Anthurium Christmasum

It’s not every day you receive a box on your doorstep from Volcano, Hawaii.

Squeal!!!

My friend Laura and family sent us a dozen Mini Anthuriums by way of Akatsuka Orchid Gardens in Hawaii. Aren’t they breathtaking?  It wasn’t until I looked at the website that I realized we had been there on our visit to the Big Island several years ago.  Goosebumps!

DSC_0038

Anthuriums, banana leaves and flax

The waxy stems traveled 2,352 miles (3,785 kilometers) to get here. They arrived wrapped in beautiful green paper, soft foam, a sheet of plastic and damp, shredded newspaper. The contents smelled like an evening on the shore.  I’m going to add it to my compost bin for a bit of Hawaiian flare.

damp shredded newspaper

Packaged in damp, shredded newspaper

In addition to the heart-shaped stems, they included several exotic greens, including banana leaves and flax. The greens, reds and golds light up the room. What an extraordinary gift.

Mini Anthuriums

Mini Anthuriums

anthuriums

Reds and corals

According to The Flower Expert:

The red, heart-shaped flower of Anthuriums is really a spathe or a waxy, modified leaf flaring out from the base of a fleshy spike (spadix) where the tiny real flowers grow. The anthurium flowers appear as a roughness on the spadix as compared to a smooth spadix. Most common colors of anthuriums are red and shades of red.

In Greek, the name Anthurium means tail flower. The plant’s stem lengths may grow to a height of 15-20 inches depending on the size of the spathe, i.e., the bigger the spathe, the longer the stem. Its leaves are usually simple, large, attractively colored and borne on long stalks. The flowering stalk is slender, ending in a fleshy column crowded with many unisexual flowers. They have leafy bracts which may be white, yellow, red, pink, orange or green.

glass bowl and flowers

This glass, lotus-shaped bowl was a wedding gift. I think it’s perfect for these blooms

Aloha

 

Garden Peas, Hold the Salt

first of the peas

First of the garden peas

We grew up eating peas, both fresh and canned. We loved them. When we moved to the States, it stunned our classmates to see my sister and me eating them from our lunch tray at school. Looking back, I don’t remember anything really delicious arriving on a school lunch tray but somehow those peas were edible, at least to us.

Kids would scoop there peas on to our trays and dare us to eat them. It was a nifty party trick. I don’t have many positive memories of lunch at school, but I do remember eating the offered peas and enjoying the attention that came with it.

Now I’m growing my own peas. Straight from the vine, they’ll be fresh and crisp.  Inside is the hidden treasure: a row of nature’s green pearls.

sweet pea unfurling

Shoots and ‘ladders’

Although I’ve always known that peas were good for you*, I didn’t know they were also good for the environment.  According to The Worlds Healthiest Foods:

Peas belong to a category of crops called “nitrogen-fixing” crops. With the help of bacteria in the soil, peas and other pulse crops are able to take nitrogen gas from the air and convert it into more complex and usable forms. This process increases nitrogen available in the soil without the need for added fertilizer. Peas also have a relatively shallow root system which can help prevent erosion of the soil, and once the peas have been picked, the plant remainders tend to break down relatively easily for soil replenishment. Finally, rotation of peas with other crops has been shown to lower the risk of pest problems. These environmentally friendly aspects of pea production add to their desirability as a regular part of our diet. – Source WHFoods.org

sweet pea

Pea perfection

sweet pea flower

Pretty flowers give way to legumes

*Of Note:

Apparently peas aren’t good for everyone. Peas contain naturally occurring substances called purines.  Taken in excess they can cause health problems in people with gout or kidney stones.  The purine converts to uric acid.  They suggest limiting any high purine-containing foods such as green peas. Who knew?  You can find the complete article here.

Nature’s Garden, No Tarantulas

The good news (if you’re a tarantula) is its mating season.

Additional good news (for arachnophobics) is I didn’t spy a single one on my hike this week. You may safely continue reading without any surprises herein.

I’ve really missed my weekly hikes along the Almaden Quicksilver trail. Hiking trails feel like nature’s garden, a place to enjoy flora and fauna and if your lucky, a bit of wildlife.  I generally hike with my friend Karen and her sweet dog, Dylan. They weren’t available this week, so I decided to hoof it alone.

