Archive for the ‘House Plants’ Category

There are about 200 different species of Adiantum ferns. Mine is the species capillus veneris, or Venus-Hair Fern. They are tropical natives and like to live in the misty shade near waterfalls, so I keep mine indoors by the living room window and spray it with a spray bottle a lot. My spray bottle always has just a tiny bit of Miracle Grow in it, which I only use on house or potted patio plants. I have read that you should never spritz the leaves of your Maidenhair Ferns, but I only do it near the base of the plant and it’s thriving so I’m not going to question my decision to break that rule. It seems to like what I do and my orchids seem to like being near it so I keep them all together.

Maidenhair Fern - just getting started

Every once in a while I give it an aggressive haircut. There is always a moment of panic that it will not grow back, but it always does. In between the more aggressive cut, I keep the older, leggy and browned parts cut back which stimulates brand new little green furls of ferny happiness.

The Magic Unfurls

They can be propagated by diving the plant. Mine should probably be divided since it’s been in this pot for several years. I imagine it may be claustrophobic so maybe I’ll do it next Spring. They tend to go a bit dormant from September to March, so don’t get discouraged if it looks a little ‘off’ during those months. Propagation can also be done using the spores, the little tiny brown button things on the underside of fern leaves. The spores and the part of the leaf that they’re on turn brown when ripe. Since I always cut off the brown parts, I never have spores. No problem though, because I have never really wished for two ferns, always being happy with just the one to take care of.

like a miniature tropical rainforest

They definitely do not like to dry out and don’t really like direct Sunshine, just lots of light. The profile they make against the window is charming and always cheers me up for some reason. It’s one of my ‘happy plants’ I suppose.

Fluffy and Cheerful

This is the picture I took of mine this morning. As you can see towards the center there are some larger brownish leaves. This is where the spores will be. It has been a while since I trimmed it and it looks healthy and lush. I’ll probably leave it alone until next Spring except for a little trim here and there. The pot that it lives in has no drainage and, although it seems fine and is thriving, I should give it some room and proper drainage eventually. For now, it’s pretty.

Adiantum capillus-veneris

A bit of folklore…Adiantum is a Greek word and basically means ‘unwetted’ since the plant can be immersed in water and come out with completely dry leaves. This is how it came to be called Venus Hair representing how tidy her hair was when she arose from the foamy depths of the sea. As a plant of Venus it is said to grant grace, love, beauty, and fabulous hair to anyone who wears it, or so it was believed.


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Lettuce...going to seed in the Summer heat

Yep, you read it right. The Hoarders are whispering in my ear: “Don’t keep that stuff, it will make you crazy and your kids will hate combing through it when you kick off and die!” I have even been guilty of hoarding plants, trying to keep the smallest little lettuce plant alive past its due date when I could have spent that time doing something more worthwhile, like painting my toenails or sipping herbal tea. Or caring for a plant that actually mattered. So lately I have been getting rid of things, books, clothes, junk in the potting shed, junk everywhere. There were even four pairs of my shoes in a bag that went to AMVETS yesterday and those of you who know me well know how difficult it is to get rid of shoes.

"Rawrr!" ....one of my long dead orchids...she had cute teeth.

From now on if I have it in my hand or it meets my gaze it’s going on my brain scales to be weighed for worthiness. Do I want to keep cleaning, dusting, watering, moving, staring at, or rearranging whatever it is for the rest of my days? No? Out with it then! Time for a major purge. The lighter the load the faster the middle-aged community college student right? Right! Time for stealth and no matter how fond you are of something, having it saps energy in strange ways so it better provide enough payoff to balance out the equation and there aren’t very many things that do that. There are plenty of cherished gift objects that I will keep and there will be more space in which to appreciate them properly.

The resident Muse at Summers Past Farms

Books are being donated to a worthy cause if I never intend to read them again. The internet has changed everything – there’s no need to keep CD’s or DVD’s or books that aren’t special. I’m not even selling any of it because, as my brilliant daughter pointed out after watching an episode of “Hoarders” with me, my time is valuable and selling stuff online takes up lots of time and that cost has to be weighed against something. Suddenly I’m feeling free of the weight of things and finished with that dance I do all the time of organizing and shuffling things here to there and back again because I think of a better place to put it. Now, the better place will be ‘outta here’ and I am free. Free Free Free. I hereby refuse to be manipulated any further by inanimate objects. Amen.

another of my long lost orchids...we loved them, every one.

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As promised, I took a lot of photos on the tour of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. Terri and Emily took us there because the special exhibit was out of Amy Stewart’s book “Wicked Plants” which I have read and loved. The old Gothic conservatories and hot-houses are another love, so basically it was an awesome day all around spent with some of my most favorite people in the world ever. Thank you, Terri and Emily 🙂 I was going to find the names of all the plants and label them for you, but that would keep me from posting them sooner. Basically, enjoying the photos this time is better than worrying about the names. There are orchid things and waxy things and steamy things…mostly tropical things and some poisonous things…enjoy.

