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.

Planting – Updates

Do you remember the sea bean pod I found on Cape May’s beaches a few weeks ago? I culled out four of the small trees that sprouted and potted one up to grow to a larger size. The seedling is most likely a black locust tree, but my daydreams find me still wondering if the pod might have made a seaward journey from the tropics via the Gulf stream to Cape May.

The sea bean seeds are a good example of garden wisdom: nick and soak large seeds before planting. The sweet pea seeds I soaked, and also nicked with a nail clipper, have already sprouted outdoors in the winter sown containers, while those not treated are only beginning to swell a bit.

Here’s an inside peek at one of the milk jugs. The arugula seeds are already growing. Also sprouting outdoors is broccoli, mustard spinach and the sweet peas.

For plants that will only grow in warm conditions, such as coleus, I’m having good luck in the basement. A small heater inside a plastic covered light table mimics a greenhouse and the seeds are sprouting well. They will not need to be thinned since I sowed them with the small seed sowing method.

Pheathers – Monochrome Monday Mockingbird in Snow

Mockingbirds are a favorite of mine. I captured this beauty outside my window today, perched on a branch of the Bald Cypress tree. The beautiful snow is reason enough to gaze out the window, making eye-contact with a mockingbird is an added bonus. Is it possible to develop friendship with birds, moments of real trust? Possibly this morning was an inroad to even better relationships with the backyard flock. I trudged out in the snow to throw a bit of seed on the ground, and into the feeder hoping to give them a few minutes of nourishment before the snow covered my breakfast offering over again.

This Monochrome Monday post is part of Skywatch.

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.

People & Perspective – Things That Matter


Sunday Night Supermoon Rising

When beautiful events take place in the sky I look up and take notice. When a person changes many lives for the better by standing up for what he knows is truth, I take notice of his words. I wonder what Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream would be if he lived in our present world.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

What am I silent about even when I know something is very wrong? Do I keep opinions to myself because I don’t want to come across as condemning instead of loving? What might my silence let happen that should, at the very least, be spoken against? Today I am stating my opinion on abortion. My belief is that at conception life begins. I don’t usually contact government leaders, but this weekend I sent a thank you email to Rand Paul for reintroducing the Life at Conception Bill.

“Each year, the March for Life calls on the powerful to protect life at its most helpless. What we say about the value of human life fundamentally impacts who and what we will be as a nation. In recognition of this, I have reintroduced the Life at Conception Act to ensure the unborn receive equal protection under the law, along with legislation to end forced taxpayer support of Planned Parenthood. May the message heard today and the marchers’ passionate dedication inspire change to reaffirm this most basic of rights-” ~ Rand Paul


Monday Morning Supermoon Setting

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!

Phriday Pheathers – Over-wintering

White Egret in Salt Marsh – Fortescue, New Jersey

I read a post today written by Be Creative Mary that spoke of the salty smell of East Coast seashores. My state’s coast, including the Delaware Bay, also has a distinctive fragrance of salt marsh. Even though we are in the throes of cold wintry weather, the first day of the year was filled with amazing birds over-wintering in the salt marshes of the Bay near Fortescue.

The swans were busy grooming, but one lifted its head long enough for me to capture their graceful beauty.

The sparrows, sheltering in bushes near the beach houses, were a cheerful sight to begin the year of 2019. The scrubby brush provided wintry hospitality for the small birds. I felt a sense of gratitude to see and hear the sweet chirping of this small flock.

I am hoping, that although most of the birds seem to be common house sparrows, perhaps there are a few that are a member of the endangered Salt Marsh Sparrow and the species will experience a recovery of numbers in the coming years.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Friday Foto Friends.

Plants – Bargains in the Clearance Aisle

Christmas Red Tulips/Longwood Gardens Conservatory-Friday Foto Friends

What is that oddball bag lying beside my carrots in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator?

What looks like small onions or shallots is really a bag of Spring-Flowering bulbs, leftovers from my Autumn plantings.

