Friday, October 26, 2007

Age & Wisdom

I have a great window in my living room. In fact, I was so excited about the window, that I bought the house even though it was missing a few other essentials. Like a bathtub. And, a bedroom.

I've been growing itsy bitsy roses in this hot, sunny window. Micro Mini Roses have an amazing perfection to them. This is the most perfect rose I've hatched, to date. She's only about an inch in diameter.

I barely noticed the blossom because my window is LOADED with pretty flowering plants right now. That's because somehow, some way, I have accidentally stumbled upon the nicest friends you could ever imagine.

They're a joy to work with.
A riot to play with.
Fascinating to talk to.
And, they were really nice to me for my birthday.
(Nicer than I deserve.)

Of all the things that frighten me about growing older, falling into a rut is the most terrifying of all. I suppose that comes from the fact that I had very old parents. So, I witnessed, first hand, the inertia of old age.

How it silently grabs hold of you. By the time you notice, you're often too tired, or ill, or out of shape to really care.

Which is why each year on our birthdays, we should ask ourselves how old we would be, if we didn't know how old we really were.

Then we should jot down a couple of new things we want to try during the coming year. (Last year's birthday promise to myself was to become a cowgirl.)

Because age is a box people put you in and no good ever comes from being expected to behave this way, or that.

While you're busy redefining your life, invest in a grow light. They are not that expensive. I'm blessed with a great window (and some pretty great friends.) But, I grew flowers like this in grey, gloomy Minneapolis, too. All because of a cheap, cheap grow light.

* Thanks for making this one of the best birthdays I've ever had.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Deaf Ears

Don't ya just hate it when people say I told you so?

I'm not gonna say it... but, the Quail Botanical Gardens could (and probably should.)

Ten years ago they started preaching the merits of defensive gardening in Southern California (i.e. giving your perennials a job to do.)

Succulents like aloe, jade and yucca have high water retention.

Planting a strip of these perennials around the perimeter of your property can help stop wildfires from burning your home.

You can garden defensively in colder climates, too.

There are tons of fire resistant shrubs, trees and perennials to choose from.

The list grows smaller, the colder the zone, but you still have plentiful options.

Cold Climate & Fire Resistant
Three goodies for a high plains desert
  • Red Yucca
  • English Lavender
  • Ice Plant (colorful, succulent ground cover)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

You Can't Get There From Here

I've always been drawn to the nothingness of South Dakota. That's because I grew up there. Smack dab in the middle of freakin' nowhere.

Relentless wind blows and blows. Native grasses wave methodically, intent on 1 of 2 things ~ either they mesmerize you. Or, they drive you totally insane.

I was anxious to leave a long time ago. But over the years, I've learned a thing or two. It's easy to make the great escape but I can't ever truly get away.

Seems, there is always something, or someone, dragging me back home.

When it's not people, or their problems, it's a deep desire to simplify.

~ Here is a place where the cellphone cannot ring!
~ Where I'm hard pressed to find an internet connection.
~ And, no one but me feels too antsy about these things.

Who would have thought...? 
The spot I consider the 'last place on earth' is becoming the only place where I can breathe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lucky 7's: You're it.

I'll confess this has happened before but I wasn't quite sure what to do.

However! I've been memed and tagged (and I've also been nudged! :-) by Gail. (Sorry, G, I was out of town.)

There are multiple 7's with which I must abide, including tagging 7 people. And, divulging 7 random, weird things about myself. Here goes:
  1. I am not religious though I live in a very religious place: Utah
  2. Someone recently asked me "when do you feel most afraid?" I had to answer 'never.'
  3. I am 100% Irish. These days a purebred is hard to find.
  4. I've written a book. Nobody read it.
  5. My fish has lived forever and in the mornings he lets me pet him.
  6. I lived through a tornado in my Ford Explorer.
  7. I believe I could grow a flower on the moon. I wish NASA would let me try.
Okay! You lucky 7 have been 'memed.' Here are the rules:
  • Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
  • Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them)
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.
  • OR, skip the whole thing and watch this video. This is why I love horses.
¡Ay Chihuahua!
Best Kept Secrets
Minnesota Gardener
Witless Wanderer

Monday, October 15, 2007

What is the most popular perennial in the world?

Come on... you know this one.