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Well, Happy Summer Solstice! It’s warm outside, the day is long, Sun is shining, and plants are growing. The garden was left alone today so she could bask in the Sun while I worked elsewhere. Tomorrow or the next day I may start trimming up some things since the Moon is waning. The biggest job at the moment is keeping everything watered, but I expect that at this time of year. One thing I am celebrating today is an Orchid ‘re-bloom’ and I’m very proud of this one. It’s not easy for most of us to keep Orchids alive, much less do so until it blooms again, which sometimes takes two years. This ‘Tie Dye’ Phalaenopsis is a beauty that managed to survive my worst care record in history last semester. There were a couple buds that fell off during the last week of school because I was late watering, but I put a little extra love into the process for a while and she rewarded me…

'Tie Dye' Phalaenopsis Orchid

One by one, 15 blooms.

Will they all open?

The end bud here is smaller than a pea:

The tiniest of spider webs.

Reminds me of an inkblot test…what were those called? I forget.

I remember now: Rorschach!

It also looks like an alien in the center of a fancy personal spacecraft:

an alien from outer space?

Or maybe it’s just beautiful.

Summer Solstice - 2011

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Great eaters and great sleepers are incapable of anything else that is great. ~Henry IV of France

Pensive Cupid

Yesterday was a light day in the garden, especially for a Sunday. And a luxurious and warm Sunday too, reaching up to 80 degrees mid-afternoon and fooling me into thinking it was April.

After clearing out a bunch of old leaves from under the lemon tree, I bagged them up tight to make mulch for next year. I also picked a huge basket of lemons. The tree will start blooming soon and I want to have most of the old fruit picked so I don’t knock off all the flowers picking them later. Also, I made a list of seeds leftover so I’ll remember to plant them this week:

Radish – Easter Egg Blend – 1 packet
Beets – Heirloom Gourmet Blend – 1/2 packet
Beets – Red – 1 packet
Zucchini – 1/2 packet
Baby Lima Beans – 1/2 packet
Royal Burgundy Bush Bean – 1 packet
White Bush Scallop Squash – 1/2 packet
Pencil Pod Yellow Bush Beans – 1 packet
Dixie Hybrid Yellow Crookneck Squash – 1/2 packet
Large Ribbed Swiss Chard – 1 packet
Cucumber – 1/2 packet
Giant Musselburg Leeks – 1 packet
Sugar Snap Pole Peas – 1 packet
Broccoli Raab – 1 packet
Catnip – 1/2 packet

and a list of things I need:

a new broom of the wood and straw variety

lettuce – butter and mesclun…etc
morning glories
moon flower

Also being welcomed into the family are two new orchids, which I have been coveting forever. Thank you Tom!

The Paphiopedilum, or Magic Cherry Black Lady Slipper Orchid. Sexy no? He even got it for less than half the price because of a broken petal.

Paphiopedilum Orchid

and a spider orchid, or Caladenia. Notice this one has a spider web on it, which makes be unbelievably happy!

Lucious Wicked Spider Orchid

After that, then some laundry and cooking, the day fell under a warm golden gooey spell that made everyone stop being busy and celebrate the beauty of the day. We opened a bottle of bubbles


then took to our special corners for hypnotic dreamy naps

Summer in February

Somebody said it was a national holiday, but we didn’t really need an excuse.

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In the pull of the moon
and the weight of the stars,
you anchor me with all that you are
Like the stemming of the tide,
the moon’s attraction to the sea,
you are, you are all these things.

~ Jodie Manross

Well, I can’t believe it’s the full moon again already. Is it me, or do they just come faster and faster as you get older? In my mind, they are becoming like the flighty images on a ‘View-Master’ I had as a kid – click – click – click.

Despite the feeling of being rushed through time, and no matter what’s happening in my life, I never fail to step outside and stand in the light of the full moon late at night when it’s high in the sky (unless it’s cloudy). Whatever the events of the day were, I stop on the full moon and take inventory. What have I accomplished since the New Moon? What’s coming full circle, or still unfinished? What’s different than it was the last full moon when I stood barefoot in the damp grass and held hands quietly with Tom in the moonlight? Sometimes I light a candle or burn some incense, throw some sage on the fire…whatever it takes to make me mindful of the issues that came and went and the milestones that I managed to pass, even if ‘passing’ was only a limp or a crawl.

The happiest additions to my growing jungle since the last full moon were both gifts from Tom (yes, he is wonderful):

The first one, a baby phalaenopsis, which can only be described as precious or dainty. It’s the cotton candy of orchids and it’s adorable!

phalaenopsis orchid

* Keep in mind that I’m five feet tall and have tiny little munchkin thumbs!

