Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding Winter: And a bit more.

The Ranuncu-what?  Or, so said many of the fiance's I have met with over the years when I suggested this flower for their wedding. The dollop sized bloom has an incredible range of colors and in the hoop house (a plastic covered tunnel in which you plant directly in the ground) we spied the first one of the "season".   We were out on our walk and took a peak among the rows of fresh foliage growing taller every day.  This is what we found.....
Little Lola is particularly fond of this bloom because I told her it is a cousin to the buttercup.  Every child loves a buttercup and that moment of hesitation when we prove once and for all whether or not you like butter.  Just take a look at this buttercup photo, can you see the resemblance?

Creeping Buttercup
 Outside the hoop house, nestled right in the open air was a bed of hellebores, heads bowed, muted-purple petals soaking in the sun.  I did mention it's been warm right?

After our two brilliant finds Lola and I continued our walk to the hydrangea fields which in summer are a stunning sight.  The peegee hydrangea have not been pruned and the dry heads stick out like lanterns gone dark.  We walk between them, Lola ducking under the branches and spinning around in a sort of fairy dance.  She finds a branch of oak leaf hydrangea, three tiny blossoms still attached and swings it in the wind.  It drops to the floor as a breeze kicks in.  Staring off through the fields at a freshly setting sun she says, "Mommy, this actually IS heaven."  I just might have to agree.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Snow Love and Flowers

I've been waiting for a good snow in Virginia but so far only a few slushy inches.  Even my trip to the Alt Summit in Salt Lake City didn't produce the snow I was looking for.  All told, it's been a warm winter. I saw a daffodil in bloom today.  Something's amiss.

Normally at this time of year I am peaking into people's gardens looking for snowdrops, that mid winter connection of earth to bloom.  I did spy a small cluster tucked behind a rusted out mailbox, but I also spied a daffodil.  A bright golden yellow daffodil.  

Where is the snow?  We don't get the snow they get up north, but by this time we've usually slumbered under that quiet winter wrap at least once.  It hasn't come.  I'm dedicating this post to the word "SNOW" in hopes that paying it a little extra attention will bring it tumbling from the heavens and onto our hill.  We have sledding to do.

First off, the snowdrop.  You may find this bloom tucked away like I did or carpeted through a wooded lot.  In Virginia it is not uncommon to find them wild in their naturalized state and pushing up through the snow.  The three larger "petals" are not petals at all but tepals, the outer three much larger than the delicate inner series.  For some, the snowdrop may be worth only a quick glance but taking a moment to really see this winter bloom might awaken your senses not for spring, but rather for the unique beauty found only in winter.

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis

Next, the snowberry.  I have a deep love affair with these wintery white beauties which when you crack one open have the distinct look of crisp, glimmering white snow.  They are stunningly beautiful and a great asset to a cottage style garden.  In winter, when all the foliage has fallen off, these gorgeous berries hang on and feed a variety of birds.....pheasant, quail, grouse.....I wouldn't mind finding a few of those feathers in my woods.  Take a look.

Bright Fantasy™ Snowberry (Symphoricarpos 'Bokrabright)

The snowberry moved up on my love list when I discovered it fruited in step with the dahlia (on my top 100 list of favorite flowers...pretty close to the top).  A dahlia paired with snowberry is almost too much for the flower lover to take.  It's jaw-dropping.  Take a look at this wedding bouquet I made with pale pink dahlias and the snowberry...tinged with pink.  It's enough to make me think getting through the winter and into the warm flower growing days might be just as well after all.

Dahlia pink and white dinner plate, snowberry pink-tinged, esperanza roses.

If it hasn't snowed by wednesday my weekly crafting post may be how to make snow-glassess....stay tuned and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ask The Flower Fanatics: A weekly post answering your flower and garden questions.

Question: What is the best flower to grow in an area that is dry and shady? 
~Angela in Albuquerque

Answer: (from Farmer Bob)
Dear Angela,

How to translate ideas here in Jeffersonton, Virginia to Albuquerque, New Mexico?   Dry shade is a serious challenge anywhere so here is my opinion.  

My very favorite early season flowering perennial is Hellebores, commonly known as Christmas rose or Lenten rose.  They are starting to bloom for us now at the end of January, and they will keep blooming into April.  Since we are in zone 7, same as Albuquerque, you should be able to grow them.

