Attempting to be a Successful Succulenteur and Other Garden Hits and Misses


Many posts ago I started on the path of succulent propagation.  My biggest experiment was using the “let it sit” method with a few leaves I’d gathered that had fallen from a succulent plant at the garden center – NOT stealing as they would have been considered cast offs and no doubt swept up and tossed.

So, to refresh, the method is to let them lie on a bed of Perlite in filtered light until they push out roots and then begin to form their own little plant. A while ago they put out a few tiny roots, but check it out now! The little plant is starting to form at the base ( you’ll probably need to click on the photo to enlarge it so you can really look closely):

 

Also, the heads of my Hens and Chicks have robust roots and are more than ready to be planted…if only I had a place to put them…

 

And, as I may have mentioned before, the art of becoming a succulenteur is really about experimentation. I just made a new observation about one of my succulents. It could almost seem to be a deliberate experiment with two test groups, but in reality it is all just coincidence that I had the same succulent type planted in two very different locations. One is outside in full sun, the other in filtered light. Check out the difference between the two!

 

The first one is in full light, the second in filtered. Note how in full light and heat they have balled up and tightened. In the filtered light they have opened up and stretched that neat webbing to its max. Both are doing well, but they adjust to their conditions in order to do so. Also, the one in full light popped out a lot of babies ( off shoots) in early spring due to lots of consistent rain…unlike the ones in filtered light which rely on my non-consistent watering patterns!

 

On the garden front…well, the Bok Choi bolted. This is the third attempt and the third failure. We’ve had really odd changes of temperature. I’m pretty sure the week of scorching heat is what caused them to bolt. But if it weren’t for the heat, I’m sure the pests would have done them in:

Note all the munched leaves.

 

Our little planter with chard turned into a potty for some nocturnal animal. All the sprouts were dug out and I believe if you look close enough you can even see a turd in the bowl. Boo!

Okay, since we’re on the track of failures at the moment, I may as well tell yo that some of my succulents started looking rather weird in the way they were forming their leaves. Also, I noted aphid-like critters on some of them. It seemed to be spreading, so I uprooted the ones that looked diseased.

 

Also, because of the funky weather, my living rock succulent’s flowers shriveled up and died without actually blossoming. I thought the whole plant would die, but it seems to be doing okay if you disregard the desiccated flowers at its center.

 

Onwards to brighter things! The Romain is doing fantastic. We had our first garden salad of the year a few days ago. The roses are in bloom, my Lambs Ear are taking over the entire patch and the bees are loving the flowers that just started blossoming from them. My Lavendula Dilly Dilly ( yes, the actual name of the lavender I planted, of course I chose it for its name!) is getting ready to bloom as well.

 

 

 

 

Our Purple Iris has run its course

 

 

But replacing it is a new kind:

 

And my established Hens and Chicks are also blooming:

 

And finally, after three years here, a lovely California Poppy has decided to join our accidental garden!

 

Annnnd we have a blue bird family in our little bird house. Every time we step into the garden you can hear the little babies chirping from inside, saying “feed me, feed me, feed me!” Our presence in the garden worries the parents who stand around with worms and insects in their beaks flitting to the roof of the house then away again unwilling to reveal to us where their precious babies are. And in accordance the babies fall silent too; until my hubby and I freeze in our actions to the point of shaking with the extended exertion of it until finally the mommy or daddy decide we’re no longer a threat and finally deliver the food to the anxious and voracious babies.

Mommy and…

Daddy!

 

Also, now that it’s getting hot, we are visited by our friendly neighborhood lizards who love our concrete step leading into the garden.

 

All in all, we are rather happy with our little backyard. We haven’t invested as much time in it as the previous year, but it is still a delight. Everything seems so alive and so active.

 

 

So, despite some failures in the gardening department, on the whole I think it is much more of a success. I’ll leave it at that!

 

 

S

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On Roughing It at Big Basin National Park


It’s been quite a while, folks, since I last posted something. I was away on a 4 day, 3 night hiking/camping trip with my husband, his sister and her husband ( who only made it the last day as he was recovering from an infection from cat scratches and bites- yikes!) and two other friends.

How to make succinct what was truly epic. I am still trying to readjust to a real bed, a shower and a stove top on-which one can finesse the temperature with high, medium or low and everything in between.

