Flowers

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This was from my children. It is beautiful and I love it!

Sending all moms a big bouquet of wishes for a happy day!

FINALLY, it’s time to plant. I have spring fever. I want to dig in the dirt. And fill baskets with color and fragrance. But, I need to do research. I’ve used the same arrangements too long.

Baskets and beds are serious business.

In my neck of the woods, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. Dresses don’t come off of racks, let alone from a designer. But, that doesn’t mean women here lead lives that are stark and without creative expression. 

Take a drive down Indiana country roads. You’ll see.

You can’t miss the pure joy expressed by chubby hand-raised calves and lambs romping together in fields. Or that of  the smiling, sparkley eyed, rosy-cheeked children outside trying to catch their pony. Or through their mother’s arrangement of pink tulips, purple phlox and blue silva intemingled with silver rocks.

It is a life I am privileged to be a part of.

I’ve been reading about new flower varieties too. Imagine petunias that don’t need deadheading or water. Or petunias that will trail for 3 feet and not be bothered by wind. I want to incorporate them in every basket.

Fortunately,  Country Garden Greenhouse’s Mennonite design team has been helpfully coming up with ideas for my arrangements.

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One of my favorite places to hang out.

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Hanging basket 1 is a spike, white lanai verbena, red calibrachoa superbells, lanai blue verbena, yellow calibrachoa (million bells).

Lanai Verbena: Lanai verbena is simply the best trailing verbena on the market today. This improved series exhibits dark green, large broad leaves with a trailing habit of up to 3 feet! Lanai verbena is drought and heat tolerant, and thrives in full, hot sun. Plants in baskets and containers also hold up very well in windy conditions.

Superbells: This new line of hybrid Calibrachoa takes an old favorite to a new level. Developed and selected for their large flowers, their resistance to Thielaviopsis, and their strong summer performance, these Calibrachoa are truly Superbells. Deadheading is not necessary. The plants are heat tolerant. They attract hummingbirds.

Millon Bells: A Calibrachoa, these plants are prolific bloomers that produce hundreds of 1” wide flowers from spring to frost. Flower colors include shades of violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze, and white.

dsc02107.JPG Hanging basket 2: has a double rose begonia, a tri colored sweet potato vine, a geranium and opal innocence nemesia.

Opal Innocence Nemesia:  Abundant opalescent tri-colored flowers with a strong scent! (They smell heavenly…think lily-of-the-valley or lilac) Nemesia, the mauve pink plant shown, requires no deadheading and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It will bloom all season if fed and watered regularly.

Double Rose Begonia: Take care not to overwater. Water early in the day, water deep and water less frequently. 

Tri colored sweet potato vine: This ornamental plant provides color and interest like no other plant. They are grown for their distinctive foliage and vigorous growth habit.

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Ornamental container 3 has failproof plants, a spike, pink geraniums, asparagus fern, and vinca vines. These are perfect for my climate and will survive the care of someone like me, who waits for wilting to watering.

Vinca: Vinca or Periwinkle is a prolific heat and drought tolerant annual, perfect for hot, dry areas. It’s easy to grow, and requires little or no attention. A grower once reported that he has grown Vinca in the same location for 30 years. (I can vouch for vinca’s ability to come back on it’s own. I have some that came up unwanted and it prolifically reproduces and reproduces. It’s like a weed it is so prolific and sturdy.)

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Purple fountain grass are in the center. Around the edge are white and purple velvet nemesias. The red flowers in front are red lanai verbena.

Purple Fountain Grass: The flower heads progress from dark ruby red, through shades of pink, to buff as they mature. They are produced in constant succession so all stages are present throughout the flowering season. It makes a great center piece in a container. It is a vigorous grower that will quickly fill in any bed or container. The foxtail like plumes will appear mid summer and last until first frost.

Red Lanai Verbena:  The Verbena Lanai series is free flowering from tip to crown with flowers that are clustered in a ball providing a carpet of color. Lanai verbena is simply the best trailing verbena on the market today. This improved series exhibits dark green, large broad leaves, with a trailing habit of up to 3 feet! Lanai verbena is drought and heat tolerant, and thrives in full, hot sun.

