December 28, 2008

Just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder

I don't think this has anything to do with plants, but I can't resist.
Japanese scientists reproduce images directly from brain scans  You have to love science first reported in a journal called Pink Tentacle, right?  And when it involves fringe science, you have to look.  I have to ask my favorite neuropsychiatrist what he thinks of this.  Pink Tentacle has an image here.
via  Massive Dynamic's Science News

December 23, 2008

Check your mailbox! There's magic in it.

As seed catalogs are filling up mailboxes all around the Northern hemisphere at this season, here is a piece on seeds & seedage I wrote several years ago (2002) for the now defunct North American Cottage Garden Society magazine Small Honesties, edited a bit to bring it up to date.

Growing plants from seed is a chance for experimentation, investigation, and even excitement.  Sometimes we gardeners get a bit carried away with seeds, as I did again starting late last summer.  I ordered madly from Canada, England, Wales, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, New Zealand and the Czech Republic.  Those catalogs from England!  The pictures!  The descriptions! There is so much there one could spend a whole life just trying the seed from one year's edition of the Chiltern list.  And then there's Mr. Fothergills, and Moles, and the Archibald seed list....Who knew there were so many kinds of sweet peas? of pansies? of lilies and Alliums and crocus?  This seed searching fanatic immediately imagines a field dotted with her own crocus raised from seed, never mind the voles who would eat them before they ever bloomed.  I've raised lots of colors & forms of roses and Siberian Iris from seed, I can do anything, right?  Eight kinds of peonies, ten of Iris, five of roses.  Twelve new Delphiniums. Six colors of radishes, four of beans. A handful of Eremurus and gladiolus.  A night-scented geranium, the fragrant pocket melon, rose-scented grass, lemon scented hyssop.  So many things simply unavailable in the US.  How could you not dip in with a big net and see what would come up?

And the envelopes come in the mail, crisp and pretty & official, or crumpled and covered with stickers, postmarks and lovely foreign stamps.  This is the nearest I will get to the Sakhalin Islands, or Chioggia, land of striped beets and big warty green sweet fleshed pumpkins, or Nepal.  The packets are large and showy and covered with Italian and French and Arabic, or cheery (overconfident) instructions.  Some are modest glassine packets with tiny handwriting, some are embarrassingly full.  Suddenly I am the richest woman I know.

Then of course there is the sowing and tending. . .who needs stratifying outside in the winter snow, who needs the comfort of the heat mat, who wants nothing more than to be tossed into the first spring melt?  It is like getting to know exotic divas and learning their every wish.  What pH?- Drainage? Scarification? Timing?  The desk is a festival of paper and cryptic notes from all the research.  (Norman Deno's books and Asle's website are invaluable here.)

And when I open the packets, I swoon again at the pretty little things within.  Some primulas and gentians are so fine I cannot feel them on my finger when I go to sow them and must use a magnifying light to see where they land.  Pansy and viola seeds resemble ivory corn kernels or little pearls, all plump and shiny.  Delphinium seed has a Napoleon's tricorne effect to it and peony seed is about the largest non-vegetable seed I sow, like black corn.  Lavender seed is as fragrant as the flowers or leaves, shiny and the Labiatae family's tell-tale oval shape.  Corydalis and Lewisia seeds are shoe-button black and shiny, adorable little things that slip from your fingers if you exhale too strongly.  A little nervous perspiration is a good thing here.  (And big paper bags if you collect your own Corydalis seed: the pods pop open even more agitatedly than Impatiens, so cut them a bit green & long-stemmed, bag then tail end up and loosely tie the bags shut--soon you'll hear them hitting the bags and if you didn't use a deep enough bag, find them all over the kitchen.  All over. )

Seed from trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, is a thinnest paper envelope like onion-skin from a large architectural woody pod.  Deno advises me to soak and PEEL the things-I try-I cannot.  I sow them under white sand and they germinate anyway-whew.  Many things need scarification (read: scratch/sand/clip--to break the tough coat they wear) before they will sprout.  Iliamna will sprout immediately if not sooner if you do this, or take a year or two (or three) if left to its own devices out of doors.  Except the seeds are about this size: o .  You can imagine how fun this is to do, and how hard, when it is all to easy to cut the seed too and kill the poor things.  I use teeny Chinese sewing scissors, a tweezer, a hand lens, morning light and take the phone off the hook. 