I think I have about a billion photos. One of the perks of being the photographer is that you “have to stop” to take pictures, making me look less like a wimp and more like an artist. But truly, I was compelled to take photos because everything was gorgeous.

We hiked up from headquarters to a mountain ridge, camped there the first night and then took two days hiking to the ocean, and the last day hiking back. We experienced micro climates: warm and dry on the ridge, cold and damp near the ocean. We experienced moments of ” I don’t think I’m going to make it” and moments of ” I am rocking this so very hard-core!”

My one issue was a bum knee that decided to start twinging on the very first day. Lots of weight from our packs and a few badly placed foot plants and I was thinking I’d have to call it quits. It’s amazing how quickly one can go from feeling really fit and in the zone, to decrepid and like an old hobbled granny needing a walker. On the ups I could just hoof it like a pro, on the downs I had to slow down and limp the thing. But on day two I was loaned a hiking stick which made all the difference. As the days wore on, the packs got a little lighter and my knee a little stronger. By the end I felt like I could have gone at least another day…if not for our absolute longing for a shower to feel clean again!

Dehydrated food was our main fare. I was entirely shocked by how yummy some of that stuff is. The only time is was not thrilling was when too much water was added making for a sloppy mess. I dunno, could be that we would have eaten anything given our exhaustion levels at the end of each day.

Our little beer can stove came in handy. My hubby loves it so much he ended up boiling water for everyone in the group more than once. It’s not as efficient as some store-bought stoves, but man does it get the job done in a jiffy!

Here’s me sitting it out while everyone else does the 1 mile hike down to the creek to filter some much needed water:

We needed to fill our water containers about twice a day. Luckily there was many a stream along our hiking route.

This is one of  many wild irises growing everywhere. Mostly white and a few purple ones.

And there were even trilliums!

Not quite like the ones in Ontario, Canada where I grew up. The petals are much smaller, but still the signature three leaf, three petal plant.

Check out this watering hole where we rinsed off and got more potable water (upstream of where we cleaned ourselves, of course!). Freezing but glorious!

Banana slug love. Eeew. I live in fear of actually slipping on one of these guys. Ugh.

The falls on our second to last day. At times we felt like we were in the Jurassic period and that a pterodactyl or some such ancient beast would appear to eat us whole.

Amazing Red Woods.

Below is our incredible camp site on the last night. It was like a little faerie glen, surrounded by luscious trees like a protective wall with a little bit of sky peaking through the middle:

As if getting to the last camp site wasn’t enough, a few of us opted to hike the 1.4 miles to the ocean.

Voila!

I was pretty stoked. And do you know what’s by the ocean?

Rocks.

You can see in the above photo that I have already acquired one rock and that was within mere seconds of stepping onto the beach. I’m a pro.

And I am perhaps the only back packer who has ever hiked rocks back out with them. Yes folks, that is exactly what I did. Usually the goal is to consume weight over the course of days and end up with a lighter pack by the last day. Uh uh. Not me. I added rocks to my pack.

I couldn’t help it. It’s a compulsion.

My hubby watched me silently as my gaze wandered from the beautiful ocean waves and sky, to the rocks at my feet. He didn’t even say anything. Okay, maybe he may have uttered, “really?” But then he humoured me and left it at that.

People, I used utmost restraint. That beach was a gold mine of amazing rocks.

I could have stayed there for hours. But that would have been decidedly anti social.

So, I tore myself away after a measly half hour or so.

I got home with this loot:

What made this trip so satisfying was the feeling of achievement upon reaching camp after hours of hiking and getting to throw down that heavy-ass pack. Exhaustion makes eating and sleeping that much more appreciated. And perhaps, it can also explain this conversation between my husband and myself as we linked arms and each bent one knee behind us to stretch ours sore calves:

Hubby: “We’re like a two-legged horse”

Me: “…..”

Hubby: “…only with a lot of differences.”

At which time we cracked up and couldn’t stop laughing for about five minutes as we tried to figure out in what configuration a two-legged horse might remain mobile. This illustrates the state of our brains after a 4 hour hike.

All said and done. This roughing it thing was amazing. I am rearing’ to go again. Next time around, I will know how to pack more efficiently, will know what to bring and what not to bring… and I’ll definitely be leaving  room for a few rocks too.

