Archive for February 2010


Today was all about plants (different from other days how?). Earlier this week, I won two tickets to the Capital Home & Garden Show from the Washington Gardener magazine's monthly e-newsletter reader contest. Awesome, sure--but I don't have a vehicle anymore, and the show was near Dulles. Not exactly accessible.

That is, until I was all like "Hey National Arboretum horticulturalist friend, I have a free ticket, you have a car, wanna?" and he was all like "OMG totally let's."

It was pretty much a bust. We got lost in a business park/strip mall. The expo centre was part of a strip mall and looked like it was an old Home Depot (appropriate theme, sure, but really...?). The "idea gardens" were... Well... Meh. Too much mulch, too many tulips and daffodils. I didn't even take pictures of them. There were two booths we stopped at in the entire convention (it was pretty big--two buildings!). The first was a design company (I didn't take notes or get cards, unfortunately, so no links for you!). We spoke with Jane, a designer, about the living wall she put together. She shoved the plants in pretty tight, but it looked very well-done. The colours went beautifully together and with the wood in the background. It's giving me ideas...! (Her photo album of her home that she wanted to show us also gave me a few ideas... But I guess for a designer/artist such as herself, such plants and streams and crazy-awesome rock walls could be a business expense for tax purposes. Not so for me. Besides, I'd have to own a home first, right?)

The other booth we stopped at was the only actual nursery there selling anything. I would have thought that the "Capital Home & Garden Show" would have, y'know, something for gardens, but really it was more about grills, cabinets, purses, sushi makers, and stuff like that. The one place (again, I don't remember the name...) had some pretty cool Tillandsia, some palms, and wicked Cyclamen. I just had to try for the scary-dinosaur-going-to-eat-me money shot for Aerelonian... It didn't turn out as well as previous shots of my own plants because these Cyclamen were on the floor. With my shoulder, I couldn't get in a good position without tripping people in the aisle, so I decided to be satisfied with a less-than-optimal shot. I hope it's scary enough.

My friend and I tried going to Thanksgiving Farms, in Buckeystown, Maryland, but they weren't open... We then got lost trying to find Potomac, Maryland, where there is a Behnkes, a local awesome-wonderful garden centre. Problem was that it isn't that good a time of year for garden centres... So we trudged to the Beltsville location. It had a better selection, but both of us ended up slightly disappointed and didn't buy anything. (I would have if he had, but I couldn't peer pressure him into getting anything, and I didn't want him to judge me any more than he does for growing things that are inappropriate for a living room environment. He never tasted the pasta sauce I made with my living-room-grown peppers and tomatoes, however, so pthhhhht!)

But, he did put together this nice collection for me (Cryptanthus, Saxifraga, and...erm?). He thinks these will be more appropriate for my environment. I can't argue with that... But I like to push the envelope and see what I can achieve in suboptimal conditions. I'm modifying my edibles plan a bit (I'm planning a bit in advance, I should say!) so that the plants I'm growing are more amenable to the conditions I can provide.

A great day, in all, but less money spent than hoped. Maybe I'll just have to order something off the internet...


Renee Strikes Again

After reading MrBrownThumb's post about the Renee's Garden media kit on the Garden Bloggers blog, I sent Renee an e-mail. She sent me a media kit. I sent her another e-mail and mailed in a seed-trial request form. Although she hasn't responded to any of my e-mails, I did get a buttload of seeds today!

The media kit seed-trial request form/seed description list indicates that one may request only up to 18 seed packets. Initially, I thought "Oh, I'll look over this, see if anything would be cool to try indoors, maybe request a few." Boy... If any of you have Renee's media kit, read through all the plant descriptions and go on her website to see the plant photos... It's hard to select only 18 seed packets! Renee's Garden really does have a good selection of fairly awesome plants, I cannot lie. So, I requested 18 packets of seeds for plants that are indicated as good in containers or in shade, the thought being that such plants would be more amenable to grow in the less-than-ideal conditions of a southeast-facing windowsill. Renee is helping me have a better approach to indoor edibles gardening (I'm not trying to grow crazy indeterminate heirloom tomatoes such as Cherokee Purple again, for example), but I also wanted to test out some ornamentals. Although the seed GROW project I mentioned early this morning will be something of percussive free media blitzes for Renee, the one I have planned for these seed packets is a bit more tame. But, she has provided basically the core of my indoor garden for this year, so she'll get plenty of shout-outs from me when I do updates on the plants' progress.

Here's the list I'm trialing. I avoided selecting seed for things that I already have (such as "Pot of Gold" chard). Some of these seed choices are more experimental than others, but I couldn't resist!





