Projects & Phlowers – First Roses/Grain Alcohol – Update

The first rose to bloom in my 2021 garden was ‘Blue Lagoon.’ This beautiful rose is one of my oldest bushes, and is so large, I have to trim it to keep it off the back wall of the house. It is very disease resistant, and best of all, the flowers are sweetly fragrant.

The fragrance makes it a perfect choice to add to my Grain Alcohol Springtime blend. Last year, I wrote of using Vodka to extract the fragrant floral oils from flowers. I had a bit of success, however, the immediate results of using the higher proof Grain Alcohol has been truly exciting. Unfortunately, the color of the petals is also extracted. At this time, because of the mix of many colors, the Grain Alcohol is a muddy brown, but the scent, oh my, the scent is sublime.

I only use flowers that are edible, or that I have researched as non-poisonous. There are some beautiful fragrant flowers that I don’t use. Lily of the Valley is an example of a fragrance I like, but the plant is toxic, and isn’t something I want to take a chance with in my extraction. Skin can absorb the oils in the extraction so anything that is edible seems to be a safer choice.

The pink of the petals will disappear in two days. The fragrance in the flower will transfer in the same amount of time. I’m eagerly awaiting the blossoming of honeysuckle in our area. I will work on this jar until the end of May and then begin a ‘Summer’ jar of fragrant flowers.

Phlowers & Pheathers – April 30th, Growing in the Garden/The Hummingbirds Return

We have been seeing a small ruby-throated hummingbird for two weeks. It has been visiting the feeder of nectar I have outside the kitchen window. Every other day, I bring the feeder in, soak it in hot, sudsy water, and refill with newly boiled sugar water. (2 Cups water, 1/2 Cup sugar) Hummingbird feeders can spread disease or become contaminated with mold. A great article on feeding hummingbirds can be found at EcoSystem Gardening.

NOTE: Thanks to a reader for the great comment about cleaning with vinegar. I did a bit of research on it and this is a good choice for cleaning the feeder. Also, another good idea is to use a brush to thoroughly clean all the nooks around the feeder openings. Here’s a link to more ideas for cleaning a hummingbird feeder. How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder.

Mandevilla Vines come in a variety of colors. I chose to grow the pink flowers this year. These vines are beloved by hummingbirds. The vines bloom from Spring until Autumn, they do well in full sun, but also need to be shaded from the hottest late afternoon rays. I am growing the Mandevilla in a pot so that when summer is over I can bring it indoors for the colder months.

My mandevilla flowers are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day and also an entry in this week’s Skywatch Friday.

I have three hanging baskets a yard or two away from the hummingbird feeder. These are filled with plants I know hummingbirds adore. Blue Suede Salvia and Vista Red Salvia, also called sages, have the trumpet-shaped flowers that perfectly fit a hummingbird’s beak and tongue. These plants do great in full sun, but also can take a bit of shade too.

My beautiful Vermillion Cuphea, also known as Firecracker plants, are always a favorite with the hummingbirds. I grow them in the ground and also planted in pots. Last Autumn, the Firecracker plant I grew in a pot easily transferred to the house. It grew well all winter, and this week I placed it outdoors on the patio again. It is doing well, although some of the uppermost leaves, after growing in the lower light of the house, promptly became sunburned. Since I pinched the tops of these stems, new branching will soon leaf out and cover up the scorched top leaves.

Cuphea plants in a row will make a nice seasonal hedge. This plant is perennial in warmer climates.

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden/April 23, 2021

I love bleeding heart bushes and their blossoms. The heart-shaped droplets truly do resemble hearts. These beautiful florets are my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

From just a few rhizomes my grape iris have multiplied over the years into several large patches of deep purple bloom. These are also a Springtime favorite of mine. The fragrance they emit is outstanding.

Grape hyacinths are blooming in shades of periwinkle along the borders of several gardens.

The Johnny-Jump-Ups that overwintered are filling the hanging baskets and blooming over the edges. They are gorgeous.

Phlowers – Flower of the Day/Bright Yellow Alyssum

The beautiful gold tones, the delicate details, of Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) are blooming in my garden today. A perfect choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day and also Bright April Squares Challenge from BeckyB of Winchester.

My Plant is about ten inches tall, and about that size in width too. I planted it last Spring and it came through a snowy New Jersey winter very well. The flowers only bloom one time for me, but the bluish green foliage blends in well with other garden plants.