If you can't find a local source of Hellebores or if you want to know more about them or want plants from a most enlightened and interesting Plantsman, than look up Barry Glick at Sunshine Gardens in Renick, West Virginia.  If you email him I'm sure he'll send you all kinds of information on how to grow them.  His hydrids are beautiful and are the highlight of our earliest perennial cut flowers.  

Happy Growing!
Farmer Bob

P.S. Here are a few great photos to make your mouth water....
Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus orientalis

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crafty is for Dirt Dog's too.

Dirt Dog (the cuddly sweet blond kid I raise to amuse me), is crafty in a different way from his master creater sister, Lola.  Dirt Dog likes to build, and fashion the earth.  He's three.  Today as we arrived home he informed me that he wouldn't come inside right away.  "I have some work to do," he said.  "I have to put the pipes into the house I am building for Granny."  His Granny lives in South Africa and though she has come to visit, it isn't often enough for these two.  He decided to rectify the situation by offering to build her a house.  Over the holidays he diligently laid the foundation, today, he began work on the pipes.

When he isn't working on Granny's house, Dirt Dog is hard at work helping Saffie on his many projects.  The latest is a pathway to our house...hallelujah, we really need a path to our house.   I love this "back to nature" lifestyle but I also love cute shoes.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding Winter: Looking for The Temptress Poppy

It may not be spring yet, but we can't help looking.  Last night, before the sun went down, we set out on a quest for the Temptress Poppy.  In early spring, when the rest of the farm continues to lie dormant, the Temptress blooms in the hoop house.  Unyielding color; wild stem twists; a blush; a watercolor... the moment we say, "it's coming."

Of course, we knew the poppy's weren't ready yet but why not take a peek?  Farmer Bob took Little Lola and the Dirt Dog for a ride on the tractor, past the the tall curly willow, past the sleeping dahlia fields to the hoop house.  What did we find? Buds...waiting to pop (that's poppy-pop).

Spring, not the real spring, but the spring that says, "it's coming" around the corner, under the bedding fabric, insulated from the cold.

Never walk to a tractor ride...skip! run! walk on air!

The Hoop House, what lies beneath that fabric?
Young growers in training.
The Temptress Poppy, not long now.....

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Garden Dreams: Flowering (and edible!!) Artichoke

How surprising to find 
that more than butter
the artichoke 
is meant for bees.

I look forward to planting this hard-edged, mysterious flower in my garden this summer.  I have looked forward to it now since my friend Jane came back with photos after her trip to Italy.  "Is that real?" I asked.  "Is that the same kind we eat?"  Oh yes, it is.  Hard to believe that such a dream of color can erupt from those sharp leaves.

A perennial thistle requires lots of soil care but will pay your efforts back with forty or fifty buds if you're lucky.  They love the sun (think Italy) but produce best in cooler weather.... This could be a challenge in Virginia but I'll keep you posted. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

How About Orange?

Just home from an amazing five days in Salt Lake City at the ALT design summit.  I met so many incredible designers and artists it is hard to put it all together.  So many blogs to read!  One great woman I met named Jessica Jones writes a blog called How About Orange.  A textile and graphic designer, Jessica Jones has some great DIY tutorials which I can't wait to try at home.  

For this post, the vibrant orange of the calla lilies made me think of Jessica.  How ABOUT Orange?  It really is a brilliant color....Cheers Jessica, it was great to meet you and share a little color love.

Chartreuse green cymbidium orchids, jade hypericum, white hydrangea, and orange mango calla stem tie. Photo: WeddingsByPamela

I love this photo of the bride, her flowers, and her toes.
White cymbidium orchid with pink throat, white hydrangea, chartreuse green cymbidium orchid, white lily of the valley....
Photo: WeddingsByPamela
The head table: Orange Unique roses en masse, green ti leaf, copper wire.
Photo: WeddingsByPamela
Orange Unique roses, white hydrangea, jade hypericum, ti leaf...
Photo: WeddingsByPamela
Photo: WeddingsByPamela

A snap of color: Orange pin-cushion protea, orange roses
Photo: WeddingsByPamela

Much better than balloons: Green button mums for the Bride's initials....
Photo: WeddingsByPamela

Monday, January 16, 2012

Flowers and Fern Curls

As a flower lover I have long since found it curious that my favorite things to spot in the forest are green.  Ferns in particular draw me like nothing else.  I remember spending a summer in Vermont one year and discovering a fern forest unlike any I had ever seen.  In the center was an enormous boulder which I crawled up on and sat for hours enjoying the silent speech of sunlight and trees.

