Monday, May 31, 2010

Old piece, new exposure, what a surprise!

It was a very good, very busy weekend for us. I managed to finish 5 of the 6 ceramic pieces I wanted to work on before we drove down to Vestal to visit The Clay Ground. While dropping off the pieces, our friend Alaina (who's worked at TCG for quite a while) showed us what the new store brochures will look like. They're published by the Contemporary Ceramic Studios Association (CCSA) for their member shops (DIY/paint-it-yourself pottery studios), and were just previewed in the organization's quarterly magazine. One of my vases is in the new brochure!! Holy cow!! Big excitement all around. You see, almost two years ago, right after I started creating my designs on ceramics at The Clay Ground, the shop owner, Laurie, asked me to do a large baluster vase for her to take to the CCSA national convention that year, to be part of their annual charity auction to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The last time I saw the vase, it hadn't been fired yet, lol. Still, it fired well, and at the auction brought $600 for the benefit, and I was thrilled. So what is in the 2010 brochure, among an assortment of other pieces? THAT VASE!

I don't even have a picture of that piece for myself. When I get one of the new brochures, I'll get a picture of it up here. Who would have guessed it would turn up after all this time?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Creativity, and a day off


At last, a day at home, all day! It seems like I've been running since last week. Oh, wait, I have. Today is much more laid back: I mowed the back yard, ironed shirts, tossed laundry around, vacuumed the house, fed the kids, played with the guinea pigs, snuggled the cats (all three of them), threw a frozen lasagna in the oven, and generally caught up on stuff. The kids are watching 'The Black Stallion,' so I guess I'll call that literature for the day.

I have to sit down and decorate a half dozen pottery pieces tonight and tomorrow AM. We're supposed to go to a friend's house for a bonfire tonight, but they won't mind if I bring a couple things to work on. (The likelihood of me getting them done before dinner is pretty small.) I need to drop them off at the pottery studio in Vestal tomorrow. I've got two large round plates, two small serving plates (a leaf shape and a rectangle), a bowl and a mug to work on. We'll see where the decorating muse takes me this time.

I'm also working on a couple small abstract paintings, overdrawing them with black marker. Those will be sent to The Lemon Tree, a boutique in downtown Wake Forest, NC, where I have a number of my ceramics for sale. Consignment hasn't been very successful for me with the ceramics - the commission to the shop means I have to keep the prices higher than I'd like to earn any sort of profit on them. But the co-owner of The Lemon Tree still wants me to keep some items there (apparently they attract lots of positive comments for style/design, but I'd like fewer comments and more sales, lol!), so I agreed to continue for a while. She also offered to stock some of my smaller paintings, so that's what the two I've been working on lately are for.

Someday I would like to have a bona fide second income for our family from my art. This will take a while, I think. . . .

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Irises today



Out of the handful of irises I brought with me from the old house, two are blooming this year. I'm delighted that it's my two favorite heirloom varieties, 'Striped Butterfly' (pictured above) and 'Meadowlark' (below). Quite a while ago I fell in love with old-fashioned irises, the kind my great-aunt Edith used to grow. I barely remember her garden from when I was little, but my Dad remembers it well from when it was his grandmother's garden, and I've helped him and my mom to plant lots of irises at their house over the past 10 years. I stumbled into the love of heirloom plants during my early years of gardening, and I've had irises ever since. Two excellent mail-order sources I've used are Iris City Gardens and Argyle Acres.



The older iris varieties are just as nice as the more recent introductions. Often the oldies are simpler in form (less ruffled and top-heavy, more elegant) than newer ones. They all prefer a sunny location with well-drained soil, and don't like to have wet feet - soggy soil leads to rotten rhizomes. I've found that only a little mulch is fine for them, and they're easy to divide and share if a clump gets too big. As I drive around now, I see irises blooming everywhere, and I have the urge to stop and look at them up close. So many of them are heirloom varieties, planted by someone's mother or grandmother or great-grandfather. They're not just plants, they're memories, living and growing and being shared with friends and family.

