30 January 2010

Encouraging our fellow gardening bloggers: Adopt-A-Blog?

Stormy days are a great time to sit with a mug of coffee, glower out the window, be grateful to be indoors, and muse about things that puzzle me. I've had something on my mind for a couple of weeks, but it's taken me that long to pull my thoughts together in a way that I hope will encourage and challenge other bloggers in a happy, intriguing way.

One of the things I've noticed since getting really back into blogging and reading is that there really are a lot of gardening and garden-related blogs out there. And I mean a LOT. I don't remember how many there were at Blotanical when Stuart launched the site nearly 3 years ago, but I knew and read a good many of them. Some had been blogging for a while. Others started up and then joined Blotanical as word of the site spread. A visit to the site this morning shows me some 900 on the 'most visits' list, yet one blog is ranked as # 1364 in 'most favourited'. Let's just say there are a huge number, some of which I've never visited. That doesn't include those who don't belong to Blotanical, either. And I know this is the same experience for many of us. Can't possibly read them all regularly, or even visit them all regularly.

There are so many ways to keep track of other blogs now, that it gets confusing. We can 'fave' blogs and blotanists at Blotanical. We can 'follow' bloggers through Facebook, or become a fan of them. We can follow thru Google Friend Connect, or by various widgets through Blogger, and I assume through Wordpress and Typepad. And then there's Twitter...

But there are still so many out there that get very few visits, (at least via Blotanical), and very few if any comments. And for some reason, I feel really badly about that. Because so many of these blogs are very well written, with good information, excellent photographs, strong and charming personalities. They deserve to be read, commented upon, supported. Not everyone has the same interests, of course, and there's sometimes a language barrier with bloggers from other countries.

I know that people blog for a variety of reasons, but obviously most of us put thoughts out there on the Internet to communicate with others, share our thoughts and experiences. That makes it safe to assume that most want to attract readers, commenters, followers, etc. So, what can we longtime bloggers, Blotanical veterans, etc, do to encourage and help out other bloggers in raising their profiles?

From sleuthing my way around the Web and following some of the more active bloggers, I have a couple of observations. There are people who regularly visit other blogs and leave lovely, well thought out, funny, wise, comments. Some of these same people also participate a good deal on Blotanical, picking posts, sending welcoming notes to newer bloggers, dropping in to other bloggers to announce their own recent posts, etc, which helps encourage newer bloggers to participate. I don't want to mention anyone in particular because I don't want to leave anyone OUT, but my hat is certainly off to those who encourage other bloggers.

What I've been wondering is what about if we each--and by each, I mean those who feel like doing this--adopted a new/newish blog (or three or four or a dozen) and regularly visited, commented, put them in our feeds, at the top of our 'faves' lists? Would others notice and spend more time reading those other blogs? What do you think, friends? I'm sure someone has a better idea, and gardeners are great at brainstorming over gardening questions, so why not this? Could we perhaps have a conversation about this, as we while away the winter months and wait for spring?

I hesitate to call what I'm suggesting 'mentoring', which is something I have done in my real-life writing, mentoring newish writers as they entered the wonderful world of freelancing. In fact, I struggled long and hard with even creating this post because several years ago, I did a series of three posts to help out other bloggers, making some suggestions on how to make things easier/attract more readers. I caught flack in emails and also indirectly from several other bloggers who thought I was criticizing the way others blog and trying to get everyone doing things in the same way, which wasn't the intent at all. Oddly enough, several of those critics no longer blog.

This has nothing to do with bloomingwriter's visitors, for the record--I'm more than happy with my own blog's statistics, I don't do awards or competitions of that nature, and I have the privilege of receiving wonderful comments from around the globe. I'd just like others to receive more visitors and support, because they deserve such accolades. When I was trying to decide whether I should overhaul my blog, close it down, or just carry on as I could, I received the most wonderful support and encouragement. It was truly humbling, and proves my point about this community of gardeners and writers. Y'all are just awesome.

