Follow the Foot Prints!

My snow-covered garden ready to “tell” on its visitors. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My snow-covered garden ready to “tell” on its visitors. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Follow the Foot Prints!

There are many reasons to look forward to cold, snow-covered days. They are great excuses to “rest” after a busy gardening and beekeeping season; it’s a good time to catch up with reading and I enjoy a cup of tea curled up in front of a fireplace with a purring cat in my lap.

There’s one other reason and one that is part solving a mystery with a dash of fresh discovery. That is walking through my snow-covered garden and spotting the different foot prints in the snow, which confirms my regular visitors.

These look like squirrel prints along with some birds on the right. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These look like squirrel prints along with some birds on the right. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Although I can’t tell the difference between the different winter birds, those foot prints are the easiest and most fun to follow.

In the following photo, can you find the deer print?

The bird prints are easy to spot, even on rocky ledges. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The bird prints are easy to spot, even on rocky ledges. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As much as the individual foot prints are fun to follow, I like to find the intersection of prints and try to imagine what happened at that point.

When I watch my garden from inside my house, I sometimes spot birds running into each other and squirrels chasing each other through the garden, even in snow. Their combined foot prints, however, don’t mean they were in the one spot at the same time.

Let’s see, I see squirrels, birds, rabbits and maybe raccoon prints in this spot.

Now this looks like a traffic intersection, how many different prints do you see? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now this looks like a traffic intersection, how many different prints do you see? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If they were all in the same spot at the same time, however, I imagine it would look something like this:

One more conflagration of foot prints, so easy to see in the snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One more conflagration of foot prints, so easy to see in the snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

By checking the foot prints, I have also found some interesting trails. I didn’t know some of my birds like to winter over some of my hydrangea bushes, or how much many of these creatures circle my small front pond. Seeing those foot prints inspired me to make more of an effort to give them water in nearby bird baths.

Being outside after a snowfall is also quite quiet and beautiful, completely changing the look of my garden covered in a blanket of snow.

And one more set of prints that mar the white landscape. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

And one more set of prints that mar the white landscape. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you haven’t had a chance to walk through your garden after a snow storm, do it safely if you can but give it a try. You may be surprised at what evidence you see of what is visiting your garden!

Charlotte

March Gardening Chores

Spring is all about daffodils in my hillside garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Spring is all about daffodils in my hillside garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

March Gardening Chores

March is the beginning of daffodil days in my garden, a wonderful almost daily parade of new flowers that can distract me from getting things done but doesn’t stop me from garden dreaming. The weather can also be a little challenging in USDA Hardiness zone 5b so March is a hit and miss month in terms of getting a lot done but I still have” must do” chores.

Under the category of garden maintenance:

1.     Prune and fertilize roses. On the first warm day, I remove all dead branches so the new growth will have room and add coffee grounds, banana peels, Epsom salts and crushed egg shells mixed into the soil around the base of the plants. Gently, you don’t want to tear up the roots. Also a good time to mulch.

2.     Plant onion sets around roses to keep bugs at bay. Three for miniature roses, 5-6 for the larger roses.

3.     Prune fruit trees. Nothing elaborate, I make sure the branches don’t cross and are open in the center. Also mulch. Make a tire around the base leaving the space up at the tree trunk open.

My yellow Lenten Roses herald the arrival of yellow in my garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My yellow Lenten Roses herald the arrival of yellow in my garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

4.     My hellebores and ‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum get the old greenery cut off so any new growth gets to shine. The Sedum starts look like tiny green roses.

5.     If I haven’t already painted and repaired birdhouses and native bee houses, those get finished and installed this month. If I put this off much longer, possible renters, especially birds tend to pop into the garage to check out the real estate before it’s moved out into the garden.

6.     Mulch. My over-wintering mulch pile is ready to spread over new areas that need cover for the season and areas that lost cover over winter. Good time to load up the wheelbarrow and keep a supply at hand.

In the category of planting:

7.     If you didn’t get your lettuce and spinach out in February, get them planted this month. I started a crop in my pot garden mid-February.

8.     March and St. Patrick’s Day is also the time to plant potatoes, radishes and carrots.

9.     The last frost day for this zone is Mother’s Day in May so it’s a little too early to get much else planted and much too early to move tropical plants outside, even if you are ready to toss them out on their aggravating dropping leaves by now. Give them a little rainwater and that will help tide them over another month or so.

10.  Also check inside plants for bugs. Look under leaves and if you see white bugs, clean off with a damp cloth wet with water and dishwashing liquid. Also spray soil with a few drops of dishwashing liquid in water in a spray bottle to get rid of eggs in soil. Start watering with ¼ strength fertilizer since days are getting longer. They are as anxious to get outside as you want them to be outside, I am sure, mine seem to blossom within a week of hitting my deck.

 Charlotte


Pick the Right Pot

A typical bulb garden in a tapered pot. Is that the right pot to choose?

A typical bulb garden in a tapered pot. Is that the right pot to choose?

Pick the Right Pot

Bulb gardens are popular as gifts mid-winter. For years I have made bulb gardens from fall sale bulbs and tucked them into the back of my refrigerator 10-12 weeks for the bulbs to get the chiling they need before they start to grow.

Depending on when I made them, I start pulling them out mid-winter. Just as another winter storm is in the forecast, the green tips of little bulbs promise spring is not too far away.

Buds are starting to pop up in this homemade bulb garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Buds are starting to pop up in this homemade bulb garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When planning to plant anything, and here I am using the bulb gardens as an example, the size of the pot is important. You want at least 2 inches of new soil around the roots so the roots can take up nutrients and feed the plants. Especially when planting tulips, you also need a longer pot so the tulip greenery doesn’t fall over.

t’s easy to pack too many bulbs into the wrong-sized pot, which I did with one of the bulb gardens this year. See the white roots peeking out of the bottom?

