Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dinning by Design Kansas City

Rilona Amaryllis are on the sideboard, Fritillaria persica in the arrangement
Coral Charm Peonies and Asclepias tuberosa,Brodea "Queen Fabiola"
Lilacs and Beehive shaped birdcage,unfortunately-poor photos...

This past weekend was Kansas City's Dinning by Design fundraiser for DIFFA Kansas City. DIFFA raises money for prevention and education for HIV/AIDS in the greater Kansas City area. I've participated in this great event for nineteen years. Volunteers in the design community create environments for a gala dinner/dance that can be quite spectacular. Millions of dollars has been raised by this event over the years, this year sponsored by Elle Decor magazine. This year, I partnered with Museo, they carry the most beautiful contemporary furnishings in the Midwest. Our theme was "the Birds and the Bees...big surprise! I had wonderful nineteenth century beehive and bee prints, rustic garden furniture and high end Italian light fixtures,table and chairs. The flowers I chose were Coral Charm peonies, Clematis, Brodea, Asclepias, Fritillaria and arm loads of Lilac. Originally, I had planned on having a live observation hive in the center of the table, and live canaries in the beehive cage. Because of health regulations...no live bees, and no live birds..so I used mechanical canaries instead! When I was in New York last fall, I found great bee napery which was a nice detail on the table. For more information on the event, go to diffakc.org

Monday, April 20, 2009

Something in the Air two

fruiting Quince,Cydonia oblonga-"Aromatnaya"
flowering Quince,Chaenomeles speciosa "Cameo"
Trillium Cuneum
The great white trillium
adolescent hens
every year I cross the many hybrid lilacs in my collection, there are several hundred seedlings here on the bridge, ready to be planted out in the field. They grow much faster than you would guess

The new chicks are growing and sample fresh greens now, as well as their chick starter formula.
The great white trilliums made their appearance, and the spotted cuneum is fully open now...you can never have enough trilliums!

All the Quinces are blooming, my all time favorite is "cameo" double peach,even the fruiting quince is getting close to bloom. The quince tree has been trained in to loops for fun...we'll see how it matures.
Lilac "Nadezda",Viburnum carlesii

So many things are growing right now, I needed to add an additional mini post to get the highlights.The air is filled with the scent of Viburnum carlesii and judii. I love all viburnums...for foliage flowers, berries and for the wild life most seem to host. The spicy scent drifts in through the windows and greets you anywhere in the garden

Lilacs are a huge part of my life, and even though they bloom for just a brief amount of time, the quality that they add to a garden can't be denied. The first lilac to bloom was the fragrant "Evangeline" many more are on the brink of bloom. One of my favorites is called "Nadezda" that means hope in Russian (I think) so fragrant, heady and full. The scent pools around the bush in the evening air.

There's something in the Air

worker bees swarming over the empty queen's cage
Smoker and Queen's cage

After a picture perfect week, we had a wild storm that dumped three inches of rain in a few hours. I love good storms, the kind that wakes you up and makes you start to count between lightning flashes. The air was thick with ozone and charged with energy. The next morning, I found the dock had detached from it's mooring and had floated across the pond to be stranded on the opposite shore. That kind of rain brings everything out of their winter's sleep. The pond's overflow sounded like a jet engine-a huge amount of water!

On Wednesday, I waited until Noon to release the two new Queens from their individual cages and release them in the hives. I waited until then because that's when the most bees are out foraging for nectar and pollen and not IN the hive. I dressed in protective gear,got my hive tool and smoker ready and put on my veil. This was the first time I had gotten inside the hive since the new bees had been "installed". Now, you can wear gloves, but I don't know how you would really be able to be very dexterous with thick gloves on! I filled the smoker with dry grass and fresh Thyme...an experiment for mite control. Many mitacides are formulated with pure thyme oil, so I figured that using thyme to smoke essentially is fumigating the bees as well as calming them, the reason you smoke them in the first place.Smoking makes bees gorge on honey and settle them down.

After I gently smoked the entrance, I lifted the top of the hive, removed the feeder...(you need to feed bees at the start, so they can get settled in and build fresh comb.) Then gently moved the center frames apart to remove the Queen's cage. She had been in residence for four days, being fed by the worker bees, and spreading her hormones throughout the hive. After this time, she will be accepted by the newly created hive. A package of bees is made up of bees from different hives, so they need to be "retrained" by the young Queen's scent.

