Daddy’s Designs, Daughter’s Haiku

In honor of my dad, I’ve written haiku to go with his landscape drawings.

Dad painted and drew as a hobby, but he also studied horticulture and worked at a nursery. These drawings are loose pages from one of his sketch book. My parents sold his paintings before we moved to the US in 1966. These are among the few possessions to arrive with us from Canada. I don’t know if he drew them for a class or for a potential client, but I love them dearly.

Many years ago I had one of dad’s landscape paintings professionally framed. It was expensive at the time, so I never thought about framing his sketches. I should frame them now. The thought just occurred to me as I type this. I guess I needed to write this post.

Daddy’s Designs

Beautiful drawings
lovely landscapes in pencil
Eric Milner. Dad.

Eric Milner: Garden Design

Eric Milner: Garden Design

Art flowed from his hands
three-dimensional gardens.
May I sit under the tree?

copyright Eric Milner

Eric Milner Design: Patio Near Garage

Eric Milner Designs: Planting Pocket

Eric Milner Designs: Planting Pocket

Garden steps and ramps
I’m glad he would never know
Sharon would need one

Eric Milner Designs: Steps and Ramps

Eric Milner Designs: Steps and Ramps

Carport patio
storage wall, movable planter
a caption haiku

Carport Patio: Eric Milner Designs

Carport Patio: Eric Milner Designs

Dad's Landscape Drawing

Eric Milner Designs: Zig-zag

Write your own Haiku here.

Slugs and Scales and Disgusting Tales

snail and scale

Magnolia covered in scale

The title didn’t scare you off?

You thought we were safely passed Halloween and all things creepy?

What’s creepy about this photo isn’t the snail but the scale…all over my struggling Magnolia.  Two seasons of effort to remove it and it’s back, bigger and badder then ever.  Gross.

scale infestation

Scale infestation

Last year, when the tree was dormant, I spent an hour literally scraping all the visible scale from the tree. I went back over the branches with warm water, wiping down any residue. I went back two days later, removing what I missed.

The tree bloomed, but the scale came right back. Over the spring and summer, it spread to the entire tree, dripping sticky honeydew all over the shrubs below.

I hate giving up on this tree, but if I don’t remedy the problem, the scale will kill the tree.

I placed a call today to a certified arborist for a professional consultation. Ian Geddes has been a great help over the years, thinning and pruning tall trees, removing tree stumps and consulting on the health of our trees. I appreciate their expert advice.

snail in Magnolia

Just passing through

Now to get your mind off these creepy pictures, I’ll leave you with this: Dylan looking adorable on our hike earlier this week.

Dylan

Dylan

Addendum:

After I hit the publish button, WordPress told me this was my 500th post on Gardening Nirvana.  Instead of celebrating with flowers and fruit, I give you scale.

So it goes when you blog about a slice of life.  Please don’t hold it against me.  Alys

Pruning the Fruit Tree: Living to Tell the Tale

Four in one fruit cocktail tree

Four-in-one fruit cocktail tree

My fruit tree ‘cheat sheet’  told me to get out there and prune by the end of January. The four-in-one fruit cocktail tree is still relatively young, so good pruning is key to the tree’s long-term success. This time last year my son was adamant that I not prune the tree, worried that I would kill it. I read him a long article, published by one of the universities, on the importance of pruning in the first five years of the tree’s life. He would have none of it. Finally he relented, as long as I pruned the tree when he wasn’t looking.

What a difference a year makes. Playing Minecraft with a good friend today took precedence over anything I was doing. I quickly pruned the tree while my husband kept a hand on the ladder. Today was dry and clear, but cold.  I wanted to get the job done and he wanted to get back indoors.

Last spring, I tried to put a net over the tree to protect the fruit from marauding squirrels. I managed to partially cover the tree, but then one of the legs of the ladder sunk into the soft soil, sending me backward into the shrubs.  I skinned my chin, bruised my back side, broke the ladder and damaged my ego. It’s called learning the hard way.

Fresh Cuts, new buds

Fresh cuts, new buds

Generally speaking, I enjoy pruning, but not when I’m ten feet off the ground.  I’m glad the job is done for another year. I started the weekend with a bump on the head after ‘gracefully’ tripping over a warped mat in the garage. No sense adding injury to injury.

Did you do any big chores this weekend?

Good things to come

Good things to come

Fresh lumber for the fairy garden fence

Lumber for the fairy garden fence

Cauliflower Fail: Yes or No?

Browning Cauliflower

Browning Cauliflower
January 26, 2013

I’ve been trying to deny the inevitable for a week now.  My cauliflower is done-for.  Gone. Kaput. Or at least it looks that way

It didn’t occur to me to protect the plants from frost damage. Cauliflower is a winter crop in warm climates.  Shouldn’t it withstand the elements? The plants look okay, but all of the cauliflower heads turned brown.

Upon further reading, I’m wondering if I missed a step, something known as blanching. It sounds counter-intuitive: instead of allowing the flower heads, called curds, exposure to the sun, you cover them. The articles I’ve read suggest folding the leaves over the curds and holding them in place with twine.  Leaves should be tied loosely to allow air to circulate.

Apparently I’ve spent one too many years eating vegetables from the supermarket. Or not.  At this point, I suppose time will tell. The browning will continue or abate. The curds will grow or wilt.  Meanwhile I just evicted some gray scaly pests from the broccoli plants.  In a word: ick!

Stay tuned.

Resources:

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower
November 9th

Broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower
December 17, 2012

Cauliflower

Cauliflower
December 18, 2012

Dusting and Polishing the House Plants

The days have been cold and dry most of this week.  With our central heating running more than usual, the house plants needed some extra TLC.

