for those who lack imagination.

To me - the blog feels like it's an old library.  

Maybe this one. ↓  No, not this one. Too Downton Abby.


Maybe this one?


No, that's been done.

How about this one?


Yeah, yeah, ↑ that's it!

Revisiting this little blog of mine. Which is not little. Been writing in it for 16 flower-filled years. Albeit sporadically of late...

In my head, the blog feels like a Sherlock Holmes kind of old English library. Filled with dusty books. And terrific ideas. Coupled with all kinds of bad ideas. Because. Well. You know... sometimes those truly fantastic ideas of ours don't exactly turn out the way we want them to.

Kalanchoe in the kitchen window

Whatever the case, visiting the blog always inspires a fine trip down memory lane. Revisiting the years when I was happy. 

I’m not unhappy right now. Truth be told, one must work extra hard to make me unhappy. 

However! I should give credit where credit is due. A nod to the foot soldiers working diligently to ruin most of last year. Succeeding in their attempts to drive me crazy and make me sad. 2022 was a ghastly year. < See? I even sound like Sherlock Holmes.

This is a naturally turning red Poinsettia. Have owned her for 4 years
And she NEVER turns red in time for Christmas. :)

Does anyone but me feel like we need to work extra hard to remain happy these days?

Work hard. Or remain oblivious. Avoiding the news at all costs. Constantly taking a deep breath while some person around us, oftentimes a total stranger, is throwing a temper tantrum?

'Christmas' Cactus started blooming in October. Still going strong.

It’s infectious, you know. Bad moods. Bad attitudes. 

But this is a New Year. 

And this  ↓↓↓ is why I’m here: Grey. 



To me, the prevalence of Grey in our choices during 2022 [the top 10 paint choices were various shades of grey] speaks volumes as to how we feel. Which is not good. And certainly not calm.

I personally think we need a whole lot more color in our lives. 

Whatever happened to sunny yellow?

Every windowsill needs at least one Orchid

When did we stop loving Outrageous Orange?

Hibiscus happily blooms indoors.

Be honest. Wouldn't your morning coffee be more fun if you were surrounded Hot Cha Cha Pink?

Christmas Cactus can live for a 100 years! I can attest to that!
Have owned this pretty girl since my college days!

Happiness is what I was thinking about, last night, while standing in the garden. 

Bundled in my winter coat. Wildflowers soundly sleeping beneath mountains of snow. At 1 a.m. (?!?) I’m old, now. FYI - I’m as surprised as you are. That I not only welcomed in the New Year. That I did so outside. In the snow! In freezing temperatures! And that I did NOT do that at 10 p.m. – as I would normally do. Because I don’t typically care when the balls drop. Or where it drops. 

What I do care about it is The Truth of The Matter: Color makes people happy. Flowers make people happy. FYI - Grey is also a popular color choice when painting prison cells. 

So let's brighten things up! If you don't have a sunny window, get yourself a grow light. You'd be surprised how many pretty flowers you can grow indoors. And. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Is guaranteed to make you smile.

Happy New Year, Gardeners. Let's make it a good one.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

First Spring Blossoms

BEHOLD! The first spring blossoms! Crocus Remembrance. I'm always surprised to see them. Rabbits and ground squirrels happily dig them up.

 

At long last... a sunny warm weekend dedicated to playing in the mud.

With the weather finally cooperating, I donned those much missed, and very tattered, garden gloves to clean up the first of the beds. 2 down, 10 to go. The bulbs are beating me to it, this year. Blooming without the usual TLC from me.

Grecian Windflowers (the white ones are heirlooms)are perfect for dry planting areas. These tiny bulbs easily rot in wet spring soil.

 

Peeking out from beneath the debris were these fancy little Windflowers.

Peter Pan Heirloom Crocus

 

Pretty white Crocus trying hard to steal the show. I rarely plant white flower bulbs. After 6 months of snow (I live in a ski resort) I'm prefer a livelier color than white.

Rip Van Winkle Heirloom Daffodil

 

Sparse bulbs in the 'danger' zone. This back area is where the horses play, but they don't like the taste of these heirloom bulbs. It's a second 'footprint' in a raised bed that houses vegetables later in the season.

Primrose
I was up early, traipsing around with the camera, shivering on a 30 degree morning, feeling extra proud of this band of bright bloomers.

We've had an unusually dry winter.

