Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Canterbury Bells

Campanula Champion Blue might be appearing in your supermarket flower shop right now. Pounce on a pot! This zone 5 biennial will bloom for months, when transplanted into your summer garden.

Ah, summer... those were the days. Before I had a mountain of snow clogging my driveway and life felt [almost] under control.

I've been spending a ridiculous amount of time standing in line at the local post office. I keep hoping they'll hire someone who actually cares enough to do his or her job.

This dilemma began with the folks who insist on sending important stuff like paychecks via snail mail. From there, we can implicate the overzealous snow plow guy. He's crushed 3 of my (rural) mailboxes in 4 short weeks.
Outside the sunny window:
The 7 foot tall arbor is nearly buried in snow.

Next up, the mailman. This rat promised faithfully to hold my mail at the post office and then immediately lost every single envelope with my name on it.

5 Stamps to Bermuda
So, there I was standing in line at the post office. Listening to them explain how they returned all my mail 'address unknown.' Apparently, without a mailbox, I don't exist. But, I have a mailbox, I declared. I bought a pretty one right inside your building, here, so you couldn't screw up anymore!"

And, that's when the customer at the next window asked how much it costs to mail a letter to Bermuda.

Why mail it? Let's just go!
Canterbury Bells look like little tea cups to me. This variety is a biennial, meaning she'll die in 2 years though she will happily reseed and grace your garden with bright purple flowers for many years to come.

* Campanula Champion Blue: There's nothin' blue about 'em. They are the truest purple flower I've ever grown. USDA zone 5, full sun, drought tolerant. Mature plants stand about 2 feet tall. Find a spot for Bellflowers in your garden.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Inspecting the Gadgets

Indoor Azaleas prefer indirect light, lots of moisture... and a cup of coffee now and then. (Me, too!)
"Give 'em what they want. Right before they know they want it."

The wind blows hard, threatening another storm. I busy myself in the sunny window, doling out drinks to a thirsty bunch of flowers I've neglected this past week.

Twice a year I leave the quiet of my home office to participate in the circus-like madness of a gigantic trade show.

It's called Outdoor Retailer ~ with gadgets and goodies and garments galore! (I secretly call it everything you've never needed.)

Clever ad campaigns like: GO! or GO! DO! BE! inspire outdoor enthusiasts to camp, hike, ski and (most importantly) spend a whole lot more money than they did last year.

While chatting with the inventor of an amazing new waterproof fabric, I suggested this tag line: "Super Duper Waterproofing! When you're lacking the good sense to come in out of a hard rain." (He was not impressed with my creativity.)

Okay, so I'm a little jaded. All joking aside, it was a wonderful week.

'Tis here I happily reconnect with all sorts of people I've worked with for years and whom I dearly love. Probably because they are not from around here.

Perfect planting conditions make up for people's small-minded attitudes here in Utah. Though, sometimes I feel I'll explode if I have to listen to another minute of these Utahn's idiotic prejudice and incessant negativity.

At the trade show, I hang with my more enlightened friends.
I renew memberships to organizations that preserve the blessed wilderness that surrounds me.

And, I acknowledge, once again, that moving to Utah was concomitantly the smartest and the stupidest thing I have ever done...
On the home front...
  • Pink Azaleas have bloomed for over a month, now.
  • Calla Lily graces my living room with a single white flower.
  • Competitive little Narcissus gives her a run for her money.
  • Miniature roses couldn't wait until Valentine's Day.
While at the trade show...
  • I tried to pitch Bad Dog's supreme talents to the folks at Stunt Puppy. (They didn't seem the slightest bit interested.)
  • The fellow from Stetson gave me horseback riding tips to improve my relationship with Mrs. Cranky Pants.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Winter Gardens

Mornings like this, I am reminded why I chose to live here. A heavy frost blankets my winter garden. Bright sunshine turns the scene into a field of sparkling diamonds. Micro-mini roses peer out the frosty window and thank their lucky stars that I brought them inside for the winter.

Poor little Kokopelli! (Garden art.)

He's freezing his arse off out there!

The lore of southern Utah paints Kokopelli as a little man who traveled to Native American villages carrying a bag of corn seed on his back, teaching the people how to plant as he traveled.

I imagine he was inside his cave dwelling, curled up in front of a crackling fire on sub-zero mornings, like this one.

Look close through my living room window:

You can probably spot my neighbor and his dog snowshoeing through the deep drifts of my backyard. This is the shortcut he and his son use to walk to school in the wintertime.

Eskimo Logic:
If you live in an area of deep snowfall, you can cheat planting zones by one and sometimes two. I'm zone 5 though I plant quite a few zone 7 perennials in areas of deepest snow.

This shimmering white carpet (about 5 feet deep in my backyard) creates a nice, warm blanket for tender perennials. The temperature difference beneath the snow can be as much as 20 degrees warmer.

