Monday, March 30, 2009

2009 Spring Fling in Chicago

I love Chicago. I love gardening. I love blogging. So how do you think I feel about going to Chicago May 29-31 for Spring Fling to spend the weekend with garden bloggers from all over the country? I'm EXCITED!

There's a full schedule planned, visiting gardens, talking gardening and blogging with people that I've never met in person, yet I feel like I know them from reading their blogs. Though my mom isn't a blogger, she reads many of them and when we talk about gardens and blogs and I mention this blogger or that one, she knows who I'm talking about. She'll be riding shotgun with me on the trip.

Last year, the first Spring Fling was held in Austin, Texas, and I dearly wanted to attend that one, but it just couldn't be worked into the budget. I was thrilled when I found out it was going to be in Chicago this year. I'm familiar with Chicago, since I've been there many times, and it's just a few hours away by car.

The Chicago Bloggers have a great site with all the details about Spring Fling 2009, including information about the schedule, lodging, and a list of the bloggers that will be attending. All the details will be updated as needed, so if you're thinking of going, be sure to get registered and stay on top of things by visiting and bookmarking their site.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Clivia Club

I'd never heard of Clivia until one summer, when Mom and I were in our state capitol, shopping at the great Easton Town Center. We were in Smith & Hawken, when she spied a yellow Clivia on sale. I don't remember what she paid for it, but I do remember she was pretty excited to find it, and although it was on sale, I still thought it was plenty to pay for a houseplant.

She had it for a few years and it never bloomed for her, so a couple of winters ago, she asked me if I would take it for the winter. I put it in Jenna's old room, which is kept at a very low temperature all winter, and I watered it now and then. In the spring, I gave it back to her. She then gave it to another gardener, for whom it promptly bloomed. Go figure.

I never gave Clivias another thought until they started popping up here and there in the blogosphere. I'd seen them for sale in catalogs and they still weren't cheap. Park's Seed had seeds, but even those were relatively expensive, and it didn't seem like a plant that would be too easy to grow from seed and that might take forever to reach bloom size.

Then I walked into Meijer a couple of weeks ago and there they were - lots of them - in all their orangey goodness. Like rays of sunshine, they were. When I saw they were $19.99, I quickly dismissed all thoughts of an economic crisis and picked out the best one to come home with me. I was now a Clivia owner!

Jodi, of bloomingwriter fame, left a comment here, stating she was now a member of "The Clivia Club," having bought one of her own. I thought, what a great idea! There are those bloggers out there that are long-time Clivia growers and then there are the newbies like me. Wouldn't it be great if we could all help each other out to ensure success with this very special plant?

So, today is the first day of the rest of The Clivia Club's life. I'll be the President since I'm forming the club, and I'm appointing Jodi as Vice President, since she inspired the idea. I'm not sure we need any other officers, but we do need club members! I'll get my graphic designer daughter to make an official logo for us, that members can post on their blog. I've created a group on Facebook, for those of you who play there.

If you want to be a member of this club, the only requirements are that you own a Clivia. If you want to own a Clivia and want to play along, you can become an honorary member, because you just never know when a Clivia will jump right into your car and follow you home. Just leave a comment here and visit the Facebook page here.

Welcome to The Clivia Club!

Add your name to the Club Roster below:

Focus on Crocus

First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus --

- Lilja Rogers

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Inside Blooms

While spring is rolling along on its merry little way outside, we've got some blooming loveliness inside, too! Inside and out, life is good.

As I've mentioned before, I got a late start on potting up most of the Amaryllis, so that means later blooms, too. We are on Round Two with them, as the second wave of blooms has been opening for the last several weeks, with even more to come.

I was pretty excited when my species Amaryllis bloomed for the first time since I bought them three years ago. The bulbs were quite small when I got them, and apparently they are large enough for blooms this year.

Hippeastrum striatum


'Red Peacock'

'Misty' is blooming AGAIN! That's never happened before.

'Royal Velvet'

The one I posted earlier, saying it was 'Royal Velvet,' wasn't (tags get mixed up). When you see them side-by-side, you can tell the difference. I think the first one was actually a very dark 'Red Lion.'


