Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sewing, not sowing

Even though--or perhaps because--winter limits my outdoor activities, I have been pleasantly laboring in a different type of garden. Not among living things, but surrounded by yards of printed fabric. At last, a place where the lilies, dahlias, and flowers more fantastic are always in bloom.

Over the past month, I've made this apples and ladybugs grocery tote for my daughter . . .

then, a flouncy sundress for my niece . . . .

a tissue holder . . .

and laid out strips for the first of many log cabin blocks . . .

As the days eek by, gray and gloomy, I seem to be turning towards increasingly vibrant and color-saturated designs. By March, I'll be incorporating LEDs into my stitching projects! Not the greatest grow-lights, but then, I'm sewing, not sowing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Amaryllis ups and (mostly) downs

This has not been a good year for amaryllis. I started with four, acquired two, and ended up with three. Even the one plant that I received in bloom wilted, yellowed, and died. And in addition to the bulb that softened up while it was chilling, another turned out to be rotten at the core.

I potted it up but nothing grew. And then I stuck my finger down into the neck, only to encounter a deep well of soft brown muck. Gagh! One time that my poor sense of smell was a blessing. The autopsy photograph is above.

On the upside, my "Minerva" bulb is already sprouted up an offset, to the left of the bulb in the photograph below. This baby needs to increase to at least three leaves before it is separated from its mother, a matter of years.

Then, on the downside, the leaves of the "Minerva" mother are sporting raised red spots, which I have to assume is the fungal disease caused by Stagonospora curtisii. (Oh, if only someone would post a good picture of its symptoms for us visual types!)

Treatments--other than discarding the bulb--seem variably effective, frightening elaborate, and/or chemical redolent. The other leaves seem less affected, so hopefully this bulb will pull through. All this, and winter, too?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 plant orders, the first installment

A foot of snow over the holiday weekend means it's time to think about plant orders before winter craziness sets in. Stat!

Therapy for today:

1. Lobaugh's Dahlias: Rose Toscano (2 tubers), Rae Ann's Peach (1), Karras 150 (2), Park Princess (2)

2. Bluestone Perennials: Chasmanthium latifolium Northern sea oats (2), Aster novae-angliae "Purple Dome" (3)

3. Select Seeds: Sweet pea "Old Spice" (err, seed)

More later.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Keeping faith

Here's the back story: After 12 weeks of chilling in my refrigerator crisper drawer, the amaryllis bulbs were potted up late last year. There's always a little bit of anxiety about removing from the refrigerator the brown paper bags in which the bulbs have been stored and, after the long wait, looking inside. The surprises are generally not good. This year, some of the paper bags had rotted through (maybe too much soil left on the amaryllis roots?), one bulb had turned soft (maybe too long in the cold?), and a "Royal Velvet" bulb was covered with soft reddish areas (maybe both too much soil and too much cold?).

And there was greenish mold growing on its roots.

And the trimmed-down stalk was mushy.

And there was a thoroughly distasteful rotten area on the side that required surgery. No photographs, please.

Diseased? Delicate? I was ready to pitch the poor thing. But my husband, enthusiast of scientific experiments (and thrifty Yankee), argued to keep it, separate from the other bulbs, but save it anyways. Nothing to lose.

Update: So here is a small sign that faith is rewarded. Slowly, slowly, new growth is poking up from the trimmed top of the bulb. It may not look very tall to most people, but to me it's towering.

Happy inauguration day!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fast action

Around 11 o'clock last night, I set up a few "Gypsy Queen" hyacinth bulbs on their forcing vases.

And just eight hours later, at 7 o'clock this morning, they were already unravelling their roots and reaching down towards the water. This was fast action! Look, the trapped air bubbles in the water are still clinging to the side of the vase.

The "Gypsy Queen" bulbs have been cooling their heels in my refrigerator since late September and after fifteen weeks of dormancy, they seem raring to go! Don't we all want to break free of the winter cold?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Behold this compost!

The regenerative arc of composting has been fertile ground for a variety of poets. Gary Snyder, Sophie Wadsworth and, most wonderfully (and disturbingly), Walt Whitman all wrote about "such divine materials."

Usually during the winter, my compost pile is quiet. Under its current toque blanche, decaying clementine peels, egg shells, and coffee grounds are stiff and frozen. The pile begins to cook again in the spring.

For my birthday last week, my husband made a set of compost screens. One is fitted with 1/2" gauge screen and, for those special sieving occasions, another with 1/4" screen. The screwed-in strappings that hold the screens in place are a particularly well constructed and hands-friendly touch. I can hardly wait to try them out this spring.

Composting and middle aged birthdays--Whitman might join these events into perfect metaphorical alignment--but I'll pass on the poetry.