That's enough out of me for today. I'm looking forward to the conversation among this community of generous, fun and talented people. That includes those of you who are newer to blogging--what do YOU want from the community? What's working for you, what do you wish could be improved? If it merits, I'll do a follow up post based on how the conversation flows.

29 January 2010

Skywatch Friday: Winter Sundown, Watchful Owl

Finally, a winter sky worthy of offering up for Skywatch Friday. We have had a few decent weather days this past week, although some afternoons the clouds roll in by day's end as if the sun is winter weary and needs to go to sleep earlier than his prescribed bedtime. The other evening, however, my Longsuffering Spouse and I were both struck by two things. One, that the days were getting noticeably longer, and two, that the sunsets were moving back across the horizon further to the west. LSS, a retired fisherman and inveterate skywatcher, always notices when the sun starts setting further and further to the west, across the back of our property line. We've months to go before it reaches its farthest point and starts moving back again, of course. But as the days grow longer, my outlook grows more cheery. And I grow busier, too.

This afternoon when I got home, LSS was out in the paddock bringing in Leggo and Jenny for the night, and when he saw me he got very excited. As soon as the animals were in, he eagerly dragged me out to the end of the driveway and pointed down the road to a 'blog' sitting on a telephone wire. "We had this owl here this morning!" he said excitedly. "He sat in that dying tree in the back yard and watched me as I put the horse out, and watched me fill the bird feeders, too. And when we came back from the woodlot, he was down there on the wire."

I got into the car and sneaked casually down the road and sure enough, there was a barred owl sitting on the wire, back to the road. I took a few photos from inside the car, while he--or she--looked over my way a few times but seemed unalarmed. I very quietly got out of the car, and the head swung right around to look at me, and I froze, and the owl stayed put. I took a few more photos as I edged closer, and then I took one step too many, because Owl looked at me, clacked his beak once, and took off, flying over my head and down into the woods. It was a very cool experience.

A friend of mine has been building owl nesting boxes and has promised us one, which we'll somehow put up in one of the big old spruces further down our property line. Barred owls are native here and while we hear them in the woods around our place all the time, I haven't seen one this close for a while. I hope he has a taste for starlings, as there has been a small flock hanging around our place, and I dislike starlings.

This has been a busy week, and I've yet to have time to finish two posts that I've been working on; one sharing my latest adventures, the other one far more important as it pertains to encouraging other bloggers. I'm always glad to be busy, but I'll get that latter post up this weekend sometime. I'll be interested to see what the response is.

post written by jodi (bloomingwriter)

27 January 2010

Wordless Wednesday: "They called me the hyacinth girl..."

25 January 2010

"Rainbows, Pots of Gold and Moonbeams..."

Isn't it funny what a word or two will trigger in our heads? When I read Rebecca's post offering a Rainbow Invitation to fellow bloggers, I knew I would have to participate, because rainbows are one of those things that make me instantly happy. I surround myself with them, with faceted crystals that send rainbow light dancing through my office at just the hint of sunlight, (and sometimes even without), with rainbow coloured fun things...and with plants of course.

Thinking about a title for this post, the first thing that came into my head was the old song by Studebaker Hawk, 'Rainbows, Pots of Gold and Moonbeams.' Usually it's Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" that pops into my head, or possibly David Cook's Time of my Life, which we snarky Cook fans refer to as the Magic Frakkin' Rainbow song. Or possibly something from Radiohead's 'In Rainbows' album.

Okay, it's entirely I'm possibly procrastinating today because I should be writing plant profiles for a work project, not poking through my iTunes collection. Onwards with the floral rainbow.

Poppies are freerange around our place, which I should have called Poppy Hill instead of Sunflower Hill, I suppose. They are instant happy-making, whether they're red, purple, orange, yellow, white...or blue.

I've finally mastered the art of growing geums: not too much winter wet, and they'll come through and flourish nicely. And cutting the spent blossoms means they'll flower for a lot longer. This is 'Cooky'.

