Spring Garden

I just wanted to share with you what I found in the garden this morning. Usually it’s under my husband’s purview to water the garden before work, but he was running late so I stepped in as pinch hitter. I wasn’t entirely sure why watering was necessary as  a little bit of rain had fallen, but he insisted that I do it anyway. I was a bit grudging, but as soon as I got out there, I was loving it. One of my most favorite things is water droplets on leaves, and there was plenty of that, so I headed back in to grab my camera. Photos first, then watering. I didn’t want to disturb the perfect droplets :

This is my lambs ear patch growing in abundance and practically choking everything else in the bed out. But my hens and chicks are putting up a good fight. Check out the flowers it’s pushing out!

Just a side note..more like a note to self: next time I plan on taking close-up shots, refrain from coffee. These shots aren’t as sharp as I’d like, but you get the idea anyway.

I’d mentioned accidental gardening in one of my previous posts. Well, last year we had one mysterious petunia show up in our veggie bed. Check it out now!

They’re a little bit pale, but such fighters! In our three years here, we never actually bought a petunia, so this one sprang up from a random seed and keeps getting bigger. We don’t have the heart to take it out. We’ll enjoy it for a little bit longer and then see about transplanting it when we need the bed for more veggie plantings.

I’m happy to report that the bok choy is happily growing. Last year I put them in way too late and they bolted like crazy in the summer heat. These one’s are liking our spring weather. I am crossing my fingers that we’ll get a good harvest of bok choy. Last week the weather suddenly heated up for two days, so as long as there’s no more of that, the bok choy stand a chance.  Looks like some thinning is in order!

Last but not least, my lovely little flowers…like mini carnations. Not sure what they’re called:

It turned out to be quite satisfying watering the garden, feeling needed by all of this lovely nature. The mother bird in our bird house was only slightly alarmed, calling out and flying by me several times to check out the threat. Pretty soon she’ll be used to us, just like last year, we’ll become permanent fixtures of the garden.

My heart skipped a beat as I went to open my front door. Locked? Phew. Not this time; and besides, I know where the spare key is kept now.

Happy Day everyone!


Never Go Near A Garden Center a.k.a. Human Magnet

I did it folks, I was led into temptation. I knew well in advance, as my legs took on a life of their own and carried me towards the alluring gates, that I should not enter the garden of Eden, because I would partake of the fruit. For a few moments I put on a convincing act of  ‘just looking’.

These were my finds:

Graptoveria Amethorum

Bear’s Paws

I couldn’t resist. They were $1.98 at Home Depot. I could say that it was out of the goodness of my heart – because though they look great on their abundant flats of succulents, they are not in the proper soil. Large stores like HD are all about the easy and express, so they just put these little guys in potting soil which is not prime for a succulent.

These two succulents are the juicy type, so they will not survive frost ( I learned that with last seasons juicy succulents, may they rest in peace. Juicy= high water content=freezes like water in an ice cube tray). These are definitely indoor guys.

As exciting as these acquisitions were, the most exciting were the freebies:

 I did not unscrupulously take them off a plant, I happened to find them at the bottom of the flat between the potted plants where they had naturally fallen on their own. This is a fantastic development as I now have the subjects for my experiments with this method of propagation:

1. Take leaves from succulent and lay them on a bed of perlite or gritty soil

2. Leave in area of filtered light indoors or out. Do not water

3.Wait for new growth to form at base along with tiny roots

4.Place in gritty soil and water lightly

Now I’m at step 3: the waiting. I will let you know how things develop.

In the meantime, here are a few shots of me transplanting my lovely succulents to a good-sized pot full of 1:1:1  potting soil/ Perlite / Gritty soil ( lava rock is apparently best but hard to find. Sand is too fine)

You must not be afraid to manhandle the succulent to open up the root ball – often they’ve been confined to a pot for too long and they are quite dense. Remember you are showing them tough love and they will appreciate it in the end.

Lightly spritz them with water and place in the sun.



the Skinny on Succulents

I’m not an authority figure on this, so let me just get that out of the way.

If you read my previous blog about gardening, you’d know that I struggle with certain flora and fauna, often send them to plant heaven and on occasion succeed in sustaining life.

Succulents are by far the most forgiving and thus my best friends in the plant department.

About a year ago I was fortunate to be able to attend a free seminar on propagating succulents. Since then it’s been a grand experiment with varying success, but I’d love to share what I do know. When you are successful with propagation, it is the most satisfying thing in the world.

Alright, say you have just purchased a beautiful succulent in a pot, it’s geometrically perfect, fits the vessel just right, requires little attention. 6 months later, you’ve got this on your hands:

Congratulations, your succulents have outgrown their pot. Now what.