The Penstemons and Primula I am getting more casual with, tucking them in under grit and banking them in the unheated greenhouse or cold porch until further notice.  Further notice comes from a few things that decide to go ahead and germinate in December instead of waiting through a 40-70 cycle as advertised.   Slowly at first, I plant a few pots and trays, then more and more as winter progresses, then the berserk rush in February and March.  And when I begin to get a bit overwhelmed, I need to begin transplanting!  I often meet myself coming and going then.

And then the magic show really starts:  the French purple asparagus is asparagus from the 'git-go', its first tiny shoots the size of a sewing needle but entirely recognizable as asparagus.  No waiting around making a 'seed leaf' nonsense here.  I put down the watering can and call my Mother to exult. 

Doing germination tests of the vegetables, I find that the purple radishes and basil are purple from the start, tiny calligraphic squiggles in bright magenta and violet.  The Dahurian larch seedlings toss off their seed coats like parasols and when I lift the seed pan covers in the mornings I see silvery dots of water tipping all the shoots of Commelina.  The  Cerinthe sprout two per seed, big fat generous sprouts and the only thing I know that does.  Iris and Belamcanda are Irisy immediately, like I'm peering down from a great height.  Peeking into the cold pans on the porch I see Cyclamen leaves about a 1/16 of an inch across emerging from glistening pink seeds-turned-nascent-corms, and on the heat mat the Cinnamon vine shoots are emerging from their little tubers, sleek and shiny and heart-shaped on straight skinny necks like swans.  Giddy from delight, I move from tray to tray and forgive myself all the work to come in transplanting and potting on.

(Note: Last summer the USDA's invasive-weed contingent decided to deny all entry of seed from outside the US w/o phytosanitary certificate of inspection; many countries won't give those w/o first receiving an import permit; one must apply for the permit first from the USDA but of course they no longer read their mail, they just burn it. And some firms can only get the certificate on ounce or larger lots of seed.  A friend tried to get seed from England this spring and got a stiff letter from the USDA.  What the future of seed importation will be I do not know.)
  

--Today (2008) there is a way to import seeds for the small gardener, though it does require permitting and jumping though the hoops to get the permit; but at least the access to seeds has not been completely shut off.

December 13, 2008

Brrrr! Blizzard! Brr!

Winter finally hit last night.  Oh, it's been cold, in the teens already, and a few skiffs of snow here, with plenty up above on the mountain.  But it dumped a foot overnight, and commenced blowing about 5:00 am, the windchimes tinkling and treetops began to unload.  Supposed to hit 40mph winds this afternoon.  Think I'll stay inside and think seed catalogs....glad I am not on the road to craft fairs today!

November 24, 2008

Calisthentics

We got 'em for your brain.  According to Critics' Rant readability gadget, the reading level required for this blog is Genius.  Since we know hard-core gardeners are usually avid readers, that's not going to be a stretch for this audience.  Maybe it's all the Latin that keeps our brains charging--what do you think?

November 9, 2008

Holiday Preparedness

It's fitting for this post that it snowed this week.  I'm in the midst of finishing organizing the Holiday Market for the farmers' market, finishing my own work for it, and finishing outside pre-winter stuff.  So of course it snowed before I quite got the chains on the tractor!  All that is left to do outside though is to finish the inventory for spring in the gardens & greenhouse and put down seeds to germinate over the winter.  That leaves the rest of the indoors holiday prep. . .

The Holiday Market is Nov. 22nd this year, at the local Jr. High cafeteria, and spaces are quite full, barring a raft of cancellations.  I'll have several new soaps, including Winter Revels, in honor of the season, Vanilla Bean, and Pink Clouds.  I'll also have creams, lip balms, herbal jellies and hand painted silk scarves plus a few mystery items.
Luckily it has gone back to raining the past few days, we need the moisture and it doesn't have to be shoveled!