The other one is a new breed for me – cymbidium.

cymbidium orchid

When Tom brought it home, I set it in the living room with the other orchids. Late last night, I got an email from my local Walter Anderson Nursery about a free class on the care of cymbidium orchids. Serendipitous no? So off I went this morning and this is what I learned:

These orchids NEED SUNSHINE! It will be an outdoor orchid and prefers filtered sunlight. I may leave it under the lemon tree or the grape vines, or maybe on the patio…we’ll see what it likes. They don’t need as much water as the indoor relatives and like to be ‘slightly dry’ before you water again. Also, they like to be left alone. Maybe this is why I love orchids so much, they’re mildly anti-social and bloom best when not fussed with.

I learned more about the food thing too: In September or October you start feeding the next bloom. In spring, until fall, you feed to promote plant growth. Apparently, orchids have a pretty good appetite and need to be fed if you want them to bloom again – even though you sometimes have to wait a couple years between blooming cycles. This wait will be longer after you re-pot, which should happen every few years as your plant grows out of its home. Anyway, back to the food…

While feeding for plant growth (from spring through fall) use a 30-10-10 food, which is higher in nitrogen. When feeding for blooms (from fall to spring) use a 10-30-20 mix. The plant food number codes aren’t complicated…the first number is always the nitrogen content, the second – phosphorous, the third – potassium. Plants can produce their own food, but need these minerals in differing quantities to do so. This guy Jack explains it pretty well I think. If you have an orchid that has refused to re-bloom, try a food boost!

Of course they had some outrageously priced food for me to buy while I was there, but I’m waiting another couple weeks because of a vow I made with Inky, a blogging friend who seduced me into a “no spender bender” commitment. When I go back for the food or another freebie class, there’s a dark purple slipper orchid with my name on it! and some more seed starting mix, and perhaps a new…..

cymbidium orchid

Happy Full Moon everybody, and while you’re out there howling at it, don’t forget to say hello to Mars. It’s especially close to the earth now and right up there next to the moon, shining bright red in the silvery night.

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Of scenes of nature, fields and mountains;
Of skies, so beauteous after a storm—and at night the moon so unearthly bright,
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps,
I dream, I dream, I dream.

from In Midnight Sleep – Walt Whitman

Sundays are my favorite day to garden. Lately, I haven’t been able to do much, what with being out of town and it raining so much, and another storm coming on Tuesday. Today was a sunny day and I ventured out to assess the storm damage and see what dirt I could manage to get under my fingernails.

The entire lawn is a swamp with water standing in puddles thanks to our California clay deep down keeping the rain from soaking in any further. The rain bucket (huge trash can) was entirely full and I managed to fill up two more buckets after emptying out all the vessels that were sprinkled around the yard. Next year, or when the budget allows, I’d like to have the whole rain chain/barrel set up…but it’s expensive, and for now I’m making due using the passion fruit vine as a rain chain.
a bucket, dear Liza, of rain
After I got my rainwater situation under control, I dumped the unused dirt out of the wine boxes I used last season for pumpkins. They need a good drying out and then I’ll oil them well with linseed oil and use them again this spring. When the boxes are finally unusable I take the ends off and nail them to the outside of the potting shed. I love wine boxes and can’t have enough of them scattered around being used for one thing or another…mostly books and plants.

Also needing attention was a sorely neglected Malabar Chestnut that I had set outside and forgotten. By the time I got back out there most of it was dead and the dirt had washed out of the pot. Poor Baby!

half dead 'money tree' or Malabar Chestnut
She got a good trimming off of the dead stuff, which left only one small stem with roots

After a gentle re-potting, she sits quietly in the infirmary window.

The broom corn has completely taken over the pot that held the juncus effusus spiralis which I bought on one of the many nursery visits with my friend Andrea, a fellow green thumb. It reminded me of my own hair…anyways, it needed help immediately

broom corn mess

I took the entire clump out of the pot and cut the grass away and divided the juncus into smaller pieces. This is a great way to propagate perennials. I use an old bread knife if I just cannot divide things with my hands or pull them apart with a garden fork. It seems aggressive but most plants will bounce back with a little love.

juncus effusus 'Spiralis'

Now, where there was one, I have five – fabulous!

Other exciting news from the garden today:
The first jasmine bloom of the season – right outside my bedroom window 🙂
The rosemary is blooming – one of my favorite shades of lavender:

rosemary blossoms

The swiss chard seems to be thriving in the stormy weather:

swiss chard

The lemons are squeaky clean. I never pass by my lemon tree without singing the Peter, Paul and Mary song…lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet…

There wasn’t much in the way of storm damage, only a flooded potting shed, soggy broom, and a few decorations blown off the fence. Even the hail didn’t do a lot of damage. Color me thankful and impatient to plant in the soil while it’s still wet.

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