Some beauties, however, are more appreciative of hibernating indoors. My first - ever - attempt at growing Calla Lilies in a sunny window appears to be working. :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Oxygen Garden

In the jungle, that doubles as a living room window, the last of the Amaryllis bulbs are beginning to bloom.

Hopeful rosebuds take on the mighty task of keeping a gardener's spirits high during the depths of winter.

"I hate January," says a friend of mine. Hmmm, I thought to myself... Well, that's a relief. I thought you hated me.

Perhaps we should make like bears and hibernate through this cold and dreary month. If nothing else, it might prevent us from snapping at one another.

The ever-tardy Christmas Cactus wows me with her magic.

I woke this morning with an imaginary icicle hanging from the end of my nose. That generally means one of two things. Either I left a window open, or the furnace is on the fritz... again.

Fuschia Kalanchoe is teasing me.

Each winter I fantasize about selling (or bulldozing!) this good for nothin' house. The furnace is dying a slow death. Snowdrifts, higher than my head, are waiting to be shoveled off the porch.

The snow plow guy crushed the 3rd mailbox I've installed this month.

Put on your thinking cap. Can you tell by the leaves which flowering perennial this is? Hint: I'm crazy for 'em.

The coffee pot, fortunately, is working just fine. And, once again I thank my lucky stars that I have a fireplace to fall back on.

* Breathe deep. Houseplants clean up the air in a stuffy house. Flowering plants do that and then some.

** While you're waiting around for a warm, spring day, rent the sci-fi thriller, Sunshine.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gettin' Through a Friday.

Warm Fuzzies: Nothing boosts my spirits quicker than throwing my arms around a big, strong.... horse.

I'll bet you thought I was gonna say a man, didn't you? Well, sure, I'd prefer that. Doesn't appear to be in the cards.

I went to visit Meg, today. I like to tell her all my problems because she never ever spills the beans. Mostly, she just quietly listens and gently frisks me for sugar cubes while I'm droning on and on.

As the crow flies, Megan lives next door to me but I have to put on the snowshoes to traverse that route.

It was -6 below zero last night. I tossed and turned and worried until sunrise ~ thinking she'd be dead as a doornail after such a cold night.

I know nothing about horses. When I arrived, she was so busy frolicking with her friends that it took her a little while to notice me waving from the sidelines.

And, that got me thinking... about how much time we waste on this, that or the other thing. When we really could (and should!) be living in the moment.

Do people tire you out sometimes? I know they do me.

We are only 4 weeks away from planting first seeds and that is a small good thing...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nanaimo's Dream: Selva Negra

Ah, that magical bean that brings us back to reality on Monday mornings...
"I feel as if the whole of Vancouver Island is one over sized, moss-covered sponge what with the constant rain blowing in from the Pacific. Here is my vote for exotic getaways: The Selva Negra coffee plantation in northern Nicaragua."
"We couldn't believe the vegetation. Just imagine... entire ecosystems atop the roof!"
"Agoutis grazing in the front garden... That wonderful aroma of roasting coffee beans. Rapidfire Spanish spoken all around us! Ahhh..."

I take virtual tours to Holland. Maggie dreams of returning to Selva Negra.

Like most great things, this coffee plantation has a rich, 100+ year history but I'd never heard of it until my virtual friend sent me photos. She's such a great writer, I decided to lift her words from the email and stick 'em in the blog!

Brew a fabulous pot of coffee and watch this video of Selva Negra.

* Doesn't Nanaimo sounds exotic? It's actually a water-logged little tourist town in British Columbia. Perhaps Maggie and I can house swap! She can suffer through my unrelenting dry summer heat and I shall curl up with a good book and enjoy her heavy rains!

And the day brightens....
My favorite times during the day are visiting my little blog. Thanks for the photos. It's hard working from home and working alone. I really loved seeing these great pictures and finding a new place to add to the travel list!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Let it Snow

This exceptionally great snow year is offering a unique set of challenges. (That's the optimist's way of saying it's a pain in the rear end.) Oh, don't get me wrong, I love snow, even though it interferes with gardening.

I don't particularly enjoy shoveling 10 feet of this stuff off my porch only to turn around and be faced with the same chore again.

And, then there is the new snow plow guy. He's doing a marvelous job of keeping my road clear. He just takes out the mailbox every time he drives by.

They say 3rd times a charm. So I'm armed with reflective tape and a sturdier mailbox and if he crushes this one... well, then, I really will believe he's out to get me.

Whenever we get a deep snowfall, adults typically race outdoors and get to work shoveling. There's a surefire cure for this human condition.

If you ask me, we'd all be much happier if we ran outdoors with the express intention of ignoring our chores and sledding down Toboggan Hill.

