Minor Miracle

140908 Clivia Sprouts

These tiny little sprouts are the beginning of a few Clivia plants.  The miracle part is that I have been trying to get them to sprout since last March.

It started early last spring when the Clivia I have blossomed profusely.  I bought the plant from White Flower Farm about 10 years ago.  It was just a mere shoot that came in a pot in the mail.  It is now huge, completely pot bound and grows a new shoot about every other year.  It’s the most common variety with orange blossoms with a yellow throat.  I really thought this was the perfect plant – it really thrives on neglect as long as it likes the window it’s in.  This one is sitting in front of a window that faces northeast.

I decided to search for a new variety but found that an established plant was really cost prohibitive.  In my search I found seeds for different varieties on eBay.  They were only $6 plus shipping so I figured there wasn’t much to lose so I bought two different varieties.  The kicker – they come from China.

A month or more later I received two packages in the mail, each with 6 and 8 seeds respectively.  The seeds of the Clivia are really tiny little bulbs.  They are related to the Amaryllis, so unless they are dried to a brown little husk they are viable.   These were beautiful little bulbs and I figured I was golden.

I did a lot of research on the web about how to start them – there are issues with fungus, everything needs to be sterile, start in damp perlite, blah, blah, blah.  Yup, I did all that.  Soaked them in a solution of peroxide, planted them in a sterile medium, covered to prevent bad things from happening and to keep them moist.  I waited – and waited and waited.

After about a month I noticed there was some mold around the nubs on the end of the bulbs.  I soaked them, changed the medium, started over again.  This I did in April, May, June . . . what the heck?  The bulbs still looked viable and I decided that at this point I had nothing to lose so I filled a large pot with regular potting soil and planted them around the edge.  I hadn’t covered it and honestly neglected it as I do all of my houseplants when the gardens are in full force during the summer.  Last week I figured I’d better water it and give them another shot.  I didn’t even poke around to see if they were doing anything.

Yesterday I watered again and saw one little green shoot – woohoo!  Today there’s a second.  Apparently all that coddling that the websites professed I needed really lead me astray on this one.  The plants start out thriving on neglect right from the beginning.  Now this is my kind of houseplant!

The Body Can Take Only So Much

140818 Patio Garden

Ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?  That’s what I’m feeling today.  The photo above is of the stone patio on the southeast side of the house.  There is (was) a perennial garden that ran around the edge of it that has been there since the beginning of time, I swear.  It had irises, phlox, peonies, various herbs and enough daffodils to populate the sides of every road in town.

I have been thinking about digging up this garden for a few years now but every summer it has been just too hot to do it.  With all the other gardens I’ve dug so far this summer I figured I would tackle one last one.  The decision was made earlier in the year when only a few of the irises blossomed.  They were too crowded.  The daffodils were insane every year for decades but this year there weren’t quite many blossoms as I’m used to seeing and I took that as a sign as well.

Today was the perfect weather to spend outdoors doing anything.  Blue sky, breeze, cool.  I started digging at 8:30 and finished around 3:30.  Well, I stopped because I couldn’t dig anymore, my body wouldn’t let me.  I dug and divided oregano, three huge clumps of iris, three huge garden phlox, a sedum, a patch of chives about three feet in diameter, a small peony and hundreds of bulbs.  I must confess I divided the first phlox and planted six good size plants in the front garden but the other two I dug up went out to the compost heap except for a small piece that I gave to a neighbor.  Other things were moved to other gardens but the rest of it is in buckets waiting to go back into the ground.

I have a very large bucket full of bulbs, it weighs over 50 pounds and the digging is a little over half done.  Those daffodils started out as a forced pot of six in 1978 – a gift sent to my sister during a hospitalization.  My mother planted them in the spring and for the last 36 years they have been expanding exponentially.

The interesting thing about this garden is how it has gotten higher up on the wall as the years have gone by.  The lawn has gotten higher and the garden seems to have gone along for the ride.  In digging this side out I have been able to expose more of the wall of the patio.  I think this is due to mulching the grass where it’s cut over so many years.  It creeps up on you and always comes as a surprise to me when I start digging.

The plan is to finish digging the rest of it in the next day or two and plant everything that’s staying by the end of the week.  Fortunately most of the heavy digging is almost done, I have about a third of the garden to go but I have to tell you, the way my body feels right now getting back out there tomorrow morning is making me wish for rain.

Garden Economics

130824 Garlic

This is my garlic harvest for this year.  A year ago about this time I was thinking I really needed to grow some of my own but when I went onto the High Mowing Seed website with the intention of ordering some and they were sold out.  Bummer I thought – then figured I’d order it for this year. Garlic is planted in the fall, like tulips and daffodils, it needs that fall and winter time to set out its roots.  It then blossoms in June or so and is ready to harvest in July (at least here it is).  The seed companies send out their garlic for planting the first week in October.

I moved on completely forgetting about the garlic. A couple of weeks later I received a package in the mail – a pound of garlic for planting from High Mowing.  I had forgotten that I had ordered it with my spring seeds back in February.  It felt like pennies from heaven because I’d paid for it back in February as well.

The garlic I had ordered is called Music.  It’s a hardneck variety which I know seems to do pretty well around here. I dug a nice bed for them in a sunny, well-drained sight and placed each clove about 3 to 4 inches deep, covered it and walked away.  When spring arrived it was the first plant out of the ground.  In June the blossoms, called scapes, emerge.  I pick all of them off – doing this puts the plants energy in forming bulbs.  The scapes are delicious – I chop them and cook them in eggs for breakfast but they are great in all kinds of things.  Two harvests from one plant.

Towards the middle of July the stalks of the garlic begin to turn brown from the ground up.  I’ve heard that timing is everything with garlic.  You don’t want to dig it up too soon- you want those bulbs as big as you can get them.  If you wait too long the bulb will no longer be tight, the cloves will have splayed out – ready to continue growing for another year.  I had to guess.  I waited until the plants were brown half of the way up the stalk and then I dug one out to see.  It was a thing of beauty.  I dug the rest.

Curing the garlic takes another 3 to 4 weeks. The skins dry to that thin paper we are all familiar with.  I just laid the whole plant on paper in the house and waited (of course a couple of bulbs were sampled along the way).  This weekend I cleaned and trimmed the crop. What you see in the photo is what I grew.  This was a pound of garlic cloves.  The cloves are very large on this garlic so it doesn’t take many to get to a pound.  For every clove you plant you get a bulb.

This garlic is so good I vowed to plant 3 times as much next year – the problem?  It would probably cost over $60 for the seed.

Bill and I gazed at these beautiful bulbs and decided that I would use most of what I grew this year as seed for next year.  It made me a little sad to think about not eating most of what was in the basket but I could quadruple the number of bulbs next year just by planting what was in front of me.  It was sort of a no brainer, but all I want to do right now is eat garlic mashed potatoes from the garden.