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WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE

Well, not quite!IMG_7612

In our gardens, we depend on hoses and watering cans.  Many of us are pretty decrepit (like me!).  It’s sometimes HARD to get water to our thirsty plants. But, at least we HAVE water!  We should be grateful (and are) for this greatest of blessings.

Over the last couple of years, we have also added some water “elements” to our gardens at the suggestion of our Audubon leader (June In Our Gardens).  Many gardeners have added little saucers, and various types of tiny birdbaths. They are effective.img_6058  They hydrate not only the 

IMG_7628

birds, but bees, butterflies and other little creatures who visit our gardens. 

Of course, these receptacles need cleaning as well. The crows come to rinse their gleanings, leaving crumbs and sometimes whole slices of bread!  That’s not terribly attractive,

IMG_8580but there are those among us who dunk our donuts, so who are we to criticize?

At any rate, the water is a welcome part of our gardening, even if it is a drag (pun intended) to get it to the necessary area!

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Here, where I live at Horizon House, in downtown Seattle, WA it has been “June In Our Gardens” month.  I am chairman of that “happening”, so, May (preparation month) and June have been incredibly busy for me. Needless to say, I haven’t taken the time to work on my blog AT ALL! Sorry about that!

It has been a very busy journey, but a totally satisfying one.  I have gotten so many comments about the joy the gardens here bring to our residents.  They have loved the lectures, tours and parties that brought them into the gardens. It has helped them enjoy the outdoors and the wonderful colors, smells, creatures and camaraderie they have found there.  Which was of course, the very purpose of having this grand month of total Garden immersion! I wish you could all have joined us!  I’ve included a few pictures from our gardens and also from the trips we have taken.  Be prepared…GARDENS prevail!

Here is the Calendar for the month.  As you can see, every day is occupied! Calendar — Month — 6:1:19 to 6:30:19

We started with a little lesson on how to use our grills, so we could bring our “grillables” out for dinner.  A good place to start!  A very relaxed lesson was gratefully accepted!UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2683Here are some pictures from Volunteer Park Conservatory…in the Cactus “house”.  Spectacular isn’t it?

We also ventured to the Japanese Gardens. It is so peaceful and pretty there.

There were other things going on every day, as you could see by the calendar, but I think this is enough to give you a flavor of what transpired.

And now onto July!

 

 

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A number of years ago, I took over a garden that was root bound.  No one could plant a garden there.  I had not intended to garden again once I left my gardens in New Hampshire.  It was time to admire other people’s gardens.  Or so I thought!

On arrival, I got involved with the Garden Committee here at Horizon House, continuing to the position of Chair. I really enjoyed that.  Then one of the gardeners came to me to indicate she could no longer dig in her garden because it was totally root-bound by the surrounding trees.  After checking that out, we moved her to another garden that was “diggable”.  But, what would we do with the one she  was leaving?

A's Garden

I figured I could deal with that, and volunteered to take it over.  I put in some large containers, which  I planted with succulents.  It worked.  I didn’t have to dig in the garden, and the succulents did not require a ton of care from me, so all was good.

And then, the inevitable happened.  Those encroaching roots began to impact the irrigation system.  We had a few broken pipes, and garden floods. That became expensive and of course, intolerable for Horizon House. The decision was made to dig up the trees.

What happened then was actually pretty nice.  It meant we got 5  or 6 new gardens!  And in the process…mine was dug up, as were all the impacted garden plots.  We got wonderful new soil!  AND I all of a sudden had a REAL garden!  I was IMG_8548both overjoyed and appalled.  So much for my garden-less sojourn. But, I had a garden again.  It was small.  It was manageable. It was mine…

So, the containers stayed at one end of the garden.  I took stones I had salvaged from my friend Judy’s garden.  Judy, an avid gardener, died much too early and I felt this was a way to keep her in my life and honor her.  They now weave (she was a wonderful weaver, as well as gardener) through my little patch.  IMG_8560After I placed those “bones”, I found the perfect (I hope!) perennials to plant around them.  Right now, I’m watering them while they grab hold, looking fresh and healthy. I am hopeful that as time goes on, they will need less care from me, and will bloom and grow forever!

So, there it is…my journey back to the soil.  I KNEW I could never be too far away from a garden.  It is my attachment to my mother who was a fabulous gardener.  It is my connection to Irene, my life long best friend in Connecticut.  (Irene gave me a cute little birdbath with a few hummingbirds flittering around it. You’ll see it in most of the pictures of the garden.) The stones are part and parcel of Judy.  It is also my new connection to the state of Washington, where the seasons are much more forgiving.  It is my umbilical cord to the world where I exist.  I want to leave this world a better place than when I entered it.  Between my family and my gardens, I hope I’ve done that!IMG_8613

 

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I’ve been remiss.  Sorry about that!  Sometimes life interferes with life.  That’s a silly statement, but occasionally so very true!

