MySecretGarden

U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Paperwhites and a Crystal Ball


All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them
My Paperwhites bloomed just in time for Christmas this year. I first showed them here: Holiday Decorating.
Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta), members of the daffodil family, don't require a chilling period for blooming. That is why they are easy to grow for the Holidays.
I planted them in three groups. The first bunch of bulbs went into a big ceramic vase.
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There is a shallow plate inside it with rocks and water. On the top, I put moss from my garden. I agree with many of you who noticed in the comments to the post shown above that the moss was a nice finishing touch. To keep it green, I sprayed it with water daily.
The second group of bulbs went into a big glass jar.
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They also grew on rocks in the water. The water just touched the bottom of the bulbs.
As recommended by our garden guru Ciscoe Morris, I added vodka into the water to prevent paperwhites' leaves from growing too tall and falling apart. Despite that, the leaves were pretty tall and took almost a horizontal position. I should admit that I didn't follow the directions 100% - to add a tablespoon of vodka when the leaves are 5 inches (12 sm) tall. I chickened out and added less. My fault.
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As Ciscoe Morris explains, "the alcohol burns the roots just enough to slow stem growth. Don't worry: The stiff drink won't make your paper whites tipsy. The stems will remain upright and the flowers will be just as large and long-lasting as ever". Next time, I'll do exactly what he says! Also, I'll try to remember to use tall glass containers for growing paperwhites to keep the leaves straight.
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Please notice some swirls in the above picture. I don't remember seeing such swirled leaves in previous years. Drunk paperwhites?
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Nevertheless, the plants pleased us with their small but very delicate and aromatic flowers. Very fragrant!
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The third group of bulbs went into three small blue and white ceramic pots with a special planting mix. One bulb per pot.
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The mix came from a store with the bulbs. These paperwhites could be seen in a vertical position as in the picture above, or almost horizontally, as in the next picture.
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I noticed that the leaves of my paperwhites tend to do the Limbo (lie down) after I added water. They stayed straight when the planting mix was drier.
I plan to plant the bulbs outside in the spring (paperwhite bulbs can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 8 - 10), although it is risky. These perennials are very tender, and even a slight freeze can be fatal for them.
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Do you see a crystal ball in the next picture?

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When I saw it, it brought back special memories.
I ordered this chandelier long before our house was finished. We rented an appartment while the house was under construction. The big chandelier box was delivered to the house and put into the garage by the construction workers. I opened the box and checked its contents. All the chandelier parts were present. Since our garage didn't yet have doors, we loaded the box into our car. We left it there because the appartment was packed full with other boxes. (Well, this could be the answer to a question that was asked by many of our visitors from abroad. Why do Americans like big cars? To carry boxes with chandeliers!)
Once, while we were driving, our twin boys were engaged in throwing different stuff at each other. Socks, toys and other objects were flying back and forth in the back seat. One of the boys turned around, grabbed a piece of crumpled paper from a box and hit his brother with it. We heard a scream! A fight started. My husband was driving, and I was dealing with the boys. Despite all my efforts, the screaming didn't stop. I understood the upset boy's frustration, but it was just a paperball that couldn't hurt badly, could it? Actually, it looked like it did hurt! Tired of all the commotion, my husband stopped the car, opened the back door, grabbed the paper ball and threw it into a trash can near some store.
One or two months passed. Our house was finished, we moved in and assembled the chandelier. One part of it, the crystal ball, was missing. I was absolutely sure that everything was in place when I checked the box upon its arrival, but what to do - we ordered another part instead of the lost one. I don't remember how much time passed before it suddenly hit me! ... Have you already guessed what happened with the ball? What was in that piece of crumpled paper? Correct! It was the crystal ball! That is why it hurt when the paper hit the boy's head! This episode is in our family's history, and we laugh when we recall it.
I hope that someone found that beautiful crystal ball. I hope that someone keeps it as a symbol of good luck. There is a moral in this story for all of us: there might be gold in a pile of sand. There might be a treasure in the trash! Wonders happen, especially if it's close to the Holidays!
I wish you all a wonder-full New Year rich with enjoyable events, pleasant discoveries and exciting treasures!
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Everything Is Ready

My dear gardening and blogging friends,
May all the Joys of the Christmas Season be yours throughout the New Year.

