Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Cutest Little Cloche

Last spring, one of my favorite online places, Longfield Gardens, sent me a terrarium kit.  It wasn't so much a terrarium as it was the cutest little cloche on a saucer you ever did see.  Even if it hadn't included something to grow, I would have loved just the cloche set.

But it contained a begonia tuber, some growing medium, and a biodegradable peat pot in addition to the glass cloche and the green ceramic saucer.  The idea was to plant the tuber in the peat pot, moisten the soil, and cover with the cloche.

I did that, put it in a bright light location and waited for the begonia to begin growing. The glass cloche helps keep moisture in, acting like a tiny greenhouse. If you notice there's a little too much moisture inside, you can just lift the cloche off for a little while.

Once it outgrew the cloche, I transplanted the begonia, pot and all, to a larger container.  I chose to put it in a hanging container because of the growth habit of the begonia.

The kit contains one bulb and you may need more than one to get a really lush container. First bloom
is shown here.

This was a fun and attractive way to get a head start on the season and I still had the cloche to use for something else - like this Cryptanthus:

I also used it to help this spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) cutting get a good start:

I'm a huge fan of cloches and I have several that I use outside in my garden and another larger one that I use inside.  But I adore this smaller one - it's just eight inches tall.

If you're interested in getting one of your own ($29.95), you can find them here.  They'd make a wonderful gift too.  Everything you need to get growing is right there and the cloche can be used in a number of ways.  If you're not familiar with Longfield Gardens, they have other kits too, and all the bulbs I've received from them are ginormous and healthy.

First time customers can receive a 20% discount on their order by using the code LFG20 and shipping is free for orders over $50.

*I received the Terrarium Kit for review, free of charge, from Longfield Gardens.  All opinions here are my own, as always.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: The Impressionable Agave

Impression of crenulated edges of new foliage on Agave

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ecuador: Puertolago, Condor Park, and Otavalo

Overlooking Quito from the east side of Pichincha volcano
There is no shortage of things to do in and around Quito, Ecuador.  The city is large, with a population of 2.2 million, and is situated on the eastern slope of Pichincha, an active volcano in the Andes mountain range.

At 9,350 feet above sea level, its climate is ideal and like perpetual spring, in spite of its location on the equator. Nearly every day we were there, temperatures hovered around both sides of 75° F.  It could be cool in the morning and a jacket was required, then by noon, it was much too warm for that. Then by late afternoon, it cooled off nicely.  The climate is just about perfect.

On our second day in Ecuador, Karina's husband, Marcelo took us north of the city, toward Otavalo, a city famous for its open-air marketplace. Marcelo's sister Cristina and her boyfriend Paulo joined us for the day, while Karina stayed home because of a cold.

We stopped first at Puertolago, a resort on San Pablo Lake, just off the Pan-American Highway, for a delicious lunch.

We began with empanadas, for which Ecuador is known.

Mom had ceviche, also an Ecuadorian signature dish, consisting of tomatoes, onions, beans, shrimp or fish, cilantro, lime, and other spices.  There is a variation in ceviches throughout the country, but all have a similar consistency (soupy) and basic taste.


While Mom loved it, I'd had it several times before on previous visits and I much prefer the locro de papa, a creamy potato soup with bits of chewy cheese and avocado dropped in. In fact, this soup is my very favorite Ecuadorian dish, and I order it just about any chance I get. I had it four times during the two-week time we were here and though all of them were good, the version I had here at Puertolago was the best.  Sorry, no photo of it though. (I'll show a different one in a later blog post.)

I don't remember exactly what this was, but the presentation was fun!

The view at the restaurant was idyllic and made me want to be out in the lake, floating about in view of the beautiful Imbabura volcano (inactive).

There are several cottages available to rent, with beautiful landscaping all around and alpacas grazing in the grassy yards between the cottages.  We took a leisurely stroll before leaving for our next stop, El Condor National Park, a rescue center for raptors.

