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Two of My Favorite Things

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This is what our backyard looks like. It has looked like this for much of the winter. I love this picture; it's like some magical winterscape, certainly not like our southern Ohio backyard usually looks.

Yesterday, Bill asked me which present I thought was the best ever. I had to think long and hard about that one; he's given me some very cool things. I had to say that the greenhouse has given me more concentrated and long-lasting joy than anything else he's given me (outside Phoebe and Liam, of course). We were limiting it to storebought things, after all. And Th' Bacon don't count. I bought that puppeh myself.

But the little wide-angle 18-55mm image-stabilized Canon lens he got me for Christmas, along with my new Canon Digital Rebel XSi camera body, is a close second. It takes pictures like the landscape above. If my photography of late seems to have improved, well, that lens is why. The body helps, too, but the lens is the key. I love this lens. It reminds me of the cool landscapes I could get with my little point-and-shoot Olympus 750 back in the early years of this blog ('05-'07).

Look at that picture again. Do you see the junco in flight? Did you see it right off the bat? Well, here's a cropped-in view.Yes, I love this camera and this lens.

And I love my greenhouse, my little Garden Pod. Bill bought it at a garden show where he was hawking Bird Watcher's Digest's wares. It's a prototype, and as far as I know it never went into production. Too bad. It's the most wonderful thing.
On a subfreezing February day, it is my tropical island, steamy and sweet with the scent of heliotrope and jasmine
bouncing with the color of hibiscus (this is Mary Alice, my peach-colored hibiscus standard)
and bright with the promise of buds (here's Grey Sprite, a miniature geranium with coral flowers).
Geranium "Bolton" was developed in and named for a town near where my sister lives in Massachusetts. Her friend Ann gave her a cutting of "Bolton" some years ago. When Chet Baker was a puppeh he accidentally broke a piece off the plant, and I promised to root it and grow it, and when I got home, I did.
Ann is gone now and sorely missed, but "Bolton" lives on. Barbie, if you ever want "Bolton" back, I've got it. It's a great geranium, big and robust and beautiful.
The "Renegade" series of geraniums are lovely, chocolate leaved. They come in this delicate pink as well as fuchsia and red. I keep over the ones that do well for me.

I've had this Mammillaria cactus for over twenty years. Last year, it finally budded some offshoots around the base. Who knows why it suddenly decided to do that? If I can, I'll propagate it from them. It's a wonderful plant.
Once I got a greenhouse, it began blooming nearly year-round. I put it outside in a dry spot over the summer, and bring it in the greenhouse in winter, where it lives atop the gas heater. Hot and dry, just like a cactus likes it. And it repays me in tiny magenta blossoms.
I thought you'd like a trip into the steamy little Garden Pod on an icy February day. I sure did.


I can almost smell the geranium leaves. Ahhhhhh....

Oh, Julie! Beautiful pictures! Love the new lens, hum, I may have to invest in one myself! New camera body too? You lucky girl! :-)

It was minus 4 when I left home this morning and I think it topped out at 1 above.
Spending time in your Garden Pod was bliss. My hands are still chapped though.

The care you pour into everything in your life.
Even a tiny cactus, that is lovingly brought in from the cooling days to sit atop a gas heater in the dead cold of an Ohio winter.

Warm, fuzzies for a cold day.

Your plants have first names? Or those are popular names for the particular type?
A greenhouse is something I think I'd enjoy--hmmmm--I do have a birthday coming up.
As for cacti--I am death to them. I do well with most plants, but cacti, nope. When our son was little he had several cacti in his room. He was prone to croup, so during one spate, I had a humidifier running non-stop. I didn't think about the cactus. Well, I went in his room on morning, and the cactus had melted into a pile of mush.

Oh, wow. I am overcome with hot house envy...if only my tomato seedlings could see this.

How wonderful it must be to go to the warm greenhouse and see blooming plants in the dead of winter. Lovely photographs.

I can't get over the lovliness of the flowers!! It must be such a spriritual lift to go out there and be with plants as vibrant as those this time of the year.

I have that same lens and need to use it more!

Love the cactus... wish I had enough sunlight in the winter here for them.

You would understand why I'm having greenhouse envy if you could see my once-beautiful hibiscus tree that is not thriving in my east-facing sunroom. It might make it...

New camera body and lens? A real gift.

Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments and compliments. I adore going in the greenhouse, especially on a really cold but sunny day. It'll sometimes hit 100 degrees in there if I forget to crack the door--even when it's 18 degrees outside! To be able to bask--really bask--in hot sun in the middle of winter is THE BOMB. I was always subject to seasonal affective disorder before I got the greenhouse. I haven't experienced it once since I got it, and I'm convinced it's those doses of warmth and sun that have freed me from the autumnal blues.

Donna, my hibiscus is named Mary Alice because my friend Mary Alice brought her to me--she said she saw it in a nursery and it spoke to her--called my name! The rest of the plant names I used in this post are bona fide varietal names.Although I do have a jade tree named Marty, after a now-deceased friend who gave me a cutting. The trunk's as big around as my leg now.

Nina, it's hard to tell from the picture but that cactus is about a foot tall! I want to be able to propagate it to give babies away--it's such a willing and wonderful plant.

And Mare, there's something wrong with Mary Alice this year--she's blooming like mad but keeps dropping yellowed leaves. Might be the wide temperature swings or a too-potent pyrethrin spray, I don't know, but it's stress of some kind. I'm trying to root cuttings from her but they stubbornly refuse to throw out roots. Gotta do something! My plants are all bound up in my history, my friendships, and I remember people when I enjoy them.

I love that your cactus is actually blooming! And your hibiscus is lovely. I had one through university that bloomed regularly for me but had to leave it with family while I was away for a field job one summer, and it sadly didn't survive to my return.

Your plant posts are always among my favourite. Perhaps they cater to my own plant mania. My house would be full of pots if it was up to me.

I would love to have a little greenhouse like that to grow and flower plants year-round. It would be so nice to relax in and breathe in the lush planty smell, especially in the middle of winter like this.

And then there's the pure earthy pleasure of repotting, the smell of the wet potting soil. Ahhhhh. Almost time to start tomato seedlings. And I'm already out of room.

I think the world would be a better place if everyone could have a little greenhouse like this one, to be able to pick fresh basil and rosemary in mid-winter, to smell flowers blooming and geranium leaves when you rub them.

I'd be sitting in there sketching and painting all those lovely plants. You would never get depressed. :)

I can imagine it is an oasis in the cold for sure. :c)

Love your little greenhouse Julie. Raising beautiful flowers and plants like that are good therapy for getting through our northern winters
(or knitting therapy -- depending on the person)

Mmm, smelling the jasmine, despite the 3-degree temp outside.

A perfect antidote to seeing the thermometer at 17 degrees this morning - thank you! Your hibiscus is gorgeous. I've been keeping ours (only one - no green thumb here) inside and it's not happy. Can't wait for days warm enough for Hortense (my husband named her) to be outside again.

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