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It feels satisfying to follow a post about a 90-year-old with a post about infants.
Meet my new Filius Blue pepper plant sprouts:
I’m excited to see these little guys grow, but don’t tell anyone – they’re going to be Christmas presents in a few months.
I recently got the seeds from my good friend Jenn Daniel. A few years ago, she gave me a tiny plant, which turned into this:
Don’t let that pretty purple color fool you – those peppers are hot! But if you leave them on the plant long enough to turn bright red, they will be much milder.
It’s a very cool pepper plant. I’m so glad Jenn sent me more seeds so I can share the love! Thanks lady!
Are ya’ll sick of seeing photos of the lights at the Botanical Gardens? I’m not. Such a cool exhibit. But I am aware that the photos don’t do it justice. In person, when you see that mountain lit up in pulsating rainbow colors among the Saguaro cacti, wow, just wow.
I thought it was time for an Amaryllis update, as the first flower is getting very close to opening. It’s remarkable to me the speed at which this bulb has grown. I mean, just look at it:
I just planted the dang thing three weeks ago!
That is some serious enthusiasm for life!
Things sure are moving along quickly on the Hippeastrum bulbs front. Two days after planting them, the sprouts had already turned green:
Since then, one of the buds has been skyrocketing toward the ceiling:
It hasn’t even been one week since the planting! That’s ambition, my friends. That bulb has goals.
I love it!
Well, this certainly was a welcome sight when I got home this afternoon:
It was a rainy-ish day, gloomy, chilly for Phoenix, and it hadn’t gone particularly well (although there were good aspects). When I got home and spotted this box by my door, and checked the return address, it instantly brought a smile to my face.
My regular readers should be able to guess what’s inside fairly easily.
Hippeastrum bulbs!!! (Or, amaryllis bulbs, as they are more commonly known.)
My awesome cousin Billy Fox has made this a thing for the past few years, sending bulbs to all the women in the Fox Family Clan (he may send some to the men, too, but I’m not aware of that). It’s one of the most thoughtful, touching gifts I’ve ever received. To keep getting them year after year means so much to me!
And especially this year – I wasn’t forgotten in my new city!
It seems that these bulbs will produce shiny white flowers, with a bit of pale green on the interior. Sounds gorgeous to me!
Before planting them, I soaked them in a bowl of water:
Not for long, maybe 30 minutes or so. I got a little distracted doing other tasks while they soaked. I meant to soak them for a few hours, but I was also anxious to get them planted before sunset. Bulbs (and most plants) have an amazing capacity to grow even if you don’t follow growing rules down to the letter. Most times, they can thrive with minimal care.
They are not very large bulbs, and my window sill space is limited, so I planted them together in one pot. It’s a pot I’d previously painted red with blue trim, so when the white flowers eventually bloom – probably in January – it’ll seem like the Fourth of July in winter.
Which, obviously, will be way cool. Here they are planted up and watered before I brought them indoors to their new location:
Billy, you’re the best. Thanks for thinking of me year after year with this thoughtful and kind gift. It means so much! I miss you like crazy! Maybe we’ll get to see each other during the holidays? I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
I know, I know…it’s really Thursday. I’ve been having glitches with my photo files, sorry about that. I wanted to show you what I’d been working on lately (it’s that time of year again!):
Those are Hyacinth bulbs in various containers I got from a thrift store. My regular readers know I do this every year – persuade bulbs to flower in time for the holidays – because who doesn’t love fresh flowers indoors in December? Plus, Hyacinths smell wonderful.
If you’re interested in giving natural gifts for the holidays, consider bulbs because they are so easy to maintain. All you need is a waterproof container, some stones, the bulbs, and water. A little sunshine wouldn’t hurt either, but in my experience they will grow under pretty much any lighting conditions you give them, so long as you keep the water filled to the base of the bulb.
Since I’m a day behind in posting, I’ll double up later today and bring you a good ol’ fashioned Plants 101 post. That’ll get me back on a Thursday track. I hope to see you back here.
Good To Grow is an Albuquerque-based interior and exterior landscaping service. We use plants and flowers to decorate offices, homes and patios around the city. We also offer memorial garden services, meaning that when a loved one passes, we can plant a customized garden in his or her honor. If the person who passed was an avid cook, we can plant an herb garden to honor that person’s memory. If a Veteran dies, we can plant a red, white, and blue perennial garden. If you lost a beloved pet, we can plant a garden around the burial site.
