Flowery Prose

Growing words….


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Frost.

I flipped on the tube the other morning and the TV weather forecaster was using the highly technical term “diamond dust” to describe what’s been going on here in Calgary over the past couple of days.  It made me think of little fairies flitting about at sunrise, their delicate wings catching the light just so as they sprinkled the trees with icy filaments of sparkling snow conjured from the still, cold air.  And then I got to wondering if maybe we ought to use science-based language for weather reports, you know…just because.

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I remember when I was very young and we were having a cold snap during the winter – it was consistently minus 40 something degrees Celsius for over a week.  We lived out in the country at the time and remote car starters weren’t a thing back then so my Dad had to go outside and start the vehicle to warm it up before driving into town to work.  One morning he walked inside, shaking frost off of his coat, and announced that the air was so cold “you could cut it with a knife!”  I was absolutely captivated by this expression, I kept rolling it around in my head and trying to figure out how a person would go about doing something like that.   Did you need a sharp steak knife, or would a flat butter knife do?  Did you just go outside and start slashing away or should you choose a specific piece of the air to cut?

I’m not sure what I would have done with the concept of frost as “diamond dust.”  I guess that’s how stories and poems get written.  And weather reports, apparently.  ;)

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Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’.

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My ‘Red Lion’ amaryllis bloomed this week…I don’t know why I thought it would be a deeper red colour, but I’m definitely not disappointed:  the hint of orange/salmon has a wonderful tropical appeal.  I am pleased that the bulb has produced a second flower stalk which should bloom very soon – this is the first time I’ve grown amaryllis that has sent up more than a single stalk.  (You can tell I’m not particularly serious about purchasing amaryllis.  I buy them on sale at the grocery store and not from specialty growers).  This particular plant seems nice and compact, as well – I’m not fighting with tall, heavy stems and flowers that threaten to topple the container.  A nice treat for the holiday season!

Do you grow amaryllis?  Have you ever saved them over and gotten them to rebloom (and if so, what did you do to accomplish it?). 


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Soil talk.

I was going through my (eek! seriously disorganized) photo files yesterday and I came across these two pics that I took at the community garden this fall.   The light was absolutely amazing that day in October.

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Highbush cranberries

Mushroom in mulch

Although they look pretty, the mushrooms are symptomatic of a problem in the community garden.  Large chunks of wood mulch were used to dress the beds along the perimeter fence when the garden was built about five years ago (and by “large,” I mean HUGE – see Exhibit A, above).  It was all done mainly for aesthetics over any practical purpose and through the years, many of the chips have been dug under, creating a soil structure akin to cement.  Pore space is at a definite premium, and will eventually affect the way crops grow.  (I won’t get into the whole carbon-nitrogen imbalance thing here, but that’s an additional issue.  I recently read that bark chips can take at least a decade to decompose in soil).  To make matters worse, this year, the mushrooms turned up in full force.  LOTS of mushrooms.  Expected, sure, but definitely not welcome.  Although we made an attempt at damage control in the fall and removed some of the uppermost layers of the wood chip/soil clumps, we’ve got a long way to go to fix this mess.  Definitely a cautionary tale about using the right mulch for the job (and in this case, about not digging it in)!

Let’s talk soil and/or mulch – do you have any problem areas in your garden? 


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Book Brief: Holiday Cookies and Other Festive Treats.

Sheryl @ Flowery Prose:

Okay – let’s talk holiday baking! Cookie exchanges, gifts from the kitchen, and treats for yourself and your family and friends and co-workers – is baking a big part of your holiday traditions? What recipes are your standbys, and which ones are you trying for the first time this year? Is there a special meaning behind your very favourite recipes? Feel free to put up any links to posts (past and present) about what you like to create in the kitchen at this time of year…I’d love to hear about it! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Originally posted on The Door is Ajar:

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Holiday Cookies and Other Festive Treats – Linda Collister (2008, Ryland Peters & Small, London, New York)

If you’re planning to give cookies or other treats as gifts this holiday season (or hogging them all to yourself), this is the book for you.   The photographs are beautiful, the layout is organized and clean, and the recipes are designed for home bakers and seem very accessible.  Of course, I may not DECORATE the cookies as wonderfully as the photos show…I mean, if you get a box of cookies from me that look like they have big, strangely coloured icing blobs on them instead of delicate filigree stars or snowflakes, please don’t be offended – it’s not the fault of the author.  It’s all me.  But I’m sure they’ll still taste pretty darn good.

RECIPES I’M MAKING PRONTO:  Swedish Pepper Cookies, Gingerbread Mini-Muffins, Chocolate Brioches, and Pistachio Sables.  There’s also a recipe…

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Leafy camouflage.

