Waking up to Paperwhites

paperwhites in bloom

Paperwhites in the morning. Better than an alarm clock

A few of the paperwhite bulbs I planted indoors are in bloom, and they are fragrant beyond belief. It was the first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes this morning. Just one of the bulbs in our bedroom has flowered so far, but the intoxicating scent fills the room. I can see a few buds on the other plants, so I’m in for a sensory treat later in the week.

paperwhite showing roots 2-4-2015 4-09-10 PM

Closeup view of Narcissus Paperwhite roots

Note: I carried the vase outside for better light

Out in the kitchen, the scent greeted me again. If I were a bird or a bee, the message would be clear: I’m irresistible! That’s why my Latin name is Narcissus.

paperwhite in pink chick  2-4-2015 4-05-55 PM

Paperwhite and chick

The single bloom in my little pink planter makes me giggle. It seems improbable that the long, lean stem could remain upright, but so far, so good.

I will definitely be planting more of these indoors in the future. It’s been a splendid treat.

How about you? Do you ever grow bulbs indoors?

Heirloom Tomatoes: My Garden Darlings

If you’ve been following along, you know that I didn’t plant a single tomato plant this year.  Hard to believe, eh?

Self-seeded or Volunteer Tomatoes

Self-seeded or Volunteer Tomatoes

Last year my friend Doug gave me several varieties of Baker Creek Heirloom tomato seeds. I planted them in my City Picker but they were slow to grow. I hedged my bets with an organic nursery plant and finished off the summer with tomatoes to spare.

This year the heirloom tomatoes self-seeded one box over. Further, a variety of tiny cherry tomatoes flourished out of the bottom of the rotating compost bin.  Two additional plants showed up in the gravel walkway, a larger cherry tomato and another heirloom. What a bounty!

April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014

Tiny Cherry Tomatoes

mini cherry tomatoes

Mini cherry tomatoes

Since a speck of a tomato seed managed to sprout through a crack in the rotating composter, I felt compelled to let it grow. I staked the plant when it showed signs of surviving the season, and eventually it produced small, bright red fruit, just like you see in the grocery store. Of course the problem with most tomatoes from the store isn’t the appearance but the taste. These tiny tomatoes are flavorless. What a disappointment.

Cherry Tomatoes: The Sequel

cherry tomatoes

More cherry tomatoes

At the back of the garden, leaning up against the house, is another volunteer. This one produced larger cherry tomatoes, also a brilliant red. They’re a bit sweeter than the tiny cherry, but again bred for appearance and not flavor.

Baker Heirloom Tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomato gold! These are the sweetest, juiciest and most prolific tomatoes in the garden.  Honestly, there is no turning back once you’ve tasted them. What luck to have an entire crop of these delicious fruits.  I sliced open several today for seed saving, but plan to do all my vegetable seed purchasing from them in the future. In case you’re interested, check out Rare Seeds Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.   

From there About page:

The family works extensively to supply free seeds to many of the world’s poorest countries, as well as here at home in school gardens and other educational projects. It is their goal to educate everyone about a better, safer food supply and fight gene-altered, Frankenfood and the companies that support it.

You can also follow them on Facebook.

What to do with all those tomatoes:

vegan kabobs

Vegan kabobs for the 4th of July

Made with tomatoes, onions, red peppers and vegan Field Roast ‘sausages‘.

heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil

Fresh basil and tomatoes.

Eat them straight from the bowl.

frozen tomatoes

Freeze them, then turn them into salsa

Sarah the Gardener taught me that not only can you freeze tomatoes, but that the skin falls off of them when they’re thawed. Mike made several batches of tasty salsa. Here’s a similar recipe.

And of course share with anyone who’s interested.

How do you like your tomatoes?

tomato mozzarella basil salad

Tomato, basil mozzarella salad

Smiling Sunflowers

bee and sunflower

Incoming bee

Okay, technically sunflowers don’t smile. The effect is pretty much the same, though.  When I look out my window they’re waving in the breeze, nodding their sunny flower heads and vibrating with bees.  Maybe I’m the one smiling, but either way it’s contagious.

sunflower and yellow bee

Bees move between the sunflowers and the pumpkin vines

The tallest of the sunflowers is my height: 5’10” or 177 cm. It was the first on the scene.  I planted a variety of sunflowers this year, so each one is a bit different. One of the flowers just reaches my knee.

pair of sunflowers

Brothers and sisters

knee high sunflower

Knee high sunflower

Yesterday I gently untangled a few overzealous pumpkin vines, redirecting them back towards the deck. As soon as the sunflowers go to seed, they’ll be overrun by squirrels. I don’t want my furry visitors trampling the pumpkins in their quest. Sunflower stems are sturdy enough to support the heavy seeds. They are not, however meant to withstand the added weight of a squirrel running up and down at snack time.

