Friday, January 28, 2011

The Bliss of an Indoor Summer

Silly Roses...
If only they knew what it was like on the other side of this sunny window. 
I'm 4 days away from the big, exciting, oh, my God, I cannot believe I actually agreed to do this... trip.

Tomorrow is the ceremonial delivery of the blessed orchids.
Okay, fine, perhaps I'm a little melodramatic when it comes to my orchids. If you think [for even one minute] that I'm trusting house and dog sitter, John, to care for my precious orchids, think again. Sandy is in charge of the pretties while I'm gone.

Although I don't why I'm so worried about the orchids. When it comes to houseplants and flowering annuals I'm not the least bit kind. A gardener version of Cruella Deville.

Lots of my houseplants are flowering annuals wintering indoors. Poor things. They work their little patooties off all summer long. By season's end, I imagine they're exhausted. Most likely anticipating that first hard frost and a much-needed rest.

But that lazy life is not to be. In autumn, I drag 'em indoors, where it's nice and warm and they keep on flowering. (No doubt talking amongst themselves about this whole global warming thing and what happened to winter.)

Flowering Annuals have one mission in life ~ to grace us with plentiful, pretty blossoms. Why stop the show when the weather turns cold? They're quite prolific indoors, as well. Just stick 'em in a sunny window and let them do their stuff.
  • Start with a very serious bath before you bring them in from the outdoors. It's a good idea to drown the buggies that are hoping to hitch a ride.
  • Water with a highly diluted 5-30-5 fertilizer (1 tsp. per quart water) to improve their flower power. 
  • Most are quite content in a warm, south-facing, sunny window. 

      Tuesday, January 25, 2011

      Wordless Wednesdays ~ Apple Blossoms!

      Apple Blossom Amaryllis ~ I thought I should show gigantic pictures because these flowers are the size of a dinner plate! They add such cheery color in the dead of winter.

      For more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

      Friday, January 21, 2011

      When Plants and Planets Align

      "Have faith in yourself and the rest will follow." ~ Yesterday's Horoscope

      'Love' clearly knows no bounds:
      Bleeding Hearts grow as happily in Alaska as they do in San Diego.

      In the mood for a love story? I'll keep it short.. and promise it's sweet. Some friendships easily stand the test of time, though years after the fact, my buddy Bev and I will still readily admit we're an unlikely pair of friends.

      She always believed that somewhere in this great big world she'd find her soul mate. Unlike some of us, she never grew weary of the search. In sharp contrast, I'd married my soul mate, was reeling from a painful divorce, and thought it best to run in the opposite direction - at a very fast clip! - should I ever encounter another soul mate.

      Awhile back, she tried online dating, at Far, far away, a prince of a fellow spotted her profile. She read his emails and they... just. knew.

      Fast forward a few years and dear Bev is happily married and living in Italy. (Stop rolling your eyes! I am NOT making this up!) In a quaint little village that no one has ever heard of. Except for... my next door neighbor? Yep. My neighbor works for a company based in that same tiny town and never misses an opportunity to lay on the guilt trip. "I can't believe you haven't been over there to visit!"

      Amazing, huh? It gets better. I'm a freelancer, celebrating 10 years of working at home, in my jammies, and for all those 10 years my most favorite client is the one that's based in Europe. So, I could go over there at any time. They would love the idea of working face to face, instead of on the phone. Only I'm a big fat chicken. The thought of traveling alone, (to a foreign country!) did not sound fun at all.

      Until recently.

      Alstroemeria, in potted plant form, will flower all winter long in a sunny window.

      If you've been on this blog before, you may know that 2010 was a year I would gladly erase from the memory banks. No need to revisit dark passages, though I'm beset with one strange, constant feeling: my world keeps getting smaller and smaller. I work from home, putz in the garden and play with my horses. And, that's it. Geez. Thanks to the miracles of Tivo I don't even watch the news any more. (Well, I do, but I fast forward through the unhappy stuff. And, since it's all unhappy stuff my fast forward button is getting a serious work out.) Perhaps it's time to make a change?

      Tigiridia, Mexican Shellflower, is a great bulb to grow indoors. (Needs no forcing.) Behind her, summer leftovers. I'm such a cheapskate that I bring flowering annuals into the house at the end of the season. Gotta get my money's worth! :)

      So, Bev and I started talking. And, one thing led to another. And...

      I'm taking the plunge. 2011 = the year of hiking bravely out of my comfort zone. I depart on 2/1 and will be working in Italy for a whole month.

      And, needless to say... I'm all in a panic. Now, who's gonna water the houseplants??

      Toss a few seeds in a pot and Johnny Jump Ups 
      will add great cheer to your house in winter time. 

      3 Tips 4 Happy House Plants:
      • Flowering houseplants need to be re-potted at least once per year because they quickly gobble up all of the soil's nutrients.
      • Water when the top of the soil is dry. Cool window temps aren't necessarily bad, cooler air creates much-needed humidity.
      • Highly diluted fertilizer, every couple of weeks, encourages tons of bright blossoms.