My golden alyssum florets and stems press perfectly. I gather a few and place them between the pages of a book. Long after the outdoor blooms have come and gone, the pressed flowers from this plant are still vibrant and intact.

The Spruce has a great article on growing Yellow Alyssum. (Aurinia saxatilis)

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden/April 9, 2021

I planted a new Forsythia in the side garden. It seems to be doing well, and the bright yellow blooms have been a mood booster for sure. The Forsythia is part of this week’s Friday Skywatch.

Daffodils are still opening and blooming in several different colors and sizes.

Starflowers are opening up in the side garden.

Siberian Squill, one of my Springtime favorites, reflects the gorgeous blue of the sky. This dainty flower is my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day. (I had originally, in error, named this bulb plant as Glory of the Snow. Reading another bloggers post I realized I had the wrong name and changed it to the correct label.)

Periwinkles are my ‘never-give-up’ flower. They are surrounded on all sides, overtaken by English Ivy, yet they wiggle their way through the tangled stems and bloom every Spring.

“Flowers are the music of the ground. From earth’s lips spoken without sound.” ~Edwin Curran (American Poet)

Phlowers – Blooming in the Garden 3/26/21

We lost a shrub over the winter and replaced it this week with a beautiful Pieris japonica. The brilliant magenta florets and evergreen leaves make it a perfect choice for our front garden.

There are daffodils blooming in most of the garden beds.

These Johnny-Jump-Ups, bought in Autumn, over-wintered in my garage. A few weeks ago, I moved the baskets to my back porch, and now they are hanging outdoors in full bloom. There were days they looked pretty bad, but they continually amaze me and perk back up. They are my Flower of the Day in Cee’s FOTD challenge.

Hyacinths are blooming again. Daffodils and hyacinths are my most reliable Spring bulbs. I cut one of the blossoms and put the florets in grain alcohol, 190 proof. I created a floral scent with vodka this year, and hope the grain alcohol, with a higher alcohol content will extract the scent even quicker. It will take weeks of renewing the scented flowers before I will be able to sense a fragrance. The original post can be found here: Plants & Preserving the Good.

The grain alcohol is very strong. Within minutes it completely faded the bright pink flowers into near white. I hope it absorbs the scent just as quickly. I’ll update the progress later in the Spring.

 

Phlowers – Blooming This Week/FOTD

Bittercress is a wild edible. Cardamine hirsuta, the genus name, is a member of the cress family.

The small weedy plant grows everywhere in my yard. When I weed in early spring, I always wear goggles or a pair of glasses if wild cress is growing in my garden beds. It has a peculiar habit of exploding seedpods when touched, and I’ve had them hit me full in the face while weeding. I don’t want one to scratch my cornea so I am always careful to wear eye protection when they are in their seed stage.

The flower of garden cress is smaller than a dime. Garden cress is a perfect micro-green. Maybe this year I’ll save some of those exploding pods and grow it in the house over winter for salads.

Dependable yellow crocuses are blooming in the gardens this week. Every year they are my first bulb plant to burst out of their buds. They are this week’s entry into Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Phlowers – Flower of the Day-Bougainvillea

All summer I waited for my Bougainvillea plant to bloom. At least three years old, I expected it to be loaded with blooms as it had been the previous year. Just like so many other things in 2020, the bougainvillea refused to bloom. In the Autumn, I almost composted the Bougainvillea, but decided to give it another chance.

I’ve been rewarded with soft pink blossoms. In reality, what appears to be blossoms are really bracts, the flowers are smaller than a dime and a nondescript white. There isn’t much upkeep to these plants if you place it in bright sun. I keep it trimmed way back indoors since the thorny stems can really tear skin. Other than watering once a week, I have pretty much ignored it. Maybe that’s the secret. One funny change in the plant, outdoors the bracts are magenta, inside the house they have bloomed in a soft pink shade.

I haven’t been able to take part in Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge for quite a while; I’m glad to take part today.

Phlowers – Gaura

The lovely pink blossoms of Gaura resemble butterflies. The flowers, growing from the base of the plant on tall stalks, easily move with the breezes giving a perfect impersonation of butterflies flitting about in the garden.

I’ve been pleased with both varieties of Gaura I’m growing in my garden. One is taller, with sparser light pink blooms, the other shorter, covered with hot pink blossoms. They are side by side and the long stems blend together creating a beautiful display all summer long.

