Monday, January 31, 2011

The 2011 Conservatory World Tour

The winter has a way of making us both want to hibernate while giving us cabin fever. One way we can deal with this is to go somewhere that takes us away to another place - an oasis that shines in the midst of a vastly different environment outside its borders - the botanical conservatory.

Last week, I invited anyone that wanted to participate to join in the Conservatory World Tour by visiting their local botanical conservatories and sharing their experience with the rest of us. "Travelers" on the tour came from one side of the country to the other.

Photo by Catherine at A Gardener in Progress

Catherine, at A Gardener in Progress, lives and gardens in Seattle, WA, in zone 8A. She visited Volunteer Park Conservatory. Look at those orchids!

Kate lives on Long Island, NY, and writes of her zone 7 gardening experiences at Gardening and Gardens. She chose the conservatory at New York Botanical Gardens, in the Bronx, a place I hope to visit on my next trip to New York City.

Photo by Kate of Gardens and Gardening

Photo by Daricia at A Charlotte Garden

Daricia writes about her zone 7A garden in Charlotte, NC, at A Charlotte Garden. She visited the conservatory at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in nearby Belmont, NC. The Tillandsia arches are stunning.

Chris, who lives and gardens in zone 5A in Champaign, IL, blogs at From the Soil. He's fortunate to be able to visit the Plant Conservatory at The University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana Campus, by taking a five-minute walk from his office! Now wouldn't it be nice if we all could do that?

Photo by Chris of From the Soil

Photo by Delaware Garden Blog
Delaware Garden Blog lives in zone 5B in central Ohio and chose to visit Franklin Botanical Conservatory in nearby Columbus, OH, during their Orchid Forest Display. I've been to the conservatory several times but never during this event. Go see her gorgeous photos of the orchids she saw!

We made a family day of our visit to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Ft. Wayne, IN, as we do each winter. It's close enough (35 miles west) that we can visit often and thanks to my membership in the AHS (American Horticultural Society), I enjoy free admission.

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Ft. Wayne, IN

I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did. Let's do it again next year!

Friday, January 28, 2011

In the Pink, Inside

There are those who love pink and will loudly advertise the fact. You visit their gardens and it's clear that pink is their color. You might say that when visiting my own garden, especially because pink is the definite theme in the gardens at the front of our house. Yet, if you don't assume, and you feel the need to ask me if pink is a favorite color of mine in the garden, I'll deny it.

I have a LOT of pink EVERYWHERE in my gardens, even though red is my favorite color. I'll tell you I'm not a big fan of hearts when it comes to jewelry, too. (While you're staring at my heart-shaped necklace and matching earrings.) So I've got issues.

I've also got a lot of pink in the conservatory right now. In the dead of winter, I don't care WHAT color a flower is, I love it. How can you not love this:

This true Christmas cactus
(Schlumbergera x buckleyi) is blooming right on
schedule, in January. (Yes, that's when they're
supposed to bloom.)
This reminds me of a waterfall.

The impatiens keep on blooming as if it's summer.
Oh wait, it IS summer in the conservatory!
Wish I could find the tag for this Pelargonium. I want more
for my gardens this year.

Even the foliage shows pink...
Variegated Bougainvillea

Bromeliad (Guzmania sp.)

Rex begonia
Joseph's Coat (Alternanthera ficoidia 'Party Time')

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tribute to Jilly...Wherever You Are

This post is long overdue. But when you have hope in your heart that the ending to the story will change, you can't write it yet. Six months have passed, so I think that in spite of our not knowing the ending, for us, it is over. Over in a physical sense, but never quite over in our hearts.

Those who follow this blog know that we have a penchant for rescuing stray kitties. We love them so much that calling them cats isn't quite affectionate enough of a noun for these loving little furballs that somehow make their way into our home and hearts.

Jilly and Lily enjoy themselves some catnip!

Some years ago, so long ago that I don't remember if it was 2006 or the year before, a sleek, small gray cat appeared in our pool house. It took some days before this little girl warmed enough to let us touch her, but once we gained her trust, there was no looking back. She was the sweetest thing - so sweet that we named her "Sweetie Pie." And it wasn't long before we realized that some tom cat had thought her to be pretty sweet as well.