A little history:

Sunflower (Helianthus annus) is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large inflorescence (flowering head). The sunflower is named after its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. It has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads of flowers. The heads consist of many individual flowers which mature into seeds, often in the hundreds, on a receptacle base. From the Americas, sunflower seeds were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where, along with sunflower oil, they became a widespread cooking ingredient. Leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed, while the stems contain a fibre which may be used in paper production. – Wikipedia

sunflower leaves and bud

Sunflower bud, about a week before it bloomed

opening sunflower

Ready to meet the world

sunflower

Bronze-centered flower

Here’s a story that will leave you smiling like a sunflower:

The Fukushima Sunflower project is now following the lead of Chernobyl, and fields of sunflowers are bursting into bloom across this contaminated area of Japan. Volunteers, farmers, and officials planted the flowers so that they can absorb the radiation that leaked into the soil from the region’s damaged nuclear power plant. There are concerns that the contamination is mainly in the topsoil and that the roots of the flowers are too deep to absorb it. Time will tell whether this project will be a success.

Officials are hoping that the local economy will benefit as much from the project as the environment. They are hoping tourists will come back to the region to admire the sunflower fields. Due to this magnificent flower’s ability to assist in getting rid of nuclear waste, it has become the international symbol of nuclear disarmament.

I’m smiling. How about you?

sunflowers near walkway

Sunflowers along the deck

DSC_0117

Pumpkin’s Progress: Growing Like a Weed

Pumpkins grow like weeds. That’s a good thing. Within days of planting, flat, white seeds crack under the warm soil and  sprout. Cotyledons give way to true leaves and off they go. Leaves and stems shoot up so quickly that if you stood still awhile, I’m sure you could see them grow.  I’m a fan of every stage.

The size of the leaf is a good indicator of the size of the fruit to come.True leaves are prickly and so are the stems, which are hollow. They remind me of large, green drinking straws. Stems and leaves lead you to think you have a small shrub on your hands, but then strong, curling tendrils appear and the plant takes off down the garden path, up the trellis and around the bend.

A decade ago, before we knew a thing about growing pumpkins, a self-seeded vine grew across the path, into a  garden bench, and out the other side. It eventually set fruit, a lovely, heart-shaped pumpkin that hung from the garden bench door. We left the door open the rest of the season, delighted at the rambling pattern and the speed at which it grew. My boys were 3 and 6 that year, so you can imagine the daily joy of discovery. We headed out back in those early fall days to see what those pumpkins were up to.

It’s been such a pleasure growing this year’s crop in EarthBoxes™. They’re right outside my kitchen window, so I see them several times a day. We sit on the deck in the evenings and on weekends, and now feel like we have a ‘fourth wall’ on deck. The pumpkins and sunflowers together formed a beautiful screen.

Here’s a look at their progress since early May.

May 3, 2014

May 3, 2014

My stenciled EarthBoxes™ planted with three types of seeds: an assortment of saved seeds from last year (the mystery box) along with  Botanical Interests ‘Jack-o’-lanterns’ and ‘Luminas’.

May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014

Hearty seedlings in just one week.

May 30, 2014

May 30, 2014

About thirty days in, and look at them grow. You can see the start of the sunflowers near the lawn, also started from seed. I’ll write more about them later this week.

June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014

I added trellises to allow the vines to grow up as well as out. The birds land there, before diving in to the sunflower leaves. Why won’t they eat the squash bugs instead?

June 30, 2014

June 30, 2014

Golden flowers attract bees and wasps. I love spending time out there in the morning before the heat descends. It’s a challenge photographing the bees. They move in and out of the flowers with speed and efficiency. I still try though. I have about 75 blurred photos, but I refuse to give up.

July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014

The vines got a bit of window dressing for Independence Day. They’re beautiful on their own, but a little red, white and blue called attention to their magnificence. They’re wilting in the heat in this picture, but a long drink after dusk set things right.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I love growing pumpkins. Thank you for following along with my gardening obsession.