I don’t use them as a cut flower because I’ve found the petals fall off easily. I do carefully snip the florets at their base and place them inside books to press. They dry beautifully and the flowers retain their vivid color for quite awhile.

One of my plants is two years old. The other planted this past Spring, quickly grew to a large size. I hope to plant more of these beauties, but first I will check beneath them in the Spring to see if they self-seeded. I grow them in full, hot sun, in soil that quickly drains. They will develop root rot if planted in poorly draining soil.

You can find more information on how to grow Gaura on Gardening Know How.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Forget-Me-Not

I love the clear blue of annual Forget-Me-Nots. The blossoms are smaller than a dime, and the foliage is unspectacular, but the way the color reflects the sky thrills me. I might try to grow a few in the house this winter. Although the flower is small, the annual variety produces a large and interesting seed, often found in wildflower seed packets.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits. ~Psalm 103:2

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under. ~ Ronald Reagan

These beautiful annual Forget-Me-Nots are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Harvesting

Angelonia, in a gorgeous shade of coral, or is that fuschia, or is that pink? My pick for flower of the day and Cee’s FOTD Challenge.

I have been lax in my posting, not because I want to be, but because I am super-busy harvesting my flowers for pressing. I’ve pressed, hundreds, no, I’d say more in the thousands this summer. One reason I press so many is only one in three is perfect enough to be posted to my Etsy shop. For hydrangeas, the odds are even worse, only about one in five flowers is pristine and without spot and blemish.

I recently created a short fifteen second videotape, recommended by Etsy to advertise your shop. I thought you all might like to see me in action on my ‘Flower Farm’ harvesting flowers and foliage to press. In the Autumn, things will slow down, and I will have more time to blog.

Phlower – Daisy and Visitor


“Four things on earth are small,
yet they are extremely wise:
Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer. ~Proverbs 30:24-25

When I downloaded my photograph of a daisy growing against the chimney I was surprised to spy a tiny ant on one of the petals. I wonder how high we would have to climb to match the ant’s ability to travel up the two foot plus daisy stem. Amazing!

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers & Problem-Solving – Calendula and Whitefly Deterrents

I love this shade of yellow and am pleased that many of the Calendula seeds I sowed in the Spring are growing in my garden. Calendula are easy to grow. You can sow them indoors for early bloom, they also do well direct-sown into the ground, and are often part of wildflower seed packets. There are many medicinal uses for Calendula, making them a powerhouse plant when you consider the beauty they add to the garden. I’ve planted Calendula in hanging baskets, in pots, and in the ground. Calendula also bloom in a lovely cantaloupe shade of orange.

Unfortunately, that lovely yellow color and bright green foliage makes the Calendula a prime target of whiteflies and aphids. Aphids are easy to control with a dousing of the hose or handpicking. Whiteflies are not as easy, and need a bit of baiting to be trapped. I used the same beautiful yellow color to lure them to their demise.

I gathered a few items together, a yellow plastic cup, clear packing tape, string, scissors, and a paper clip.

I punched a hole in the bottom of the cup with the scissors, and strung the string into it with the paperclip opened up to keep it in place. I wound the tape around the cup, sticky side out, covering all the sides.

I hung this near the area of whitefly infestation.

Success! The whiteflies, attracted by the yellow, landed on the sticky tape and met their fate. It has rained, and the tape is a little less sticky now, but it’s easy to replace. This is a low-cost fix for pests with the plus of using no harsh chemicals. Brushing the plants near the trap several times a day causes the flies to swarm off the plants and helps the trap capture more of the pests.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

If you don’t want to make your own traps, whitefly sticky traps are also available in hardware stores and garden centers.

Phlowers – Flower of the Day/Fan Flower

I love Fan Flowers (Scaevola aemula) for many reasons. The fan-shaped bloom comes to mind first. The ease in growing them and the way the blossoms cascade over the edge of a hanging basket is also a plus.

They combine well in their pot with yellow and black pansies, purple heliotrope and diamond frost euphorbia.

My plants are often visited by goldfinches. They pluck the ripening seeds from the lower branches of the plant, giving me many moments to admire their beauty as they feed. Fan flowers are one of many plants that attract and shelter backyard birds.