Yellow roses just do it for me, providing they are hardy to my garden's foibles. Of the three that I grow, this is the most fragrant, (and the thorniest), the lovely rugosa hybrid 'Topaz Jewel'.

Oh, well it can be no surprise to anyone who knows my tastes that for green, I'd have to trot out Echinacea 'Green Envy', which still continues to delight me. I have 'Coconut Lime' double echinacea as well, which also does splendidly, but of all the funky coloured cones, 'Green Envy' is still my first love.
Bet you thought I was going to torment y'all with Meconopsis (the naughty blue poppy) here, didn't you? I did an ode-to-blue flowers a few weeks back because I do adore them, and while Meconopsis is important to me, it's the china blue forget-me-nots that touch my heart most deeply, because of my Dad, who died of Alzheimer's disease almost five years ago.

For my indigo offering, I couldn't resist presenting the Perennial Plant Association's 2010 Perennial of the Year, Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis). It is an awesome perennial, but don't be in a hurry for it to bloom after you plant it, and don't move it because it will pout and sulk even longer.

We do clematis really, really well here, because of the cool dampness that keeps the roots happy, and because we work our way out of the fog in time to bathe most of the species and hybrids we have in warm sunlight. I think this is 'Jackmanii', though I can't be sure because we rescued it years ago from a house that was going to be torn down.

A note to regular readers: this next few weeks are going to be particularly hectic for me, so I may slow down in both posting and in visiting, commenting on, and 'picking' posts from other blogs. Rest assured, please, that all is well, and I will have some good news to share a little ways down the road. Maybe not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but happy news none-the-less.

23 January 2010

Blast from the (Bloomingwriter Past): Pollinating our futures

My most recent Wordless Wednesday photo of the bumblebee snuggling into a primrose blossom brought a lot of response from readers, and that prompted me to dig into the blog archives for this post I wrote several years ago about pollinators. It's hugely pleasing to me to see so many other writing about, and doing something about, the status and growth of pollinating insects in their communities, but the message does bear repeating. So here, for your (hopefully) reading and viewing pleasure is another peek into the Bloomingwriter archives, with a couple of new photos to add to the fun. I hope you enjoy--even more importantly, I hope that you are prompted to also help out the pollinators by planting species that attract and nurture them, by being as organic a gardener as possible, and by encouraging others. We're all in this together...

Every single day, I learn something new about gardening, about plants and birds and other myriad creatures, by reading through the scores of blogs that are among my favourites. One of the people I hold in highest esteem in the garden-blogging world is Wild Flora, of Wild Gardening. Flora is a passionate promoter of wildlife-friendly gardens and native plants. She is gently passionate, getting her message across about these things without being strident or didactic.

Over the past few months, we’ve talked back and forth about a variety of subjects, including pollinators, particularly bees. Even before the fuss began last year about Colony Collapse Disorder, we were both thinking a lot about native bees. Honeybees are not native to North America, and while they’re incredibly important for pollinating a huge number of food crops (and other plants), native bees and other pollinators also perform these important tasks.

Wild Flora put me on to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, where I happily began learning more—but also learning things that alarmed me, about the decline in native pollinators from a host of reasons. Habitat destruction, excessive use of pesticides, possible disease from introduced bumble bee species…while some research has been done, there’s lots more to learn.

Ours is a very bee-friendly property. I’ve always gleefully welcomed the sight of honeybees from a local beekeeper’s boxes, bouncing from flower to flower, but what I love best are the fat, fuzzy, happy-sounding bumble bees. I’ve been stung exactly once in nine years here, and that’s because I walked on one in the clover—and felt very sad for it. Not being allergic to bees or other hymenopterans (order Hymenoptera includes bees, wasps, sawflies and ants), I don’t work in fear in the garden, and I’m quite inclined to follow bees around with my camera, trying to get good photos of them as they go about their business.