Too many bulbs, not enough room in the pot. Time to move! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Too many bulbs, not enough room in the pot. Time to move! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I could tell from seeing those roots I was rusty in making my bulb gardens but luckily it was relatively simple to fix.

I selected another, larger pot I could use to transplant the original bulb garden. To make sure the bulbs were not impacted, I cut the original plastic pot off the roots after ensuring the bulb garden would nicely fit in the larger pot.

The bulb garden is moving to a bigger pot so roots have room. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The bulb garden is moving to a bigger pot so roots have room. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The same concept applies for whatever you want to plant this next growing season. Often when we buy plants in pots they’re jammed full of plants that can’t survive in such cramped quarters because there is not enough nutrients available through the soil.

If you want to buy a hanging plant full of flowers, check to see how many plants are in the pot and make sure there are at least two of each. Then buy a second empty pot with soil and make yourself a second hanging pot, giving your plants more room to grow.

It may take a little time for the plant roots to establish themselves in the second pot but you will have longer-lasting plants and more blooms if their roots have enough nutrients.

And yes, you can fertilize but that’s only going to last so long. Artificial fertilizers forces the plant to grow too fast. As soon as any hot weather impacts the little soil already in the pots, the plants will die for lack of both water and food.

And what about the pot for the bulb garden at the top of this story?

It’s pretty and appropriate for the bulbs in the pot, crocus surrounding the outside and tete-a-tete daffodils in the middle. The daffodil roots will grow longer so they need more soil under them. The crocus are shallow so don’t need as much soil.

If I had my druthers, though, I would give all those bulbs more root space so they can stay healthy during their growth and I can pop them outside in my garden for repeated growth later.

Charlotte

Choosing Amaryllis Bulbs

Apple Blossom Amaryllis in bloom last year in one of my bay windows. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Apple Blossom Amaryllis in bloom last year in one of my bay windows. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Choosing Amaryllis Bulbs

Summer in the Midwest can be a lovely riot of color. By mid-winter, however, I miss the Missouri wildflowers and perennials that usually keep me company on my hillside. To brighten up my winter and for my early January birthday, I splurged on three Apple Blossom Amaryllis bulbs to add to my already existing collection. Yes, I have picked up a few of these fun bulbs in the past, most certainly to celebrate other birthdays.

The Amaryllis bulbs where on deep discount after the holidays, which is a great time to buy them. As I was picking my Amaryllis bulbs, a lady stopped by and asked for help picking one out as a gift for a friend.

Usually by this time of year Amaryllis bulbs have bloomed in their box or not quite started. Those that bloomed were exposed to some moisture, which triggered the blooming. They will need to be potted, allowed to grow leaves and then encouraged to rest a couple of months before they bloom again.

If you want an Amaryllis bulb that is going to bloom now, chase the buds. You want a bulb that has a thick flower bud popping out of the tip of the bud. Here they are as the bulb is growing:

This year’s crop of Apple Blossom Amaryllis bulbs starting to grow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This year’s crop of Apple Blossom Amaryllis bulbs starting to grow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Look closer at the bottom of the photo where growth is coming out of the Amaryllis bulb. In front, the little growth on the right are leaves. The next photo shows the difference between leaves growing and the Amaryllis bud flower starting:

See the thick tip coming out of the back flower bulb? That’s a flower in the making. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

See the thick tip coming out of the back flower bulb? That’s a flower in the making. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is how you usually see Amaryllis bulbs right out of the package. If you don’t see any Amaryllis flower buds or leaves, pick the largest Amaryllis bulb you can get. The larger the Amaryllis bulb, the more energy is stored and the higher the chance that the Amaryllis bulb will produce a flower.

This is how an amaryllis bulb usually comes out of a box. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is how an amaryllis bulb usually comes out of a box. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Here is another Apple Blossom Amaryllis bulb in bloom with the start of another flower stalk coming out of the bulb. This Amaryllis bulb was already trying to bloom when I bought it on sale.

Another view of the kind of flower bud you want to see on an Amaryllis bulb. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggis)

Another view of the kind of flower bud you want to see on an Amaryllis bulb. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggis)

The Amaryllis flower bud quickly makes its way on top of a green stalk, growing to almost 2 feet before it blooms.

I usually have to stake mine along the way to prevent the weight of the flowers from knocking the plant over.

This Amaryllis bud has now grown about 2 feet and is getting ready to bloom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This Amaryllis bud has now grown about 2 feet and is getting ready to bloom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Amaryllis bulbs are native to South America. They can spend summer outside to build up energy in their buds before being moved inside for midwest winters.

One of the delightful surprises is to find Amaryllis bulbs blooming mid-winter. I don’t always see the buds as they are growing but it’s impossible to miss the lovely flowers!

Charlotte

Defining Garden Paths

The garden path from my front door covered in ice. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The garden path from my front door covered in ice. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Defining Garden Paths

Winter seems to be a quiet time for gardeners but there are several things one can do. One of the more challenging things to design in a garden is a network of paths. If you’re working with a brand new piece of property with nothing growing, that’s one thing. However, most of us have at least a house and some form of growth be it trees or shrubs, or both. If you have any kind of incline like I do, it’s almost impossible to keep the paths once you build them so adding structural support is a must.

You can buy software programs where you can plug in your land dimensions and even photos. Those programs, however, don’t easily adjust for garden terrain.

One easy way to determine where you should put your paths is an ice storm. Freezing rain, sleet and ice will settle on the ground and help define the low spots. It’s how I have developed and confirmed my garden path network.

The flat garden areas are easy, such as around the front of my house (photo above) and small pond.

This icy path is by a small goldfish pond. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This icy path is by a small goldfish pond. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As I move to the hillside, the ice helps to show me the garden path network and how accurately I developed them earlier in the season.

This corner is on the south side of my property leading to my southern bee garden. Some of these paths have been around for a couple of decades. The path on the left was build new last year.

The icy paths towards the southern apiary, or bee garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The icy paths towards the southern apiary, or bee garden. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The oldest garden path is in a center island as one enters my property. It’s off center compared to the rest of the garden paths but it was the easiest place to build one at the time.