Dusting and polishing are never high on my to-do list, but I made an exception for the plants.  Just like nick-knacks, the broader the leaf, the greater the dust.  I use a damp, micro-fiber cloth for the taller plants, wiping the leaves when possible. The Ficus don’t seem to collect much dust, so a gentle tap to the branches loosens what’s there.

The small plants in the kitchen window are the easiest to revive.  I set them in the sink for a thorough soak, giving the leaves a quick, warm-water rinse while I’m at it.  Even the saucers got a nice cleaning.

Kitchen windows are such a great place for houseplants.  They enjoy the natural humidity of an active kitchen, and they rarely dry out with a water faucet just inches away. I generally have a small planter with kitty grass for KT and if we’re motivated, we try growing from an avocado pit.

It’s amazing how well some houseplants do living in cramped pots, with dry air and sometimes dryer soil. This coffee plant, below thrived in the kitchen for many years, sitting on top of the fridge.  After remodeling, we had to relocate the plant to another room.  It’s still quite healthy, producing these lovely shiny leaves.

Here’s what we have growing indoors:

shiny leaves

Freshly “polished” leaves

Fiddle-leaf Fig

Fiddle-leaf Fig

Dracaena

Dracaena

Kitchen Counter Collection

Kitchen Counter Collection

The current windowsill collection includes three “Christmas Cactus,” a small yellow rose and an as yet unidentified bulb.  I must have picked it up from the garden and had it stored in a kitchen drawer with my seed keeper.  It started sprouting, so I popped into a plastic martini glass, leftover from my Halloween costume.  Crazy, eh?

Martini with a twist?

Martini with a twist?

Sunrise Cactus

‘Sunrise Cactus’ gorgeous, even when not in bloom

Christmas Cactus Bloom

Christmas Cactus Bloom

Do you have anything growing on your window sill?

Fairy Mystique: The Young and the Young-Hearted

If you’ve been following Gardening Nirvana for a while, you’ll know that I’ve fallen in love with fairy gardens. You can read a bit about them here. I created several over the past year, and shared them on my blog. They’re whimsical and fun.

Imagine my delight to learn that the two little girls across the street decided to create a fairy garden of their own. They caught the fairy garden bug!

When the holiday season rolled around this year, I thought it would be fun to don my “fairy cap” and create a little magic of my own.

On my first visit to their families outdoor Christmas tree, I left a tiny note and some “decorating material” including sequins, silk thread and a roll of red laundry lint, perfect for making fairy pillows and blankets. I tucked it deep in the branches so they could enjoy the search.

Fairy Garden Package #1

Fairy Garden Package #1

Next up, another note along with some ribbon, a few wooden stars and a family of matchstick-sized dolls tucked inside a baby food jar and wrapped in mesh.

Fairy Garden Package #2

Fairy Garden Package #2

On my last visit to the tree, I left a parcel of miniature bristle trees, a few shiny mirrors (great for lakes and ponds) and a bag of fairy snow.

Fairy Snow

Fairy Snow

It has been so much fun sorting through my sewing box, scrap-booking materials, and left over art supplies to pull together little treasures for the fairy aficionados.

On Christmas Eve, just before heading out with my family to look at neighborhood Christmas lights I made one last visit.  My son helped me fill the top half of a paper Christmas cracker, with a few gold coins. While my husband backed out the car, I tiptoed to their door, deposited the gifts, rang the bell, and ran like crazy. Getting caught in the act would spoil all the fun.

As I raced across their lawn and out of view, the neighborhood kitty gave chase. My parting thought as I ran around the corner was how funny it must have looked to see a woman in her fifties running across her neighbor’s lawn, with a small white cat in hot pursuit.

There's Magic in that Tree

There’s Magic in that Tree

Fairy Garden Snow Recipe

  1. one small handful of craft snow
  2. a pinch of sparkles
  3. a dash of blue bakers sugar

 

The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?

The Crew: Ready to deliver the neighborhood trees

The Crew: Ready to deliver the neighborhood trees

I struggle with this question every year: Is it better to have a freshly cut tree or an artificial one?  I think the answer is neither. Or both.

Aren’t you glad we got that settled?!

As a nature-lover, I’m not fond of the idea of cutting down a tree each year, only to throw it away (or at the very least compost it) after a few weeks. People float the idea of a live tree that you bring indoors each year, but given the size of the average pine or fir, the tree would outgrow your home in a few years. Further, the tree would do poorly in a dry, heated home, preferring the outdoors instead.

Clearly, artificial trees are the way to go.

Or are they?

Fluffy Under the Tree

Fluffy Under the Tree

Artificial trees last a long time. You can use them year after year, they never dry out, they’re less likely to catch fire and they’re sized for the average home. They are, however, made from synthetic materials, that will one day end up in a landfill. Styles change, the frame of the tree might break or you may buy a bigger (or smaller) house that dictates the size of the tree.

In our neighborhood, we have a coordinated effort to display cut trees on our lawn each year.  The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m block captain for our street, and we make it a family affair. We borrow a neighbor’s truck, load up the trees, and delivery them up and down the block.  The neighborhood coordinator purchases over 300 trees.  Each block captain collects the order forms, deposits the checks and then delivers the trees.  It’s fun and festive.

Indoors we have an artificial tree that we store and use year after year. We made that choice for all the reasons I mentioned above. So…I feel like a fraud at times, supporting different choices on either side of the door.

One choice isn’t really a choice at all: simply giving up the long-held and delightful tradition of a Christmas tree.

If you celebrate Christmas, do you put up a tree each year?  Real or fake?

Here is what others have to say: