lovely things

Some lovely things I’ve been enjoying:

::a good book::

A Man Called Ove, a Swedish novel about an unlovable, suicidal curmudgeon, and the people who make a difference in his life, past and present. I wept at the end of this book.

ove

::a pretty song (and video)::

This is old, but I listened to it on my way home from work and remembered how much I loved it and just put it on repeat for a little while.

::my porch::

I still have a lot of work to do on my porch this summer, we had some big winds this winter that blew stuff around and made a mess. Pots were broken and plants destroyed, but I’ve made this corner nice and comfortable and spend most evenings and weekends here. It’s perfect for knitting, spinning, reading, and just watching the birds. And hanging out with dogs, of course.

on the porch

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tillandsia

I decided to simplify around here a bit and re-designed this old site again. There are still some things to fix, like some font inconsistencies, and that weird Read More button on the bottom of every post. Frankly, however, I’m not sure when I’ll get to those things because it’s still summer and I spend eight hours a day in a windowless office staring at a computer screen, so I haven’t really wanted to look at my computer when I’m home. I’d rather be outside while it’s still light and warm in the evening. I hope you won’t mind too much. Yawn! I am boring myself with this site design talk, let’s move on to something I think is more interesting (although you may still find this post yawn worthy, so sorry!).

My limited success with my container gardening on the porch has sent me down a gardening rabbit-hole, and I have recently become enamored with tillandsias, also known as air plants. They’re from the bromeliad family, and don’t have roots, so they don’t require soil. In fact, they require very little care other than occasionally spraying or dunking in water. I started out picking up the little guy in the middle (aka tillandsia aeranthos) at Home Depot for $5. It stayed alive for a week, so when I saw the one just above it on another Home Depot trip, I thought it’s bulbous shape and long skinny fronds were interesting (it’s called tillandsia butzii). So it came home with me too.

tillandsias

Then I learned that Spanish moss is actually also a tillandsia (tillandsia bergerii), and decided then and there that I was officially a tillandsia collector.  I added another tillandsia aeranthos, only a much bigger version (top right), but what I really wanted was a Tillandsia xerographica (bottom right). These are big and bold, with broader leaves that curl slightly as they get longer. When I spotted this one at a local nursery, I had to splurge and add it to the collection too. It’s the size of a melon!

Now I need to figure out where I want to keep them all, and how to display them. Right now they’re on (or hanging from) the shelf above my desk, but I think they’d like a little more light, so I may put them in the bathroom where they might also benefit from the moisture of the steam when we shower. Or they might end up in the kitchen by a sunny window. And next on my list: tillandsia tectorum. There are some nice containers and terrariums for air plants at that link too.

So that is your botany lesson for today.

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succulent

succulentThis succulent (and other plants) gardening thing might become an addiction. Luckily, I think it’s a pretty healthy one. I decided to go big and brought home this lovely thing a few days ago – it’s about 10 inches across. I’m reading Succulents Simplified in an attempt to learn how to best care for all these plants I keep buying, and even attempting to remember the Latin names. I believe this guy is a Dudleya Pulverulenta (aka chalk lettuce). Like always, I have a whole board dedicated to just succulents.

I love the way succulents are like sculptures. I’m enjoying the creativity of putting plants together in little arrangements that are pleasing to start with, but with patience, eventually become something lusher and richer. I think this pot needs something to creep over the edge to finish it off, some kind of sedum, probably.

succulent

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go water some plants.

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green-ish thumb

I think it’s pretty obvious that I like flowers. I also like vegetables, and I love the idea of a garden. I have tried a few times to turn the back corner of our property into a vegetable garden, without success. Despite the fact that this is Southern California, the elevation (4000 feet) at which we live makes for harsh conditions in the garden.

Our last frost date is Memorial Day, so that means there are few vegetables that I can plant outdoors before June. One year, I waited patiently for that last weekend in May, and then filled my 4′ x 8′ raised bed with just as many plants as I could. And then we have several frosty nights well into June, which reduced most everything to a black, shriveled mess.

Undeterred, the next year I tried again, although I was less ambitious, and didn’t plant quite as much. Each day I faithfully watered my little vegetables, and every day it seemed like there were fewer plants. The soil itself seemed undisturbed, but a plant that I swore had been there the day before was suddenly missing. A closer inspection revealed very faint animal tracks, probably a rabbit or squirrel. Whatever it was, it made tidy work of eating my tender plants right down to the ground and letting nothing go to waste. Whatever little beast it was, it eventually ate everything.