White and Purple Velvet Nemesias have an appealing fragrance and make an excellent choice for early spring color and sales. Ideal for small pots and color accents.Upright and compact. Use in 4-6” pots and combos.

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One of many greenhouses.

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Waiting for mom.

Sigh….I’m only getting started. There is so much more to do… But the work is such a pleasure. To be continued…

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Spring plowing.

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We have wild ducks living in our woods. I hope that means baby ducks!!!

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We’re going to have to take our walks in other directions. I want the ducks to stay.

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Why did the ducks cross the road?

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To get to the pond on the other side.

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Tadpoles. I hope they eat EVERY single mosquito larvae.

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Mama, baby and LOTS of spring grass.

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Spring violets.

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I am not sure what kind of flower this is. We have a lot of them.

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There is a possum has living in the old graundhog hole. Buster and Abby are thrilled.

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Kitty is as happy for sunshine as I am.

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We use a lot of flowers in the summer. Geraniums are a good choice for us. They’re hardy and will  survive mild neglect.

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There are too many lovely geraniums to throw away. We decided to try to overwinter them.

We overwintered our geraniums dormant in our dark basement.

Here’s how: Storing your geraniums dormant. 

When we brought the geraniums up this spring, we didn’t take them outside right away. We were afraid too much sun, too soon, might harm them. We kept them in our garage for 2 days to acclimate to the sun that came through those windows. Then we brought the geraniums outside and sheltered them next to the wooden fence.

One of the 12 geraniums we brought inside for the winter was overwatered during our acclimation process. It turned mushy. But even so, 11 geraniums is a good start on summer flowers.

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This is what they look like after being in the dark for months. Notice the little leaves starting to sprout on the thin white stalks..

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The leaves are more developed on this plant.

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We brought this one up over a week ago to see how it did. It looks good.

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A WORLD WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE.

Our day in paradise…

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This picture is for my sister-in-law who loves parrots. The parrot is wishing her a happy belated-birthday!!!!!

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Two very noisy lorikeets.

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The first of MANY butterfly pictures…we LOVED the butterflys.

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I wish this was in my back yard.

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A parrot displays his wings.

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These shaftail finches groomed each other and cuddled like true “lovebirds”

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A Blue Cheeked Cordon Bleu takes a drink.

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Look at the colors…SOOOOOOOOOOOO beautiful!!!!

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From the insect museum…yes  he’s alive.

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The tarantula is alive, too.

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DH’s new friend wants to get friendlier.

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DH was VERY popular with the lorikeets.

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“Hmmmm….I’ve had enough to eat. Think I’ll climb up an arm.”

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The first of many flower pictures…

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We saw these signs but never saw dogs. We didn’t climb the fence to try to get them to come out for pictures though.

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A starling outside the exit…”goodbye…we’ll be back!”

A butterfly spreads his wings:

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Red amaryllis.

Cold treat your bulbs to force blooms that will brighten the dreariest winter day. 

Start with sound, large bulbs. The base and roots of the bulb should be placed in lukewarm water for a few hours.  If you cannot plant the bulbs immediately after receiving them, store them at a cool temperature between 40-50 degrees.

Plant the bulb up to its neck in  a good potting compost, being careful not to damage the roots.  Press the soil down firmly to set the bulb securely in place after planting. The ideal temperature is 68 to 70 degrees.  Water sparingly until the stem appears, then, as the bud and leaves appear, gradually water more.

Continue to water after blooming. When summer comes, sink your amaryllis in its pot outside.  Lift and let the bulb dry out during the fall.

In early winter, move your amaryllis where it will it will be warm and get plenty of light, water…then enjoy your holiday blooms!

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Our geraniums in springtime.

HOW TO OVERWINTER GERANIUMS

Of all your outdoor summer flowers, geraniums are the easiest and most successfully overwintered. There are many methods.

Because the basement of our 100 year old house is cool and humid, we store ours dormant, which, in my opinion, is the easiest way. My mother has successfully taken cuttings for as long as I can remember.