An alternately too hot, then too cold, spring.

Though it seems to bother me a whole lot more than it bothers the flowers!

It's as if they have little wrist watches attached to their roots. No matter the weather, they're always happy to put on a pretty show.



I'll sign off with a mystery flower. A mystery to me, that is. I can't remember her name. Perhaps you know?


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Oven Roasted Cauliflower Tater Tots

Cauliflower Tater Tots

I've been trying. And, failing. With my pledge to lose a few pounds ~ hoping that would make a world of difference in my energy level. It probably would but it's hard. 

What with the new world order as dictated by Covid. Stay home. Stay safe. I'm just sitting around with lots of time, ~ and snacks! ~ on my hands.

I am well aware of what makes me fat. It's not the cakes and cookies that are a problem for me. It's the bread. And, potatoes. 

I'm slowly evolving into a potato. I get rounder and plumper every year!

So that's what has inspired me to get creative with veggies. This recipe, which was adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe, is about half the calories of regular tater tots and it tastes better than the potato version! At least, I think so.


Oven Roasted Cauliflower Tater Tots

1 large head cauliflower
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Cheddar, if you prefer
1 tablespoon cajun, or southwest seasoning.


Begin by turning that head of cauliflower into 'rice.' Pop this raw veggie into a food processor and chop it up very fine, into teeny tiny rice-like pieces. If you live in the desert southwest (like I do) the air will dry out the cauliflower bits rather quickly.

Spread the little cauliflower bits onto a paper towel ~ try to absorb as much moisture as you can.

You can save time by purchasing raw cauliflower rice - but it is expensive and contains preservatives.
 

Any brand will do.

Put the Cauliflower rice into a bowl, whisk an egg, pour that onto the cauliflower, stir in the Parmesan cheese. I use a melon baller scoop because I like them small and crunchy. Or, use your hands, shmoosh these goodies into tater tot shapes. 

Spread onto a cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Bake @400 degrees (F) for approximately 20 minutes, or until the edges are a nice crispy brown.

* IMPORTANT: Do not use low fat, low sodium cheese.  That's just bad, bad stuff. Fat and sodium contribute mightily to the flavor and texture of cheese. If you want to go that route, skip the cheese altogether. (I worked for Healthy Choice, for many years, and I know a thing, or two, about what goes into that crap.)

 

I'm a big fan of Slap Ya Mama. Prefer to create your own? Try this:

Southwestern Seasoning Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup EACH: chili powder and onion powder 
  • 2 tablespoons EACH: ground cumin, ground coriander, dried oregano, dried basil, & garlic powder.

Did you know...? 

Cauliflower is white because it's broad leaves shield it from sunlight while it's growing. We've been 'trained' to believe white vegetables aren't as nutritious. Not true. Cauliflower is included in the CDC's list of 'powerhouse vegetables.'

Enjoy!


Monday, April 12, 2021

Re-Blooming Butterfly Orchids

Phaleanopsis - Moth Orchids - is a terrible name for such a pretty flower. Therefore, they have been re-named (by me!) the Butterfly Orchid. I've discovered it's surprisingly easy to get them to re-bloom.

Over the weekend, I noticed a whole bunch of buds on the Butterfly Orchids. (I've been raising them for a few years, now.) It's anniversary time for them and for me, too.

I'm celebrating 10 long, lovely years of working from home, doing a little bit o' this and a little bit o' that. 

Started out as a marketing consultant. Evolved into a freelance writer. (Marketing people are expected to travel. Writers get to stay home and play in the garden.)


So, it's been 10 years, but I still can't get through a week without someone offering me career advice. 

You'd think they'd have given up long before now.

 Cymbidium Orchid
Don't limit yourself to one variety. They are easy keepers, deserving of a spot on your windowsill!


Has this ever happened to you? You make a monumental decision and it doesn't come lightly

Something in your life is broken and it needs to be fixed. You fret about it. Lose sleep over it. You wiggle your way through every worst and best case scenario.

Crunch and re-crunch those infernal numbers... you know. Those numbers = the income we all need to get by.

Dendrobium -  fussy - still worth the effort.


Essentially, you do everything in your power to insure it's a wise idea. This is, indeed, a gamble you'd like to take. In my case: I decided to become self-employed and work from home.

Happy with this decision, I announced it to my friends.

I quit my job! 