If you’d like to know more about the landscaping or memorial garden services offered, please send an email to lizatheplantlady at gmail dot com. Thank you for your consideration.
Hola peppermint stickones, Merry Christmas! Happy Monday!
You probably have all your Christmas shopping done already, as it’s Christmas Eve today. But in case you’re still looking for a special way to say “I love you” to friends or family members, may I suggest (as I do every year) that you consider a flowering bulb?
Bulbs make great gifts because everyone loves fresh flowers indoors during the winter.
Hyacinths are my bulb of choice, because they have such a lovely scent. Paperwhites bloom easily but their scent is so strong – people either love it or hate it. Hyacinths seem to have universal appeal.
You should be able to get Hyacinth bulbs at one of your local nurseries. They should be on sale, too.
As for what to do with the bulbs once you get them, I like to start by collecting containers from a thrift store. They need to be waterproof. Here are some containers I picked up at Savers:
Next, fill the containers with decorative glass pebbles or rocks. Then place the bulb on top and fill the container with water.
Poof – just like that, you have thoughtful gifts for people you care about.
Easy peasy to make.
Now, these are not maintenance-free gifts. I only give them to people who I know will care for them. Every couple of days they’re going to have to add water to the container, and they’re going to have to do that for weeks to come. I recommend keeping the bulb on the kitchen windowsill, if possible.
But to people who understand the rewards of bulbs, those people will be tickled that you made this little creation for them.
Anyway, that’s my idea of a nice gift.
I made one for myself, too.
Because I’m probably the biggest fan of them all!
I’m going to be taking a break from the blog starting after today’s post. I’ll be back on Friday for the puzzler, but then I won’t be back again until the following Friday, January 4th, when I’ll return with all my Experts for our first panel of the new year.
I’ve been blogging more or less consistently for the last three years, so a break will be good. Sometime in January, I’ll hit my 1000 posts benchmark.
I’m looking forward to 2013. We live in interesting times.
Before I go, I wanted to ask you dear readers about something. You see, I’ve been trying my hand at making caramel candies for the first time, and was hoping to get opinions from those of you out there who have caramel making experience.
I think that homemade caramels also make a great gift, so I’ve had visions in my head of delivering flowering bulbs and bags of candies to my friends and family members.
It was going to be so awesome.
I started reading up on recipes and watching videos. Right away, I noticed that everyone had a different temperature recommendation, they all used different ingredients, they had different cooking methods.
Awesome turned into intimidating.
But then after watching enough videos, I decided that if there was so much leeway in how to make them, it must not be that hard.
I could see that the common denominators of the recipes were sugar, cream, and butter, and you were doing some version of boiling them, either together or separately. A candy thermometer was necessary. A well-greased pan to pour the caramel into was necessary.
I found a cute recipe from Apartment Therapy. It was sensible, because it separated the cream/butter melting from the sugar/corn syrup/water boiling – which reduced risk. It was also sweet because they addressed newbies like myself and cheerleaded us on.
So I measured everything out and followed each step exactly as they said. What happened on my stove looked exactly like the photos they posted on their site.
I was euphoric. If I could master caramel so easily, what else could I conquer, I wondered.
I poured the caramel from the saucepan to the waiting greased dish. I carefully cleaned the thermometer, and the saucepan (by boiling water in it so the sugar dissolves).
Everything looked beautiful and the kitchen was clean.
Let me tell you how bursting with confidence I was at this point. I was patting myself on the back, I was high fiving myself.
I was so cocky that I decided to try a second batch. Right there and then.
The second recipe was much different. It seemed ridiculously easy.
1/2 cup of cream. 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract. 6 tbsp of butter cut into small pieces. 1 1/3 cup of brown sugar.
Combine the cream, butter, sugar and 1 tbsp of water into a medium sized saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter is melted.
Bring to boil and cover for three minutes.
Then uncover and do not stir. Continue boiling to 250 degrees.
Remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir.
Pour caramel into well-greased pan. After it sets, preferably overnight, cut into pieces and wrap with wax paper.
I did exactly that and the caramel looked perfect.
The first batch had taken about 40 minutes, the second about 25 minutes.
So now I had two successful batches of caramel, and an ego that knew no bounds.
I made lists of who would be the beneficiaries of my newfound love affair with candy making. I pondered entering candy making contests – was there a candy-making circuit where I could lord my natural talents over those who have slaved in their kitchens for years?
