July 28, 2012

Faux White Orchids Revealed

And the answer is (in case you were participating in the guessing game)

Orchid #2.

I am happy to report that I am not the only cheat out there. Several of you apparently are as well.

If you too would like to be a faux orchid enthusiast, here are some hints to make the effect realistic:

*Use the same clips to attach the fake bloom to the old stem...I leave the old stem in place.

*Make sure the type of faux bloom matches the type of orchid whose foliage you are using.  Heaven forbid that you should put a dendrobium flower on a phalaenopsis plant!

*Rough up the stem or dirty the petals of the blooms to heighten realism.

*Fabric or silk is the way to go.  Plastic won't get you there.

*Real bloomers are front and center.  Faux bloomers are usually a little back and to the side  :).

*Most importantly...

Don't tell.  What they don't know can't hurt them.  Enjoy  :)

Red Roses

I dislike red roses.  I don't mean the David Austin-y, old fashioned red roses, but the classic long-stemmed, give-a-dozen-for-Valentine's Day kind of red roses.

After my mother died, someone, I don't know whom, decided it would make a nice keepsake (if that word is appropriate for this situation, and I don't think it is...) if the red roses on her casket spray were dried, compressed into beads and then made into rosaries for the family.  

Many moves, many years, and many memories later, I can't tell you where even one of these 'keepsakes' might be, though surely a sibling has one in a drawer or chest somewhere.  I can tell you that I don't have to put my hands on one to remember their scent and how sweetly sickening that scent was to me.

Over the years, I have come to terms with many things, and one of them is my issue with that classic florist's rose.  While I still greatly dislike long-stemmed red roses... and their scent is not my favorite,  
I have developed a liking for other shades of these blooms. I have come to appreciate...

their velvety sophistication,

their emotional complexity,

their maturity,

the sheer indulgence and luxury of them.  No innocence in THEIR manner or pedigree, no sirree!

What you see, is decidedly what you get.  Because of this sultry quality,

I don't like to mix them with anything else, allowing them to speak for themselves in all of their vain glory.

I especially like this deep fiery orange color and the way the intensity changes as the petals swirl around one another.

I have a mossy six inch cache pot that looks beautiful with roses.  I typically cut their long stems short (I don't like the rigidity of the long stems)...to just above the rim of the pot.

A ball of chicken wire molded to the size of the interior works perfectly to hold the
snipped flowers in place

as I work to create a soft mounded half sphere of orange...tucking in some of the green leaves here and there for contrast and a little softness.

The end result is quite lovely, I think.  All from a mere $8.99 bouquet of roses I treated myself to at Whole Foods yesterday.

My older sister...and my mother... seem quite pleased.

July 26, 2012

White Orchids

Forty-nine years ago this last July 20, my second mother married my father. By extension she also 'married' my father's seven children, aged one to twelve.  I was five at the time; third from the left (in the flowery dress, of course.)

My first mother, at the tragically young age of 36,  had died a mere fifteen months before, and to say that the earth shifted on its axis would be an understatement.  No Brady Bunch scenario here...shell-shocked kids making a transition from mother to mother...a new brides' s transition from being a single professional to a mother of seven (shortly to be nine, then ten)...

and wife to a grieving widower, out of town for work more often than not.

Let's just say it wasn't always pretty.

Lack of understanding, of comprehension, of empathy...in both a cosmic and personal sense...was exhibited all-round...no matter the age, sex, vulnerability, lack of experience, or degree of PTSD of each individual in the family.  

Still, we all survived... and, somehow, later, as adults, thrived.

A mere four months after the wedding (on November 22, 1963 to be exact -- does this sad date ring a bell?), my father picked up his brood and his new wife and moved from Indianapolis to Knoxville, Tennessee...where within a year, a set of twins was born.

By this time, we had surely shot the top off of every stress index barometer out there.. 

Most of this time is understandably fuzzy for me.  No doubt for both emotional and developmental reasons. But one specific memory does stand out.

At about the same time we got a new mother, a huge white porcelain pitcher with matching white basin appeared.  It lived on the hearth of the brick fireplace, and was FILLED to overflowing with

a HUGE bouquet of different types and colors of plastic, long-stemmed flowers.

It may seem like an exaggeration, but I don't remember having ever seen such color.  I loved it, and in my sometime gray new world, it brightened up my young life.  Those were IMPORTANT flowers... an IMPORTANT memory.

