Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Better Use For My Broom

You may have heard the normally rainy Pacific Northwest has gotten some snow lately. If you know me, you know how much I dislike snow. I love our dark, dreary, wet (above 32 degrees Fahrenheit) winters.

We got some snow, enough to coat everything, on Sunday. And then it turned too cold for it all to melt, so it stuck around, and I tried really, really hard to ignore it. Hoping if I ignored it long enough it would go away quietly.

Well, that didn't work. The weather goddess got mad and dumped even more on me on Wednesday night. I had to take my broom out and knock snow off my palm trees and my Manzanita.

Me, at the prospect of snow -- unlike Elphaba, I love the rain pictures of the...despised snow.

Ah, alright.

Snow-laden Mahonia branches

Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gold'

I had to use my broom to knock snow off the Arctostaphylos, which probably should have been tip-pruned

A snowy winter jasmine

Eryngium seedheads

The birds have stripped the Echinacea seedheads, which look a bit like witches' hats now

And I hear we might get more. Maybe it's time to hop on that broom and ride off somewhere sunny and warm.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Seed Starting -- 2018

Most years I start plants from seed, and I've been known to go overboard in the past. But this year, I kind of went totally, unbelievably insane.

What I've sowed so far:

Angelica sylvestris purpurea 'Vicar's Mead'
Coreopsis tinctoria 'Mahogany Midget'
Rumex sanguineus
Knautia macedonica 'Mars Midget'
Lysimachia atropurpurea 'Beaujolais'
Salvia lyrata 'Purple Volcano'
Lupinus polyphyllus 'My Castle'
Erysimum cheiri 'Sunset Red'
Erysimum cheiri 'Blood Red Covent Garden'
Dianthus barbatus 'Sooty'
Dianthus caryophyllus 'Grenadin Black King'
Dahlia 'Black Beauty'
Ricinus communis 'New Zealand Purple'
Dianthus barbatus 'Black Adder'
Agastache mexicana 'Sangria'
Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)
Echinops ritro 'Blue'
Asclepias tuberosa
Eryngium maritumum
Agastache hybrida 'Astello Indigo'
Agastache 'Globetrotter'
Agastache 'Bolero'
Verbascum olympicum
Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead'
Salvia superba 'Rose Queen'
Salvia superba 'Merleau Blue'
Salvia superba 'Blue Queen'
Centranthus ruber 'Pretty Betsy'
Chrysanthemum maximum 'Crazy Daisy'
Agastache rupestris 'Apache Sunset'
Eryngium planum 'White Glitter'
Eryngium planum 'Blue Glitter'
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Dwarf'
Penstemon eatonii 'Firecracker'
Verbascum phoenicium 'Shades of Summer'
Scabiosa atropurprea 'Black Knight'
Angelica gigas
Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty Millet'
Pennisetum glaucum 'Copper Prince Millet'
Salvia nemorosa 'Violet Blue'
Salpiglossis sinuata 'Black Trumpets'
Centaurea cyanus 'Black Ball'
Centaurea cyanus 'Black Gem'
Daucus carota 'Dara'
Atriplex hortensis 'Ruby Red Orach'
Swiss Chard 'Ruby Red'
Some of the seeds on that huge list were sowed inside the greenhouse, and have sprouted already, and been pricked out and potted up. But I ran out of room in the greenhouse a while ago. Most of my seeds are being started outside in translucent storage bins with transpiration holes drilled in the tops, which is my version of winter sowing (follow that link for more information). Or, if you want to think of it another way, I guess I'm starting them in makeshift plastic cold frames.

Lupine 'My Castle' -- I have more pots of this, still not pricked out, all with about 5 or 6 seedlings

More Lupines, Echinops and Dahlia seedlings

Shasta 'Crazy Daisy'

Centranthus ruber seedlings

Agastache 'Globetrotter' (top) and Agastache 'Bolero' (bottom)

Erysimum and Salvia seedlings -- I did manage to prick out some of those leggy Erysimum seedlings

Erysimum seedlings pricked out

The Erysimum have produced more true leaves since I pricked them out and, because I buried that leggy stalk in the soil right up to the seed leaves, are less leggy and becoming more robust. I've used this trick in the past with tomato seedlings and it has worked well. I didn't know if it would work with Erysimum, but it was worth a try. I'm kind of annoyed that they were leggy despite being started in the greenhouse. Maybe that's down to our weak PNW winter sun?

