Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, the conclusion that we have had an amazingly simple, peaceful and joyful holiday! Lucky for us, the holiday continues until Epiphany, at which time, we will eat Gâteau des Rois and possibly a Gallette des Rois too. So let them eat cake!!! (Poor Marie Antoinette was not the famous princess who said: "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche". So whatever famous princess did, as described in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, we will toast to her!) 

Maybe I will buy another houseplant too to mark the occasion! Let me know if you have any ideas for any great ones! I am sure that I could always use a few more...
Colored poinsettia at Al's Garden Center, Sherwood, OR. These are painted and not dyed.
The Virgin Mary looking over our holiday poinsettias purchased during our trip to Al's Garden Center, Sherwood, OR. Our blue one is painted, not dyed. You simply use floral spray paint.
Tillandsia cyanea for Christmas that matches our Advent candles.
What our family calls Mom's Christmas Cactus. This was given to her during Christmas of 2002 when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer for the second time. She has been cancer free ever since then and is strong and healthy just like the plant.
Columnea "Lava Flow". This isn't exactly the best bloom from this little tike but I have a lot of hope for its continual growth.
Christmas cactus that has not yet bloomed.
The Thirteen Desserts. It is a great Catholic tradition from the French region of Provence. We had a lot of fun with it since there was a degree of flexibility. The nougat was too expensive so we replaced it with white/dark chocolate for good/evil. It was so funny and our guests loved having the tidbits around to nibble on all night. We sat around the table for seven hours and the food, wine and conversation was outstanding. 
Bûche de Nöel from our most amazing local French inspired bakery Pix Patisserie. If you are ever in Portland, OR, you MUST visit one of their 2 locations on the East Side. Note to all of you gardeners: rosemary, ladybug, and small bug crawling up the leg of the green pixie only made me more happy to be in love with gardening.
A recent fortune from a Chinese restaurant fortune cookie that I loved.
This is a REAL Christmas cactus. We had no idea where to put it, then I found a place, and it just begged for some Christmas cheer.
Last but not least, this is our Christmas Eve Bouillabaisse. The rouille is key to its success as are the vegetables at its base.  Chef Pietro had to adapt the seafood additions to our West Coast North American version, but it was by far the most amazing soup I have ever had in my life. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Houseplants in Bloom and One Ripe Pepper

This last week has proven to be more than I'd expected. The house is abuzz with blooms, the Norfolk Pine lights are twinkling, the Espelette pepper is finally ripe, and we made some unexpected headway on my rare illness. 

In other news, let's bring on the blooms while I recover, yet again, from my most recent health flare-up. This little jewel we purchased up in Seattle last year when we went to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. I neglect it all of the time and yet it rewards me again and again with its blooms. I highly recommend these for dependable re-blooming houseplants. Not everyone loves the color fuchsia, but it does work wonders during the dark of winter.
Monkey Plant (Ruellia makoyana)
I posted a single bloom from this little gift a week ago but since then it has been joined by a friend.
Streptocarpus, Butter Blues, with 2 blooms!
This is a single bloom on a rather sprawling plant that seems to be in bloom almost continually just so long as I listen to its needs. My friend gave me this plant in the form of a cutting and it grew really well and quickly. I will have to post pictures again when it is covered in these tiny little hovering lilac kisses.
Sinningia, not sure which
We bought this Norfolk Pink years ago to use as a small Christmas tree. It was very small when we purchased it and now it is large enough to wear 20 battery-operated lights all on its own. They are so cute.
Twinkle, twinkle little star!
The Black Jewel Orchid and I have not been great friends though I have read that these are easy plants to live with. This picture makes the leaf look really dusty, but it wasn't that bad. Notice those amazing pinstriped lines. Even if these are a bit picky, the leaves alone make them worth it. They really add to the plant's year-round interest.
Leaf of the Black Jewel Orchid, (Ludisia discolor)

This is our very first bloom on our Black Jewel Orchid. When the plant grows larger, there will be many more of these spikes. I hope that it will add more than one spike per year though. They bloom during winter so I guess no matter what I should not complain right now. It really is beautiful to look at when it is so cold outside.
First blooms on our Black Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor)
Lastly, the Espelette Pepper I wrote about a post or two ago is finally ripe. I am so happy that I brought it inside and gave it a chance. Sometimes we too don't make it on time and need a bit of encouragement to keep up.
Ripe Espelette Pepper ready for Christmas harvest!
Hopefully I will be able to keep up with all of the seed catalogs coming in the mail. Nothing makes me happier at this time of the year than my seed starting! Hope you are all excited for the coming season too. We have planters to plan, structures to straighten and so much to do.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Crafts, Houseplant Blooms and Loss

The month of December is flying by and for the most part my little slew of Christmas orders on Etsy is over and I am very content. Folks were happy with their garden oddities, and I kept up with the shipping. Considering how busy we have been, this a big accomplishment for me and I couldn't be more happy about it. 