While you’re looking for Christmas trees and poinsettias in big box stores or garden nurseries, take a moment to check if there are any leftover Autumn bulbs on clearance. Often a business will slash prices of out of season plants to the point of almost giving them away. I mimic frosty cold by storing unplanted bulbs as the Gardening-Know-How site suggests:

The highest chilling temperature is around 40 degrees F. (4 C.), so chilling bulbs in the refrigerator is ideal. Just be sure not to store them near any fruit, as the released ethylene gas reduces bloom. Store the bulbs in the refrigerator in a ventilated mesh bag.
~ Gardening Know How/How to Chill Flowering Bulbs

The article has many fine tips on how to select, chill and plant the bulbs in Spring. I have about three months to come up with good ideas for forcing these beauties. The bright flowers and colors will certainly be an antidote for the doleful greys of late-winter skies.

The glorious red tulips are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Goodbye November!

Places & Pheathers – Town, Country & The Pied Pipers of Raptor

Small Business Saturday has arrived, and we supported the cause by window-shopping in one of the small towns near us, Pitman, New Jersey. I like the reflection of the Broadway Theater in the door.

It’s fun to check out how the small businesses decorate their windows to draw shoppers inside.

We went from town to a small woods and field behind our home. As we walked, a large bird swooped in front of us, almost as if it was showing off a bit, and flew to a tree on the edge of the field. What excitement filled us to see not just one very large hawk, but two. I zoomed in with my camera and after downloading was able to make out their markings. I believe they are a pair of red-tailed hawks, although one appears to be much older than the other. Not only did we see them, they were very aware of us and split up, one flying into the horizon beyond the woods and one towards the homes nearby.

I followed the hawk that flew to the trees near our neighborhood as if it was the Pied Piper of Hamelin, or as my imagination deemed it while I played catch up with it on foot: The Pied Piper of Raptor. I never did get close enough to get a photograph without using the zoom on my lens. Smart birds! What a perfect Saturday we’ve had, a little bit of town, a little bit of country.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Photo Challenge – Weather Vane Wednesday through the Windshield

Before I go further than this first sentence, I must apologize for the quality of the photograph. The word ‘windshield’ works nicely with the alliteration in the title of the post, but the photograph is terrible. We have had so much rain in our area, and I was on a busy road with low visibility, and well..um…I weaseled out of getting a great shot, and just settled for whatever would show up through the windshield.

One reason for taking the photograph from inside the cozy car is a response from someone to my photography attempts in a previous week. I found a cute weather vane on a feeding stall in a field, with the sweetest little donkey nearby, and stopped my car to take a photo. “Get off the grass!” a belligerent shout broke into my enthusiastic endeavor, and I realized it was the owner of the field shouting at me for parking in front of the field. He was within his rights though; my right side tires were touching his grass. I waved in apology to him and hurriedly drove away half-expecting to be stopped by the police for trespassing. Now I am more careful of where I stop, or park; I don’t want to damage a well-maintained lawn. This photo was taken in Harrison Township, New Jersey. (The location is only half a block from the belligerent donkey owner.)

Take a look at these terrific weather vanes:
The 59 Club – Against the Clouds
Heaven’s Sunshine – Top of the Candy Shop

The Photo Challenge: Each Wednesday, I post a photograph of a Weather Vane with a short description of where it can be found and any history connected to it. The main focus of the challenge is the photo of the Weather Vane and the location. The challenge can be Wordless if that is what you choose. If you would like others to see your post leave a link to your blog in the comment box. You can also tag the post #weathervaneweds. If you place a link to my post in your post you will create a pingback that will appear in the comment section. The challenge is open all week for comments and posts. Thanks so much for taking part in my challenge.

Many thanks to Cee, of Cee’s Photography, for including this challenge in her listing of WordPress Challenges. If you love challenges take a look at this page and while you are there check out some of Cee’s terrific posts. Thanks Cee!