Surely there must be some sort of prize for candy making rookie of the year.
I went to sleep that night knowing that everything was right with the world.
And it was.
Until I woke up.
I got out of bed and crept straight to the kitchen. Coffee could wait, I wanted the sweet taste of success to be my first sensation of the day.
I took a knife from the drawer, and approached the two pans of caramel with the swagger of a seasoned pro.
I reached down to the pan with the knife and bam!
Rock hard candy.
I checked the second batch. It was rock hard, too.
What went wrong?
Where was my squishy soft caramel?
Surely it wasn’t me. I had too much natural talent for it to be my mistake.
Undaunted, I forged ahead.
I researched SOFT caramels candies, and found a recipe for Aunt Emily’s soft caramels. They sure looked soft.
The next evening, I decided to try the recipe. I figured with so much milk, cream, butter and corn syrup in the recipe, they would be the softest, bestest caramels ever.
So I did what Aunt Emily said, and the caramel looked perfect. A nice light brown.
The whole house smelled like caramel. And like success.
Once again, I cleaned all the dishes and equipment and went to bed that night feeling on top of the world.
Which, of course, lasted until the next morning when I woke up to another batch of rock hard candy. It’s not quite as hard as batch one and two, and the flavor is delicious. But I can’t cut it with the sharpest knife I have, so it’s nowhere near the melt-in-your-mouth caramels I’ve dreamt about.
So, what the heck?
What’s the secret to making the squishy caramel?
I’d appreciate your thoughts and opinions!
Thanks so much, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
(If you want a reminder on when I’ll post again, then subscribe to my blog – you’ll get an email every time I post something new.)
Looking for a great gift for a Nature lover in your life? Consider Seeing Trees, by Timber Press:
From Timber Press’s website:
“For many, the tree is a symbol of longevity, integrity, and enduring beauty. But how many of us have truly seen a tree? How well do we know the intimate details and secrets of that old familiar oak in the backyard? In Seeing Trees, author Nancy Ross Hugo teaches us a whole new way of watching a tree. And in breathtaking shots of striking detail, photographer Robert Llewellyn shows us why it’s worth it.
On every page we see the miracle of seeds maturing, leaves unfurling, and flowers emerging. But moreover, this book teaches us what to look for when we slow down and take the time — what we can see in the scars of a leaf, the twig structure, and the pattern of the bark. With profiles of the most familiar and beloved species, including the American Beech, the Red Maple, the Southern Magnolia, and the Tulip Poplar, Seeing Trees opens our eyes to a tree’s shy magnificence, and invites us to deepen our relationship with these earthly treasures.”
The photographs are gorgeous, from the Japanese Maple leaf variations:
To the male White Oak flowers:
To the close-ups of the funky southern magnolia cone:
This book is perfect for tree lovers of all ages.
You can’t go wrong with any of the Timber Press titles, for the gardeners or Nature lovers in your life. All their books are beautifully photographed and packed with helpful information.
Timber Press “is a Portland, Oregon publisher of books on gardening, ornamental and edible horticulture, garden design, sustainability, natural history and the Pacific Northwest.”
You don’t have to live in the Pacific Northwest to enjoy their books. You can browse their collection by clicking here.
Accents for Gifts
This holiday season, you can make your own gifts, grow your own gifts, shop for local goods, buy from small publishers – the list goes on and on.
You can make each gift more memorable by adding your own unique stamp to it. For example, you could use a packet of seeds from your garden as an accent gift:
Seeds make a thoughtful accent gift because you’re sharing a piece of your garden with someone you love. That’s nice!
I’ll have some more holiday gift ideas for you on Saturday. I’ll be taking a two-day break from blogging. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks so much for being here!
Hello cookiebears, welcome back to the Good To Grow site.
We are on day two of my holiday theme week, how to use bits of Nature to show someone you appreciate them this holiday season. They’re sweet gifts, they’re memorable, plus they’re less expensive than most mall stuff.
Today is a project anyone can do for a gift idea – make a terrarium. Whaaaat? You might be thinking a terrarium is a crazy gift idea. I agree – it’s borderline lame – but hear me out.
A few weeks ago, I enlisted Jeness and Cacia (the dynamic Mother-Daughter duo) to help me make a couple of terrariums. Really, they did all the work and I just took pictures. Thing is, it was really fun. One of the terrariums was going to live with them, but the other wasn’t a gift for anyone in particular.