In my years as a wedding florist many events stand out but I love the images from this one shot in 2006, only two months after little Lola was born.  She was curled up in a snuggle pouch as I worked.

The standout fauna, a fern curl.  Otherwise known as a Uhule, or Dicranopteris linearis.  It is the new growth of a giant fern found in Hawaii.  I look forward to that walk someday......

Photo by SOTA dZINE.
Lady Slipper Orchids, Uhule fern, jade hypericum, leucadendron Camilla

Photo by SOTA dZINE.
Flowers: Honey hypericum, Uhule fern, dendrobium orchid tips 

Photo by SOTA dZINE. 

Photo by SOTA dZINE.
Bridesmaid flowers: White dendrobium orchids

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mid-Winter Watermelon Dreams

In the deep of night,
layers between myself and the cold outdoors
I dream of tilled soil, and ripe
Crisp, juicy, seed-spitting watermelon.

May I emphasize seed-spitting...

Recently I asked my readers for garden stories from their childhood.  The stories that came back were magical and funny and filled with the great wonder I believe comes uniquely from time spent outdoors.  One of my favorite garden memories was picking watermelons, cutting them open and spitting the seeds at my brothers as we raced around the house.  Sweet pink juice covering our hands and chins.  

As it turns out, seeded watermelons are becoming a scarcity.  The markets are now full of cantaloupe-sized, seedless types.  What may not be understood is that if we stop buying (and wanting) these seeded treasures they could disappear.  Endangered watermelons....not a pretty thought.

Have a look at these beauties.

Blacktail Mountain Watermelon

Golden Midget watermelon 

Moon and Stars
The greatness of these summer gems is how easy it is to save the seeds from year to year and plant them yourself.  Sure it means sacrificing a few pings at your brothers but if the watermelons survive, isn't it worth it?  They do work best as transplants though, so begin indoors and transfer to your garden when summer is upon us.

So many varieties to try I can't wait to get started this summer.

What I can assure you is that I will not be inserting my watermelons into square, tempered glass cases to help save refrigerator space as they have done in Japan.  Fascinating....but creepy....  

Square Watermelons

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miniature Red Bench Winner!

The day has arrived and we have drawn the winner of the miniature red bench lovingly made by Janit Calvo.  Janit does beautiful work for the miniature garden through her Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center studio in Seattle, WA where she has been promoting the miniature garden hobby professionally since 2001. 

And the winner is........

Beads in the birdhouse numbered 1-35.......

Scattered beads.

Number 15!  
Congratulations to DEBIJOT!  I hope you enjoy this little work of art and come back in the spring as our fairy garden reawakens with the tulips. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Finding Winter Part 2, Catkin Bunny Craft

After gathering hundreds of catkins from the tall pussy willow bushes on the farm, we spent an afternoon at play.   They do truly feel like bunny tails so little Lola's idea to make a bunny seemed appropriate.  We improvised a bit and it turned out adorable.  Let me know if you try one at home!

Step One: the materials....catkins! Hot glue gun. Tweezers. Felt. Sharpie paint pen. Miniature pom-poms. Small styrofoam balls.

Step Two: On felt, draw two bunny ears....
Step Three: Cut out the bunny ears.
Step Four: With a Sharpie Paint Pen color in the center of the ears.

Step Five: Turn over ear and hot glue catkins with a small perimeter of felt showing.

Finished ears back side.
Finished ears front side.

Step Six: Cover small styrofoam ball with catkins using hot glue gun and tweezers.  If working with a child have them pick up the catkins with the tweezers while you help position and apply glue.
Finished catkin ball.

Step Seven: Glue ears in place.
Step Eight: Cut whiskers out of felt and glue in place.  For eyes and nose, use miniature pom-poms (available at most craft stores).

A finished bunny.

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