Plants – Quick Grow!

I’m a firm believer in nicking and soaking large seeds for twenty-four hours to facilitate quicker sprouting. This year a few of my moonflower seeds, prepped by the nick/soak method, began growing while they were still soaking.

While the seeds were still in the water a small sprig of green emerged from the nicked area of the seed coat. Within a few days of soaking, the entire seed burst and a shoot emerged and began to grow.

The labels in the pot are the same makeshift markers I used last year: old window blinds snapped off into small pieces and labeled with a Sharpie marker.

Tomato seedlings are also growing fast. Today, every small hair on the stem and leaves was shiny in the brilliant sunshine. Did you know the hair on plants is called trichomes? It amused me to read that trichomes on plants are just as diverse as human hair.

“Trichomes can run the gamut in structure, appearance, and texture. Some trichomes are frail, some coarse; some are branched like tree limbs, others star-shaped; some are long and straight, others are short and curly.” Indiana Public Media

Planting – Clearance Aisle Update/Forcing Tulips

In November I posted on clearance aisle tulip bulbs stored in my refrigerator drawer among the carrots and other vegetables. This weekend, to break up another monotonous winter day with hopes of Spring, my youngest grandson helped me begin to force the bulbs. The tulips are in a mixed-colors package. Although we might speculate about which dreamy colors will unfurl, it’s totally a matter of chance as to color combination.

Forcing Tulip Bulbs for Spring

The health of a few of the bulbs was in question when we saw some greenish mold around the sprouting end. If the bulb also had a spongy feel I tossed it out. We were left with over two dozen to plant. Most of the bulbs already had about a half inch of stem growth. We planted some in soil in deep terracotta pots and others in shallow ceramics.

We covered plastic pots with moss to disguise their unnatural appearance and planted in those. My favorite display is the tall vase with black river rock on the bottom, filled with water to just over the top of the rocks, the tulip bulbs can be watched from start to finish as they develop. Since we did find a bit of mold we removed the brown covering of the bulbs that show through the glass. I learned something today, the outer layer of paper-like husk on a bulb is called a tunic.

“Tunicate bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and ornamental alliums, have a paper-like covering called a tunic that protects the fleshy scales from drying out. “~ Delaware Online

While researching the properties of a tulip bulb I discovered a week-long Tulip Celebration in Lewes, Delaware, April 5th – 14th. Lewes is about a three hour drive from our home. It is also accessible from the Cape May/Lewes Ferry. If you love tulips and are near Delaware at this time, perhaps you’ll find time to celebrate in Lewes and welcome Spring.

Pheathers – Lion or Lamb

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“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens

Beneath the blue skies of midweek it appeared March might come in cold, but beautiful and clear. I admired the migratory flock of birds dotting my neighbor’s tree. Host to an iridescent mix of grackles, red-wing blackbirds, cowbirds and starlings, the tree was the stage for a twittering cacophony of bird talk.

Unfortunately, winter has not reached its turning point, and March arrived wrapped in a mantle of snowfall. Regardless of its chilly start, I know warmer, radiant weather will eventually ensue and appease my winter-weary mood. March days will soon find me in my garden turning over the soil to once again welcome spring.

Pleasure – Orchid Extravaganza Part I

Each year I visit Longwood Gardens when the Orchid Extravaganza is on display in the conservatory. The Longwood gardeners create a masterpiece of color and form with the orchids grown in their greenhouses.

The conservatory built in 1921, elicits admiration as you turn the bend of the paved path and view it in the distance.

An inviting multitude of paphiopedilum, one of my favorite orchids, greeted us as we entered the side door. Those who plan the displays do a great job creating a balance between flowers, foliage and trees.

The rainbow colors sometimes hold a surprise too…these orchids, in reality are a deep purple, but appear to be a true black on first glance.

If orchids aren’t your flower of choice there are hundreds of additional plants on display. One of my favorites were the African Violets in garden boxes bordering one of the exhibition halls.

We also admired the lilies, filling many of the nooks and crannies of the conservatory in a rainbow of colors. Part II of our recent trip will be posted tomorrow.

Planting – Winter Sowing in Photographs

Imagine growing hundreds of seedlings for your garden without the need to tend them indoors. It’s almost like magic! Winter Sowing is the answer to hands-off seedling success. I’m illustrating my steps to winter sowing with step by step photos. You can find amazing articles throughout the web and videos on Youtube if you need more information. I noticed there is even a Facebook group for Winter Sowing now. Today, I sowed and put my first container outdoors for the 2019 growing season. I planted beets from a dollar store packet that only cost 25 cents. I thickly sowed the seeds to take advantage of both greens and beets. Today in the supermarket one large beet was considered a bunch and was selling for $3.49. Outrageous! Winter Sowing is the brainchild of Trudi Davidoff. Detailed information and links on beginning winter sowing can be found here: Winter Sown

I’ve saved milk cartons in the basement for months.

