Monday, December 27, 2010

Amaryllis is a 'Dancing Queen'

Much of my winter salvation comes in the form of tennis ball- to softball-sized bulbs, as ugly in this form as the flowers they bring forth are beautiful. I look forward to the frilly and colorful blooms of my amaryllises (Hippeastrum) every winter and I don't think I can ever have enough of them.

The first of the season - 'Misty' - has come and gone, but another has taken its place, with yet another ('Jewel') at the ready. I wrote about the gigantic bulb that was supposed to be 'Elvas' in a posting on the Our Little Acre Facebook page. Now that it's in bloom, I can see that it isn't 'Elvas', but likely 'Dancing Queen', which I've had before. I actually still have it, though the label has become separated from the bulb, so it will be a surprise when it makes another appearance later this winter.

This gigantic bulb will be giving not one stalk of fluffy flowery frill, but two, as mature bulbs of this size often do. Though it's not what I expected, it's still beautiful - I've never seen an amaryllis I didn't like.

'Dancing Queen'

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is a perfect time
To stop and reminisce
About the many hours we've spent
Discussing that and this-
The laughs, the smiles
That we have known
The wonderful things we've done
That make the friendship that we share
A fun and special one!

Have a fabulous holiday season, my friends!

Monday, December 20, 2010

First Seeds

Our new neighbor happens to work for a local seed company. A little over a week ago, he came over to ask me if I'd plant some soybeans for them to use in a display for an upcoming farm show, and grow them in my conservatory. He brought over the seeds, pots, and potting soil and I planted them last weekend.

So, officially, the first seeds I've planted in the conservatory are soybeans! I wasn't really sure if I'd start seeds in there or not; I thought I'd wait until spring to decide. But when I walked out there on Saturday and saw this...

...I think I might not even wait until spring. I want me some fresh spinach!

Can anyone except a gardener know how it feels to see a seed pop through the soil like that? It's a thing of beauty...a tiny miracle, yet as large as life itself. It's exciting to see, yet serenely satisfying.  A "God's in His heaven and all's right with the world" kind of thing. And even though all isn't right with the world, this itty bitty part of it is just fine.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stocking Stuffers for Gardeners (including a chance to win one!)

Perhaps your Christmas gifts are all purchased and wrapped and sitting under the tree. (Mine aren't.) Maybe your greeting cards are signed, sealed, and delivered. (I didn't send any.) And the stocking stuffers are ready to be tucked into those oversized socks, right? What? You forgot about the stocking stuffers?

In case you need suggestions for those of your friends and family that are of the gardening persuasion, I suggest these:

  • Mitten gloves - As a garden photographer, I use these all the time in the winter. I find that wearing regular gloves or mittens makes it difficult for me to get a good handle on my camera's controls.  Mitten gloves are fingerless gloves with a mitten "cap" that can be flipped back to expose your fingers, allowing you to have a better feel for certain tasks, such as photography or cell phone texting. There are several companies that make them. These Land's End mitten gloves come in several colors. Prices vary.

  • Snap 'n' Shape Heart Molds - This is a fun one! Just snap these on your cherry tomatoes while they're still small and green and let them grow inside the heart-shaped mold. When it starts to turn red, take the mold off and let it ripen fully. Voila! Heart-shaped tomatoes! Works for cherry peppers, too. A package of five costs $9.99.

  • Compact pruners - I have a few pruners that I like equally well, but my current pruners of choice are the ones I received at GWA in Dallas this past September from Dramm - Compact Pruner Model 10814. I've got smallish hands and these fit just right. They're good quality pruners and they come in six brilliant colors!

  • Shrub Cover - Another GWA Dallas acquisition, I like this bag called ShrubGuard by Plumstone for covering tender shrubs. Plants lose a lot of moisture during winter because of the harsh winds, not to mention the problems hungry deer and rabbits can cause.

    I put mine over my azalea shrub, since it's been an iffy plant for me, and I've lost a few during their first winter. Last year, I bought some burlap and used it to cover the azalea. In the spring, I had the most amazing show of blooms, many more than in the previous year after it not being covered by anything. This pre-made bag makes it easier and it looks nice, too. Cost is $9.99 to $11.99, depending on size.
  • Moo Poo Tea - Organic manure compost tea is a wonderful, natural way to feed your plants and condition your soil, both in the garden and in your container plantings. Haven Brew offers a 3-pack of alfalfa (for roses), cow, or horse manure teas, or an assortment of all three costs $12.95.

  • Corn squirrel feeder - Many people have problems with the squirrels digging up their bulbs or plants, and eating from the bird feeders. One way of discouraging them is to give them their own feeder. We use this spiral feeder, which holds an ear of corn. Our squirrels tend to stay in the corner of the yard where this feeder is. Of course, our many outside cats might be somewhat of a deterrent for coming closer, too. Priced at $7-8.
  • Garden-themed Ornaments - Hallmark has a series of garden tree ornaments by Marjolein Bastin, that wonderful Dutch artist. This year's ornament, called "Season of Beauty" is $14.95 and features a sled with a wreath, a basket, and garden gloves.