October 16, 2008

Autumn Days-Finally

After an odd spring and summer, we're having an odd autumn so far.  Finally getting hard frosts, about a month overdue.  I've discovered some of my late season bloomers needed frost to help them flower, and so didn't until it was too late (S. azurea for example) and the Porcelain berries had only just begun their color cycle by the first weekend in October.  Usually they are gone in a flash of sapphire and iridescent purple by then. 

Those frosts mean it's 'get everything in the ground that has to go in the ground, now!' and conversely, everything that has to be out, dug.  The local bookstore's backroom is now a vegetable clearing house as folks leave bags of beets and carrots from one end of the county for friends from the other end.

Autumn Fire chrysanthemums are still looking good, and that's about the end of the flowers until the Hellebores start up in December, and I fervently hope the snow waits that long too!  It won't, of course, it's usually here by the first week of November, but I am so not ready for shoveling and plowing.

This week I'm cranking out soaps and lip balms for the holiday markets and will be updating the website with photos shortly.  Amongst the new soaps to look for will be Madrigal (a deep spicy winter holiday scent), Pink Clouds (the essence of happy, very uplifting) and a mango-coconut blend.

September 26, 2008

New Photo Blog to check out

My friend Betsy is quite the photographer, and for a couple of years she has graced my inbox with luscious photos of wildlife & scenery.  Now she is sharing with a wider audience at Idaho Island Girl; take a look at her work; she has a great eye for nature.

September 4, 2008

Peony Pods

It's seed collecting time, and these pods are fascinating.  The one on the left is Paeonia anomala, and fairly typical of Peony seed pods.  That on the right is P. mlokosewiczii, the yellow Peony, and the seeds are nestled in what looks like pleated red silk.  I'd love to know what evolutionary advantage there is to such colorful extravagance.  The seeds are about the size of peas or large corn kernels.  As both plants were in flower in the same bed at the same time, it will be interesting to see if there was any cross pollination---in about 6 years' time!

September 2, 2008

Family Tree

Here's a nice photo of my great-grandmother; proof the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  She was a Swedish immigrant who was a farmer both there and here, and in her diaries every spring there is an entry "I plant my svit peas".  The caption reads "Home from the carrot field".

August 21, 2008

Last Remaining Speaker of a Language

My closest friend is dying, and will be gone by the time you see this post.  She and I have known each other since college, and through over 30 years of shared experiences, laughter, tears and wonder, we have in a way been our own little country.  She has a darling family, raised two wonderful children, and yet there have always been things only we understood about each other.
I have other good friendships, but somehow it was like we had grown up together when we met.  Her family welcomed me, we traded visits, made road trips and pub and gallery crawls, I cheered her starting her design career and family, she visited me in grad school, we traded art books and recipes and plants. We laughed, cried, encouraged, helped and understood each other.  Her bright smile, sly sense of humor, endless curiosity, prodigious capabilities and vast kindness I will always treasure.  She could pull me out of a funk with smart ideas, funny stories, outrageous suggestions.  I hope I have been even half as good a friend to her as she has to me. 
As she dwindles, I'm feeling like an explorer at a far outpost, with the radio connection to home fading into silence.  When she is silenced, part of me will be as well.

August 15, 2008

This can't be what they meant to happen: FDA Globalization Act of 2008

While it sounds good to increase funding for the FDA and its food protection capabilities, this act as currently written would put most home business cosmetics makers out of business with enormous fees and burdensome manufacturing and paperwork requirements.  A $2000 yearly registration fee (even if you only make lip balm!) plus separate facilities, inspections for them, and registering each formula and re-registering every time you tweak a formula (add more cocoa butter and that has to be re-registered).  While Revlon or Estee Lauder could easily afford this change, in their beginnings at kitchen tables, they would not have been able to.  At a time in this country when it is ever harder to make a living, the economy is tightening, and home-based businesses are a major way for women to be able to support themselves and their families, this legislation comes along to make things worse, not better.  Small businesses were not taken into consideration by the people writing this legislation, and the sooner they realize how damaging this would be, the better.  For more information, and to watch a video on the impact of this legislation, or to sign a petition to stop the Act as it is now written, visit the Indie Business Blog.