As many cats that have come and gone here, never before had kittens been born on our property. But Memorial Day weekend, just four weeks since she first appeared, Sweetie Pie gave birth to four kittens in the attic of our pool house. I was ill that weekend, and it was hotter than Hades outside. But the tiny mews coming from that hot attic called to me to go up there and get them out of the pink fiberglass insulation where Sweetie Pie had given birth.

I handed each of them down to Romie and he put them in a box on the floor below, lined with terry bath towels. Sweetie Pie followed on her own but a few hours later, those kittens and she were gone. In the matter of about 15 minutes, she had managed to carry each one of them back up into that awful pink stuff. So again, I crawled up there and brought them back down. This time, she let them stay in the box.

It was there in that box that she cared for her kittens until their eyes opened and eventually, they ventured out into the world around them. Sweetie Pie was a good mama, always watching out for them, especially if one of the other cats came around, or the kittens got too close to the edge of the pool.

But we really couldn't manage keeping five new cats, so a friend of ours agreed to take them all. We did keep one - Jack - whose spotted cheeks were just too adorable to let go. But in the first week in their new home, one kitten met its fate under a tire and by the end of the next week, Sweetie Pie and another kitten had disappeared.

That left one lonely little kitten, who cried non-stop. When my friend called to tell me, I told her I'd just come and get her. At least she would have Jack, her brother, to relate to. And the name Jilly just seemed perfect.

Jilly somehow managed to jump up here, among all these plants and not
break a single thing.

Just yawning...
After we got to know Jilly, it was likely that she wasn't crying at all. She just loved to talk. Her vocabulary was big and how I wish I'd known even half of what she was saying, because it was clear that she was trying her darnedest to tell us something.

Like the proverbial grandchild, Jilly was smart. One of the smartest cats we've ever had. We watched her methodically pick up a toy mouse in her mouth, jump on the seat of a kitchen chair, drop it, then knock it off with her paw. She'd then jump down, pick it up again, jump up in the next chair and repeat. When she came to an occupied chair (occupied by Baby), she thought a bit and skipped to the next chair in rotation and continued until she'd made two complete circles playing her game.

And she could fetch, too. Just like a dog. Throw her mouse and she'd leap over the couch and get it. She'd bring it back to you and drop it at your feet and we'd do it all over again. Many, many times.

I miss those days - days when we'd call her name and she'd come running from wherever she was on Our Little Acre, talking all the way. It's that talking I miss the most. But I also miss how she loved us - a head butt now and then, a lick on the eyelid to wake you up when she wanted to play. (Ouch!)

Jilly was a small cat, the smallest of any we'd ever had, but she made up for her diminutive size with personality PLUS. It may have been her undoing - we'll probably never know, but one day she was just gone.

For one of the cats to be missing for a day or two wasn't all that unusual, but when a week passed, and then another, we knew something wasn't right. We waited more weeks, and then months, with no sign of Jilly.

We looked and called her at all hours of the day and night and for a mile in each direction. We asked the neighbors if they'd seen her. We even alerted the vet about her disappearance and they agreed to let us know if someone brought in a cat that matched her description. Nothing.

It's now been six months or more, and we've resigned ourselves to the fact that she's likely not coming back. She may have met up with a foe that proved too much for her to escape from, such as the resident Great Horned Owl. And coyotes are known to roam here on occasion.

We can only hope that if this is what happened to her that it was quick and painless. And if she's in someone else's good home now, then we can be okay with that, too. But we still miss her...

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world, they have no voice,
They have no choice.

Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see

Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from a storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kicking Off the Conservatory World Tour

Yesterday began the Conservatory World Tour Week, where garden bloggers can visit any botanical conservatory and share their visit with the rest of us through words and photos. For those of us in the cold climates, it seems as if this winter might never end, but stepping into a lush, green, warm conservatory lets us remember what surely will come. We just need patience!