Speaking of sharing irises: my friend Sharon asked me to help her divide some irises at her farm a couple weeks ago. These irises were planted on the farm by the previous owner's grandmother (possibly great-grandmother), and were brought over from Europe. They're nothing fancy, a fragrant light lavender-blue, apparently a common variety at the time - they seem to be all over this part of Upstate NY. But they are VIGOROUS. No nancy plants here, no pampered up-to-the-minute hybrids with finicky dispositions, needing staking and fertilizing to live up to their frowzy, overblown, garish potential. We dug up one tightly-grown clump, about 3 feet deep by 4 feet wide, and we had DOZENS and DOZENS of rhizomes to replant. A clump in full bloom would have hundreds of blooms. Sharon has several large clumps that need dividing. We haven't gotten to the rest of them yet, and may not be brave enough to tackle them till later this summer. Sharon said I could have as many as I wanted, and I did plant some of them at my house, out in the back bed where it's dry and sunny, and they can spread as much as they like. The moral of the story - divide vigorous irises often, or you'll need a backhoe to handle the project when you finally get around to it.

Irises and peonies - two plants that remind me of my grandmother and my great aunt, of simpler times and warm spring evenings, of sweet fragrances and lush bouquets. I'll get to peonies in a later post, when mine finally bloom - probably in a couple weeks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daylilies!


I've almost reached the end of planting out my winter-sown seedlings - only six containers left! I'm pleased with how many perennials I sprouted this year, and surprised at a few that didn't sprout at all for me. Winter sowing has been a great, inexpensive way for me to try plants. I've put a picture above of some of my seedlings in their recycled containers.

I got my daylily seedlings planted out - all 50ish of them, all winter-sown. In two to three years they'll bloom, and then I can decide which ones to keep, and give away or compost the rest. I figure if I get 2-3 good garden plants with special blooms each year, I'm ahead of the game. Big-league hybridizers might plant 1000s of seeds every year, and keep only the dozen best out of all of those to name and sell as their "new introductions" for a particular year. I really need to join the American Hemerocallis Society (daylilies are from the genus Hemerocallis), so I can eventually officially name, register and introduce my plants, if I think any are worth it. The big-name hybridizers can sell their new introductions for $75-150/plant, and sometimes even more. I can't imagine buying any plant for that much money (except a tree), and I can't imagine selling one for that much. But, it sure is fun to look at what's being bred and sold. I love seeing what's new from the Shooter family at Marietta Gardens, or from Melanie and Bob Mason at North Country Daylilies. I could spend HUNDREDS of dollars at either nursery, if I had such an amount to throw around.



I guess it's like any "fancy" (cat fancy, dog fancy, guinea pig fancy, ad infinitum) - people who develop an interest in a particular breed of plant or animal soon learn to speak a whole new language. It took me a while to figure out some of the jargon. SEVs? Dips? Tets? SPUFs? Bagels? What the heck?? I'm somewhat fluent in daylily-speak now, but try not to use it on unsuspecting victims (i.e. people who see my flowers and ask innocent questions, like, "What is that flower?"). They just want to hear, "It's a daylily," not, "That's one of my favorite daylilies, it's called 'Fairy Tale Pink.' It's a SEV, a peachy-pink self with a chartreuse throat, a rebloomer, and a Stout Silver Medal winner." THEY DON'T CARE. It's a pretty flower; that's all the information they want, lol.

For those who DO care, I am trying to breed hardy daylilies for the north, ones with an old-fashioned open form and clear, striking colors. No "chicken fat" on the edges, no minis, no "bagels," no super-SPUFs, just tough, hardy plants with good foliage, elegant flowers, and a high bud count on medium-tall scapes. Eyes and patterns or stripes would be fun (I've got a number of crosses with 'Pink Stripes' growing now), but I'm not anticipating the next "it" plant to bloom in my garden any time soon.

In other news, I had a root canal on Monday. The procedure went well, and it wasn't too achy until I ground my teeth in the night last night and woke myself up in PAIN. Now it's sensitive again. Advil is a good thing. I have another tooth right next to that one (with a crown and a root canal already) that's going bad (well, bad to worse). No fun there - it'll either be another root canal and crown, or an extraction, to "fix" that problem. Gotta get all that done before our dental insurance changes midsummer. I am so grateful for good dental care, but I am SO tired of needing it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In the garden.


