Friday, March 25, 2011

Minding the Weather

           This week I was going to sing the praises of my gorgeous bed of ranunculus, but the wicked rainstorms this week did a terrible amount of damage to almost all of my flowers. So, when the world gives you broken flower-stems, what do you do? Fill every vase in the house, of course!

In the bedroom, yellow and red ranunculus with a Blue Ribbon Dutch iris

In the living room, Calla Lilies and Purple Lady Dutch Iris, and the dining room table vase is full of red clover and a crazy assortment of ranunculus.  Oh, sure.  I know it's poisonous, but if you can't live dangerously from time to time, what's the point, right?

I picked up this small oriental-style vase at a garage sale awhile back. Perfect for filling full of  pink rose mallow with some wild onion blossom for contrast, (Yes, that's part of my Star Trek memorabilia collection there.)

And when you run out of vases, invade the drinkware!  I put pink baby rose in a white wine glass in the office. Scott probably won't think it's very manly, if he even notices it at all... ;) (And yes, that's part of his Hubble images collection.)

The world is slowly drying up and the sun has come out again, and a perusal of the gardens revealed some new gems blossoming, including my Black Night tulips and pale white and blue Dutch iris.  The cats are even out rolling on the dry concrete and the birds are singing! I'm halfway hopeful that the ground will be dry enough by next week to start getting the vegetable garden turned and prepped, but I'm slowly learning not to count my seeds before they germinate.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Help a Pansy Today!

I hope you'll excuse me if I take a moment to ask for your help with a national crisis.

Right now, there are millions of unloved, homeless pansies out there, just looking for a little help. They’re stacked ten deep in sunless racks in front of stores like Safeway and Rite-aid, and wiltingly waiting on tables in garden centers everywhere.  
And for just the price of a cup of coffee, you can help save them. How can you resist their huge black eyes, their sad drooping petals? Their merry colors that seem to smile through all they’ve been through? Won't you open your heart and help them?

This pansy was saved, along with it's cousin, just two days ago at Evergreen Nursery in San Leandro. I made a  difference and you can, too!

Here’s just a few reasons to adopt a pansy companion!

Praise #1
Pansies give more than their worth! For just a couple dollars, you can have a cheerful companion for months! My love affair with pansies began when I was living in apartments in Oregon. Cold, wet, dark days of winter would give way to spring and suddenly every retail outlet would have a rack of pansies out front.  Even at my most poor, I could always spare .99 cents for a pansy that I could set on the table or the windowsill to bring a little bit of cheer in. And at such a price, I couldn’t feel too horrid when I forgot to water it, or move it out of the window during the heat of summer.

Pale Blue "Princess"

Praise #2:
Color! Color! Color!  So many colors! My favorite thing about pansies is the colors! They can be absolutely astounding, giving cheer every single day!   Bi-colors, blotchy spots and  keen stripes! Pink, blue, orange, purple! And oh, what purples! Some such a dark, rich violet as to look like satin, and others such pale lavender so delicate it’s like pressed paper.  It seems like every year a new hybrid appears.  Every year, I find a new favorite. Two years ago, it was a classic purple and yellow “Joker” bi-color, but with huge flowers that practically nodded off their stems. Last year, it was the most delicate pale blue “Princess” pansy that I had to have. This year, it’s these amazing tiger striped fellows- “Whiskers”, they’re called.   


Praise #3:
Tasty!  Pansies are edible! Oh, be careful, of course. If you’re buying from a commercial nursery, ask about organics,  and always wash whatever you eat. But the plants themselves are entirely edible. You don’t have to worry about the kids or the cats or that strange guy down the street who occasionally helps himself to your garden having a taste. They make wonderful fun decorative accents to salads and desserts.  Dress a sweet cucumber and avocado salad with a few bright purple blooms for contrast.

Praise #4:
They can grow just about anywhere!  Garden corners, window boxes, pots, baskets, table tops and window ledges are all viable. Just as long as they get watered and a good bit of sun, they’re typically happy.  I planted my pale blue beauties from last spring in white ceramic pots and they kept their charm right up until November. This year, I opted for planter-pots on the front steps, and one out back by the hot tub, where we spend most of our time.

I’m done feeling guilty about my love for pansies. I admit that I’m a pansy nut and proud of it!  Whether you buy them from the rack in front of the local pharmacy or a huge commercial garden store like Home Depot, give a pansy a home! You won’t be sorry!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Iris Enigma

      The Iris, according to Wikipedia, includes two-hundred and sixty species of flowering plants. Two-hundred and sixty? No wonder I'm all confused and befuddled about what I planted!  With Spring bouncing blooms everywhere,  I found two foot tall iris in deep violet blooming in my front border and little blue and yellow five inch tall iris blooming in the back yard?  According to my records, I planted  "Blue Ribbon" Dutch Iris along the front sidewalk and "Joyce Iris" in the front border.

