Flowery Friday.

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One of my favourite sights of spring: larch trees in flower. The upright pink ones are the elegant, showy females in their rosy party dresses – the males are the compact pollen-bearers, in tidy yellow-brown suits, clinging to the undersides of the branches.  You can see a couple of females and a male in this photo I snapped late last week.

The largesse (largeness?) of spring.

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Infinity is just so big that by comparison bigness itself looks really titchy.

~Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe 

O riotous spring!  My hayfever has hayfever, and the three of us (because of course the two hayfevers are their own monstrous entities) have a cold on top of it all.

But it’s cause for celebration! Why, you may ask? Well, let me tell you:

  1. I’m fairly certain I’m a walking medical miracle. I mean, hayfever + hayfever + cold and I’m still functioning-ish? My allergist needs to get on publishing that research – he could be retiring to the Caymans in no time.
  2. Although it’s probably reasonable to state that we had a more “accurate” winter than we usually do (lots of cold and snow versus a ton of Chinooks and dry, exposed earth), it felt impossibly huge and long and draggy and we. are. officially. (probably. sort. of. maybe). done. with. it.
  3. The photo says it all. The Prairie crocuses are blooming like mad all over the sunny slopes and despite the incessant sneezing and sniffling, life is pretty awesome.

 

Tuesday tidbits.

If you embroider and are on the hunt for new patterns, I recently discovered that the DMC website has about a zillion five hundred or so available for free.  Download away and enjoy stitching!

My favourite recipe of this past week?  Judi’s Sweet Potato and Apple Latkes, found here.  They are the ultimate in comfort food and are a breeze to make.  I could probably eat these every day.  I’m totally not exaggerating here; they are that tasty.

It’s a few years old now (it was published in 2013), but if you haven’t already checked out Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetable Literacy, go grab a copy from the library pronto.  If you have a passion for cooking and gardening, you’ll delight in this breathtakingly-photographed tome.  The recipes look amazing but I can’t stop drooling at (on?) the pictures. (And this one of the reasons why we sometimes find water-damaged books at the library, lol). Take a look at the author describing her book in this video.

The Spring issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates will be out shortly on newsstands across Canada and a couple of articles I wrote are inside: “Carrot Cousins” and ” Preventing Common Lawn Problems.”  The magazine also features the annual Plant Picks section, which I always love contributing to.  And will you get a load of that cover?  WOW.  We don’t have many print gardening magazines left in Canada, and I would encourage gardening enthusiasts to support this amazing publication if possible.

Do you have any “tidbits” you want to share this week? – favourite or new recipes, interesting links or news items you’ve come across, fascinating blog posts you or someone else have put up?  Feel free to mention them in the comments!  

 

Looking for some colour….

We’re in “dirty snow” mode here in Calgary, that eye-dulling time of year when EVERYTHING is grey and all the potholes and garbage buried for the past five months start materializing once again.  We are guaranteed to get a minimum of 16.275 mini-snowstorms yet before June – two before the end of this week! – so the greyness will be tempered by layers of fresh, sparkling white, but right now, my brain is absolutely crying out for some colour.

So, I turned to the blogosphere, and I am immensely comforted by the fact that there is a nice bit of colour going on elsewhere in the world.  For example:

Words and Herbs

Gardening Nirvana

Automatic Gardening and Real Gluten Free Food

Cynthia Reyes

Imagery of Light

Duver Diary

Natuurfreak

Garden in a City

A New Day: Living Life Almost Gracefully

Frank King Photos

….just to name a few.*

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And then at work, I noticed that all of the pink and red Pelargoniums that one of my co-workers has saved over the winter are blooming merrily away in the huge bay windows we have in the building. Overwintered P.‘s always surprise me with their transformations: they get so robust, it’s as if they’re working with a personal trainer, and they bloom like every sip of sunshine and speck of sugar in every single cell is bursting to get out. There are about eight of them in the library right now, part of a larger collection of both ‘Regal’ and the – ahem! – less regal (but just as delightful) P.‘s that are snowbirding in my co-worker’s home. It seems strange to me that these plants are so showstoppingly vibrant in this setting, yet the customers appear to rarely spare them a glance.  I would love to poll people and ask if they noticed the flowers.  Do you find you actually see the indoor plants in public spaces, like libraries, shopping malls, medical clinics, offices etc.?  Maybe most people don’t unless the arrangements are particularly bold.  Or maybe gardeners take notice more often because we’re keyed to look for plants?  What do you think?

*Please add your links to your “colourful” blog posts to the comments – the more, the merrier!  Share away!  

Cool beans.