What a beautiful day it was! Partly cloudy, warm, and a little breeze - perfect for being in the garden. My husband took the kids swimming at the Y this afternoon, and I stayed home and started on my laundry list of garden chores. I did a bunch of stuff, ran to Lowes for bamboo stakes and more mulch, then made a summertime dinner (Caribbean jerk marinated grilled chicken, corn on the cob, homemade drop biscuits and fresh strawberries). After that I went back out and planted until dark.

I got a lot of stuff planted and mulched. First was my tomato patch. Two 'Kellogg's Breakfast' beefsteaks, three 'Yellow Perfection' slicers, and six 'San Marzano' paste tomatoes, planted, staked, and mulched. I planted some marigolds among them, to help repel insects. I decided to use bamboo stakes, to save some money - tomato cages seem to be increasing in price like everything else lately. Even the bamboo cost more than I remembered from several years ago.

I also planted some other garden seeds: hills of zucchini ('Gold Rush,' pretty enough to be used as an ornamental with its silver-splashed leaves), butternut squash ('Early Butternut' from Pinetree Garden Seeds), and melon 'Burpee's Ambrosia Hybrid' (my daughter's choice for her little garden patch). I've still got pumpkins and a couple other squash to plant, maybe later this week.

One last veggie bed - the snap peas are coming along okay in one half (a little slow due to lack of rain, so I watered them well), and in the other half I planted two eggplants, 4 jalapenos, 4 mixed sweet peppers, and some onions. I had planted that half with green beans several weeks ago, but the birds (probably grackles or starlings) stole most of them. I've got all of 4 healthy green beans there, out of many, so I left them. A little is better than none, right?

Then I planted my blueberries - 8 bushes, 4 'Northland' and 4 'Northblue.' I'm hoping for big harvests in coming years. We love blueberries. My daughter planted her strawberry plants last week, and while I don't think they'll fruit this year, we might be pleasantly surprised if they produce a few berries for her delight. (They're everbearing, so it's possible).

I mulched a lot of things - the little garden plots up the side of the back yard, the tomato patch, the blueberries. I planted more nasturtiums out front, to eventually cascade over the retaining wall. I got a few more winter-sown containers emptied, and put out nicotiana 'Lime Green' (with its cute little apple-green flowers, it's quite unusual), and my daughter's snapdragons, marigolds, and zinnias. It's good to get the containers off the back porch. I still have my daylilies to plant out, later this week.

It was a VERY busy weekend in the garden, and I'm oh so tired in a good sort of way. It will be good to take a shower and melt into bed with a good book. Ahhhhh. . . .

Friday, May 21, 2010

Finally. . . .


What a week! And what did I offer to do tonight? Let my daughter have a sleepover with two of her friends. They're still giggling and "trying to go to sleep" at 11:20PM. I guess I didn't help by giving them Rice Krispies Treats at 10:45. Still, what are sleepovers for? Not for sleeping, that's for sure!

I got to go to two of my favorite places today. Well, no, actually THREE. I went to The Clay Ground in Vestal, NY, to get some more pottery to work on this week - a half dozen serving pieces (plates, bowls, small fancy dishes, and a mug), and some glaze.

I also went to my favorite spring garden center, Nanticoke Gardens in Endicott, NY. I bought an assortment of my favorite annuals (vanilla-scented white heliotrope [pic above], fuchsia 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt,' assorted coleus, mini-flowered petunias, tall white snapdragons), a couple eggplants (I've been wanting to try to grow those for YEARS), and a couple perennials (shasta daisy 'Becky,' and daylily 'Night Beacon'). They didn't have my favorite tomato this year ('Husky Gold'), but that's okay. I'll scare up seed for it for next year. I have a bunch of winter sown 'San Marzano,' 'Yellow Perfection,' and 'Kellogg's Breakfast' tomato seedlings to plant this year, so I won't be lacking.

But, my favorite place to go was my friend Becky's house. I miss her SO MUCH!! We spent a while there, wandering around her yard talking homeschooling, family, and gardening, playing with her baby goats, while the kids played on the trampoline. Then she came with me to Nanticoke Gardens! Shopping with one of my dearest friends at my favorite garden place was just WONDERFUL.

So, at the end of a very long, very frustrating week, I'm grateful for my many, many blessings, and I hope I can learn to show more patience and grace through those things that challenge me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What a week.


And I'll say it again: "WHAT A WEEK!" Is it over yet? Nope, not yet.

