Plant & Project – British Soldier Lichen (Cladonia cristatella) Part II

As I related in Cladonia cristatella Part I, I searched for British Soldiers in hopes of creating a gift for my friend Sherry. I planned to encase the British Soldiers I collected, along with pressed Queen Anne’s Lace, in resin.

Instead of the two-step pour and mix variety, I chose the softer, one-step product. I purchased Blue Moon Studio charm molds, UV resin, and a small UV light from a local craft store. The products were expensive, but I was lucky and found them on sale.

The directions in the package were simple. When followed, they yielded perfect results. The resin, as indicated, dried in two minutes under the UV light. One plus was the ‘on’ button on the UV light; when pushed the light stayed lit for only a minute. This helped me avoid over-drying the resin.

The charms popped right out of their molds. Beautiful! I couldn’t believe I crafted something so tiny.

I gave the charms a bit more time in UV light and placed them in natural sunlight for a few hours. One final thought on finishing the charms. After I placed jump rings in the hole created by the mold, I strung the charms on a polyester necklace.

The polyester retained wrinkles from the packaging. I dampened the strand and hung it on the clothesline with a large weight. This straightened the necklace out in a few hours.

My tips after using Blue Moon Resin Products:

When I first tried to pour the resin from the bottle into the molds, I could not get the product to flow.

Why didn’t I remember most liquid in bottles come with an inner seal? After a bit of frustration, unnecessary squeezing, and muttering to myself, I took the cap off, felt sheepish when I saw the seal, peeled it away, and of course, no problem at all afterwards.

I did wipe the interior of the molds with a bit of rubbing alcohol before using them.

Tweezers are a definite must for placing the Cladonia and Queen Anne’s Lace in the poured resin.

I would never use the resin indoors as it dries under the UV light. Even on the porch, the smell in the air became noxious. Next time, I will be aware of the strong odor beforehand and move away.

I wish I remembered to thoroughly examine the poured resin before curing. After drying, I discovered a few trapped air bubbles. The directions state you can pop air bubbles with a straight pin before curing. When cured, they are a permanent part of your project. I plan to have a magnifying glass at the ready when I create my next project, and of course a sharp pin at the ready to pop those bubbles.

Phlower – Pink Balsam

September brings an end to many of my garden flowers. If they have not gone to seed, they are falling victim to browning blossoms and leaves. I still have an outlet of admiration blooming in a side garden, a lovely pink Balsam I have named Leona’s Pink. My grandmother loved this shade, and so the name is perfect; she cultivated gentle colors in the garden, nothing brash was allowed in her flower beds.

The lovely flowers leave behind large seedpods. I’m hoping to collect many seeds in the next few days to plant next year. The seeds are large, easy to harvest and store for next year’s garden beds. The seedpods are self-scattering, and if care is not taken, can become invasive. Since the small plants have shallow roots and are easily removed, this has never been much of a problem for me. I often transplant the volunteers to new locations in early Spring.

Pink Balsam is posted in Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Plant – British Soldier Lichen (Cladonia cristatella) Part I

Would it seem odd if I labeled this post Throwback Thursday? Probably. I made my acquaintance with this small red lichen, Cladonia cristatella, better known as British Soldiers, years ago. In childhood, my friend Sherry, sister Susan, and I, would roam the fields near Sherry’s home in search of this small lichen to grow in terrariums. The lichen is a throwback to memories of earlier days.

I’ve been on quite a hunt for this plant, searching for it for weeks on end, I even know the date I began, August 31st. On that day we took Sherry, we’ve been friends for sixty years now, to the airport in Philadelphia, for her return trip home to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. I wanted to find a way to commemorate her trip to visit us, and also wanted a reminder of our decades of friendship. I envisioned an idea to use British Soldier Lichen, but oh my, what a time I have had finding it.