  • Botanical Coasters - There is a wide assortment of coaster sets with a botanical theme. I personally like these, available at

  • The Cinch Plant Hanger - I received one of these in Dallas at the GWA annual symposium. I loved the idea of it and when I tried it on my own hanging pot, it worked like a charm! It doesn't matter the size or the shape of the pot either. Holds up to 25 pounds. I love this and would like to find another one or two of them in my own stocking! List price is $9.99.

  • Corona Tools Sharpening Tool - This is such a handy little tool! Of course, you can sharpen your garden tools with it, but it works for sharpening other blades, too. It's small and easy to handle. Priced right at $10.99.

  • Garden Plant Tags - These are beautiful plant tags made by Allsop that will dress up an indoor container planting. Of course, you can use them outside in the garden, but my personal experience with them is that they turn yellow as they age. They're so pretty, I think they really are shown off to their best inside the house. They come in two designs - herbal and botanical - and sell for $16.00 at AHA Modern Living (which has many other wonderful items!).

  • Garden Magazine Subscription - There are so many wonderful garden magazines, chock full of ideas and information, it's hard to choose just one to give as a gift. My personal favorites are: Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Garden Design, Birds and Blooms, and Organic Gardening.
  • Gift Cards - When all else fails, you can always give gift cards. Don't know which companies gardeners like? Several of the companies mentioned above offer gift cards, or a gift card from any one of the following will make a gardener smile:  Ethel Gloves, Botanical Interests, Garden Shoes Online, H. Potter, and of course, for those wonderful gardening books!

For more information about Ohio Gardener, or to
subscribe directly, please visit their website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Story of Our Conservatory

Many of you have followed the progress on the Our Little Acre Facebook page during the construction of our conservatory this fall. Ground was broken at the beginning of September and the plants were all tucked in for the winter the week of Thanksgiving. It was a learning experience for everyone, but mainly it was a labor of love by my dad and my husband.

I've created a page that shows the process from start to finish. There's a link to it in the sidebar on the left, which takes you to this special page here on my blog:

Both Romie and I love to spend time out there, surrounded by the plants, especially when the ground is covered with snow and the outside thermometer reads in single digits as it does right now - 9°F. Brrrr! We keep the temperature at 60-65 degrees, though when the sun shines, it gets warmer. The plants are loving their winter home and so are we!

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Sun Showers'

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Walking in a Christmas Wonderland

I've come to the realization that it's the Christmas season for real now. How do I know this? It's hard to avoid the constant Christmas music on the radio and in the stores. The Salvation Army volunteers are ringing their bells. It's cold outside and there's snow on the ground. A nearby city had a Christmas Walk on Saturday. Yes, Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...and all that. We even have a Christmas tree in our family room with lights and ornaments and everything.

Mom asked me to go on the Christmas Walk with her, so Saturday morning I bundled up and made the short trip to her house. From there, we picked up our friend Sue, and before we started the official walk, we went to a local business's open house.

Wiseman Designs and Window Specialties
Wiseman Designs and Window Specialties is located in what has long been my favorite house in all of Van Wert. Oh, there are many other beautiful homes in the area, but I've been in love with this one for as long as I can remember. It has something that speaks to me in a way that none of the others do. Until Saturday, I'd never set foot in it, but I knew it was something special.

Inside, I met the owner, Penny Wiseman, who told me the home has been owned or inhabited by artists from the time it was built. This didn't surprise me; the house "looks" like an artist's house. Penny herself is a gifted artist who had several of her works for sale this day. She offered to give me a tour of the house on a different day when it wasn't filled with decorator items for sale and people shopping for them. I look forward to that!

I purchased a silk amaryllis in a green pot. Readers know that I'm a "hippie" at heart (Hippeastrum is the botanical name for amaryllis), and that I've got a large collection of bulbs that I plant out in the summer and bring in for all their beauty in the winter. The artificial one I bought is a deep red, looking very realistically like 'Black Pearl'.

We continued on our way, visiting a total of nine homes and businesses, all decorated in their Christmas finery. It took us until 3:00 p.m. to see all of them. Here are more images from the day:





Newly renovated greenhouse at the
Marsh Foundation School

I love seeing clay pots en masse. These are in the
greenhouse at the Marsh Foundation.

Another view inside the greenhouse. Cute little poinsettias!

The students at the Marsh Foundation decorated the
gingerbread men for the visitors and gave us a tour of the
living quarters.

Snowy view from the stairway at the Marsh Foundation,
Clymer Hall

Niswonger Performing Arts Center, site of recent Amy
Grant concert, and soon, Kenny G.






I think Santa lives here!




Sisters Bridal Boutique

Sisters Bridal Boutique

Sisters Bridal Boutique

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lemon Tree Very Pretty

I called Mom earlier last week and told her that I'd gotten an e-mail from Hoen's Greenhouse and Garden Center in Toledo, stating they had Meyer lemons. I'd wanted a Meyer lemon tree for some time, and since I'd not seen one anywhere since I'd decided I wanted one, I asked her if she wanted to go with me to Hoen's to get one. 

