Snow crocuses and squirrels.

Snow crocuses FP2

Now I know spring has finally arrived!  🙂

At long last…there are a few bright blooms in my garden! And when I say “at long last,” I mean it in more ways than one: these snow crocuses were planted in the autumn of 2009 and this is the first time they’ve flowered. I had honestly thought the squirrels had gotten to them during the Great Bulb Migrations of 2009 and 2010, when most of my tulips were transplanted to locations unknown via my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed buddies.

Squirrel FP

(My hubby and I found this little dude at Bowness Park yesterday.  He was alternately mugging for the camera and stealing birdseed from the chickadees). 

I hope you’re having a beautiful Easter weekend! Do you have plans to get out into your garden or go for a nature walk?

Flowery blurbs, volume 10.

While I make short work of that milk chocolate bunny I accidentally bought the other day, feel free to take a gander at this week’s Flowery Blurbs:

Use plant dyes for Easter.

I found this timely holiday post at Simple Bites, and was inspired to create the multi-hued eggs pictured below (using tumeric, blueberries, and paprika).  You don’t need those dye kits from the store – just raid your spice rack and your freezer! 

Seriously old wood plates go digital.

Romeyn Beck Hough’s book The American Woods (written between 1888 and 1910) has been freshly digitized and made available for everyone’s viewing pleasure at the History of Forestry website.  It’s a fascinating look at over 350 different types of North American trees, with detailed text and cross-sections of each.  The book is all the more important because some of these species no longer exist. 

When earthworms go bad.  (And no, I’m not talking about the denizens of my new vermicomposter).

A recent article suggests that while earthworms are amazingly useful in the garden, they do not work to promote healthy forests.  The amount of leaf litter that earthworms can consume seems to be at the root of the problem…pun intended.  Read all about it here.

Get a buggy education.

Olds College continues their 2012 Hort Week Speaker Series with a fantastic talk by their resident insect guru, Dr. Ken Fry.  Check out his full lecture about creating Environmentally Friendly Yards here.

Sweet edible flowers. 

I plan to plant a whole bunch of calendula this spring, to use in my fledgling attempts at dyeing fabric using plants from my own garden…it just so happens calendula flowers are edible as well, so I will be sure to try them out in my microgreen mixes in addition to throwing them in the dyepot.  If you want to try something REALLY creative with edible flowers, check out this blog post from Sprinkle Bakes, where gorgeous viola blossoms take centre stage in lollipop candy.  I dare you not to drool over the photos.

Flowery Prose gets crafty: a catgrass centrepiece.

I’m not a particularly crafty person (see Exhibit A, above), but last year’s Easter-themed e-newsletter from Jim Hole’s Notebook featured a fun project I just had to try out for the upcoming holiday.  Because you still have time to grow the anchoring plant of the centrepiece, I thought I’d share!

Have you ever planted catgrass for your feline companions?  For that matter, have you ever planted it for your own consumption?  The term “catgrass” refers to either the popular juice plant wheatgrass or oatgrass (Avena sativa, which can also be juiced).  The kind I’ve planted for the centrepiece is oatgrass – the same annual cereal crop that produces the seeds that make up your breakfast porridge.  Oats are a very old cultivated crop, domesticated for over 3,000 years (and probably enjoyed with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins for nearly that entire time).  If you’re not keen on porridge, you can sprout organic, untreated oat seed and combine the greens with mesclun for a delicious salad.  Oats are usually palatable for people who suffer from an intolerance to wheat (it’s also interesting that oats will grow where wheat will not, in poor and acidic soils).

We know why we like to eat oats.  (Actually, some people really, REALLY like oats – the plant has a bit of a reputation as a natural aphrodisiac!).  But why do cats like catgrass?  It’s probably just that they like the sweet taste and slightly crunchy texture, although cats may benefit from the roughage and the vitamins in the grass.  Green oatgrass is a source of chlorophyll, which can freshen nasty tuna breath – always a good thing for those of us who have to live with it.  😉  Offering catgrass to your cat as a tasty alternative may also save your houseplants from certain destruction…possibly.  Regardless of why cats like it, catgrass is cheap and fun to grow – and it makes a fine Easter centrepiece, don’t you think?

If you get a chance to make a catgrass centrepiece (or any other holiday craft with plants), comment with a link to a photo of your project!  I would love to see it!

(Too bad this handsome gentleman lives 800 kilometres away – I’m sure he’d really, really like my centrepiece). 

Photo credit – R. and H. Mueller

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Oatgrass takes about three to five days to germinate, and then it grows like crazy.  You don’t need to cover the seeds when you sow them; as well, the crop is surprisingly drought tolerant once it shoots up.  Keep it growing for a few weeks, trimming (either with scissors or with the assistance of some feline incisors) regularly to manage.  Start a new batch every month or so – don’t let it get too mature, as flower heads and other bristly plant parts may actually be damaging to a cat’s digestive tract.  Grasses are actually very difficult for both humans and cats to digest properly – which is why we soften them by juicing, and why cats sometimes vomit after ingesting.

Interestingly, oats are listed on the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System site as a crop with toxic potential:  apparently if oat hay is left outside in damp conditions, a dangerous chemical change in the stored nitrogen may occur, resulting in illness or death for livestock that eats it.

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Check out these sites for more information about oat grass:

Related posts:  Mmmmm is for microgreens.