British soldier lichen, with its brilliant red caps, is named for the army of British “redcoats” who invaded colonial America. FloraFinder

I will write more about the use I am going to make of the lichen in Part II, this post is more about my search and where I finally found the lichen. I remembered as children we found the ‘soldiers’ growing along an abandoned roadway. I visited the same area and found nothing. I also rummaged around a broken-down fence that bordered a park near our home, I spotted the lichen there in the past, but nothing was found. I was near giving up, telling myself perhaps the lichen was seasonal and not growing in the area in late summer.

I had almost given up my great idea for a gift when on a bike ride, along the Glassboro-Williamstown bike trail, whizzing by a decaying split-rail fence, I spied a spark of red from the corner of my eye. I braked, threw down the kickstand, and shouted to my husband, “I found them!”

There were hundreds, more likely thousands, of the British Soldiers growing on the length of the railings. Need I say I was thrilled? I gathered a few, some for my project/gift, a few others to attempt growing over the winter. Parts II and III the blog posts on the British Soldiers will follow over the course of the next week.

Product – My Pillow Slides/Sandals

I love my new ‘My Pillow‘ slides. I wore them in the storm-drenched grass this morning, and found they are still equivalent to walking on top of clouds when the conditions are wet.

What I love about the product: super comfortable, basic design and colors, excellent support, ease in walking, true-to-size. I like Mike Lindell and admire the fact that he is not afraid to speak the truth and supports conservative values. I’ve bought several of his products over the last year for this reason.

What I dislike about the product: not made in the U.S.A., the smell of the slides was horrendous when I opened the plastic-bag package. The shipping was not free and added a large amount to the total. Today when I went to the website I found the sandals are being sold for an even lower price. Bah!

I can’t change the fact that they are not made in the U.S.A. What I did change was the terrible smell that clung to them when I took them out of the plastic bag they were stored/shipped in. I used a diluted amount of dishwashing soap, washed/scrubbed them well with a soft rag, rinsed in hot water, and then placed them outdoors in the sunshine for a few hours. Anyone who has bought any type of rubber shoes will know the smell I am speaking of, and how repulsive it is. My fix worked, about 75% of the odor disappeared. I think the last bit of smell will work its way out as I wear them.

Phlashback – Throwback Thursday/Watch the Tram Car Please!

The tram car, a Wildwood, New Jersey icon, has been traveling the boards for over seventy years. Believe it or not (Sounds like Ripley’s) this is the first year I can remember riding it. If I rode it as a child I don’t remember, but the voice of the tram is something imprinted within my brain, and also a well-known local phrase I can perfectly mimic. In a strange way the canned voice, cautioning unwary walkers out of the way is oddly soothing.

Here is a super-short video, filmed in July, a timeless portrayal of the boardwalk in summer. We were in the first car, and you can briefly see me reflected in the rearview mirror as I film. You can see another tram car passing on the right side as the car driver stops to pick up new passengers. For $4.00 one way, $8.00 round trip, you can ride the entire boardwalk.

WATCH THE TRAM CAR PLEASE!

The Tram Car is part of the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #215, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Pheathers & Phlowers – Hummingbird Plants

If the tomato cage and bell didn’t give you a clue to actual size, this bird would appear to be just a common bird perching on a wire. Not so, the hummingbird in the photo was very annoyed with me. I disturbed its meal of delicious nectar.

Hummingbirds have visited our yard since Spring. I had a nectar feeder, but when it gets hot, and my flowers begin to bloom, I take it down. The feeder is glass, the liquid inside becomes quite hot. Besides being a possible burn problem, the heat contributes to the nectar going bad. I change the contents every 48 hours, but I don’t trust it to stay pure when the temperatures rise.

Firecracker flowers are a perfect shape for a hummingbird’s tongue.

The inner disk florets are where the hummingbird finds the nectar on a zinnia plant. This zinnia is part of Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge/Macro.

The cardinal vine flower is trumpet-shaped, another perfect feeding blossom for the hummingbird.

Cardinal vines are climbers, they wrap their quickly growing stems around anything within reach. I usually have to cut, rather than pull, them away from their support. The vines have the strength of steel filaments before the growing season is over. The vines against the sky are part of this week’s Skywatch.