I am starting my own business!

I was  excited for the big group hug. Instead, all hell broke loose.

One negative observation after another. How will you survive? How will you pay your bills? Take a temporary job at my company ~ until you come to your senses.


Soak for 30 minutes once a week.
 Water + a highly diluted organic fertilizer seems to do the trick.

Sheesh! I understand that failure is a scary thing for lots of people. I fail so often I don't even think about it anymore. 

Can you train yourself to be different?
Well, of course you can!
Start by experimenting with Orchids!


Take heart in the fact that failure should absolutely be an option. Such is the case with Butterfly Orchids. It's just a plant. Give it a go! If she chooses to die, it's not your fault. Toss her in the compost pile and try it again.

Tips:

  • Set yourself up for success by purchasing a blooming orchid potted with bark. Orchids potted with sphagnum moss (you'll see these at Home Depot, Lowes, etc. stores..) will remain too damp and won't flower as easily.
  • My Phalaenopsis enjoy direct sunlight in winter, after they are finished blooming. 
  • Every Sunday, I soak them for 30 minutes. 
  • The diluted fertilizer, in the soak, gives them lots of nitrogen, for which they are eternally grateful.

PS: Inspect the stalks and and you should see tiny bumps where new buds are beginning to grow. During this time, she'll appreciate more sunlight.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Slowest Way to Kill Your African Violets


 The petals sparkle in the sunshine. It's the #2 reason why I keep trying to grow them.
They'll bloom forever. That's #1.
 
African Violets grow perfectly for 2 types of people: 
 1) Residents of Tanzania  
2) Indoor Gardeners with a lot of time on their hands

If you don’t fall into those two categories, you’re probably an African Violet serial killer like me... and Sandy... and Janet.. and pretty much everyone else I know. 

I am not a pro on these pretty little flowers ~ but they tend to bloom, every month. Perhaps you can learn from my mistakes!


I blame the local supermarket for my African Violet obsession. Every spring, they tempt me with these darling little house plants though the average life expectancy in my home used to be about 6 weeks. 

* The quickest way to kill them is by overwatering. Water when soil is dry to the touch.  

* Another good way to do a bad job, is to water them from above. 

They absolutely hate getting their leaves wet. 

Set them in a saucer and let the roots soak up the water. 

East windows, with morning sunlight and bright light for the rest of the day is ideal. If leaves start turning brown, the plant is getting too much light.

My M.O. generally involved placing them in a hot, south window where they literally curled up and died.

 

More Tips & Tricks:

  • Spend the extra dollar on African Violet soil - they need light airy soil, with plenty of nutrients. 
  • Give them diluted plant food, once a month. 
  • These little flowers grow wild in one small place on the planet, the rain forests of East Africa. Make them feel at home by creating a humid environment. 

* Put a layer of stones in a deep saucer, fill saucer with water, place your flower pot on top of the stones. (Pot should sit above the water level.) The water will slowly evaporate upwards, creating the perfect flowering environment for your African Violet. 

Which, incidentally, is not a violet at all. But, that's a story for another day...

Good to Know:

When planting instructions say: keep soil moist, that does not mean saturated. Potted plants, with roots sitting in water, will perform very poorly.

* 'Healthy soil' is loose enough to allow oxygen in between soil particles. When the soil is constantly wet, air pockets disappear. With a limited oxygen supply, your plants can't breathe, it's hard to grow and harder, still, to flower..



Saturday, April 10, 2021

Gram's Dee-Lightful Lavender Cookies

"You can never have enough purple in the garden." - Grandma Anne

* All Lavender is edible but most of them don't taste that great. Grow English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) if you plan to bake with it. 

 

English Lavender (above) and French Lavender (below.)

I'm a bigger fan of French (Lavender stoechas, zone 8) but it cannot survive our winters.


However! French Lavender grows fast, by seed, in my sunny window.



Thinking about my Grams because today would have been her birthday.

She was the gal who inspired all the purple in my gardens. 

She was also the gal who 'molded' me. She didn't mince words and since I've always had a difficult time reading between the lines, hers was the advice I could understand. And, act on. 

Here's a fine example of that:

When I was a college kid, I tried very hard to be dark and brooding. I even went through the black and white photography phase. Mostly because I thought it made me look artistic and hopefully kind of cool.

When I showed Grams my artsy fartsy black and white photos, she yawned and told me they were not 'snapping her socks.' (i.e. boring) 

Then she proceeded to educate me on an inescapable truth:

Kate, she said, give it up.
You're never gonna be cool.
The real magic of taking pictures is to document the bright spots in a colorful life.

 
Do all Grandmas smell like lavender? I hope so. These pics are for you, Gram.
 


* You might as well double the batch right now because you know in your heart that you want to...

Gram's Dee-Lightful Lavender Cookies
  • 1.25 cups butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers, crushed
Cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Mix in the flour and lavender flowers. Spoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes @ 350 degrees F.

Forced Tulips and French Lavender spend their days sunning themselves on my deck. 
Both warm their toes, indoors, at night.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Growing Veggies in High Altitudes

A fellow gardener wrote to me wondering if I knew of any vegetables that will grow in high altitudes.

Well, let's see. For starters there's Beans, Beets, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Tomatoes...

Surprised? All of these yummy veggies will grow at high altitudes. Just give 'em a little TLC plus O.F. (organic fertilizer!)


AND! Time your garden differently.
* The heartache of a Memorial Day frost is pretty much guaranteed at altitudes of 6,000 feet or higher.

Garden shops advise April/May planting for vegetables and that's why we feel left out.
* We mountain gardeners need to plant on June 1st and expect a later harvest.
* May nights are too cold for little seedlings. Mature plants are much tougher. They can handle cool night temperatures in September.

Get creative. 

Most quality seed shops offer cold-hardy and fast-growing varieties. You rarely see these at big box stores, like the Home Depot nursery. And, the names might not be familiar... But, there are many varieties of tomatoes that mature in less than 60 days. (Thank the hybridizing experts in Russia and Canada for these breakthroughs.)

Plant favorite veggies with a 90-day growing cycle. 

Experiment with root vegetables that mature in 120 days. The soils stays warm, protecting potatoes.

Raised beds help a great deal.
Soil warms faster in the spring, helping seeds to sprout quicker. With raised beds, you can easily amend the soil. Veggies need lots of soil nutrients to produce a good harvest and mountain soil is generally short on what's needed.

Good Veggie Choices for High Altitude Gardens

  • Bush and Pole Beans = 60 days
  • Beets = 50-70 days
  • Carrots = 90 days
  • Sweet Corn = 60 - 90 days
  • Cucumbers = 90 days
  • Lettuce = 70-90 days
  • Peas = 60 days
  • Potatoes = 90 - 120 days
  • Radishes = 30 days
  • Spinach = 45 - 90 days
  • Tomatoes* = 55 - 90 days

* Popular Beefsteak Tomatoes grow too slow to be successful in high mountain gardens. But other varieties do very well. 90-day growth cycle or shorter: Alaskan Fancy, Aztec, Orange Blossom, Health Kick Hybrid, Abraham Lincoln Heirloom, Russian Heirloom.. and many more. 

Did you know...?   Tomato plants need warm nights. If the temps drop below 50 degrees (F) they will shift their sugar production away from the fruit and into the leaves. I have the best success growing them in large pots. Bringing them indoors, on a particularly chilly night.


Thursday, April 08, 2021

Mini Heirloom Veggies

Yippy skip! My seeds arrived.


Yikes. This might be a sign of old age:
For years, I've been a perennial purist. If it's growing in my yard it had dang well better be a flower. Practical produce is a job for Farmer John.

Until now. This spring, I have a burning desire to live off the land. Grow pure and wholesome heirloom veggies! My own personal Garden of Eden, if you will. (Who knows? Come harvest, I might be dancing around out there, naked.)

What's most ridiculous about this is that I don't even like vegetables. Well, that's not completely true. I love potatoes. I'm evolving into a potato! I'm growing rounder and plumper every year.

So, here's my plan: 

I shall grow them in containers on the deck and bestow this bounty on all my friends. If they taste like crap I've got that covered, too. I have a mean neighbor who deserves a bushel basket of this stuff...


Before you go crazy with chemical fertilizers, think about it. You're planning to eat this stuff! Miracle Gro, and other chemical fertilizers, are banned from organic farms.

 

Lots of veggies grow well at high altitudes. Start them, by seed, indoors 6 weeks prior to planting for best results.

Seeds of Change contributes $$ to advance the cause of sustainable organic agriculture worldwide. I think that's pretty cool...