I bent down to take a photo of some fall leaves, when two women approached and said “is that a tarantula?”  Momentarily confused, I realized the hikers thought I was taking a picture of one of our eight-legged friends. The hikers I spoke with saw three tarantulas on the trail that morning.

Off I went in pursuit of exercise and wildlife (with four legs), careful to keep my eyes down whenever I approached a patch of shade. Years ago a tarantula crossed my path on a hike around this time of year. They’re actually slow-moving and quite docile, so other than the startle factor, I wasn’t concerned.

One of the amazing things about hiking this trail is how quickly you feel like you’re away from the city.  I can get there by car in 15 minutes. I love that.

Given the long, dry year we’ve had, things were looking pretty brown.  Even so, I loved the smell of fall in the air, the shadows in the trees and the view of downtown San Jose.

Come have a look at one of the quicksilver trails: nature’s garden, and as promised, no tarantulas.

McAbee Road Trail head

McAbee Road Trail Head

Potpourri of fallen leaves

Potpourri of fallen leaves

trail incline

The first steep incline (no spiders here)

view of silicon valley

A view of Silicon Valley and the dreaded smog we have this time of year.

parched earth

Parched earth

tree cave

‘Tree cave’

Remnants from the Quicksilver days

Remnants from the quicksilver mining days

The bottom of the hill

The bottom of the hill

camouflaged deer

A well camouflaged deer

Almaden Quicksilver County Park

9/11: National Day of Service and Remembrance

Dahlia 'Hypnotica'

Dahlia ‘Hypnotica’

9/11.  Thirteen years ago, it was just another date on the calendar.  That changed for the world on September 11, 2001. I’ve struggled all day to find words to share, but they all sound trite.

Many of us wake up on the morning of September 11th and remember those early hours of fear, and disbelief.  Though I live in California, the destination of all four planes that crashed that day, I didn’t lose a friend, a family member or a colleague.  I was fortunate.

But we all felt the collective sadness and fear that swept through this nation in those early days and weeks.

Today is a day of service and remembrance.  I’ve tried to come up with something meaningful, but didn’t do an adequate job planning for the day.  If I had, I would have picked a day of service activity.  I’ll do better next year.  Today I planted a bright yellow ‘Hypnotica’ Dahlia as a remembrance.  We’re a collective planet warmed by the yellow sun.  These warm yellow flowers give me hope while honoring lives lost.  I placed the Dahlia curbside in a muted green pot for passersby to enjoy.

I donated to the American Red Cross fund in lieu of service. The:

“American Red Cross exists to provide compassionate care to those in need. Our network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world, through five key service areas: disaster relief, supporting military families, lifesaving blood, health and safety services and international humanity services.”

9/11 Remembrance

9/11 Remembrance

I’m also planning a random act of anonymous kindness before the day ends. People often joke about this, but I believe in my heart of hearts that if we all practiced individual acts of kindness, it would go far in improving all our lives.

Sending love and hope back out to the universe.

Gardening, Labor and a Societal Ban on Wearing White

When I flipped my Old Farmer’s Almanac wall calendar to September, it greeted me with this quote:

Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job. – George Bernard Shaw

It certainly is a labor of love, at least for those of us that pursue gardening as a hobby and not a livelihood.  For those who truly labored long and hard before us, Labor Day is more significant.

We can thank Labor, also known as Unions, for the following:

1. Unions Gave Us The Weekend: By 1937, these labor actions created enough political momentum to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped create a federal framework for a shorter workweek that included room for leisure time. [reference, below]

Thank you for the time to putter in my garden and extra time to spend with my family, both the two-legged and four-legged ones.

tending the garden

Tending the garden

2. Unions Helped End Child Labor: “National Child Labor Committee” working together in the early 20th century to ban child labor. The very first American Federation of Labor (AFL) national convention passed “a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment” in 1881, and soon after states across the country adopted similar recommendations, leading up to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act which regulated child labor on the federal level for the first time.