The Clivia is still a marvel, with its two flower stalks blooming and what's that? A THIRD! I love this plant!

The Hoya is awash in multiple blooms after several months of none.

The Streptocarpella continues to bloom anew.

And the first of several orchids that began spiking several weeks ago has opened. All of them are reblooms!


In the basement greenhouse, the Heliotrope and a Brugmansia are budding. The Brug intrigues me, because they have been basically dormant all winter. How do they know the seasons are changing when they're down there?

The meteorologist on our local news just spoke the 's' word. I'm certain he didn't mean it. But just in case he did, it's nice to know I can stay inside and stare at the eye candy in here until the weather comes to its senses again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Wear Garden Gloves (and a giveaway!)

Last spring, I was a gardener who almost never wore gloves. This year, I reached for them before I ever set foot in the garden. Yeah, I'm a believer! Here's why you should wear them, too:

10. The spring weather can turn cold in an instant.

9. Wearing gloves makes you look like you know what you're doing, even if you don't.

8. Cats think the world is their litter box.

7. There are far better ways to spend your time than cleaning dirt from under your fingernails.

6. Toads hibernate in the strangest places.

5. Miscanthus cuts are no fun at all.

4. Blisters.

3. Mud treatments are highly overrated.

There's a fungus amongus in that there dirt!

And the Number One reason to wear garden gloves:

Ethel Gloves makes such cool ones!

You already know I really like Ethel gloves - I extolled their virtues last year in another blog post. I still feel the same about them and have been using them this spring while doing clean-up.

What I like best about them is the fit. They fit so well that I had no problems picking up all those darn acorns that rolled into each corner of the garden and embedded themselves in the dirt over the winter. If I never see another acorn as long as I live, I think I can die happy.

Those nice folks over at Ethel Gloves told me I could give away a pair of their ultra-cool gloves to one of my readers. Someone is going to get lucky! What you need to do is leave a comment here, stating which style of Ethel Gloves you'd like to win. You can't just say, "Nice post." At midnight on Friday evening, April 3rd, I'll randomly pick one of the qualifying comments and the author will receive a free pair of Ethel gloves of their choice.

If you're in a hurry to get your gloves and you're one of those who never wins anything anyway, then have I got a deal for you! Just use the code LITTLEACRE when you order from their website and you'll get 10% off your purchase (good through Friday, April 24, 2009). Might as well order enough to share with all your friends and neighbors, because the shipping is free, too. See, I told you they were nice!

So before you leave a comment, head on over to Ethel Gloves and have a look at their designs and while you're there, be sure and read more about what makes them so special. The web site is as beautiful as their gloves, and just as easy to use. So get going already!

The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Whose Cat Is THAT?

We are a Certified Monarch Waystation. This means that we grow plants that are good host plants for the Monarch caterpillar and good food sources for the Monarch butterfly. Even before I started gardening with a purpose, Our Little Acre was a haven for the Monarchs. We'd see them all the time in our meager flower beds and once saw a flock of them spend the night during migration. But now we're official.

We're also a Certified Wildlife Habitat. We provide food, water, places for cover, places to raise young, and practice sustainable gardening. This is the National Wildlife Foundation's way of promoting preservation of what has already been here for thousands of years. We can cohabitate with the birds and the bunnies and the frogs and all be happy together. Okay, so the bunnies can be a problem sometimes, but still.

It's no secret, too, that this is the place that furry fuzzballs, otherwise known as cats, seem to magically appear from time to time. We don't really do anything special to promote this, at least not with the intent of attracting them. But eventually, the word gets out in the cat world and one by one they meander into the garage and many times, into our hearts.

Just last week, we shared one of our "hang-arounds" with some friends. The most adorable brown tabby to ever roam these parts had been winding her tail around our legs for about two months and a search in the area failed to find an owner. If we hadn't already had nine of our own, she would definitely had been a keeper.

We've found cute little mice nesting in the garden ...

...and there was the snake that spent the winter in our compost bin...

So, with all this nature love floating around here, it should come as no big surprise that we got a wildlife visitor late last night. I'd already gone upstairs to bed when sometime around midnight, Romie came running up the stairs. Romie almost never runs up the stairs, so I knew something was up. He poked his head in the door and asked, "Want to take a picture of a skunk?"