After gently removing her cage, I dealt with the feeling of thirty or forty worker bees crawling all over the cage and my hands. I could not stop shaking! so silly, it's just a little overwhelming to have them all over your bare hands! I used a small nail to unplug the cage, carefully replacing the cage for a few minuets so she can leave on her own accord. It all happened so fast, I think she flew up for a second, then went down into the masses. The second Queen went a little more smoothly, thank God! I put the empty cages on the landing of the hives just in case the queens where still on them. The workers swarm all over it, and it's hard to see what's what. This Wednesday,I'll pull out some frames and make sure there are eggs being laid, and a new generation will be on it's way in twenty on days from that first egg laying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Getting it Write

A friend of mine, Patrick , finally read some of my blog. This is a good thing, I had asked him to read it for the hope of getting honest feedback from someone who knows me. He had only read a few of the posts, actually thought it was a confusing site. He saw pictures at the right of the screen and thought he'd already read the same posts...(he was seeing the permanent blog photos, not the new photos that appear with each installment.) His major criticism was that it seemed detached and catalog-like....... oh my. I LOVE gardening and nature-those things consume me, every day. When I write, I try convey the amazing feeling I get when I succeed at a given gardening challenge, or see a river Otter or other creature living it's life outside my door. Patrick thinks I should be more familiar and real in my writings, and with that in mind, I'll let my natural voice be more prominent in the future. I don't do everything my friends suggest, but I wanted to know what they thought about this garden blog, and I'll take the advice I've been given! So, here it goes---
My garden is full of last fall's weeds,but I don't care. I love a perfect garden, but the reality is,mine is nothing of the sort. I've done magazine styling for years, and I've never been to a shoot that was of how the family really lived. We bring in fresh flowers, food, accessories, art, furniture....you name it and it's been added. All to look perfect and casual and most of all, "spontaneous". Real people have mail on their kitchen table, along with seed packets,napkins,tools etc...at least I do. The reason to have a party is not to reciprocate or celebrate, it's to get your house clean and the garden "pulled together". My goal is always to keep the garden or the house in a state of perfection, but it just doesn't happen. That being said, I will try to make it look perfect and effortless in pictures but know that around the corner, there's a hose laying out and a stack of one gallon pots from last years boxwood just waiting to be put away, recycled or reluctantly thrown out. I'll try to convey the reality of garden failures as well as the successes that all real gardeners know as reality. If I had a dollar for every plant or seed that I've purchased, coddled and finally killed-repeatedly.... I've mastered some things, and failed at others,always trying more than once, usually giving up by the third time. With failure we learn,with more failure,we learn more still. So keep tuned in, watch me get stung by my new bees,again...(this time on my ear, yea) and kill more plants than I can remember. But also watch for garden miracles when they happen as well, it's all about growing , learning and truly seeing the beauty before me, enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Not Easter Bunnies...Easter Bees

Confederate Violets and Bees for Easter time

Finally, I got to pick up my bees! Heartland Honey called and gave me the heads up for a Saturday bee delivery. They come from Northern California, driven by truck to Nebraska, then relayed to the Lawrence/Kansas City area. I left work early on Saturday to collect my new charges.Upon arrival to Heartland honey, I was third in line to gather my two "packages" of bees, really screen boxes with three pounds of live bees....so exciting. I kept my windows down during the 45 min. ride home, because there are "cling on bees" that hover over the bees in the boxes. After making a food syrup for the young colonies, of eight pounds of sugar to one gallon of water, I was ready to "install" the bees. First, I sprayed the screen boxes with sugar water to hydrate and calm the bees. knocking the box on my knee with a sharp rap, drops the bees to the bottom of the box, so I could remove their feed can and remove the Queen in her own little box. She is placed in the center of the hive, still in her wire mini cage. For four days, she remains there to saturate the new hive with her hormones and is accepted by the worker bees. After four days, I'll open her cage and let her begin to lay her eggs. When the queen has been placed in the hive, it's time to add the bees! Another rap to my knee knocks the bees down again, to make them more pourable, shaking them over the Queen's position in the hive. After the majority have been shaken in the hive, The hive top feeder is put in place, filled with syrup and carefully closed with the hive cover. The residual bees still in the screen boxes are angled toward the hive entrance to enter on their own. This was done with a full veil, long sleeved shirt and long pants. Did I get stung?? well, yes...but just twice..One bee went up my sleeve-zap..and another got me on the stomach, not bad for six thousand bees!! Something about Spring and Easter make the homecoming that much more special to me. Now, if the Sun would come out, we could be makin' some honey! Hoppy Easter !

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More Spring Ephemerals

On a cold spring day, I stopped by the woodland collection of the Linda Hall Library on the campus of UMKC. They have a wonderful collection of Trillium's, the foliage's are so diverse,many with marbled leaves that would be intriguing even without the triad blossoms.

Another gem that anyone who sees wishes to possess, is the lovely Anemonella. Most wild forms are typically windflower like, in white or rarely lavender or pink. Some selections have fully double blossoms and immense charm-this is named "Cameo". A dear friend of mine, who had opened a small specialty nursery, had ordered many wonderful things for his clients, and one vendor sent some tiny tubers for him to try. They were labeled, but Greyson didn't know what they were. So, he potted them up in small individual pots to grow on for observation. The tiny sprouting leaves looked like maidenhair ferns, or a little Meadow Rue...thus the" Anemonella Thalictroides". One by one, the Lilliputian plants grew in the cool greenhouse. Some where single and pure white, others where like tiered confections of crystalline sugar. He didn't known that these were hardy woodland plants, they seemed rarefied and other worldly. Some are quite rare, green centered forms, quilled petals, and unusually colored forms. A dappled woodland environment is to their liking, their tiny size makes them even more special. Like all Spring ephemerals, they tend to disapear with the hot weather of Summer, to re-emerge again in the spring of the next year.