By accident last summer, I took several photos of one of the bees that is in decline—the yellow-banded bumble bee, Bombus terricola. I didn’t know what species it was at the time, I just like bees. Earlier this winter Sarina of Xerces confirmed the identification after Flora and I puzzled over it. I was delighted, but also became more determined to do what I can to promote awareness of the plight of native bees, and do what I can to help them.

I’m not an absolutist in most things. I’m a mostly organic gardener (about 99 44/100 %) and use a mixture of native and hybrid plants. Our property is a Monarch Waystation, we feed the birds, don’t spray chemicals (even organic ones), and I encourage plants that are good for all kinds of pollinators. Like nettles, and goldenrod, thistles and even dandelions. Our ‘lawn’ is full of clover and dandelions, and every time I watch a pollen-laden bee rise from a clover blossom or a dandelion flower, I smile.

So while you’ll see a host of cool hybrids here at Sunflower Hill, you’ll also see other plants that won’t grace the front cover of too many glossy gardening magazines. But that’s okay. I hear our happy bees, and like Yeats in his bee-loud glade, I find peace, ‘dropping slow’ on me with a sound of hope. This is just one garden. But there are many who share these concerns, and do what we can to help.

22 January 2010

Skywatch Friday: Wild Orchid at Cape St. Mary's

I'm still escaping from the drearies of an uncooperative winter, so this is my offering for this week's Skywatch Friday. Lighthouses and flowers...two of my favourite things in one place. This is Cape St. Mary's, between Digby and Yarmouth in southwestern Nova Scotia. I believe this is Platanthera psychodes, one of the purple fringed orchids. Or it could be P. grandiflora; the difference has to do with the size of the flowers, but I didn't have a measuring tape on me that day.It was one of those perfect summer days when there was no fog to be seen and the sun was lovely and everything was just right in the world, up on that hill overlooking the water.

I'm so blessed to live in this province. Even when the sky is a bit scowly in January.

21 January 2010

Sir Mungus of Anjou and the Eagles

It's no secret to regular readers of bloomingwriter that we are owned by seven amusing cats, the most amusing--and I swear, intelligent--of whom is Mungus. Or, after his little performance yesterday, Sir Mungus of Angou. He celebrated the fact that I brought home some really fine Anjou pears from a local farm market by laying on the bag, nuzzling the pears, and sprawling ON them.

Now, If there was nowhere else in the entire house for him to lay and rest, he would throw a riotous hissy fit worthy of Garfield or Bill-the-Cat if we tried to prevail upon him to lay on the pear bag. I wasn't quick enough to snap him trying to bite one of the pears, but he decided that they were an ideal place to rest. Perhaps they are used for acu-pear-ssure and relieve the weary muscles of hardworking felines.
Did I happen to mention that Mungus is, PEARhaps, a bit of a ham-cat? He also likes to prevent the reading of the newspaper on a regular basis, which given the sad state of the newspaper really isn't a huge loss.

Since this is normally a garden-related blog, here's a gratuitous photo of Yet. Another. Amaryllis. This is the double-flowered Pasadena, quite a handsome thing, and likely as close as I'll ever come to the real Pasadena. Sigh. Sometimes it's hard hanging off the easternly edge of the continent.

This coming weekend marks the kickoff of the 19th annual Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch festival. The festival runs for three consecutive weekends and is a great way for families to spend some quality time in the outdoors, observing some of the many bald eagles that overwinter here. This fellow was sitting in one of the 'eagle trees' located near a poultry farm, likely digesting his breakfast, when I came back from town this morning, and obligingly gave the baleful eagle-glare while I snapped his photo. Over here in my community of Scotts Bay, we have a few eagles that live here yearround (as a few do elsewhere in the Valley, while many go to Cape Breton for the summer/nesting months) but I never, ever get tired of watching eagles. Not ever. They may be our neighbour to the south's national bird, but we love them too.

