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.

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.

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.

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.

Plants – Updates

An update on the Mother-of-Thousands sprouts: Both types of propagation techniques worked well for rooting the tiny succulent plantlets.

Flower of the Day Challenge: Hyacinth blossoms in their last days. Still beautiful and very fragrant. The flower bloomed so well the stem couldn’t handle the weight, and the flowers are now right-side down.

My coleus sprouts are small, growing steadily but slow, and beginning to develop nice color.

Plant – Mother of Thousands

When I purchased this succulent, I had no idea it was a kalanchoe, or that it was one of a variety called Mother of Thousands, and sometimes the Chandelier Plant. It has thrived in a terracotta pot in my sunny kitchen window. The plant is about eight inches in height at this time. Since it is growing so tall I will transplant it to a bigger pot soon to avoid top-heaviness.

When I first noticed a new plantlet near the base I assumed it was growing from the main plant root. Now, after seeing small plantlets clinging to the uppermost leaves, I realize the new growth developed from one of these small sprouts.

Of course, I couldn’t resist planting a few of the larger sprouts. I am attempting to get good results from two different mediums to see which works best. On the left is a mixture of vermiculite and seed starter, on the right a peat pellet. I’ll update in the future.

My baby chandelier plants are in the inchoate stage of life. I love it when challenges make me stretch a bit. When I saw the Ragtag Daily Prompt today, the word inchoate was a unknown to me. Now I know the meaning – will I ever use it in a sentence, well, first I better learn how to pronounce it.

Inchoate – (ĭn-kō′ĭt, -āt) Being in a beginning or early stage; incipient.
Imperfectly formed or developed; disordered or incoherent.
Recently, or just, begun; beginning; partially but not fully in existence or operation; existing in its elements; incomplete.

This oddball plant is also perfect for Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.

Plants – Sea Beans

Sea beans, the name is surprisingly unknown to most people. Are they edible? No. Where do they grow? They self-sow in most cases, and are responsible for diverse plants finding root in new places.

Nickernuts, dove gray in color, like the sky before a storm. The seed coat is near impenetrable, almost as hard as the glass marbles they resemble in size. I planted the seeds in soil to no avail. I soaked them for days without any water absorption occurring, my next attempt might be drilling them with my Dremel tool.

These sea beans are stored in a hidden area in my home. Several of them appear to be the seeds of the Castor Bean plant. This plant is extremely toxic. I haven’t planted any of these seeds; I don’t want a Castor Bean plant growing in my home or garden because of possible danger to pets and children.

I managed to grow a few of the sea beans we collected in October on Sanibel Island, Florida. After soaking in water, they sprouted and grew slowly, but have been great fun to watch. The advice I read that sea beans might take a year to sprout is correct. The tiny sprig on the left appeared months after sowing.

Wordnik has a good definition:

Any of a diverse variety of fruits, seeds or disseminules of land plants that find their way into the world’s oceans and ride currents for months or years before washing up on distant beaches and coastlines.

~Wordnik

Want to learn more about sea beans? Check out this site: What’s A Sea Bean?

Plants – Mandevilla Trellis

Mandevilla vines have spectacular pink flowers and grow inches by the day. I brought mine indoors when the nights grew cool expecting the plant to slip into a dormant state. The vine surprised me by growing in every direction at a fast pace. Soon, I needed to find a way to support the long tendrils.

I wanted to keep the appearance of the Mandevilla natural and clean, as minimal as possible. An area near me has quite a few wild grapevines hanging from trees. I found a few branches, about four foot in length, clipped them off and brought them home to fashion into a trellis.

Success! The trellis was easy to achieve. I poked the thicker ends into the soil along the pot sides, about three inches down. The springy tips were flexible, but also upright, and rose high above the plant.

Since the grapevine is loaded with large tendrils I twisted these gently around the uppermost stems and the trellis became self-supporting. I didn’t need to do any tying. How easy was that? The finished trellis does a perfect job supporting the vines as they coil up the stems. Problem Solved!

Plants & Photo Challenges – Bald Cypress Tree

When I saw Cee’s Pick a Topic challenge today, my front yard Bald Cypress immediately became my focus. Planted about the time my first grandson was born, it has probably been growing for about fifteen years.

The challenge, November Pick a Topic, included orange, along with other words, vintage, cast iron, etc. Orange is my choice, because it is easily accessible, blazing in the sunlight; my Bald Cypress glows russet orange.