Obviously, something's gone very wrong.
Not 'grenade' wrong, but it's obvious that I had no idea what I was doing!
(The beautiful fuschia-colored tulip in there is part of the Hirts Pretty in Pink tulip collection.)

      After some Googling and Wikipedia-ing I discovered that "specie" or "wild" iris are the dwarf, or 'rock garden' variety and the botanical name for the "Joyce" is Iris reticulata. Armed with proper names, I went back to my notes.  The Joyce Iris that I have came as part of a deer resistant collection from American Meadows. (I bought one of these collections for Mom, too, I'm fairly sure). These are what I thought I'd planted out front!
One mystery solved! Whoohoo! Go me!
       I planted that whole collection together in the 'raccoon & rabbit zone', so that explains these little guys growing out back.  (Last night, the raccoons tramped through and broke every single flower. At least I have pictures to look at!)

Hmmm. This fellow, though?
     Where did this fellow come from? Along with his not-so-little friends?

     Double checking my receipts from last year, I found one from Brecks that included a "Cool Shades" Dutch Iris Mix!  Finally, the sun has come out! The fog has cleared away!  I remember now that I hadn't quite decided where to plant these and set them aside. I guess I somehow confused them with the species Iris?

So, could this...

Be part of that collection? (The image of the Brecks Collection won't size correctly for some reason! Sorry!)

      And if so, why are the dark purple opening before the other colors in the collection? Or am I mis-identifying Blue Ribbon? And does it really matter as long they're this beautiful?

       So, out of two-hundred and sixty plus varieties of Iris, I have WEE tiny species iris, aka Iris Reticulata, and the two foot tall Dutch Iris aka Iris Hollandic, already growing. I also planted some bearded iris, also called German Iris- (Iris Germanica), which can grow up to four feet tall.  Mine are just a cheap 'Pink' from Home Depot that I stuck in the back of my "pink and red bed". Now it's just wait and see how they bloom!  (There are a few more Bearded  Iris on the property that came with the house. I thought I'd wait and see what they were like before doing anything about them.)

      My research has gotten me all excited about irises now! I had no idea how many amazing colors and sizes they come in. The possibilities are boundless.   I'm planning a field trip to Pleasants Valley Iris Farm out in Vacaville for next month to learn more, and maybe add some new varieties to my garden if anyone wants to join me!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

First Forages

Welcome to FlowerBabe's Forages!

When cleaning the garage this week, I found two stray bulbs, just sprouting where they'd been abandoned in a bucket. I handed them to Scott and said, "Plant these!"

"Well, what are they?" He asked. He has to be forgiven for these things. It's his science background that makes him so curious, and that's part of why I love him so.

"No clue! Just plant them!"

He's reported that he planted them back behind the Tuscan Rosemary, so if they're ugly, no one will see them. If they're nice, he figures we can move them next year.  (Did I mention he's also really smart?)

As a beginning gardner, I often feel like I'm foraging for facts and information, just as I would forage for herbs and flowers in the wilderness. So many sources, and so few answers!  Last year, without a clue what I was really doing, I kind of got lucky when I found the American Meadows website. I thought I'd planned carefully. I was precise. I recorded everything I put in the ground!   But I'm learning that, well perhaps... Well, planned isn't the word... Procedural? Methodic?  Completely bonking nutters? Yeah. That last bit, I think.

My spring bulbs, mostly selected from American Meadows and bulked out with a handful from the local Home Depot are starting to really bloom.  Crocus of all kinds- wee tiny Fuscotinctus and Minimus, big bright Pickwicks and Gypsy Girls- have been going for a few weeks now. The Dutch iris are appearing, leading me to the discovery that I'd made a stupid mistake. I thought I'd ordered the wee little dwarf iris, also called rock garden iris. DOH! I'm an idiot.

 The fact that there are two foot tall dutch iris growing in my low 'border' is forgivable only because the colors are STUNNING! I thought it was "Blue Ribbon" Dutch iris, but the color is a deep velvety purple. So beautiful that I maybe can forgive stupidity just this once! But it does make me wonder what else I screwed up?

I've decided this summer, I'll be less precise and more bonkers. Maybe, just maybe, I can surprise myself!