Like a church bell, a coffin, and a vat of melted chocolate, a supply closet is rarely a comfortable place to hide.

- Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

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No need for an uncomfortable supply closet here!

Isn’t nature incredible?

(Photo taken at the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, July 2014). 


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Annual Performance Review, 2014.

It’s time for my Annual Performance Review!

I know, I’m running a bit late this year – there’s been snow on the ground for a couple of weeks now and I cleaned up my garden eons ago.  This is an entry that I ought to have done months ago, but everything kind of got away from me.  Still, it’s never too late to talk about plants that worked, so here are my recommendations for the best of the annuals in my garden this past growing season.  Bear in mind that my soil is the kind of compacted clay that only plastic garden gnomes truly thrive in, and I live on the Prairies, which means that it is blisteringly hot and dry during our summer days, with nighttime temperatures that plummet and hover around the freezing mark.  (I exaggerate, but only slightly).

My flowerbeds are primarily filled with mature perennials – I’ve been working on these beds for just over a decade now and many of the plants are nearly that old (and, sigh, some badly need divisions that I did not manage to get around to even though the weather held beautifully this autumn).  I do like to throw in a few annuals every year, however, just for an extra punch of colour that lasts the full growing season…well, if the rabbits don’t get to them, that is.  This year, I went heavy on the full-sized petunias – truly, they’re not my favourite plants (we sold GAHzillions of them when I worked in the garden centre years ago and now the sight of them en masse stresses me out.  I have a petunia tic, I swear).  But I got a super deal on some really healthy specimens and, to my surprise, they didn’t end up as rabbit fodder.  ‘Picobella Red’ and ‘Pretty Grand Midnight’ did their jobs admirably well, and stood up nicely even though I didn’t water pretty much all summer and the weather was hotter than usual.  Unoriginal, perhaps, but steady, reliable workhorses…which is what you need sometimes in the garden (and in life!).

I only did up two containers this year – and both of them featured the same plants, the combination of which hands-down takes the award for Best Annuals.  If you’re into the whole “Thriller, Spiller, Filler” thing, you’ll be disappointed, because I omitted the filler (actually, the spiller and the thriller had that job covered nicely, anyway).  My goal was to showcase an amazing begonia, the ‘Pegasus’ hybrid from Proven Winners.  If you’ve been following my blog for awhile now, you know I have a thing for begonias, and this one totally made my jaw drop when I uncrated it. ‘Pegasus’ isn’t grown for flowers, but for that incredible foliage.  If you’re a fan of coleus (have you been growing/drooling over the Under the Sea collection from the University of Saskatchewan or are they just a little too off the wall for your tastes?), you’ll appreciate the sophisticated patterning on the leaves of this begonia.  This is a plant that will complement any other – I’m already dreaming of new combos for next year…something in white, perhaps, that will absolutely glow in the shade?

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This year, I paired ‘Pegasus’ with ‘Supertunia Black Cherry’, a petunia hybrid with an attitude.  These fierce beauties didn’t stop blooming even though I occasionally often forgot to water and they were located in a mostly shady spot. They even went through several light frosts, which didn’t faze the begonias, either.   And that colour makes me just plain happy.  :)  These supertunias also performed beautifully in a sunny spot well-suited to them, in the front of one of my perennial beds.

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Do you grow any annual flowers?  Which ones are favourites in your garden?  Are there any you don’t care for at all?

Finally…just for fun…do you start your annuals from seed, or do you pick them up by the flat from the garden centre? 

Look for ‘Pegasus’ begonia and ‘Supertunia Black Cherry’, as well as other new Proven Winner annual selections such as Salvia longisicata x farinacea ‘Playin’ The Blues’, Sutera hybrid ‘Snowstorm Blue Bubbles’ and ‘Vermillionaire’ Cuphea in garden centres in 2015.  ‘Pegasus’ will be on my list, for sure!  (Although Proven Winners generously provided me with a few annual plant selections from their upcoming 2015 catalogue to trial in my zone 3 garden, I was not compensated to review them.  My opinions of how they performed are my own).

 


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Pincushion flower and bee.

Bee Scabiosa

I meant to post this photo ages ago…I’m hoping to pick the brains of anyone who is interested in/an expert regarding/wants to wildly speculate about bees to get an ID for this little one I found on a fading scabiosa bloom in my garden.  I took this image on a chilly morning in late August and the bee seemed awfully cold – it sure wasn’t moving much.

I just can’t resist pincushion flowers (mine is Scabiosa caucasica ‘Perfecta’) – the structure of the blooms is remarkable and the pollinators adore them.  I am determined to add a few more hardy types to my perennial beds over the next couple of years.  Do you grow Scabiosa? 

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