The tree, although an evergreen, is a deciduous evergreen and loses its leaves in the Autumn. The leaves, when they fall, are like velcro and stick to whatever they touch. Small evergreens in my front garden are now wearing a garland of rust. The lawn becomes carpeted, making it fun to mow, turning the grass from orange to green again.

Whenever we drive down our road on the way home from outings, and I spy this majestic tree, I can’t help exclaiming, “What a beautiful tree.” It has grown from a six foot sprig, to a towering giant, and is now beginning to dwarf the house. Bald Cypress trees can grow to 120 feet and can live for 600 years.

In a corner of my garden a small sprig of a Bald Cypress tree is growing. Planted by way of the wind,or a foraging squirrel, it now stands about a foot. In the Spring, I will have to decide what to do with it. It needs to have plenty of space. In twenty years, it might be on its way to becoming a giant too.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Plants – Autumn Superstar – Tithonia/Mexican Sunflower

In my back garden you’ll find a towering plant near eight feet in height. I didn’t know Tithonia (Tithonia diversifolia), often called Mexican Sunflower, could grow so tall. The petals open up for me in late summer and are surprisingly velvety to touch. The seeds were part of a Wildflower Mix by Botanical Interests. The plant grows in a plot of ground once prepared as a square foot garden. The amended soil, vermiculite, mushroom soil, etc., must still have some ‘POW’ remaining; the plants within the confines grew much larger than average.

The size the plant reached in one season amazes me. Unfortunately, Tithonia is an annual and won’t survive my southern NJ winter. I saved mature/ripened seeds and will replant in Spring. The ground hasn’t frozen yet and is still soft and workable; this week, in addition to the seeds I saved, I will also scatter a few Tithonia seeds throughout my garden beds in hopes they will grow when warm weather returns. Seeds overwintered in the earth always grow best.

The flowers blossom at the end of a long stem, perfect additions to floral arrangements. The stems remain sturdy in a vase, the flowers, if picked at peak bloom, stay fresh and lovely for over a week. The stems can be cut short or tall for height.

Requirements for growing Tithonia:

*7-10 days for germination

*Sun for most of the day

*Needs at least three feet of spread room

Will I grow Tithonia again. Oh yes…I am saving many of the seeds and intend to leave the remainder for the birds to nibble through the winter. I will leave the plant in place instead of cutting away. The branches and any leaves that stay on the plant will provide shelter for the birds and also give them a chance to land and check for predators in the area around the bird feeders.

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

Perspective and Plants – It Is Well.

My new rose garden is in a full flush of bloom. The roses thrived from the start, but the warm days of summer, and a season of good rain and fertilizer, bumped up the amount of Autumnal blooms. Also a help was the waning of the pest attacks that decimated the foliage in early Spring. My Mother loved asking about the rose garden throughout the Spring and Summer months. She frequently called me in the early morning to chat a bit and often asked about the roses.

Mom is no longer with us. You might have noticed I have not posted for months. During that time my Mother struggled with injury and failing health, and she went to heaven in early September. When she passed into the presence of Jesus, a small bouquet of my roses lay upon the tray near her bed. My sister and I were with her at the end. It was peaceful, yet so hard; we were aware by her deteriorating condition there was no coming back from the strokes she suffered in the last three days of her life.

When we left her, we took the elevator up two floors to where my Father was also a patient. Yes, both of my parents were in the hospital at the same time. The nursing staff allowed Dad to be brought down in a wheelchair to visit with Mom, and he sang to her the old beloved hymn, ‘It Is Well.’ My Dad is recovering. I am grateful for that, and we hope with some Physical Therapy he will continue to improve.

The photograph above is how I remember her in appearance when I was a little girl. I am in the middle. I believe from my size this photo was taken in the early 60’s, and I would have been between four and five years old. She was beautiful until the end of her life.

The photo was taken on my back porch this summer on the Fourth of July. We had no idea at the time it would be the last Fourth we celebrated together? My Mom is on the left, my Mother-in-law on the right. They became good friends over the years.

In the early years of this century my mother fought breast cancer twice. God healed her and gave her twenty more years to live and spend with family. During that hard time of chemotherapy and radiation she was encouraged by Jeremiah 29:11. The verse is engraved on the cross I took from her desktop and placed amid the roses. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11

While I was packing up her devotional corner, near her chair, one of those faith-boosting divine mysteries occurred. The devotional she had been reading had a bookmark inside. It wasn’t at the date she would have stopped reading, instead it was on the date July 17th. I read the words, wanting to connect with the place she had marked, these words were at the top of the page. “It Is Well.” A devotion based on the the hymn my father sang to her. It is well! I know I will see her again one day.

