A-to-Z Challenge, garden

B is for Brugmansia

One of my Garden Club friends introduced me to her favorite plant, Angel Trumpets (aka Brugmansia); she sells them each year at the annual garden club May Mart. Wisely, she posts pictures of these enormous blooms next to the hopeful plant cuttings that she sells.

I decided to purchase one a few years back, and it has become my experimental success!

I really did not expect much from the stick she sold me, but she assured me that by September, this plant would be blooming.  She was right.  These plants grow to towering heights in the span of one summer, producing large bowing blooms that resemble trumpets.

Brugmansia is a shrub-like tropical perennial in warm zones but is grown as an annual in cold climates. Living in a cold winter climate, I have always potted my Brugmansia so that I could bring them in out of the cold before the frost hits. They do go dormant in the winter, losing their leaves and looking pretty dead. Pat instructed to give them one glass of water once a month while in hibernation. Come late March, the new greens start to develop. At that point, you can start watering regularly again. Brugmansia do require weekly fertilizing, Pat was not kidding when she stressed this. And lots of water.

If you do live in a colder climate, you may want to try “plunging” the pots of Angel Trumpets into the ground. The roots will grow into the ground below the pot, giving you a much larger plant than if those roots were confined to the pot. After the growing season, you can simply dig out the pot, cut the roots below the pot, trim the plant down, and take it inside.

AT A GLANCE – Brugmansia

Conditions – thrives in hardiness zones 7-11. Can be treated as an annual in colder climates, or potted and brought in to a cool, dark location during the winter for hibernation.

Growing Methods – propagate by seed or by rooting cuttings; feed with fertilizer weekly during growing season and water deeply

Flowering – late August through October. Flowers appear once the branches have formed a Y.

After Flowering – cut spent blooms at the base of the flower (deadhead) to encourage more flowers

A-to-Z Challenge, flowers

A is for Alstroemeria

You may have never heard the name of this perennial flower, but I bet you recognize it.

Alstroemeria

Alstroemeria is a beautiful flower found very commonly in florist arrangements. It lives a long time, up to 2 weeks after cutting, and would be one of the last remaining fighters in a cut floral arrangement. With such a variety of colors, you are sure to find one that fits in any palette.

I purchased my specimen at a local grocery store last summer. It’s a brilliant orange flower, which really sets off my yellow daylilies. Called Orange Glory, it is well named! I kept it in its pot in the garage over winter, and was so excited to see it leafing up last weekend. I hope to find a permanent home for it this year, but if not, it has proven that it can survive in a protected area in its pot.

Orange Glory

Commonly referred to as Peruvian Lily, it’s really not a lily at all. Their tuberous roots make them easy to divide and they will come back bigger and bigger year after year if left out in the elements over winter. Just be sure to keep them out of very wet soil.

Colorful assortment to choose from

AT A GLANCE – Alstroemeria

Conditions – thrive in hardiness zones 7-10, prefer full sun but will tolerate partial sun, well-drained soil

Growing Methods – propagate by seed or division; feed with slow release granular fertilizer in spring; deer resistant

Flowering – all summer, June through August

After Flowering – cut spent flower stems at ground level, divide in October, protect crowns with a layer of hay for winter

A-to-Z Challenge

You keep a-knocking . . .

But you can’t come in. Not gonna be my theme this year.

This year, I’m bound and determined to complete the A-to-Z Challenge. So come on, 2021, let’s give this our best shot!

I’m going to review A LOT and share it this year: perennials, annuals, and houseplants (oh my). It’s a daunting assignment, but someone has got to get this blog back up and running!

Stay tuned, if you dare!! And let me know if YOU are going to take on this challenge!

garden

I prefer my mushrooms saute’d

It’s been a rather dry summer so far, so dry in fact that the grass has died. Since we haven’t had to cut the grass for weeks, a few rogue seedlings have taken over the slope. And by a few I mean a few dozen.

Seriously.

We had about a dozen locust trees removed back in April, and the tree man told me at that time to drill holes in the stumps and add rock salt. If I didn’t, the trees would grow back. Turns out, I didn’t heed the advice, and he was right. In addition to the stumps regrowing, the sun now hits the site and I have a small forest growing.

As dry as it’s been, I was surprised to find a small mushroom bloom in my new mulch covered flower bed last week. A few days before that, we had an explosion of dog vomit fungus in the same bed. Yes, it’s a real thing! It looks exactly like its name. I read up on how to get rid of these fungi, and it seems the best you can do is remove it before it blooms. It turns black and then the spores fly! It grows amazingly fast.

Now, the mushrooms have started. I read up on them as well, and the more I read, the more I think it’s not necessary to destroy them. I pick them each morning, but I’m not treating the area with vinegar or baking soda, as I’ve read are treatments. If you prefer to treat, you can mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda to a gallon of water, and use that to water the affected area.