Every year I consider whether I want to move the path and so far, have left it.

One of the older garden paths, this one in a center island. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of the older garden paths, this one in a center island. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The northern apiary has a better developed network of paths. Most of these paths were built this past season and with one exception where I need a small tweak, this side of the garden is now easy to access with flat garden paths.

After lining the path with downed trees, I add cardboard then mulch until the path is level. Or as level as I can get it.

Icy paths around the northern apiary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Icy paths around the northern apiary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Don’t tackle the ice to get photos but if you can take some safely it’s a good time to document your garden path system before snow covers it all up.

Icy paths get a layer of snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Icy paths get a layer of snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When we’re close to the ground it’s hard to guestimate where a new path should go. The ice and these photos will give me a blueprint for next year.

Now to start dreaming about what I am going to plant!

Charlotte

Cedar Rose Trellis

Two rose trellises now mark the entrance to one of my garden paths. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Two rose trellises now mark the entrance to one of my garden paths. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cedar Limb Rose Trellis

It’s true, I’m a bit picky about my gardening trellises. I want them to be interesting but not so interesting to take away from the flowers growing over them. I also prefer something less than hard edged industrial, which tends to be the main options.

This year, I am trying something new - repurposing native Missouri cedar branches into fruit fences, flower bed arbors and now rose trellises.

I was inspired by having this black metal rose trellis on one side of a garden path. To balance out the area, I needed another trellis on the left side.

This is a metal rose trellis that inspired the cedar limb one. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is a metal rose trellis that inspired the cedar limb one. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A cut down ash tree stump inspired me to encircle it with cedar tree limbs tied at the top about the same height as the metal rose trellis.

At first I thought I would finish the trellis by getting a metal fence post for the top but leftover cedar pieces cut smaller give me the same pyramidal top.

The cedar limb rose trellis with a top cap out of cedar. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The cedar limb rose trellis with a top cap out of cedar. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Remember this structure will be entwined in rose vines next spring so very little of it will be visible once the vines start growing.

I thought I was on the right path when I had to move the existing rose vines out of the way to install the cedar limb trellis. Once growth starts, the vines should get the support they need and nicely cover the cedar limbs.

Cedar limbs are not only native but they are long-lasting and I can easily add more if I need them.

I still have some cedar limbs left so next I am making a larger arbor to cover the bench in my berry patch. That one is going to have to wait until after the snow storm passes and melts.

Rose trellises now covered in a January 2019 snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Rose trellises now covered in a January 2019 snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Looking at the cedar rose trellis in the snow beside the metal one, I think this will work quite nicely, don’t you?

Charlotte

Salvaged Begonias

This is my one begonia, more like an Angel Wing Begonia tree, now in bloom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is my one begonia, more like an Angel Wing Begonia tree, now in bloom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Salvaged Begonias

It may come as a surprise to those who know me that even though I spend my winters in a house full of plants I only had one begonia going into winter this past year.

It’s an Angel Wing begonia that is now branching out and almost as tall as my living room ceiling. It was a gift from a gardening friend a good 20 years ago or more, a tiny speckled-leaf plant that I often forgot to water because of where I placed it, in a corner where I had to crawl over a chair.

As it grew, it increasingly got my attention, especially when it flowered mid-winter. Who can resist a plant that offers beauty in the middle of a stark Missouri winter landscape?

My Angel Wing Begonia, now almost as tall as my ceiling, Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My Angel Wing Begonia, now almost as tall as my ceiling, Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I need to re-pot it this spring and do some trimming. I will wait until then so the cuttings will more easily root.

Begonias are native South American plants and so easy to grow its easy to overlook them. The Angel Wing begonia has taught me that the amount of flowering and leaf color depends on not only how well it is watered but the amount of light it gets. Pretty basic growing requirements for most plants, even indoor ones. Now that the plant is closer to a sunny window, I am getting more frequent flowering, which reminds me to water it.

The leaves themselves are interesting. If you find a variety of begonia plants this spring, take a loot at their leaf shapes and colors, they’re almost as interesting as the flowers.

This how to tell what kind of begonia it is, this is an Angel Wing Begonia leaf, red on the bottom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This how to tell what kind of begonia it is, this is an Angel Wing Begonia leaf, red on the bottom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Which brings me to the second begonias I now have living with me. These are their leaves. Look familiar?

This is the leaf from the salvaged begonias. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is the leaf from the salvaged begonias. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Frankly I didn’t know what they were when I found them discarded. There were no leaves on the stems. The stems themselves looked bedraggled after spending a few nights outside in below freezing temperatures. By all accounts, these plants should not be living.

I wrapped the roots in repurposed bird seed bags and brought them home to sit in my den for a couple of days to warm up. The challenge I had was that I really didn’t have room for more plants inside but I was curious about what these were.

Once potted with new soil, trimmed and watered and tucked into a southern-facing window, the salvaged begonias have started to bloom.

Three pots of salvaged begonias growing nicely in a south window. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Three pots of salvaged begonias growing nicely in a south window. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Usually I see begonias in the spring that are either red or white flowers so this was a delightful surprise. The corral color contrasts nicely against the dark green leaves and the plants now seem none the worse for being tossed.

I haven’t introduced the salvaged begonias to the Angel Wing begonias on the other side of the room yet but I think their flower colors are complimentary, both in that peachy corral range.

Don’t you love the corral color of these begonia flowers? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Don’t you love the corral color of these begonia flowers? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

And yes, I have a new appreciation for begonias. Even though I will still delight in having yellow roses like this vintage rose quilt brightening up my winters, begonias will have a special spot in my fall planning this year.

These bedraggled plants should not have recovered. Their resiliency and beauty have now moved them up on my list of favorite winter plants!