(Here I just wrote a long, detailed, WHINING passage about the things that didn't go my way this week. I reread the miserable litany, and erased it. Aren't you glad? LOL, I think I'll keep my complaining to myself.)

The weather is gorgeous today - sunny, breezy, and warm. After I get my son to finish his end-of-year testing, I think I'll go plant my blueberry bushes. They arrived in the mail a few days ago. I've always wanted a blueberry patch, so here's my chance. I need to get some more cardboard and mulch, to smother the grass the sprouted in the bed I prepared for them a couple months ago. I might also go get some lovely composted horse manure from my friend Sharon, to dig into that bed before I mulch.

Yesterday I planted out a bunch more of my winter-sown seedlings: several kinds of salvia, several kinds of zinnia, and gaillardia. I made labels for my daylily seedlings, and I might plant those out tonight. I'm trying to get all the winter sowing containers off my deck, so we can have it uncluttered for cookouts soon. I'd love to have some friends over on a nice evening, cook out, eat on the deck, let the kids play on the swing set, and generally have a low-key party. That would be much nicer without tripping over milk jugs full of little plants. . . .

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lily of the Valley


I'd forgotten how good lily of the valley smells, until I helped my friend Kim remove a bunch that had overgrown a long bed beside her garage. The extra plants (LOTS - we're talking hundreds of what would be called "pips" or rooted plants) went into my car's trunk for the drive to my mother's house last Friday. Whooeee, did my car smell GOOD on that trip! Mom loved the plants, and I put them around their shaded driveway turnaround bed (a notoriously tough place for plants, under mature pine, oak, and maple trees). Hopefully they'll grow well for her. She's always wanted lots of them, and they're one of the few deer-proof low-maintenance plants we haven't tried in that location.

I've never had lily of the valley in my garden before - it's poisonous if ingested, and I was wary of having it in the yard when our kids were little. One, in particular, sampled all sorts of interesting things they found in the yard, including privet berries (another unhealthy choice, but fortunately no problem for them that time). But now that they're older, I decided it was time to have some of the marvelous fragrance gracing my yard too. I planted a corner of my shade garden with it, and I'm also trying it in a sunnier but still usually moist location that's tough for other plants.

I'm slowly learning my yard's microclimates, the nooks and crannies, exposed places and shadow lines where certain things will thrive and others will not. Some things are just finicky, and there's always the element of luck. I'm already looking forward to next year's garden, since so much of my yard is in its infancy. It won't look like much this year, a bit more next year, but it'll be a few years before it really starts to come together as a whole. The process is exciting.

Gardeners are dreamers, you know. Optimists who keep going in spite of the elements and accidents that are bound to thwart some of our efforts. The successes keep us going, and our continual hope for the best. Now I just need to practice hope in other areas of my life. God has blessed my garden overall; surely He's just as willing to bless my family. (And I don't mean in a strictly material sense - I mean in a "fruit of the Spirit" sense, since circumstances change, and prosperity is fickle, but our hope is in the Lord and in His purpose for our lives.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The profits of my labor - at last!



Yesterday I sold my second painting EVER! It was the large one I painted on commission for my brother-in-law. I actually did two trout-stream scenes (he's an avid outdoorsman, and requested the theme), and he chose the one he liked best for his office. I'll put the other in my shop, and see what happens. I can use the money from this painting to reinvest in doing some more ceramics.

Well, I'll use a chunk of it for art stuff, but not all. I want to go to my favorite nursery, Nanticoke Gardens in Endicott, NY, in a couple weeks. They have a huge selection of everything annual/perennial, and there are some favorites I buy every year. One is a fuchsia with bronzy foliage and tubular red-orange flowers, called 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt.' Another is white heliotrope, which is heavily vanilla scented. They also sell my favorite tomato plants - 'Husky Gold,' a potato-leaved indeterminate yellow beefsteak tomato that is divine on sandwiches, and makes a great fresh salsa. I hope they still have them when I go! Of course, a few other goodies always find their way home with me from there as well. One year it was a couple rarer daylilies from a local source - dark lavender-rose 'Papal Court' by the hybridizer Munson, and soft warm pink 'Chenango Rose,' bred locally many years ago. You just never know what goodies you'll find there.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Work: "Fire Flowers"



I finished a small painting today, one I started in April. That's it in the picture: "Fire Flowers." It's not large, only 6 x 8 inches, but I like how it turned out. Slowly, slowly I seem to be getting some momentum going with the art.