August 10, 2008

Rain!

It's raining--enough to drip off the roof, even!  This hasn't happened for a month or more, and it is amazing and desperately needed.  Likely it won't last much longer than it takes to type this, but it's good to remember it can rain.  Yesterday at the market, it poured and hailed briefly--enough to soak all the vendors and our displays.

I got Chioggia beets from another vendor for Mom, and she gave me some cukes to make potato salad with.  That recipe I will dig out and post later.  The beets (pretty red & white striped ones) are lovely just steamed and eaten with a bit of lemon juice and butter.

The first of the currant tomatoes are coming on, and they taste better even than I thought they would: intense tomato flavor, with a savory sweet aftertaste.  I will definitely grow these again!

Here's a dinner dish using them:

Currant Tomato Pasta Salad

  • Currant tomatoes about 1/2-2/3 cup, fresh picked & rinsed
  • egg noodles, cooked & drained--about 4 cups cooked
  • sour cream & crumbled feta cheese, equal parts--about 1/2 cup
  • ranch style dressing mix powder (I use that made by one of the vendors at our market, Barb Hansen)--2 Tbsp
  • dab of butter

Toss noodles with butter.
Blend sour cream, feta and dressing mix; stir into noodles.
Add currant tomatoes, stir together, and serve.

The translucent golden-orange tomatoes are like flavorful jewels in this fast summer salad.  Enjoy!

July 31, 2008

Vacation notes

I hope you folks are getting vacations.  Nursery folk don't get them in the summer, and often not at all.  So go swimming for me! 
It has been a very busy summer here, between watering everything in the 90+ heat, the market and caring for my Mom.  Soapmaking slowed down a bit, and then there was a cool few days and I got rose petal, lavender and pansy jellies made--hope to get fireweed and more lavender done this week.  Lavender harvesting is nearly done, different scents have been put down in olive oil for soapmaking and armloads dried for sachets.  Lining out of plants for wintering over will begin shortly, funny to be thinking of winter now but that is part of the nursery cycle. 
A favorite doe is once again bringing her fawn by for babysitting while she goes to water, it's a slice of nirvana to be so honored.  Student robins are cheekily getting the strawberries and young turkeys are strolling along the roadside, tomatoes and cucumbers are ready now daily, definitely high summer. 

Spam has gone up again, seems tidal, at any rate sometimes our email just can't cope and things get lost.  If you have tried emailing us and gotten no answer, do try again--or drop a postcard.  Some days I don't get near the internet, some days there is no connection, but neither rain nor . . .you know.

July 3, 2008

What's the deal with the humidity?!!?

Not only is it wildly hot (circum 100F daily) but it's also humid, something we usually reserve for the winter rainy spells.  Maybe not so ghastly for the plants who are losing more moisture than they can take up by their roots as they slow down photosynthesis in shock, to be enveloped in a blanket of moisture, but it is ghastly for non-plantlife.  We've switched to siesta rules here, darting outside in mid-day only to move sprinklers.  Our current weather is coming up out of Oregon across the Basin and you'd think the water would have been wrung out of it, and I am sadly thinking this is the spring rain being forced up out of the ground.  Yuck.  If this keeps up, I will have to get a wading pool again for me and the deer.

June 27, 2008

Light posting

for a while; family medical problems are occupying my time and brain cells.

June 22, 2008

Summer's Work

has started in earnest. Mowing, weeding, chasing voles. . .shade cloth is on the greenhouse and seen at the farmers market on half the stalls--we're all more used to cloudy weather than the sudden heat. The roses are coming on strongly now: Rose de Rescht, then Harrison's Double Yellow (known as Deb's Rose here), and now La Ville de Bruxelles is starting. The Rugosa seedlings are sporting different shades of pink and they remind me I need to take cuttings of Hansa as I really love the doubles more and more.