The evening got me thinking that a terrarium would be a nice gift. Say you decide to make one for Grandma – then you’re spending that whole time thinking about her. And if you’re making the terrarium with kids, you could be talking about Grandma and the things she likes. Isn’t that the best part of making something for someone else? You think about that person the whole time you create it?
To me, that’s the definition of a great gift. So yeah, a terrarium counts.
Let’s have Jeness and Cacia show us the terrarium basics.
How To Create a Terrarium
A terrarium is a glass container with a lid that you fill with humidity-loving plants for display. They’re supposed to be pretty to look at, and interesting to watch grow. You can use an open-air glass container, like an aquarium, without a lid, and use plants that aren’t as moisture craving, like cactus. It’s whatever look you want for your house or for Grandma’s. The ones with the lids require almost no maintenance whatsoever.
Step One: Select a container. What container you choose will depend on what type of terrarium you want to create. I recommend looking around online for the types of terrariums other people are making to see what you like (or what you think Grandma would like).
I’d found a couple of glass containers from Michael’s Crafts store, they were specifically for making a terrarium. They were ten bucks each.
Step Two: Select plants for the terrarium. This step goes hand-in-hand with the container selection. Lots of plants will work, the key is to use small ones.
For our terrariums, I wanted to use some of the Pellionia that Nina the Lizard sent me from her habitat in Iowa. I’d gotten them a few months ago and threw the cuttings in water until I decided what I wanted to do with them. They loved their “lake home”:
I also had lots of cuttings:
The Zebrina, or Wandering Jew, is especially nice for terrariums because the leaves are so colorful and they’ll enjoy the humidity. The cuttings don’t need to root ahead of time – they can go straight into the soil and they’ll grow.
Step Three: Add a layer of stones to the bottom of the glass container.
Here, Cacia uses gravel from the driveway:
Step Four: Add a layer of activated charcoal. This is for enclosed terrariums, to keep the air inside fresh. You can buy charcoal at your local pet store, by the fish tanks. If you’re making an open terrarium, you don’t need the charcoal.
Step Five: Add a layer of Spaghnum moss. This is to create a barrier between the stones and charcoal, and the soil that will go on top. The moss prevents the soil from falling down into the pebbles. You could also use coir, or even mesh.
Step Six: Add a layer of potting soil. Depending on the size of your container, you’ll want an inch or two of soil on the bottom, or about a quarter of the container. So not much.
Step Seven: Have fun planting and decorating.
Once you have the layers on the bottom of your terrarium, the fun part starts – planting the plants and decorating.
Lots of people like to use small animals or plastic gnomes to decorate their terrariums. I had other ideas. I wanted a more modern looking terrarium, I guess. For the last few months, I’d been collecting shiny things, colorful things (I almost always have colored glass stones on hand, and rhinestones), unusual items, like some old Lotus pods I had from when I worked on the farm.
I brought a box of what I collected over to Jeness’s, and had the gals use whatever they wanted.
It was fun. Plants were positioned first, shiny stuff came second.
Here’s Jeness with hers:
Oooh, pretty! Let’s take a closer look:
Cacia was busy working on her masterpiece:
Lots of sand and color – I like it!
Both terrariums turned out beautifully. They took about an hour to create, it was a good project for after dinner.
Step Eight: Water lightly and put the lid on.
Step Nine: Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Nice work, Jeness!
Cacia, show off your creation for us:
Haha, you ham!
Thanks very much to the both of you for all your help. I had a great time with you.
Here’s the terrarium Cacia made (I’m being selfish and keeping it for now):
The plants look like they are loving their new home.
The terrariums require very little maintenance. I used plants that are vigorous growers, so I’ll have to prune them back when they get too big. But that’s nothing. Mostly the terrarium will sit there and look pretty without any help from me.
I think that’s another reason they would make a good gift for plant lovers. They’re easy.
What do you think? Lame or cool?
I’ll be back manana with another holiday gift idea. Hope to see you back here.
What’s that smell, sniff, sniff? Oh yeah, it’s the smell of a theme week.
That’s right, people, we’re having another theme week. Except it’s not a whole week, it’ll only be three days because of Thanksgiving on Thursday (I’m taking Thursday and Friday off blogging).
Even though it’s not a whole week theme week, it is timely. I’m going to spend the next three days offering up some Nature-inspired holiday gift ideas. Alternatives to Black Friday, if you will. These are gifts that you and your family can create together, on the cheap.