When succulents are under stress (too much sun, too much cold, not enough water, too little space) they start turning lovely colors, so you might like to enjoy it in this state for a while. But there will come a time when it starts to look mangy and you take pity. You’re going to have to do something with that puppy. It is helpful if you have a plethora of small pots – trust me, pretty soon you can open your own succulent nursery.

At all times, remind yourself that succulents can take a lot. Don’t be too gentle, you’re going to need to do some tugging and cutting and really get your fingers around each head.

Find some of the babies that the plant is putting out:

Pull out and up from the rest of the plant

With clean, sterilized sheers, cut the stem, don’t be queasy it’s actually really neat once you realize how much they can take. You can also do this to the larger heads, but will need to scab them over (more on that later).

Trim really close to the bud, peel away any dead leaves.

Then simply push the stem in to gritty soil (needs to have good drainage). Over the course of a week or so, the succulent will push out new roots and grip the soil on its own. It does not need a lot of water. In fact, for the first little while, to spur on the root development, hold back on any water. When you do water, use a spray bottle and gently mist them, they don’t need much!

If you are cutting the head of a larger succulent like that of my Hens and Chicks, do not immediately place in soil. Instead, leave it out to scab over (approximately a week) then place in soil. Plants, like all living things, are susceptible to bacteria. By allowing the stem to scab over the succulent is protected from whatever organisms it might encounter in the soil.

You know it’s scabbed over because it’s not wet and juicy looking but dry and shriveled at the stem. Then you can press it into soil. Hens and Chicks are very forgiving and can thrive in regular soil or gritty soil.

Another neato way to propagate some types of succulents is to take just a few of their leaves (pull from the plant rather than cutting as the DNA required for its propagation is in the thin membrane where the leaf separates from the stem – or so I’ve been told!), place them on gritty soil or perlite and leave them (no water!) until they push out roots. They use the moisture up in their own leaf, shriveling as the roots take all the life force. Once roots are visible, push into gritty soil and watch to see how it roots in a few days and starts growing a full plant. I haven’t been as successful with this method. All succulents have their propagation season, some like cool weather, others warmer. When I’m better at this I’ll let you know.

The artistry comes in how you arrange your succulents. At the moment, I’m focused on learning how to propagate and keep plants happy. Eventually the artistry will sneak in.

Hope you give succulents a try, I think you’ll really enjoy them.


Get Outside!…but check for keys first

Well folks, as is often the case, we intend to take the bull by the horns but in the end we discover it’s the bull who’s in control.

I sat down at my keyboard with the intention of writing a new post, sat with fingers poised… and then found nothing but static.  I’ve been feeling a little bit stressed of late  and when that happens it’s really hard to stay in a relaxed and creative zone.

I decided that what I needed was a dose of fresh air. It’s been raining pretty steadily, so whilst there was a break in the rain I thought I’d take some pictures of the wonderful spring growth occurring in our back yard. I grabbed my Nikon D300, slipped on my faithful flats, zipped up my hoody (rather chilly in the mornings), let the door swing shut and stepped into a rain drenched, glowing garden:

Happy with my shots I gleefully headed in to upload them. Surely this would make a great post!

Imagine my surprise when the door knob failed to turn so that with my forward momentum my body continued to travel until it met with the door.

Okay. Somewhat fazed.

I guess I must have failed to notice the doorknob set to the locked position when I exited. That’s fine, we’re prepared for this contingency: a spare in the shed.

Go to the shed. I remember the lock combo, good for me.

Can’t find the extra key. He must have moved it to a better hiding spot in the shed.

A thorough scouring of the shed in all its cobwebbed glory does not reveal a key. Think, think, think.

At this point, staring at the unforgiving door, I am just grateful that I am not in my pajamas. This could have been worse. I have no keys, I also can’t use the car, I neglected to bring my cell phone along with me, but I am wearing clothes! I know what I have to do: walk to my mother-in-law’s where I know there is a spare. Half way down the walkway I remember my trusty Schwinn ( this is an indicator of how infrequently I frequent the outdoors!). Miraculously the tires are not flat, the universe must be on my side!

To keep this brief, I got to my mother-in-law’s and we got a good laugh from my self-inflicted adventure; but most importantly, I got outside – really outside! Spring was not only in my garden, but throughout the neighbourhood.  Check out the flowers growing in my mother-in-law’s driveway!

It’s so easy for me to stay locked inside, doing my blogging, painting and knitting etc. But true inspiration is out in the world, in the fresh air. I am so lucky that I live in such a beautiful part of the world. Today I was reminded of that.

To carry my metaphor through, the bull was a gentle but insistent bull that pinned me between it’s horns and took me on a tour of my neighbourhood. Something I would not have done on my own unless properly motivated. I am grateful for today’s removal from the ordinary and predictable.

