Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day is not enough to all those who have served our country and for those who are on active-duty. When I was young, joining the military was never an option for me. I just never thought it would work for me. I knew that I would attend college after high school and I did. My brother and sister chose the military. I believe it takes special people to serve their country knowing that they are fighting for the lives and rights of others. It takes special people to know what can occur in war; that you may never come home, and if you come home, you will never be the same; but still choose to serve. 

When the United States went to war and soldiers were sent to Iraq, my sister who was serving in the army reserves since graduating from high school was called into active duty. She had never been called into active duty and I was horrified, as was my family. How can a women go to the field and fight? Earlier in my brother's career when troops were sent to Saudi Arabia, he went. He was in the Navy. I was 2 years younger than he was and as a teenager I didn't fully understand what defending your country on active duty meant. I did know that I wanted him to be safe and come home soon. He served on the USS Coral Sea. I believe this ship has long since been retired. He came home safely but war will always have an impact on the individual that no one can understand fully except the person who experiences it.

When my sister went to Iraq, my nephew her son came to live with me along with their cat Penny and Spike the turtle. This was quite an adjustment for not only my nephew but for the cat. I also had a cat and he was not pleased and had never been around other animals. I believed she served about 2 years and became ill while in the desert of Iraq. She was air lifted to Germany and hospitalized and then brought back to the states to Walter Reed Medical Center where she stayed for some time. While she was in Iraq I was amazed that families needed to send care packages to their family members. People are laying down their lives and the military didn't always have the basic necessities such as toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and you name it. She was family and we sent her what ever she wanted and what was allowed. I could never imagine being in a tent in the desert of Iraq laying on sand with gun fire in the background. I will never forget it and I wasn't there. 

She eventually returned home to Philly with the aftermaths of war and the actual possibility that she could actually be sent back! How dare they. Well our family was blessed and she didn't have to go back. I share my story to say that I am thankful that she and my brother, my grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins were willing to lay down their lives so that I and many could live in peace. Our family has been blessed because of all the family members who have served on active duty, our family has had no casualties although injuries. I pray the the government will continue to recognize the work of all men and women that have served and continue to serve. Veterans should not have to struggle for jobs, health care, or housing when they come home. For your service you deserve the highest salute and thank you for all you have done, and all you do! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Terrariums/ Gardening Events and Classes Philadelphia and Surrounding Area

Friday evening was a girls night out for me, mom, and my sister. We attended a terrarium class at City Planter. This garden center is located in Philadelphia in the Northern Liberties section. The store is a vendor each year at the Philadelphia Flower Show although I've never been able to get close enough to purchase anything. Now that I know where it's located I can go and shop when it's convenient for me. The class is normally sold out so I was finally pleased to be able to take the class. The store reminds me of Urban Jungle another garden center in South Philadelphia. Both shops are located in residential areas and are are converted warehouses. The flowers at City Planter were beautiful with lots of foliage, large ceramic pots, and vertical displays. This is the terrarium I made. 

The container, plants, and each layer to fill the terrarium was included in the price of the class. Baby tears and a miniature ficus plant were the two plants I selected. Lets see how long they live. Hopefully for a long time. The bottom layer is a layer of stones followed by moss, charcoal, potting soil, plants and finally more moss. The last step was to spritz the contents. The staff was very welcoming and informative. Light refreshments were served. The class was held in the main entrance to the store at tables set up for each participant. I didn't count the number of participants but I would say about 20 people. I didn't think to take pictures or even bring a camera but all venues don't always allow picture taking. 

I've been doing some research on gardening classes in my area. I prefer not to drive miles for a class and miles back to get home. Monthly classes offered by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in my area were cut due to funding. It was nice to have a class in the neighborhood. There are still many classes but many are during the week day when I'm at work or at night after work in Center City. After work is usually not an option because I'm tired. 

With the coming of Thanksgiving and Christmas I start thinking of holiday center pieces and wreaths. Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania has a wreath making class but it's pricey. For the price of the class, I can buy 3 premade wreaths and add my own touches to it. I'm still trying to make a decision as to whether I'll register. The best part is that it's in Philly in the Chestnut Hill section, not far from home. They really have a good selection of classes. Awbury Arboretum is even closer to home here in Germantown and the classes are affordable. Bartram's Garden is also in Philly. I have never been there but they have two events that caught my interests; the holidays greens sale and another terrarium class for a lower price than I payed.

Mount Cuba Center and Longwood Gardens offer a multitude of classes. I enjoyed Mount Cuba but really wouldn't want to drive this distance for classes. This link will give you a nice selection of different events in the area; Greater Philadelphia Gardens.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Can Be Done During a Water Break?