Seed GROW Project

For those of you in the know, skip this part. For the rest of you, seed GROW project is kind of a garden-blogger community-strengthening experiment sponsored by Renee's Garden and hosted by MrBrownThumb and Colleen Vanderlinden (oh my gods, an honest-to-Betsy real name?).

I have, in the past, generally avoided memes and such things. But it's hard when you like the seed provider and the organizers. Peer pressure. And heck, free seeds! I also try to avoid what I consider to be selling out, so I prefer to ignore the almost-free continuous advertising for Renee's Garden and focus on the garden-blogger community-building aspect of seed GROW project.

And the free seeds. Don't ever forget the free seeds! (Did I mention the free seeds?)

All of the project's participants will be growing "Spitfire" nasturtium, a climbing variety with red flowers. Most of the bloggers have out-of-doors areas. I will likely have several this year (overextending myself? Never!), but I have also already sown a few seeds in a pot for my windowsill, of course. Some might go into the Mr. Yogato garden--maybe some will be grown in my community garden plot (confirmation pending, but much excitement!), or maybe in the backyard of neighbour-lady who wants a free landscaper. As part of seed GROW project, I will keep track of how I'm growing these nasturtium wherever I plant them, how I'm using them in the landscape, what I'm doing with them in the kitchen, what birds/insects/whatever are visiting the plant, and other information in posts on the first Sunday of the month, starting in April.

By having a few dozen garden bloggers growing the same seed, everyone gets a glimpse into all the different ways a single seed could be used in different climates, in different combinations with other plants, in different containers or locations in a landscape, et cetera. I'm certain not every blogger will stick their seeds in pots in the windowsill--maybe some will have them in pots matched with complementary plants, or others will train the plants up their fence or maybe up a stalk of corn. Some might use the flowers as a garnish, and others might stir fry the leaves for a peppery side dish. There are so many ideas out there, even for a single plant--sharing these ideas and experiences people have with the same plant is what will help strengthen the garden-blogger community among those participating and those who are following along. (These seeds are available through Renee's Garden, so who's to say other non-seed GROW project people can't join in on their own, compare their progress, and share their own experiences?)

So, that's what this is all about. The first official post will be on Sunday, 4 April. And all of the official ones will have this at the end:

I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds.

By the way, y'all, I broke my collarbone on Monday. Click here for a mobile-phone-camera-photographed picture of a photocopy of my X-ray from the emergency room.


Going For Gold

Black hollyhock and "Star of the Veld" tie for gold!

I bought both from Seed Savers Exchange a few weeks or months ago. I started some seeds (okay, I started 168 plugs, not just "some") on Saturday, 13 February. These Alcea rosea black hollyhocks and the Ursinia anethoides "Star of the Veld" were the first to pop up after only three days! I have more than double the number of seeds to start at the end of the month or at various times in March. I'm the 2010 cochair for the Pride Green Subcommittee, which runs Recycle with Pride, and I'm planning a seedling sale to fundraise (we have neither a budget nor a website nor much easily accessible public mention of our existence except here. Our parentage is much more complicated now than it was last year. But Recycle with Pride is the only reason I ended up going to the Pride Festival last year--to volunteer to recycle.).

Here's "Star of the Veld" poking through the soil--these already seems to have nigh 100% germination. The flowers look striking. I thought they would be something nice for the more adventurous gardeners in the area.

And here are the hollyhocks! Only three plugs of the 12 have seeds already germinated, but they're a bit more impressive than the U. anethoides. Hollyhocks are such beauteous plants and black flowers are just so wicked-awesome (gods save me from bat-$#!+-crazy black-plant lady) that I think these will be a hit!

If anyone's interested, here's the list of other things I have started already. It's more of a sampling--to be honest, I don't know what people will want, but I think if everything is in sellable shape and everything is sold, I will have earned about $600 after sundry expenses. People will pay $2 for a seedling in DC. Right?

I might provide links for some of these later--this list does not include the seeds I have not yet started.

  • 12 ornamental hot peppers from Bull Run pepper that I saved to plant

  • 12 cumin

  • 12 lavender cuttings to root (maybe?)

  • 12 oregano

  • 12 curly parsley

  • 6 Italian flat-leaf parsley

  • 6 rue

  • 12 sage from Old Sturbridge Village

  • 6 sage from Botanical Interest

  • 12 thyme

  • 6 each of three varieties of chard

  • 12 black-eyed susan

  • 12 black hollyhock

  • 12 butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa--this I had to cold stratify in the refrigerator. Let's hope it worked out.)