This year, I had to move the geese out to that back garden pen, because they were beating up on my chickens, so there will be no attempt at a vegetable garden this year. Instead I’ve decided to focus on container gardening, and so far, I am enjoying much better results.

container garden

So far there has been only one casualty. I originally had a purple and white lisianthus in the middle pot, above. The day after I repotted it, the whole thing just keeled over. I have no idea why. I thought I’d try to return it, so I removed it back to the pot it came in, and it perked up a little. I don’t know if it will recover completely, but I guess it liked it’s cramped plastic pot better than my pretty, roomy, distressed terra cotta pot. I replaced it with this geranium, and I actually like this whole arrangement so much better.

geranium

I love the tiny flowers, and the silvery grey-green foliage.

I know it’s all about the porch all the time around here, but I’m so happy with how it is coming together, and it is where I spend most of my time when I am home. All my pots of herbs and flowers and succulents are what make it feel so lush and special to me, and shockingly, nearly everything seems happy and is growing.

down the porch

I got really ambitious and even added a dwarf kumquat, which will move inside this fall. I am going to try really hard to keep it alive. And the Silver Falls hanging just above is one of my favorite things. It’s just in the ugly plastic pot it came it, so I need to find something pretty to put it in. Luckily, the plant covers most of the pot, so I hardly notice it.

Pulley is hanging out in my new seating area. I want to make a cover for the cushions on the love seat, and a new slipcover for the ottoman, so I’m not going to bore you with too many pictures of that area. I hope to have a really dramatic before and after post once I get that stuff done.

side table

I found that it really started looking homey out here when I added a few things to my bright yellow side table.

Despite giving up on the raised bed for now, we do have a few nice things happening elsewhere on our property. Mr. Heylucy has been planting trees every weekend, hoping to replace some of the shade we lost when our oak trees died. We discovered that a previously unknown bush is actually an elder berry shrub. It doesn’t seem to mind our climate, and has become enormous this last year. I don’t know why we never noticed that it had berries on it before. I may have to try making some elderberry syrup later this summer, and bottle it up to treat winter colds.

elderberries1I put in a few tomatoes by the chicken pen, and they are growing and starting to bloom, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get at least enough to enjoy in salads. Someday I want a giant tomato patch so I’ll have enough to can and make sauce to last all winter. I have two big pots near the back door. I stuck a few strawberries in one, and the two little dogs thought it would be great fun to jump in and dig it all up. I haven’t even had the heart to clean up the soil they spewed all over the walk way. Nobody got any treats that night, I can tell you.

fairy garden-to-beNext up: a fairy garden in a box! Pulley says, “yay, something else for me to play with on the porch!”

sir pulleyLook at that face! I love the little water droplets on his whiskers. His favorite thing to do is bring sticks on to the porch and then chew them up and leave all the little bits for me to sweep up. It is not my favorite thing.

 

 

 

 

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tiny bits

Oh man, I was so hoping to get lots of pillows made and plants planted this week, and then I got knocked out by this ridiculous cold. No one wants a play-by-play of someone else’s minor illness, so suffice it to say that I was sick enough to stay home from work for two days, and even a week later I am a snot and cough machine. Blech.

Still, I couldn’t let the week pass without trying to make a few small improvements. I have lots of containers just begging to be filled with green, so I made a good start. I’ve had succulents in the past, and they seem to survive pretty well in our environment, which can be a little harsh. At least until they are subject to extreme neglect, which has happened before (i.e. oops, I forgot to water them for the whole winter, and left them out to freeze). So I’ve been collecting a few here and there.

olive oil

We buy olive oil by the can at a Middle Eastern/Eastern European/Russian market. I loved the color of this can, and it’s been sitting and waiting to be repurposed. So I filled it with some of the succulents.

I also discovered a nursery just up the road from us that sells all sorts of native and drought tolerant plants, so we are slowly adding some trees and shrubs to the yard, but it’s still too weedy to show off just yet. In the meantime, I picked up a couple of strawberry plants and this crazy bright geranium, which just had to go in this black pot I got on sale at Target a few months ago. I love the contrast of the flowers with the black. I have never been able to photograph bright reds and pinks, so this isn’t a perfect depiction of the color, but it’s a deep, deep fuchsia, with lots of blue undertones.

porch garden 2

Another mix of succulents.

succulents

I filled up my old birdcage with lots and lots of different sorts. I’m not sure how well this is going to work in the long run, but so far everything seems happy enough. I stuck a few of the dangly (that’s a word, right?) varieties in from the outside, and I’m hoping more will make their way through the bars of the cage.

birdcage

I finished up with three of these hanging pots along the front (from Ikea), I thought the green bean plant looked nice with the lacy edge. Maybe next I’ll learn the actual names of my plants.

green bean

 

I’ve got some more pots to fill with herbs and maybe some more flowers. But now I need another nap. Pixel agrees. Or maybe he just wants some of my blueberries in that bowl.

porch bed

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