Begin by inserting a paring knife into the carton 3-4 inches from the bottom, near the handle.

After I make a small slit with the paring knife I cut around the bottom with scissors.

Stop before you cut all the way through, leaving a bit of carton near the handle to join the top and bottom. This makes taping the carton shut easier.

I place the bottom of the carton in my kitchen sink over the drain. I push my paring knife through the carton bottom in four spaced out spots.

I insert the scissors in the slits and twist. This creates four large drainage holes. In the past I used a hot screw driver to make holes, but this process is easier and you don’t inhale toxic fumes from the melting plastic.

I fill the bottom of the carton with 1 1/2 inches of sterile organic potting soil. On top of the potting soil I add an equal amount of organic seed starter soil.

I water this until it is soaked and then let it fully drain.

I sow my seeds and cover with a thin layer of seed starter. If I keep the top layer very thin it will usually wick up water from the layer of seed starter soil beneath it.

I label the top with permanent marker. I have to keep a close eye on the labeling. The letters will fade in just weeks. It’s vital to reapply the marker when the letters lighten or I’ll be guessing as to which seedling is what. Tape the edges together with duct tape and place outside in a sunny spot. The wet soil in the carton bottom has always kept my cartons grounded, even in windy winter weather. I will remove the cap later today or the seeds might become too hot in warmer weather. I usually don’t quit my winter sowing madness until every spare milk carton is filled. You can find lists of which plants do best started this way on the Winter Sowing site. Happy Gardening!

Quick Tip – Small Spatula

“It’s largely accepted that the original version of the familiar smiley face was first created 50 years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts by the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man.” ~ Smithsonian Magazine

I’ve always loved smiley faces, they remind me of cartoon characters. Created in 1963, they’ve been around for most of my lifetime. The current emojis, especially the smiling face, have always reminded me of the smiley faces of my childhood.

FYI – “The first emoji was created in 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita.” ~Wikipedia

I baked almost all of my Christmas cookies for gift-giving over the weekend. It was rainy and dreary, a perfect day to hibernate indoors. I had all the ingredients on hand, and best of all, while shopping the outlet mall for gifts and stocking stuffers, I found the perfect spatula for removing the cookies from the baking sheet. My generation would probably say this spatula was based on a smiley face, a large percentage, if not all, of the younger generation would say it resembles an emoji.

The edge of the small spatula is angled, easily slipping beneath the warm cookies. I’ve had many cookies destroyed by overly large, blunt-edged spatulas. The smaller size of this smiley face spatula keeps its edges from ruining adjacent cookies when you scoop the cookie off the pan.

If you like the look of the Neapolitan cookies you can find a good recipe here:

Taste of Home Neapolitan Cookies.

I make these every year and change up the recipe a bit, leaving out the nuts and the almond extract. We have a grandchild with a tree nut allergy. The Neapolitans are amazing made without the nuts and flavoring…always a favorite.

Photo Challenges – Copper Snow & Candelabra Trees

We had a small snowstorm this week. It took me by surprise; I hadn’t heard the forecast and didn’t know snow was on the way.

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

                                  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Can a snowstorm be perfect? This one was near perfection, quick, never accumulating on roads or sidewalks, in and out of the area in a hurry, leaving behind a beautiful dusting of white to reflect the waning sunlight.

The winter sun gleamed so brightly in the sky it almost seemed as if it had become a supernova for a moment, illuminating the frozen landscape with a burst of copper.

I looked up the street towards my friend‘s house; she would soon be one of the drivers heading home from work. Maybe she had already made plans to open the curtains, heat up a hot drink, and enjoy the beauty outside her window. The tree in her backyard blazed so bright in the sun it resembled a lit candelabra.

In my backyard, the sun continued to set, leaving behind a pure lavender and gold sky…utterly breathtaking! Winter does have its delights after all.

“Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall each one a gem

                                          ~William Hamilton Gibson

Phlowers – Silken Petals

Autumn Rose Scepter
Pure silk bloom of royalty
Reigning o’er chill Fall

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
                                                              ~ Matthew 6:28-30

This rose isn’t waiting for dormancy, but is blooming still. When I pick a flower, whatever the season, I have contact with the Creator of heaven and earth. Does this bring the 2018 growing season a sense of closure or will I still dream of rosebuds in December?