Biking in the crisp air, the wind cooling the tips of my ears, vineyards in my peripheral view, I felt inspired!

My key slipped into the lock and turned just as fresh rain began to fall.



Gardening as Creative Outlet – Yes, Even You of the Terrible Black Thumb!

You’d be amazed by how many blog posts there are on having the black thumb of death. This is reassuring to me because I now know that I am  not alone.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to have a green thumb. Each year you find new resolve and promise to pay better attention to the needs of your plants. You buy a gorgeous pot of flowers and you say to yourself “this one I will devote all my energy to, I will water it and put it in the best light and…etc”. Next thing you know you look up from whatever you’re doing to see the carcass of a desiccated object, presumably a plant because it’s in a pot and you realize that yes, 2 weeks have gone by without a thought for this wonder of nature now departed.

I grew up with a mom and dad who happily and successfully gardened and an aunt who was a plant whisperer. Compared to them everything I touched died. I think I killed a venus fly trap by feeding it too many flies.

But I’m here to bring hope to those as afflicted as I am.

You may feel like it’s a curse and therefore it’s insurmountable. I think it’s not a sticking curse, it can be  overcome, but first you have to figure out your own character and habits. Maybe you just don’t have the disposition to pay attention to details like soil quality, rotational cycles, frost warnings, pest control, sunlight, watering etc. Maybe it”s about proximity- out of sight out of mind, so you need to keep it in view, like on a stool in front of the toilet so every time you heed the call of nature you’re also reminded to nurture. I’ve learned to accept that I am not a detail nor a pattern person. My gardening style reflects my creative style : a wild burst of enthusiasm and ideas, the urge to get started, an impressive focus that lasts 2-4 hours that  just as suddenly dissipates requiring me to walk away and give it space.

This works for painting and drawing… not so much for living plants.

But wait! This can be done! Hear me out. Gardening can be satisfying as a creative outlet, in its color, design and in just the satisfaction and pride of helping something grow.

I’ve developed a philosophy that fits my personality: Family and friends understand that though I may not write or call often I love them still and when we see each other again, we’ll pick up where we left off.

The same can essentially be applied to plants:

If you are still alive when I get back, you’re my kind of plant.

Okay.. not entirely the same, but you get my drift. The answer to your problem is: SUCCULENTS!! and a few choice  low-maintenance plants.(I would say cactuses, but they are so low maintenance, that I outright forget them, literally, for years.)

Succulents are beautiful, they propagate themselves, they require little water, love the heat and sun ( some even thrive in cold), and when they are under pressure (root bound, dehydrated etc.) they develop beautiful colors (nurseries deliberately stress their succulents so they look more appealing). And should you want to start a new plant in a pretty pot, simply snip off one of the heads and push it into the soil of your new pot. Done. It will develop roots over the next week or so.

Chilean Needle Grass is particularly satisfying. It loves the rain, but it also is unphased by scorching days. It will propagate itself like crazy (probably why it’s been upgraded to an invasive species). This year we had to pull little baby grass tufts out from all over our yard. They’re easy to pull though, so if you like where its chosen its home, leave it, if you don’t, pull it.

Also bulb plants. Very satisfying as they will appear as if by magic every year. Check out our Irises coming up:

“But wait, what about edible plantings?!?” you ask. Well…I don’t know what to say. I’m fortunate to have a husband who likes to garden and for whom a regular pattern of watering and weeding is fun. Let me say that such activities can bring joy to the creative soul. Weeding can be meditative and its repetitive nature leaves one’s mind free to wander into imagination land. Some great creative ideas have arisen from such gardening moments. That said, there is not much in the way of edibles that would do well with neglect.  If I had to go with one veggie that would most likely survive under my sole care, perhaps even an Apocalypse, it would be the zucchini. But you’ve got to love the stuff and you have got to be prepared to make all sorts of creative choices when dealing with the harvest. I mean, zucchini everything: zucchini bread, zucchini stir fry, soup, pancakes, you name it. Also, if you do not keep on top of said harvest, you WILL have a beast on your hands:

zucchini baby

And getting rid of it after making an emotional connection can be tough.

Accidental gardening is fantastic. This year we’ve discovered lettuce growing in the middle of our lawn, carrots and garlic maturing in the boxes far from their  initial plantings.  I could not keep my basil and oregano alive to save my life last year – but this year it is thriving at the base of our garden steps and around the roses.  I’m a fan. Mother nature will take over if you let her.

All I’m saying is that even as the erratic creative that you are, you too can keep some things alive – you just have to figure out what they are.Yes, in the process many plants will have to sacrifice their lives. But many will thrive sending your confidence soaring. Slow and steady, trial and error, your black thumb might soon turn a bluish shade of green.