Saturday, July 31, 2010

K-Mart Rescue Misson

Above: Yellow Aquilegia, common name Columbine - rescued from my local K-Mart. The darkish spot where it is planted provides some nice light/shadow contrast - very chiaroscuro!

The Lakewood Post Office, where our PO box is located, is next to K-Mart. As the garden season gathered steam the plant display outside the store grows larger, until I'm compelled to wander over to take a look. Lately, the plants have been looking rather sad - it appears the store employees don't maintain a good watering schedule. However, this is a situation ripe for a vigorous, strong-willed plant to rise above the rest. Amongst the sad looking plants I spied this yellow Columbine. I didn't get it that day, but had to go back the next day and save it from its K-Mart fate.

I put it in the dirt strip of our greenhouse at the darker end, where it is keeping company with some variegated violets. Because the deer seem to be able to find whatever young plant I put out in the front yard, the plan is to let this plant increase in size for a year or two - harvesting seeds whenever possible, and eventually planting it out front some day when I can carve out a spot for my growing Columbine collection. Which reminds me - gotta get those dark purple and double pink Columbine seeds into some starting mix.

Above: Current Lakewood Manor resident - light purple Columbine.

Above: Another current resident - maroon double bloom Columbine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hibiscus Time!

This post features images of the first Hibiscus bloom of 2010. I have never seen this plant looking so good and, more importantly, aphid free! This plant, which I inherited with the greenhouse, had proven to be an irresistible aphid magnet. I must have sprayed the thing with soapy water solution dozens of times last year. This is the type of situation that has me reaching for systemic chemical pesticides, especially in January or February, when I begin to stock the greenhouse with young seedlings. I WILL wield chemicals when it comes to my ornamental plants. Aphids on a mature, large plant is one thing; its another thing entirely when it comes to young seedlings. You might as well invite Dracula to spend the night in a hospital nursery so he can suck the blood out of newborns.

Last year, I went so far as to put it outside overnight in winter to kill the buggers; a part of me wanted to leave it there to die, but The Boyfriend convinced me to bring it back into the warmth of the greenhouse the next day. I guess I'm a heartless Flora-Bitch at times. In January of this year, in a preemptive, desperate measure, I cut every shred of green off this plant in an attempt to starve the aphids during the crucial "many seedlings" phase of late winter. After all, they won't attack a plant devoid of juicy green growth. I savagely reduced it to a mere stick sitting in a pot of dirt. "Show me what you've got" I said to The Stick. "Prove to me you are worth the trouble." And show me it did - the plant is lush, lush, lush - and covered in flower buds waiting to pop. Its a survivor!

I'd have a third photo here if Blogger hadn't decided to stop uploading my images. Bad Blogger!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lightbox Treatment

Shirley Poppy flowers rest on slim, delicate stems - making them sway in the breeze. Which in turn results in photos that are a little too blurry. Since I wanted to cut several down for a bouquet, I decided to try out the lightbox and experiment with artificial light.

The two photos posted here are the best of the batch - I love how white and clean the light is. I used the "vibrant" color setting on the camera, and did some very simple photo editing using Microsoft Photo Editor to achieve a "painterly" effect (Photoshop will be entering my life soon - I have a feeling I'll be talking about my life in terms of "pre-Photoshop" or "post-Photoshop" once I open that Pandora's box). Bringing plant life into the house to photograph in the lightbox has been in the back of my mind for a while, and this is the first time I have done it. I am thrilled with the results, and am looking forward to dragging all manner of plant materials into the house this winter for the lightbox treatment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Better Off Dead

Some plants are better off dead, or nearly so, in that they look much more interesting that way. I am a big fan of the Poinsettia plant - not in December, but weeks later - maybe March. By that time, the owner has long since stopped watering it and the leaves have curled up into fascinating shapes far more interesting than the original live plant.

I feel the same way about the common type of Day Lilly (Hemerocallis) - I guess I have seen one too many run of the mill orange and yellow specimens. The Day Lilly pictured here (they came with the house) is from my front yard. Why do I have them at all? They came with the house. With a little evening back-lighting and Death breathing down its neck, the common orange Day Lilly is transformed into "botanical stained glass". I had a tough time getting the entire image in sharp focus, but decided the vibrant colors mitigated that shortcoming, and made them worth showing off.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peak Groundcover Performance

Above: Sedum spurium (aka "John Creech Sedum") flower

Ground cover plants continue to provide interest and amazement as the summer wears on. If it was not for my love of close-up images, I may have never 'seen' these flowers and appreciated them as much as I do now.

Above: Sempervivum tectorum (aka "Hens and Chicks") flower

You have to admit that even the so-common-as-to-be-boring "Hens and Chicks" produces a beautiful, complex flower.

Above: Close up of Sempervivum tectorum flower

Finally, pictured below is the flower dominating our landscape at the moment, the ubiquitous Sedum album, "Chubby Fingers".