 

Plants – Garden Volunteers & Garden Tools

Each year I delight in finding plant ‘volunteers’ in my garden beds. I often have unexpected bare spots in the early Summer due to the foliage of daffodils and other bulb plants dying back. These volunteers perfectly fill the empty spaces. I’m so grateful for my garden volunteers.

Nicotiana sylvestris (flowering tobacco)
Coleus Sprout and Browallia
Blue Lobelia and Balsam
Balsam Flower from a Volunteer Plant – I have dozens of these beauties in many colors in the garden beds…most are volunteers.
Bird feeder seed volunteers – This Sunflower hid among other weedy volunteers and didn’t fall victim to the hungry rabbits.
Yellow Thistle – This is invasive in some parts of the country, but it is the first time I have seen the plant in my garden. It has grown in the ground beneath the winter bird feeder. I think it probably was part of a Wild Finch Bird Seed I bought this past year.
Moving a Balsam volunteer for replanting.

I’ve mentioned this tip before, but for newcomers to the blog it’s worth repeating. One of my favorite tools for transplanting volunteer plants is a putty knife. It slides right down between sidewalk cracks and lifts the small plantlets roots and all. It also digs deep and severs the roots of Dandelions, evening Primrose, and Plantain, all good weeds, but sometimes too exuberant in their growth.

Balsam root ball intact using putty knife removal.

Plants & Preserving the Good – Scents of Summer 2020

Summer of 2020 was a strange time, but I was still able to garden, swim at our local pool, and find time to try out a few new ideas. One of those projects was creating scented alcohol.

Most of the articles I read spoke of creating your own perfume, but I only wanted to preserve the scent of summer to remind me of my gardens. I used moonflowers and nicotiana in my white-flowered blend. In another blend, I used anything and everything that smelled good without looking up information first to see if they were toxic. Smelling a fragrance is usually not dangerous, but rubbing an alcohol with an essential oil infused into it onto your skin could be life-threatening if the plant or flower is toxic. If I was hoping to create something I could put on my skin, I would make sure I used only flowers and leaves that were both fragrant and edible.

The project was simple. I bought some vodka, a very inexpensive blend, which although it had no fragrance of its own, was so cheap, it assaulted my nose every time I smelled it. The harshness did eventually disappear, but when I try my scent-making again, I will use a better quality vodka.

I used mason jars. The plastic lids I have for them create a great seal. I filled the jar with some vodka, added clean flowers, and let them sit. In fact, the flowers in the photograph are still in the vodka. The alcohol helps preserve their form and color. Eventually, the nose-wrinkling properties of the vodka disappeared and a slight scent was present. I strained the first batch of flowers out after a week or so, and added more. I kept this up over a period of several weeks. Now, in mid-winter, I enjoy smelling the perfumed vodka (called an absolute) created from summer’s flowers and foliage.

Now is the time to plan out flowers and plants to place in your garden if you want to create a scented alcohol  (absolute) of your own. A few I used were: moonflowers, nicotiana, scented geranium leaves, pansies, alyssum, lemon balm, lemon verbena, rose petals and others. A few of these are non-toxic, but some are poisonous. This year I will create a non-toxic blend and see if it will work as a perfume.

Plants – Moringa Update

My Moringa trees grew from seed, in dollar store buckets, to about four feet in height throughout last summer. I loved the look of the leaves, and even better than just being beautiful on the tree, they pressed perfectly between the pages of books.

In the Autumn, I waited too long to bring them indoors. They endured a bit of cold weather. When I brought them into the house, and put them in their winter resting place in the basement, they immediately dropped all their leaves.

I cut the branches way back with hopes they might send out some shoots, and I’ve been rewarded with a bit of green. The foliage is rather sad in appearance in comparison to what grew outdoors, but I have hopes all it will take is a few hot days on the back patio to bring them back lush growth once more.

Plants – Gardener’s Wish Book

It arrived about two weeks ago…Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog, 497 pages of great articles and photographs of plants. I pre-ordered and purchased this catalog, they also offer a free catalog.

It’s gorgeous. The stuff a gardener’s dreams are based upon.

I’m a bit disappointed though, the Moringa seeds I purchased last year are already sold out, but I’m on their email notification list if they get more in stock.

The catalog reminds me of the old Sears Wish Book Catalog my boys used to pore over years ago.They would circle toys in red marker in hopes Santa would bring them down the chimney on Christmas morning.