By the way, do you know the difference between seed leaves and true leaves? Seed leaves, also called cotyledons, are the embryonic first leaves produced when a seed sprouts, and seldom resemble the leaves of the mature plant. A lot of seed leaves look alike (at least to me). If you look closely at the photos of my Lupine seedlings, you'll see this most clearly. The lower two leaves are simple and round, the others are more recognizable as Lupine leaves, but smaller. I usually wait to prick out seedlings until they've produced a first true leaf. And when you lift a seedling out for transplant, always lift it by the leaves -- preferably one of the seed leaves -- never by the stalk, which is fragile and can break and kill the plant.

Echinops, 'Black Beauty' Dahlias and some of the Lupines pricked out into their own coir pots

More 'Black Beauty' Dahlias

My storage bins full of seeded 3 1/2-inch pots (yes, we are having periodic snow and freezing temperatures this week, but that won't hurt the seeds)
None of the pots in the storage bins have sprouted yet, they're not warm enough. The storage bins will act as small greenhouses on days when the sun does come out, and will warm up considerably, and they'll protect the seeds from wind, weather and animals. If it gets too hot inside the bins I can open the lids or take them off completely during the day, to be replaced at night.

I still have plenty more that I want to sow, mostly annuals, which I usually wait until March to sow outside in bins (I have three more empty ones in the garage). The Nasturtiums, Zinnias and Sweetpeas will all be sowed directly in place.

Seeds Still Waiting to be Sowed

Consolida ajacis 'Carmine King Larkspur'Papaver somniferum 'Cherry Glow'
Gomphrena haageana 'Carmine'
Linum grandiflorum var. rubrum
Lathyrus odoratus 'Windsor'
Tropaeolum majus 'Black Velvet'
Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Wine'
Papaver Paeoniflorum 'Seriously Scarlet'
Helianthus annuus 'Red Wave'
Papaver paeoniflorum 'Giant Double Black'
Papaver orientale 'Brilliant'
Celosia argentea plumoss
Cosmos 'Rubenza'
Nasturtium 'Mahogany'
Cosmos 'Double Click Cranberries'
Celosia 'Cramers Burgundy'
Zinnia angustifolia 'Profusion Red'
Amaranthus cruentus 'Hopi Red Dye'
Amaranthus  cruentus 'Red Spike'

You may have noticed a red and black/purple theme. I wasn't just buying seeds willy-nilly.  I have plans.

Crazy plans.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Vignette

We had snow over the weekend, so I took the opportunity to go out in it and take a picture of my snowdrops flowering in it. Or is that under it? Anyway, it may be a cliche, but I like it.

Snowdrops in the snow

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette every week on hump day. Check out her post here, and why not join in with a post of your own?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Potting Up Begonia Tubers

Last year for the first time, I tried growing tuberous Begonias, after seeing my blogging buddy Peter The Outlaw Gardener's success with them. I tried a handful, some of which grew well, and some of which rotted (boo). But I had enough success with them, and loved the blowsy, old-fashioned flowers so much, that I bought more recently and potted them up in the greenhouse to sprout and grow on until they are big enough and it's warm enough to put them outside (which could be a while).

I knew it was time to look for them at Watson's Nursery in Puyallup when I noticed that last year's tubers, which had been overwintering in my dark garage, had begun to sprout.

See those little white nubbins? They should be green, and they'll probably turn green now that I've watered them and moved them out to the heated greenhouse. They produce little chlorophyll when they sprout without enough sunlight.

Last year's tubers -- I hope all of them will sprout again

Here's what I bought at Watson's.

