Monday, November 23, 2015

A Taste For the Exotic: A Holiday Giveaway with Longfield Gardens

From my earliest days as an honest-to-goodness gardener, I've been fascinated with unusual bulbs. Tulips and daffodils are nice, of course, but those quirky ones that you can't find just anywhere always grab my attention.

I've grown quite a few tropical bulbs over the years, in summer and winter, depending on availability, including Scilla peruviana. It's an unusual one, but not so much as its cousin, Scilla madeirensis, commonly known as Giant Madeiran Squill, which until now has not been available to the general public. If you wanted to see it, you either had to view it at a botanical garden or in its native environment.

Found on the Portuguese islands of Madeira, off the coast of northern Africa in the Atlantic, this beautiful and rare species of hyacinth is only hardy to Zones 9-10. It is easily grown in containers as a houseplant and is now being propagated commercially in Israel. Longfield Gardens sent one to me in a kit a couple of weeks ago so I could grow it for myself.

Everything I needed was contained in the kit: a birch bark container,
potting medium, a nice-sized bulb that was already showing signs
of growth, and some decorative Spanish moss to top it off.

I've grown bulbs from Longfield Gardens before
and they've always been some of the biggest
and healthiest bulbs I've ever seen.

All I needed to do was pot it up and water it, which didn't take me more than a couple of minutes. (Instructions for planting are found on the website.)

The bulb itself is somewhat pretty, foretelling the bloom color. It will first produce strappy foliage, sometimes freckled, and it should begin flowering in about 4-6 weeks - maybe in time for Christmas or New Year's!

Planting and care of Scilla madeirensis is similar to that of amaryllis.

Longfield Gardens' photos show its bloom to be a beautiful shade of lavender blue. Bulbs typically begin to bloom at a relatively young age (around four years), and hopefully I'll see some offsets form as it matures over the next few years.

The flower stalk has a bottlebrush silhouette that will
reach about 15" in height.
Photo of Scilla madeirensis courtesy of Longfield Gardens)


Would you like to grow one too? Longfield Gardens has graciously allowed me to give a gift kit away to one of my readers. All you need to do to enter to win is to leave a comment to this blog post, telling me the most exotic flower or bulb that you've ever grown. If you've never grown anything you consider to be exotic, then tell me what you've always wanted to try, but haven't just yet.

Be sure to provide a way for me to contact you, should you be the lucky winner. (You can include your email address by spelling out "at" and "dot" to avoid spambots.)

At midnight on Black Friday, November 27th, I'll randomly pick a winner and contact you so that I can get an address for shipping. Longfield Gardens will then send you a gift kit in time for holiday planting. Good luck!


UPDATE: Congratulations to Louise Hartwig, whose comment was picked by as the winner of the giveaway. Thank you to all who entered! If you still want to grow this great bulb, you can purchase it here.

Photo of Scilla madeirensis courtesy of Longfield Gardens
Further reading about Scilla madeirensis:

I received a complimentary kit to grow Scilla madeirensis for the purposes of introducing this unusual bulb to my readers. I agreed to do this at the request of Longfield Gardens because I've had good experiences in the past with bulbs I've received from them and I can recommend them because of those experiences. The free kit was the only compensation I received for writing this blog post.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Have You Seen What Ball® Has in Store This Year? (+ a giveaway)

Gardeners have been busy canning and preserving for the last few months and it's not over yet. Just this week, I pulled my beets for pickling, as I do each summer. It's one of our very favorite goodies from the garden. I've also got some Mexican gherkin cucumbers (they look like miniature watermelons!) that I'll be pickling for the first time this year.
Since 2010, Ball® has been celebrating the bounty of the garden with their annual Can-It-Forward day. Held in August, its intent is to help people with making the most of their garden produce. The Can-It-Forward pages have all kinds of wonderful tips and activities, including downloadable and printable labels for your jars.

Though we've never preserved the majority of what we grow (we eat it and share it with neighbors and family), when we do, Ball jars are what we do it in. We also use Ball® jars for our maple syrup we make in late winter.
This year, Ball® sent me some of their products to use and I was of course delighted to get the latest and final edition of the American Heritage Collection Series of jars, commemorating their 100th anniversary.  1913 saw the launch of the first true “Perfect Mason” jar followed in 1914 by the “PERFECTION,” then finally by “IMPROVED” in 1915. This year's jars are purple and follow the previous years' green and blue.

Photo by Jenna DeCraene
Also new this year are the Sip & Straw lids, which are pure genius. How many of us have used Ball® jars as drinking glasses? The Sip & Straw lids take it to another level and are just plain fun, for both kids and adults.

You just use regular rings (not included) and screw them over the lids, which do include sturdy reusable straws. They come in blue, red, or purple. You can use them on your regular Ball® jars or you can get jars with handles too.

Photo by Jenna DeCraene

I also received a copy of Ball's handy dandy Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It not only tells you how to do it, it also has over 500 recipes. This 37th edition, which is new this year, includes 75 new recipes.

Want some pretty purple jars of your very own?

If you've never used Ball® jars and for those of you who already do, here's a chance to win a set of six of this year's purple American Heritage Collection jars:

Just leave a comment on this blog post, telling me how you'll use the jars if you win (What will you can? Or will you use them for crafts?), as well as filling out the Rafflecopter form. You'll see bonus entry opportunities when you fill out the form, with a possible total of eight entries:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway entry period will run through midnight EDT, Sunday, October 4, 2015. A winner will be randomly chosen by Rafflecopter and notified via email. Good luck!

If you've never checked out all the valuable information on their website, you're in for a treat. Ball® knows canning!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Julie Thompson Adolph! Rafflecopter chose you as the winner! Thank you to all who entered, and happy canning!

I received products from Ball®/Jarden Brands for the purpose of review. No other compensation has been given to me and all opinions expressed here are my own. I am an Amazon Affiliate and this blog post may contain affiliate links to

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Make Love, Not War

Morning Glory
Ipomoea nil 'Tie Dye'

Why do plants do this (have variegated blooms)? Here's one explanation:

"The Japanese morning glory has an extensive history of genetic studies. Many mutants in the colors and shapes of its flowers and leaves have been isolated since the 17th century, and more than 200 genetic loci have been localized for the 10 linkage groups. They include over 20 mutable loci, several with variegated flower phenotypes. In a line of Japanese morning glory bearing variegated flowers called flecked, a transposable element of 6.4 kb, termed Tpn1, was found within one of the anthocyanin biosynthesis genes encoding dihydroflavonol-4-reductase (DFR). The 6.4-kb element carries 28-bp perfect terminal inverted repeats, the outer 13 bp being identical to those of the maize transposable element Suppressor-mutator/Enhancer. It is flanked by 3-bp direct repeats within the second intron of the DFR gene, 9 bp upstream of the third exon. When somatic and germinal excision occurs, it produces excision sequences characteristic of plant transposable elements. Cosegregation data of the variegated flower phenotype and the DFR gene carrying Tpn1 indicated that the mutable phenotype is due to excision of Tpn1 from the DFR gene. Sequences homologous to Tpn1 are present in multiple copies in the genome of Japanese morning glory." (


blogger templates | Make Money Online