Despite my affection for this plastic bouquet, I now, as a long-time flower garden enthusiast, 

have developed an admittedly snobbish disdain for synthetic bouquets.  Plastic, silk, anything fake...(okay, preserved, doesn't bother me...)

But to everything there is an exception---and here is mine...and a great little tip.

I love orchids, especially white ones.  And even though orchids are prized for their long lasting blooms, the foliage is far more long lived, and given time and much TLC will flower again.

But here's the thing.  

I DON'T WANT TO WAIT or even provide all the TLC...being lazy and quite impatient in this regard.

So this floral purist, cheats.  Yes, cheats.  After the orchid has dropped its last petal, but while the foliage and plant itself are still as fresh looking as ever, I cut off the dead flower stalk and

insert a fake blossom in its place.  And without serious sensory investigation, I defy you to tell the difference.

Here's a test.  Ignoring the poor photo quality (please), try to tell the difference between these two orchids.  Which has the real flower, and which has the fake one? (I'll tell you tomorrow which is which.)

First, in full view; then a close-up.  Let's call this 'Orchid 1' for future reference.

And now for 'Orchid 2'... 

Tomorrow, the answer and some tips on choosing your faux flower.

Aren't we sneaky, though?

And who ever said flowers aren't important...

July 24, 2012

Sara Midda

I have gifted these two DEAR little books more times than I can count.

Each summer I look over my own worn copies

as charmed now with the tiny little illustrations and soft watercolor images

as I was the first time I saw them ever so long ago.

SO clever.

SUCH sweet humor.

DELIGHTFUL depictions of espadrilles and olives and seeds and sand...

ALL rendered with such delicacy of hand and spirit.

Order one for yourself here 
(I always order the used hardback copies...only pennies... but also because...

I ENJOY seeing the little notations of previous owners and...

what pages were well loved,

where the eyes once hovered,

where imagination was captured,

where ideas were spawned.

I feel certain you will be as smitten with Sara Midda
as I.

If you too are captivated,

take a break from this heat 

and savor a bit of Sara's watercolor world.

July 22, 2012

Suncast Hose Reels and Quality of Life

If spring is about renewal and resurrection and soft, tender new growth,

and autumn is about golden light and blessed relief and ember and umber and crisp air,

then summer is about 

perspiration, expletives, and hose reels.

Some of which I talked about with LC last Friday (if you missed it, watch it hereon News Channel 4.  

Each year out of the last 23 since I started to garden,

I have been on the hunt for the perfect hose reel.

Options were either too heavy, too cumbersome, or too expensive...oh, or too ugly (always a consideration).

What I can say with absolute certainty is that the quality of one's hose reel in the summer is directly related to one's quality of life...and mood.

Not a small consideration when buying a hose reel.

This reel isn't cheap at around $60.00, (buy it 
here), and its online reviews are mixed, but so far

for me, anyway, functionally, and aesthetically, it fits the bill. 

Goldilocks's just right hole reel, if you will.

It is rather large (holding up to 225 feet of hose), but if you have the room, that shouldn't be a problem.  I probably wouldn't put such a long hose in it...I think it would tax the parts too much...and I also don't force it.  I find that ALL hose reels appreciate some TLC.

Bottom line, so far, so good, and I'm pleased.  Rest assured, if either one turns out to be a lemon, I will...

first curse,

then report back to you.

Another pricier model that self winds is also available.  It is propelled by water pressure with the easy rotation of a handle.  Backwash water can easily be used (so as not to go to waste) on other thirsty plants.

Likes its manually operated cousin, this has a dark resin wicker exterior (that just matches my house trim color) and is smaller. Consequently it nestles nicely in a flower bed and is quite inconspicuous.  This convenience comes at almost twice the price, so keep that in mind.

Since these record setting temps have left me quite on edge, I decided to treat myself to one of each.  If they continue to perform without issues, I'll probably buy a third one for the potager.

I have seen them at Home Depot, Target, and probably Lowe's.  Also on-line, of course.  I got both of them on sale...either with a mark down or an on-line coupon.

Given that my sanity was at stake, it seemed like a financial risk worth taking.

July 18, 2012

Rudebeckia Goldsturm

Sunflowers are not the only thing glowing in the galaxy of my summer landscape. 

Rudebeckia Goldsturm (order it here) more than makes up in sheer profusion what it lacks in the size of its high drama cousin.

And I must tell you, the reasons to include it in your summer border are as abundant as its blooms.  Let's count the reasons, shall we?