6 of these

2 of these

2 of these

And 6 of these

Then, of course, I saw more for sale at the local hardware store.

I potted them up in Miracle-Gro potting soil, which I mix with a big helping of Perlite for drainage (the Miracle-Gro has no Perlite in it). I normally prefer a different brand -- SunGro Horticulture's Black Gold -- but the last two bags of that brand that I bought at Fred Meyer were infested with fungus gnats.

I also wet the soil first, rather than after, using water that I have soaked a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) doughnut in (to take care of the fungus gnat problem that I now have). I've found that using water that has Bt in it helps. (I bottom-water all my seedlings with Bt-infused water too.)

Here are the directions that are on the package of Begonia tubers that I bought at the hardware store. I usually fill the pots loosely with moistened soil, then push the tuber down into it, and cover the tuber with a thin layer of more soil.

The directions (beside the big number 2) describe a "knobby side" and a "round side."

Here's what the round side looks like -- I think of it as covered in old roots

Here's the knobby side -- it's where the stalks and leaves of the new plant will arise (the white flakes are wood shavings)

Empty pot about the size of a black plastic nursery gallon, which will hold one of the Begonia tubers

Two filled pots, one tuber in each pot -- actually crocks from the thrift store, so they lack drainage -- which means I'll have to be careful about watering next summer. But they like water, and I hate watering, so things should balance out

The rest have been potted up into four-inch plastic nursery pots, to await sprouting.

Unfortunately, there's no room for the Begonias on the shelves with heated mats, because they are full to bursting with seedlings. That's another post.

Monday, February 19, 2018

In A Vase on Monday

I had made up my mind that I was going to start contributing to the popular meme In A Vase on Monday this week no matter what. After what I thought was a pretty good showing on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I figured I had enough to cut from out there, even though, of course, with it being February, there is nothing yet to use from the new cutting garden.

But on Sunday it snowed.

More than just a dusting too. Enough to foil my plans to make the rounds at a leisurely pace picking and choosing. So I decided to fall back on Plan B -- use what I could from the greenhouse.

I cut all the flowers from the two pots of red tulips that I got for free at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. They are nearly past it, with the top edges starting to turn a bit blue, but they'll have to do. I also cut all the funky little Begonia flowers that I could reach, as well as three fancy leaf Begonia leaves and three long strappy leaves from a multi-colored Cordyline that Peter The Outlaw Gardener gave me this fall. I was considering coiling them up like I've seen in professional arrangements, but I don't really know what I'm doing, and I didn't want to try to get too fancy. The dried branches are from my 'Forest Pansy' redbud. Every time it drops branches and twigs (and it drops a lot) I save them. The vase is a McCoy vase that I found at a vintage shop recently for only $15.00. I thought that was a pretty good price. I've been checking out vintage shops and thrift stores for vases, and it's been an interesting exercise, discovering what my taste in vases is.

The arrangement is sitting on a high shelf upstairs on a bookcase (high to deter my cat Ronin from interfering with it). It's next to a picture of my son Iain and his girlfriend Diana, a selfie that he took of the two of them on their first visit together to our house, while they were lying on our grass in the back garden. He posted it on Instagram after processing it through some funky filter, and I appropriated it, framed it and put it on our bookcase. It's a nice coincidence that the arrangement suits the colors in the photo.

The backs of the Begonia leaves are red like the tulips, and the Cordyline has a red stripe in it as well

I cut one Begonia with colors that just didn't fit the other flowers, so it got its own little arrangement, if you can call it that. The flowers had just a little too much orange. I cut some small Monstera leaves to go in the little brown vase with it. A word of warning -- Monstera leaves emit a bit of slime once dipped in water. That was an icky surprise. Anyway, this one is living behind the kitchen sink.

Of course I'm new at this and rethinking everything. I should have cut more Cordyline leaves. I should have cut those Monstera leaves shorter.

Shoulda, shoulda, shoulda.

This is it, my first In A Vase on Monday post.