Blue Salvia is another flower that draws the hummingbirds to our garden. I know, in a few weeks, they will have their last sip of nectar in my gardens, but I am already thinking of what to plant next year to bring them back again.

Plants – Brazilian Plume Flower

I wonder how I have never before noticed this beautiful plant in my local nursery. Perhaps this is the first year they have offered it, or maybe the quantities are limited and they are quickly bought by those who, like me, adore finding a unique specimen. I know I would have walked right by it if it had no bloom. The leaves are typical of so many common flowering plants, and on their own not that attractive.

I potted the plant instead of planting in a garden bed. I want to bring it indoors and keep it growing through the winter months. One annoying problem is the plant came with a load of mealy bugs. Yikes. I have been painting them with rubbing alcohol, but they are still winning the battle. I might have to resort to systemic insectide, always a last choice for me. I don’t want to lose this beautiful flowering plant.

Brazilian Plume Flower is posted as part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Instructions for growing this plant can be found at The Garden Helper.

Purpose – Monarch Time/Protecting through TLC Part I

Teeny-tiny Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on Milkweed

Sunday afternoon, I spotted five Monarch caterpillars on my milkweed plants. If I let nature take its course most will likely become victims of insect predators. The Monarch Butterfly Garden posted a list of bugs that dine on butterflies, their eggs, and caterpillars. A large portion of these insects are important pollinators too, essential to home gardens and crops. My small contribution towards a solution is to raise as many Monarch butterflies on my porch as possible.

Milkweed Leaves

An additional problem to solve is cannibalism. Yes, Monarch caterpillars are voracious and eat smaller caterpillars and eggs. A quick fix is to keep them well-fed and provide one whole leaf for each caterpillar at all times. I grew quite a bit of milkweed this year, I can keep the caterpillars supplied with plenty of food, and also make sure they are in containers with same-sized companions.

Monarch on Vitex Blossoms

Is it worth spending valuable time to boost the Monarch population by a few butterflies? Oh yes, the flash of glowing orange wings alighting on my garden flowers and plants fills me with joy. I want to do all I can to increase the numbers of these beautiful butterflies.

Planting – Square Foot Container Gardening Update

Gardening in buckets, square-foot style, has been successful. My favorite harvests were: tomatoes, Swiss chard, Tuscan Kale, Russian Kale, and bush green beans. In the past, I have had good luck with cucumbers, this year not so much, I will try again in the early Autumn or Spring, but will choose a different variety.

The million dollar question: Will I continue to plant this way in the future?

ABSOLUTELY!

Pressed Flowers & Purpose – Queen Anne’s Lace and Butterfly Host Plants

I walked along a local roadside this morning and picked several stems of Queen Anne’s Lace. I chose silver dollar-sized flowers for my two-fold purpose. One is to press the flower as a whole, and also press a few of the smaller florets. I love the floral details captured in the upper left corner of the photograph. I pressed several of the flowers and placed them for a few hours inside the car under a weight. The heat of the car will flash press them, and they will be ready to use within three days by ‘Using the Heat at Hand‘.

I bring Swallowtail Caterpillars to maturity on the back porch. If I leave them in the garden they soon disappear. My second purpose is to pick enough Queen Anne’s Lace to also feed the caterpillars. I have good luck raising them, and fifty-plus Black Swallowtail butterflies started life on the porch this summer. This year, since the fennel is becoming quickly depleted, I added Queen Anne’s Lace as a host plant. Along with rue, dill, and a few sprigs of carrot foliage, I’ve had the largest and strongest ‘flutter‘ of caterpillars/butterflies ever.

Caterpillars taking a nap beneath an umbrella of Queen Anne’s Lace – Priceless. The beautiful off-white flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace are part of Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge/Color.

Plant – Colossal Lily

Lilies, yes, they are colossal. A perfect fit for the Monday Ragtag Community Challenge. The flowers are eye level to me, and I am of average height. The petals are a blazing yellow-gold with beautiful rust speckles and pretty anthers. They seemed perfect for Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge. My lilies also fit right in with City Sonnet’s Colors and Letters challenge for June 20th, which is the letter L.