Storing Them Dormant
Geraniums can be stored with bare roots and kept dormant in your basement over winter. The success of this method depends on the place you store them. When people had cold cellars or pump rooms, it worked quite well. Temperatures were cool and humid then. Most modern basements are much too dry and warm. But if you want to try this method, just dig up the plants before a killing frost in the fall. Cut the branches back about half way. Remove as much of the dirt from the roots as possible. Do this carefully because geraniums are rather brittle. At this point, they were traditionally hung from the rafters until spring. If you don’t have rafters, you can bag them separately in paper grocery sacks. Leave the sacks open for ventilation.

Check your plants every month or so to see if they are getting too dry and shriveling. If necessary, spray them with water. If they get so dry the stems begin to shrivel, take them out and soak them for an hour or two in tepid water. Remove them from the water and allow their surfaces to dry before putting them back in the paper bags.

Plants that have been overwintered in this manner may take several weeks to begin growing again in the spring. Soak the geraniums for several hours, roots and all, in water that contains a transplant fertilizer mixed at half strength. To get an early start, you can pot up the plants indoors several weeks before the last frost and transfer them into the ground later.

When planting directly outdoors, be sure to wait until after all danger of frost is gone.

Keeping Them Growing
Geraniums do well as house plants if you can provide them with a cool location and lots of light. Dig them up and pot them just before a frost occurs and cut them back. Check the plants over carefully to make sure they are free of insects or disease. Wintering indoors is stressful; only take indoors plants that are in good condition. Water the plants thoroughly when you first bring them in. Geraniums prefer to stay relatively dry compared to most plants.

Cuttings
It is possible to take cuttings instead of bringing in whole plants. A cutting is simply a piece of the mother plant. For best success, use tip cuttings. Cutting off the last 3-5 inches of a branch makes tip cuttings. Remove any flower buds that may be on the cutting, also remove leaves from the lower half of the cutting. To help promote fast rooting, dip the cut end of the geranium into a rooting hormone. Place the cuttings about two inches deep in a clean pot filled with potting soil.

The cuttings should be rooted in individual pots. Place a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and pot. For the first few weeks, keep the cuttings in good light, but out of the direct sun. The potting soil should stay evenly moist.

After 3-4 weeks the cuttings will have developed strong roots. After they have begun to root, remove the plastic bag and give the cuttings stronger light. When you begin to see new growth, move them to a cool, sunny location and feed monthly with a water-soluble fertilizer. If you don’t have adequate light indoors, geraniums do very well under fluorescent or incandescent plant lights.

Given enough light, geraniums will develop into well-branched, strong plants by spring. If light is not adequate, they may tend to grow rather tall and spindly. Remember, geraniums like it on the dry side.

Next Season
Geraniums that have been overwintered can make very satisfactory plants the next season. Those brought through as cuttings will be completely new, productive young plants, just like those you might buy in spring. The geraniums you overwinter actively growing will be larger plants with heavier stems. They will bloom almost as much as a young plant.

Geraniums that have been overwintered dormant take several weeks to recover in the spring and often need to be cut back to improve their shape and productivity. No matter how you overwinter your plant, don’t put them outside until you are sure there is no danger of a killing frost.

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The end of summer neglect and frost have taken their toll on my geraniums.

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My dried rose is still bright and yellow. It looks fresh and alive.

When I opened my garage refrigerator door, the forgotten rose was the first thing I saw. It was as bright a yellow and as beautiful as the day I left it.

That was September 8, the day my father was buried.

At the gravesite, my mother and I each took a yellow rose from the spray on my father’s casket. When I got home, I put the rose in a small vase in our spare refrigerator and forgot about it.

Until now.

It was exquisite, delicately tinted…deserving of care and preservation.

Which is what DH and I did. It came out perfect.

Besides roses, chrysanthemums (which are at their peak now) also are easily preserved.

dsc00759.JPG This is the gel I used. I got it at Michael’s.