  • 6 each of two varieties of nasturtium

  • 12 "Curiosity" (Nigella papillosa)

  • 12 Star of the Veld

  • 12 Alternanthera dentata cuttings

  • 12 Scilla violaceae offsets


New Year Kimchi

With not much to do yesterday, I decided to make Maangchi's Easy Kimchi to celebrate Korean (Chinese, Lunar, etc.) New Year. (I also decided to work on an indoor update, but I don't want to throw up a bunch of pictures without copious amounts of text, which takes some time to glue together.)

It took a few hours--but most of that was salting the cabbage. There was a lot of chopping involved (not exactly my favourite kitchen task), but this will no doubt be worth it. I have several months' worth of kimchi here!

I ate some straightaway. Very spicy! I'm looking forward to testing out the fermented batch in a couple days.

This is 1.5 gallons of kimchi. Yeah, that's right. Delicious!


Maranta Keeps Doing Fun Things

Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura was tricking me back in January when I thought it was for some reason sending out aerial roots. Nope--it was an aerial offset to complement the below-ground offset you can see in the foreground. Clearly the plant expects to grow low to the ground--you can see how the offset goes down, curving back up to emerge from the soil a bit away from the mother plant. Or, the offset would emerge from the soil like it's big brother here if it weren't aerial.

I don't mind that it's aerial--actually, I like it better because of that! Oh M. leuconeura, you treat me right!

Now, me treating it right...? I'm hoping those white patches are just water spots. I started using tap water--I have too many plants to use filtered water (it takes way too long to filter).


Cinnamon Oat Cakes

It's as if my blog is transforming into a foodie blog. It's not necessarily intentional--it's not as if I don't have plant-related things to blog about, either. I promise more plants soon. I have a big indoor update planned (and promised one exactly one month ago), but individual plants keep doing interesting things that deserve their own posts (e.g., Scilla violaceae [by the way, the squill pictured there has another inflorescence emerging, and a second bulb has one, too], Maranta leuconeura v. erythroneura, and the amaryllis).

I was thinking about Halifax, Nova Scotia, for some reason tonight. Halifax is a pretty awesome city--it is small, but it's still city-ish. One of my favourite things to eat there, especially really late at night when almost nothing is open, are the oat cakes from Perks on the waterfront. I can't find oat cakes like the ones they have anywhere. They're likely Scottish-inspired, but none of the recipes I look at are quite like Perks's oat cakes. They are chewy, like granola bars, but neither too crunchy nor too soft. They are very oaty and not really sweet. Just... Carbs. I love carbs.

So, I searched the Internets for a recipe and stumbled upon a vegan one. I often end up using vegan recipes because I'm most likely to have the ingredients already on hand--and it turns out I did! Well, almost. I didn't have buckwheat flour, so I used some whole rye flour instead.

Tasty tasty things, but not what I was really looking for. I can't complain, however--these are still wonderful!

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Bagel Bonanza

I cooked 26 bagels tonight. What of it? I have had to (and will continue to have to) go to the office to work all week, despite the building being closed and Snoverload dumping more inches on us as I type.

So many local food bloggers, such as Modern Domestic, decided Snowpocalypse II was a perfect opportunity for baking. I missed all that fun by going out, playing in the snow, and then doing a spinning class at the gym (my bum hurts).

So, I left work a bit early today and decided to bake some bagels for those who, like me, must come in in the morning. I think I overdid it.

The list: three cinnamon, five plain, six oatmeal (I ate one as a test and realized they needed to be baked a bit longer--too doughy), three poppy seed, three everything (poppy seeds, onion flakes, sesame seeds) and three kinda-everything (a tiny amount of poppy seeds and onion flakes; mostly sesame seeds), and three olive oil and sunflower seed bagels (which I accidentally boiled way too long in the baking soda water--they were incredibly soft when I got them out, so I have no idea how they'll be. They baked fine, however.).

This is my second time making bagels adapted from Macheesmo's recipe. I'm a fan!


Snow Says "Hi Again! How Ya Doin'?"

Our friendly neighbour decided to drop in again, and he brought a couple dozen of his friends. Okay, imagine our neighbour is one inch of snow and his friends are also one inch of snow each. Then combine them into a couple dozen inches of snow. That's what I'm getting at--that's what knocked on DC's door over the weekend.

Not really a good anthropomorphic metaphor if I have to explain it like that, now is it?

But I don't get paid to concoct clever metaphors. Luckily.

This was just a pretty tree on 18th Street. I was on my way home from The Black Squirrel, which had excellent roasted organic veggie pasta! I have never been to The Black Squirrel before, but I follow them on Twitter for several reasons: quirk, local, and a really cute little squirrel in a detective outfit picture! I was happy to meet the woman who does all the tweeting--she's nice. Be good to her! They were open all weekend, and hopefully they'll be open during the next snowstorm, scheduled for tomorrow. Yay!