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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Year Round Beauty: Euphorbia


Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them
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If you ask me what plant pleases me year around and never, even in winter, fails me, I 'd name Euphorbia (other name - Spurge). Taking in consideration that there are thousands species in the family Euphorbiaceae, I need to be more specific. There are three varieties that I have in my garden: Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson', Euphorbia x martinii (variety's name is unknown to me) and Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Ruby Glow'.
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Among them, my favorite is the Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'. Its tag tells that it originated from wild-collected Yugoslavian seeds. My main plant, a mother ship of all other euphorbias, is about 6 years old, grows in a location with morning sun and survives winters colder than zero degrees F.
This specimen is one of the central plants in my front flowerbed (under the right side of the window).

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It's huge in size and grows taller than in this picture. They recommend to cut old stems to base after flowering. This is what I do. Since there are always lots of stems without blooms, the plant looks full even after the cutting (as in the pictures above and below).
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Euphorbia might be grown mainly for its foliage, but it looks even more interesting when in bloom. Its large flowers (to be correct - cyathia) have a wonderful chartreuse color:
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They appear in the spring, long before other plants start blooming, and last for several months.
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Euphorbia's blooms are joined by Spanish lavender
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Euphorbia in bloom with the tree peony' buds seen on the left and tulips in the container
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Euphorbia is a very essential part of my front flowerbed
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Euphorbia's blooms glowing in the morning sun with tree peony flowers
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With or without other blooms, Euphorbia adds height, color and texture to my garden:
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Euphorbia is blooming behind lavender, asiatic lilies and daylilies
After several years of growing in front of the house, my Euphorbia started to spread its seeds here and there. It led to new plants popping up all around. I keep those which are in the 'right' place and replant those which are growing too close to other plants.
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Two new euphorbia plants in the so called Accidental bed, on both sides of the urn*
The plants are drought resistant and grow even in spaces without a sprinkler system.
In the fall, my Euphorbia looks as good as in the spring and summer. In the picture below, you can see it behind the yellow Japanese maple.
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Winter comes, and it still stands strong. When the temperatures fall below freezing, its leaves look almost dead, but after the temperature warms up, they are back to normal.
This is how it looks now, in December:
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This picture of Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'
was taken on the 17th of December, 2010.
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New plants are so abundant that I started to add them to my containers.
Some characteristics:
Exposure: Full sun
Average size: 32 inches (80 cm) tall, 24 inches (60 cm) wide
Water Use: Low once established
Cold Hardiness: 0 to - 10 F (-18 to -23 C)
Blooms: February - June
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Unlike 'John Tomlinson', the second plant came from a hardware store with the less specific name Euphorbia x martinii (E. amygdaloides x E. characias; 'martinii' comes from Martin, the name of the plant's creator).
Shorter and more compact, it has leaves which change in color from green to pinkish, to dark red and finally to brown.
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Euphorbia X martinii rather pinkish blooms are in the middle of the picture
together with blooming daisies, astilbe and alliums.
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Here, the blooms do look brown.
Foxglove and lavender blooms are seen too
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This plant blooms when 'John Tomlinson' is already done blooming.
In the next picture, it is joined by acanthus,aliums,
fuchsia and long-blooming lavender:

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This particular plant hasn't surprised me with any baby plants.
Some characteristics
Exposure: Sun
Average size: 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) tall, 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) wide
Water Use: Low once established
Cold hardiness: 0 to -10 F (-18 to -23 C)
Blooms: Spring
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The third type Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Ruby Glow' (Wood spurge) was acquired last summer with the hope of bringing color to the dry area where not many other plants survived. Plants are compact with new growth being bright red, darkening to almost black. Stems are red. I was attracted to this plant after reading that it does good in dry, sandy, well-drained soil. It should be comfortable in the very front of our yard where the driveway starts. I like to see them near my Blue fescue (Festuca cineria 'Elijah's Blue').