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Okay, it’s that super sweet time of the year…I’ve got all the seed catalogues open at the ready and I’m wanting to order some “new-to-me” varieties of beans. (I’m a total newbie bean grower – scarlet runners are the extent of my experience.  They are so fun I’ve decided beans are totally my thing and I must. grow. more.). Before I make a decision, I thought I’d do a little brain-picking: what bean varieties have you grown and loved and would recommend to me?  Pole/climbing beans only, please (I don’t have room for bush beans). I’m looking forward to hearing about your favourites!

Interesting facts about dandelions.

I’m revisiting an old post that usually sees a bit of traffic at this time of year…but it’s NEW AND IMPROVED! I’ve added a new photo and some new facts, and updated some links.  I hope you enjoy the extras! 

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Dandelions, dandelions everywhere! The City has reduced its herbicide use over the past few years, which is a very good thing – dandelions are, after all, one of the best early pollinator plants around!

Just for fun, I dug up some Interesting Facts about Dandelions:

The name dandelion comes from the French “dent de lion” – lion’s tooth, which refers to the serrated leaves.

Another folk name for dandelion is “swine snort,” which makes me want to sneeze or giggle or both.

Taraxacum officinale is a perennial, but there are some dandelion species that are biennial.

If you mow dandelions, they’ll grow shorter stalks to spite you.

Dandelion pollen cannot cause allergies – the grains are far too large to be bothersome, but you can get contact dermatitis from the milky sap (latex) that the plant contains.

Dandelions open in the daytime and close at night.

Dandelion seed can travel up to 8 kilometres (5 miles).

Dandelion flower heads can be used to make dye in the yellow-green range.  The leaves will make a purple dye.

Dandelions will produce more seed than usual if their habitat is disturbed, giving them a competitive edge over other plants in the area.

Dandelions have a taproot which can extend up to a whopping 4.5 metres (15 feet) underground, although you’ll typically find them top out at 45 cm (18″), which is still pretty long.

The taproot of dandelions is very useful to reduce compaction in garden soil.

Dandelions are dynamic accumulators – that means they can draw nutrients such as nitrogen from the soil and concentrate them in their leaves and roots.

The parts of the dandelion apparently represent the celestial bodies: the yellow flower head is the sun, the white seed head is the moon, and the seeds are the stars as they spread all over the galaxy (read: your lawn).

What we think of as the petals of a dandelion flower are actually individual flowers themselves. They will produce fruit called achenes, followed by the tiny, barbed brown seed and it’s accompanying “parachute” (called a pappus) that helps it disperse in the wind.

Dandelion flowers do not need to be pollinated to form seed.

Dandelions likely originated in Eurasia 30 million years ago.

Dandelions are known as ruderals or pioneer plants, the first to colonize disturbed land (such as after a wildfire).

Dandelion blossoms have been historically used to treat warts, clear skin complexion, and heal blisters.

 I read that there is some sort of idea to use the latex in the future to make rubber tires for automobiles – we’ll see how that turns out.  UPDATE: There is an article about the concept here.

Dandelion roots can be used as a coffee substitute, much like chicory.

I had no idea, but dandelion roots can also be used to make beer – here is one recipe I found, which also uses burdock roots.

Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.

Some children’s books (fiction and non-fiction) about dandelions include: Joseph P. Anthony’s The Dandelion Seed, L. Kite’s Dandelion Adventures, and two sets of  books with the same title, From Seed to Dandelion, by Jan Kottke and Ellen Weiss, and Dandelions, by Kathleen Kudlinski and Eve Bunting.  I reviewed Kevin Sheehan’s The Dandelion’s Tale a few years ago on my now-defunct blog The Door is Ajar – you can find my thoughts here.

Did you know there is a dandelion tree?  Well, not really…it’s another case of the utter inaccuracy of most common names. Despite this, Dendroseris pruinata is fascinating and rare, and you can take a look at some photos of it here.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s tallest dandelion was grown here in Canada (in Ontario), and was found in September of 2011.  It topped out at a whopping 177.8 cm (70 inches).  Apparently, there have been at least two (maybe three?) record-breaking dandelions grown since then, but there is some dispute over whether any of them – even the record-holder – are actually dandelions at all.  Read all about the controversy here!  (This one in Norfolk certainly seems a little suspicious…).

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I found this strange dandelion specimen on Nose Hill, in Calgary – it looks like it might be a type of fasciation.  The fifth flower head actually drove through the centre stem, which was massively enlarged and already sported four joined flower heads. 

Thank you again for following Flowery Prose!  I truly appreciate your readership!  

Finally….

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This is what goes on when the snow lets up for two weeks. All of a sudden, the trees are sporting tiny ultragreen leaves, the dandelions are carpeting the lawn, and the neighbour’s forsythia has exploded into a brilliant yellow bloom you need sunglasses to admire.

And there is happening in the garden….

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