Sunday, June 29, 2008

Garden photography

I don't fool myself into thinking that I'm a spectacular photographer, but I do, on occasion, take a nice picture. My etsy listings and blog are peppered with photographs ranging anywhere from awful to great, but I've had several questions over the past few months about whether or not I'd considered printing them for sale.

I was motivated today and was getting some of the pictures from my father's wedding printed, and I decided to add a few pictures that I've taken outside to my order. I'll be adding them to my etsy shop, hopefully, in the next couple of days, and we'll see what happens.

Here's a series that we be part of this experiment. I took these pictures on my catmint plant that seems to be an absolute playground for bumblebees. There were close to sixty when I was taking these pictures.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Seed collection has begun!

It's that time of the year!

Thursday, I harvested my first batch of Gomphrena seedheads and spent a lot of the day sorting them. I also cut my dwarf Teddy Bear sunflower heads and sorted them.

Today, I collected more Malva, Callirhoe, and pruned off my first set of Monarda seedheads. I don't have very good luck collecting the beebalm, but I try every year, anyway.

Hopefully, I'll have some more hosta seed to share, shortly, too! I just noticed some of my seed-grown 'mutts' beginning to bloom. They're so rewarding to grow from seed and it's amazing what variety you can get from plants prized simply for their leaves.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Just another flower.

I got back from dogsitting for my mom, and things are blooming! My asparagus peas are blooming with the most charming dark red flowers. I'll try and get a picture of those later. I collected some seeds from a gorgeous heirloom tomato -- Tigerlike -- and I'll be offering those later on in the year. It was tasty, too!

Here's a picture of my picotee begonia. This is the first blooming, and they're mostly yellow/orange with pink/red picotees. Rather fun and very pretty.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Pollinator Week!

By now, most of us have heard about the declining bee population and horrible predictions about that's going to affect food in the future. While the predictions may not seem as dire as they're made out to be, it's still important to understand the role that pollinators play in our day-to-day existence..

Without pollinators, not just bees, plants requiring pollination would be in a bit of a pinch. Hand pollination is possible, on a small scale, but those who have done plant propagation know that it's very time consuming and doing it on a huge scale (like enough to feed a significant portion of the population) would be expensive and nearly impossible with current technology. These animals and insects are responsible for most of the food we eat. Wind and rain can also help with pollination, but even people have a hard time stopping the overall forces of nature!

Pollinator Week came to be last year to promote the pollinators of the world and to encourage people to create habitats and an environments conducive to these important creatures' well being. This year, Pollinator Week is 22-28 June, and you can find the list of cities and states that have declared it here.

If your state or area hasn't had it declared, consider contacting your governor, mayor, or whoever's 'the boss' next year to encourage them to make the announcement. The group has a pre-written sample release that you can send, so that you don't even have to have a way with words to convey the message. The Pollinator Partnership has tons of information and handouts available to spread awareness and educate people about this important movement. So make sure to share!

The Pollinator Partnership isn't the only group spreading the word, however. The Great Sunflower Project is another group that has fun guides and offers seeds to it's participants! Although seed shipments for this year are over, the Great Sunflower Project is taking sign ups for new members. They have a pretty active forums section that will be able to answer or help you with any questions you might have.

The Great Sunflower Project is a bit more cuddly than the Pollinator Partnership, and has a bunch of resources and helps you with the best days to monitor your sunflowers for bee population. The group also offers assistance to schools and great resources to help teachers. You'll get to record your data and submit it to the group.

The information that you submit will help bring to light how bees act in suburban, home, and community gardens and the surrounding areas, ultimately leading to a greater understanding of how to keep these critters happy and get them thriving.

Photo courtesy of Wildflower444444.

If you're not interested in joining up or participating in group fashion, there are always ways that you can educate others or simply fulfill your desire to help out.

Here are some small things that you can do on your own:

  • Plant a butterfly garden! Butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators all have similar tastes, so the plants that are labeled for butterfly gardens are perfect choices for new additions. Remember that some plants will flower to feed adult pollinators; some will be tasty, leafy treats for the caterpillars and nymphs; and some will be both.
  • Try and use as few pesticides as possible. The chemicals that you use to rid your plants of nasties also eliminates the good guys! Look online or in organic and natural gardening books for ideas on how to control the pests in your gardens without toxins that threaten pollinators (and sometimes people!) Remember, some of those 'snacks' taken out of your favorite plants leaves could be from juvenile pollinators.
  • See about planting native plants. Native plants have been feeding the caterpillars, nymphs, and adult pollinators in your area for a loooong time, so they appeal to creatures that are indigenous and will help build the population. Not only that, but these natives are more able to tolerate conditions in your garden that other plants might struggle in!

Check out the following resources for information regarding pollinator and insect conservation:

The Great Sunflower Project

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The Pollinator Partnership

And, of course, post any that are particularly near and dear to your hearts! :)

Thanks to the EtsyPHAT for their proofing and suggestions, and thank you to Wildflower444444 for her photograph!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Today, I rock.

I mentioned in an earlier entry that I was considering making some frog caves to post on etsy. I haven't had a ton of time and the weather has been less than ideal, so I haven't gotten around to it. Today, however, was a beautiful day with cooler temperatures and a lovely breeze, and I decided to go out and play in the tufa.

I ended up making two frog caves and four or five planters. I'll go out and take pictures of everything after the initial curing, but I made a dinosaur egg planter, three 'petrified log' planters, and one round bonsai tray. We'll see how those come out after they're safer to handle, but I'm pretty excited.