I love taking part in challenges, though at times, try as I might I come up dry. Today the creative juices were flowing and the challenges fit what is blooming in my garden. A big thank you to the Ragtag Community, Cee, and CitySonnet for their daily challenges.

Planting – Square ‘CONTAINER’ Gardening

Early Spring Planting in the Square Foot Container Garden

Square Foot Gardens are a terrific choice for gardening in small spaces. After planting Square Foot plots for several years I gave them up to grow a beautiful rose garden. With food shortages looming, and prices skyrocketing this Spring, I decided the time was right to grow a few vegetables again. I didn’t want to dig another garden into the yard, and wanted to try something temporary. I’ve combined Square Foot with container gardening and it is growing well in the first days of June.

The Square Foot Container Garden at Present

The garden needed a border; the largest expense was the fencing. This keeps the area neat and also helped in laying out the proper measurements. Dollar store buckets, two and a half gallons, were an inexpensive choice for the containers. I created drainage holes by thrusting my spading fork once into the buckets as they sat on the grass. The holes were perfectly spaced, and my lawn aerated a bit too. Garden fabric cut large enough to cover the area keeps the grass from growing up between the pots. Filling the buckets with a mixture of organic container soil and vermiculite was easy using the wheelbarrow to mix it.

Twelve Tomato Plants Along Back/Trellis supported
Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard, Kale, and Bok Choy have been very plentiful. Steamed with carrots, mixed with a little butter, and ladled over Jasmine Rice, oh my, so delicious.

Kale

The tomatoes already need watering every day, their stems appear more like small tree trunks than normal sized garden plants. I have them in the back of the gardens, braced against trellises for support. Small palettes between the plots keep the grass down also. I’m growing a large variety of vegetables to take note of how each plant performs. Too early to know what will succeed as of now, but the green beans, four plants to a bucket, are getting small beans after flowering. I’ll update as the summer progresses.

White Squash

So far, the only antagonist to my garden joy is the yellow squash. There have been many flowers, and several small squash, but all developed blossom rot. I’ll read up on this problem and apply what might help. If I find a solution that works I will post the results. Here’s a photo of another squash, white squash, I am hoping it will perform better.

PS Between the time of writing the first draft of this post, and now, the small green beans grew large enough for a first tasting. Delicious! Food grown in a dollar store bucket: an achievement that might come in handy if the world keeps spinning toward higher inflation and food shortages in the future.

Phun – Sea Beans

One topic I really like to talk about, and participate in, is beachcombing. When I am on a beach I can’t seem to sit under an umbrella for very long. You can usually find me walking along the edge of the water, head down, attempting to find ocean treasures. I search for seashells and other drift brought up by the waves, I also scan the sand for sea beans. A former post on this activity can be found here: Sea Beans.

Sanibel Island, Florida, yielded quite a few sea beans this year. I threw out any I thought might be Castor beans since they are poisonous. The others I sorted, soaked a few, and planted. The small sprouts in the terracotta pots are the results.

You can search for sea beans along any coast. Most times, you will find local seeds that have washed into the waterways, but you might get lucky and find a sea bean that has crossed the ocean. The first sea bean you find will perhaps inspire you to start a collection, string it as a pendant, or do as I do and try to grow them for houseplants. Enjoy yourself as you search for sea beans. Finding them is free and brings happiness that can’t be bought.

Phlowers – Yellow Nature

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Forsythia on an overcast day.

The forsythia seemed to be the only sunshine as I watched the sky on this day of April showers.

Creeping Jenny

I find a sense of security in the burst of color from garden perennials. I rely on the plants that green up and blossom with the warmth of the springtime sun. They give me hope that winter is truly behind us.

Double Daffodil

I planted dozens of daffodils in the Autumn. Even against an angry sky they glow.

Hyacinth

This pale yellow hyacinth might not have strong color, but it still has the same glorious scent as the varieties that sport brighter hues. This hyacinth is my choice for Flower of the Day.

Johnny-Jump-Up Violas

Rounding out my collection of yellow flowers are these sweet Johnny-Jump-Ups.