S

On Roughing It, Fluffing It and Oh Stuff It-ing It


A few days ago I bit the bullet and cleaned up the house. Yes, even used the vacuum. I was, of course, spurred on to this for a reason: guests were coming. That’s why I need a steady stream of guests if I want my house to be spa like at all times.

But now look at it!

My hubby, his sister and her husband and two of their friends and I, are all going on a three-day hiking and camping trip at Big Basin National Park.  We’re pretty excited to be camping – even more so because I’m taking time off of work for this adventure!

Well, we both went shopping yesterday with a list of things for our camping trip, and wouldn’t you know, more came home than expected. Not only has this turned out to be expensive, it’s also ridiculous. You would think we were heading into this trip expecting to die of starvation, and the result is an extreme overcompensation. At this rate, the only things we’ll be able to carry is food, forget about a tent or sleeping bag, let alone clothes!

One thing I’m kind of looking forward to is trying out the dehydrated food I got at REI. We are only bringing the beer-can stove so whatever we eat has to be edible with only boiled water added, no simmering or cooking time required. We’ll either be impressed or really disgusted :

On to the “fluffing”. I’m still working on gathering together a bunch of art stuff for this art fair I’m going to be a part of in two weeks. I’ve already dragged out all available work and have been assessing what I’m going to take in terms of originals:

Then there’s the additional fluff required to fill it all out. I’m pretty happy with this:

It happens to be a frame I found at a thrift store (really good quality) which already had a mat board in it with pink trim I thought I’d have to toss, but turns out it goes perfectly with my “Alfred Yawn” print.

I’ve already designed 4 octopus cards that are currently at the printers – I’ll update you on that later. I’m pretty excited about them. And now I’m working on another idea: mini originals magnets:

It’s still in the experimental stage. I’ll draw little pictures and mod podge it to glass stones with a magnet also secured to the back. That way, folks who can’t buy the pricier stuff can still go home with something. What do you think?

And now for the “Oh stuff it!” part of my blog.

Our garden this year has been half-hearted. Not because we don’t care, but because we are in the process of looking for a house to buy and don’t know when we’ll be moving out. As a result, we’ve half planted and half let things go back to nature. One thing we did do was plant Bok Choi, and wouldn’t you know it, the pests are out and loving it! It makes me mad because in the past we’ve had no luck with Bok Choi and I really hoped that this would be the year. Oh stuff it.

But, on the bright side ( literally, on the bright side of the photo ) the romaine lettuce is doing just fine.

For that matter, our accidental garden is doing great as well. Check out my elephant garlic sprouting its flower:

And something unidentified ( in his half hearted haste, he neglected to mark any of the plantings) – we think peas, is growing quite happily:

And that’s the latest on roughing, fluffing and stuffing it!

S

 

Update on Succulents and a Few Other Things


So last time I wrote about succulents I’d just been to the garden center and picked up a few new wonders of the succulent variety as well as a handful of loose succulent leaves. Well, I laid them out on a bed of perlite and left it outside under filtered light (my covered porch) and waited. It’s been what…two weeks now? Well, I am happy to report that they are now pushing out roots. Check them out!

 

I’m going to wait a bit longer until it starts to form a new plant, so I will get back to you on that. They still have a lot of  juice in them. No watering is required. You know it’s ready to put into the ground when the leaves are desiccated and a new mini plant is formed at the end where the roots are.

I also showed you how you can propagate by just cutting off succulent heads, scabbing them over and putting them directly in soil. Well, I cut too many heads and didn’t have enough planters, so some of the heads I left sitting on the perlite. Well, wouldn’t you know it, they also started to push out roots. These should be placed in soil pronto as the leaves are getting really thin, indicating that it’s using all it’s juice to make those roots and needs water soon.

 

So that’s the most recent skinny on succulents.

 

The end of April brought the first BBQ of the year for us. Very exciting. Nice to have the longer days and the warmer evenings.

For our inaugural BBQ we grilled burgers. Not to be forgotten, sweet red onions drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt.

 

Look at its transition to absolute tastiness heaven:

 

Add to that my mother in-law’s home-made pizza…and we were so very good to go!

 

 

The accidental garden is doing well. Those petunias just keep on flowering!

 

And my hubby planted a lot of seeds that have been happily germinating on the window sills in our apartment. Look at this happy sprout greeting the vegetation outside our window:

 

Soon they’ll be ready for the outdoors.