I decided to use an experimental mix which ended up coming out beautifully. True to form, though, I didn't bother to write it down and will probably never be able to replicate it's wonderfulness again! Everything came together beautifully, much easier than I'm used to, and it just made the creation so much less stressful and so satisfying.

If everything turned out well, I'll put these in for a soak and leach for a week or two and then get ready to list them in my shop. There's nothing like a day when things seem to create themselves!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Whoops! Slacked off on the blog!

I'm about as flighty as the big, white butterflies that are all over my gardens, these days, and completely forgot about adding to my blog. It's been so hot outside that I don't even have the excuse of being outside!

My glads are in full bloom, and they're blooming in sequence again. When we moved into this house, I had a bunch of mixed gladiolus that I dug and transplanted. Well, I don't quite know what I grabbed and didn't have them labeled, so now I have an assortment of varieties that bloom all summer. It starts out with the white and magenta flowers, then come the vibrant orange (just starting now), and then the pale, pale peach and pale pink, finishing up in the autumn with a bright red. There's genius in my forgetfulness, apparently, and I get a season of beautiful flowers that I can take inside or give to my MIL.

And, for the weekly tomato, report, here's a greeny off of one of my plants (can't remember which one) that's about the size of a tennis ball. I'll have to see if I can't get a picture of the white calf's heart -- very cool to look at.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Gardenin' Granny

My grandmother is probably the biggest influence in my plant world (yes, they are separate, kinda...). My dad picked me up and we did a quick visit to Mississippi for her 80th birthday party, and I managed to take a few pictures, despite the lack of time. The backwaters are in, and I'd have loved to go out and take some pictures. That's how it goes, though.

Here I am at my grandmother's party. She was off with her guests, and I, being the plant weenie that I am, hung out with, you guessed it, the plants. My dad actually took this picture, and it's in focus, light, and my head isn't cut off, making it quite an accomplishment for him. Sadly, the only pictures where my entire head is included are really the most unflattering, like this one where I'm scrunching my face up. Thanks, dad.

And here are some of my grandmother's containers. She's gotten to the point where she can't maintain the acres of gardens she used to, so she container gardens. I wish I had her eye for colors and textures and all of that stuff!

Monday, June 9, 2008

A post without plants -- PixiePotions

A post without plants?? Hard to believe, I know, but I thought I'd share my experience with a fellow etsy seller, PixiePotions.

She contacted me with a trade, and I checked out her shop and found some things that I was interested in. We agreed to the trade, and I sent out my box. I got the box from her quickly and well packed.

The products are all very professionally and functionally packaged, which immediately caught my eye.

The lotion stick is very cool. It makes putting on lotion easy, and I don't have to worry about getting my hands oily or greasy. And the scent! The Winter Solstice lotion stick has an amazingly earthy, spicy smell that is almost dominating. I have it next to me, right now, and can't resist opening it, every now and then, to get a sniff.

I couldn't pass up the Orange Chocolate Truffle lip balm. I knew I would love it when I picked it out, but I didn't realize quite how luscious it would be. Another yum! It smells like chocolate with a hint of orange and has a great texture. It's light but does it's job with tastiness. It leaves a darker sheen on my lips than most of the lip balms I've used, too. Everyone I've let sniff it has said 'Wow! That's chocolate!' She states in her description that it's 'made with real fair trade dark chocolate', and, boy, can you ever tell. Definitely a must for any chocolate lover.

The Mint Magic Gardener's Soap was an extra she threw in, but it's something that I'd definitely buy. The scent is fresh and soft -- very refreshing and soothing. It's got a lovely, silky texture and gives a really nice lather.

Needless to say, I definitely encourage you to check out her shop! She's got some neat products that might appeal to those who are looking for a break from the mainstream lavender and honey scents (not that there's anything wrong with those!)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

News and stuff

Here's a mystery lily that I got at the plant trade. I have no idea what it is, but it's definitely not the 'yellow' lily that it was labeled as. I think it's nice, if not particularly interesting. I'm glad it's settling into it's new home. This is it's first flowering, here, but it has a bunch of nice, fat buds and a couple more bunches coming.

The past couple of days have been revolving around organization. I've been running out and taking pictures, doing quick weedings, but I haven't had enough time to find places for some plants that need to be in the ground yesterday. It appears like that'll have to happen next week, since I spent the beginning of the week getting my guy ready to head up to his dad's for their annual fishing expedition.

From this evening, out, I'll be planning for my own trip. I'll be officially offline from Friday to Sunday evening, if all goes well, since my father and stepmom are going to be picking me up to go to my grandmother's 80th birthday party in Mississippi. It'll be a bit of a hit-and-run, but it's bound to be a big, tiring affaire. Sadly, my Sprint wireless card doesn't have good signal out there and the only internet available is the slowest of the slow wireless.

Today, I will put up the notice in my etsy shop announcement.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fruit and flowers.

My beebalms are blooming! I tend to gather collections of the same plant, and beebalm is one of those little collections. I currently have three flavors, including Monarda 'Lambada' that I just got a few days ago.

Here are the two that are currently blooming. The hot pink is probably my favorite, but this is the first year that the purple has bloomed and I'm pretty pleased with it. 'My' hummingbird and some of his harem were hanging out over there, today, and the butterflies are going crazy. I'll go out later and see if I can't stay still enough to get some bird shots. :)

The horsenettle in the yard (devil's tomato, as it's sometimes referred to) is blooming, but my real tomatoes are ahead of the game. They've got flowers and fruit. Here's a greeny off of my Silvery Fir Tree tomato. It's currently winning with five baby greenies!