      Wednesday, January 19, 2011

      Wordless Wednesdays: Sundance Film Festival

      I live in the tiny town where this guy hosts his Sundance Film Festival.
      You never know who you might see. Though I can pretty much guarantee they'll be shorter than you'd expect them to be.

      Local's Tip: The best 'gooking on stars' window is NOT in the evenings. It's early afternoon when they sneak into the No Name Saloon for one of those legendary Bloody Marys.

      Okay... a 'somewhat' wordless post.. it seemed to require explanation. :)
      For more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

      Monday, January 17, 2011

      Black Bugs and Baby Betty

      It was downright embarrassing! Perfectly, horribly humiliating.

      My neighbor's wireless wasn't working so she popped over to borrow mine. While she was typing on her laptop she kept swishing her hand across her face. Shooing away a small swarm of teensy black bugs.

      My sunny window is all abuzz with Fungus Gnats.* I noticed that while taking pictures for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. It's pretty pathetic when flower photos require a touch up ~ to hide the bugs. There is, however, an upside to this dilemma. Betty prefers her dinner while it's still wiggling.

      What's that, you say? You're not buying that top picture? 

      Want your kids to love gardening?
      Buy them a Venus Fly Trap.

      Oh, fine. Here's a more realistic pic of baby Betty, the Venus Fly Trap ~ a dainty, mild-mannered, little carnivore ~ who'll live out her days in this old fish bowl. I'm secretly hoping she grows to magnificent proportions (and, sings that outrageous song from the musical,* too!) Though chances are much more likely she'll gobble a bug or two and then kick the bucket.

      I love entertaining little kids with this perennial. 
      Place a dead bug between her leaves and rub it against the trigger hairs. (An eyebrow tweezer makes a good 'spoon' for feeding Betty.) Her leaves will snap shut on the bug and the kids will go nuts. 

      Intent on keeping her alive? 
      They're happiest as terrarium plants, in a hot, humid environment, with poor, acidic soil. In the wild, she's quite often submerged and none too sad about the ordeal. 

      • Don't, whatever you do, feed her hamburger. (Gives her indigestion.) Don't feed anybody hamburger. Nobody knows for sure what goes into that stuff...
      • Even if she looks dead, she might not be. Fly Traps go dormant in winter for several months. Rejoin the living, come spring.
      • And, while she's two tons of fun, she'll do nothing to eradicate black bug problems.
      Those pesky black flies die quickly in dry soil. If your houseplants can't cope with a week of drought, try sticking double-sided tape on the flower pots.

      * Little Shop of Horrors movie, 1986

      Saturday, January 15, 2011

      Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ January, 2011


      It's not as brrr as it looks but it's most definitely not gardening weather.

      This is always the hardest month to be chipper on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. 'Cause I just know when I visit my southern blogging friends they'll be inches away from springtime. Or, worse yet, showing off first blossoms.

      What? Me? Jealous? Okay, maybe just a little. I'm 5 months away from digging in the dirt.

      I have nothing to show for myself outdoors though it is quite colorful indoors...

      Orchids, Cyclamen, refugee Poinsettias (everybody gives me theirs after the holidays) jockey for position in the sunny window.

      Velvety Amaryllis are showing off a 2nd round of blossoms. I had terrible luck with bulbs this year though this late bloomer has certainly made up for her slow-as-snails performance.

      Red Birds are bursting at the seams, climbing out of their tiny pots.

      Loves Me: White Hydrangea.

      Loves Me Not: Darling Kalanchoes are 'sort of' blooming. I have pink, yellow and orange but the yellows are so covered with bugs I was embarrassed to show them. I wouldn't want you to think I'm a lazy gardener or anything.

      Most of my flowering favorites are in the 'coming attractions' teasing phase. I've got tons of Butterfly Orchid buds! I think they're about ready to pop.

      And, I just know they'll burst into bloom on February 1st, the second I hop a plane and hit the road for an entire month.

      Scoot on over and say hello to Carol at May Dreams Gardens. She's the smart cookie who hosts Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

      PS! And, last but not least...

      So, things aren't completely barren outdoors...

      Tuesday, January 11, 2011

      Rebellious Bright Blossoms

      Inspiration for this post came from my blogging friend, Jodi, who recently encouraged us to give Moth Orchids a try. Reading other women's blogs often encourages me to gamble with new flowers. In the case of Phaleanopsis Moth Orchids, 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 Moth 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.

      You'd think after a decade I'd have it all down but just yesterday somebody called me up, begged me to do a project for free.

      This happens all the time. I think it's rude and I didn't wanna do it. So, naturally, I said yes.

      Clearly, I'm not the most cutthroat of businessmen women. Plus, I know they all mean well. They just assume I'm unemployed. I'm not in an office. Most mornings you'll find me working in my jammies. Therefore I'm not really working.... right?

       Cymbidium Orchid
      This slacker died a slow death in the compost pile.
      If they don't bloom often enough, they get kicked to the curb.