Charlotte

Cedar Branch Fruit Fences

This wild black raspberry knew what to do with the cedar branch fruit fence. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This wild black raspberry knew what to do with the cedar branch fruit fence. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cedar Branch Fruit Fences

I was getting excited about a winter snow storm forecast when I remembered one of my garden projects was only half done: my cedar branch fruit fences. The problem was that the cut down cedar branches were now piled in front of my garage door, keeping a couple of visiting rabbits warm and my car from getting safely stored away before the storm moved in.

Luckily this was not a difficult project to finish so I bundled up, plugged in my nail gun compressor and got started making the actual fences for some of my raspberry and blackberry patches.

Cedar tree branches ready to become garden fencing. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cedar tree branches ready to become garden fencing. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you do a search for these berry fences, you will find some very serious-looking set ups with wire and industrial end supports.

My idea is more user friendly. I want to be able to walk through my garden paths and easily pick the berries off the nearby vines. I also didn’t want them to look like prison walls like some do so I chose to make smaller fruit fences out of cedar branches. Cedar is long-lasting, the newly-cut branches are easy to shape and with a little creativity, I can make fencing that will also be attractive to both fruiting vines and garden visitors.

Knowing that raspberry vines like to move, my first cedar branch fence was for a newly-established raspberry area so I can try to corral the raspberries. I know, a lost cause but it at least marks where they are and guides me away from the thorns. The plants can spread towards the back and any that make it into the patch can be easily moved.

One of the strips of finished cedar branch fending for raspberries. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of the strips of finished cedar branch fending for raspberries. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The fence lengths, about 5-foot long each, also have cedar branches that form arches so the fruit vines can easily wrap around the bending cedar branches.

The bottom, more straight rungs will also contain vines and still make them easily accessible. I’m thinking for me but I’m sure the deer and birds will more easily find them, too.

Fencing arch will help keep vines off the ground. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Fencing arch will help keep vines off the ground. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Once these branches start to grow, I can then trim the plants at the bottom of the cedar branch fence without getting entangled in the thorns. Well, at least that’s the theory.

Raspberry vines now weave around the cedar branch fence arches. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Raspberry vines now weave around the cedar branch fence arches. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Another fruit fence was made for a thornless blackberry growing beneath one of my hives. Last year, the plant seemed to be trying to grow into the hive so I am hoping the cedar branch fruit fence can keep the vine better behaved and still give my bees access to the nearby nectar and pollen.

Another cedar branch fence for a blackberry patch between hives. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Another cedar branch fence for a blackberry patch between hives. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

There are a number of pre-made fencing available on the market but they all look way too industrial for my garden. They also assume one is installing them on a flat surface, not a limestone hillside where to get any depth one would need to dynamite.

These cedar branch fruit fences will fade as the growing vines cover them and I can use cut down cedar trees from my garden to make them. That’s a win-win in my garden book and now I can get my car into my garage.

Ok, snow, bring it on!

Charlotte

Gardening by Holidays

Set up a garden spot where you can sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Set up a garden spot where you can sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Gardening by 2019 National Holidays

It’s hard enough to keep track of gardening chores for USDA Hardiness zone 6A - we used to be 5B- let alone when it is best to do them. I use national holidays to try to keep me on track so here is my basic gardening calendar for 2019 chores:

New Years Jan. 1:  Check inside plants for hitchhiking bugs. Spray with Neem oil mixed with water. Catch up on reading. Day dream with gardening catalogs.

Martin Luther King Day Jan 17: Make sure inside plants are all getting sunlight needs met. If not, move them around. Review last year’s garden diary; make notes for what to do this year. Water newly-planted mums monthly to keep roots hydrated.

Valentine's Day February 14: Check birdhouses for repairs; clean garden implements; wash flower pots.

President's Day February 20: Prune fruit trees. Plant onion sets, lettuce, spinach, radishes. 

St. Patrick's Day March 17: Plant potatoes, peas, Brussels sprouts and broccoli; start tomato and pepper seedlings inside. Check mums for new growth at the base of plants.

First Day of Spring March 20: Work compost into raised garden beds. Plant more lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions. Prune roses. Enjoy the first sight of blooming flowers like the ones on these Vintage Days of the Week Kitchen Towels.

Easter April 21: Plant tree seedlings and native wildflowers. Update garden diary for bulbs I need to divide and move this fall; mark locations so I can find them later. Pinch an inch off mums weekly to keep them bushy.

Earth Day April 22: Plant last of my spinach, peas and lettuce. Cover the garden with tulle to keep deer out. Plant trees.

Mother's Day May 12: Last frost day so everything can get moved outside. I'll leave seedlings in their containers outside for a few days before planting them. 

Memorial Day May 27: Last day to plant anything from seed which means pumpkins, cucumbers and zucchini go in. Compact fruit trees, bushes and perennials also get planted so they can benefit from June showers. Good time to move Iris, daylilies and peonies after they have stopped blooming.

Mark trees that need to be cut. These are ash trees with emerald ash borer larvae, which will kill the trees in 3-4 years. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Mark trees that need to be cut. These are ash trees with emerald ash borer larvae, which will kill the trees in 3-4 years. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Father's Day June 16: Last weekend to plant perennials. Check garden centers for end of season plant sales.

Independence Day July 4: Last day for planting beans, last weekend for pinching back Mums so they bloom bushy this fall. 

Labor Day Sept. 2: Harvest fall crops; check for bugs; add compost, and start getting raised garden beds ready for winter. Place poinsettias in room without evening light.

Columbus Day Oct. 14: Trim deck plants; move them inside house for winter. Trade plants with friends for holiday gifts.

Halloween Oct. 31; First fall hard frost. All plants that are going to

winter over should be settled inside. Halloween weekend is also a good time to add compost.

Veterans Day Nov. 11: Clean and store pots, garden implements; toss out torn gardening gloves; mark envelopes with saved seeds; update garden diary on what worked well this year and what I want to do differently or try next year. If there's been a hard frost, good time to mulch plant beds so soil temperature doesn't fluctuate.

Thanksgiving Nov. 28: Buy spring bulbs on discount. 

Winter, Dec. 21: Look for first gardening catalogs in the mail!