Unfortunately pests have discovered my Bok Choi that was so happily flourishing in our planter boxes. I haven’t the heart to upload a photo. Have been experimenting with sprinkling cayenne pepper on and around them. So far no evidence that this has helped in any way. Does someone out there have advice for me? We think it might be earwigs getting to them. Booooo! Hisss!

 

That’s the latest. Will upload photos of recent artwork soon.

 

 

S

 

 

The Tank Be Empty


I’m in recovery mode. My weekend was so full of things to do I kind of lost it. As a result I was a mess on Monday, nearly got in a car accident (not my fault) leading to a broken carton of eggs in the back seat where all the groceries went flying. At home it continued with me having a case of the dropsies and breaking my most favorite glass bottle; smashed to bits on the concrete driveway as I unloaded the car. It was one of those days,  you know, those days when you keep doing something stupid and “aw sh*%#” keeps slipping from your lips. That kind of day.

So this morning I just slept. It was the best thing I could possibly do. Now, I don’t have much time before I head in to work, but it was worth it.

Hopefully I can face the rest of my day with grace and calm.

Want to see photos from the weekend, the relaxing part of it? We went on an impromptu camping trip, just my hubby and I, to Boggs where he’s mountain bike racing next weekend. It was mostly relaxing, except for the part where when we got to the campsite the radiator fluid in the truck was boiling. We weren’t sure if we’d make it out the next morning, but we made the best of it.

We kept it simple – lot’s of food to get us through the night and morning! There’s something about camping trips that makes one fear starvation in the wild, and thus drives you to stock up on all manner of indulgences.

As you’re looking at the photos take note of the ones where we’re cooking. My husband made a cook stove from two beer cans. It uses denatured alcohol and works like a dream. The most lightweight camp stove ever. I’m not the only creative person around here!

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PS. We made it home without destroying the radiator. All’s well.

 

 

For the Love of Rocks!


I love rocks. Always have. I come from a family of rock lovers. One of my most fond memories is rock picking somewhere in New Brunswick with my sister, mom and dad. I believe there were even signs at this one particular beach that said “no rock picking”. Somehow that seemed wrong. It’s not like we were going to take  the whole beach full of rocks (though often times it feels like we’ve made a valiant attempt). As nervous as we were about breaking a law, we still couldn’t help ourselves, our jacket pockets were bulging. Pulling out of the parking lot, the car riding quite low to the ground, we felt like we’d done something illicit.

But a beach with such signage is rare, thank the gods. Rock picking is one of those free joys, it fills hours and hours, absorbs the mind and appeals to the aesthetic senses. Only you the rock picker know exactly what you are looking for, what the criteria for the perfect rock might be. Often it is dictated by the location, the type of rocks that have formed there. Some beaches are good for the round, smooth rock, others for the colours and textures. Some beaches have beach glass, or worn bricks. I love it all. My husband doesn’t get it. He has conceded to sit beside me for a little while, looking at rocks, but I far outlast him in terms of rock picking stamina. He also, strangely, does not feel compelled to take them home. He’s never said it but rather suggested through body language that he thinks I’m a bit touched-in- the-head, so to speak, when it comes to rocks.

Believe me, I felt vindicated when my family came to visit me for our wedding on the coast. This was the scene:

 

I know I am not alone!! When I’m with my clan, we know the business of rocks. I swear we stayed on our bellies for at least 2 hours straight if not more and had to tear ourselves away from that beach to go and “be social” and try not to be “antisocial rock picking maniacs”.

Luckily I have a decent camera, so now, instead of taking the entire beach home, I take pictures of ones that don’t quite make the cut but are still beautiful. The best ones come home with me.

And what do I do with those rocks, pray tell? They make beautiful arrangements in bowls, or around succulents. They have also managed to become the subject of paintings. There is an energy about rocks. I feel calm when I am looking at them and holding them in my hands. So, I decided to try to convey the feeling I get from rocks in a painted format:

This is the first painting of rocks I’ve done, and it was immensely satisfying.

Recently I got my hands on a piece of scrap bamboo board from my father-in-law’s wood shop. Here are the beginnings of my next rock painting:

What do you think? Loopy rock lover or a kindred spirit?

S

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.

S