Tuesday, August 30, 2011

twilight garden part one

We spend much of our time at home outside in the back yard.  Evenings are my favorite time.  Sunset at Jimi and Leon's is spectacular.
From Garden
At my house, the water view is our little koi pond.  At night, red, blue and purple flowers in the garden disappear.  White flowers glow softly in moonlight.  I've been adding more and more white flowers and choosing many which will scent the evening garden.

Brugmansia, or Angel Trumpet not only have beautiful flowers but an intoxicating scent.
From Garden
Night blooming Jessamine isn't at all spectacular during the day, though it's a lovely shrub.  At night the tiny white flowers give off a powerful jasmine like scent.  Plant these at the periphery as they can be overpowering up close.
From Garden
Use white Vinca (periwinkle) for sunnier spots and impatiens for shade.  These annuals are perennials in Florida, self seeding.  They are super easy to root by cuttings.
From Garden
From Garden
Use white Caladiums and variegated spider plants to add sparkle with foliage.
From Garden
If you're in zone 9, night blooming cereus is a show stopper as is Moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba).
From Garden
 I made a little slide show of our moonflower opening at dusk.
These are just a few of many possible plant suggestions, and the ones I use in my Florida garden.  For many more, check out Lia Leendertz' book The Twilight Garden.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

plain vanilla

There is nothing plain about vanilla.  The history of this spice is chock full of intrigue and legend.

Wayne and I have three vanilla orchid plants.  None of them are marked, so I don't know their species names.  We bought them at various plant sales in hope that one day we might have flowers and our own little vanilla plantation, not having to pay exorbitant prices for my favorite flavor.  We have our plants in hanging pots.  One of them is in orchid bark, which I now know is the wrong medium for this plant.

While shelving new nonfiction books at my library, I came across Vanilla Orchids: Natural History and Cultivation by Ken Cameron.  I have a new understanding of this amazing plant after reading the book.  First, we need to repot them in compost.  Vanilla is a terrestrial orchid. Planting in rich soil or compost is best.  Vanilla is also a vining orchid.  It needs support on which to grow.  It wants shade.

There are about 100 or so wild vanilla species known.  The fruit, which is commonly called 'vanilla bean' is not a bean, or legume.  It takes an extraordinary amount of time and work to produce the seed pod we find in the grocery store labeled Vanilla Bean.  We bought some vanilla 'beans' at the last Orchid Society Show.  You can make vanilla extract out of them.  We also bought a  Vanilla orchid.

Flowers are only born on mature vines.  The flower lasts only a couple of days.  It must be hand pollinated in order to produce a fruit, at least here in central Florida.  According to the book, this is best done very early in the morning within 8 hours of the flower opening.  One needs small tools and fingers to do this.  After pollination, a fruit may be born.  They can take nine months to ripen.  It can take another six months of harvesting, curing, and drying to produce the aromatic spice we know as vanilla.

I look forward to posting about our vanilla bean harvest sometime in 2015.  I'll be happy if I just see a flower.  In the meantime, we have these orchids blooming now...
From orchids
From orchids
From orchids



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

laidback knitting

I had a rare Tuesday off today.  With five inches of rain in the rain gauge, it was not a day to spend pulling weeds, though they will certainly need pulling once the rain stops...sometime on Thursday according to weather reports.  It was a great day to knit.  Happily, I have at hand 10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza.  I checked it out from my library.  Twice.  I've now ordered a copy, even though I had put a moratorium on buying more knitting books.  This one made me feel okay about the way I approach my knitting.  For me, it is the comfort of having needles and yarn in my hands, gradually seeing a finished object emerge.  I love the finished objects, which are almost always gifts for someone special, but it's the act of knitting that makes me feel good.

In their book, Vicki and Lisa lay out chapter by chapter what it is that makes knitting joyful.  From learning to knit, to spinning your own yarn, every step of the process is written with patterns and inspiring stories of knitters.  Links to knitterly websites are abundant.  I've definitely enriched my Safari bookmarks.  10 Secrets... even inspired me to look at my yarn stash.  Not do anything about it mind you, but look at least.  This is a tiny bit of it.  There's no rhyme or reason.
From knitting
I have a lot more yarn in plastic tubs.  Once I tried sorting it by colors, but felt it really needed to be by fiber content, then quickly gave up.   My books and tools are in better order.  
From knitting
From knitting
So thank you, Vicki and Lisa for breaking my knitting book buying fast, and for the validation.  Looking at my WIPs though, I think my laidbackness may be bordering on world-class procrastination (see sweater I started on circulars about four months ago which is now about 10 rows along).
From knitting

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

never ending phaleonopsis bloom

I bought an orchid for my honey on Valentine's Day.  This is August 3rd and it's still blooming, almost six months later.  Not the same blooms, but the bloom spike keeps growing and adding on new buds.  What's interesting is that the color has changed over the months.  It started out marled with purple, but the new blooms are whiter.  Here are pictures from February 14th.  The white one on the right is the one Wayne bought me.
From orchids
From orchids
Here is a picture now.  The bloom spike curls around and makes almost a circle.  It's still growing and has new unopened buds.
From orchids
I haven't even repotted it from the plastic pot.  I don't like to disturb them while they're blooming.  This is the energizer bunny of the orchid world!