Mystery Mini Narcissus...Do you know?

a small Jonquil type narcissus that blooms slightly later than Tete a' Tete,...any guesses?

I planted this treasure six or seven years ago, and it has slowly increased, Any ideas as to what variety it is?? Fragrant, like "Cheerfulness" luminous

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Lucky Bride

This weekend we had a sweet wedding in the small, elegant Danforth Chapel, Lawrence Kansas. Our bride Jennifer was so happy and radiant, you couldn't help but be so happy for her and her lucky Groom, Ben. The bride had requested a fragrant bouquet in creams and Lavenders. An emphasis on special fragrant blossoms was met by a myriad of picture perfect garden flowers and imported specialties.Hyacinth, Creme de la Creme Roses, white Lilac, Muscari, Sweet Peas...the list goes on and on...

Frozen Beauty

Early April is a perilous time to garden in the Midwest. We can and do have seventy degree days, and snow and hard frosts the next...only the hardiest plants can deal with such extreme temperature ranges. A recent morning proved to be fertile ground for capturing frost at it's crystalline best, just as the sun rose. The beautiful new leaves of the variegated Japanese Butter Bur hold their own in the frosted air. Thankfully, the early spring flowers can take the cold and revive with the dawn. The woodland favorite Mertensia-Virginia Bluebells take the cold in stride as do the regal Hellebore. I keep my fingers crossed when it comes to the fruit trees... A lite frost is fine, but a hard freeze will eliminate the harvest for another year. The fruiting pear blossoms have such rosy pollen,relished by Bees.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Scentimental Bulbs-The Antique Hyacinths

At this time of year, there are so many special things blooming in the garden. One of the most cherished Spring bulbs that I grow are the rare Roman Hyacinths, Hyacinthus Orientalis var. Albulus. An early bulb to cultivation, they have sprays of delicate fragrant flowers that you won't soon forget.. The most common form has pale blue flowers, produced in a sequence of two to six delicate stems per small bulb. White,pale pink and a darker blue variety are also seen on occasion. These are rare to commerce these days, but seventy-five years ago, they were a florist's staple for forcing out of season and Easter displays. The smaller stature, often over shadowed by the more robust standard Orientalis types, has led to their rarity. A cool moist spring, followed by a hot dry summer rest is the recipe for raising these heirloom beauties. Ironically, the very large flowered hybrids that over took the niche of the Roman Hyacinth are also becoming uncommon to the trade. Most of these larger forms have precursors that were unusual in color and fragrance. When you let the bulbs naturalize, they loose their club like look, almost appearing like husky, art shaded versions of the ancient Roman Hyacinth. Two of the antique standard varieties that add a special dimension to the early garden are the smokey lavender Splendid Cornelia, and the exquisite beet root purple Woodstock, along with the double white Ben Nevis. These hard to find bulbs are worth searching out and cultivating, the fragrance alone will happily haunt the garden as well as the Gardner! Purples, whites yellows and peach varieties exist to please any color palette.

Pelargoniums For Scent

When I first opened Bergamot and Ivy, I took a working vacation to the superlative Logee's greenhouses. A seminar on ornamental horticulture had been offered by Horticulture magazine, hosted by the wonderful Logee/Martin family. The snow was heavy, but inside the glasshouses, another world awaited the lucky participants. We were fortunate enough to have Joy Logee Martin give her recollections of another era in ornamental estate horticulture and specialty garden shows. She spoke of a particular show, I believe it was the Philadelphia flower show, in which she had a collection of scented Pelargoniums on display. By the end of the show, the greedy visitors had pinched cuttings off her show plants. She was so saddened by the state of her plants that she dumped the ragged pots in an unused greenhouse and forgot about them. The cool temperatures and short day length in the abandoned greenhouse spurred the Pelargoniums into full bloom. Nature took control and generations of hybrid ,fragrant seedlings where the lucky result. Most people in the United States call them Scented Geraniums, a separate family of mostly hardy garden plants. They should be called by their correct name to alleviate confusion. The gravel floor of the glasshouse provided the perfect nursery for all the cross pollinated seedlings emerging in the spring. This fortuitous accident has led to an amazing array of fragrances available to the hobby grower. There are gooseberry scented, nutmeg scented,old spice scented...along with the traditional rose and lemon scented plants. Along with the fragrances, floral forms were also created to delight the grower. Most scented Pelargoniums have intriguing, smaller blooms-the perfect compliment for the strong scents. Cool, bright conditions in the winter and a warm sunny summer spot will give you pleasure throughout the year. You can use the leaves to scent drawers, toss them in the dryer to freshen clothes--even bake with them for a special treat. I love to collect the more unusual forms, there's always one I've never seen before...the latest is an apricot scented plant that I just couldn't say no too...Even tossing them in a hot tub can give you a natural aromatherapy lift you couldn't get anywhere else. A sandy moisture retentive soil and a tight pot will do them fine, and if you're inclined, they can be raised from cuttings in no time. The popular Citronella mosquito plant is a member of this diverse family,and does indeed repel the nasty insects.