What gardening chores would you add to this basic list?

Charlotte

Reuse Cut Down Trees

Reuse Cut Down Trees

I don’t mind leaving dead trees in my wildlife garden for woodpeckers and other creatures but when the trees might fall into my house I have to give that a second thought. Fall of 2018, when 5 more ash trees were identified as having emerald ash borer larvae in their bark, I decided not to wait the 3-4 years before the trees were dead and had them professionally cut down.

Dennis King of King Out On a Limb Tree Trimming Service cutting down one of my five dying ash trees. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Dennis King of King Out On a Limb Tree Trimming Service cutting down one of my five dying ash trees. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Usually tree trimmers will haul off the trees but I kept them on site to reuse. The cut trunks are now being used as retaining walls to terrace my new hillside garden beds. The cut down trees help to hold leaves, mulch and soil from getting washed down hill.

Cut down ash trees now form new hillside terracing. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cut down ash trees now form new hillside terracing. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The tree stumps themselves were not cut to the ground, they were specifically left so that I can use them later. I asked that they leave the tree trunks so that I can then cut them lower as necessary.

The recently-cut down ash trees are in the back. The one with the birdhouse had to be cut down several years ago and is now a birdhouse base.

This church birdhouse sits on top of a cut down ash tree trunk stub. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This church birdhouse sits on top of a cut down ash tree trunk stub. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The smaller ash tree limbs are now refreshing wildlife refuge piles I have along my property line and the nearby woods. As a certified wildlife garden, providing safety through cover is important to some wildlife species especially in winter.

Smaller ash tree branches refresh a wildlife pile. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Smaller ash tree branches refresh a wildlife pile. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The emerald ash borer-damaged trees were marked in summer with pink plastic so that I knew what trees needed to be removed. Actually it was more for the tree service although they didn’t have any trouble locating the trees on their first visit. Woodpeckers had removed pieces of tree bark as they went after the emerald ash borer larvae under the tree bark.

Pink plastic marked the ash trees to be cut down. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Pink plastic marked the ash trees to be cut down. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)


Although most people will wait until spring and summer to get them cut, I did it late fall on a warm day since the tree cutting company was available. Usually tree-trimmers are very busy during spring and summer and may need several weeks and months advance notice.

Here’s another tree stump from a few years ago that now serves as a stand.

This metal bee sculpture now sits on top of a cut down ash tree. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This metal bee sculpture now sits on top of a cut down ash tree. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Although I was not happy to lose the ash trees, I was glad to recycle them on my hillside garden instead of having them hauled off to the recycling center, where I go to pick up my mulch. This way the trees continue to retain water to help keep flower bed soil moist as well!

Charlotte

Burgundy Hellebores

These burgundy hybrid hellebores popped up and started blooming almost overnight.

These burgundy hybrid hellebores popped up and started blooming almost overnight.

Burgundy Hellebores

How appropriate to be featuring this lovely perennial on this last day of winter. Burgundy hybrid hellebores, also referred to as Lenten roses because they tend to bloom around Lent, are one of the last winter-blooming flowers. These literally just popped up in my garden this past week.

The actual flower is inside the burgundy-colored sepals surrounding the center.

The actual flower is inside the burgundy-colored sepals surrounding the center.

The flowers of hybrid hellebores are actually the long, slender yellow filament-looking segments inside the burgundy-colored sepals. As the sepals mature, they loose some of their color but not their shape. This year I am going to try to save the sepals at the end of the season and see if I can dry them for my wreaths.

The one challenge in enjoying these lovely plants is that the flowers on the plants actually droop. To be able to see, and photograph, the flowers, I have to lean over and try to catch the flowers from a less than comfortable angle.

This is how the hybrid hellebores appear in the flower bed, with the sepals hanging down.

This is how the hybrid hellebores appear in the flower bed, with the sepals hanging down.

Even without being able to see the droopy flowers I can spot the plant in the flower bed when it is in bloom. Sometimes it's the only green showing up in the whole area!

Sometimes its easy to overlook hybrid hellebores in a garden bed.

Sometimes its easy to overlook hybrid hellebores in a garden bed.

Farewell winter, it was a long, snowy one!

Charlotte

The Dirt on Soil

Leaves are a good soil additive, helping to keep soil from packing too densely, especially Missouri clay.

Leaves are a good soil additive, helping to keep soil from packing too densely, especially Missouri clay.

The Dirt on Soil

Did you know there are more microorganisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on earth? Some people think of soil as dirt, or as a farm, or as something one buys at a home and garden center in a plastic bag but soil is an amazing recycling operation, a constant re-combining of minerals and decaying plants and animals.

An average soil sample is 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 25 percent air, and five percent organic matter. Different-sized mineral particles, such as sand, silt, and clay, give soil its texture.

How fast water interacts, or doesn’t interact with those mineral particles, determines how well different plant varieties can pull the nutrition they need. Then there are the good soil organisms and the bad ones that, once out of balance, can turn soil communities into infertile landscapes.

To find out what kind of soil you have, you can do a quick soil test at home:

1. Fill a quart jar one-third full with topsoil and add water until the jar is almost full. Screw on the lid and shake the mixture until all the clumps of soil have dissolved.

2. Set the jar on a windowsill and watch as the larger particles begin to sink to the bottom. In a minute or two, the sand portion of the soil will have settled to the jar bottom. Mark the level of sand on the jar side. A colored magic marker will work, you can wash it off later.

3. Leave the jar undisturbed for several hours. The finer silt particles will gradually settle.

4. Leave the jar overnight. The next layer above the silt will be clay. Mark the thickness of that layer. On top of the clay should be a thin layer of organic matter. Some of this organic matter may still be floating in the water. In fact, the jar should be murky and full of floating organic sediments. If not, you probably need to add organic matter to improve the soil's fertility and structure.

One of the easiest soil amendments for flower beds is to add weathered wood chips. The wood chips break down into added organic matter and, once in decomposed form, are a wonderful planting medium for many plants. 

