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Posts Tagged ‘Flowers’

Irvine, California

Pink Coneflower

 

 

Durango, Colorado

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I mentioned the passing of our amazing Bea Grow a while ago. Her death last December was sad, but now comes the truly unbelievable news that her garden is to be dismantled bit by little bit. I was as shocked as I imagine most of my fellow gardeners were when I read the craigslist notice of the sale of the contents of her house and garden that my friend sent me.

Disposing of the house contents I can understand, but taking apart the garden? Say it isn’t so!

This is a beautiful and amazing space. Bea was a true master of her craft and the garden she created on a hot, Southern California hillside was a joy to see. There are surprises and delights wherever you look — an adorable beehive watering can nestled amongst the greenery, graceful fountains and pedestals, a bird house with Bea’s little wren friend flitting in and out, delicious color combinations, and, amazingly, a rhododendron. Who but Bea could grow a rhododendron in San Clemente?!

Bea was very generous about showing her garden and with gardening advice. You could ask her anything and she would tell you her formula. I was pleased to hear that she credited watering with a weak solution of fish emulsion (one of our favorite techniques) for her success with containers plantings.

And it wasn’t just the garden that was beautiful. Bea was as lovely and gracious a person as you could ever meet. She was kind, funny and humble. The day I visited I asked if I could take her picture. She said yes, but she didn’t think I really wanted to do that. She told me she wasn’t a very good subject as she was very plain-looking. On the contrary, I told her, and I meant it. See for yourself. Not conventionally beautiful perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless; Bea was as lovely looking as any flower in her garden.

Bea (3rd from left) sharing her gardening tips.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Bea and her garden since I heard the news. The sale of the contents of her garden seems so wanton and disrespectful of a life’s work. Surely there’s some gardener out there who would love to buy Bea’s house and put his or her touch on this jewel.

I know all about change and impermanence and have meditated on this concept often. But this week I am struggling with it. Sometimes it’s just too soon.

And, no, I’m not going to the sale. As much as I’d love to have a small piece of Bea’s garden to put in mine, I don’t think I can bear to see the destruction of her work. The memory will be enough.

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You may have noticed that we haven’t posted anything new in a while — since before Christmas as a matter of fact. Mary Beth and I are busy with other projects, but we wanted to let you know that we’ll be back soon.

Stay tuned.

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Last week’s post was about using a solution of alcohol and water (one part alcohol to 10 parts water) to restrict the growth of paperwhites. Theoretically this will keep the stems short and strong enough to support the flowers without them tipping over. My paperwhites have grown super fast this week.

And some of them have started tipping over. I think this is because I didn’t change the water soon enough. The instructions were to start the bulbs in regular water and when the shoots reached a couple of inches to pour out the plain water and replace it with the alcohol/water solution. By the time I read about this and replaced the water most of the bulb shoots were 3 – 4 inches high, too far along apparently to have the desired effect. It will be interesting to see if the bulbs with the shorter shoots do any better.

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I’ve been so busy getting ready for company next week that my days are a blur of sanding, painting, installing, etc. Of course, gardening is part of the preparations and I’m doing a bit of planting both outdoors and indoors.

I love the way paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) look, but not the fragrance so I haven’t forced any of these bulbs in many, many years. But I was seduced by some really healthy looking bulbs when I was at Roger’s Gardens a few days ago. Roger’s is one of the premier nurseries in our area—or any area for that matter — and a very dangerous place to go with a few dollars in my pocket. Needless to say I spent a little more than I planned on spending, i.e. buying some of those bulbs.

I gathered some glass containers and put the bulbs in with some glass pebbles and water. A few days later they looked like this:

But then I got to thinking that maybe I should do a little research because, who knows, someone may have found a better way to do it in the intervening years. Lo and behold, someone has found a better way to force the bulbs. Specifically to deal with paperwhite’s propensity to grow so tall that they topple over. That means that I would have had to figure out a way to support the stems pretty soon, but with this newish technique I won’t have to bother with all that. Here’s how.

It’s very simple really. Once the green shoots are a couple of inches long, pour out the water and replace it with a solution that is 1 part rubbing alcohol to 10 or 11 parts of water. You can also use any hard liquor (not beer or wine), but you’ll have to do some calculations based on the percentage of alcohol to get the proper mixture. For that info click on this link to Easy to Grow Bulbs and an article by William B. Miller, Professor of Horticulture and Director of the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University cleverly entitled “Pickling Paperwhites.”

The result will be paperwhites that are about one third shorter that normal and less likely to tip over. According to Professor White they don’t know exactly why this is, but feel that it’s because the alcohol induces stress that prevents the plant from absorbing water as effectively as it normally would which limits the growth but not the flower production or longevity.

I replaced the water a couple of days ago and my plants still look great. So we’ll see. They’ll be beautiful I’m sure, I just hope that I don’t mind the smell as much as I used to.

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Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California

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Durango, Colorado

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