I have a pinkish fan flower, but it is not as vibrant as the purple. I like having more choices though, and this color combines nicely with other shades of pink and purple.

Fan flowers are one of my favorites for flower pressing. If picked just after they unfurl they retain their color perfectly. They combine well with other pressed flowers.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers – Salvia Flowers and Hummingbirds

Salvias, sometimes referred to as Sage, are one of my favorite garden plants. I grow both types, perennial and annual, and find the flowers and plants rarely disappoint.

Salvias grow best in full sun, and draw hummingbirds, butterflies and many types of pollinating insects to my gardens. I have planted several in hanging baskets this year to keep them high and in full view of my kitchen window. Dinner preparations often become prime time for watching hummingbirds as they visit these plants.

A great article on various kinds of salvias can be found on the Spruce. Common types of Salvia Flowers.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Phlowers & Perspective – Cracked!

When I was much younger, and someone mentioned something that was without merit or totally crazy, the slang I would use to address their idea was often, ‘You’re cracked!’ Or if someone did something funny I might say, ‘You crack me up!’ Honestly, doesn’t it seem that suddenly so much we take for granted is CRACKED…and I mean that as crazy, broken, and out of sync due to the Covid-19 virus.

Right now, Covid-19 is all over the world, people in most civilized areas have had their normal routines shattered. As I think about this unexpected crack-up in my own life, I’m reminded of the Autumn 2019 moment I found a beautiful treasure in the cracks of my front sidewalk. As I walked over the cement blocks, little glimmers of green, and spots of color caught my eye. When I looked closer I recognized small plants, offspring of front garden coleus, growing in the bare minimum of earth gathered in the cracks. Being the scavenger that I am, I removed chunks of the dirt, plants intact, with a putty knife, placed them in a lidded produce package, and brought them indoors.

This week, which is months after I first gathered and planted the scraps of earth and small plants, my husband remarked that the sprouts growing in the cracks of the sidewalk had become the perfect arrangement.

Even better hidden beneath the larger plants are these gems:

What treasure can you find or discover in this ‘cracked’ time of  ‘social distancing?’ A new hobby, a garden, a pen-pal, blog posts, songs of praise, more time to pray; the list is endless. I hope we all find something new and special to occupy us during this time of change.

Phlowers – Laurentia/Pretty in Pink

IMG_0151 (2)

I’m growing Laurentia, (Isotoma axillaris) the ‘Pretty in Pink’ variety, as a container plant again this year. This lovely star-shaped flower also comes in a periwinkle blue and white. The foliage is daisy-like in a pretty green shade.

IMG_0148 (2)

The flowers are lovely from both front and side-view. The buds are interesting as they form and open.

IMG_0151 (1)

The petals have a nice curve and capture raindrops as they fall. I don’t do anything special for this plant. It grows in full sun from mid-morning until early afternoon. If the soil becomes a little dry it doesn’t seem to suffer. A few rainy days in a row don’t seem to bother it too much.

IMG_0152 (2)

The only problem I have found the plant to have is the leaves begin to yellow as they age. I remove them without difficulty for a better appearance. The Master Gardener Program of the University of Wisconsin says that Laurentia plants shed their spent flowers and don’t need deadheading. Shearing them back in mid-season will promote regrowth.

Laurentia are native to Australia.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

 

Phlowers – FOTD/Verbena

I press quite a few flowers over the course of the growing season and verbena is one of my favorites for this craft. I was pleased to find a pinwheel variety this year and can’t wait to see if it will hold its colors. Verbena is easily preserved between the pages of books or in a flower press. The flower is somewhere between the size of a dime and nickel. For small pressed flower arrangements it is irreplaceable. Red is usually a fugitive color in flower pressing, but verbena holds the red color for years. An entry from the Philadelphia Flower Show 1994 hangs on my wall and the verbena still has a bit of red left in its petals.

Verbena comes in a great variety of colors. Red, purple, lavender, fuschia, peach and whites. Just like my new pinwheel variety, new looks are debuted every year.

I don’t plant verbena directly in the ground. Every verbena plant I have is in a hanging basket or pot of some kind because the greatest threat to a long growing season is powdery mildew. I’ve found growing the verbena in pots protects the leaves from this problem for a longer period of time. I’ve read fungicides will work, but usually I just throw the plant away if it becomes diseased.

Verbena is my choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day.