HOW TO PRESERVE FLOWERS WITH SILICA GEL

Conventional Drying Method (This is what I did)

  1. Choose plastic or metal container with tight-fitting lid.
  2. Pour silica gel into container to a depth o 1 1/2 inches to cover the bottom. Cut flower stems to about 1 1/2 “. Space flowers so they do not touch each other. Original stems may be dried and reattached with floral wire and tape after drying.
  3. dsc00722.JPG The stem is cut to 1 1/2″.

  4. Slowly sprinkle silica get around base of flowers, adding it to the top and sides of the flowers. Be careful to support fragile petals with the silica gel before covering the top of the blossom. Make sure all parts of the flowers are covered with a generous layer of silica gel.
  5. dsc00723.JPG The flower is in the gel. See how yellow and fresh it is.

  6. Cover container with airtight lid and put away in a dry place. Drying times vary from 2 to 7 days, depending on the number of flowers in a container and the moisture content of the flowers. Thin petals will dry faster than heavier flower centers.
  7. To remove the flowers, slowly pour off silica gel until blossoms are uncovered. Gently brush away silica gel that may be on the petals using a soft artist’s brush. A few grains of silica gel may be left in the center of heavy flowers to aid in preserving them from room humidity.

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Carefully pouring off the silica gel.

Microwave Directions

Prepare flowers as above but DO NOT COVER the container. Place in the microwave (in a microwave-safe dish) with a glass of water and heat on medium power until dry.

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Fresh-cut snapdragons.

 Suggested Flowers to Preserve

Pansies, violas, baby’s breath, buttercup, feverfew, heather, ferns, azalea, calendula, daisy, aster, bachelor button, larkspur, delphinium, foxglove, roses, carnations, gardenia, marigold, hydangea, hyacinth, chrysanthemum, orchid, snapdragon, stock, peony

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My dried snapdragon flowers and their foilage kept their color and are ready to be added to an arrangement.

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Many of my friends and neighbors hitch up their horses to go shopping.

In my neighborhood, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. That would be prideful.

Nor are they judged by designer labels or gowns. Most wear calico dresses they make themselves. Veiled buns are the hairstyle of choice. A luxury car is rarer than a hen’s tooth. Ladies around here hitch up and head for town in buggies.

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Wildflowers in a field.

But, those same women whose manner of dress and way of living is known as plain…in their gardens create artistic masterpieces worthy of display in any museum. Beds of lavender phlox spring up through silvery rocks in contrast to pink spring tulips. Clumps of blue salva alternate with red geraniums. Tubs and old wagons overflow with colorful pansies. Red petunias then white petunias then purple ones line long, winding drives. Wildflowers abound in uncultivated fields.

drive-through-the-country-025.jpg A Mennonite Buggy takes the family to town.

A ride to town through the country is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s also the source of intimidation and pressure. Because I want to fit in. And before I met DH, the only flower I ever planted was a marigold.

It died.

To avoid failure, I bought expensive already done-up hanging baskets. And the prettiest flowers the greenhouse had. Mission accomplished. A piece of cake.

Only I didn’t know you were supposed to deadhead blooms once they’d wilted. I had no idea how much water impatiens drink. Or that they don’t do well in direct sun. Or that they should be fertilized.

blog-pictures-007.jpg Birdseeds fall from the feeder and grow into flowers that attract bees, butterflies and lots and lots of goldfinches.

I put my geraniums on my porch in the shade because I thought they were the nicest looking of my flowers and I wanted the people driving by our house to see them.

“Your flowers are looking wilted,” DH would say. But, I’d watered them the day before. They didn’t need water every day.

It is amazing how long and stringy and dried out toward the bottom petunias can get if they are never deadheaded. Or how soon geraniums quit flowering. And then there were the weeds in the front flower bed.

I didn’t take pictures of my flowers the first year.

blog-pictures-073.jpg My favorite lilies. There is only one bloom now, but more are budding and on the way.

The next summer I did better. Because I didn’t want to take chances, I still bought expensive already-done hanging baskets. But, I read the directions on the flower tabs. (Before buying, even.) My mother explained deadheading and gave me starts. On one happy day a lady at the greenhouse complimented me on my flowers after I told her where I lived.

