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!).

DFFPSNormandeau

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! 

Paperwhite pickle.

You may recall from a previous post, Flowery blurbs, volume one, that I planted my paperwhite bulbs at the end of November.   I have grown paperwhites only once before, and had overwhelming success (I say “overwhelming” because they grew, bloomed, and keeled over so rapidly I nearly missed the whole show), but this batch…well…they’re actually doing what they’re supposed to do, and that’s kind of irritating.  You see, paperwhites have a tendency to get really, really tall and leggy and then they start falling over, which is rather unattractive.  (Especially as mine have just begun to bloom and I would love for them to look their finest right now).

Although it’s a little late now in the game to save them, I read a fantastic tip that I think may be worth a shot the next time I give paperwhites a go:  apparently, you can “pickle” them using a mixture of alcohol and water, which reduces growth by up to 1/3 and keeps the stems and leaves from plopping over.  (Find the instructions on how to properly do this here).

Has anyone tried this method to successfully grow (shorter) paperwhites?  If you have, let me know!  I’d hate to waste vodka on a failed experiment…. 🙂

(Link updated 15 December 2018).

Merry Christmas!

Feeling a bit worn out by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season?  Try these easy, fast, yet oh-so-soothing plant therapies:

  • Enjoy the heavenly scent of an evergreen (if you can’t get out into the woods, go to your nearest Christmas tree lot).  I mean, really enjoy the smell – take a few deep breaths and remember Christmases past or hikes in the mountains or whatever wonderful memory the fragrance evokes.
  • Grow some paperwhites on your windowsill – they’ll flower in the gloom and snow of January and make you feel hopeful for spring.  Or, scoop up some of those amaryllis bulbs at the stores – they’re now on huge discount because they have no hope of blooming by Christmas, but you can enjoy their dazzling colour and beauty when they won’t be eclipsed by all the other decorations.   You might be able to find some narcissus and hyacinth bulbs for forcing – give them a shot as well.
  • Enjoy your houseplants: take a few extra, quiet minutes to water them, deadhead and prune them where necessary…you’ll find that caring for them without hurry will make you feel really happy (not to mention, the plants will love you for it!).
  •  Grow your own food:  sow a few microgreen seeds in a small, shallow dish in your kitchen window.  Green kale, for example, only takes about five days from seeding to harvesting, and a handful of  fresh, healthy greens that you grew yourself is a small gift to your palate (and a nutritious break from all those holiday cookies and eggnog!).

    Green kale microgreens

Have a blissful, peaceful holiday season and enjoy the time spent with your family and friends!   Merry Christmas from Flowery Prose!