Look around you. It's everywhere!

Still not sure?

Perhaps this will help:
  • It's the most high maintenance thing you could ever plant.
  • It guzzles far too much water.
  • It requires gallons of chemical fertilizers just to look good.
  • It costs you a fortune to keep it under control.
Need more?
  • Because of it, we gardeners are responsible for more water waste & pollution than farmers and industry combined.
And, yet this troublemaker is often the very first thing we decide to plant...

Give up?

Click here.

* Blog Action Day invited over 15,000 bloggers to speak on one day, in one voice, for one cause: the future of our environment.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blog Action Day: Answer

What is the most popular perennial in the world?
Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass requires 2 inches of water per week in order to thrive. That doesn't sound like much until you do the math...

2 inches of water = 1200 gallons
(per week, per thousand feet of lawn)

Even a small bluegrass lawn can guzzle 20,000+ gallons of water per month. Your lawn could drink a million gallons of water during the summer.

We waste water to make it grow. But, then we've got to mow it!
*Running your lawnmower for an hour causes as much pollution as 40 cars on the highway.

And, no matter how hard we try, it doesn't look that pretty...
* Keeping this poor performer looking green requires a continuous dose of chemical fertilizers.

Save the world and save yourself a whole lot of money:

Replace Kentucky Bluegrass with Dwarf Fescue.*
  • Dwarf Fescue is waterwise. This will cut your water bill to 1/4 of what you're spending on thirsty Kentucky Bluegrass.
  • You can fire ChemLawn - Dwarf Fescue doesn't need fertilizer.
  • Fire the lawn team while you're at it! Dwarf Fescue needs to be mowed every month, or so, not every weekend.
Dwarf Fescue is a slow-growing, drought-tolerant, lush, lovely, turf grass that does what grass is supposed to do. It just sits there and looks pretty.

* Blog Action Day invited over 15,000 Bloggers to speak on one day, in one voice, for one cause: the future of our environment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oxalis: A Match Made in Heaven

Oxalis Crassipes Rosea

I often speak the praises of Johnson's Blue Geranium and Six Hills Giant Catmint because they bloom for the better part of the summer. But, this year I met new flower who puts these guys to shame.

This love affair began months ago when Strawberry Oxalis flowered in early May, ignoring frigid temperatures, night after night.

She continued to bloom just as ecstatically in 100-degree summer heat.

It is mid-October and she is still flowering like crazy, in spite of snow, hail and nightly freezing temperatures. (This perennial doesn't have an off button!)

Oxalis Crassipes Rosea:
Compact plants about 10 inches in height. Mine loves the afternoon shade of a Ponderosa Pine. Dainty blooms peak out of shamrock leaf foliage and do a nice job of weeding themselves. Hardy to USDA zone 4. A non-invasive variety. No deadheading!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pie Pumpkins

They all look the same, lounging in the field. But, they were bred for different purposes, so buyer beware...

Jack O’Lanterns were hybridized to ward off evil spirits and provide a riotous good time when you steal them from the neighbor's porch and smash 'em in the street.

Heirloom Variety Pie Pumpkins are prized for their firm texture and sweet flavor. (Jacks are bland and watery.) The best pie varieties are Small Sugar, Winter Luxury and Rouge Vif d'Etampes.

If you're going to all the trouble* of making a pumpkin pie from scratch, you're obviously a romantic. So, purchase a Rouge Vif d'Etampes. It was the prototype for Cinderella's carriage and is sometimes sold as the Cinderella Pumpkin.

But, that means the time to make your pie just went from 4 hours to 4 months because you might have to grow this pumpkin yourself. I’ve never seen a supermarket sell anything but Small Sugars, though these are quite tasty, too.

Pie Pumpkins are good for more than just pie. Click here for a fabulous Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe with gingersnap cookie and pecan crust!

* Canned pumpkin purée is one of the few items where canned product quality is about equal to fresh - though I've found NO documented cases where a can of pumpkin purée warded off evil spirits with any success.

* Rouge Vif d'Etampes means Deep, Red Pumpkin - which is a little misleading, since it's red/orange. Oh, how the French love to toy with anyone who can't speak the language...
* Buy seeds from Burpee - they invented this pumpkin, back in 1883.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Autumn Chores

Autumn days: time to prepare the garden beds for winter. Surely I can come up with something better to do than that...