During a trek on Saturday, I saw this tree atop a few cars. Most of the trees or branches that fell had bark and buds similar to this one--I'd guess same species, because they're all public DC street trees, and there's not a great wide list of trees they use. This particular species (which I have difficulty identifying in spring and summer, let alone winter! And of course I didn't take close-up shots) is probably more fragile than some of the others in the area. I saw a crape myrtle almost bent over double without breaking, but whatever type of tree this is couldn't take the weight of the snow, and branches were down all over the city--some on sidewalks, some on cars. I saw a few break and fall earlier in the afternoon, but as the day went on, I think enough of the snow melted off that the weight wasn't so great.

While on my way home later that day, I wandered past this tree again. A guy with a stash of Yuengling under his arm asked me what I would do if this were my car under the tree. I said call insurance and DC Department of Public Works to see who will pay for repairs (although I did a bit of digging and it seems that the Department of Transportation's Urban Forestry Administration might have jurisdiction over the street trees? Ah well, some government agency does). He said it was his car, but then another guy standing nearby piped in and started asking him what he planned to do--because that second guy actually owned the second car completely covered by the tree's branches. The beer guy backpedaled and said he didn't own the first car, then he dropped all his beer in the street.

Luckily an NPR reporter came by trying to snag a picture of the man whose car was hidden beneath the wreckage, so after he declined to be photographed, I asked her "Well, why don't you look into doing a story about what all the people in DC who are in similar situations should do to figure out how to handle the expenses and who to contact about it?" She said "Thanks for doing my job for me" and gave the guy her card to follow up with her. And yet, NPR didn't hire me for some reason.

On Saturday, I went to the Dupont Circle Snowball Fight. There were tons of these around the city (10 or so that were advertised), but I just happened across this one on my wander (it's close to Mr. Yogato).

So I shot some videos in between making snowballs to throw at our enemies across the street; into diplomats' vehicles as they drove by with their windows down to film us playing; at cop cars; at the unfortunate traitors who ended up falling in the street while switching sides; and at anyone walking through the Zone of Death with an umbrella, a crazy hat, luggage, or a purse.

This is an overview of the early carnage. Hundreds battled, but few survived!

This was hours later, when only the strong remained. Waves of enemies tried to broach our defenses, but they were driven back with amazing force!

I almost left the fight at this point--several cop cars, a van, and an unmarked cop Bronco drove by and stopped. This one, however, got stuck, so we had fun with it.

And then we helped get it free. And then we had fun with it again. 'cause that's how we roll.


Flowers In Red

Just a little preparation before Valentine's Day, eh? I am planning on digging out my box of Buffy valentines and sending some to friends. I should have plenty of time this weekend, if the way people are freaking out indicates that we're going to have another blizzard in DC.

Here's the prize... My "Red Lion" amaryllis! I got it half off at Garden District the other week. I also bought a pink/white striped one, but that was almost disappointing. It flowered last week after only growing one foot tall. Red Lion is almost two and a half feet tall! And such dramatic red! Heart it.

I also heart this "Sterling Scarlet" Cyclamen. Its flowers are not usually so intimidating... But I can't help feel like that goat must have felt chained up to a post for the T. rex to eat in Jurassic Park. I don't think I'll end up having my disembodied leg dropped onto a sunroof of an electric car full of tourists if I don't watch out for little Scarlet, but she does keep giving me these sideways glances at night... And, yes, she is the first female plant in my garden, for those of you who have been keeping track. I'll leave you to speculate on the reasons why.

Er... Red witch hazel just looks like crayon shavings glued together onto a stem to me. Not really so pretty. But maybe I haven't met a good witch hazel yet?

And here are some spider lilies that I've been sitting on since October (not literally, of course). I never got around to posting them in a pretty picture post, but they were beautiful springing up as if from nowhere in lawns all around the National Arboretum this fall.


South African Squill Flowers

My amazingly prolific Scilla violaceae have decided to reward me further--by flowering! This inflorescence is from the squill that was the original one I purchased, which was in bloom when I purchased it, too (Really, is that the photo I published? I thought I had better ones, but I can't find them to save my life. I remember it being difficult to focus--each flower is only millimeters wide.).

I am so psyched! Maybe this time I won't lose the one fruit that develops like I did last time (it literally just disappeared when I accidentally bumped the plant) and I can try to grow these from seed, as well. Or, at least, I can hope the seeds are viable and will germinate if they develop at all!



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