I would like to build up some inventory and try to sell some of my work at an arts/crafts show in the fall, at the Great Swamp Conservancy Fall Migration Festival in Canastota, NY. I'd have to concentrate on my more nature-themed work, with the leaves and flowers motifs, but that's okay. I need to start somewhere, and that would be a friendly, unintimidating place to begin. It's a juried show (they'd have to approve my work before granting my application for booth space). I think it would be great fun, and a good learning experience for me. I'll be doing my homework to get ready for it. There's an awesome extended thread on Etsy regarding how to prepare for, present, and sell at craft and art shows. Some way, somehow, I would love to be able to turn my art into a real second income for our family.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Motivation


This week has been like pushing a rock up a hill - long, tough, and hard work. But, oddly enough, it's getting a little easier as it goes. I'm grateful; Monday I wanted to stay in bed all day.

I'm trying to get back into creating and listing my work in my Etsy shop. I was in the doldrums for a while, after a creative burst in February. I don't have any big projects on tap, but I'm working on a few small ones. Maybe the small ones will snowball into something more soon. Tonight I photographed two paintings I've had finished for a while, and got them listed in my shop. I also rephotographed several other pieces, since good photography is necessary to attract people to my work. I'm still learning how to take good photographs.

I've felt a bit under the weather this week. Hopefully that will pass soon. I'd like to enjoy the rest of the week, since there are some fun things coming up to look forward too, including a trip to visit my parents (and their two new kittens), and a date with my husband while his sister takes the kids for the afternoon.

The painting above I completed over the winter, and I just found a good frame for it. I'm picky about frames. This one isn't expensive, but it's just right for this piece. It's called "Lights," and the story behind it is in my Etsy shop.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Of teeth and teaching


Tooth troubles are dragging me down again. I've struggled with a chronic infection for years, and just within the last 6 months my new dentist (since the move) was able to zero in on the problem and treat it. I had four wonderful pain-free months, but the problem returned last week. Chronic pain is a real problem, and one seriously underestimated by quite a few medical/dental professionals. I am SO glad my new dentist takes my pain seriously!! But, the down side is that she thinks I need to have my crown redone to permanently fix the problem. Cringe! I am so tired of having dental procedures; I wish I had my husband's perfect, beautiful, healthy teeth. Still, I am grateful for good dentistry in the U.S.

I finally got the kids registered to return to public school in the fall. This has been a long time coming, and a really tough decision for us to make. One child's autism has been a constant stressor on all of us, and the dynamic between the kids has deteriorated over the past few years. I say that one kid has special needs via Asperger's Syndrome, and the other has special needs sibling syndrome. I'm burnt toast on the home schooling, and I hope that the school can help us all move forward again.

I anticipated that I would get mixed reactions from friends about our decision, for although I didn't really think my friends are legalistic, I was still nervous about their opinions. Some people are adamant that public school is evil and is NEVER the best choice for any Christian family who loves their kids. I've never believed that, although I did hope to home school through high school because it initially worked so well for our family. We started teaching our children at home when our one child was diagnosed with AS, 6 years ago. I never went into it for ideological reasons; it was simply the best way to address our child's needs. And it worked! But now it's not. Thankfully, I've received almost complete support for our decision from our home schooling friends. I appreciate their Christian grace extended to our family, and their lack of legalism.

(Family is another matter. Certain family members don't believe that AS exists, and that our child is simply willful and spoiled, and that public school will "straighten him out" and that it's "about time." But that's another posting. . . .)

Home schooling has been a marvelous tool for us, and one that I might take up again if the public school proves to be unsuccessful (for whatever reason, or whichever child). But for now, I am SO ready to be DONE with this school year, it's almost painful. Almost as bad as my chronic toothache - but not quite.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

SNOW??!!


It SNOWED today! On Mother's Day! Mother Nature has NO sense of humor - or does she? We got about an inch of soggy whiteness overnight, and it flurried for most of the morning. LOL, I guess I won't be buying plants today.