19 January 2010

Finally following up with my Foliage Followup

As many other garden bloggers can tell you, our good friend and fellow blogger Pam @Digging came up with the delightful idea for a Foliage Followup to follow Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Since I was fashionably late with the bloom day post, it only goes without saying that I'd be behind the eightball with this post as well.

Let's start with this splendid leaf, shall we? Oh, what can that be from? Confused? You'll understand in a few minutes.

I don't have a huge number of really interesting-leafed plants indoors, but I did pick out a few that tend to particularly please me. The cyclamens are the best, with their various patterns of green and silver-appliqued leaves and their lacy edges. I like the first photo (top lefthand) because it also caught a bit of rainbow from a crystal snowflake hanging in the window, during a rare episode of sunlight on Sunday. So pleased was I to see sunlight that I spent a good deal of time just playing with the light on leaves, which looked variously like roadmaps or weird chlorophyll landscapes. My other indoor faves include a lovely succulent, several variegated hoyas with a LOT of rosy colour in their foliage, and an intriguing syngonium that came in a container stuffed with three other plant species and pleaded with me to rescue it. Oh, and the coolly dramatic posturing of my Cycad, which I adore for its prehistoric moodiness.

Outside, there's quite a bit more going on. When I created this montage, the program would not cooperate and put the rhododendron leaf photos beside one another. They're on the same shrub, an eight foot tall beast; the leaves that were basking in sunlight had relaxed and were looking almost springlike, while those in shadow were remaining sullenly, chillily rolled up in protest of winter. I know how they feel.

There are only a couple of deciduous trees/shrubs included; one is a fragrant viburnum, I think Burkwood, which has kept a few of its leaves; the other is my small copper beech, which hangs onto its leaves obsessively until spring. The other non-conifer offering isn't foliage, actually, but the flowerheads of Miscanthus 'Huron Sunrise', which I just included because I'm a rebel sometimes.

I've mentioned before that I really love conifers, particularly those with bright, interesting foliage; included here are a few of my favourites. Clockwise, from top righthand corner: Chamaecyparis 'Heatherbun';
bottom right, Thuja 'Rheingold';
bottom left,
Thuja 'Sherwood Frost', with its ivory tips;
second from top left, another ancient, fascinating plant, Thujopsis dolobrata, the only member of the genus Thujopsis.
Centre: One of my favourites just because I like to say its name: Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Plumosa Aurea Nana'.

Now, about that leaf at the top?

This is my answer to my ongoing trouble with hollyhocksp: I bought this sculpture of a hollyhock plant a few years ago, and it stands in the back garden, oblivious to all assaults of weather. It may not be botanically exact, but it doesn't die off from winter rot, or come out pink when it's supposed to be yellow-flowered, or any of the myriad other ways hollyhocks have sought to thwart me. Although I guess the oxidizing of its leaves give new meaning to 'hollyhock leaf rust', don't they?

post written by jodi (bloomingwriter)

17 January 2010

Blast from the (Bloomingwriter Past): Herbal medicine-A peek into Miss Babineau’s garden

Back in 2006, my dear friend and neighbour Ami McKay wrote an amazing, and bestselling, novel, The Birth House, which caught the public's imagination here in Canada, in the US, Britain, and other parts of the world. Set right here in Scotts Bay at the turn of the 20th century, it was translated into at least two other languages and bumped The DaVinci Code out of the #1 spot on the Globe & Mail's bestseller list. It was (and is still) an amazing, enthralling, riveting read, and I was thrilled to watch Ami's success. She's currently in the editing/revising phase for her second novel, for which we're all anxiously awaiting. (no pressure, Ami, really...).

In the summer of 2006, Ami asked if I'd take part in a blog tour that she was hosting. As the goofy garden writer who lives up the hill from her, I thought it would be a great idea to write a bit about the herbs and other plants that would have been used by the community midwife, who in The Birth House is named Marie Babineau. So here, for your Sunday morning reading pleasure, is that post, with the addition of a few photographs (back then we had no highspeed up here in Scotts Bay) The book is still very much available, and I still utterly recommend it: it is one of my favourite novels of all time.