Herbs put down to infuse lately include sweet grass, fir needles & lemongrass, plus chives in vinegar and pansies steeped for jelly.

Soaps curing: fireweed, gardener's scrub, evergreen and rosemary-lemongrass.

June 16, 2008

Got your garden in by now? (How to speak Gardener)

This is a standard conversational opener round the world, in any language, for gardeners.
I mean the vegetable garden, of course; even here in ultima Thule we have beans coming up now, and it looks to be an increasingly important activity nowdays.

If you know what you have put on your garden, and when, you can know there isn't E. coli on your tomatoes, along with knowing they are fresh and tasty and your favorite variety.
This year the garden here has Kootenai, Totem, Oregon Spring, Currant tomato and whatever else we might wander home with from other vendors' booths at the market.

Being a devotee of filet beans, we favor LaFrance and also Emerite, plus Scarlet Runners for the hummingbirds and Triunfo Violetto. None of these are beans ever available in the grocery store, they freeze well, and the TASTE!! The best carrot, by far, of the dozens of varieties we have tried, is Mokum--sweet and carroty and does not get woody.

It's looking like a fair amount of cropland that has gone to vegetable seed crops in the past is scheduled to go to biofuel crops in the future, so a certain amount of putting by of veggie seed for the future might not be a bad thing. Kept cool and very dry (glass jars in the fridge, sealed containers in the root cellar), vegetable seeds will keep well for a long time, except for onions and parsnips.

June 8, 2008

Cool wet weather has its advantages

--one of which is that flowers last longer. The Rosa primula has been in full glory for over two weeks, even Friday's hailstorm didn't faze it. This is the most floriferous it's been in its dozen years, much to the delight of the bees. Unless it really does snow this week, as is forecast, it should even be able to ripen seed, as there hasn't been a killing frost since the flowers opened. That's unusual, but the weather is being very much like that of the early 60's, and so we could have frost every month. The cool weather has muted this rose's fabulous scent (the foliage smells of incense and balsam) but when the sun comes out just after a shower--heavenly!

May 31, 2008

Too Close for Comfort/ guess who's coming for dinner

Last night a bear tried to get into the house. I'd heard clumping and banging, and thought it was a raccoon maybe, and stomped on the porch and yelled a bit, then went back to prepping for market. When I sat down for dinner, I heard the noise again, around the back this time; I looked out to see a black bear at the window, standing up and trying to get in. That window was closed, and I raced around and slammed the doors and windows shut. The bear, a yearling and probably just kicked out of the nest, snuffled around in the gardens a bit and wandered off down the hill. It did surprisingly little damage to the flower bed it had been standing in, just broke some auriculas (there's a pun in there) and columbines.

If it comes back, I will call fish and game to trap it and move it. And for a few days at least, no cooking anything too yummy smelling and letting it waft out the window!

May 14, 2008

Tree Scent Soaps

Two batches of soap, both "tree" scents, and the house smells amazing. Balsam poplar, my favorite warm incense scent, scented only with the infused oil of poplar buds (pictured here);
and cedar (western red cedar), with essential oil and infused cedar frond oil, so sweet and crisp and green it makes you smile. Loving trees as much as I do, I often joke I must be descended from a long line of chickadees and hamadryads.
The cedar essential oil is hard to get reliably, so I soap it when I can (and am this year going to infuse a lot more oil and see if I can bypass the distillers entirely on that item.). I added a touch of Sweet Annie to it, it has a similar green apple scent to cedar (what we in the Pacific NW think of as cedar, anyway, Thuja plicata, one of the more generous of trees, providing basketry materials, shelter, shade and fragrance).

Now that I have my sense of smell back, I will be soaping some scent blends I've been working on--apricot, honey, another rose (of course another rose!), pink lavender, and orange blossom and tuberose.