One of the easiest soil amendments for flower beds is to add weathered wood chips. The wood chips break down into added organic matter and, once in decomposed form, are a wonderful planting medium for many plants. 

Not sure what you are seeing? I can understand, sometimes it all looks like a big muddy blob. Take a good look until your eyes can distinguish between colors. Give up? Ok, but don’t toss it down the sink, pour it on a flower bed, there is another way.

Collect about 6 scoops or 1.5 cups of soil from 6-8 points from a good 4-6 inches below ground from around your garden in a plastic bag and take it down to your local University of Missouri Extension Office. For $15, they will send the samples off to a lab. In a couple of weeks, you will get a very detailed analysis back with a detailed report of your soil including ph levels and recommendations of what you need to do, if any, to improve your soil.

The report will also help guide you in what you can plant in your soil conditions and how to amend your soil for optimum growing conditions. Take your time with whatever you do, most soil amendments take time.

Charlotte

Peach Miniature Rose Now Two Months Later

Another bud is getting ready to bloom on this peach miniature rose!

Another bud is getting ready to bloom on this peach miniature rose!

Peach Miniature Rose Now Two Months Later

So it's been two months since I brought this marked down miniature rose home. It was the last one at the grocery store, marked down to $2.49, covered in  dried up rose buds and only one I could leave on the shrub to remind me of the peach color.

I have posted several sets of photos to show you how this little shrub rose can be not only salvaged but easily grown through winter and encouraged to re-bloom.

Once the danger of frost is over, I will be moving this and a few other miniature roses to their permanent home outside. In the meantime, I love seeing how many buds are popping up.

On this morning there were a total of four rose buds starting on this plant.

On this morning there were a total of four rose buds starting on this plant.

Without the restrictions of other plants in the pot, this little rose shrub has a more normal green color.

The flowers are also returning to a more normal size as opposed to the smaller size that comes from placing four rose plants in one pot. Epigenetics, my brother said when I was describing the transformation, the plant is responding to its new surroundings.

So nice to see this little plant so healthy and doing so well, there's even a faint scent.

So nice to see this little plant so healthy and doing so well, there's even a faint scent.

Now do you believe that you, too can grow miniature roses?

Charlotte

Winter-Flowering Peach Hibiscus

Double peach hibiscus blooming mid winter in my bay window.

Double peach hibiscus blooming mid winter in my bay window.

Winter-Flowering Peach Hibiscus

If there is one plant that brightens up a cold, snowy winter day, it's a blooming tropical hibiscus. I have several tropical hibiscus plants wintering over inside my house, and I love to be greeted by the bright flowers especially on a drizzly winter day.

This one is a double peach hibiscus, rescued from a sale pile at a local garden center a couple of years ago. 

Frankly I didn't know what color the flowers were. The plant was healthy enough so I took a chance and brought it home to join my other tropical hibiscus or should that be hibiscii.

This blooming cycle included a second nearby bloom as well.

This blooming cycle included a second nearby bloom as well.

The trick to wintering tropical hibiscus plants is to give them as much direct sun as possible.

I also check the soil daily to make sure the plant pot doesn't dry out.

Tropical hibiscus winter over inside well as long as they get sunlight.

Tropical hibiscus winter over inside well as long as they get sunlight.

Combined with the other neighboring plants, the blooming peach tropical hibiscus does bring a lovely color to that corner of my room!

Charlotte

New Use for Letter Opener

Old-fashioned letter openers have a new purpose for opening seed packets.

Old-fashioned letter openers have a new purpose for opening seed packets.

New Use for Letter Opener

If you've ever grabbed a handful of seed envelopes and headed out to the garden, you know what I'm going to reference here. Sometimes it is best to turn around, head back inside, take a deep breath and start again, and by that I mean set those seed packets on the counter and get them carefully open before heading back out into the garden.

I don't know how many times I have headed out and then tried to open the seed envelopes in the garden, only to loose half the seeds in the process. Doesn't matter how, it's a combination of spilling, spreading and scattering, at times all in the same spot.

So when I discovered the repurposing of this old favorite letter opening tool, I was quite pleased. It's an old gift, one end rather flat so the tip easily fits under the flaps of envelopes so one can open envelopes without getting paper cuts. Not only will old letter openers work very well to quickly unseal seed packets, but they will leave the opening cleanly open so I'm not tearing off half of the envelope and seeds will easily spill out as I walk out to the garden spot.

Letter opener makes opening seed packets easy and prevents spilling seeds.

Letter opener makes opening seed packets easy and prevents spilling seeds.

Another benefit is that I can then store the half-filled seed packets in a relatively orderly fashion so I can find them again as I spread more seeds, as opposed to scrambling around for the leftover envelopes and loosing more seeds in the process.

Yes, pretty happy with this little discovery if I say so myself.

I suspect my garden will be as well, now more seeds may end up where they're supposed to be!

Charlotte

Miniature Rose Starts Blooming!

I just added a new buddy to Hazel's pot, an onion start to keep bugs away.

I just added a new buddy to Hazel's pot, an onion start to keep bugs away.

Miniature Rose Starts Blooming

Isn't that little rose just peachy? Such a welcome sight after watching a heavy blanket of snow covering my mid-Missouri garden earlier. It was sunny and 81F two days ago, now back to winter, yet another reason why I surround myself with indoor greenery, I have at least one place where I can rely on seeing green every day through winter.

So for those of you eyeing those marked down after a holiday miniature roses, go back and take another look. Hazel, this now blooming miniature rose was the last one at a local grocery store marked down to $2.49 after Christmas. She was wrapped up in that shiny gift paper in a small 4" pot, the flower buds dried up or about to die, with only one bud possibly still growing, here are the little plants once I watered them and settled them in the window while I looked for a larger pot:

This is Hazel on December 29, 2017 right after I brought her home from a local grocery store sale.

This is Hazel on December 29, 2017 right after I brought her home from a local grocery store sale.

