What’s growing indoors?

I love my east-facing bay window in the living room.  Usually it’s got an assortment of indoor plants hanging out there.  It has hosted a 3-4′ live Christmas tree a couple times in recent years, too.  It also provides a bird & squirrel watching post and napping place for my cat, Miss Maggie.

Right now it’s a warm and light filled spot for a variety of growing things, like a trio of forced paperwhite bulbs, a blooming lady slipper orchid, and african violets.  Every corner of the living room is redolent with the paperwhites, in full bloom!  Not everyone likes their fragrance, but I love it.  A begonia I bought last summer is wintering over in the bay window (providing a touch of reds), as is my pot of rosemary, which has a few blossoms on it.  Rosemary is a tender perennial in my zone 6 garden.  I’ve yet to have one survive the winter, despite my best efforts to protect it.  So last year I planted it in a pot & decided I was going to bring it in for the winter – I’m tired of buying a new one each year.  At the far right are some cuttings from a red-blooming, tropical passion flower vine I bought last growing season.  I’m hoping to root them come spring.  The big pot of it is overwintering in the garage (this is an experiment – hope it works since the darned thing didn’t bloom last summer).

Close ups below of paperwhite blossoms, lady slipper orchid, and tiny rosemary blooms.

The kitchen windowsill, also east facing, sports more growing things.  Right now it’s some hyacinth bulbs being forced.  Soon their fragrance will fill the kitchen. I have more chilling in the fridge, ready to start a second batch soon.

More about things growing inside later…  Off to read all the new books I got (3 by Ken Druse, among others).

Stay warm and cozy, where ever you are!  What are you growing indoors this winter? And do you stash plants in your garage, too?  I’ve got geraniums and a bunch of coleus cuttings hanging out in mine.


Gardening in the late 1940s

I’ve been interested in digging in the dirt for a lo-o-o-ong time.  Here you see me with dirty hands (no gloves – I’m still bad about remembering to put them on).  And droopy drawers (I’ve gotten past that, thank heavens), shovel in hand and ready to work.  I was helping my Daddy in the yard at about the age of 2.  Notice the dirt around my mouth?  My Mom says I was eating dirt!  I’ve gotten over that habit since then, too.  Fun to look back at old pictures, huh?

Happy Christmas!


A Cucurbita Journey of 14 Months

This morning I made pumpkin muffins.  There’s a story here that spans a year+ in time.

The original green pumpkin, 2012

The original green pumpkin, 2012, and Maggie at the front door.

First I saved seed from a cool looking grey-green pumpkin I got at the Farmers Market last October, 2012.  It was a squatty, heavily ridged, a “Cinderella’s coach” shaped pumpkin.  Quite enchanting!

I planted the seeds in spring/summer 2013 and watched them grow.  My intention was to have home grown pumpkins to put by the doorstep in the fall.

The leaves were huge & the 2 vines were about 15 feet long toward the end of the growing season.  The blossoms looks like any squash blossom – large, yellow and attractive to bees.  I only had two nice-sized pumpkins by October, but then I really didn’t need any more than that.  It was fun to watch them grow.

Early July.  The green pumpkin vine is at far right.  At left are the mini orange pumpkin vines.  Front and center, tomatoes & French melons.

Early July. The green pumpkin vine is at far right. At left are the mini orange pumpkin vines. Front and center, tomatoes & French melons.

I did use the pumpkins for fall decoration.

Then last week, after they’d spent time outdoors in the freezing cold, I thought I’d better take the seeds out and pitch the rest in the compost pile.  But when I cut one in half, it smelled and tasted so fine, I decided to cook some.  I peeled & cut it in chunks. The flesh was firm, sweet, and a beautiful orange color.  I saved the seeds for the squirrels, and a few seeds to plant next year.  The remainder went in the compost pile, as originally planned.

I sorta made it up as I went along, hoping for the best.  I’ve heard that the puree you make at home is never like what Libby’s sells in a can, but I found that untrue.  Mine turned out that thick consistency, the same color, fragrance, & taste.  I pureed the chunks by cooking in a pan, atop the stove, with a bit of water, a couple tsp. of sugar, and cinnamon & nutmeg.  It took a while to cook it down til it was almost a paste (like canned pumpkin). Placed it in fridge til I decided what to make with it.

Last night I scoured the internet for a good-for-you pumpkin bread recipe.  Found one at FineCooking.com (olive oil pumpkin bread, using honey, whole wheat flour, and olive oil).

Bright and early this morning I whipped up the batter, using my home grown pumpkin puree.  I felt like an old-fashioned country girl, and very “with it” chick, all at the same time as I pulled the recipe up on my Kindle Fire & parked it on the kitchen counter.  I impulsively added finely chopped pecans and fresh blueberries, too, which was a good decision, and a tablespoon of ground flax seed (which goes in any of my baked goods).  And I made a dozen muffins instead of a loaf of bread.  I ate the first one, fresh and hot with melting butter (so much for healthy)  – but, oh my how scrumptious!!

Muffins from home grown pumpkins, sweet, moist, & delicious.

Muffins, sweet, moist, & delicious, made from my home grown pumpkins.

I have more puree in the freezer.  Next time I’m going to make the recipe with dark chocolate chips, because dark chocolate is good for you!