For the Love of Pumpkins

I love my pumpkins. After a good night’s rest I’ve decided that I won’t take it lying down.

Their demise that is.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, my nemesis the squash bug recently moved in. You can catch up here.

pumpkin female flower with bee

Female flower at the ready as a bee swoops in

Actually I did take one thing lying down: pictures. How else would I get a shot of the underside of the leaf and the attached eggs?

squash bug eggs

Squash bug eggs on the underside of a pumpkin leaf

squash bugs on stem

Leaves, tendrils, flowers and…more eggs

In a word, yuck!

I laid flat on my back and took photos looking up. Fortunately, no one walked by at the time or they surely would have called the paramedics. Amazingly, I managed to get back up, then spent the better part of an hour looking at the underside of every leaf on the pumpkin vines.

That scrutiny lead to another discovery: eggs on some of the pumpkin plant stems. In the end I’d scooped several adult bugs into my dry bucket, along with infested leaves and stems. I removed dead or browning leaves as well as spent flowers, making it easier to detect the adult bugs  They were happy to crawl on my glove and from there they went into a bucket. I dumped the infested leaves and bugs into the curb side green waste site, and within an hour the ‘green monster’ came by and scooped the entire pile into the back of the truck. This was another tip from one of the sites: rip them out and compost them.

pumpkin infested stems and leaves

Infested stems and leaves

The lovely Pauline at The Contented Crafter looked up companion plantings for me, something I hadn’t thought of nor come across in my reading. Ah, the web is vast indeed.  There is enough room in the boxes for additional plantings so I’ll give it a try.  Nasturtiums unfortunately need opposing growing conditions, but dill might work. I’m going to look for some at the garden center.

It’s unlikely that I removed all the eggs this morning. I’m pretty sure others still lurk on the vine. With daily checks, however, I hope to slow them down and possibly keep them at bay.

Stay tuned.

pumpkin vine trails deck

Trailing the deck

Mystery Solved: Love-in-a-mist

Pauline noted that ‘every garden needs a bit of mystery’ but for now I’m happy to have this one solved.  I posted this photo last week, and asked for help identifying it. Extensive Google searches were no help.

mystery flower

Mystery flower

Three cheers for my blogging community! Cathy of Words and Herbs thought it might be ‘Nigella.’ Anne of Anne Lawson suggested ‘love-in-a-mist.’  They’re both right.

These wonderful, self seeded flowers are Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-Mist.   Thank you both.

purple love-in-a-mist

Nigella damascena in bloom and going to seed

buds and bloom

Buds and Blooms

California Avocado Cupcakes

Over the weekend I sampled a delicious avocado cupcake at Sunset Celebration Weekend.  I meant to share it with you yesterday. The cupcake and the frosting both contain avocados as a healthy fat alternative.  You can download the recipe at the California Avocado Commission. Please let me know if you give them a try.

Screen Saver, Garden Style

If you’re looking for a screen saver for your tablet or PC, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong post. If you’re a bit of a klutz like me, however, this post is for you.

I’ve walked into our screen door on more than one occasion, with the full force of my being.  I’m always completely stunned each time, as if it’s never happened before.  Last summer my son’s friend hit the screen with such force that it tore out of its frame.  I felt ever so slightly vindicated. His friend wasn’t hurt of course, and they both laughed it off, but our screen has taken a real beating.  We’ve had to replace it at least twice in the past several years, and didn’t even bother to repair the current one when the lower corner came loose.  The cats immediately claimed it as their own.

After the most recent screen crash, my husband applied a strip of black electrical tape at eye level and called it a day. Though lacking in aesthetics, it was a brilliant idea. It worked.

I’ve tried attaching clever little pins in the past or stickers from my stash, but they never stay put.  Then I found these:

magnetic screen savers

Magnetic Screen Savers

They’re mirrored magnets.  You place one on the inside of the screen and attach the mirrored magnet to the outside.  I think they’re fun in a kitschy sort of way and they get the job done.

Problem solved: screen saver, garden style.**

**Disclaimer: they don’t work when you have a cat snoozing across the door’s threshold. =^..^=

cat in the doorway

Have you every walked through a screen door? You can tell me. I promise not to share it with anyone other than the internet.