Now I think skunks are cute. They're fluffy and they have an adorable waddle as they move from point A to point B. But they are best admired from a distance. If they feel like it, they can spray their musk quite accurately up to 15 feet away.

My first concern was for any of our cats that might still be outside. Romie informed me that Jack, Boo, and Sunny were still out. Oh dear. I'd just given Luna and Simon water baths earlier in the evening, and I didn't want to try to find enough tomatoes for a skunk bath.

We watched Mr. Skunk from the kitchen window as he scrounged around for sunflower seeds. There are two bird feeders just outside the window and there was plenty of seed on the ground, since the birds tend to be messy with their eating habits.

In order to get a good picture of him in the dark, I needed to use a flash. In order to use the flash, I needed to have the window open so the flash wouldn't glare off the glass. Romie tried to open the window as quietly as he could, but still the window creaked from having been closed all winter. The skunk gave a little startle, but didn't look up. He must have been really hungry.

I snapped a few pictures and the flash didn't bother him either. And then the cats appeared. They merely sat and watched from a distance (although within that 15-foot danger zone) and the skunk paid them no mind. Minutes later, the skunk - his appetite satiated - waddled away and Romie let the cats in.

Whew. Drama averted.

All the stink on skunks:

  • Mephitis mephitis
  • Peak breeding activity is late February through March
  • Gestation period is 63 days
  • Litter size of 2-10 offspring
  • Adult weighs 2.5 - 11.5 pounds
  • Adult length is 22.5 - 31.5 inches
  • Typical foods include insects, small mammals, fish, crustaceans, fruits, grasses, leaves, buds, grains, nuts, and carrion.

The striped skunk is about the size of a house cat, with a large deep body, small head, and short legs. The hair is long and black, with a broad patch of white on its head and shoulders. Two white lines forming a “V” from the shoulder area may extend part way or all of the way to the base of the bushy tail. Color variations include brown, white, cream, black, and, occasionally, albino. Males and females are colored alike with males being slightly larger in size.

Each foot has five slightly webbed toes with the forefeet having long, curved claws designed for digging. The rear feet have shorter, straighter claws.

Habitat and Habits
Striped skunks are highly adaptable and occupy a wide variety of habitats in Ohio from rural areas to the suburbs. It is this adaptability which accounts for their numbers growing stronger as civilization and humans encroached.

Although not true hibernators, skunks store quantities of body fat in the fall. When the weather gets cold they will retreat to protective dens where they might remain for several weeks or a month at a time.

Skunks are primarily nocturnal animals and very seldom do they wander around during the daytime. They will occupy dens that they have dug or in dens that have been used previously by groundhogs or foxes. These dens may be located beneath buildings, in open fields, on hillsides, or under logs in the woods.

Reproduction and Care of the Young
Skunks mate in Ohio in late February and continue through March. Females are in heat for four to five days and will typically mate several times during this period. Males tend to be a bit promiscuous and will move from den to den mating with females.

Litters tend to be from 2 to 10 young which are born pink-skinned and blind. By the second week they are furred and by the third week their eyes have opened. By the sixth week they are weaned and will be out and about with their mother on nightly hunting forays. This family will stay together until the next spring when the young will go off on their own.

Information about skunks from Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blinded By the Light

Got your sunglasses on?


Go get them. I'll wait.

Ready now?

Crocus x luteus

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fleurs du Jour

Every day brings a new bloom it seems. Just yesterday I commented that I didn't have any irises close to blooming. I know that Iris reticulata are the first to show, but I only noticed very recently that they were even a little bit out of the ground.

Leave it to my plant children to make a liar out of me:

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

And just a few yards away, the
Chionodoxa began opening to show their "glow in the dark" blooms:

Chionodoxa luciliae

That was today. Late yesterday I noticed the species crocus
were blooming. These are probably my favorite of the crocuses:

Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis 'Tricolor'

The first blooms of the Double Snowdrops were so exciting when I saw them! They seem so passé now. But this just means that spring is on a runaway train and I'm along for the ride. Whee!

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