Thursday, March 26, 2015

Red Heads Can TOO Wear Pink!

They say redheads shouldn't wear pink, but my 'Red-Headed Irishman' cactus looks pretty good with pink flowers in his hair.

Mammilaria spinosissima 'Red-Headed Irishman' blooming up a storm!

He's the cutest thing in the greenhouse

I like him so much I went back to Home Depot and bought 5 more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And Another Greenhouse Surprise

While moving some plants around, to try to reach my two Begonia boliviensis to see if they have started to emerge from their winter's rest (they have, I found tiny little noses poking out of the pots), I suddenly noticed a plant flowering that I have hardly looked at in months -- my Billbergia nutans, a fabulous Bromeliad with the common name of Queen's Tears. It's been tucked underneath the wire table, behind all the other Bromeliads, which only get watered when the plants above drip on them.

I had to pull it out onto the top of the wire table, so that it could have its moment in the sun -- and in front of the camera.

The foliage looks kind of ratty, but look at all those flowers!

There are even more flowers coming up from the base. Other than completely ignoring it for months, I'm not sure what I did right. But I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


The lime tree that Laura of Gravy Lessons brought me at the Fall Plant Exchange is flowering. It's in a rather inaccessible corner of the greenhouse. I've watered it a few times this winter, but this is the first time I've seen flowers. I bet it's been budding up for a while, there are quite a few.

I wonder if I'll get any limes? On warm days I leave the door to the greenhouse open, and I've seen a few bees buzzing in and out.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Planting the Raised Vegetable Beds

I don't often post about the vegetables that I grow, but I do have two large raised beds in the back garden where I grow vegetables every year. I spent a couple of days these past two weeks preparing and sowing seeds in those beds. I used vegetable seeds from a few different sources this year.

I'm growing Napa cabbage, Arugula, mustard greens, spinach, Mesclun, leaf lettuce, sweet Spanish onions, and two kinds of baby turnips. I couldn't stand the mashed, watery, bitter-tasting turnips that my mom used to try to get me to eat when I was little. But on my last birthday, I had a roasted baby turnip, and it was delicious, so I decided this year to give them a try. I'll also be growing three kinds of squash this year (Delicata, spaghetti squash, and a Zucchini called Lolita), but I sowed those seeds in the greenhouse, not directly into the beds, and some time soon I'll be setting those plants out in the raised bed. For the first month or so I'll be keeping them under the hoophouse, so they can stay nice and warm, and in mid- to late April I'll be adding a couple of pepper plants to that area. And of course I'll be growing tomatoes inside the greenhouse all summer. I'm planning to grow eggplant in the greenhouse too, I already sowed those seeds into pots, and they've sprouted. I'll buy my tomato starts from a local nursery, probably Windmill Gardens in Sumner. Oh, and I'm hoping to have room for some carrots too.

In one bed I already have garlic and shallots growing, planted last fall. There was still room in the bed for my Napa cabbage starts (I started them from seed in the greenhouse), for my sweet Spanish onion starts, which arrived last week from Pinetree, as well as the arugula, mustard greens, leaf lettuce and Mesclun. The other raised bed has the baby turnips, and more arugula and spinach, and eventually will also contain the squash, carrots and peppers.

My seeds this year came from Pinetree (Spinach Tyee, Tokyo Cross turnip, Eggplant 'Slim Jim'), Botanical Interests (arugula, Mesclun, leaf lettuce 'Waldmann's Green', Spinach 'Bloomsdale') and Renee's Garden Seeds (mustard greens, Japanese baby turnip 'Mikado',  Napa Cabbage 'Little Jade', and arugula). The seeds from Botanical Interests were all in the form of seed tape, which is paper tape that looks a lot like bias tape (for the seamstresses out there), which has been impregnated with seeds at regular intervals. This is my first experience with seed tape. Renee's offers garden bloggers up to 15 packets of free seeds, with no obligation to write about them, but I'm writing about them anyway.

Raised beds for growing vegetables

An example of the kind of info on the back of the Botanical Interests seed tape package. Each package also contains a little pamphlet of seed-starting info.

The info on the back of the Renee's Garden Seeds package

Pinetree's packaging, with its simple line art, is not quite as attractive as the other two, and its cultivation info is succinct

But it does have this convenient, gummy, restickable flap

Onions from Pinetree

Napa cabbage seedlings, started in the greenhouse from Renee's Garden Seeds

If you're wondering about the wooden skewers in the bed, those are a cat deterrent, to keep the neighborhood outdoor kitties from pooping in the beds. They're quite effective, I've stabbed my hand painfully several times in the past while harvesting from the beds, but they do need to be redone every year, because they rot. I have to think no cat is going to want its tender nether regions anywhere near those poky things. I occasionally get pawprints in the beds, but since I started using the skewers, no more cat poop.

Each Botanical Interests seed tape is printed with the name of the kind of seed, and they are perforated and need to be separated.