Friends tell me they have little luck growing roses but I find them to be easy to grow, especially miniature roses. The miniature varieties are actually shrub roses, which means they are hardier stock, bloom longer and can more easily adapt to a variety of soils. 

I don't recommend growing miniature roses inside unless you have room for large soil containers because they need to pull a lot of soil nutrients but you can certainly pick up a few on sale now and grow them inside until the danger of frost is over in May, then condition them to grow permanently outside.

Once I had Hazel watered, I found a pot larger than the one she was in, added some broken flower pot shards in the bottom, new potting soil and my concoction of dried coffee grounds, banana peels, epsom salts and crushed eggs shells, then more potting soil and the roses. More potting soil, tapped gently, then sprayed water with a spray bottle until wet so I don't over water.

Back to the window to be turned towards the sun and checked daily. The plant is in a window facing southwest next to Miriam, the cherry tomato also growing and producing delicious cherry tomatoes midwinter inside.

I watch the color of the leaves to make sure they don't start turning light green, that means the plant needs more nitrogen. Getting new potting soil with added composting materials should prevent that from happening but I still monitor, just in case.

Success is seeing the first signs of flower buds and here they were, a little less than 2 months after I brought the plant home.

This was the first bud that became the rose you saw on top, and there is a second one forming.

This was the first bud that became the rose you saw on top, and there is a second one forming.

So growing roses is not hard, or expensive, you just have to pick the right variety and time when you buy them.

Charlotte

Miriam Tomato Fruit

My inside tomato plant is not only growing fruit but the fruit is ripening enough to pick.

My inside tomato plant is not only growing fruit but the fruit is ripening enough to pick.

Miriam the mysterious tomato plant has two ripe cherry-size tomatoes ready to pick.

Miriam the mysterious tomato plant has two ripe cherry-size tomatoes ready to pick.

Miriam Tomato Fruit

Miriam my tomato plant continues to grow, spending this Missouri winter in one of my sunny bay windows with Hazel the miniature rose I picked up on sale right after Christmas getting ready to bloom.

I have been wintering over one tomato plant for years, a wonderful way to have fresh tomatoes without having to resort to buying tasteless ones or having to invest in huge greenhouses, hoop houses or other large gardening contraptions that quickly get abandoned because they can't be maintained.

This was a mysterious tomato start from a friend's garden I found growing outside last fall in one of my flower beds. I usually plan to have a tomato plant to bring in for winter but I was running behind last year until I saw a little 3-inch seedling among hyssop starts. So far I have determined this is a cherry tomato plant of some sort, and that I guessed well on what growing conditions it needed so far. I've had to stake the plant twice so far and by the looks of it, may have to stake it yet again, the plant is now a good 4-feet tall.

Three days ago, I added some worm castings to the tomato plant soil to enrich the soil and add nitrogen. Tomato plants are heavy feeders meaning they can quickly deplete the soil of nutrients. With a plant growing in a small container, that is especially true so it's important to keep the soil enriched with compost and other natural amendments. 

Why did I add the worm castings? The tomato plant leaves were starting to look a little more  yellow green for my taste so I didn't think it would hurt to give the soil a little healthy boost.

Besides making sure the plant is watered every day , there has been little additional care required. Well, except for now, I need to pick those two lovely cherry red tomatoes and give them a taste.

Here's a closer look of the two ripe cherry-size tomatoes that have ripened in my window.

Here's a closer look of the two ripe cherry-size tomatoes that have ripened in my window.

They didn't even make it to the kitchen, ate them right there in the window.

What do you think, winter grown tomatoes don't have any taste?

Wrong, they were absolutely delicious, warm right off the vine and perfectly ripe. Can't wait for the next ones!

Charlotte

Miriam Tomato Plant Update

This is Miriam, the mysterious tomato plant when I started to feature her in my gardening column.

This is Miriam, the mysterious tomato plant when I started to feature her in my gardening column.

Miriam Tomato Plant Update

Let's see, it's been three months since Miriam the tomato seedling was potted and brought inside. I call her the mystery tomato because I don't know what kind of tomato she is, and her original owner Tom can't remember, either. Now you know and we will all be surprised once the tomatoes ripen.

Most people have told me they assume they can't grow tomatoes inside in a pot, tomatoes can only grow on a farm. Or outside in a garden plot.

Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes can be grown in a pot indoors. And yes, Miriam has baby tomatoes and appears to be growing even more. Since I mentioned growing, Miriam is also now almost 3-feet tall so I had to stake her with longer rods to keep her stems from falling over.

Miriam Tomato spends her winter days keeping Razel Rose company in one of my bay windows.

Miriam Tomato spends her winter days keeping Razel Rose company in one of my bay windows.

When I first spotted fruit, there were three. Now there are more than five, in part due to my hand pollinating the delicate yellow flowers with a Q-tip.

Miriam Tomato has officially set fruit and should be having ripened tomatoes in a few weeks.

Miriam Tomato has officially set fruit and should be having ripened tomatoes in a few weeks.

Outside in a garden, tomato plants would be pollinated by bees moving pollen from one flower to the next. Since I don't have bees inside over winter, Miriam needed a little help to set fruit.

As long as we have sun every once in awhile this winter, the fruit will turn color. If not, I can either pick them and use them green, or place them inside a brown paper bag and add an apple to accelerate the ripening process.

Miriam Tomato also has new flowers branching off the stems, more tomatoes in the works!

Miriam Tomato also has new flowers branching off the stems, more tomatoes in the works!

Assuming nothing untoward happens to Miriam, such as a cat knocking her over, she will go outside after the danger of the last frost of the season, around May. I may re-pot her then into a larger pot with compost to keep her happy but so far, she seems to be doing quite well.

Have you tried to grow a tomato inside over winter?

Charlotte

Miniature Rose Plant Update

This is Hazel, my miniature peach rose right after I brought her home, the last rose at the store.

This is Hazel, my miniature peach rose right after I brought her home, the last rose at the store.