I’ve had a few thoughts about this blog entry, but then have not carried through on any of them.  One of the things standing in the way of my getting a new entry done is that my husband has been a bit “under the weather” lately.  Then we had company from the East Coast.  It was family, so we revelled in their presence!IMG_8521

One of my husbands complaints is that his mouth is so dry.  I tried all the usual techniques for getting some moisture into the air in our apartment.  Boiled some water; didn’t use the fan to get rid of the moisture in the bathroom after a shower; a good one is to open the dishwasher as it finishes to allow all that hot moist steam to flood the kitchen; be sure the window was open (at least a little bit) at night to pull in some moisture from our damp Seattle atmosphere; I think perhaps drying socks on the shower rack would also add some humidity without taking up a huge amount of space!

But, there HAVE to be other techniques that wouldn’t require the purchase of a humidifier, which I would like to avoid. (Of course, I also set a big glass of cold water in front of him, and suggest he drink that as an instant cure!)

A year or so ago I got a humidity gauge as a gift from one of my sons.  It has been a good thing to keep an eye on.  And yes, in the mornings this apartment IS dry. So what else to do?IMG_8519

I’m sure you all know where I’m going with this…PLANTS!  They are GREAT humidifiers! They “transpire”.  What that means is that they take water from the soil, into their roots, send it up to the leaves, and out it goes into the atmosphere again. Here’s one article about that. Increasing Humidity in Buildings

Let’s look at a few other interesting articles about humidifying our indoor environment..

Here are a few good idea’s from, of all places, Angie’s List!

It is also said that stove top cooking is a good idea!IMG_8522

And of course, more about the use of PLANTS!

 

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After learning a bit about when and how these guys bloom, I figured I’d better learn a few other things about them!  Here’s my Christmas Cactus right now.  I’m tickled with it, and hope to have this kind of a display EVERY year!img_8444First of all, I’d better learn what it’s real name is!  It is formally known as Schlumbergera.  Depending on WHICH of the Holiday Cactus(Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter) you get, they will have different descriptive names.  But the  “Schlumbergera” will probably always be there.

As it my plant ages, I am assuming it will get larger and more prolific with blooms.

So, how do I accomplish that?  I DO know that they like to be root-bound.  Which means less worries about re-potting.  That’s good, right?

I also know they like to be kind of dry. That’s also great.  Talk about an easy plant to deal with…except for light and temperature, which are BIGGIES!

Here are a few suggestions, and a few links to places where you can read a bit more than I’ll give you.

  • As you know, the flowers appear at the very ends of the stem.  When the flowers are done and shriveled, you can just snip them off, either by pinching them carefully, or using a sharp pruning shears.  When ALL the blooms are gone…ignore the plant!  Little water, no fertilizer, “no nothing” for about a month. Then, during the winter start giving it an occasional “spritz”, gradually begin to treat it like a normal plant until springtime, when you’ll see new growth appear.
  • If you want your plant to be fuller, you can prune it back. Where you cut, you will get two new stems, so go back toward the pot, and watch what happens. Remember when you prune to use SHARP and CLEAN shears, and cut BETWEEN the segments. The best time to do this is in the spring, just as the new growth is beginning.
  • Guide to Holiday Cactus
  • screen shot 2019-01-23 at 2.48.09 pm
  • It is a myth that these cacti should be in direct sunshine.  DO NOT DO THAT. A light exposure to sunshine will be exactly what it needs! These are what’s called “Forest Cacti” so don’t know what to do with direct sun!
  • Never let them get waterlogged!  A drainage hole is an absolute necessity.
  • Once they begin blooming, try not to move them around too much.  This can sometimes cause the buds to drop.  Remember this if you buy a blooming cactus from the grocery store.  Chances are it’s been moved around A LOT!
  • If your home is extra dry, they will love a bit of misting.
  • From everything I’ve read, they are NOT toxic to pets.
  • The Bloom Cycle for A Christmas Cactus-A Simple chart!  

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For the last 7 years or so, my Christmas Cactus have not bloomed, except when I had just purchased them…or when I first arrived from New Hampshire.  I was disappointed.

Those of you that know me, know that I’m not really an “indoor” plant kind of person…although I’m learning to be one here in Seattle, which is VERY different from New England.

