Friday, October 29, 2010

The Garden as Character

In just a few days National Novel Writing Month will begin. My effort last year never bore any fruit, so I am trying again. As someone who is 36 and is facing some serious chronic illness issues, this is something I would like to get out of my system after all of these years. Realizing that the static of rare disease is what came between myself and this dream was the first hurdle. Completing it on time will be the next. 50,000 words in a month is a lot of writing! I only ever wanted to be a writer, ever since the beginning of my being, and I want my nieces to know that even though it has been many years, I am not going to be a woman who gives up. What bothers me is that it is always such an emotional experience, one that draws a lot of energy out of me. I don't know why that is, but I think for many writers the act is similar to that of exercising a demon.

This is a topic here on my blog because I want to use a garden as a character of sorts. I would like to know your thoughts about garden literature in general too in order to help my thought process a bit. Typically I like to write fictional memoirs, but I think that it is safe to say that I enjoy literary fiction and that's the genre I will be in for the month of November. 

My favorite novel involving a garden was called A Man of Character by the Italian auther Paola Capriolo. If you have not read it, you should pick a copy of it up. 

I am late for brunch with my cousin, and I will return to this post tonight after work. So in the meantime, what do you think of garden literature? What do you like? 

PS: For those who read garden books regularly, my birthday just happens to be the same as Beverley Nichols. That gives me some comfort for some unknown reason. 

If you would like to participate in this absolutely crazy activity, here is a link to the Web site. You don't have to be in the US at all to participate. If you sign up, let me know. We can share stuff in a group.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Fall Houseplant Shuffle

Currently I must bring in the houseplants and find spots for them to live. Once that task is complete, I can then declare, "Let there be light!" Until then, I must hold off on buying the supplemental lights I need.

I have a big problem though.

Many of the houseplants have somehow dramatically multiplied over the summer. These two plants I grew from cuttings taken at my job last year. If you need a fast grower, I suggest either of these:
Swedish Ivy aka Plectranthus verticillatus.
Oh no, it won't fit in that window.
Guess we can try it in the kids' room for now. (Notice the Asparagus fern. I grew it from seed 2 years ago.)
This is some kind of Tradescantia that I also grew from a few small cuttings last year. Yikes!
While going through this process, I have to be sure not to neglect some of my slower growing super stars who really shine. These are both Boston Fern relatives that are hard to find.
Nephrolepis exaltata 'Verona Lace Fern'.
Nephrolepis exaltata 'Suzie Wong'.
Then I have to decide what to do with all of these extra Cast Iron Plants. Much loved by the Victorians since they could live in dark corners of virtually any room, they are hardy here in the NW and I have to decide if I want to plant more of them outside.
These were all Aspidistra starts I was sent in a trade. I have several more potted too and must figure out what to do with them soon. Notice the Ming Fern there on the left as well. It's an Asparagus myriocladus. I grew it from seed a few years ago.  It grows up to 3 feet tall—much like the other six Asparagus ferns I have that need to live indoors this winter!
This clump of Cast Iron Plants isn't too pretty right now but it will look better after I tidy it up in the spring. I wanted it to get established first.   
Lastly—as if I don't have enough to do with fostering kids and a part-time job (while being chronically ill with immune disorders)—I have all of these to pot up. I was sent hundreds of Desert Rose seeds last year in a trade and these are the ones that made it through the summer while being neglected so I know they really want to survive and deserve a fighting chance.
These Adenium obesum seedlings are currently getting soaked. I have never grown this plant before, but at least they can live in the basement on the light stand for this winter. Whew! But then were will I start all of my seeds? 
Some of you are probably thinking that I am nuts right now, and maybe I am. This is only a handful of the plants I need to bring in right now, and time if of the essence as the rain falls daily and the temps drop at night. I will do what I can, and I may lose a few "babies" but I will try my best. Luckily my husband will be returning from his wine job in California in a few weeks and he can help me to keep all of these happy this winter since he actually enjoys them all too. The supplemental light also really brightens our dreary grey days.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Revisiting the African Violet

This former Catholic school girl is feeling a bit guilty about only posting on Wordless Wednesday, so here I am writing this late one night while I have a foster respite watching a movie quietly. Luckily, she has been here before, and she likes that I post plant stuff, so I am having a great night. Few kids I know would ever let me get away with this. Whew!

So our only real activity planned this weekend was to attend a plant sale up the hill from the house. Now don't laugh, or cringe—because I know that many of you might do both—but it was an African Violet sale. In my defense, the sale also include other Gesneriads too: Streptococcus, Episcias and others. (I bought something called an Alsobia so we'll see what it turns into!) 