The Acadians who came to what is today Nova Scotia in the years between 1604-1755 brought many of their own plants with them to develop their potager gardens for medicinal, food and other useful plants. These kitchen gardens were usually very precisely laid out in geometric shapes, but include attractive ornamental plants as well as utilitarian species. There are wonderful examples of Acadian potagers at Grand Pre National Historic Site , Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens , and at the Acadian Museum of Southwest Pubnico .

Being of good Acadian stock, Miss Babineau would have grown traditional vegetables including string beans and peas, onions, and root vegetables such as sunroot (Jerusalem artichoke), beets, turnips, carrots and radish. There would be raspberries, gooseberries and currants for drying and making into preserves, and a host of herbs for tending the community’s ailments—wormwood, lovage, sage, lavender, chamomile, catnip, calendula, angelica and dill…Some plants she would have foraged for in the woods and meadows and along the seashores and roadsides; blackberries, chokecherries, sumac, spruce gum, willow and more.

Here’s a panier-basket of plants, a few of them cultivated and but most gleaned from mother Nature’s bounty.

Angelica: Marian Zinck in the lovely book Wildflowers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (published by Formac, newly revised and updated in 2006) writes that chewing the root of angelica was formerly thought to ward off witches. More practically, angelica is often candied or made into a cordial.

Red Clover: a lovely plant for hay and to attract bees, it also makes a wonderful tea when the flowers are dried.

Bunchberry: (Cornus canadensis) Also called crackerberry, these attractive wild perennials produce orange-red berries, bland unless cooked.

Curled Dock (Rumex crispus): The root of this often weedy plant have been used to treat skin afflictions

Winterberry (Gaultheria procumbens): both the leaves and brilliant red berries of winterberry taste of wintergreen and are very tasty.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum punctatum): Once thought to suppress urine output and relieve kidney and bladder problems when made into a tea. Also formerly used as an ointment to ‘dispel hard tumours, caked breasts, bruises, etc.’ Now known to be effective in treating depression and sleep disorders.

Dandelion: Never shun the humble dandelion, also called pissenlit or pissabeds, perhaps for their brilliant yellow colour or for their usefulness as a diuretic. The leaves are a good potherb, the roots roasted and ground are used as a coffee substitute, and of course the flowers make the heady and potent dandelion wine.

Wild roses (Rosa virginiana, R. carolina and others): The ripened fruit, or hips, of wild roses contain much vitamin C and are delicious in jellies, salads or teas.

Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia): the bark of this and other dogwoods was traditionally used by both French and First Nations peoples, mixed with tobacco for lessening that herb’s strength when smoked.

Hawthorns (Crataegus, various species): The small fruits of hawthorns, often referred to as wild medlars (including by Lescarbot at Port Royal in 1609) though sometimes not very flavourful, were known to be of use against scurvy, but also supposedly good to prevent the menses and other ‘fluxes of bloud’ as well as for bladder ailments.

Service Berry, Chuckly Pear (Amelanchier, especially A. canadensis): This large shrub or small tree produces juicy, pear-like fruits about the size of large blueberries, luscious in taste and formerly much used in making preserves, cordials and even a delightful liqueur not unlike cassis.

Mint (Mentha, various species): Mints have long been used in soothing teas as well as in flavouring cooking, bringing ease to a distressed stomach and relief to cough and cold, itching of the skin and various other malaises.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara): Firstflower of spring, its bright yellow, dandelion-like blossoms appear before the thick shiny leaves, which are boiled to make very effective cough syrups and lozenges.

Labrador tea: (Ledum groenlandicum) Although the leaves are bitter, they are often used to make a soothing tea to releeve colds, coughs, and other ailments. Literature reports that a tincture of the plant was useful in relieving the sting of insects, as well as comforting those with rheumatism. Interestingly, the plant has also been used to dye material a brown colour!

