Floral notes: Mid-November.

Vodka irrigation, dapper plants with stripes, peppery baked goods, and an inspiring, marvellous book – it’s all here in this post!

Stuff about plants:

I somehow came home with paperwhite bulbs after my last trip to the garden centre.  (Don’t worry – I paid for them…I just didn’t originally intend to buy them. The bulbs just looked so lovely sitting their in the bins, and they were such a good price, and I had some other stuff to buy, anyway…and well, that’s how it all starts).  Then they sat in the den for a few weeks until I remembered that they existed and maybe I ought to do something about them.  I haven’t forced paperwhites in years and I previously always did so in soil, but this year, I’m trying them in water, as it appears to be the more popular method. And I’m going to water them with a dribble of vodka to keep them from getting way too tall and flopping over (see here for more information).  What is your preferred media for forcing paperwhites: soil or water? Or do you simply not bother with them, because you don’t like their (admittedly a tad cloying) fragrance? 

I believe I’ve mentioned that the library where I work has amazing natural light due to the huge bay windows set into the east wall as well as skylights that extend up the full length of the north and east sides.  One of my co-workers overwinters her geraniums in the windows, and she cultivates a variety of houseplants there all year ’round: jade plants, miniature Dieffenbachias, various cultivars of cacti, and aloe vera.  A few days ago, we added to the jungle, taking in a massive collection of very large, very mature houseplants of a friend of my co-worker.  The plants needed somewhere to stay for a few weeks while the owners move house, and the prospect of all that great light and good nurturing were welcomed.  I am enamoured with these additions to our workspace and I suspect I will be sad to see them go when they head off to their new home.  I particularly love this beautiful Dracaena fragrans (‘Warneckii’, I believe, but I welcome any corrections on that one – there are so many types of Dracaena!).

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Worthy read:

Cynthia Reyes’ Twigs in My Hair.  I was absolutely thrilled to have the honour of being one of the first readers of Cynthia’s new book, a beautifully-written garden memoir. (And if you already own a copy of the book, you’ll notice a bit of what I’ve written here printed on the back cover). Twigs in My Hair is infused with the wonder and connectivity of gardens and their gardeners, of the natural world and our place within it. Cynthia gifts us with the crunch of brilliantly-coloured autumn leaves, the ethereal silence of a fresh snowfall, and the exquisite splendour of the first spring ephemerals. She invites us into her warm kitchen, with the burnished wooden table laden with canning jars filled with the harvest. We are welcomed into many beautiful gardens – some hers, some belonging to friends and family and mentors – and we delight in the rewards of labour and love, treasure the time spent with loved ones, and share the intense pain of struggle and heartache.  Cynthia writes about gardening (and living!) with the wisdom and experience gained over time – and she doesn’t forget to share a few laughs along the way.  Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a complete novice, you’ll see yourself somewhere in these pages, and I guarantee you’ll garner some inspiration for your own gardening life.  Think about picking up this one as a holiday gift for the gardener in your life! Check out Cynthia’s website here.

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Enabling cookies: 

Finally, I’m thinking about Christmas cookies (I won’t make them for a few weeks but the THINKING is happening).  Does anyone have a tried and true recipe for Pfeffernusse?  I love them but have never made them before.  I found a zillion recipes online but the ingredients (and the measurements of said ingredients) vary significantly.  What other cookies are your holiday favourites?  Tell me about them! 

Air plants, cats, snow.

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So, it keeps snowing here and our cat eats pretty much all my stuff, including my houseplants.  (Of course, she leaves all my hubby’s possessions alone – his newspaper apparently doesn’t taste nearly as delicious as my research notes or my library books).

My solution?  Grow air plants. You do this indoors so the snow doesn’t matter a whit. The air plants I can afford are tiny.  They don’t need soil (soil, another thing Smudge thinks is seriously PAWsome – um, did I just write that?!). I can put them in jars and other decorative containers and hang or place them out of cat reach, which is an actual zone in the house with a fixed length and breadth that has taken me a year to get a solid grasp of.

Anyway, now I fear I may want to collect the darn things.  (The air plants, not cats.  Smudge is ALL the cat).*  I accidentally went to the garden centre the other day (had to take two trains and walk three blocks uphill both ways in the blasting wind) and came home with yet another air plant.  I would have bought the large red one as well (it was RED!) except it was priced at the equivalent of a few hours of my salary and I thought maybe my hubby might be a bit grumpy with me.  So I’m saving up for it.  I’ll tell him it’s cheaper than a new car, and he cannot argue with that.  I just wish they would label the silly things so I would know the cultivars. Tillandsia doesn’t help me; I knew that already.  😉  And I BEG and PLEAD that the ones in some of the grocery stores would be treated with more dignity and not GLUED into their containers.   They cannot be watered properly and they’ll keel over at some point from neglect.  Air plants are not made of plastic.  They are actually alive and need some care.

While meandering through reams of information about air plants for an article I recently wrote, I came across some fantastic titles at the library – if you are interested in this captivating genus, track down Air Plant Care and Design by Ryan and Meriel Lesseig and Zenaida Sengo’s Air Plants.  The Lesseig book, in particular, is brilliant, impeccably researched and extremely detailed.

Do you grow air plants?  

Do you have an indoor cat (or cats)?  What creative solutions did you come up with to maintain your houseplants in the same space as your curious feline?

*Pic here. ♥

Flowery Friday.

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Just look at those pollen grains! To my delight, my zygocactus is blooming for the second time since Christmas. I recently heard someone describe the blooms as resembling graceful ballet dancers – I love that fanciful comparison!

Tuesday tidbits.