I do keep the dogs away, but mushrooms feed on the mulch as it breaks down, which is the reason I have mulch and not rock around my beds. I’d much rather nourish the soil than just cover it.

When I added these guys to the border, I really didn’t expect their natural counterparts to take over!

A-to-Z Challenge, Book Reviews

F is for . . . Finding time to read

Day 6 – A-to-Z Challenge – A few of my favorite things

I’ve never been an avid reader.  I always found it taxing – read three pages, realize I was actually daydreaming through the last two, reread the last two, move ahead three more, realize you were once again daydreaming through the last two.

I suppose they call it attention deficit disorder these days.  I’ve known about it long before it was an official diagnosis.

Most recently I decided to save a bit of money by riding a vanpool to work.  It’s great – I drive two miles to the meet-up, climb aboard and let someone else deal with all the traffic.  I can sit back and . . . do nothing.

Not really my style.

So I dug out the Kindle and started reading on my daily commute.  I can’t believe the difference this device has made.  I’m not sure why, but I find myself devouring books. Granted, the books I’ve read aren’t hard to concentrate on.  I’m really enjoying a few young adult novels, much to the dismay of my (then) teenage daughter.  But I think the action of clicking through the pages vs. turning the pages of a book might help keep me engaged.

The first books I read on the Kindle were the Twilight series.  Funny story, but I never realized how huge those books were until after I had read them.  My Kindle shows me % of book read, not the actual pages.  So I never knew these books hovered around 400 pages – gulp.

In my page turning days, I know I would have gotten half way through and gotten intimidated by the heft.  Or maybe holding all that weight just got to be too much for me to handle.

I don’t really know why, but I know I’m now loving my commute.  I do find it helpful to plug in to some white noise – you can only imagine the din with 12 women riding in close quarters.

But I’m reading more than ever.

The only problem is, I don’t retain much of what I’ve read.  So I’ve decided to open another vein on my blog.  Book reviews – who would have ever thought that I would find time for this!

A-to-Z Challenge, crochet

Ergonomic Crochet Hooks

Day 5 – A-to-Z Challenge – A few of my favorite things

I know, exciting stuff, right? But there’s a story behind it, really.

My grandma Alice (yes, another Alice in my life) taught me how to knit. I think I was 7 years old. My sister and I would get a week away every summer at grandma’s house. We did fun things with her. Puzzles, paint-by-numbers, embroidery, home-made ice cream and that year, she taught me how to knit.

How sad, the year we went to visit and I realized grandma was not working on any needlework projects. Her hands hurt and her eyes were no longer able to see the closeup range needed for such work. She had given it all up.

That was the moment I determined never to let my aging parts get in the way of my enjoyment. Easy for a teenager to say. Half a lifetime later, I understand grandma’s frustration.

I have to admit, the most frustrating part of aging is waning eyesight. I have been basically legally blind for most of my life, but was always able to see close up. Those days are gone. And now that the kids are grown, I have time to get back to the crafting that I have so missed along the years.

I’ve gotten back to crochet, and am finding wonderfully fun patterns to try (thanks Mr. Google). And I’ve also discovered these wonderful ergonomic crochet hooks, which help eliminate the cramping I’ve been experiencing while gripping my crochet hook.

So yes, indeed, ergonomic crochet hooks are one of my favorite things!

A-to-Z Challenge, Daylily

D is for Daffodils

Day 4 – A-to-Z Challenge – A few of my favorite things

My absolute favorite perennial D flower are day lilies, of just about any variety. I had 28 varieties in my former home’s garden, and honestly, the only thing I miss from that house is them. I did try to salvage a few, but I’m most likely going to have to start a fresh collection here at the new place.

In the meantime, my favorite bulb flower would have to be daffodils. Charming, cheerful, and simply the best introduction to spring! Deer won’t touch them, so they will survive if they happen to live nearby. So dependable. Here is my very first bloom in my new yard this year.

“Ice King” daffodil

I thought I wanted to “naturalize” them in the front yard, but I’m not sure that was such a great idea. As wonderful as they look coming up in the lawn, they will be a challenge when we have to cut the grass here shortly.

You really want to let the greens die back, at least until they turn yellow, as the greens will nourish the bulbs for next year’s blooms. I’m probably going to transplant them after this season.

A-to-Z Challenge, family

Cake – of the almond variety with raspberry filling

Day 3 – #A-to-ZChallenge – A few of my favorite things

For those of you who are hoping for a tried and true recipe for this cake, sorry to disappoint. My best recipes come from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1990), or more recently, a search on the All Recipes website. So I really can’t admit to EVER making this kind of cake, but I would love to try.