      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.

      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...

      I killed this one, too. Dendrobium, another fussy variety.

      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 was excited for the big group hug.

      To my surprise, all hell broke loose.

      One negative observation after another. How will you survive? How will you pay your bills? Here. Here's the number of our human resource dept. They'll give you a temporary job until you come to your senses.

      Feed me! I'm hungry.
      Moth Orchids get soaked for 30 minutes once a week.
       Water + leftover tea leaves + 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? Doubtful. I suppose that comes from somewhere deep within.

      But, I will say that there are certain instances when failure should absolutely be an option. And, such is the case with Moth Orchids. It's just a plant. Give it a go! If it decides to die then toss it in the compost pile and do it again.

      * What worked for me might not work for you. That's half the fun of gardening.
      * Flowering really took off once I decided to stop coddling them.
      * Mine live outdoors in the summertime. They get direct sunlight in winter. Every Sunday, I soak them for 30 minutes. The leftover tea leaves gives them lots of nitrogen, for which they are eternally grateful.
      * From my perspective, the biggest mistake you can make with Orchids is over-confidence. :) Moth Orchids are easy peasy. Other varieties, not so much.

      Wednesday, January 05, 2011

      'As I Lay Dying'

      Two things have always perplexed me about exercise classes:
      1) Why we even bother.
      2) Why we suffer in silence.

      I started my new workout routine this week and I seem to be the only one crying out from the back of the room: Hellooo, I'm dyin' here!!!

      Admittedly, it was a long, busy holiday but as I was passing out drinks this morning, I noticed my poor houseplants have been screaming the same dang thing. Rest assured, I'll show more compassion than the perky little brat teaching my body sculpt [as if that is even possible] class.

      In 3 short weeks, I hop a plane. Off on an adventure that's been on the 'wanna do' list for quite some time. When I get there, I'll be meeting up with Little Miss Never Gains a Pound. Or, should I say Missus (nearly newlyweds!)

      Oh, how I have missed our coffee chats. She is one of my dearest friends. Though I will confess that after a 60 minute torture session with weights and bands and God only knows what's next on this workout agenda -- all in a grand effort not to slow her down once I arrive -- I started wondering... Just how hard would it be to make some lazy friends?

      Now, this, of course, is all in jest. She's a wonderful person. But, I'll bet less active people (preferably ones who still know how to make homemade donuts) are wonderful people, too.

      Thought for the Day.... If dry furnace air is making your skin feel all itchy and miserable, your houseplants might be unhappy, too. Plus, they're probably freezing their little tails off if they're sitting on a cold windowsill when you turn the heat down at night.

      Unhappy House Plant Warning Signs:
      • Yellow leaves - Too much light, fertilizer or water.
      • Yellow spots - Dripping water onto the leaves. (Water from below.)
      • Brown leaves - Not enough water.
      • Dry leaves - Lack of humidity.
      • All of the above - R.I.P.
      • The darker green the leaf, the less light a plant generally needs.
      • Most indoor flowering plants do better in cooler temperatures.

      * As I Lay Dying is a brilliant novel of human suffering, written by William Faulkner.

      Sunday, January 02, 2011

      In With The New

      Utah Penstamon

      Wasn't that kind of the calendar to give us two weeks of holiday celebrations landing on Fridays? More time to celebrate friendships, old and new. A less hectic schedule for finishing out a can't-say-it-was-all-that-great year. Onward and upward.

      Been thinking a lot about native flowers this weekend as that's high on my list of things I'd like to embrace in this new year - more flower power, more water conservancy.  (These pics are three I find in plentiful supply along our hiking trails and three I'd like to grow.)

      Dusty Maiden

      As long as I'm thinking in 3's here are my top 3 holiday observations:

      1) Roasting chestnuts is not nearly as cool and romantic as it sounds. They explode! In unison! Roast them a bit too long, drag them out of the oven and when they hit the cooler air: BAM! It's like 4th of July all over the kitchen.

      2) As I took a quiet moment to admire Sandy's lovely Christmas Eve buffet, I spotted a pretty platter beneath the ham. Hey! That's mine! What's the statute of limitations on the return of serving platters? I'm thinking... never?  ;-)

      3) What price peace of mind? $214.00. As we suffer through the deepest of deep freezes (sub-zero temps are soooo not what we're used to,) I hightailed it down to the cowboy store and bought winter coats for both horses.

      Do they need 'em? Who knows? More importantly, who cares? I slept well, knowing they'd be toasty warm while these frigid winds continue to blow...

      Wild Something or Other

      I hope you got everything you wished for this holiday season. I got closer to my daughter. We've always been pretty tight so I didn't even think closer was possible. We are now Siamese Twins and she's the better half.

      Oh! And, I got a ticket to Innsbruck. But, that's a story for another day.

      * Plant ID:   #1 ~ I know is correct. #2 ~ I think is correct. #3 ~ is clearly a wild guess.