Parque Cóndor

I'd never seen a condor of any kind before, so I wasn't prepared for the size of this Andean vulture, one of the largest birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to 10½ feet.  Not a pretty bird by any means, the condor nonetheless is impressive.

In addition to our little group, students from Boston University were visiting Condor Park.

We went further into the park and as I turned a corner, I was met with a bald eagle.  I was no more than 10 feet away from it and I was so overwhelmed by its grandeur and what this bird represents for me as an American.  It was an emotional moment that I wasn't expecting.  I felt like I should salute it or something.  What a handsome creature!

There were other birds there as well, being rehabilitated, with many of them to eventually be returned to the wild.

Peregrine falcon

Barn owl

The view of the valley from the park was pretty impressive, too...


We had one more destination for the day - Otavalo.  It was my third time there but I noticed this time that there were many more vendors crowded into the open air market space.  Otavalo is a very popular tourist destination, due to the collection of various sellers of local handcrafts.  Otavalo itself is known for its textiles, while nearby Cotacachi is the center of the leather industry of Ecuador.

Central market in Otavalo

Being late in the day, we had to make good use of our time there, as the market closed a little more than an hour after we arrived.  It was enough time for us to purchase some jewelry and artwork, as well as a little sweater for my soon-to-be-born second grandchild.

Mom and I both purchased a few pieces of art here.

My favorite piece of art I bought was from a local Ecuadorian artist, Diego Buitrón. Born in Otavalo, he now lives in nearby Imbabura province and his work is featured in galleries throughout Ecuador. His work has been included in exhibitions for The Global Awareness Project in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Artist Diego Buitrón at the market in Otavalo, with the piece of art I purchased.

I like it because it's got texture.  Painted on canvas, there are threads attached via the paint medium, and there are other textures which I'm not quite sure what they are.  The piece I purchased depicts a cloud with rain.  I love the blending of colors. I don't know how I'm going to have it mounted or framed, but it needs something really special. I'll be scouring Pinterest to get ideas and I welcome suggestions from you, dear readers!

It was getting to be late in the day, and the market was closing, so we headed back to Quito for a leisurely evening of rest before leaving on an overnight trip the next two days.  We went through Cayambe, where many of the flower farms are located.  This was evidenced by the acres of greenhouses we saw in the area.

All the white patches in the Cayambe valley are greenhouses.  Lots and lots of greenhouses.

The headache that I was greeted with upon landing at the airport two days before finally left on this day.  Someone mentioned that coca tea may have been of help in treating this symptom of altitude sickness. It's sold everywhere in Ecuador, but is illegal in the U.S. unless it's been decocainized.  I didn't try it because I found out about it a little too late. Next time!

NEXT:  A volcano crater and the cloud forest in Mindo.  (That means butterflies and birds!)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Unknown Flower in Mindo, Ecuador

When you're in a place that's not native to you, the flora and fauna are often unfamiliar.  And sometimes you know the plant, but when it grows in a much more favorable location for it than you're used to seeing, you may not recognize it.  This one, seen in a hell strip kind of garden on a street in Mindo, Ecuador, looks vaguely familiar, but I can't identify it.  My best guess is a yellow walking iris (Trimezia martinicensis, formerly Neomarica longifolia).  Can I get an amen on that from someone who knows?

?  Yellow walking iris  ?
Neomarica longifolia

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ecuador: Guayasamin, the Artist

When I decided to make a return visit (my third) to Ecuador last month, I was determined to see it with new eyes. My first visit in 1994 was for the purpose of meeting our exchange student daughter's family and to see a place that I knew would be much different than Northwest Ohio. I came home from that trip forever changed.

Gabriela and me outside the front door of her home
in Guayaquil in 1994.
I got to see several different areas of the country on that first visit, as we traveled in and near Quito, the capital and Karina's home. But I also got to see the Pacific coast when we drove down to Guayaquil to meet Gabriela, the little girl that our family sponsored through Compassion International.