Actually, one of the things that I find interesting about this quarantine existence is my unexplained need to make food from scratch. (Note to the Instagram generation – “from scratch” means no mixes, every ingredient is added separately).

I had to call my mom last week for the recipe in HER Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1970) for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Turns out, it’s quite similar to the recipe in my book, but there is this Dinette Cake recipe in her much older version that is simply the bomb. I actually think they forgot to mention the vanilla extract in my recipe, and instead of all purpose flour, it calls for cake flour. Not sure what the difference is, but just those two small adjustments is the difference between pretty good and awesome! But I do digress . . .

We have a local bakery (which is found in a local grocery store) that makes the most excellent almond cake with raspberry filling. It just happens to be my favorite – I even had this as my wedding cake. Don’t particularly care for buttercream frosting, but another vintage recipe comes from my mom’s recipe card stash. My Aunt Enie’s “Good Icing” recipe. I will share this recipe with you, as I really have made this in the past. It is the best frosting I have ever tasted.

a truly vintage recipe

I always said, the best recipes look well worn. And this one truly is.

UPDATE: Simply writing this post inspired me! Why not try to make the very cake that my daughter and I agree to be the best combination of flavors in cake, EVER! I did cheat a bit by using a white cake mix, but I added 2 tablespoons of almond extract, and WALA! Almond cake. I found a super simple recipe for raspberry filling, made a batch of Aunt Enie’s “Good Icing”. I have to tell you, this is the best cake I have ever eaten. Even better than the store bought one.

best cake EVER
A-to-Z Challenge, family, garden

Life is a Beach

Day 2 / A-to-Z Challenge 2020 / A few of my favorite things

I’ve always envied the people I know who have friends at the beach. Friends who open their door to visitors from the North! How wonderful it would be to hop in the car and head to the shore, without the stress of picking a beach house. And paying for said beach house. Without the stress of not knowing exactly where you are going, and not truly knowing what to expect.

Well, dear readers, it finally happened for me! My wonderful dog, Willis, moved to the beach this past summer. Oh, and he took my son with him.

I’m starting to adjust to the new sounds of our new house without them. I can hear each creak (houses do so much settling), the ice maker in the fridge, each clock that ticks in the halls. I hear water running, I know that one of the toilets needs a handle jiggle.

I can hear myself think.

I think Parker misses them, too. He doesn’t bark at every passing walker anymore. He doesn’t have Willis to protect him! He loved getting Willis in trouble, as if I didn’t know who started it all. Just like brothers, those two.

One of the most wonderful things about my new neighborhood is that it is so quiet. I never did get used to living 50 feet from the turnpike. The old neighbors assured me that it would eventually become background noise. It did not. I will never miss the traffic noise.

But I do miss the sound of laughter and (occasional) barking.

I need to plan a trip to the beach!

A-to-Z Challenge, garden

Alice’s Arbor

Welcome to my first installment of the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge 2020! First up – the letter A!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of online shopping these days. I really don’t care much for the in-person style of shopping, never have. But online shopping? Can’t get enough of it! I remember back when the kids were small, the idea of online shopping was pretty new. I felt like I was the only person who had ever heard of Cyber Monday. It was the best way to handle Christmas shopping – no crowds, comparisons were right at the click of a button, and if you played your cards right, shipping was free!

Fast forward about 15 years, and here we are. Online shopping to avoid human contact in the shadow of COVID19, even if we do enjoy that part of in-person shopping. If I’m quite honest, this social distancing that we are living now is heavenly.

Last summer was quite a blur, I really didn’t have the energy to start designing the yard-scape. A few stress items (that I will spare you) really sent me reeling down a bit of a depressive rabbit hole. Thankfully, I was able to recognize the problem, sought the advice of my doctor, and got the help I needed to get moving again.

And thankfully, I’ve rediscovered my best therapy – in the garden. It really is my salvation.

My garden mentor, Alice, stopped by last Thursday. She helped me get started on some borders on my new property. She has so many ideas for me, and really helps me focus on one idea at a time. We started on the front lawn where we dug out the old plastic edging, created a new expanded border, dug out a dying azelea. All in a matter of 3 hours.

I’m in a quandary about what to do with the NW facing side yard, where the sun does not hit at all. I’m thinking a rock garden will be the eventual solution. There is a perfect location for an arbor, which I had thought of when we first moved in last year. And Alice was thinking along the same lines, and reminded me of that thought.

Photo credit: Wayfair

I went online last night, found a perfect arbor on Wayfair, and rather than continue to think it over (and potentially lose out on this most perfect design) I placed the order.

Don’t you know, it’s on its way already and might even be here by tomorrow! Yikes!

Here we go!!