Above: Sedum album (aka "Chubby Fingers") flower

Chubby Fingers is my personal nemesis. Due to the sheer volume of this plant found on the property, I think it is most likely to broach the perimeter of the house, and take root on our indoor welcome mat - I am sure there is enough dirt there for this tough plant to take hold. If only there were some good recipes for the stuff...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing (Sun)

I loathe taking plant photos on brilliant, sunny days. The colors are washed out and there is glare everywhere. Despite the sunny weather, I was determined to get some flowers photographed today - I needed to cleanse my photographic "palate" after spending two days photographing aircraft at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Expo 2010. While I was able to take some great shots of the static displays, photographing plants doesn't prepare one for photographing jets. I'll leave that to the folks with foot long telephoto, wide angle lenses! Just try and find a fighter jet in a clear blue sky without one - by the time you've located it - its gone.

The Shirley Poppies pictured here were photographed from underneath on a brilliant, sunny day - makes you want to stretch for the sun!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Go Spider Go!

Above: Unidentified spider hard at work on my Zebra plant

I should know better than to leave my camera in the house when I do my greenhouse chores. Not a day goes by, especially in the summer, when I spy a new subject. Today, a tiny little spider caught my eye. Having had some success in the past photographing spiders found in the greenhouse, I ran back to the house for the Canon.

Above: At this point, the spider got pretty shy; I'm just pointing my camera lens at it and hoping for the best

I was surprised the spider was still in the same spot when I returned with my camera. However, once I started shooting, the little bugger would not sit still. I simply pointed and shot the best I could, keeping my fingers crossed. I took 18 shots total - the best are posted here.

Above: Follow the light little spider, follow the light

Monday, July 12, 2010

Volunteers and Shirley Poppies

Above: Reliable volunteer snapdragon

Like many gardeners, my potting soil gets recycled year after year. It must be full of old flower seeds from prior years of seed starting - you never know what might pop up. Last year, some old snapdragon seeds germinated in a pot I was ignoring. I continued to ignore the pot throughout the summer, as the plants I had planned take up enough of my time. I watered it once in a while, but it displayed the kind of "will to live" I like to see in a plant - the ability to thrive just in case I forget it exists for a few days.

Above: Reliable volunteer snapdragon aping Georgia O'Keefe

Today's photos feature the first volunteer snapdragon of 2010; oddly, the snapdragons I planted, on purpose, and have fussed over, have yet to bloom.

Above: A decidedly non-volunteer Shirley Poppy - the first of 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lemons in Lakewood?

Above: flowers on my Allen Eureka Lemon (aka Meyer Lemon) tree

Due to my unemployed status, I have not done much impulse shopping at the nursery this year. However, I just had to have one of the Meyer Lemon trees for sale at Lowe's for $15. When I first spied them, I thought "now who the hell is going to grow a citrus tree in the Puget Sound? The only people able to do that are folks with a greenhouse. Wait - that's me."

Above: flowers on my Allen Eureka Lemon (aka Meyer Lemon) tree

I planted the tree in the dirt strip in the greenhouse, where I promised it all the warmth that it needed, but cautioned it that sun might be lacking. Expecting little, I have been watching it flourish in amazement. The scent of the flowers is a welcome addition to the greenhouse, and there has been new leaf growth since I put it in the ground. Could it be possible we'll see Lemons in Lakewood?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ninety-Five Degrees? No Problem.

Above: flower from a Sedum reflexum, also known as Jenny's Stonecrop (my best guess based on internet research), showing no signs of wilt in 95 degree weather.

Our front yard includes a plethora of incredibly tough, nearly indestructible flowering ground covers - including several types of Sedum. We have so much Sedum on our property, I expect to wake up one morning to find it has invaded the house. Summer is finally here in the Puget Sound region, and July 8 brought high temps between 93-95 degrees, along with the annual drought season. Despite copious watering via hose and irrigation system, most plants in the vegetable/flower garden are wilting in the heat. As the photo above illustrates - 90-plus Fahrenheit is no problem for this Sedum flower which, along with other blooming groundcovers, provides much-needed color after the spring flowers are long gone. Good thing, because it will be a cold day in hell before I start watering the extensive front yard! Go Sedum!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Queen of the Night

I purchased a new Calathea today, which initiated a round of cleaning and organizing the greenhouse. Imagine my surprise when I moved a pot to find this spectacular flower bud, pictured above. Called "Queen of the Night" or "Orchid Cactus", the flower is from Epiphyllum oxypetalum, a large, mature succulent plant that belonged to my late father-in-law.

Within a few hours, the flower had opened. A night bloomer, the flower peaked at about 9:00 PM.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thankful For The Green

Another gray, drizzly summer day in the south end of Puget Sound. If we are lucky, we'll hit 68 degrees today. Having lived here for 20+ years, I should be used to it, along with the effort it takes to live as if the sun was out. Obviously - you can't have the lush green without the abundance of rain. Maybe I'm extra peeved because I recently spent countless hours trying to re-install an irrigation system in the garden - only to find that the garden won't need water for days. You just have to suck it up and be "Thankful for the Green".