Reading blogs and going down stairs for a water break, inspired me to pot up my amaryllis. Two purchased last Winter were thrown out after the fungus gnat outbreak in the house. They were beautiful and I was in love with them. The blooms were magnificent! I ordered 1 from a bulb nursery that I am waiting for it in the mail. Until then, red lion drew my attention this week in the big box store. I like the ceramic pot but it does not have drainage holes. I hope it will be okay with some gravel in the bottom to hopefully keep water from the bulb so it won't rot. A nice sized bulb. Looks like it is ready for planting. 

What I did learn from my first time planting them last year was that amaryllis or other bulbs started in water shrink in size and can't be replanted. All their energy is depleted. The bulb I planted in peat maintained it's size and could have been allowed to go dormant and in time bloom again if the gnats didn't gross me out. A waste of a bulb. The bulb started in water shrank really small, used all it's stored energy to produce blooms and then was of no more use. 

Paddle to stir paint serves a duel purpose, but I need 2 if the blooms are like they were last year; huge, tall and heavy. The plant was so top heavy it toppled over one night onto the floor and was done. I was so upset. I blamed it on the cat but the blooms needed support. The paddles don't look pretty but they serve the purpose and light weight sticks will not do.
Instructions. I was surprised to see the disk is now coco peat  or coconut fiber, not just peat. Fungus gnats love peat. I still put mosquito bite granules in the medium to combat any gnats it might still draw. I have not seen anything flying around in the house since the plants from the porch were brought into the house. I will cross my finger and hope for no gnat problem this seed sowing season.
And something extra. Lemons from my mother's tree in Georgia.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beautiful Fall Day

Today was beautiful. It was windy, cool, in the 50's and I loved it. Last week we had a couple of days in the 70's. Tonight frost is expected. I actually woke up early and was thankful for the extra hour of sleep. It's time to take down the trellis out front with the black eyed Susan vine. I retrieved 2 seeds. So little for so many blooms. I was able to clear the shelves in my dining room for seed starting at the end of December. I need at least one shelf for the heat mat. I am thinking of starting gloxinia seedlings in November so they will have an early start and not take space from other seedlings in December that may need the mat. I have never had a gloxinia plant. It will be nice to have another flowering house plant and have some to give as gifts.

Today I also repotted the small orchid and another house plant. I still have 2 African violets to pot up on another day. It was a busy day for me. I worked outside in the morning  then came inside and started a multitude of chores. Trying to finish hanging heavier drapes to help keep down drafts. Cooked Sunday dinner; roast beef with gravy, rice, collard greens, and corn bread. I have yet to iron, but I did get to do and fold some laundry. I tidied up the living room and dinning room. The most important thing I didn't do, prepare lunch for tomorrow so I can stop going to Dunkin Donuts in the morning. I was supposed to make a green salad and a fruit salad from the fruit and vegetables I brought from the produce market yesterday. That will be no excuse not to take fruit to work. 

Apples are so good this time of year and there are so many varieties. I like tart crisp apples. Normally I buy enough to last for a few weeks. I store them in my shed kitchen that stays cold. I haven't made the trip to Reading Terminal or to the Farmers Market to get some. Hopefully I will before apple season is over and the good varieties are gone. I will take fruit tomorrow, it just won't be in a salad, and I always take baby carrots. If I don't make coffee at home to take to work, there will be no coffee tomorrow morning. 
I may try a different vine here next year. The silver dusty miller usually overwinters in this region but I will cut it.
The pansies are beautiful. For some reason the ones I put in the sidewalk planters did not do well at all. I don't expect them to live till Spring. The sweet potato vine continues to hang in there.
I have to locate seed for pansies this color. I had seeds for blue ones from Botanical Interest but so far I haven't had success with them.
The vinca and English ivy are evergreen here. I will have to cut the sweet potato vine.
Alabama Sunset Coleus cuttings. They accidentally broke of when I was finally planting up the cuttings. Strawberry begonia in the background. She is still hanging in there. It was much larger and had babies. I made the mistake of not removing babies and they dried up. I hope it will make more if the plant lives.
Finally planted and watered. They actually are doing very well and haven't lost many leaves.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Beginning of the Garden

TGIF! For those who are not familiar with this term, "thank God it's Friday." The weather is windy and a balmy 70 degrees. The temperature is expected to go down into the 50's over night. This morning was stormy with winds blowing at 50 mph according to the evening news. No work for 2 whole day, yeah! Of course there is always work to be done at home. I looked out the upstairs window and was pleasantly surprised to see the leaves had started to fall and change colors in the yard. The maples hanging over the yard are mainly still green. Maybe another couple of days. 

The leaves are coming from these trees. I remember when this tree was cut. It was huge and many bird nested here. There still are many. I have seen a wood pecker, pecking away, cardinals are very common, blue jays, robins, and other birds that I don't know the name of.