In between, of course, transplanting herbs, sowing veggies, and propagating roses.

May 6, 2008

Botanical Latin (Tomayto, tomahto)

Plant name pronunciation is often a hot topic for gardeners. I often get asked for the correct way to pronounce names like Clematis, Agastache, and so on.

Latin names, necessary for correct identification of plants and international discussion (Rosa muscosa means the same thing to a Swede and a Pole and a Japanese: a type of rose bearing moss on its buds, that is, fragrant hairs; but Moss Rose is also a common name for Portulaca grandiflora, a creeping annual more closely related to cacti.), can be confusing. If you've never studied another language than English (and it's too bad if you haven't, but that's another topic), it will be hard to decipher the meanings, and the pronunciations can be very difficult.

There are books and websites devoted to the latter, but it's my feeling that understanding the derivation (oh, muscosa refers to mossy, and grandiflora means large flower) is more important than being able to speak an artificial language.
Botanical Latin was started by a Swede in the 18th Century, Carl von Linne' aka Carolus Linnaeus (note that neither is a Swedish name. . .). His binomial system works very well & is used by far mostly in print. While it can be interesting to learn the exact pronunciations, it is rather difficult because it's

  • an artificial language (no native speakers)
  • based on two dead languages (no more ancient Romans, or ancient Greeks)
  • used by people around the globe with different pronunciations of words in common anyway. Aluminium/Aluminum, anyone? Never mind East coast pronunciations vs. deep South. . .
My feeling is, if we can understand each other, we're pronouncing it correctly enough.

May 3, 2008

Wildlife weirdness

Yesterday I saw one of the strangest things in wildlife viewing I have ever seen. The Canada geese were doing their evening flyby (they turn left by a certain tree behind the greenhouse). Sometimes one will perch in that tree and act I suppose as a flagger for the rest--I hear the calling from the tree and soon others come in, following his call. That was weird enough. Geese don't have the kind of feet that cling to branches, but instead wide webbed flat feet, so I don't know how that one managed it.

But yesterday, there was much honking and squawking, all coming from one point high above the shop, and I stepped around the greenhouse for a look, and there were a pair in a cedar tree, with much flapping. Another pair came along a minute or so later and fairly bombed into them, shrieking the goose version of "This is Our Tree!", and after a cacophony of honking and wing flapping, the first pair erupted out of the tree, sounding like a flock of ruffed grouse. The 2nd pair stayed for a while and then flew on themselves. So now I have 4 Canada geese who perch in trees. I had thought the one lookout was an oddity, but with four, it must be a movement.

Update: Turns out this is not totally rare for the Pacific Northwest Canada goose (Branta canadensis)--sometimes they will nest in a disused Osprey or Bald Eagle nest, both of which are found locally. It helps them avoid ground predators such as raccoons or voles, common here as well. Still doesn't explain how they manage to hang onto the branches, however.

April 28, 2008

Finally

a few sunny days--after snowing right through last week. The long cold spring has slowed everything down, the drumstick primroses are only now flowering, for example; they should be long since done. Digging is proceeding, but not at the pace I would like--being sick hasn't helped, either, but at least I can work half days now. I think it will be a long crawl back.
Everything suddenly says spring, and gardeners and farmers here are all starkers, trying to get 19 things done at once. The first farmers market was last Saturday and the day was brilliant and cold; 22F at 5 am, elk in the yard and the Selkirk Mountains (those peaks in the logo image at the top of the page) were iridescent, there must be some serious ice up there.

April 19, 2008

And what to my wondering eyes should appear. . .


you know it's a spring snow because you can hear the robins clucking in dismay.
More of this forecast for the rest of the week!

April 16, 2008

Veggie enthusiasm

Not that I needed anything to add to the vegetable garden, but I found a nice Oriental vegetable seed catalog that had some herbs I needed, and you can't not wander around and see what else there might be. . . like fragrant lettuce, and sword leaf lettuce, spinach beets (??!) and Thai and Indian melons. Evergreen seeds has a lovely amazing list, more varieties of things like cabbage than you'd think possible, and quick service. Highly recommended. Now I just have to wait for the ground to warm up a bit more, to plant anything besides spinach or peas.