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
Every year around this time, our family pays our local conservatory a visit. Conversation yesterday came up with the guess that we've now been celebrating this annual event for at least five years, possibly six. Most times, we eat lunch before we head to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Yesterday, we chose the Mad Anthony Brewing Company.

Mad Anthony's is a local brew pub, famous for its Scoobie Snacks and locally brewed beer. The decor is nostalgic, if you grew up in the '60s and '70s (which Romie and I did). Our kids love it too and were the ones that suggested we eat there.

The conservatory is only a few blocks away, located across from just one of the churches that helped Fort Wayne achieve one of its nicknames, "The City of Churches." The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1859, is the oldest church in continual use in the city. It is also the burial site of Chief Richardville, the last chief of the Miami tribe.

The day was much colder than the normal for January, and the conservatory was a welcome respite from the -1°F we'd experienced at 8:00 that morning. (Average low for this date is 19°F.) The bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine were deceiving and made it appear much warmer than it was.

The conservatory, which opened in 1983, has three rooms: Showcase Garden (temperate), Tropical Garden, and Desert Garden. Four times a year, the displays in the Showcase Garden change. The current theme is Peter Pan, which I don't really "get," but there was a large pirate ship that greeted us as we walked into the garden.

When you enter the Showcase Garden, immediately to your
right is a large Brugmansia tree. It was blooming, but it's a
gorgeous sight (and scent) when it's covered with blooms,
as it was in January, 2009.

This time of year, I can always count on the conservatory
to have plenty of florist's cyclamen on display - and for sale.
If I didn't kill them from the moment I bring them into the
house, I'd buy one or two.

Romie really liked the Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus),
so perhaps I'll try to find some and integrate them into our
container plantings this summer.

There were primroses of several types, but the frilly Fairy
Primrose (Primula malacoides 'Prima Pink') was
especially pretty.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana were planted en masse,
accented with Ranunculus and lilies.

I love both the exfoliating bark on this tree, as well as its
common name - Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora), also
known as Brazilian Grape Tree. If we'd known the fruit was
edible, we would have partaken of one of the many laying
on the ground below it.

In the Tropical Garden, a large Lacy Tree Fern(Sphaeropteris cooperi) had amazing fiddleheads, which
you can see up close in the slide show below.

Looking up through the tree fern's fronds.

The Tropical Garden has several different levels...

...and two waterfalls.

Beautiful bloom of the Amazon Lily (Eucharis grandiflora).

One of the many large agaves growing in the Desert
Room. Readers of this blog know how much I love these
and long to have one of this size in a container.

Yuccas in the Desert Room

This day it was much too chilly in the Desert Room to sit
and rest there.

One thing I love about the Desert Room is the wide variation
in form and habit of things growing there. It's a bit
monochromatic, but that just emphasizes the architectural
quality of it all.

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus tiburonensis) was 
blooming. For a more detailed view of the cactus spines, see
the slide show below.


A trip to the conservatory wouldn't be complete without  a visit to the Tulip Tree Gift Shop. There, you can purchase amazing plants at equally amazing prices. I bought a huge Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium sp.) plant for nine dollars, tax and all!  Did I need another houseplant? No, but that's beside the point. :-)

Random facts about the conservatory

  • The plants are irrigated by city water with its pH adjusted to an average of 6.5.
  • The conservatory serves as one of 62 rescue centers in the United States for internationally protected plants brought illegally into the country.
  • There are over 1200 plants and over 500 species in the conservatory, which covers 24,500 square feet. There are 72 types of cactus.
  • In the Tropical Gardens live Japanese white eyes - small songbirds that fly quickly and sing with bell-like voices.
  • A beefsteak begonia was the first plant installed in the conservatory.

Won't you join in on the Conservatory World Tour? Visit any conservatory, blog about it, and let me know by leaving a comment, so I can post a link back to your blog post when I compile a list this coming Sunday or Monday.  We want to see other conservatories, and what better way is there to spend a winter's day?

Tired of Snow?

I think it may be time to pull out this classic comic:

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