Yesterday I spent the whole day out with a friend. We went to a number of book stores and thrift shops, and it was very peaceful to do it without any of our kids in tow. My friend has 11 kids, which dwarfs my 2, but we were equally glad to get out and browse without interruptions. Ah, the freedom to take our time, chat, dither, compare, share, joke, and have an uninterrupted lunch! It was wonderful. And yes, I bought a LOT of books, mostly for the kids. But I did get a couple gardening books for myself. Many thanks to our husbands, who set us free for a WHOLE DAY. And guess what - we want to do it again. After our husbands recover, of course.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Changes, with a Big Bang Theory chaser


Some of us handle change better than others, right? This week has been really hard on one of our kids - they have Asperger's Syndrome (mild autism), and change always throws them for a loop. This week has been very unsettled, with the floor project necessitating the removal of appliances and the rearranging not only of the house but of every other routine as well. Poor kid, they've been totally discombobulated since last weekend, and we won't have everything back together until this weekend. He feels like EVERYONE moved his cheese this week, and I can't say that I blame him. Helping him to deal with change is one of the bigger challenges of having a child on the autistic spectrum. So far I'm reasonably calm and collected dealing with his anxiety and verbal acting out, but I know we'll all be glad when our house and routine return to what passes for normal around here.

Speaking of Asperger's, have you ever watched the sitcom "The Big Bang Theory"? It's the funniest thing I've seen in years. I'm not a TV person at all; I have NO use for 99% of it. But someone at work turned my husband on to it, so we rented it from Netflix. It's hysterically funny (especially if you're a latent geek like I am). But, it's also very close to home as far as one of the main character's personality traits, which are extremely Aspie in nature. "Doing a Sheldon" has become a phrase in our house for acting especially AS over something. So sometimes I laugh out loud at the show, and other times I shake my head and say, "Didn't I just have that conversation/situation at home today?" The best comedy is what hits close to home. Maybe that's why I enjoy Bill Cosby's old routines so much too. . . .

I've planted some containers with annuals the past couple days. One is full of bronze-leaved red begonias and coleus, another of mixed coleus and alyssum, a third full of cuttings from a kalanchoe I've had for a few years. Containers are fun - I can play with color and texture without feeling like I've invested a lot of money in it. I've also ousted some tulips that just didn't do anything for me - I'll replant the bulbs elsewhere, or maybe give them to a friend. They weren't pink enough (package descriptions and pictures can LIE), but they're not warm enough to blend with the tulips out front (which are screaming shades of red/orange/yellow). I planted them on a whim last fall, but this year I'll be more intentional with them - Brent and Becky's Bulbs, here I come!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Busy in a good way


We were exiled from the house yesterday while they laid the new tile. It looks fantastic! Today they are prepping and grouting. Then comes the fun of us sealing it and putting all the (freshly painted) baseboards back. We decided to do some of the work ourselves, to save money. I'll be glad to have my appliances back in place.

Yesterday the weather was quite schizo, varying from sunny to severe thunderstorms and back again a couple times during the afternoon. Still, I was able to help a friend get a start on dividing her irises and making plans to renovate her overgrown front yard. We'll be helping her again this afternoon, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll chase the kids through their homework this AM, and they can help this afternoon too. Nothing like a little character-building grunt-work to round out a good education, don't you think?

My friend that I'm helping gave me a number of her irises, an heirloom planted over 100 years ago and brought over from England. I LOVE heirloom irises, and although this doesn't appear to be a particularly rare variety (lavender-blue, simple), it's the longevity and history that makes this plant special. Today my friend and I will be giving some long-needed TLC to some heirloom roses in her yard (same story as the irises), and I'll be able to bring home one of those too. I will be so happy when my own yard matures to the point I can share my plants with friends again.

I've got about half of my winter-sown seedlings planted out now. I finally got labels for the daylilies I need to plant out. I purchased seed from The Lily Auction this year, and also used some seed saved from my old garden. I started trying to hybridize my own daylilies a few years ago. My oldest seedlings will bloom this year, so I can decide which few to keep, and give the rest away. I've got perhaps 50 new seedlings to plant out and watch. I'll have to be ruthless and only keep 2-3 from each year's crop. I'm not breeding for a particular color; I'm more interested in the flower form and garden performance of each one. I love all colors. The seeds I sowed this year include a number of crosses with a striped daylily (a novelty and rarity - I might strike gold, or get a bunch of real dogs, and only time will tell). That's the fun of hybridizing: waiting for something special to bloom.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Random thoughts about noise and tattoos


Noisy, noisy here today: the flooring crew is removing the old vinyl and backer board, pounding/pulling staples, and laying new plywood. Between the noise, the weather (overcast, possible showers), and my allergies (dust, tree pollen), I can feel a headache waiting in the wings. Still, the noise and dust will all be worth it in the end.

