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Turning Inward--Home and Garden Solace

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Out in the greenhouse, I went to pull something I thought was a withered bud off Hibiscus "The Path."

It was not a plant part. It was a huge female Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax). And she had something in her jaws.  A brown marmorated stinkbug! I cannot imagine eating one of these, but maybe if you avoid the stink glands, you're good...This one was on a bud, sucking the life out of it, before its career was summarily ended by Ms. Phidippus.

I love jumping spiders. I hope this one makes a million babies. I'll put them all in my bedroom with the orchid collection. I let jumping spiders sit in my hand and zoop around on my arms and I have never, ever had one try to bite. No, they look up at me as if they understand that I am their friend.

I've had a bad bug year in the house. Zillions of Asian multicolored ladybugs. And way too many  brown marmorated stinkbugs. I hate them both with a passion. Here's what stinkbugs do to my orchid flower spikes INSIDE MY HOUSE. They pierce them and suck all the juices. This would have been an Encyclia cordigera flower spike with 5 incredibly fragrant lilac flowers on it, but for ONE stinkbug that I found on it. Ladybugs will pierce and chew orchid spikes too! I haaaate them so.

In past years, I bought yards of pale green tulle netting and made growing bags for the plants. It was a real pain because the stinkbugs and ladybugs still managed to find their way in. 

This year I hit on a more efficient protective device. It's Saran wrap, taped around the stem of the flower spike, with plenty of room for the buds to grow inside their makeshift protective bag.

It's ugly as hell, but it works. I have to look at bagged flower spikes for months. But oh, when they bloom! It'll all be worth it. 

In years past, before ladybugs and stinkbugs. This, my friends, is what's at stake. Encyclia cordigera:

Not only are they cool looking, they smell like muguet in heaven.

For some reason, stinkbugs leave Phalaenopsis bud spikes alone. They like to kill off rare orchids instead. Here's a fabulously graceful, full spike of 13 on its way. I've had this one for about five years. I remembered to use  orchid fertilizer late this winter. Duh. They do better if you feed them!

Next day, more are open. It's that ever-changing thing I love about growing plants. Checking in on them, seeing what's changed. Seeing the results of a well-timed feeding.

I like this strangely colored mini. It's more blue than magenta.

And this little clownface opened yesterday, and made me laugh. The whole plant isn't 5" across.

Speaking of mini, I'm in love with this supertiny aroid, Syngonium podophyllum "Mini Pixie."

The plant to the far left is the mother plant. I've had it since I took a cutting off my niece's plant, Thanksgiving 2017. And it still isn't 4" tall. I've split all these babies off it, and each one makes a gorgeous little specimen, variegated broadly with white. They're like microminiature caladiums. I have heard that people use this plant in fairy gardens. This is not a fairy garden, LOUISE. It is a planter with some very small plants and an oversized toad in it. Because Homey don't do fairy gardens. Well, I will put a toad in a planter, but that's as far as it goes. 

Another thing I'm growing in the house is sprouts. Many kinds. My very favorite, though, are sunflower. These are ready to harvest. You start them by sprinkling black oil sunflower seed atop moist potting mix, vermiculite or orchid mix, and you cut them off at soil level with a scissors when the shells finally pop off. It only takes about 10 days to get them to harvest. If you let them grow too long they'll get true leaves, and those are hairy, and not so good to eat. But the nutty flavor when you harvest them right after the shells pop off is amazing. So, so good. Anyone can do this. You don't have to live in the country! Just put them near a sunny windowsill and they'll turn into food.

The lettuce plants in the tower room ranch all bolted when Phoebe came home, but we got maybe six big salads out of them before I yanked them out of their planters. New understudies in the greenhouse here. I've got the planters all refreshed and ready. I'll grow them on the front porch from here on out, until October/November, when I'll have a new cohort ready for the winter tower room fun.

Outdoors in my shade bed, I'm watching these Virginia bluebells. When they are in full bloom, I figure the woodland plants will be, too. Then it'll be time to hit the trail! This year, I'll have both kids and Shila (at a distance) with me. Bliss. Heaven. 

Our daffodils have been absolutely spectacular this year. 
Phoebe's been making elegant bouquets. She says we have 13 varieties. I have never bought fancy bulbs. I have, however, dug a few here and few there at the margins of old cemeteries and abandoned homesteads, preferring to shop the heirloom section of the Earth's variety store.

Many firsts this year. We've tackled a bunch of spring chores much, much earlier than usual, simply because the weather seems finally to be breaking a bit, and we're here, and I have help and the time to do it.
The vegetable garden is cleaned up (with a team of three!), fully tilled, and I planted the peas this morning!! In order to get this done, I had to get the bonsais out of there.  I heel the bonsais into the vegetable garden in early winter. I take them out of their pots, dig a pit and sink them about a foot below ground level, and they do just fine. These are the small ones.

The big maples are getting really big.  I-can-hardly-lift-them now big. The one on the left is 43" tall. The right-hand tree, also my oldest at about 37 years, is about 38" tall. Scale is deceptive here. 

I'm so excited to see them leaf out slowly. It's the most beautiful thing to watch. Sometimes I'm so busy in spring I can't even get them potted before the leaves unfurl. This spring is different. I'm busy, but with different things. The things that fill my heart. Getting these trees out where I can talk with them and watch them change every hour is the thing.

Right now, this is my best looking tree. But things change.

This smaller one has real potential. I love that sideways sweep it has.

I've only got four potted maples to tend now. You may remember I sent the fifth out the meadow to become what it was born to be. It was so dang big, and it was trying to get out of its pot, getting taller and taller. I gave it a bigger pot and it started sending out crazy straight sprouts, headed for the stars.

The obvious thing was to liberate it, and put it out by Bill, where it gets daily visits and watering when it needs some.

I was most gratified to have a shaft of sunlight fall on this tree just as I was composing its picture.
 It is so very beautiful now. I can't wait to see it become a full-sized tree, like the two liberated bonsais in our yard. I mean, I can wait.  I want to wait. It'll just be fun to watch it all unfold.

This western red cedar that I got in maybe 1987(?) when it was about 8" tall has grown into the most beautiful specimen, complete with sweet little blue cones in season. It was given to me by a gentleman I knew in Connecticut who I'm sure is long gone. He asked that I remember him as long as I have the tree. His name was Dodie and he was wonderful. Loved bluebirds and used to put orange halves on dowels around his yard for the orioles. It was in his yard that Vanna, my Savannah sparrow, was found, rendered flightless by a cat. I kept Vanna for 17 1/2 years, effectively defining the possible life expectancy of that species. That's how Dodie and I became friends. Vanna is long gone, too, but the tree and my memories live on.

Thirty-three years on, here's that cedar you gave me, Dodie. It's 21" tall now. 

Still taking care of it, and the bluebirds too. They are initiating clutches earlier than any year in the 27 I've been keeping records. Birds are always telling us things. Those of us who listen to them have to tell the rest of the humans. 


"SNORT" 'snort' Snnnnnnorrrrt! you get the idea.

I live to make my Weezie snort!! Ha hahaha!!!

I got brushed by c wren. Thought I saw babies & when I got too close whoosh out she came....felt feathery!!

Who could have guessed this would be such a blessed spring for you?!? (Psst: you deserve it.)

You certainly have the greenest of thumbs. The orchids are stunning. I had no idea that stink bugs and those darn lady bugs could do that sort of damage.

Thanks for sharing some beauty (in photos, words and your reminiscing) in these uncertain times.

Off to Google "muguet".

And the forsycthia had been gorgeous along side the daffs. I cannot believe that cedar tree 33 years man you're good.��

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