Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blue Clips Campanula

You low lander gardeners are making me jealous! What with all your happy blog posts about how 'Spring' is only 20 odd days away.

This prompted me to tromp outdoors, in my snowshoes, to document my spring weather. There are exciting things happening in the garden:
Hey! The 5-foot fence in my backyard is exposed to sunshine once again!

Babe, the 6-foot Blue Spruce is poking his head out of a great big drift.

Meanwhile, back in the sunny window...

These little darlins are working overtime.

There are a bazillion varieties of Bellflowers (okay, maybe 300) but this one, Blue Clips Campanula, is an A-Lister for my upcoming summer.

This petite Bellflower clings to slopes and blooms in a compact, little ball ~ ideal for the rock garden destined to become her new home.

The little seedlings in the above photo are aspiring to someday look as pretty as their big sisters currently do in my kitchen window.

Blue Clips (Alpine) Campanula carpatica is a USDA zones 3-7, tough little perennial, ideal for rock gardens. Individually, the flowers are less than 1/4 inch in diameter though she flowers so profusely she is quite the little show stopper in the Big Rock Garden.

PS: Don't worry about me. I'm keeping busy.
* Low landers live below 4,000 feet. I live at 7,500 feet. My garden is a slow starter but she's quite lovely when, or if, she ever starts blooming!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cyclamen: Indoors & Out

Cyclamen persicum is often called 'Florist Cyclamen' ~ to differentiate this tender indoor perennial from the hardy outdoor Cyclamen that flourishes in your shade garden.

I've been thinking about this movie, Death Becomes Her. Mostly because I had such a bad case of the flu that when I looked in the mirror I scared myself. After a few days of this misery, I had no choice but to head out into the cold, cruel world and stock up on supplies.

Cyclamen has tall, tuberous stems that wilt easily when the soil is too dry. Healthy Cyclamen stems have the strength to stand upright as the delicate flowers unfold.

Here's my theory about bumping into the man of your dreams. This never happens while you're wearing 5 pounds of make up and a flattering pair of jeans.

However! It is pretty much guaranteed to happen when you sneak into the drugstore in your jammies to quickly infect the clerk, grab more Theraflu and head back home, lickety split.

This is how I met my new window garden companion, Cyclamen persicum. We bonded instantly because she looked worse than I did!

Drooping out of her pot, on the $1 dollar sale table...

Seeing as how I was hiding back there, waiting for this nameless person to buy his damn stuff and leave, I had plenty of time to give her a check up. She was ailing from the same thing most sale table plants suffer from: attention.

Cyclamen requires moist soil for strong flowering. Goes dormant in hot temperatures. Her sweet heart-shaped leaves often turn yellow if she's in a too-hot sunny window.

So, I brought her home, removed her dead flowers and gave her a big drink of water. Overnight, she bounced back from death's door and became good friends with Alstroemeria. (If only gardeners could recuperate this quickly...)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Medicinal Herb: Feverfew

I've got cabin fever, spring fever and worst of all a fever of 102.

Times are tough: I'm out of lemons, the honey jar is empty. I'm rationing my last packet of Theraflu.

That got me thinking about medicinal herbs and how they don't work. (Calm down. Read on...) Herbal remedies work, they just don't work fast enough for me.

Take Feverfew, for instance.

It's a darling little daisy-like flower, zone 5, drought tolerant and a lover of poor soil. Feverfew (which looks a lot like Chamomile) will make a fine addition to the 'Daisy' garden I planted last year.

Dry the Feverfew leaves, brew them as tea, and repeat daily. After four to six weeks your fever will be gone!

Which is why I love drugs. Instant gratification! Herbal feel good qualities kick into high gear in the summer when these pretty medicinals are blooming in my garden.

Until my fever breaks it's me on the couch watching some lame Sci-Fi movie. You know we're in big trouble when the fate of our planet rests in Val Kilmer's hands.

Grow a 'Daisy' Garden:
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a perennial member of the sunflower family, used since biblical times to cure fevers and hysteria in women. I'd feel pretty hysterical, too, if my doctor said it takes 6 weeks to get rid of flu symptoms... USDA Zone 5, grows to approx. 24 inches tall.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Jasmine, the most fragrant of tropical flowers, originated in Persia.
(These days we call it Iran.)Hundreds of dainty, white buds and a few early-blooming, star-shaped flowers fill my room with a fresh breath of tropical air. Granted, I have a small house but it seems the entire place is filled with the sweet exotic fragrance of this pretty plant.

Ms. Jasmine was a Valentines gift and such a lovely plant that it inspired me (me!) to clean the house!

Not that Jasmine.
This Jasmine!

Imagine... this tiny flower multiplied by hundreds. It's going to be a breathtaking show!

So, naturally I jumped onto Google to see if anybody anywhere knows how to take care of her properly. I'm staring at 500 buds. When she bursts into bloom, I might have to start a whole 'nother blog!