April 13, 2008

Farmers' Market

. . . starts in less than two weeks! (April 26th). If I didn't have such a huge cold I might be panicking. But that and today's transplanting and potting, things that are starting to flower, and the new projects I have percolating, all make me rather calm and steady. And I am looking forward to seeing everyone again; in a rural place like this, socializing about stops in the winter, and the first week or so of the market is full of the exchange of the winter's news & hopes for the coming year. In Bellingham they have the ceremonial throwing out of the first cabbage, something I might see if we can try here!

Spring soaping

In between digging and seeding and weeding, I have gotten some more soap made, including the last batch of the original formula for the Damask rose. Until I get a few more roses back in best blooming shape, there won't be much rose oil for soap. But I'm not despairing; I found several lovely rose waxes and have some very promising test batches working. That and the white lavender (my new favorite lavender soap, at least until I get the pink lavender made!) are perfuming the house in a delectable fashion. I've got cedar fronds to infuse for cedar soap, and sweetgrass to process as well; another fragrant week ahead.

Spring's work II

Digging & potting has started in earnest, with peonies and woody plants going first (roses and other shrubs), followed closely by berries, primula, mints and clematis. As I suspected, the strawberries got whacked a bit over the winter (there will be some cancellations), as did the huckleberries and sweet grass--neatly sheared off from underneath.
The 4+ feet of snow left a lot of room for tunneling, I guess. Working in the greenhouse was lovely, just the sound of the birds, including the tropical sounding pileated woodpeckers, and the smell of the sweet violets was almost overwhelming.
I've found a mid-blue violet, seedling from the deep purple ones, which I intend to name after my Mom, and have it and some white ones inside next to each other in hopes of some guided pollination.
They look rather hulking next to the Viola jooi (not quite 2" tall), whose blooms would fit on my thumbnail with room to spare.

I potted on several pans of seedlings from 2007 & 2008, including Acorus calamus, Belamcanda, Rosa 'Naples School' and Delphiniums nudicaule and zalil. The woody tubers of D. nudicaule were a surprise, being a new item for me. The zalil have tuberous roots of course, but the roots of D. nudicaule are like wood chips with green shoots coming out of them.

Another interesting thing I observed today is the rhizome of Iris pallida variegata; if I had had any doubt about rhizomes being thickened stems and not roots, the stripes on these rhizomes would have convinced me!

April 4, 2008

Spring, a little bit at a time

It was warm enough to commence digging yesterday--for the shallow-rooted things in the sunny raised beds, at least. The shady beds are still under mounds of snow. It's always a mystery to see what wintered well, what did not, and what became the winter's taste treat for the rodentiae. Dianthus seemed to be the preferred winter bedding, piles of it were harvested for mousey nests.
Lavatera thuringiaca looks like winter was just a brief nap for it, and the darling drumstick primroses, P. denticulata, are showing their flower buds as they come out of the soil. The teeniest of my prims, P. frondosa, are starting to flower at the towering height of 1/2 inch. The farina that protects them from dessication may also protect them from cold--they and the auricula and denticulata are generously dusted with waxy farina.

The Capron strawberries have been dug, and there weren't as many as when recorded in last autumn's inventory, requiring a cutoff in orders. I hate to disappoint customers, but that's part of farming, dealing with the whims of nature, and I won't send plants that don't look like they will thrive.

Last night it was warm enough to work in the yard, very nice to listen to spring birds in the twilight, the ducks and geese and snipe are busy now.

April 1, 2008

Availability: Berries

The Capron Musk strawberries are now all spoken for, for this year. Profumata di Tortona we have in abundance, as well as many types of Alpine strawberries, and mountain huckleberries. Sorry to disappoint seekers of the Capron.

Update:
When we dug the Capron, there were not as many as it looked like there would be, so there may be some cancellations. Our apologies.