Thank you for helping me keep my children safe.  They have the freedom to tend school (please ignore the whining you hear from my open windows) and the freedom to be home with their family.  They’re learning life skills to prepare them for future work, without sacrificing healthy lungs, potential loss of limb and a shortened lifespan.

learning leadership

Learning about leadership (no child harmed in the taking of this picture)

3. Unions Won Widespread Employer-Based Health Coverage: “The rise of unions in the 1930′s and 1940′s led to the first great expansion of health care” for all Americans

We’re still working on this one, but with the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act, people like my sister with a chronic, pre-existing condition known as Multiple Sclerosis, can rest a bit easier.

DSC_0007-001.14. Unions Spearheaded The Fight For The Family And Medical Leave Act: Labor unions like the AFL-CIO federation led the fight for this 1993 law, which “requires state agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave annually for workers to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, seriously ill family member or for the worker’s own illness.”

When I gave birth to my first child in 1997, I worked for an employer with fewer than 50 employees, so this benefit didn’t apply.  Still, it’s a big step forward.  I had to smile when I heard that Prince William will be the first to take advantage of a similar law in the UK. When my husband returned to work a mere two weeks after the birth of our first child, it was all I could do to keep from knocking him to the ground as he left home to spend 10 hours a day elsewhere.  I managed not to break the baby who is now 16 and taller than I am.

growing up

Growing up

On the sillier side of this important day, “In high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white.”

With a pair of white felines and several pretty flowers still in bloom, we’ll be bending the ‘no white after labor day rule’ for some time.

mouse onthe sidewalk

Enjoying Labor Day

white flowers

Anemone Flowers

white cosmos

White Cosmos

References:

Garden Walks

One of our favorite summer pastimes at the end of a hot day is taking a walk.  The days are long so the sun is still up past 8 here in Silicon Valley.  It’s nice to simply head out the front door and meander through the neighborhood.

Mighty Mouse likes to follow us down the block, though on our last walk, he encountered a territorial feline.  ‘Words’ were exchanged, but he thought better of an altercation and returned home. I worry about him when he heads toward the park, so if he insists on coming we just circle the block instead.

Aside from the balmy weather and my husband’s good company, I love checking out all the gardens. It’s a great way to get ideas for your own yard.

I wish I could identify all the plants we see, but since half the fun is speculating, I’ll let you guess along with me.

pumpkin

A fabulous pumpkin growing along a cute picket fence.

pink rose

I love this shade of rose. Do you know the variety?

white rose

More roses

striped green foliage

Gorgeous foliage, unknown plant.

orange flower

Any ideas? It’s a bulb of some kind.

apples

iFruit
I didn’t think we could grow apples in the Valley. I thought they needed a good frost.

flower hip

I wonder what this was? It reminds me of a rose hip, but the foliage looks like a different plant entirely.

Oh, and I think Mouse’s ears were burning when I greeted this kitty at the curb. I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance. This sweet kitty has personality to spare as well.

Mouse and doppleganger

Thanks for joining me on my virtual walk. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by.

Celebrating the 4th

red, white and blue for the 4th

Showing our colors, gardening style with blue Delphinium and red and white petunias

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the States, simply referred to as ‘the 4th.’  Many years ago one of my teachers presented us with a series of logic questions including ‘do other countries have the 4th of July?’  Of course the answer was, ‘yes’ referring to the date, not the occasion.  I probably got it wrong too, but hey, I learned from my mistake.

On the subject of mistakes, here are a few to avoid altogether, as told from the perspective of a garden fairy:

Keep your animals indoors.  More animals go missing on July 4th than on any other day of the year. The fairy garden critters are under wraps for the next 24 hours. Please keep your cats and dogs, deers and frogs safely indoors as well.

Safe and sane fireworks.  Anything with the word ‘fire’ in it deserves our respect.  I’ve set up extra chairs and few lichen-covered logs for fairy garden fireworks viewing at a safe distance from all the action.  If you’re watching the works, be sure to keep your distance, too.

4th of july fairy garden

Safe celebrations in the fairy garden

If you reside in the US, happy Independence Day.  Happy 4th of July to everyone else.  😉