Cathy at Rambling In The Garden hosts In A Vase on Monday. Check out her post here to see the vase arrangement she's sharing today, and to see the other bloggers' posts who participate.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Having Fun While Sitting Down at The NWFG Festival

By 3 p.m. on Wednesday, my first day at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival, I was ready for a sit-down. Fortunately, that was when Floral Wars started. While I enjoyed walking around and gawking at all the displays and shopping till my legs ached, I have to say -- Floral Wars was probably just about the most fun time I had at the show! Floral Wars is a head-to-head competition between local florists who specialize in using local products.

Floral Wars was hosted by Debra K. Prinzing of,  a nationwide online directory to florists, shops and studios who design with American-grown flowers.

Debra K. Prinzing, author of Slow Flowers and The 50-Mile Bouquet

Melissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers and Jessica Gring of Odd Flowers Floral Design were the competitors on Wednesday. They were each tasked with doing three designs, and they had only 15 minutes to complete each one -- a floral arrangement, a hand-tied bouquet, and a "surprise" floral creation (which was different each day). On Wednesday they were tasked with creating wearable floral jewelry in the form of a cuff. The ingredients they were given to work with were all local (for a definition of local that included California).

During the competition, Debra roamed the audience, taking questions that the competitors were expected to answer while continuing to work.

Melissa has removed her vase from the pedestal and is moving it onto a lazy susan

Melissa cuts a branch as part of her support

Jessica makes a start on her arrangement by adding some hardwood branches as a support structure, and unlike Melissa has decided to leave the vase up high on the pedestal

Isn't Jessica wearing just the coolest jumpsuit ever?

Melissa has added Lilies and Pieris to her support branches

Melissa adjusted the red tulips before adding them to the vase by opening the petals out, making the flowers look almost blown

The guy from Corona Tools, whose name I've forgotten, talks about the adjustable bypass pruner

Throughout the show, the guy from Corona took questions from the crowd and handed out tools to audience members. The show was sponsored by Corona Tools, Johnny's Selected Seeds and Offray Ribbon.

Jessica contemplates what to add to her hand-tied bouquet

Melissa works on her hand-tied bouquet -- watching both of them clutch the flowers and add to them made my arthritic hands ache in sympathy

Jessica wins the day's prize -- an engraved trowel from Corona Tools

Melissa's floral cuff

Jessica's floral cuff

Melissa's arrangement with its interestingly blown-out tulips

Melissa's hand-tied bouquet lies on the table

Jessica holds her hand-tied bouquet

On Thursday the competitors were Jon Robert Throne of Countryside Floral and Garden and Gina Thresher of From the Ground Up Floral.

Jon started by rolling yellow dogwood branches up into a ball as a makeshift enormous floral frog to support his arrangement

Gina seems to be having fun

Jon works on his arrangement which is going in a decidedly horizontal direction

Gina makes an adjustment to her arrangement

Jon kept up a pretty continuous stream of mischievous banter throughout the competition -- Debra said he was "unfiltered."

For his hand-tied bouquet Jon took a large bunch of redtwig dogwood and began to braid and weave them into a support for the flowers

Gina adjusts the branches that she's using in her hand-tied bouquet

Gina teased Jon that he was supposed to be making a hand-tied bouquet, not weaving a basket

It looks almost like a badminton racket

His hand-tied bouquet was massive -- I think it must have been meant for Wonder Woman to carry

For their "surprise" challenge, they were tasked with creating floral crowns.

Gina ties on her own floral crown

An audience member models Jon's floral crown

Gina won the engraved trowel from Corona Tools

Gina's floral arrangement on the left and her hand-tied bouquet on the right

Jon's hand-tied bouquet sitting in a vase

Jon's horizontal floral arrangement

I have to say -- this was the most fun I've had while sitting down at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival -- honestly, so much more fun and interesting than sitting in the dark looking at slides of photos of plants. I'm sorry if my pictures weren't the best, I used my iPhone's zoom (it's steadier than my point-and-shoot on zoom), but I'm sure you can still get the gist of what the competition was like.