I just got a commission to design a tattoo for someone. I'm not into tattoos myself, but I've seen some that are amazing works of art, no matter what you think of the media and the "canvas." So, I agreed to design a 6" abstract black/red wreath for someone who wants to put a quote in the middle of it. I hope it turns out well. I never imagined someone would like my work well enough to want it permanently inked on their body! They particularly like my black/red on white patterns, which ought to translate well to a tattoo.

On a gardening note, I found my sunny yellow marigolds at Lowes today, and the last shrub I needed to finish the bed behind the dining room at the back of the house (a simple 'Emerald' arborvitae).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The joys of compost


My sweet husband made me a compost bin this weekend! It must be love. He built me a one cubic yard box with an opening at the bottom front for easy access. It's just waiting to be filled with yard waste and coffee grounds (there WILL be lots of those!), veggie peelings and fruit cores. Our back yard is VERY sandy, since the builder stripped the topsoil, so it's crying for organic matter. A few years of homemade black gold ought to work wonders on the planting beds I dug out.

DH also bought 7 bags of pine bark mulch, which I happily spread around. I need about 25 more bags, so a few more weeks ought to see the job done. I prefer pine bark to other mulches because it looks natural, and breaks down easily (but not TOO quickly).

I'm really pleased with how the garden is starting to come together. Really, we've made a LOT of progress since we moved in almost a year ago. I'll try to get some before/after shots to share with you soon.

Although I have quite a few seedlings to plant out, I'll still need to buy some annuals this spring. I want to find golden marigolds - not the limy-yellow ones, or the orange ones, but true sunshine yellow ones. I have a particular idea how the colors in the front should go together; we'll see how it works out.

I'm surprised at what has sprouted well for me via winter sowing (salvias, tender hibiscus 'Manihot,' all sorts of zinnias), and what hasn't sprouted at all (cosmos, dianthus, dicentra - which normally do well). I'll have to go looking for the ones that are MIA at a nursery. I really want the white cosmos to accent the bright colors out front, and the dicentra eximia (fern leaf bleeding hearts) for my shade garden. I love the patterns and frills of dianthus 'Chianti' and 'Victoriana,' which are so far not sprouting for me at all. That's gardening - always an adventure, never the same two years in a row.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Your local nature preserve needs you


We had a great day today at the Great Swamp Conservancy in Canastota, NY. It was their annual Spring Migration Fest. There was live music, artists demonstrating and selling their work, lots of good food, live animals (from a miniature pony to a wallaby), and an informational reptile show that one of my kids just LOVED. The weather was warm, and our homeschool co-op had a table set up to demonstrate leaf rubbing and making twig frames. We had a number of kids exercise their creativity. And, of course, the nature preserve trails were available to everyone. Do you have a nature preserve near you? Their work is important; maybe you'd consider visiting them to support their work.

In other news, we've got the house partially dismantled so we can get our tiling project done this week. The mess will be worth the results, and I'm excited.

And, best of all, I've started planting out my winter sown seedlings. I LOVE winter sowing. If you've never heard of it, it's a method of starting seeds outdoors, during the winter, which sounds counterintuitive, but it really works. The seeds are sown in recycled containers (such as milk jugs, or 2L soda bottles). No, it's not like getting the ship out of the bottle once the seeds sprout - the containers are cut in half, drainage holes made, several inches of dirt added, seeds sown, and then the top half of the container is taped back on. The mini-greenhouses get set outside in the dead of winter, in a sunny spot like a deck or porch, and they wait for spring. When the weather warms, the seeds sprout in their own good time. Check out www.wintersown.org for more information, or the Winter Sowing forum at www.gardenweb.com. I had about 70% germination this year - not as good as usual for me, because I used a lot of older seed I acquired before our move. With fresh seed, the rate can be 80-90%.