The second trip to Ecuador was in 2003, when Karina married Marcelo, and I experienced an Ecuadorian wedding. I got to meet another fabulous family in Marcelo's parents and siblings, who are Brazilian.

But this third time, I would be returning as a gardener. In previous trips, I did notice the wonderful flora the Ecuador has, even making Karina turn the car around when I saw a poinsettia the size of a very mature lilac shrub. You just don't see that here in Ohio! But more about the plant life later.

My mom went with me on this trip - it was her first time in Ecuador - and in addition to all the wonderful flowers and plants, we were quite aware of the art. It's an important part of the culture in Ecuador. Our first day there, we had a laid-back day, allowing for the adjustment to the altitude. Coming from 735 feet above sea level to Quito, which is at an altitude of 9,350 feet, it took us a couple of days to rid ourselves of the nagging headache. Breathing wasn't a problem, unless we were climbing steep inclines and then we were ridiculously out of breath.

The home of Guayasamin
Karina took us to the home of Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919-1999), considered to be the greatest of Ecuadorian artists. His home, built on a hill with a beautiful view overlooking Quito, is now open to the public as a museum, as well as the museum that Guayasamin began building while he was still alive, La Capilla del Hombre ("The Chapel of Man").


I wish there had been small reproductions of the bird sculpture for sale.  I would have bought one.

View of El Panecillo from Guayasamin's home

Guayasamin's work depicts the cruelty of man towards his fellow humans, but it also shows his belief in the potential for greatness within humanity and the hope that he had for a better world. It is a very distinctive art style and many have tried to imitate it.

Inside the chapel, which showcases his work

I love this dandelion sculpture, complete with grass.

Photos were not allowed to be taken inside the home or the chapel (Oops!  I took one!), but a Google search will result in many examples of his work. 

NEXT: Puertolago, Condor Park, and Otavalo.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Winter That Was, Is, and Is To Come

Where did January go?  Or the beginning of February?  It seems like it was just Christmas, then New Year's, then it started to snow.  And the bottom dropped out of the thermometer. Then it snowed some more and the wind blew.

I confess that I wasn't around for three weeks of this winter loveliness (???) but thanks to the internet and the Viber app, I heard and saw more of what I experienced before I started my travels. There were pictures that I had hoped to post, showing a beautiful snow we experienced in the first week of January, but the snow we got next put that one to shame.

Then I left.

As many of you know, Mom and I spent two weeks in Ecuador, visiting Karina and her family, who live in Quito, Ecuador's capital.  Karina lived with Romie and me and our two daughters for a year in 1993-94.  She became a beloved member of our family and I've gotten to make the trip to visit her three times now - once every 10 years or so.

I'll be blogging about our adventures there in several posts, so for now I'll just say if you EVER get a chance to go to Ecuador, jump on it.  Don't think twice.  Just do it.  I promise you won't be sorry.  It's a beautiful place and so are its people.

Just three days after we returned from Ecuador, Mom and I were once again winging our way to another destination - the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, Wash.  My co-writer, Jenny Peterson, and I were speakers there, giving two presentations related to our book, Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants.

Jenny (on the right) and I talk about "What Style Am I?"

This flower show marks the beginning of the spring season for me, with its fabulous display gardens and speaker presentations that fuel my imagination for the coming season's gardens. Even though we still have a couple of feet of snow on the ground, I just know that the snowdrops are pushing their way through the soil under all that and in a few weeks, crocus will be blooming in shades of gold, white, and purple.

Hang with me in the next few weeks as I take you on a tour of life in the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest at the middle of the earth and then show you the beautiful things I saw in Seattle.  I won't lie to you - those three weeks away were likely what has allowed me to keep my sanity during this winter of one giant snowstorm after another.

We're sure to have more winter, but by the time I finish sharing my experiences with you, it will almost be spring and time for grandchild number two to enter the world.  Hannah's going to get a new cousin!

Older daughter Kara and Baby Fritz!
27 Jan 2014

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