I only say all of this because African Violets are such a love/hate plant topic. My mom HATED them. Her mom loved them. Funny that I love them too, but I suspect it skips a generation. 

This is only one of many of the tables set up today at the church where the Mt Hood Gesneriad Society held its bi-annual plant sale. 

If you do not like all of the purple, here is a little bit of pink with some amazing variegation. I seem to have misplaced its name, but it helps to show how important leaf variation can be since when there are no blooms, it helps to add interest.

This little one reminded me of tiny violet blooms. Since it is in the semi-mini category, it is a bit different than your regular standard class.

(Did you know there are trailers too and that they are small? The foster girls LOVE them so much because they are so tiny and cute. That works for me!)

I was miscalculating when I took this picture and had the camera on the wrong setting. This is a standard I think by the name of Garden Party. The leaves are ruffled too and these remind me so much of lettuce leaves so I hope they will be safe in the home.

This is a Streptococcus. It goes by the name of: Frosted Pink Flamingo. I could not stop laughing when I saw that title. Luckily I convinced my friend to purchase this one so I know I will get some cuttings. She is a good friend that way.

As a child of the 1980s, anything that looks like it has a splatter paint look really softens my heart. I suppose there is a bit of Jackson Pollock in there too. This one is called: Fantasy Maker. Now that I think about it, the name sounds like a 1980s record album too. Maybe Aldo Nova was connected to it?

After the sale we took my friend home and I captured this picture of a rose bush she has banned to the farthest corner of her property. It has to be one of the strangest hybrid rose colors I have ever seen. It is blooming now, all alone, in front of her berm/compost/yard debris barrier. It was pretty funny to see it standing there ablaze all by itself as we drove up.

After we'd arrived home, and eaten lunch, I took another good look at my houseplant loot. This little frilly one is called Bishop. It reminds me so much of parrot tulips and since my husband loves those, I knew he would love this too. (My husband has serious Rococo taste. It is an Italian thing and I suppose I have a bit myself.)

Then I also admired my new Genetic Blush. It too has to be one of the most ridiculous names of today.

African Violets named after American Indian tribes are another odd thing. This is called Arapaho. I would have preferred Shoshone or the little Cheyenne girl but I probably should not seek to acquire African Violets named after the tribes my husband and I are descended from. That somehow really trivializes what happened to Native America not that long ago. Naming is a funny thing.

Speaking of naming, here is Macavity the Mystery Cat. She is my elderly queen, not so much into gardens anymore, but once long ago, she was my little dirt ball who loved nothing more than to sleep in the garden with me nearby reading. Now she roams the indoor houseplant jungle instead, and she was happy to see more greenery arriving today.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To Foster: to promote the growth of, to nurture and/or to help develop

I believe that my animal fostering started with my turtle, and my second cat, Maurice. I adopted him when he was 1-year-old and it always saddens me to not know where he was for that first year of his life. (Vinnie the Turtle is a Gulf Coast turtle and she is in her 60s.)
Vinnie (female) and Maurice the Cat hanging out together last winter.
Macavity, the eldest of our 3 black cats,  is geriatric now, but don't tell her that. She is loyal and sweet, but fiercely independent. Odd though that she is the cat who adores the foster kids. I appreciate that since Maurice is terrified by them. In a sense, I think that Macavity fosters some of the kids too by being there with them when they visit. Some cats just have hearts I guess.
Due to territorial disputes, Macavity's natural outdoor range is currently the front porch.
After the cats, I started to foster plants. Growing them from seed became a great passion of mine. I ordered them from anywhere I could, and I guess I still do now, but I have mellowed that passion a little bit. I also got starts from any plant I could, and I took in freebies. Plant cultivation was a skill I'd learned as a child from my Grandma Virginia's neighbor, Mr. Palm. He was a trained engineer, but plants were his passion too.
New England Aster growing in the gutter from seeds that spread from three houses up the street. I planted those plants for my neighbor after I'd grown them from seed. This kind of makes me this plant's grandma. At least that's what one of the foster children said. 
And now I foster children. The little white arm in the photo below belongs to one of my part-time foster children. This child loves flowers, and was laughing when she discovered that these lovely garden weeds had spread from my garden. 

This same foster child loves spiders and when we last visited together, the garden was full of them. 

She even wanted to pose with this spider, and I took the picture, but she wanted to foster the spider herself in her bug box. Children desiring to foster insects is something that fascinates me. But what they often think of as fostering, is not. I think that weekend we had a few insect funerals.

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