If not that, then at least a peaceful jaunt in Mill Creek Canyon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tulip Tours Close to Home

"Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival is not Keukenhof, but it's a heck of a lot closer!"
My friend, Karen, is a gifted painter. She's also big into practical magic. I admire that. While I pine for a trip to Holland, she drives 25 miles south of Salt Lake City to our very own version of the Keukenhof Gardens.

When I first opened this particular photo from Karen, (above) I thought she'd painted it. She could. She's just that good.

I always wished I could paint. I can't even paint the bedroom without making a big mess.

Karen's photos are from last year's tulip festival at Thanksgiving Point Gardens in the Utah Valley.

Thanksgiving Point is 55 acres of peaceful gardens almost in my own backyard.
Tulips ~ the most cheerful of bulbs ~ add bright, happy color to spring gardens.

Lovely photos, Karen. Thanks for sharing. Though, I'd still rather be in Holland. :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Virtual Vacations

Wouldn't it be great if a bell went off whenever we were making a big mistake?
Paper Whites - fragrant indoor blooming bulbs - are itty bitty Daffodils.

'Tis Friday. So glad. Why not write in partial sentences? I barely deserve to be writing at all after today's faux pas. I proofread -ha!- a newsletter and sent it out to 16,000 people. When I woke up this morning, I noticed it had a gigantic typo in it. Dammit!

That's when I curled up in the fetal position and repeated over and over, I need a vacation. So, I went to my most favorite spot in the whole wide world. I've never actually been here but I virtually visit all the time. You can, too! Click here to see lovely photos of the one, the only, Keukenhof Gardens.

Paper Whites don't care that I can't spell. Where would I be without these tiny, fragrant, ever-so-willing-to-bloom-indoors, cheery flowers? They currently adorn my office desk, leaning toward me as if to say, 'it's okay.'

PS: Paper Whites come in yellow, too.

Fall in love with the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Happy Spot

Today's Forecast: Highs in the mid 80's, bright sunshine, gentle breezes. Surfing conditions improve toward mid-morning... Enough already! That's about as far from MY forecast as a weatherman could get.These days, nobody makes a move until they check in with the Weather Channel. I get all I need to know by looking out the window.
  • It's winter.
  • It's cold.
  • It snowed again!

Instead of monitoring my own weather, I keep an eye on those lucky dogs who live in Hawaii.

I like to see the weather where I wanna be.

Sunny Windows
This time of year, everybody needs a sunny window. It boosts your spirits like nobody's business.

Especially on days like this one, when the snow is blowing sideways due to a fierce north wind.

Dust off the martini shaker! Key Limes & Miniature Pomegranates are ripening in my sunny window.

Azaleas, Narcissus and Hyacinth fill the room with a lovely fragrance.

Pink sweetheart roses put on a sparkling show.

I'm just learning how to keep these gals happy indoors.

The pink mini roses are thrilled. The yellow ones are contemplating suicide. The red roses haven't a clue what to do.

Hyacinths are one of the easiest bulbs to force.

If you don't have a sunny window, carefully follow these steps to create one:
  1. Buy a growlight.
  2. Plug it in.
With any luck, the glare from your groovy new growlight can shield your eyes from what's happening in the garden, outdoors:

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tickled Pink

This Christmas Cactus dates back to the Pleistocene period of mankind.
Well, not quite. But, pretty damn close! Mom gave it to me when I was in college.

Even then I wanted to fill my windows with beautiful flowering plants.

So, she sent me back to the dorm with a cutting off her own cactus and a few bare bones instructions.

It thrives, she said, on a little bit of water and a consistent dose of neglect.

She wasn't kidding.

That first year all it drank was beer. (Hey, I was a dumb college kid!) Later on, it developed a habit for Diet Coke.

These days, it's all pumped up on antioxidants and green tea. Basically, I water the poor gal with whatever liquid is left in my cup. :)

She put on her prettiest show ever after surviving 6 weeks in a cold, dark storage unit when I first moved here. (I think she had a new lease on life after that episode.)

She'll bloom in a cold, north window. And, just as happily in a hot, south window.

Sometimes she blooms for Easter. Other times, she'll bloom in summer.

The one thing she has NEVER done is bloom for Christmas. And, that's okay. I figure, when you get to be this old, you should be allowed to do whatever you damn well please.

~ Control bloom times with periods of darkness.
~ Cool, night temps and a little plant food can inspire these gals to flower every few months.
~ She's very fussy about being touched or moved, while blooming.
~ Notice the sections of her leaves? Trim back using these as a guide.
~ Allow soil to thoroughly dry between waterings.

The parent of this pretty Christmas Cactus was in our home before I was born. Which makes us both at least... 29.

Update: Becky's right. These plants have a mind of their own. The one Mom gave me is a tough old bird. Some newer varieties and especially younger plants thrive with consistent water and tender loving care. This pretty peach cactus died a terrible death last spring because I was too lazy to water it. :(