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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday Vignette

One last picture from the recent Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. This is from West Seattle Nursery's spa garden "Wabi-Sabi, Embrace Flawed Beauty," which won a multitude of awards at the show.

Although I won't be planting the marginally hardy Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' (there was a lot of it in this garden, you can just see it on the left) any time soon in my garden, I will definitely be trying this combo of Fritillarias and black mondo grass.

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. Check out her post here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Back in January I posted about my plans for the new cutting garden that I created from one of my old raised vegetable beds. I had started sowing seeds in it under plastic berry container cloches, and with our warmer than normal January I had sprouts from the Lupine Russell mix by the bgeinning of February.

Sprouts first detected on February 6

With our recent very cold weather, I wondered and worried how those little sprouts with their seed leaves would do under snow and with night-time temperatures that went down into the low 20s (22 degrees Fahrenheit on at least one night).

Well, the snow has melted and it's a bit warmer, although still going down near frost each night.

But those little babies are doing just fine!

Baby Lupines doing fine!

There'll be a whole row of them

Come late spring, expect a whole row of them in the cutting garden, multicolored Lupine flowers all singing and disco-dancing to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive!"

Monday, February 26, 2018

In A Vase on Monday

I was a bit worried that our snow and cold weather was going to stick around for much longer and affect my ability to cut flowers from the garden, but a little warmer weather and rain moved in just in time on Saturday to melt almost all the snow. I managed to get out and cut some Hellebores, which is what I had wanted to cut last week for my first IaVoM post. They work just as well this week.

It's a different vase than last week, (a cheaper, unmarked thrift store one), but pretty enough, and the right height and color to go with the blooms.

It's a very simple combo of Hellebores and sweet box

As I looked at it sitting behind my sink in the kitchen window, I realized that I couldn't really see into the Hellebore flowers. Although it's a variety that holds its flowers more upright than most (either Penny's Pink or Anna's Red, I can never tell the difference), it still needed to be a bit higher. So I upended one of my cat's dishes under it.

Overturned cat dish for height

Now I can see into these pretty blooms

I tried to choose a few sweet box branches that still had black berries for just a bit of contrast
Most of the scent of my sweet box out in the garden seems to have dissipated. I had to strip all the lower open flowers from these stems and I'm hoping that the tiny upper blooms will open eventually and add some scent to the room.

I discarded everything from last week's upstairs vase arrangement, but the one downstairs had undergone an interesting change.

The Monstera leaves had turned yellow!

I had to keep them and use them somehow in another vase. I tried to work them into the Hellebores, but quickly realized that just didn't go. Fortunately I had a single stem of Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' blooming out in the greenhouse that fit in perfectly.

Even closer, just in case you are also wondering what we like to read (Guess who reads what?)

Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer'

I'm having a lot of fun cutting flowers for this meme, and I fear it is going to get addictive. Cathy at Rambling in the Garden hosts In A Vase on Monday. Check out Cathy's post here, and see what she and other bloggers are plonking in vases for today. And think about participating too!

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.