This is a great seed catalog, and in my experience a great and very reliable company. I’ve never been disappointed with their product. Take a look at their site if you love to grow plants from seed:Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Plants – Coleus Harvest & Sampler

I am in the midst of harvesting and packaging my coleus seeds from 2020 to offer at The Flower Ark Etsy Shop.

I’ve enjoyed watching the plants develop from small seeds into 12 -30 inch plants. There have been many new patterns, colors, and edge variations to observe and cherish. I haven’t been disappointed!

This beauty growing in the side yard produced an abundance of colorful leaves and flower stalks. It was the first to produce seed this year.

For some reason I loved the simplicity of this green and ecru plant. Surrounded by impatiens and other coleus, the gently swirling leaves were finely marked and scalloped.

 

To create my samplers I photograph the leaves and insert them in Ribbet’s collage maker. This is a very easy application to use.

As I gather and package the seeds, I am already dreaming of next year’s crop. Coleus seeds will sprout and grow through the winter and make amazing and easy to grow houseplants. Indoors give them your sunniest window to prevent leggy growth. Pinch out the tips and you will soon have a bushy, colorful addition to your plant menagerie.

Plants & Praise – Job’s Tears

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Job 19:25 (NIV)

This nondescript plant, resembling miniature corn, yields an interesting grain that makes perfect beads. Job’s Tears are a novelty item in my garden this year. I have grown it in 2.5 gallon containers in a spot that gets afternoon sun. The plant has grown well for me and I am now harvesting the colorful seeds.

Although the seeds, purchased through Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds, were mostly tan in color when I opened the packet, they have produced seeds/beads of many colors. I’ve harvested them when they easily pop off the plant.

Dave’s Garden has a great article on the plant and how to use the seeds to make a rosary or necklace. I’m hoping to save enough seeds for projects and also plenty to plant next year.

Plants – Coleus Week/Creating a Topiary Tree- Part II

This is my coleus topiary, in the works for two, maybe three years; I’ve lost track of time. Started from a spindly specimen, it has grown into a beauty.

Since the lush growth makes it top-heavy, I have added a whole bag of river rock to the potting soil. The extra weight keeps the plant stable in the wind that sometimes whistles through the porch screens during summer storms. In the winter I don’t have to worry so much about it toppling over, but I like the look of the stones and will leave them in place when I bring the plant indoors before cool weather begins.

The leaves of this coleus are a perfect example of how light affects the color. You can see the changes in saturation and design. There must be half a dozen variations on this one plant. I love the mosaic look of the newer leaves at the top, but also enjoy the deep pinks and maroons of the earlier leaves. It’s fun to move a coleus around from window to window, and outdoors too, to see what kind of rainbows the light will create.

Plants – Coleus Week/Creating a Topiary Tree- Part I

Creating a coleus topiary causes me to garden contrary to my usual standards. When I grow plants from seed, or from cuttings, I want them to bush out and develop branches. To grow a topiary I need them to grow tall and leggy. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this is to put the plants in a shady area where they must grow upwards to reach the brighter light.

Recently, I dug up and transplanted into potting soil several of the coleus volunteers from the front garden. Now they are growing in a shady nook of my outdoor porch, below the screened window. The coleus get enough light to live, but nothing direct, this causes them to shoot upwards toward the light. At this point their colors fade, and the growth becomes leggy, but this is exactly what I want from them.

As they grow upwards, I clip off their side shoots with small manicure scissors, leaving only a set of leaves at the top and the growing tip. The coleus will continue to grow toward the light, and I will continue to clip until each reaches a height I want. Even as small as they are I might have to begin staking to support the stem. At this point, because of their size, I would use a coffee stirrer, or another small slender support.

Plants – Coleus Week/Volunteers

It’s a hot, hot, hot day here in the Mid-Atlantic State of New Jersey. Heat-loving plants and people are doing well, those who dislike the temperature hovering near 100 degrees are not so good. If kept well-watered, coleus plants do well in July; they love high temperatures. Not only do they thrive in the heat, they also offer up volunteer sprouts in surprising nooks and crannies courtesy of last year’s seed stalks.

They are not particular about soil, many come up in between the rocks bordering the garden. It sometimes makes for crowded conditions, but it also gives me some interesting color combinations.

The plants will continue growing throughout the late fall. I have stopped pinching them, and now they will begin to bloom, sending up seed stalks for me to gather in mid-autumn. I have even dug a few up for special projects…a bit of a teaser for tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned!