Monday, April 12, 2021

Re-Blooming Butterfly Orchids

Phaleanopsis - Moth Orchids - is a terrible name for such a pretty flower. Therefore, they have be 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 won't find see this produce at grocery store 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 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.


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...


Lots of veggies grow well at high altitudes. Start them 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...

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Beauty Fades. Dumb is Forever.

This English countryside painting is the screensaver image on my desktop.
I find a new one every week.

Strolling down a cobblestone pathway.. accompanied by a dog who prefers to walk beside you.. 

Well, how cool would that be!?!

In contrast to my real life dog, breaking his leash, racing miles ahead to jump on all the passersby. Barking like a maniac. Prompting me to apologize over and over and over again... 

I suppose the upside to the Hell Boy scenario of walking my own dog is that I get to meet a lot of people. Though they rarely introduce themselves. And, it's highly doubtful they would ever invite me to afternoon tea.



The view from my window. Yes. I've contemplated chopping down those electrical poles. Many times!

That English countryside painting - the screensaver image on my desktop - is a common exercise during the non-gardening half of the year. 

Inspires grand plans. And, new gardening notions.


My favorite 'Christmas Cactus' rarely blooms before mid-January. 
Which makes perfect sense because it's not a Christmas cactus. 
Different varieties bloom at different times of the year. To tell them apart, look at the leaves.

But this year, those wonderful little paintings are for a different reason entirely. It's supposed to fool me into feeling all cool, calm and collected.

It's not working.

I'm so pissed off right now.


Every sunny window deserves a Mandevilla. Even on the worst of days, listening to the news, 
her plentiful pink flowers put a smile on my face. Draw the blinds in the afternoon
 if you live in a hot climate. Fertilize monthly and trim the plant. 
She'll grow 20 feet tall if you let her.

During the ‘it's a hoax/fake news’ bullshit of these last 4 years, I have come to rely on the Atlantic. An excellent magazine that has been around since 1857. You know. Before the first civil war?

If you haven't read The Worst Revolution Ever, you should stop looking at my flower pictures and do that right now.

The magazine is filled with daily, thought-provoking, articles from very smart people. Who don't always compliment my point of view. This morning they were preaching kindness and tolerance toward all those morons ~ who are just dumb enough ~ to believe all the lies ~ that person ~ who wasn't elected ~ told them.

Problem #1 when reading magazines on your iPad vs a paper magazine. You can throw the magazine across the room in disgust. But, if you do that with your iPad you are forced to buy a new one. And, they're expensive!


Did you know that most of the micro mini roses sold in the grocery store will flourish in a zone 5 garden?
I have dozens of them planted along my walkway.

It is pretty easy to do, ya know. 

Read newspapers and magazines. In search of the truth. 

Listen to a pack of lies in a publicized speech. And, question that truth.


Kalanchoe bloom for a long time. The best (only?) way to kill them is by over-watering. They will re-bloom but it's hardly worth the effort. Treat yourself to a new one. Re-blooms can never match the beauty of these babes forced under the grow lights.

If you happen to be one of those dummies. Who voted against the environment, against saving endangered species, against education, against affordable health care.. in the high hopes that you could stop progress, so we can return to the 1950's. A time when you felt comfortable because you can't handle change? I invite you to step off this blog and never return.

Because that whole kindness and tolerance suggestion from the Atlantic? It ain't happenin' here.


Today's tirade is brought to you, in part, by: 
  • Twitter - for stopping the disgusting chatter.
  • United/Delta/American - for putting those pigs on no-fly lists.
  • Forbes - for taking a stand against the incessant lies perpetuated by Press Secretaries.
  • Apple/Google - for deactivating the apps 'they' use to coordinate attacks.
  • Shopify - for shutting down the terrorists' websites. 
  • Stripe - for refusing to process credit card payments on any maga websites.

#impeach #stopthestupidity

#flowersmakeeverythingbetter

Friday, January 01, 2021

Hey, 2020 ~ Here's you're hat, what's your hurry?

Cheers to the end of the most difficult year.

I survived. That's what I was thinking as I was gazing at the playful clouds on this New Year's Day.

I survived. And, if you're reading this. You did, too.

I'm talking about surviving the hopeless, helpless feelings that plagued everyone, during this horrible year. I am not making light of the tragedy that has befallen so many.


One $5 dollar flower bulb gifts you with all these pretty flowers. Just add water. Buy an #Amaryllis kit!

Some lost quite a lot, considerably more than me.

All I really lost was faith. 

And, 12 months.


I can attest to the fact that Christmas cactus live for a hundred years. 
I've had this one since my college days.

Which is why I forced myself to stay awake until midnight. 

Getting up at 3 a.m. is easy for me, what with all my irrational fears and worries... I'm very good at that. 

But staying up until midnight - to ring in the New Year? Now, that is hard work. 


During 2020 Covid lockdown, I planted tons of flowers, by seed, in my sunny window. #Zinnias

Felt like I needed to do it.

Stay awake. Watch the clock announce it is 12:01 a.m. 

And, kick this awful year to the curb.


Elf Sunflowers are tiny + adorable. Grown by seed in my sunny window during lockdown.

In prep for NYE, since we cannot socialize.. 

I curled up on the couch, gazed at my beloved mountains… and took a delightful afternoon nap.


10 days into our first covid lockdown, I created a shrine to the cutest little artist on the planet. 
Hattie B. My granddaughter. It was the longest time we were apart since she was born. 
[#Anthurium flowers]

I was tired!

All talked out, after real true phone calls, not text messages (yay!), from people reaching out to me. Wishing me a Happy New Year. Thinking of me. 

Missing me almost as much as I miss them.

Feeling ‘loved’ and no longer invisible. 


Social distancing tomatoes. Grown indoors, from seed, during covid lockdown. 

Which is how you feel ~ invisible ~ when you can barely cope with the first lockdown..

So very excited for that to be over. 


Chalk it up to lockdown boredom, I ordered Passiflora seedlings, and she bloomed!!!

Only to discover that it's time to do the isolation thing all over again.


Yes. You really can grow Morning Glories indoors. But, they need a whole lotta space!

When I woke up, I thought about this long, strange, blurry, dragged on forever year.

And, how grateful I am for the little things that kept me going. 



Like this goofball. 

"This is the bestest stick ever!" - Charlie Waffles

The dogger who refused to take no for an answer on days when I was too sad to walk out the door.

Royal Velvet Amaryllis - growing in the big bay window.

Grateful for so many little things. Like a sunny window. 

Where I can grow pretty much anything. 

Canterbury Bells.

How. During the worst of it.

When everyone was soooo busy - selfishly fighting over the last roll of toilet paper..

They quit buying all the blossoms at the supermarket flower store.

Paper Whites (Narcissus)

So I started my very own Flower of the Month club. Rescues from the discount bin.

Audrey - my Venus Flytrap. An essential plant for an indoor flower garden. (She gobbles all the bugs.)

And, how walking the dog isn't always a bad idea. 

Like the day I found this:


And, when I discovered this remarkable wildflower. On one of our many wilderness adventures. 

Some kind of Wild Iris!

Which prompted me to starting writing a photo book. 

Of all the gorgeous wildflowers we discover in the High Uintas, northern Utah. Our favorite stomping ground.

Knowing full well, that book will never get published. Since it took me 15 months to write one blog post... what are the odds of finishing that thing?

Oh! And, I baked bread. 

Lotsa bread..

Just like everybody else did. That's why we all gained those 19 covid pounds..


From my very own sourdough starter. 

Back toward the beginning of this nightmare. When I truly thought this is how the world ends. For the last time.

Ornamental Sweet Peas. Best grown by seed.

But, it didn't. 

End, that is. It offered a brand, new, beautiful beginning. I know it's not over but it is getting better.

Here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

PS: See you in hell 2020


***   Here's your hat, what's your hurry - quoted from It's a Wonderful Life, 1946