Today’s beautiful blossom is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Blog Post.

Perspective – Restorative Power!

Saint Francis Xavier Church was founded by Father Thomas Mansell, S.J. in 1704. It is one of the earliest Catholic establishments in the English Colonies and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

History of St. Francis Xavier Shrine (Old Bohemia) Years ago, before the age of digital cameras, my husband and I drove around Cecil County, Maryland. We came upon a beautiful church unawares. I was struck by its beauty and took a snapshot with my camera. The photo above is a digital copy of the beautiful moment I captured.

The Old Bohemia Church was built in 1792. The church was established in 1704 to battle the repression of Catholicism in the English Colonies. In 1953, a group formed to renovate and restore the building. To me, the coming together of three such separate denominations is a testament of what Christianity should represent.

In 1953, the Old Bohemia Historical Society was formed by a Catholic, a Quaker and a Methodist who purchased the property’s core 120 acres with the goal to restore and maintain the historic site. Since that time, members have worked to bring the property back to its original state.

The month of October for me was a month without church. Between vacation and a dental surgery I missed every Sunday at my place of worship. This past weekend I was once again worshipping with the members in our church. When we entered we were greeted with the sight of almost every seat taken in the sanctuary. Hallelujah, what a blessed sight. We made our way to the balcony where there was still room, and I said to my husband, ‘It’s a full house today.’ When I left I felt uplifted and full of joy…I had been where I belonged on Sunday morning…in God’s house.

Yesterday I visited the blog ‘Tales From the Mama Duck.’ She perfectly put into words exactly how I felt on Sunday about the restorative power of church attendance. Here’s a quote and a link to her amazing post. ‘I Didn’t Want to Leave Church on Sunday.’

“Church is not a social gathering for me. Sure, it provides fellowship, but more intimate relationships are experienced in small groups. Church service is restorative. After six days in the world, I need a reprieve from the depravity, the images, the diseases, disappointments, and this Babylonian culture.” ~ Tales From Mama Duck

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 23:3

Pheathers – Russets

Autumn walks are glorious. I enjoy looking up and finding sunlit leaves to photograph.

Yesterday, I noticed an especially tall tree with brilliant color in the distance. In a patch of barren branches glowed one shining leaf. When I zoomed in with my camera lens, I found my single leaf was a robin basking in the sun, his feathers perfectly matching the russet of the leaves. Robins, like geese, don’t seem to fly south anymore, but winter over in many northern areas.

Journey North has an excellent article on why robins winter-over in the north. One reason I might see so many in my area is the abundance of natural food source trees and bushes in our area.

Here’s a few of the Autumn trees in my area of New Jersey this week. I can’t wait until the leaves lay ankle-deep on the sidewalks like a gigantic potpourri of color. What fun it is to kick through the piles, enjoying the inimitable fragrance and crunch of the dry leaves beneath my feet. This post is part of Skywatch Friday.

Phlowers – Wildflower Walk

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.” ~ Native American Proverb

Jewelweed – Autumn Wildflower

I haven’t taken part in a WetCanvas Plant Parade Challenge for quite a while. For the month of September, the host has chosen wildflowers. I thought it a great opportunity to grab my camera and take a walk to look for Autumn wildflowers. The jewelweed, in the photo above, might seem fragile, but the plant has some mighty powers; jewelweed is a natural remedy for poison ivy.

“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe

Other wildflowers I found were goldenrod, autumn clematis, late-season honeysuckle, and evening primrose.

My wildflower walk is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Photographs & Perspective – Autumn Bound

My family often gathers together for Thursday evening dinner. The conversation last night turned toward summer’s end, and the finish of fun activities, picnics, and warm weather. The swimming season at lake and pool is over, school is starting next week, and coatless weather will soon be replaced with jackets and hats. Since my sons have been working in high heat and humidity outdoors, they aren’t sorry to see temperatures in the 90’s disappear, but we all wish the freedom and fun of summer would never vanish. The calendar might proclaim summer not ending for twenty-two days, but Labor Day weekend in the U.S. always seems to announce Autumn.

Although they bloom all summer, sunflowers are commonly associated with Autumn. I recently found these beauties growing in the front of a neighbor’s home. The day was overcast, the sun still rising, and the grey of the sky created an unearthly backdrop for these beauties. I think they will be perfect to use as the September header image for the blog. Good-bye August…Hello September.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Fandango One Word Challenge (FOWC) – Bound