Wild cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus, V. macrocarpon): One of the most useful wild fruit for preventing or treating scurvy, they were called Atoca by the first Nations peoples who introduced them to the French explorers and settlers.

Cattail: (Typha angustifolia, T. latifolia) An all-purpose and valuable plant, the pollen of which has been used as a flour substitute; the roots are edible, high in starch and sugars and useful in a syrup for fevers, as a poultice on sores and scalds. The fibre has been used in past years to make a type of burlap while the fluff of the flowerheads was often used as a kind of insulation.

Valerian: One of the herbs Miss B’s ancestors would have brought with them from France, and now widely naturalized, it is useful in promoting sleep and in calming nervous conditions. (Funny that Dr. Thomas didn’t use it in conjunction with his recommended vibrator treatments!) Note: The previous aside is an inside joke and you'll just have to read the book in order to appreciate the humour in it.

Willow (Salix species): Willows are the natural source of acetylsalicylic acid, the foundation of painkillers such as aspirin. Chewing the leaves or bark would relieve symptoms of arthritis and other painful conditions.

Glasswort, samphire greens: (Salicornia maritima) This succulent little plant grows on saltmarshes, and is quite edible, but the interesting thing about it is that when burned, its ashes can be used in the soapmaking process. Acadians on the French shore of New Brunswick refer to the plant as titis de souris, or mousetits! (illustration from Wikimedia Commons, as I don't have a good photo of this plant.)
Post written by jodi (bloomingwriter)

15 January 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Performances and Promises

There's no shame in being slightly late. After all, on North America I'm in the next-to-latest time zone (Newfoundland is half an hour ahead of us) so it's still late afternoon on the West Coast. Okay, yes, it's tomorrow in Europe and other parts of the world, but at least I'm putting in an appearance for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

There are actually quite a few things in bloom in the house, and several of the poinsettias are still here, despite my threat to put them outdoors for some air with one of their cohorts. In my office, the big bromeliad, some cyclamen, African violets and a couple of kalanchoes are providing me with cheery colour, much appreciated what with the ongoing case of grey skies we've been enduring. A couple of geraniums and amaryllis 'Sydney' are entertaining in the kitchen, while a tired abutilon and small hibiscus provide colourful flowers almost larger than their plants.
What I like as much as the actual blooms is the promise of more to come. That bromeliad I purchased a few weeks back has told me I should get another one, because its geometric flowers are just so pleasing to the eye. Amaryllis 'Pasadena' is going to open in the next couple of days, and suddenly the hyacinths have gotten the growing bit in their teeth and have surged in the past few days.

But the experience I'm most waiting for is growing on an epiphyllum or orchid cactus given to me in the fall by a friend of mine. It DID have quite a few buds until the other night when someone who shall not be named (I'm looking at YOU, Spunky Boomerang) batted at it and knocked it over, severing a few limbs and knocking several of the buds off. However, the rest of the plant is unscathed (and now securely out of reach of curious paddypaws) and the buds are swelling nicely. It's been a few years since I had an orchid cactus, so I can't wait.

Because the past several posts have been photos or very minimal, or else poking absurd fun at myself and plants, I haven't had a chance to really thank everyone who has left such nice comments and wishes on the occasion of 4 years of blogging. I know I promised some older posts and some dialogue on encouraging other bloggers, but deadlines got in the way and one must work if one wants to buy more plants come spring. Those posts will come in the days to follow, but in the meantime, thank you all again. More bouquets of lavender spread around to all.

Post written by jodi

Skywatch Friday: The sun remembers where we are--at nightfall

The weather has been exceedingly dreary of late, thwarting my attempts to bring one of our wonderful skyviews to the conversation of Skywatch Friday. However, I did catch this sunset from my back deck a few days ago during a rare lull in the cloudiness: Enough to remind me that the days are getting longer. Maybe only a couple of minutes a day, but longer nevertheless.