So, what’s with the Christmas Cactus?  They put out lots of green growth.  I water them according to their needs…not too much!  They look pretty, all green and shiny, but around Christmas?  No flowers!

This year however, I did a few things differently, and I think “I’ve GOT it”!  As Chair of the Garden Committee (which I just gave up) I saw to it that a rack was put outside on one of the terraces for indoor plants, to be used by anyone in Horizon House who felt their plants would benefit from a summer outside.  I took advantage of that as well.  OUT went my Christmas Cacti!

I have to say that in both Connecticut and New Hampshire, I always put my indoor plants out under a tree for the summer.  (Are you paying attention?)  When we moved here, I didn’t have a spot to park them.  If I put them in my little garden plot, the snails would have eaten them alive! So, they stayed on my window sill, inside.  I didn’t have any closet, basement or garage to put them in for an “unlit”, “cooling” period.  ALL the lighting needs were ignored.  The other thing that was ignored was the temperature.  They had to be either inside or outside, and a rack was not available for me.  So, the plants looked healthy enough, but NO FLOWERS!

Enter the rack this past year.  I got it out in June, and removed it in Mid-October.  My Christmas Cactus loved it!  The temperature was correct, as was the light.  However, they still were not chilled enough to set buds.  Next year, I will request that the rack be left out until we’ve actually had a frost…perhaps sometime in November.

Then miraculously, an opportunity appeared.  We have a non-functioning air-conditioner in our bedroom window.  We finally had it covered…with a wooden box-like structure…A SHELF!  We turn the heat down at night and open the window by the air-conditioner.  When I put the plants on that air-conditioner shelf the cacti rejoiced and set buds!!!!

Yesterday, I felt I had waited long enough, and I brought the two cactus’ that had set buds, out to the living room window sill.  There’s another one on the “cold shelf”, but it is an Easter Cactus, and I can’t expect it to flower for a few more months.  It will remain there until it set’s buds, for SURE!

At any rate, when they tell you that Christmas Cactus (and Easter Cactus) need a cold and dark period in order to bloom, BELIEVE THEM!

I continue to learn.  Gardening inside sure is different!

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A dream???  I think I fell asleep sometime in the beginning of November, and just woke up!  Sorry I’ve been gone so long.  It isn’t for lack of wanting to, I just didn’t make the time.  Now that my birthday is done and Christmas looms, it’s time to get my act together and see if there’s something I should be doing about the garden.

Perhaps I could talk about stepping away from being the Chair of the Garden Committee after 6 years.  It’s time for an injection of new ideas and energy.  What are some of the things I accomplished, and am proud of…and perhaps a few I’d just as soon forget?

  • I brought the gardens through the major rebuilding of the West Wing.  It impacted all of our gardens in one way or another.
    • The Secret Garden was relatively unscathed…lucky them!
    • Level C & D however, were closed down for a year and a half, with construction materials stacked or built on them.IMG_3637
    • We were not allowed to go out there…so the gardens languished, and the gardeners wept!
  • I applied for, and won, a GEM Grant for the gardeners after the construction was over, so they each were given a comfortable sum of money to purchase new plant material, and also provided the transportation to get to and from the plant nursery. We went in the spring and again in the fall.  IMG_3890It produced many smiles…and beautiful gardens!
  • Following that, we needed to get people back into the gardens to show them off, and remind Horizon House, that we did indeed, have beautiful gardens.  To accomplish this, I began “June In Our Gardens”.  Every day of June had some garden related activity.  It worked! IMG_6659 Residents came to lectures, parties, walks, tours and even cooking (with our herbs-available for all residents) and lessons on how to use our new grills!
  • We continued the “June In Our Gardens”, and it is becoming an annual affair. IMG_7687 I will continue to chair that sub-committee, until either I tire of it, or they have had enough of me!!!
  • Another GEM grant was generated to get a Birdbath for each level garden, and Hummingbird Feeders to hang outside the Dining Room windows for our residents to enjoy in the winter, when the “blooming planters” have been removed.Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 7.06.53 AM
  • We did a little “re-naming”!  The Level E Garden is now “The Secret Garden”.  That name is much more appropriate, as no one can ever find it!  Also, the garden storage area is now called “The Garden Shed”, and the new sub-committee has done a great job of cleaning it up, and keeping it that way!

I’m sure there are more…but we’ll stop here.  It’s been a great bunch of years.  I’ve loved chairing this committee.  Gardeners are fun and understanding, to say nothing of hardworking.  Thank you all for letting me stand at your helm.  It has been an honor.

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