Toledo is an hour and a half north of me, so it isn't a place I go very often. Mom is always up for an adventure, so of course she said yes, and Friday morning, we took off for points north. Just an hour north, on the way to Toledo, is Waterville, hometown of George Carruth, the sculptor. His studio, Garden Smiles, is there and we always stop in to see what wonderful new pieces he has for sale.  In addition to his own creations, there are unique works by other artists - things you just don't see everywhere.

We enjoyed Garden Smiles and found some Christmas gifts there, then went around the corner to Joe Cooper's Florist Shop, another place we frequent when we're in town. Half an hour later, we walked into Costco. It's the nearest one to us and whenever I'm in a Costco neighborhood, I pay them a visit. I found a few Christmas gifts there, too.

These small trees in front of Fresh Market were charming!

In the same shopping center is a Fresh Market. I'd never been in one of these stores before and Mom urged me to go, since we were right there. I'm so glad I did! What a beautiful store, with so many unusual food items.

This is also the first time I've ever seen white asparagus.
Cell phone photos don't do these beautiful vegetables justice!

They had very attractive rosemary trees, which I'd been wanting, but by the time we had strolled up and down the aisles and checked out, I forgot about them and didn't get one. I would remember this later and have regrets. But I did find some lingonberry jam! I bought two jars.

Stein Mart was next door, and I had coupons, so that meant we had to go in there, too. I did a little more Christmas shopping and by the time we walked back to the car, it was nearly 3:00 and we were hungry. We were on the north side of town and we still had to go to Hoen's for my lemon tree, so we headed back south and decided we would find a place to eat down that way.

After a late lunch at Panera's, we walked into Hoen's and started browsing the aisles. The real attention getters were understandably the poinsettias.


When I got all the way to the back I spied some very small agaves - bunches of them! I've been wanting an agave (or two) ever since I first saw Pam Penick's fabulous Whale's Tongue on her Digging blog. (Go here to see it for yourself!)

Agave 'Blue Glow'
As I walked around with the little Agave 'Blue Glow' in my hand, an attractive woman came up to me and said, "I don't want to discourage you, but those are just seedling agaves we're growing and aren't really for sale." My heart sank. Then she told me they had some larger ones, although they'd suffered some cold damage from a propane accident they'd had recently. But of course, I wanted to see them anyway!

Sure enough, they had some spotted leaves, but oh my goodness, the Agave celsii 'Nova' were of a decent size and I still wanted one, in spite of their imperfections. She helped me pick one out - with pups! Then she told me if I still wanted to buy one or more of the seedlings, I could. I decided to get one of those, too.

Agave celsii 'Nova'

As we walked and talked together, I asked her if she was Theresa Hoen, and indeed she was. She and her husband Bob are the owners and operators of the greenhouse and garden center. I told Theresa that I'd driven an hour and a half just to get a Meyer lemon. She seemed to be amazed to hear this. 

Meyer lemon tree (Citrus x. meyeri 'Meyer') at Hoen's Greenhouse
and Garden Center
in Toledo, OH
She told me about their large lemon tree that they'd just harvested and how that harvest was quite a large one. I wanted to see the lemon tree, and she was happy to show it to me. It was amazing to see a lemon tree of that size growing inside! It still had many, many lemons on it, in spite of the several crates they'd already picked.

It was then that I asked her to take me to the Meyers, so we headed toward the front of the store. We slowed to a stop at the front register, where Theresa waved her hand towards the Meyer lemons - two baskets of large and small fruits. Just the fruits. I told her I was interested in their trees and she told me they didn't have any trees for sale, only the fruits.

So intent was I on having a Meyer lemon tree, I'd read into that e-mail that they had lemon trees, not just lemons!  No wonder she was amazed that I'd driven that far for Meyer lemons! Ha! Theresa told me they'd been thinking about propagating trees from their large one, and she said if she and Bob decided to do that, she'd let me know so I could get one.

I felt a little silly for having misunderstood about the lemons, but I bought two of them and grabbed a copy of their recipe for lemon cake. There was no way I was going home without Meyer lemons of some sort! I was a little disappointed to not get a tree, but only slightly, because now I had an AGAVE! Two of them!

We left for home as it was beginning to get dark. As we went by Defiance, we decided to stop at Lowe's to see what house plants they had and guess what we found? Meyer lemon trees. No kidding. Sure, they were pathetic little things that looked extremely anemic, but they were marked down from $20 to $5. I asked the associate if they had any more and she said, "No, and the only reason those are still there is because I haven't had the heart to throw them out yet." I then asked if she'd take two dollars for them and she said she would.

I picked out the best one of the Improved Meyer lemon trees (Citrus x. meyeri 'Improved Meyer')as well as a Navel Orange.  Both will be a challenge to rehabilitate, but for two dollars each, it will be a cheap experiment. At least I'll try, with the first order of business being to feed them, which she told me Lowe's isn't allowed to do. We'll see how successful I am at reviving these. Stay tuned!

Our last stop before home was also in Defiance, at the home of daughter, Kara.  It was a two-fer, as other daughter Jenna was there also, for a party Kara was having that night. We'd had a long day into night, but much was accomplished. I'd made a major dent in my Christmas shopping, got my Meyer lemon tree and lemons, and the unexpected bonus of two agaves!

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