1)  It's tough as nails...absolutely bullet-proof once it gets established.  If you let Goldsturm go to seed (and if conditions permit), it can even get a touch out of control...share it with a new gardener who needs a guaranteed success at the get-go.)

2)  You've got to love the contrast of the dark brown center disk against the sunny golden hue of the petals.

(Bubba told me it would look
wonderful with the new stain color of my picket fence as a backdrop.  Right as always, Bubba...)

3)  It's not fussy at all about soil...is drought and heat tolerant when established...is disease and pest resistant...doesn't need staking and can even handle light shade.

4)  Segues easily from the shades of late summer into autumn's rich color palette. (Doesn't it look great in front of this Red Pygmy beriberi?

5)  Makes a great, long-lasting cut flower with its branching, stiff stems.

 (Very cheery with tall phlox and zinnias, don't you think?)

and, last, but not least,

6) Can be quite inspirational.

Here's to golden summers, my dears!

July 17, 2012


W A S P S !

BREAKING NEWS!  Just disturbed an unsuspecting wasp nest and am nursing a half dozen stings....and a Benodryl hangover.  Not sure what to do after a wasp attack?  

Check out the video here for information on how to treat their venomous stings.

Between the drama and the antihistamine, I plan on sleeping well tonight.  Zzzzz.................

July 16, 2012

Sunflowers: "Nothing Gold Can Stay"


Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leafs a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.

In the middle of everything is

T H E   S U N. 

Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
Polish Astronomer


English Proverb

The glorious lamp of heaven,

 the   SUN.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
English Poet

If you can spend

    a perfectly useless  afternoon     

 in a perfectly useless manner,

You have learned how to live.

Lin Yutang (1895-1976)
Chinese writer and philologist

The sunset caught me, turned the brush to copper, set the clouds to one


Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986)
American Writer

The sun lay like a friendly arm

across her shoulder.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1869-1953) 
 American writer

It is always sunrise


the dew is never all dried at once;

a shower is forever falling;

vapor is ever rising.

Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset,

eternal dawn...

John Muir (1838-1914)
American naturalist.

If you are as enchanted with these words as I, then you will love the book SUNFLOWERS from which these lovely words came.  Order it here for mere pennies. Truly,

Is there anything happier than a sunflower?

July 15, 2012

Blueberry Scones

If I am compelled to garden, my sister Doc is compelled to bake.

And bake she does...pies, biscuits, cookies, scones. Unlike moi, for whom baking is more of a winter activity, she bakes all year long and often.

The trick to the 'often' part she tells me, is to memorize the recipes so you don't have to hunt down a recipe card or cookbook...and of course bake often enough so as not to forget the recipe...something I need to work on.

Doc has a beautiful lake house in Michigan that hosts a constant stream of family and friends...family and friends that won't turn down a freshly baked piece of pie or a hot-from-the-oven scone.

Now I've had scones from Dublin to London and back again, and

none of them come close to hers. 

Granted, part of it was that hot-from-the-oven part, but even at that, they were unbelievably moist with just the right density, right level of sweetness, and a certain melt-in-your-mouth quality that makes them unforgettable.   

So, straight from Doc's lake house recipe...


Preheat  oven to 400 degrees.

Measure 2 cups flour into a mixing bowl and add 1/2 tsp salt with 2 1/2 tsp baking powder. Whisk together with your pastry blender and add in 3 T sugar.

Cut 5 T butter into smallish pieces - I usually use a sharp knife and cut the 5 T into fourths lengthwise and then cut those into 1/4 inch pieces. Throw that into the flour mixture and cut it in with the pastry blender.

Add blueberries or nuts or chopped apricots or whatever fruit you have on hand and stir with spoon-spatula.

Then add in 3/4 c. milk. ( I used soy milk and it worked just fine). Blend in the milk with the spatula first then use your hands to shape into about a 8" or so disk.

Place it on a buttered cookie sheet. Use a dough scraper to cut the disc into 6 or so pie-shaped wedges. Use the milk left in your measuring cup to wipe over the dough. I use my fingers. Just makes it brown nicely, not a mandatory step.

Then bake at 400 until you go upstairs, put your make up on, get dressed, curl your hair - which for me is about 10-15 minutes...they should be about done when you come back down! If they are not done.......just wait longer.

Then you can make a drizzle out of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of milk or lemon juice for a change. You can sprinkle nuts on top if you want to be fancy.

Trust me, nothing is better with a cup of hot tea than one of these scones!

Thanks, Doc!