I did this last year, too. With so many families on tight budgets again this year, it’s nice to know you can create thoughtful gifts without spending much money.
Which brings us to my favorite holiday gift – Hyacinth bulbs. Fresh flowers indoors in winter, what’s not to love about that?
Lots of bulbs will bloom indoors in the winter. I love Hyacinths because of their sweet fragrance. I enjoy the scent of Paperwhites, but a lot of people don’t (it’s strong) so I don’t use them as gifts. Tulips look great but don’t smell. For me, smell is a powerful motive to give bulbs as gifts.
You may have heard about “forcing” bulbs to bloom indoors, but there’s nothing forceful about it. With the Hyacinths, all you need to do is add water, and they’ll grow. Here, I’ll show you.
How To Persuade Hyacinth Bulbs To Bloom Indoors
What I like to do is start by collecting containers at thrift stores. Anything that’s leak proof will do, I’m fond of using old glasses and bowls.
I also pick out colored glass stones at the dollar store.
The bulbs came from Osuna Nursery, discounted 30% now, up to 50% a few weeks from now.
Hyacinths don’t just smell beautiful, they are beautiful.
To get them to bloom, you simply put the stones in the containers, plop a bulb or two on top, like this:
Then you fill the container with water, to the base of the bulb.
They’ll grow fastest if you find them a nice sunny location:
At my house, the sunny location this time of year is in the light of the west-facing windows.
I started the bulbs a few days ago. I’ll keep them here for the next month before giving them away. I like to make sure they get a good start before handing them off.
The only maintenance is to keep the water line up, at the base of the bulb. I’ll add water to all the containers every few days for the next several weeks. It’ll be worth it knowing my family and friends will get to enjoy a blooming beauty in their homes during Christmas-time.
Will the bulbs bloom by December 25th? I dunno. It’ll be close. As long as I can tell that the bulbs are healthy when I give them away, I’m fine if they bloom in December or January.
The people I give these gifts to are people who care about Nature, so they appreciate that bulbs are living, breathing creatures. It’s not hard for them to handle the water maintenance until the bulb blooms. Plus, I think it’s nice for them to participate – it’s like an interactive gift.
Within days of adding water to a bulb, you’ll see roots and green, so bulbs can be a great last-minute gift, as well.
Are you thinking about using bulbs as gifts this year? I’d love to hear about it.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another Nature-inspired holiday gift idea. Hope to see you here.
Recently I was contacted by a gentleman named Larry about my Mimosa pudica plant, (I call her Miss Mimosa). Mimosas are nicknamed Sensitive plants because their leaves close when you touch them, and they close at night, too. Larry saw one of my posts about Miss Mimosa and thought I’d be interested in a product, a Mimosa growing kit, that he and his brother created. They call their Mimosas “TickleMe Plants.”
Larry at TickleMePlant.com wrote, “As a science teacher for over 30 years my brother has been sharing his love of the plant each year in the classroom. I have been growing the plant since I was a child and later joined forces with my brother and created the TickleMe Plant brand with the goal of exciting children and those young at heart about nature, gardening, plants and science.”
Excellent work, Larry. If it were up to me, there would be a Mimosa in every classroom across the country.
Larry was kind enough to send me a sample, so let me walk you through how easy it is to grow these cute little plants. The kit came with seeds, instructions, a tiny pot and a mini greenhouse.
The first step was to soak the seeds in hot or boiling water for at least 24 hours. I ended up leaving these soaking for several days:
I filled the pot with soil, watered it, then placed the seeds in the wet soil. Then I put the pot in its new home, the greenhouse.
Next I put the greenhouse on my kitchen windowsill so I could watch the action. There were sprouts within a day.
They started growing like crazy:
In only a few weeks, it was time to repot them into roomier digs. I planned to use these little plants as gifts, so I sealed and painted some more clay pots so they’d look nicer.
Of course, as soon as I moved the pot of Mimosas, they collapsed from all the drama:
Cracks me up every time they move.
The little baby plants had grown some sturdy roots in a short amount of time. Good job babies!
I separated the roots gently:
And put a few plants into each pot (three total). You can see they are still collapsed immediately after planting:
But they were fine 20 minutes later:
So thanks, Larry. I think TickleMe Plants are a great name, great idea. I wish you continued success. Readers, if you have questions for Larry or would like to order classroom kits for your school, you can reach him at email@example.com or by calling 845-350-4800.
I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.