A pumpkin adventure from start to finish, Oct 2012 til this morning.  And a journey I’m glad I took.  I’m only sorry that I didn’t take more pix to document the entire year.  I didn’t know it was going to be a story.  Maybe next year…

Snowy Gardens & winter escapes…

IMG_9477Everything in the garden looks magical under a snowfall.  It softens shapes & hides imperfections (and other ‘stuff’, like the mound that is 6 bags of pine needles, which will ultimately be mulch).  It outlines the beautiful detail of every twig and branch. It’s breathtaking!

And I’m snug in the cottage, working on my winter project – my kitchen redo.  And I’m already realizing that gardening is easier! So, when the kitchen project gets me down, I’ll escape into “new” books for a respite.  I’ve ordered several used Ken Druse books, The Passion for Gardening, The Natural Shade Garden, and The Natural Habitat Garden from AbeBooks.com.  I own Ken’s Making More Plants, which is a wonderful book for anyone who loves propagation, as I do.  I’ve also ordered The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  It was recommended by a friend and sounds like an interesting story, full of references to flowers. I’m anxious for these books to arrive!

Besides the seed/plant catalogs, which will be arriving soon, what are you reading that’s good?


The end of November

11-23-13 shed & plantings6Got (almost) the last of the bulbs planted today.  I think today was the last big Fall push in the new ‘shed gardens’.  Planted 50 drumstick alliums, 8 little crocus chrysanthus (maybe Goldilocks – yellow w/deep maroon stripes), and another pot of 12 red/yellow tulips.  Still can’t find the bag of daff bulbs that is in the garage somewhere…  will look again tomorrow, but it’s really getting too late to plant.  Going down to 21F tonight.  Brrrr!  I just have to face it – what’s not done yet is gonna stay ‘not done’ for this gardening season.

The area around the shed looks really strange (see below).  Sorta polka-dotted.  Everywhere I’ve planted in this new area, I’ve also put down Preen mulch.  It was a way to keep track of where I planted things and where there were still ‘vacancies’ for things yet to be planted.  And Preen because I’ve got 4 trucks-full of fresh topsoil & compost (a 1.3 ratio), and also stirred up the dirt in that area when the stump grinding was done.  Goodness knows what’ll sprout, but you can be pretty sure it won’t be things I’ll be happy about!

The installation of the rain barrels is completed and I’m pleased with it.  Two barrels may look too ambitious for that little patch of roof, but one heavy rain comes close to filling one of them.  I intend to capture as much rainfall (aka – free water) as I can.  The paths in this large garden are emerging as I walk through it, over and over.  Already I’ve got a ‘mistake’ – the path leading up to the shed door is gravel.  NOT a good choice.  Can’t push the mower through it, or the wheelbarrow.  So, come spring, the gravel will come out and pavers will go down.  Live and learn.  I don’t know if it’s just too deep or what?

11-23-13 shed & plantings1

Lots still just staged and waiting its turn (below)

  1. The pallets (5 of them) will be formed into double compost bins at the back right side  of the shed
  2. Pavers, wall stones, and mulch, waiting for their spot
  3. The holding spot for all the old daylilies I saved
  4. All the German Irises, waiting for a permanent home

11-23-13 shed & plantings411-23-13 shed & plantingsThe sweet pink Knockout rose (above), placed at the left front corner of the shed, still has buds.  But I think the cold temps tonight will end that.  I’m really looking forward to it in that spot.  I gave it plenty of room to grow & fill up that corner.  In the front of it I’ve planted a handful of snow crocuses (mixed) and behind is a clump of 15 Narcissus ‘Thalia’.

Below is my ‘infant’ red twig dogwood (cornus sericea, seems to be the native in Wisconsin).  I grew it over the summer from two twigs I snipped when I was in Wisconsin in early April this year.  It was the only color in the late winter landscape and it was everywhere!  I brought them home in my suitcase, kept them in water for a few weeks on the kitchen windowsill, then, with a bit of rooting hormone on the stems, I potted the twigs, which had sprouted tiny leaves.  I put a plastic bag greenhouse over them.  Kept them in a pot all summer and now they’ve moved into their permanent garden spot.  I was pleased to see they were root bound when I dumped them out of the gallon pot.  Hoping they survive the winter.  I look forward to their winter color a year from now.

11-23-13 shed & plantings3I’ve spent most all of my time working in the new beds out back.  Raking, which is always a last choice for me, was really let go this year.  Below, on the left, is my yard covered in leaves.  And on the right is my neighbor’s pristine grass, not a leaf in sight.  I feel bad when the wind blows south and sends all my leaves into his yard.  When I apologize, he says it works both ways…  he’s right tolerant.  One day I said, “Mike, why not get a chair, sit out back, and enjoy all the gorgeous yellow maple leaves drifting down and decorating your lawn”.  But that’s not his thing.  Different strokes.  His thing is raking daily, sometimes two or three times daily.  He’s retired, I’m not.

11-23-13 shed & plantings2I did mow the front yard one last time last Wednesday, so all those leaves are gone now.  Shredded, gulped up into the mower bag, and then added to the compost pile.  I can hardly wait til the compost bins are built.

My Christmas cactus has become a Veteran’s Day cactus.  It looked dreadful this spring, so I threw a little fresh dirt on it with some Osmocote, and put it on the side porch for the summer.  It put out SO much new growth I was amazed.  When I brought it back inside a few weeks back, it promptly budded up (over 30 buds).  The first one opened for Vet’s Day.  It’s still looking lovely and I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

11-23-13 shed & plantings5Today I also emptied all the various outdoor planters/pots and got them ready for winter storage.  Tomorrow I’ll rake leaves…  It’s almost done, almost…