I bounced from one gloom and doom site to another. Ooh, I hate that!

Why put forth the time and effort of building a website if all you're gonna do is rain on my parade? My favorite was the site that claims she won't bloom at all if there is a temperature variance greater than 10 degrees.

So, I'm gonna do what I always do. Wing it. And, I'll bet that's what you do, too. Instinct. We gardeners can keep most anything alive...

~ Indoor flowering plants flower longer when removed from direct sunlight.
~ Once they reach flowering stage, most indoor plants prefer cooler temperatures.
~ Flowering is hard work! A light dose of fertilizer helps the cause.
~ Improve humidity: double-saucer your houseplants so much-needed moisture can evaporate up into the leaves.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whine & Roses

The world well knows, yet none knows well, to shun the heaven that leads us to this hell. - Shakespeare's Sonnets

Seeing as how I minored in English Literature (Boy! That got me a lot of job offers!) I feel somewhat qualified to interpret this quote.

I'm pretty sure Shakespeare was talking about the trials & tribulations (mostly trials) of growing roses indoors.

Micro Mini Roses are becoming a huge passion of mine. Those by any other name, aren't nearly as sweet.

Are they worth the effort?

Yes! Absolutely!

To manage the tending of indoor miniature roses, all you need is...

A sunny window,

organic fertilizer,

1 incredible amount of patience,

and 4 nimble hands.

3 hands are required to shoo away the swarm of bugs surrounding these beauties.

Use the 4th hand to gingerly snap photos.

Happy Valentine's Day.

I prefer to whine and complain about houseplant bugs. If you're the proactive type, you might like this solution: Clean Air Gardening.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bodacious Bloomers: Alstroemeria

Wunx & I skipped out of work yesterday. To do so I needed a very good excuse.
Alstroemeria, Peruvian Lily, is a zone 7 perennial.

"Booked I am. Booked solid. In fact, I might die under the pressure if I book one more thing into this already overbooked schedule!"

Speaking of dying... when I head to the afterlife, I won't even try to plead my case. I'll be sent directly to the lying land of liars and there I shall rest for all eternity.
Perfect patio plant. Best grown in a pot, Alstroemeria will bloom for approximately 8 weeks, with TLC such as consistent water and regular doses of organic fertilizer.

In order to play hooky from a demanding job you must plot the great escape days ahead of time. Begin with a slight cough. A quieter than usual voice.

Or the cutest little sneeze you can muster.

Shiver when you're sitting near one of the powers that be.

They'll never willingly give you a day off but they feel extra special if they're the first ones to notice you're under the weather.

That's when they happily tell you to take the day off. After all, if you're contagious, you might infect them, which could subsequently ruin their golf game!

Now that I'm self-employed I need to be even more creative. An overbooked calendar is often the culprit. (If you take this approach, be sure to sound genuinely disappointed that you cannot participate in another snooze of a conference call.)

Once I snowed everybody who pays my bills, Wunx and I wasted the better part of our afternoon at the Blue Plate Diner.
They say full sun to part shade. Liars!
Alstroemeria prefers cool temps, blooms poorly if she's too hot.

After we left the Diner, we mosied over to my most favorite inappropriately named paradise: Cactus and Tropicals. (I've never bought a cactus there. But I have gone deep into debt on the brightly blooming flowers that overshadow those spiny desert plants.)

That's where I found Ms. Alstroemeria. On the sale table, no less!
Petey Pie knows how important it is to stop & smell the roses. (Even if he doesn't know for sure what a rose looks like.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Love & The Oriental Lily

Okay, guys, listen up.

Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

And you are more than likely expected to shell out some dough for flowers.

1) You want to.

2) You have to.

If you don't she'll change the locks!

Before you fire up the credit card for another predictable bouquet of red roses, think about being wildly unpredictable and creative this year.

In the completely unscientific poll that I conducted with 3 of my friends last night, Lilies were the hands down favorite over Roses.

Probably because they have an irrestible fragrance.

And flowering personalities to suit every single woman you're dating. (With any luck, they'll never meet each other.)
From delicate pink to luscious peach or brilliant Fuschia Stargazers, you'll earn major bonus points if you wow her with these.

No need to thank me.

Asiatic, Oriental and Trumpet Lilies are all USDA zones 3 or 4 easy growing perennials. If you receive them as a potted plant, you can transplant them into the garden for years and years of spectacular blooms. Planting multiple varieties assures a full summer of breathtaking flowers.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Blue Roses

Blue Roses signify mystery and attaining the impossible. That's because they don't exist.
If that special someone gives you Blue Roses this Valentine's Day, know that you are loved.* And, that you're dating somebody with a whole lotta money!

Delphinidin is a plant pigment (Delphinium, get it?) that produces true blue flowers. Roses don't come by this pigment naturally, so Blue Roses are usually sad white roses that have been poisoned with blue dye.