We'll get through winter. We always do, and we're in far better shape even with dreary skies than those in that terribly beleaguered country of Haiti. Godspeed to all who are going to the aid of Haiti and her people.

12 January 2010

But wait, there's more! What to do with your poinsettias in January

It's the same thing every year. We decorate our homes for the Christmas season with garland and bows, greenery and flowers, including the venerable, charming and somewhat cantankerous poinsettia.

Now the tree is down, the decorations put away, and there's nothing left of the Christmas baking except that fruitcake from aunt Shirley that you've been regifted seventeen times in the past five years. And the poinsettias. WHAT should you do with them? They're living plants, after all, they were so lovely during the season, but now, they're getting a little moody, dropping leaves and bracts, feeling the weariness of having been rushed into growth and then subjected to less than ideal conditions for living.

Well, my favourite floral designer and plant buff Neville MacKay gave me an excellent piece of advice back in November, and I put it into play just the other day for one of my plants, that's been needing a bit of a tonic.

Members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Poinsettias and Other Annoying Christmas Plants (SPCPOACP) might want to avert their eyes now.

"Come January," Neville said breezily, "I just put the poinsettias outside on the deck for some fresh air for a few days. It works every time!"

Yes, yes, it does.

One down. Three more to air out in the next few days.

Bwah ha ha ha ha.

Post written by jodi (bloomingwriter) who is NOT a member of SPCPOACP

11 January 2010

Four years of bloomingwriter's bloomin' rantings

I love flowers, and I love fireworks. Because I'm on deadline, I couldn't spend a lot of time making up some photos to go along with this little post, so I made a popart work out of one of my favourite foliar fireworks, Astrantia. Why fireworks, you ask? It's a celebration. After all, it's not every day that a blog turns 4 years old. In spite of its sometimes frazzled owner, even.

Back in late November and early December, I was musing whether or not to continue blogging, for a whole bunch of reasons. But then I remembered why I started bloomingwriter back in the beginning—as a way of giving back to the gardening community around me, near and far—and how many blessings of friends and wisdom and fun have come to me across the miles.

Unlike some, I haven’t picked up any jobs/clients from doing this, but that wasn’t my intent. I work fulltime as a freelancer, and while it’s sometimes erratic in terms of projects and timely pay, a stint last year in a so called ‘real’ job convinced me that I’m meant to continue on as a freelancer.

Here’s part of what I wrote in my first post, four years ago today:

Words are a lot like seeds from flowers, grasses or trees. They get cast out onto the winds, or in this case, the Web, and we never know where they will end up or how they will fare. Some may tumble onto fallow ground, in which case they fail to germinate. Others land on fertile, prepared land, where they may flourish and bloom. Of course, not every word or every seed planted will prove to be a stunning rose. Some may be weeds. But that's one of the reasons that I connect gardening to writing, and writing to gardening. Both are facets of who I am, not something I just do. And while not every sentence I write is a rose of perfection, hopefully there aren't too many weeds.

The blogosphere, and indeed my own gardening and writing world, have changed dramatically since January of 2006. I was on dialup back then, and it wasn’t until a year or so later that a local company invested in our small community and ran in highspeed internet: not only highspeed, but wireless highspeed. Whoo hoo! It took another year or so to get some glitches worked out, and the company further invested in new equipment to make things work brilliantly. Suddenly, I could post more photos, read more blogs, explore and increase my gardening knowledge dramatically. So thanks, Steve and the gang at Cross Country Television. You’re made of awesome.

Over this week I’ll be putting up a couple of posts from the past, and also I want to float a discussion with readers about encouraging others in this garden-blogging community. That’s a talk for another day, however. For now, I just want to give huge bouquets of thanks to all of you who take the time to read, to comment, to link back, to otherwise be supportive of a fellow blogger. You’re also all made of awesome. Bouquets of lavender to y'all.

Post written by jodi (bloomingwriter)

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