Three good reasons to leave some perennials alone for the winter:
1) I'm lazy.
2) I'm messy.
3) Bizarre mountain micro-climates.

We measure snow in feet, not inches, but that doesn't mean it stays put. Intense mountain sunlight melts the snow in certain parts of my yard. If I leave flower stalks standing tall, more snow drifts around the plant, creating a warm blanket.*

To chop or not to chop....
Beebalm - Birds love the seed heads but this perennial succumbs to mildew very easily.

Lilacs - began working on next year's flowers months ago. Pruning in the fall will break your heart. No fragrant blooms come spring!

Catmint bushes green up very early in spring. Trimming them back clears the way for earlier, more plentiful blooms.

Columbine's dead foliage can stunt their growth the following summer.

Hollyhocks suffer mightily from 'rust,' a fungal disease that overwinters in debris. Plus, they're hell-bent on taking over the world. (Or, at least your garden.) Removing stalks and seeds keeps you in control.

Penstemon & Salvia: Native plants prefer dry soil. Dead winter foliage gets soggy, provides too much moisture and stunts summer growth.

Cheating death in snowy climates.
Snows provide great insulation in winter. (That's why Eskimos invented igloos!)

A Utah study measured January temperatures above and below 3 feet of snow pack.
  • Above the snow it was -10 degrees. (F)
  • Below the snow pack the temp was +17 degrees (F,) meaning perennials were basking in a comfy zone 7 climate.
* Pruning: Arid, desert climates save plants from many diseases, mildew and fungus, which is why I can be lazy about fall clean up. If you live in a 'nice' place, this is probably not the case.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bad Dogs, Autumn Colors & Apple Cobbler

Autumn is a second spring and every leaf a flower.
— Albert Camus

There's a very good reason why I named Bad Dog what I named him.

Take last week, for instance, when he had the entire house to choose from and decided to hurl in my bedroom slipper.

The Dog Whisperer says this is all my fault. I know that.

Since I'm the one writing out the check for obedience training, couldn't you keep that to yourself?

So far, Bad Dog is not learning any new tricks. But, I have discovered he's much less destructive when he's sound asleep!

So we took a long walk before (yet another) storm set in...

This time of year I miss the bright red Maples of Minnesota. Autumn in Utah is fleeting and mostly golds and yellows. In Minnesota, the apple harvest makes Autumn a very special time.

Apple pies, apple tarts, caramel apples. There are hundreds of varieties of apples, and millions of wonderful apple recipes. But, this is all I care to know:

Pink Lady Apples go in the backpack.

Granny Smith Apples go in the Cobbler. (They're tart and crisp and better for baking.)

And, the dog? Well, he generally goes in the lake.

Apple Cobbler Recipe:
5 large Granny Smith apples
1 package spice cake mix
Dash of cinnamon
Sprinkling of sugar
1 16 oz. jar unsweetened applesauce

Thinly slice apples and place in a square baking dish. Add cinnamon and sugar to your liking. Sprinkle spice cake mix over the apples. Pour applesauce on top of this delightful mess. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Gobble the entire thing before the kids come home from school.

* Maples grow easily in high altitudes. So do apple trees.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Grey Mornings

My October 'Plant of the Month'

Calyx & Corolla don't send me catalogs anymore. That's good for the environment, bad for the soul. They probably figured out that I never buy anything. Though, on dull, grey mornings (like this one) I could entertain myself for hours, drooling over their lovely potted plants and bouquets.

Calyx gave me the bright idea of creating my very own 'Flower of the Month Club.' I imagine they gave the local supermarkets that big idea, too. In winter, I pick up a colorful flowering plant every month while I'm grocery shopping. (In fact, I've gotten to the point where if plants don't flower, they're not allowed in my window.) Cut flowers last a couple of days. Potted flowering plants can provide a full month of cheerful blooms. If you're kind to your Kalanchoes, they'll rebloom several times a year. Give it a try!

* Kalanchoes like dry soil. I picked orange for October, but they come in many colors. Deadhead for repeat blooms. Most nurseries say indirect light ~ mine prefer a warm, sunny window.

** Calyx is expensive but worth every penny. Check out their Pomegranate Bonsai. I might have to dust off the Mastercard for that one...