Miniature Rose Plant Update

Right after Christmas, I picked up this peach-colored miniature rose for $2.49 at a local grocery store floral section. It was the last one remaining from a group of miniature roses that had included red and white "peppermint" ones; solid red ones, a few white ones and a couple of the peach-colored ones.

Miniature roses like this are actually tiny repeat-blooming shrub roses, hardier than hybrid tea roses and the easiest roses for me to grow. I have a number of them scattered throughout my USDA Hardiness zone 5b one-acre hillside garden planted among other perennials. Last year, I also started a miniature rose border with several different-colored tiny shrubs. Purchased on sale, of course, part of the fun is the plant treasure hunting!

When I saw this lone plant on sale, I couldn't pass it up. We were heading into record cold weather and having something in bloom, even something tiny, cheers me up any time of the year but in winter. Well, it's a must. You should see my living and dining room, it's a veritable jungle.

Even though I have heard some people say they can't grow miniature roses inside over winter, I have had very good luck pulling miniature roses through the cold months. The trick is to give the plant cut up banana peels and crushed egg shells in the bottom of the new, larger pot in new potting soil, and to not overwater.

So here's Hazel about a month after I brought her home. I finally cut off the peach rose bud before I took this picture so she can focus her energy in growing new leaves.

This is Hazel about a month later, sprouting new growth next to her friend, Miriam, a tomato plant.

This is Hazel about a month later, sprouting new growth next to her friend, Miriam, a tomato plant.

I check her every morning for bugs, just in case something has found her tender leaves to munch on. Although I try to not have plant bugs - the white mealy bugs are the worst, second only to scale - I keep a close eye to jump on anything that may be getting a start.

If she were growing outside, I would add onion sets around her to keep bugs away and add a basil or two for good measure. Inside my house, she's going to have to depend on my good eyesight and soapy water if she gets unwanted visitors.

Charlotte

Harriet's Orchid

This orchid from Burma is from my master gardener friend Harriet Bain, love the delicate flower!

This orchid from Burma is from my master gardener friend Harriet Bain, love the delicate flower!

Harriet's Orchid

In the middle of life's challenges, fresh flowers have always boosted my spirits. When those flowers are still on the plant, even better!

Last fall, a master gardener friend offered some of her orchids for sale as a fundraiser for our local chapter. Sight unseen, I put in my bid. Harriet is a wonderful gardener and if she had orchids, I knew it would be fun to have a start.

We waited until the last possible day for the hand-off, the day before our first winter storm was moving in. Besides two Australian orchids in large pots, she handed me one orchid in a small 4-inch clay pot. It's a dendrobium, she said, from Burma, her home country.

Once home, I tucked the orchids in my basement away from direct light. They were in the same southwest window as other re-blooming orchids so I left them there as I tried to identify if Burma had a signature orchid. When I looked up the orchids from Burma, I was delighted with the variety and possibilities, there really is something amazing about flowers that feel like a soft plastic but look so delicate.

No point in trying to guess what kind of flowers would be blooming so I settled for being pleasantly surprised. No, I wasn't going to ask Harriet, that would spoil the surprise!

Orchid Flowers from Burma

As I was watering my orchids this morning, Harriet's orchid caught my attention. Actually a flower had appeared, and then I saw a second bud. Dendrobium nobile Is "one of the most beautiful epiphyte or lithophytes dendrobium species found from the Chinese Himalayas, Assam, eastern Himalayas, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam that is found in tropical evergreen forest and primary mountain forest at an elevations of 200 to 2000 meters," according to Bhaskar Bora. Bora notes in his biography that he is an Indian businessman who likes to collect orchids as a hobby. 

I do as well. I have a little collection of phalaenopsis or moth orchids I have adopted over the years. One of the easiest orchids to grow, moth orchids are also a popular gift flower. I buy them after they have finished blooming and give them some "tender loving care" until they're ready to bloom again. It can take almost a year to get them blooming again so it is a labor of love. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when I see the new growth and know I helped coax it into flowering again.

I was so excited about seeing Harriet's orchid bloom, I bought it a little special container to set it in and moved it to my den coffee table so I could enjoy it when I was sitting nearby.

Harriet's Orchid has two flowers, one in bloom and one in bud. I celebrated by buying a container.

Harriet's Orchid has two flowers, one in bloom and one in bud. I celebrated by buying a container.

Tip for Growing Orchids

Clay pots are fine. Actually clay pots are preferred for orchids because they wick away extra moisture that can easily rot roots. When we grew up in Brazil, I remember cattleya orchids that covered our backyard trees. My father watered them with a hose to get them hydrated but not too wet. The water easily fell off the large orchids clinging to tree bark.

Taking those memories, and experience, as a clue, I carefully checked the orchid roots every week and made sure I wasn't over-watering. When temperatures hit record lows a few weeks back, I moved the orchids up to my dining room. That was helpful when I lost heat for a couple of days, not sure they would have survived sitting on cold basement concrete.

Most orchids like indirect light, much as African violets and Chocolate Soldiers do. Besides periodically checking for bugs, that's all that you need to do with orchids. I do add a pinch of fertilizer to rain water once a month, and keep them away from heat and drafts. Short of that, there is little more than one needs to do.

Considering what we had just been through without heat, and it still flowered, I decided to get the orchid a decorative container. This little metal florist vase caught my eye for a simple whimsical reason, it has feet. 

Love the feet on this recycled container from a local thrift shop for $2 for Harriet's Orchid.

Love the feet on this recycled container from a local thrift shop for $2 for Harriet's Orchid.

I picked the previously-owned container for $2 at our local thrift shop called The Community Partnership Resale Shop. The sale of donated items funds a non-profit that helps families with special need children so I shop there first when I'm looking for unusual pieces. My rule is I have to take a box to donate before I can bring a new box home but I waived that rule for this special occasion.

It didn't take me long to find this flower container, it was sitting on a corner of the store shelves as if it was waiting for me. I think Harriet would approve, don't you?

Charlotte