These are some wooden spoons someone ordered for a gift. 
I have been making these simple accordion books, but I have not completed one yet for sale or for Christmas presents but I am getting close. So many layers of glue can take a long time to dry. I intend to glue a few envelopes inside of them too, add some seeds, and voilà, you have a little seed book.
These are the envelopes I have been making. The chicken wire paper is so cute I could not pass it up. Usually when I sell seeds I make origami envelopes but this time I used a template. It seems to work ok, but I wish that I could get the wire links to match up consistently. I plan to paper over them anyway, but I will keep working away at these.
While I work, I get to adore my little winter treats on the houseplants. Hopefully I will have more blooms this winter than ever. Whatever the plants need to look their best, I will help.
African Violet, not sure
African Violet, Genetic Blush, standard
Streptocarpus, Butter Blues
African Violet, not sure, given to my mom when she had breast cancer for the second time about 10 years ago.
African Violet, Kentucky Strawberries, semi-miniature
Lastly, we lost a very dear feline friend this week and I am still mourning his untimely death. Meng was a neighbor's cat who also lived at another neighbor's house, and often spent time sneaking into our basement to sleep and eat. He was also the guardian of my garden, the cat who claimed and protected my turf, saving my 3 cats from the trouble. He lived outside and so was on guard 24/7.

He was struck and killed by a car this week on a dark and rainy night. It was not unexpected, but that somehow does not make it any easier. We will miss his so much around here.
Meng the Cat, RIP, you will be missed

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Espelette Pepper Winter Miracle with a Side of Beefsteak Begonia

Last year I was able to purchase hard-to-find Basque Espelette pepper seeds from Europe. I purchased them legally, with my seed importation permit, and although I am aware that when grown outside of their AOC they are no longer considered certified, I had to go through all of this because I love my husband, and he really wanted them. Besides, he knows how to use the dried pepper product, and that seemed important at the time.

Now, almost a year later, and after a horrible summer here in the NW, I have one pepper. It was still green when I brought it in from the garden in October, and then I set about trying to ripen it while it was still attached to the plant. It lives now amongst the houseplants under the lights and it is ripening. We never thought we would see this day, and as pathetic as it might seem, it is our little winter gardening miracle.

In addition to our one little pepper "that can!" I have also been enjoying my Beefsteak Begonia (Begonia 'Erythrophylla') though I think it should have been called Lily Pad Begonia instead. Purchased last year, it grew quite a bit this past summer on the porch and it needed better placement in the house. It now sits beside my chair in the front window and it is very happy there. I cannot wait to see what it does next. 

I have no idea what variety of Begonia this is yet, but this is actually a cutting that is sitting in my window and it is blooming for us right now! What a great little winter gift.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vintage Roadside Garden Attractions: Petersen's Rock Garden, Central Oregon

I am attracted to paper—especially old paper. This attraction often finds me flipping through old photos, old postcards, old magazines, and old books. When I was a kid, my dad and I used to spend every Saturday morning at Powell's Books in downtown Portland, looking at old books, and several nights a week we'd go to the library to read and escape the noise called "family life" back at home. Looking at any old pieces of paper was often a thrill to us, and it wasn't uncommon to find us smelling book binding glue—but that is a whole other story for another time.

Postcards of places that I have never heard of always give me a thrill, especially when they are still around. In this case, I now have a rock garden to visit when the weather warms next spring. Maybe not all gardeners love rocks as much as lapidarists or geologists, but many of us love them a lot, and when we are able to collect large specimens, we will add them to our gardens.

This place if more rock than garden, but it looks like a lot of fun and I tip my gardening hat to the man who made it! Anyone with that much passion and a penchant for obsessive behavior is ok in my book.

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