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Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Matter of Perspective

I'm tired and student projects cover my table. The magazine lies cast to the side, its perfect pages turned under and ignored. Clad in sweats and a holey shirt, I crank the volume and begin to move. Hip swaying, booty shaking bass thunders through the house and I dance like my head's on fire. I have no talent for dance and the dogs stand clear as I shimmy and thrash. Out of breath, I slide into the chair and smile. I do not dance because I have talent. I dance because it makes me happy. 

Late June 2013

I grab the magazine and quietly soak in the lush gardens, collections of rare perennials, and expensive pottery. And I laugh. My property occupies a cramped quarter acre in a densely developed subdivision, a warren of people, cars, and square, boxy shrubs.  My dogs have redug all the holes I filled last fall and are pooping in the garden. One of my favorite pots is cracked and another has a hole covered with duct tape. My only water feature is a birdbath but it doesn't matter. It makes me happy so I dig, plant, and dream.

Early July 2014

I once visited a garden I didn't like, a moonscape of plants and pale, flinty gravel. The gardener stood proud, surveying his design with calm satisfaction and I took a second look. My opinion was irrelevant, white noise filling the space between us. It was his garden to love not mine.  So he dug, planted, and dreamed. 

Early July 2014

Saturday, March 14, 2015

So Seedy: Stubborn Resolve Takes Root

When I was a kid I was a feral thing, spontaneous, uncombed, and feisty. Routinely left unsupervised,  I discovered the joys of playing with matches, knives, and road flares. When my family was nearly kicked out of our housing area due to the shenanigans of my brother and I, I channeled my energy into less flammable and bloody pursuits.  Hours were spent riding my bike miles across the various towns we lived in with the only rule that I be home by dark. If I became lost, it was my job to become found and to do it by sundown. What I lacked in civility, I made up for in confidence.

In 2013 when I learned the majority of all plants sold at nurseries have been treated with systemic neonicotinoid pesticides, I resolved to grow all my own annuals and to seek out growers who sold clean, pesticide-free plants. Despite my initial fear that I would soon have a garden without any plants, I decided to try anyway. Instead of ignoring the problem and waiting for growers to sell clean plants, I had to create my own solution.  If I became lost along the way, I would simply keep pedaling until I figured out how to get home. But this time, I'd have a basket of flowers along for the ride. 

Without a fabulous greenhouse or sunroom, I had to get creative if I wanted to be able to grow enough plants to fill all my pots. 

I started very small and only had two plant lights last year. Everything I sowed grew. It helped that I only grew plants that are easy to grow.

I turned shelves in our basement into a flower factory. Cheap grow lights are surrounded with tin foil to keep the light from diffusing into the room.

Seeds were sown directly into large plastic drink cups with holes poked in the bottom. Seeds that need darkness to germinate were covered with newspaper while the other cups were given plastic baggie 'greenhouses'. The name of each plant was written on the cup.

What am I growing?

I broke everything down into four groups that can be seen on my page So Seedy. This page also provides links to the seed companies I used as well as updates on how everything is progressing.

Group One

I started sweet pea and 'Pow Wow Wildberry' coneflower seeds Jan 1. It was way too early but I was excited.

Group Two

From top left to right, clockwise: 'Blue Monday' sage, 'Ensign Mix' dwarf morning glories, ammi majus, 'Pacifica' vinca, 'Mammoth' verbena, pink/purple/orange/white gomphrena 

'Crimson Celebrity' dwarf hollyhocks, 'Mignon Mix' dahlias, 'Tuscany Lavender' verbena,  'Red Dragon' asarina (vine), 'Cottness Mix' dahlia.

Group 3

'Serenita Mix' angelonia, 'Persian Carpet' zinnias, 'Goldfinger' dwarf tithonia, 
'Zahara Starlight Rose' zinnias, 'Peggy's Delight' zinnias,
 'Cosmic Orange/Red' cosmos, 'Sonata Mix' cosmos

Winter Sowing

Orange Poets Tassel Flower, 'Denver Daisies' rudbeckia hirta, hyssop, centranthus ruber (Jupiter's Beard/red valerian), curly parsely, 'Indian Summer' rudbeckia, 'Irish Eyes' rudbeckia

This is the closest I'll ever come to greenhouse. But it's keeping my sweet peas happy so I'm happy. I'll use it to harden off my seedlings before planting them in the spring.

Almost every sweet pea seed germinated. Once our nights are consistently in the 40's, I'll plant them outside. They've been pinched back multiple times to control their growth.

The dahlias also germinated very quickly and I have about 3 dozen seedlings. I splurged on a seedling heat mat to keep them warm.

The 'Blue Monday' salvia sprouted in just two days! I have no idea where I'm going to put all these seedlings. Many will end up being given away.

This spring instead of worrying that my new plants are filled with pesticides, I'll have over 100 seedlings to chose from. Extras will be given to friends and only shade-loving, non-pollinator supporting plants like coleus and begonias as well as organic herbs will be purchased from my local garden center. 

I haven't changed the industry but I've been a voice in the collective scream that is looking for alternatives to poisoned plants. It just took a bit of confidence. 

NOTE: My comments on Wordpress blogs are suddenly being directed into Spam folders. If you can't be reached by email or Facebook, I haven't been able to let you know. I've contacted Wordpress but the problem has yet to be resolved. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Lazarus Plant

You should be dead, I said. 

A pile of mush, slime and rot.

You should be dead, I said. 

But you're not.

I bought three penstemon 'Cherry Glow' last year from Joy Creek in Oregon and had plans to overwinter them indoors. They ended up spending the winter in a pot outside. Only hardy in zones 7-9, I was sure they were dead when our temps dipped below zero. I was shocked and very happy to find new growth on them.

Well said, Igor.

My penstemon didn't bloom much last summer but did put out lots of healthy foliage. 
This is the only photo of them I took.

Photo from Joy Creek