If you’re looking to ID native wildflowers on the Canadian Prairies (specifically in Saskatchewan), this website has the most amazing photography I’ve ever seen on the subject.  We have most of these plants here in Alberta and I know this is a resource I will use over and over again. Even if you don’t live in this part of Canada, you will hugely enjoy the beautiful images. I am floored that these are not yet compiled into book form; I would buy it in a heartbeat.

I somehow missed the name change for African violets and I can’t seem to find out when it was made official (for all I know, it was quite a while ago)…but here it is: Saintpaulia spp. are now more accurately termed StreptocarpusThis article offers a bit of explanation.

My favourite recipe so far this week: this one for Cranberry Muffins.  But I didn’t have any oranges, so I didn’t use orange zest or orange juice; I substituted 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract instead.  And omitted the glaze entirely.  They were wonderful.  I will get some oranges and try them the way they were intended as well.

From the “Toot My Own Horn Department”:  I am delighted that my article “Vibrant Viburnums” is included in the new volume of The Prairie Garden!  The 2018 book is all about shade plants and was officially launched last week.

 

Book review: Success with Succulents by John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller.

I have a feeling it’s rather hard to stick to just one when you’re considering growing cacti and succulents indoors…you might start off that way but then two years in, you stand in your living room and realize you have 300 of them (and 26 cuttings in various stages sitting on the kitchen counter) and you. want. more.  They’re just so easily collectible…all those beautiful and curious textures and shapes and exotic blooms, how can you possibly resist?  (Note to my hubby: this is my way of easing you into the grand concept of our future decor).  Unfortunately, if you’re me, you’ve already killed two cacti in unfortunate watering mishaps, and you’re not sure if you should brave dipping that toe in again.  The answer is yes, yes, I should.

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John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller’s new book Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and other Succulents (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group) is comprehensive, yet easily accessible – the ideal title for both novice and experienced growers of these marvelous plants.  Not just restricted to houseplants, the book covers outdoor varieties as well, and offers tips for winterizing tender plants indoors if your climate isn’t favourable.  The first part of the book focuses on practical advice for selecting, planting, care, and propagation, including troubleshooting for pests and diseases. The rest of this fantastic resource is devoted to over 100 profiles of cacti and succulents, with gorgeous photographs and detailed descriptions that will help you identify mystery plants or serve you well as you wander the nurseries hunting for that special one.

Or six or twenty or….  😉

Do you grow cacti or succulents?  Which ones are your favourites?  (If you have  links to any of your blog posts about them or photos, please feel free to share!).   

 

*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Success with Succulents. As always, my opinions and thoughts are my own.

Book review: House Plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.

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House Plants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants

By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf (Cool Springs Press, 2017)

Throwing millennials and houseplants together seems to be a thing in the media these days; this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) article from The Washington Post is only one example of many that I’ve come across lately.  One glance at the racks in your local garden centre will tell you that indoor gardening is indeed experiencing a resurgence – for everyone’s benefit!  There are so many more plant selections available, and not just the succulents and air plants that have been trendy for the past few years.  Looking after houseplants is meditative, nourishing, and just plain enjoyable, but only if you know what you’re doing.

That’s what Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book is for: to help you succeed with your growing endeavours.  In House Plants, Steinkopf (thehouseplantguru.com) thoroughly and precisely covers every detail: soil, water, light, containers, siting, propagation, and troubleshooting pests and diseases.  Her advice is practical and easy to understand, even for those just getting into the hobby – this is a book that will definitely inspire confidence when it comes to keeping houseplants.  (The chapter on propagation particularly impressed me, with its clear directions and accompanying photography).  Indoor gardeners will appreciate that she even touches briefly on bonsai, topiary, living walls, water plants, and holiday plants, as these somewhat specialty niches become more mainstream.

Of course, it’s truly the more than 125 profiles of houseplants that attracted me most to the book…I feel like I now have a goal to try them all at some point (don’t tell my hubby!).  I love the fact that individual plants are categorized according to their difficulty of cultivation and maintenance (again, this gives me something to work towards!).  From ferns to figs to palms, orchids, and dracaena – it’s all here and each one is beautifully photographed to aid in identification.  Comprehensive, useful, and a delight to pore through, this really is the “complete guide” to houseplants!

 

(Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book House Plants by Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group. All opinions are 100 percent my own.  Heck, 300 percent my own).

National Poinsettia Day.

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Apparently, it is National Poinsettia Day in the United States. I don’t have a poinsettia this year, although I love them. It’s been so cold here that transporting one from the garden centre to home might completely do it in before I even had a chance to enjoy it. Arctic air masses that lounge around for days and days on end are not fun for anyone, and especially not if you’re from the tropics, as this plant is. Which is also perhaps why it is not National Poinsettia Day here in Canada – we’ve established that temperatures in the minus mid-to-high twenties (that’s Celsius!) are not ideal for such a celebration. Really, for any celebration. Except one involving hot chocolate and Irish cream and a warm fireplace.

Even if we don’t have a special day to honour poinsettias here in the frozen north, I can still share a fascinating bit of information: did you know that the dense, multi-branching habit and stunted growth of our holiday poinsettias results from infection by a type of pathogen?  This article has more information about how it works.*  And here is another for further perusal.  Enjoy the reads – I’m off to petition the government to make National Hot Chocolate and Irish Cream and Warm Fireplace Day a reality.

Are poinsettias part of your holiday celebrations?  What colour is your favourite?  And have you ever seen a poinsettia in tree form?  (I haven’t).  

*UPDATED: I managed to track down a photo of a “wild” poinsettia, as the photo in the first link isn’t accurate – take a look here.