Update II:
There is now a fedex shipper in town, so we will be experimenting with their services for plant shipping, hoping to save you money on shipping, and us some time. Getting the hang of their software is a learning curve we hadn't bargained on, though, so the post office may still be our fave at least for a while.

March 27, 2008

Spring's work I

In the midst of transplanting & sowing, the spring soapmaking is underway as well. First up: orange-tea tree shampoo bars, an invigorating, sweet & clean scent that presented itself one morning while tinkering with eo's. Next is balsam poplar; harvesting the buds has made my hands fragrant and sticky--this has to be done quickly as once the leaves begin to open, the sap will be gone till late autumn. As we keep having spring snow, I'll be using that for soapmaking as long as I have it. Till May? 4" forecast for tomorrow, a foot for Saturday.

March 21, 2008

Equinoctical Gales


. . . we got 'em. We're not on the coast (well, the Pacific Coast of Idaho ;-) but we got a nice squishy snowfall last night and it's squalling today, the trees flailing about and casting big blobs of snow all around. I'm potting things on and could not resist taking a photo of these iris (variegated sweet iris, I. pallida variegata) against the snowy outdoors. There were swans on the reservoir south of here yesterday, so that means the ice is open enough for them and it must be spring!

March 14, 2008

Print catalog update

The catalog is delayed (again) due to printers' errors. It should mail out finally next week, but there are updates to the website, and the availability page, as the thaw has begun in earnest. The ground is still frozen, but there are green nubbins now!

March 1, 2008

2008 Catalog online

The plants list part of the catalog is online as of now; later on today the order form & shipping information will follow. There are many new Lavenders (and more to come!), Salvias & other herbs, some great new strawberries. . . take a peek: PGRPN plants catalog.

"And so to bed."

February 28, 2008

What's For Breakfast


Blood Orange Poundcake. I started with the recipe from my old Boston Cooking School cookbook, and came up with this:

1# butter, 1# sugar (2 cups, use part orange sugar made from the zest if you have it), 1# flour (4 cups) (I scanted this as I don't keep pastry flour on hand), 8 eggs separated, 1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice, 1/2 tsp salt, zest of one blood orange.
Cream the sugars, blend in egg yolks, salt, zest and juice. Add flour, and the egg whites (beaten or not) last.
You could use the traditional loaf pans (makes two) or a jelly roll pan. I used the latter as I didn't want to wait over an hour to cook: about 40-45 minutes @ 325F, until top springs back.

Serve with blood orange syrup and dark coffee.

Oh--and if you want to really gild the lily, make buttercream frosting with one of the oranges---it turns out strawberry-pink. Too sweet for poundcake though!

February 26, 2008

2008 Catalog

. . . will be online this weekend. It will be mailed after that (had some difficulties in printing). I'll notify here when it is put online. The catalog as listed currently online is last year's, and there will be many different, new plants, including some rarer annuals and more edibles.

February 22, 2008

Busy Busy Busy

After several weeks of plowing and shoveling like mad, a veritable groundhog day/ "loop de loop mummy-hand repeat-o-vision" of snowing and drifting, it is a relief to be busy at something else. With the snow on the ground down to under 2 feet & crusty not drifting (feels like NOTHING now, down from 4), the emphasis is now on seeding and transplanting, writing the last bits of the catalog, scheming new soaps, and collecting notes for market for spring. The kitchen is full of little baggies with blotters of scent blends for testing & trays of seed packets, and the soap book filling with sketches.

Winter bonus: sunshine potting mix bales too heavy to be lifted slide like a charm on the icy with a little skiff of new! 2nd bonus: Heliotrope seedlings smell like borage when being transplanted. Can you tell I'm hungry for green? And we have probably another month of winter to go.

The past few days have brought thick morning fog, heavy coats of hoarfrost on everything, and then showers of frost crystals--gorgeous and if I can get a pic tomorrow morning, I'll post it. In the meantime, here's a view of the lane after a bit of melting.