22 November 2009

November Potpourri: flowers and friends and other musings

Have I mentioned that despite my best efforts, I really don't like November. Yeah, I know, only every other breath. Today the sun is coming in and out from behind the heavy woollen blanket of clouds, and part of me thinks I 'should' go outside. The other part thinks staying in my office, blasting Bon Jovi and tidying up the chaos, is a better idea. So we'll go with plan B for the time being.

I call this time of year "The Fourth Gardening Season" because now that we're pretty much done outdoors, we turn to indoor gardening, growing houseplants, purchasing flowers to enjoy, and starting to catch up on that huge stack of unread books and magazines (and blogs!) that we've not had time for in recent months.

As a journalist, one of the things I do is review books, including books on gardening. I also review Canadian fiction, and sometimes history, nature, and science books. Occasionally I post a review here, especially if it's a book by an author I know and like, but there are so many books and only so much time to review them here. Happily for gardening enthusiasts, my dear friend Kylee of Our Little Acre has developed a second website reviewing gardening books, which goes by the delightful title "Gardening by the Book". I'm delighted that she's doing this, and wish her huge success with it. Kylee's a wonderful writer and one of those people I'm honoured to call friend across the many miles that separate us. So I hope you'll check out and refer regularly to her new book blog.

Another of my get-me-thru-November coping tricks includes surrounding myself with flowers, both fresh-cut and in flowering plants. They help drive away the greyness of the days, because it's pretty hard to look at a lovely, graceful flower and not smile. At least it is for me.
Cyclamen are among my favourite fall-winter blooms for my office, which is the coolest room in the house. Since these plants prefer cool house temperatures, they do very well for me, so long as I remember to watch the watering. Like African violets, they prefer to be watered from the bottom so as to keep the corm they grow out of from getting too wet and rotting. Besides their gorgeous flowers, cyclamen feature gorgeous green and silvery-green foliage, richly pattered, so they look splendid whether flowering or not.

I found this unusual plant several years ago and had to have it. It's called Ixora, and it flowers from midsummer until nearly Christmas for me. I had a bit of trouble with spider mites on it last year but got them under control mostly by daily misting of the plant, and it's busily blooming its head off again.

African violets can be exasperating to grow well, but when they're happy and blooming they're just so irresistible. Plus what can I do? I go into department or grocery stores, spy these plants quietly flowering and crying for help, and I have to bring them home. The biggest trouble we have with them is that they are like lint brushes, catching every single cat hair that comes near them.

This single, fuchsia-coloured violet reminds me that my next colour in the garden post will be about the colour fuchsia, or magenta. In looking through my photos, it seems to be a favourite, indoors and out, mostly because it's such a cheery, rich colour.

One more African violet. At the moment I only have three, but I also haven't been to any flower shops or dept stores, etc, in the past week or so. Who knows what will come home with me next time I venture out.

I love kalanchoes. Love, love, love them. Their brilliant flowers cheer me immediately, they are tough plants requiring little more than some light and occasional watering, they flower for months on end...what's NOT to love about them?

This bouquet was given to me by my dear friend (and floral designer extraordinaire) Neville MacKay, owner of My Mother's Bloomers in Halifax. Nearly three weeks later, the daisies and heath-relative (I don't remember its name and keep forgetting to ask Neville) have faded but the dendrobium orchids are still going strong. And I do mean strong!

Neville loves flowers, obviously, and brings in some amazing, unique and gorgeous varieties for his Halifax shop. Here he's holding a type of green dianthus, which were just-arrived when I last visited him. Neville has this ability to encourage anyone to do their own floral arranging and decorating, because he has a an enthusiastic, never condescending and positive attitude, telling people "You can do this!" He and I hope to be collaborating on a project together in the not-too-distant future. We've sort of put it out to the universe and whatever will be, will be.

In the meantime, looking forward to more blooms as the season turns from fall into winter, I planted a few amaryllis bulbs, which are just starting to get going with their growth. Come the Christmas season, I'll gussy them up a bit (Neville says 'tart them up') with a few sprigs of gold-sparkled curly willow, a bow or maybe some decorative stones in the pots that show the bulb, and voila: instant holiday-cheer.

With good friends, family, great books to read and a profusing of floral splendors...I'll make it through the season. If I win the lottery, though, we're heading for warmer climates for a week or two, that's for sure. Note to self: buy winning lottery ticket.


  1. Thanks for stopping by. I am like you, there are so many blogs to catch up on, and not enough time it seems.

    I love filling my windowsills with flowering plants, at least that gets some color into the mostly gloomy days we get. But it is getting harder and harder to find any potted color around here. Most of the nurseries have closed down, and the ones left have materialized into gift shops. I do love to get little 4 inch ferns, they add that perfect touch of something living during the cool months also.

    Loved your cyclamen!


  2. Hi Jodi, thanks for letting us know about Kylee's book review site. That is just what we need to find out what's new and good. I love your method for keeping cheerful during the long Canadian winters. Those cyclamen certainly sing a siren song to me at the grocers. The flowers are so long lasting and bright. Love your note to self, and do let us all know when that one has been checked off the list! :-)

  3. Great minds think along the same lines, Jodi :-) Seems we've both done a post today on the same subject.

    BTW I found the LED bulb on Amazon. com and the socket cord lighting kit is available at justlanterns.com. My system is probably the most economical you'll find. Not many of the LED bulbs will cover 5 sq. feet. You can use a long, large hook attached to the window frame to hang the light or put the hook in the ceiling.

  4. Well now lady ... look what bee you put in my bonnet about having to hunt down more African violets and possibly try the amaryllis .. dwarf ? if they come that size because I have only one spot that will survive the girls not getting to it, on top of the kitchen hutch.
    I have to go to bed now .. my red penguin pajamas try as they might, can't keep me going any longer !
    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !
    Joy : )

  5. Hi Jodi,
    I'm not a winter person, but am feeling it needs to come soon so spring can be next.

    The plants I bring inside take up so much room that I don't find room for winter blooming houseplants other than the few African violets I've managed to keep alive, and now, a Thanksgiving cactus.

    After reading your post, I am tempted to try a cyclamen. It tends to be cool in our house. Also, I think it was a smaller kind of kolanchoe with red blooms that I got for my husband on our anniversary, and it's blooming in his office that has no windows. Maybe I could find a spot for one of those. I sure like your pink blooming one!

    I read garden books at my lunch break at work, but at home, my reading these days seems to be blogs. I'll have to check out Kylee's new blog.

  6. Beautiful blooms to chase the gloom, jodi! Love the Ixora and have never seen it before that I recall. Neville is such fun -- I never miss his mid-week spot on BT. :) All yer blooms are lovely!

  7. I'm really trying this year to have my own "fourth gardening season". I've got a few African Violets and a couple of Amaryllis' for some color. I love the idea of "tarting" the bulbs up, great idea!

  8. EEE! It's so cool reading a blog and finding someone I know in it! Hi Neville! He probably doesn't remember me, but I used to hang around My Mother's Bloomers when I lived in Halifax.

    Secondly, I have a question. I have an amaryllis bulb that did not flower for me at Christmas time, but the leaves grew all summer. I fed and watered it until the leaves faded in September. I kept them outdoors in the cool for about a month, and then indoors in a dark cool closet (at least, I hope it was cool) for about 3 weeks. I have taken it out, and watered it b ut it doesn't show any sign of growth. Should I give up on it, or does it need more rest? Thanks a mill!

  9. Awww yes, must get out and purchase a couple of blooming flowers and most importantly buy a lottery ticket. tee hee.... Cheers.

  10. I haven't had many houseplants in years, but I think it's time to try again. November through March is the slowest time of the year. Thanks for the tips on growing cyclamen; I've never had much luck with them, but perhaps I kept them in too warm a place. I have the perfect spot for them now, so I'm going to have to look for one.Good luck in the lottery!

  11. Hello Jodi, I love the Kalanchoes too. Thank God for Thanksgiving cactuses and African violets too. How could we otherwise get through the month of darkness?


  12. Hey Jodi....get out in your garden because it's going to be foggy and rainy for the rest of the week! That was great to read about the new gardening book blog and also see Neville...he is so uplifting to listen to and "hey" want to hear what you two are up to..will be there for sure!!!

    Enjoy our fall, it's been great weather, at least we have no snow like this time last year...right!

  13. So bottom watering is the secret to Cyclamen & African Violets? Thanks for cluing me in. I am extraordinarily clueless about houseplants, but I have managed to keep a Kalachoe alive for almost a year now. I bought a bunch of African violets from the sale table without blooms. I'm hoping they will not only survive, but bloom. I fear for them. I'm a repeat offender for involuntary plantslaughter.

  14. Looks like our offices are filled with the same kinds of pretty little perennials! I don't know what I'd do without a bright sunny window in winter time... Pretty photos. :)

  15. I've given up on almost all houseplants, except the most stalwart! It would be so easy to lay the blame at Coal the Cat King's feet, but I am forgetful and they just don't thrive on neglect. I can see that you are a better caretaker and the cyclamen is gorgeous~~as are the other pretties. Jodi, I totally get how you feel about November...It is my least favorite month and February is my second least favorite.
    Take care~ have a sweet week. gail

  16. I pretty much follow your method for getting thru the winter too Jodi except I have more bulbs than houseplants. I've never tried an African violet ~ always thought they were too "fussy" for me. I get desperate and bring home Gloxinias & Streptocarpus that way tho. Every year I wonder how I'll make it thru the winter ~ I can SO relate to your post. This month is the worst with the darkness ~ hooray, it's almost over. (terrible to wish away time that way, isn't it?)

  17. As the days get shorter cyclamen is my favorite plant to cheer me up. I love my African violets, as you do, and can hardly resist one in the store. You've found a good way to keep cheerful in these gray months. Love the photos of the plants!!

  18. Indoor blooms certainly ease the pain of our long, cold winters, Jodi. Cyclamens are a huge favourite of mine. Your pale pink plant is an unusual beauty, and I'm with you on colours fuchsia and Magenta....so uplifting and cheery!
    African Violets are pretty as a picture too, but oh yes, the cat hairs stick to them like crazy!
    Love that Ixora. How beautiful. A master gardener friend told me to try putting a plastic bag over the plant and spraying into it, then closing it for a time, to get rid of spider mites, etc. I tried it and it worked well. Nasty critters!
    At least we have a little more time for blog reading now. That's at least one good thing about November :)

  19. Cut flowers would cheer me up in any month of the year. However, aside from a cast iron few (I mean dead hardy... or at least not dead. Yet.), houseplants take their life in their hands when they stay with me.

  20. Those are among my favorite indoor plants as well; my African violets bloom almost ceaselessly, with very little encouragement. I have found that the special pots that filter water through the terracotta inner liner work the best. Your cyclamen are blooming early! Mine are just starting to bud.

  21. Jodi, what a dear you are to mention Gardening by the Book here. As I said to you in my e-mail, I appreciate it so much! I've got some books on order from Timber Press, and a couple others waiting for review. I'll be doing a Christmas list this week, of some of my very favorite gardening books.

    Now...you have made me want to go right out and find some awesome African violets. I'm down to just one here now and it's been a few months since it bloomed. I lost my double pink and seeing yours makes me want to try again. I'm not sure how I managed to kill almost all of mine, when they were doing so well, but I did.

    I need to clean out my inside plant inventory. There are some that just aren't worth messing with anymore.

    I'm always envious of your cyclamen! I just can't hardly keep them alive longer than a few weeks. I think they're SO pretty. I've got a hardy cyclamen blooming outside though! :-)

  22. November is one of those months when I'm grateful to be gardening in the south. We still haven't had a frost, and although perennials are fading, the camellias are gearing up, and it seems like almost every day a new on is in bloom. In August I love seeing images of your garden though - lush and green and happy - while we're whithering under the August sun. Ahh, the seasons!

    Thanks for the link to 'Gardening by the Book' - looks great.


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