This is how that spot looked before the Euphorbias were planted:
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Some characteristics:
Exposure: Full sun (tolerates part shades but full sun gives best foliage color)
Everage size: 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) tall, 18 inches (45 cm) wide
Water Use: Low once established
Cold hardiness: Hardy to -10 F (-23 C)
Blooms: March - May
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Following are some Euphorbia pictures in other gardens.
This is how Euphorbia looks in the slope garden which was featured in one of the most readable posts in my blog Slope Garden Extraordinaire :
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Blooming Euphorbia in one of the tour's gardens is seen in the middle of the picture below:
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In the next picture blooming Euphorbia is on the left:
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Click on the pictures to enlarge them
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A good article about E. can be found on the Portland Nursery site . Interestingly, prolifically self-seed types of E. are prohibited for sale in Oregon nurseries. Euphorbia oblongata (oblong spurge, eggleaf spurge) is included in the list of the most dangerous invaders to keep out by the Oregon Invasive Species Council. (Curious how it looks? You can see its picture here)
The Portland Nursery site, along with others, stresses an importance of wearing protective gloves when working with Euphorbia because they exude a white sap that is a skin irritant and can be poisonous if ingested.
I never have had any problems working with my plants, but I agree that caution won't hurt.
By the way, the common name 'Spurge' derives from the Middle English/Old French espurge ('to purge'), due to the use of the plant's sap as a purgative.

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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Decorating



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Paperwhites grow in planting medium in the blue & white containers. In the glass jar, they grow with rocks and water. The ceramic container also has them with rocks and water together with moss from my garden.
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Interestingly, about 90% of the accessories shown in the pictures above were obtained during 'treasure hunts' (garage and rummage sales). I like to give things a second life.
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New for this year: jewel bugs !


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The Frog-Prince:


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The following decorations were shown previously in last year's post Everything Is Ready.
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Have a Happy Holiday Season my dear friends!
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Sunday, December 5, 2010

An Ugly Duckling Amaryllis Story


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It was dark. It was dark and scary in the little box. And quiet. Very quiet. The box was stacked, with many others, on a shelf in the far corner of the grocery store's garden department.
I suspect that the manager of that store never studied marketing. It's the holiday season when people look for stuff to decorate houses, buy gifts and cheer themselves up. I am the one who suits all of these needs. I am an Amaryllis Bulb! I am the one who brings the holiday atmosphere, who makes a great gift and who cheers everyone up! Everyone likes to watch my green leaves grow and my buds open into a miraculous flower. Who doesn't know that? Obviously, the store manager doesn't know. He or she chose this remote location for the amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs. Who will find us here?????
One day, I heard light steps. Someone was circling around the garden department, walking down the aisles and muttering something. The steps got louder and louder and finally stopped near my shelf. "At Last!" someone said. My heart started jumping. Choose me, choose me, please! And She did! She put my box in a shopping cart and went to the cashier. "What is it? Do you plant them outside"- asked the cashier? "Oh, these are amaryllis bulbs. And some paperwhites. They are great... You might want to try them... You will love them... The instructions are here, on the box. By the way, it would be nice to display them somewhere where customers could see them. It is their time!"
The box was opened at home but instead of excitement and cheer I heard something that made me feel bad. What's the matter with me? Why doesn't She like me? I am big and full of energy. Just give me some planting medium, and I'll show you a wonder! She turned me this and that way, and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window. Oh, no! No, no, no! I have some growth already! Long days in a dark box resulted in a weak, pale, sickly, bended growth! After some thinking, She grabbed scissors and click - cut my growth off. Down to the trash can it went... This, I thought, was the end to my dreams, ambitiions and expectations. "I needed to open the boxes! I bought a cat in a sack!", She said.
But wait, what is this? What is She doing? She reached into the trash can, moved away a yogurt cup, took the cutting into her hands, turned again left and right and finally, put it into a small bowl with water. It was left in the laundry room and forgotten. Forgotten til one day when everyone in the house heard: "Wow! Come here! Look! Our ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan! This is what happened with a 6-inch cutting!"
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It was the born-in-the-box bud's moment! It opened into a beautiful flower, and everyone loved it.
It was so happy and so grateful to Her that it decided to thank Her in a special way. Look at these pictures. This is its second bud that appeared seemingly from nowhere.
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By the time the first bloom started fading, the second bud was noticed.
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The second bloom was even more beautiful than the first. Maybe, because it wasn't under the stress of being in the dark box and the trash can.
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How happy She was! She gave the amaryllis a second chance and got rewarded. Everyone deserves a second chance, especially at Christmas time.
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Happy Holidays everyone!
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

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