Sunday, January 31, 2010

Signs of Early Spring

Budding Ladies Slipper Orchid, Paphiopedilum "Supersuk Eureka"-click any left sided image to enlarge...
A new stalk on the amazing "La Paz" Hippeastrum
"Shooting Star" Hoya -indoors
curiously coiled Cyclamen seed capsules...ripening in July
Fall blooming Cyclamen hederafolium
Snowdrop Sweetness
the stalwart Snowdrops..
Stunning Spring Hellebores!
Helleborus orientalis
Hellebore buds looking good enough to eat...if they were Rhubarb!
side view of the cold frame
temporary cold frame for Spinach...
hives ready to be reversed...
clustering Bees...needing more room for Spring!
bottom boards prior to cleaning...
The snow has melted, and we had a small additional snow fall, but it was gone within twenty-four hours. The Sun came out, a blessing to be sure. I had a list of Sunday chores that needed to be attended to, like it or not. Watering all the indoor plants, for one. It takes about an hour to deal with the indoor garden-all the tender things that I can't risk in the cold greenhouse. A friend contacted me from the local Bee club, recommending I do a Spring clean-up of my hives, and suggesting that I reverse the hives as well, giving the bees needed room to grow. I had just inspected the hives a day or so ago, and found that I had mouse damage on both of the hives, so It was certainly time to see what was going on in there.The last chore I wanted to accomplish was to clear a sunny section of the vegetable garden and put up a temporary cold frame for a Spring crop of Spinach. I eat Spinach almost every day, so this was important! I did try to put some in the fall, but the seed was older and didn't sprout well. Way too early for regular sowing, but this could get me several weeks jumpstart over the rest of the garden. It was nice to see that my Fall planted Garlic was growing first time growing it! The bright day led me to explore the garden a bit, seeing what was stirring in the cold light. I found plump Hellebore buds, already twisting in their leafy bedding. The first Snowdrops made me smile, so,so beautiful. The below zero weather left damage in it's wake....the previously mentioned Blue Atlas Cedars, and the Magnolia grandifloras-a carmel gold color-I think they will recover.

The Bee clean up was my first chore of the day. I got all my tools together, finding fuel for the smoker, locating the very necessary hive tool to pry things apart and the cumbersome but needed veil. I was cold, but heated up with activity and excitement! Tearing into a hive is a little daunting, at least for me in that it's been my first year with Bees. I cracked the outer cover and puffed in some smoke...waited a minuet and did the same to each level. The smoke calms the Bees and makes them gorge on honey, calming them further. There are specific methods for reversing a hive, and I followed them to the letter. The bees were at the top super on the hive, so I carefully lifted them off the stack, and placed them on the already remover outer cover.Then the second super is similarly removed, this one with less Bees in it. The bottom super had no Bees in it, but showed a lot of mouse damage to the comb. I had forgotten to Winterize the hives by adding the mouse guard to the entrances...without a barrier, the mice can clean out a whole hive over winter, eating honey, Bee bread(pollen) and even Bees!. The bottom boards of the hive are normally cleaned by the bees themselves, but they don't break their cluster enough to take care of cleaning during the Winter. I scraped the wax and propolis (glue from tree and plant sap..) and cleaned the dead Bees away. I then re stacked the supers in the reverse order the had originally been. the hives were smaller but now the Bees have head room, and are closer to their food and honey. I felt like they seemed low on honey stores, so I put on some tray feeders and gave both hives a gallon of sugar nectar to help with Winter feeding and hive build up for Spring.

I've been going a little stir crazy with cabin fever, so I decided a little time in the dormant vegetable garden would get me started with the season! I had not done a very good Fall clean up in the garden, and after all the snow, everything was flattened and looking rather bleak. It occurred to me that if I cleared a section in the sunniest part of the garden, I could put up a temporary cold frame for a jumpstart on the Spinach. It was pleasant to work in the brightening Sun and hear the birds chattering in the surrounding trees. In about an hour, I was ready to sow the FRESH seed, and put the cold frame together. Six recycled storm windows and two divided light sashes made a very serviceable cold frame for my early Spinach.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spring Thaw

Hippeastrum "La Paz" as a reluctant cut flower....easier to enjoy up close
A fantasy African Violet (Saintpaulia) I love the 60's splash look
A birthday gift from designer Tim Super-FANTASTIC gift will out live me!
fragile looking....but tough as nails Hellbore...the Christmas Rose of Victoriana
A Tulip scented dendrobium Orchid
Baking heirloom Pumpkin pies helps get you through the COLD...Pecan nut crust for good measure...whipped cream for the soul.
light greenhouse freeze
Like feathers...
Frost Blossoms
close up of the Blue Atlas Cedar, pre burn
Armillary Sphere in the snow
The weather in my part of the World, has been far colder than we are used to here, dipping below 0 degrees, burning all my zone sensitive plants and trees, including Magnolia grandiflora, Blue Atlas Cedars and some of the tender Viburnums. All I can do right now is hope for the best, and a speedy recovery. This means total defoliation, and if I'm very lucky, a strong surge of new growth. Most of my Roses are on their own roots, so even if they get fried to the ground, I'll get strong shoots in the Spring. The positive thing is that for how cold it was, snow cover protected many things that would have succumb to the cold if exposed.

I've gotten outside, but most of my efforts have been in my Sunroom and under lights. I would be out in the greenhouse, but with the coldest weather upon us, the heat costs are just too high. The passive solar nature of the building keeps hardier things just fine, like Gardenias, Rosemarys and ligustrums...but tender seedlings are in the house for the first part of their life, moved to the cold greenhouse early in the Spring (March).