I cut each 5-foot-long seed tape in half, so that I had two approximately 2 1/2-foot tapes, which I planted between the skewers about 6 inches apart in rows. When using seed tape like this, it's not as convenient for spacing plants if you're doing square foot gardening. I've tried making my own square-foot seed mats in the past, using flimsy paper napkins, but it's labor-intensive and causes mind-numbing eyestrain (what Nigel calls going boz-eyed). The seed tape was very easy to use. I made a shallow depression the same length as the tape, laid the tape down on the soil, and sprinkled more soil over it to cover it up and hold it down.

Each row got a label made from a mini-blind, with type of seed and name of seed company

It was a windy day, so I had to anchor one end of the seed tape with a ground staple. But if you don't have ground staples, I'm sure a rock will do the trick.

You can see the clusters of seeds, spaced evenly.

After a week of alternating sunshine and torrential rain: teeny-weeny, itty-bitty sprouts from Renee's Garden Seeds, the first ones to sprout.

Mustard greens (Renee's Garden Seeds)

Arugula (Renee's Garden Seeds)

Those were followed only a couple of days later by arugula from the seed tape.

Arugula from Botanical Interest seed tape

And then a day or so later, some of the seed tape mesclun began to sprout.

Mesclun sprouting from the Botanical Interest seed tape


One spinach sprout trying to surface

And then, just yesterday, finally the turnips, from both Renee's and Pinetree, have put in an appearance. Unfortunately, slugs have appeared too, so I've had to throw some Sluggo down in the bed.

Turnip sprouts

I'm looking forward to eating lots of greens this spring (the turnip greens are edible as well as the roots). I'll probably revisit the vegetable beds over the course of the summer, and maybe post a recipe or two.

Just to reiterate: Renee's gave me free seeds, with no obligation that I write good things about them. My opinion about their seeds is my own and is based on my personal experience.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy First Day of Spring!

With apologies to the East Coast, which has been getting hammered by snow this winter, and still is, our weather here in the PNW has been spring-like for a while. The first day of spring is celebration-worthy even so.

I thought I'd show off the single Lewisia that has survived in my garden. When I first installed the gravel garden, I planted a handful of them there in the ground, thinking it would be the perfect environment for these native, drought-tolerant plants. But all of the ones in the ground declined and eventually died, I don't know why. Perhaps the soil there isn't quite as well drained as I thought.

The only one that still lives is this one, planted in an old colander.

Happy First Day of Spring!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Overlooked on Bloom Day

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn'

Dicentra spectabilis 'Valentine'


Trillium kurabayashii


Self-sown  Euphorbia

Euphorbia x martinii 'Rudolph'

Euphorbia 'Rudolph'

Dicentra 'Gold Heart'

Dicentra 'Gold Heart'


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Walk By The Lake

Every year at this time, when Les at A Tidewater Gardener posts his Winter Walk-Off meme, I feel torn. I want to participate, but walking on a normal winter day here in the PNW is a cold, wet prospect, and on a dry day (of which we've actually had more than our usual number this year), I feel compelled to garden. I'm also often at a loss to figure out what to show you on my walk that might be interesting to look at, given the rules preclude me from showing any shots of my own garden. I suppose I could show you my neighbor's front lawn, and its junkyard chic over-abundance of working and non-working cars, parked willy-nilly on the grass. Or maybe I could just walk around the inside of my house, and show you pictures of my kitchen and living room. But I think not.

After giving it some thought, I realized it might be fun to show you Lake Tapps, but that requires about a 4-mile round trip walk, which given how slowly I walk, would take a large chunk of time. So, I decided to drive to the lake. Or, what used to be the lake, but this winter has been transformed into a rather large mud puddle.

Lake Tapps is a reservoir that was created in 1911 by Puget Sound Energy, through construction of a wooden flume that diverts water from the White River. Originally, it was used to generate hydroelectric power for the region, but it no longer is used for that purpose. In 2009 Cascade Water Alliance bought the reservoir from PSE, and this winter, lowered the lake level drastically in order to assess the condition of the entire system used to fill and empty the lake, and to replace the old wooden flume with a concrete structure. For more information about the improvement projects, click here.

Click here to see photos of the lake level as it was lowered by the Cascade Water Alliance back in September.  Click here to see photos of the wooden flume demolition and new concrete flume construction.

To see a photo of Lake Tapps from above, click here.

I've been strangely fascinated by the empty lake bed.

Normally, the concrete pylons of that dock behind the now amusing sign are completely submerged in water.

Those floating docks are for boats

Here's a summer shot, showing what they normally look like

A little further along -- note the many tree stumps, usually submerged

If the day had been clear, you would have been able to see Mt. Rainier above that tree line

Like this (from summer)

A panorama shot of the boat ramp, using my cellphone

On the way back to my car, I focused my attention on some of the lakefront properties.

I found a rather large lichen-covered branch at the side of the road, and was tempted to make a spectacle of myself by carrying it back to my car.

Old gnarly flowering tree near the parking lot

Petal-strewn dew-covered lawn

Petals on concrete

So, that's my Winter Walk-Off, finished just in time (it ends tomorrow). Maybe I'll go back to the lake today, and get that branch, now that I'm not burdened by my camera.