That was two years ago.

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“Meet me at my garden gate.”

This spring, I did my own hanging basket arrangements. Some were even from $5 flats of “not such good looking” flowers and $1.25 geraniums purchased from kids raising funds for their 4-H club.

There were mistakes.

I accidently pulled out a bunch of what I thought were weeds. Except, the one weed I missed grew into a tall, lovely and out of place looking, lone flower, right in the middle of the bed. I didn’t have the heart to pull it.

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Another flower picture.

My beds are kind of haphazard because I forgot what I planted where last year and perennials have popped up unexpectedly between annuals on sale I couldn’t resist. But, my new flower hobby is colorful, challenging and outdoors. Digging in dirt, strangely enough, gives me the same feeling I used to have when I painted on canvas.

I am an artist living among many great masters. As religiously as any apprentice, I study their technique. And, I dream and aspire…

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The cat’s favorite napping place is under the bench. Wonder why?

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Touching up my Thyme sign in anticipation of spring and summer.

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Our trumpet vine will soon be blooming. Two years ago, before we rearranged our fencing, the horses ate it.

blog-pictures-005.jpg The trumpet vine eaters.

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dsc00125.jpg   When DH’s grandfather came to the United States from Holland in 1915, he brought his favorite gardening tools including his Dutch hoe.

Descended from a long line of gardeners and landscapers, DH’s grandfather went to work for the Lozier estate in Rochester, NY in 1925 as a chauffer, gardener, landscaper and handyman. He lived in an old 1860’s firehouse with the bottom half converted into a garage/garden storage area and the upper level into living quarters.

One of his responsibilities was keeping the Lozier house’s vases full of flowers from the garden. DH’s grandfather’s floral arrangements usually featured gladiolas. They were his favorite flowers.

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DH’s grandfather and grandmother at the Lozier estate

dsc00124.jpg   DH’s Dutch Hoe

A Dutch hoe is also known as a scuffle hoe. It works by pushing rather than pulling. The head is angled to rest on the ground while cutting on the push stroke. It is rugged enough to chop out small roots and dig out stones while allowing the gardener to slide the head into tight spaces without damaging plant roots.

summer.jpg I pinch myself every single day because I never believed it would happen to me.  My marriage of more than 20 years ended. I was thrust into dating. I was overweight, jobless, and pushing the dreaded 50. 

What to do? Well…drastic times call for drastic measures. I restarted my career at the lowest of basement levels. I starved. I had liposuction. I had lasik eye surgery and got rid of the glasses. It took awhile, but it worked. After 8 years of going steady with men who couldn’t get to the “I do”,  I met the love of my life and remarried.

I will be sure to post ALL the gory details of those eight years in future posts.

Nowdays, as an officially married retired lady for over three years, I’ve taken to a life of doing nothing like a duck to water. I spend my summers participating in the Nothern Indiana flower wars. I am experimenting and trying to find a way to successfully garden without doing any weeding.  I have piles of books to read. And a new art box filled with paints, pastels and pencils and watercolors. I really AM going to draw or paint something. Soon.

Our little farm includes two horses, two dogs and two cats. I adore them. But, they prefer my husband, DH, in a most insulting way.

 Buster, the black lab/border collie mix, mournfully howls as  DH leaves. He seems convinced DH is never to return as he paces and nervously cocks his head. He’s hoping he’ll hear DH’s Jeep motor noises. I try to get his attention, but Buster’s busy, he can’t spare me a glance. If I were to go outside or upstairs, Buster would be on the kitchen table in a heartbeat. That way he’d be high enough to look out the windows and see the drive. The cats are outside.  Nobody is in the house to make being inside worthwhile. Only our good natured, sweet Abby dog dutifully lies at my feet. But, she’s listening.

Until the wheels of  DH’s jeep hit our driveway. Then the dogs writhe with joy. They wag their tails so hard anything left where it shouldn’t be is knocked over. Skipper the white horse, whinnies across the barnyard. The cats poke their heads out from the sunflower plants beneath the birdfeeder and run for the backdoor.

I smile, too. DH is home. It’s all good.  

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