The days are getting longer, thank God, and the plants are starting to come back from their winter sleep. The tender Orchids are sending up bloom stalks, and their amazing blossoms never cease to put me into a state of awe. I have a dendrobium Orchid that sports lovely ivory white blossoms, speckled with lavender dots. I noticed on my day off, that late morning is the prime time for scent on this easy blooming beauty. At first...I couldn't figure out the fragrance on this plant, many Orchids mimic other fragrances and sitting next to it, I closed my eyes and let my mind drift, thinking of what I smelled. Then it came to me, hybrid Darwin Tulip scent! A Tulip scented orchid! perfect for early, early Spring...

When I was very little, I loved and still do, the wild violets. My mother gave me a Saintpaulia, or African violet for Easter one year and started me down that pathway at an early age. The advantage to Saintpaulias is their year round growth and bloom. They also come in every conceivable size and color, something for everyone! If my life is going smoothly, my violets are in full bloom...if things are bad and crazy for a period of time, and my plants show the stress as clearly as a EKG machine.

I found a whole new world of miniature Hippeastrums this year, I can't wait to see how they do in future seasons. Last year, I splurged on a "La Paz" bulb, part of the breeding line coming from the Bolivian species, Hippeastrum cybister. I love the spidery petals, and the contrasting red and green bloom. I think it's going to make a wonderful clump in years to come.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holidays at the Farm

Cape Primrose, Streptocarpus rexii hybrid for some winter color
Holiday Star, Agave Victoria Regina
New Year's Snow Flake Cookies for Gifts
Waterfall in the deep freeze...
BC Binosa "Wabash Valley" always in bloom for the season
Burr Oak in the snow
miniature Amaryllis, so much bloom for a small bulb-"Trentino" from South Africa
Holly wreath with deer scull says happy holidays to me!
Bouche de Noel with white (green) chocolate leaves and fresh black good
frost spangled grasses

frosted Aster seed heads...
For me, the holidays are so busy, I have very little personal time at the farm. I relish those moments to my self, believe me! We were lucky enough to have a real white Christmas this year, not just a dusting of snow, but ten + inches on Christmas eve!

The snow was beautiful, creating spectacular tableau everywhere.I normally decorate a tree, and bring out all the decorations from their storage places, but this year I stopped at making wreaths from local Holly, and stringing natural pine cone garland on the staircase with a touch of Cedar from the woods.I didn't entertain for the holidays, so it was just for me this year.

I did have some beautiful miniature Amaryllis blooming, along with a great Orchid that always honors me with winter time bloom. All the Orchids are under lights right now, the greenhouse is just too large to heat to the temperature that they require, and they love being in the house with warmer temperatures and steady controlled lighting! All of them are sending up flowering spikes,as if on command!

I made a delicious Bouche de Noel, a dessert I haven't made since high school, for my wine group gathering. Sugar cookies were also on the agenda for simple, edible gifts. I love to bake, it calms me and makes me feel like I'm doing something that is filled with love. I don't keep much at home, but bring it to work or give as gifts to friends.

I spent the holiday eve with my brother's family, the snow kept coming and coming! At midnight, my brother and I took a walk downtown, a completely deserted street greeted us...too cold and snowy for most people! We went to the bridge on the river, stunning with ice flows going over the spillway.

When I got home at the end of the next day, there was sooo much snow, I had to park my car at my neighbors house and walk the half mile to my house through drifts of snow ,carrying clothes and groceries!! I loved being snow bound for a few days, keeping the home fires burning for two days in a row!

I took long walks in the snow, and ventured to the waterfall, still flowing in the frigid temperatures! I'm sure many animals come here to drink, as the big pond is frozen solid. We have had temperatures from the teens to below, it's cold here!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year's Rieview

I love orange Amaryllis
I forced this Quince for this lovely American sideboard in the front hall
Gorgeous Dutch Amaryllis in the front hall,Magnolia garland at the staircase framing the View...

Formal Dinning Room
Holiday Centerpiece for a client's
We offer a wide selection of gifts and home accessories, something for everyone!
Holiday Orchids, always a perfect gift...
A vintage tree this year

The end of 2009 was a busy time for me. Usually I have a scheduled day off during the week, a time to work on the farm, all the MANY projects that need attention, including blogging. But throughout November and December, That all changes as the holiday season progresses at a steady pace. I go house to house, spreading holiday cheer and many yards of fresh garland and ribbon to at least one if not two houses a day. I'm lucky to have so many faithful clients that are on the books months in advance. The shop was decorated in a vintage Christmas style, We had purchased a fantastic Spruce look a like, that gave the perfect backdrop for some special ornaments. My favorite group of ornaments was a collection of hand blown glass shapes, each with a single bird feather suspended within. They looked great with some mouth blown art glass vases and our signature lotions and soaps from Blooming Lotus. The Bergamot &Ivy signature scent is most telling of real Italian Bergamot oil, and other select essences.

All season long, I gather materials from my farm to use at Bergamot & Ivy. Many an early morning was spent gathering cedar boughs laden with berries, bundles of native dogwood branches and even lichen covered bark for our special regional designs. It gives me the best feeling to use things that are native and abundant to me.

I want to thank all of my fantastic customers for their support throughout the year, I love what I do, and I love working with an amazing group of people every day of the year! Happy Happy New Year to you all!!