Where would we be without clever scientists messing with the natural order of things?**

Achieving true blue in roses (and black in many other flowers) is kind of like the Holy Grail of Botany. Which is probably why people are now creating Blue Roses by cloning petunias and roses to reach a true blue.

I'm not sure why they're going to all this trouble. There's a good reason why red roses are most popular on 2/14. Red roses symbolize passionate love...

* If you get any kind of flowers this Valentine's Day you should know that you are loved. If he gives you one of those lame-ass Hallmark Teddy Bears? Know that you are dating an idiot.

** Without clever scientists we'd never met Snuppy, that's for sure. (Next up? Bad Dog!)

Expat Dreams

'Tis Super Tuesday. I know this because my phone has been ringing night and day ~ with staffers hell bent on swingin' the vote. I haven't had this much attention since I forgot to pay my credit card bill.

I don't know who to vote for.
  • Hillary skirts the issue of an environment policy.
  • Obama has an environment policy but his ears are too big.
  • McCain is so old I doubt he'll survive 2 terms in office.
  • Romney is Mormon so he'll reinstate Prohibition.
  • If Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution who in their right mind could believe in him?
On the upside... did you notice all the men with trophy wives have been voted right out of the game?

Power to the people.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Aphid Invasion! (Or, how I murdered Betty)

If houseplant bugs were this cute, I probably wouldn't mind...
For years, I've suffered from an affliction called Dirty Girl Syndrome. That phrase might get me a whole bunch of inappropriate search engine rankings and that's okay 'cause I always wish more people would visit my blog.

What I mean is I'm kind of a slob.

I never dust, I never mop. I never do much of anything. Nudist colonies look pretty good to me 'cause I absolutely hate to do the laundry.

I'm just as lazy when it comes to the bugs hatching in the window garden.
Only the cutest little buggers show their faces. Ugly bugs hide on the under side of plant leaves.

It all started when I was watering plants this morning and discovered that my beloved Betty had kicked the bucket.

Betty, that hard working Venus Flytrap, had eaten herself right into the sweet hereafter because of all the bugs infesting my houseplants.

If I was a better friend, I'd have brought in reinforcements like the Pitcher Plant (right photo.) Pitcher likes to munch on creepy crawlies, too.

The best way to control indoor plant bugs is to consistently spray so they can't breed an army. Try a mixture of 1 tbs. dishwashing liquid in a gallon of water.*

If you have let the situation get completely out of control, write to me. We're destined to become good friends! When bugs are everywhere try setting plants in the shower and give them a good, warm spray.

- Aphids: Persistent little green, brown, black bugs that collect on new plant growth.
- Mealy Bugs: White fluffy stuff collecting on plant stems. (photo)
- Scale: Hard brown shell hides a despicable character inside.
- Spider Mites: Little spider webs appear on flowers and leaves.

If you can't beat 'em... eat 'em!

Chocolate covered bugs from Amazon. Cooking with creepy crawlies.

* There are lots of chemical bug pesticides but some can also kill your cat.
* Leave your scale problem to the pros. Lady Bugs make short work of scale when plants are set outdoors.
* Cuties: Pixar It's a Bug's Life movie.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

High Altitude Bread Recipe & Tips

Behold the fruits of my labor. 7 hours of labor, to be exact.
Rocket science is child's play compared to baking yeast bread at high altitude.

Everything encourages yeast breads to fail at high altitudes. Yup, everything: dry air, thin air, aggressive kneading, water softeners... your apron is probably causing trouble, too. Yeast breads are just that temperamental high in the mountains.

  • The terms 'instant' and 'rapid rise' yeast are relevant to people who live at the bottom of the hill. High altitude baking requires patience. Let yeast percolate slowly in the 'frig for a few hours.
  • Use bread flour vs. all purpose flour.
  • Water softeners fiddle with yeast magic, try bottled water. (I use sparkling water since it's always in my 'frig.)
  • Terra cotta planters or terra cotta saucers make great bread pans.

Artisan Bread Recipe
1 pound bread flour
1 teaspoon instant rapid rise yeast
3 teaspoons honey
10 ounces bottled or filtered water
3 teaspoons salt

Create a liquid yeast mixture: Combine 1/4th of the flour and yeast with all of the honey and water. Refrigerate for a few hours.

Now the fun begins...
Mix the rest of the dry ingredients with the liquid yeast mixture. Let rise for 30 minutes. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Knead it by hand. It's great exercise. (Just try it on a timer, if you don't believe me. 10 min. is a long time!)

Create a humid environment:
Fill your largest casserole dish with hot water, stick it in the oven.
Put bread dough on upper oven rack, let rise for about 2 hours.
Humidity + clay baking pan = 1 perfect loaf of bread!

Knead gently, let dough rest for 15 minutes. Repeat. Give terra cotta pot or saucer a non-stick spray. Let dough rise about 1 hour.

Brush with egg white and water.
Bake @ 400 (F) for about 1 hour.