I'm waiting for these to turn golden yellow.
 I'm supposed to be blogging but I'm also watching the Victory Garden on television.Today they are visiting the French Quarter in New Orleans. Beautiful courtyard gardens, what I am one day hoping for in my yard. I know the white fence blows that concept. I used to have a wood fence. It was here when I moved in years ago. Through the years as wood does, it eventually decomposed and started to fall down. What did a young mother know about maintaining a wood fence. I'm sure a yearly sealing would have helped but I didn't know. I lived here many years and did nothing with the yard. I was busy working, going to school part time, and being a single mother. Gardening was not a priority with a small child. I have always loved gardening but the task seemed so monumental and  there was little money to be spending on flowers. 

Several years ago my interest in gardening  started to grow. I had some outside space including the yard, a sun porch and flower bed out front, and I love having family over even in my small house and small yard. In spite of how the yard looked we still had family barbeque's during this time. I wanted it to be pretty and welcoming and a place where I could learn to garden and plant some of the things that I liked. At this time I new nothing about choosing plants, flowers, vegetables and shrubs that were appropriate for the conditions in my dappled shade and part sun yard. The soil was clay and nothing had been done to it in years. The previous owner of the house had planted some Spring bulbs, ferns, hosta, and sedum. The ferns were beautiful but through the years they died out, why I don't know. Many of the plants are still here except the ferns which I loved the most.

 Age has a way of changing you. As my daughter grew older and more independent my interest in gardening grew. When she graduated from high school I really had more time for me. I started with the fence. One Winter the middle section fell! Time for a new fence. I regret not getting a vinyl fence with some color but it will be here to stay unless I change it. They make newer vinyl fences in different styles and darker colors. I would have loved another wood fence more ornamental maybe cedar or redwood. Better yet, I would have loved a brick fence. No money for that. So, here is the yard before I really made some effort.

Part of the fence missing. Fell during the Winter. Time to do something. This is the same yard. If I can do something, anyone can do it too, maybe even better.
Lovely, no privacy!
So I got a fence and the neighborhood handy man put it up. He thinks he's a contractor but he's a handy man and it sure looks better. This was my first attempt at planting. My sister helped me dig up large roots of English ivy underground and turn the soil. I did most of the work by the time she showed up. Many roots are still there as large as arms. Ivy can be horrible. To think people try to grow it. I do have a plant in my window box but that's the best way to plant it, in a contained environment not in the ground. There are many areas particularly in this bed where I just can't plant anything because of roots. On the other side of the fence are trees, roots, and ivy. This makes this bed along the fence difficult to plant. That is baby lettuce growing and peppers on the grill. My first vegetable attempt.The tall plant on the right is Mexican Sunflower. It had just started growing.

This was also my first year at seed starting. I grew some of the coleus and the hyacinth bean vine.

If you look back at newer pictures you can see I now have siding on the back of the house. I would love to restore the brick under the shingles but who knows what's under the shingles and the expense would probably have been enormous to remove the shingles, probably add more brick and point it all. I fail to understand why people cover up beautiful brick instead of just pointing and maintaining it? The shingles were here when I bought the house. It's the same in the front of the house. The house was all brick front and back. In the front there is stucco. I work with what I have.
There are so many birds in the yard I thought it would be nice to watch the birds at the feeder. Birds that I didn't want took over and the cardinals had a hard time feeding. The next nemesis were squirrels. They ate more seeds than the birds. 
I posted this before. My first planter I built from scrap wood. I'm thinking of building a better one for next year with better quality wood. In the spot of soil near the hosta was a peach tree. It was small as my hand when my mother gave it to me. When I had my brother cut it down it reached the top of the house. My neighbor complained about the peaches falling in her yard. I can understand that. The first year it bore fruit I had so many peaches. The squirrels also loved it. The stump from the tree is still in the ground so I can't plant deep. I added soil and planted shallow rooted plants. Eventually I guess the root will die. It tried to send up new shoots for several years but I kept it cut. I wold love a fruit tree but this may not have been appropriate for this type of yard attached to neighbors. Maybe when I get those acres in Georgia?
And of course family came to enjoy the yard.
So, what's next for the yard? I would love the ground to be brick. I have 2 window boxes to hang in the back on 2 upstairs windows. They are inexpensive. I bought them this year but did not attempt to hang them. I want to put different bricks on the left with 2 post to sit pots on. I plan to work on this all Winter. I loved the canna this year and will try more although the 1 I put near the fence did not grow tall at all and did not bloom. I don't want more hosta but that is what seems to grow the best out back. I think it will help to give it a lush developed look. I want to do more with coleus in pots where I can't dig into the soil and sit them on the soil in pots. For annual color I will start seedlings of vinca, and impatiens. It would be nice for the bricks to be a family project but I can't see it. The foundation has to be prepared correctly and level so water dosen't  flow into the basement. I also want to pay better attention to my vegetables and water them more in the heat. The tomatoes didn't seem to mind but I didn't get as many cucumbers and the ones that I did stayed on the vine too long. My mind is "ever thinking''of the possibilities, until the temperatures and humidity increase. I then think, what garden and I don't go out in the yard until September. That's not nice but, it's reality. A new season is here. I will hope to do better.