5 Things of Beauty for Today

Image by Rory Gunderson, for Wilder Quarterly

Image by Rory Gunderson, for Wilder Quarterly

There is a great need for beauty of late, especially with so much ugliness in our world. The balance is off kilter, the joy in life is blurred.  When darkness seems to overwhelm I seek  five things that delight. I thought you might enjoy what I’ve found today.

 

 

Image via Design Sponge.

Image via Design Sponge.

String Gardens: Are also known as kokedama, or moss balls. They are airy and lovely to look at. They are relatively easy to make, but require soaking in fertilized water twice a week. Here is a wonderful tutorial to make your own from Good Magazine blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

carved-freshwater-pearls

These were found at Pearls of Joy web site.

Carved Pearls: I found these fresh water pearls carved with patterns of seeds delightful in the connection of earth of sea. It is believed in Tahitian culture that

…a carved pearl which is worn with respect or given and received with love, takes on part of the spirit of those who wear or handle it. In this way it becomes a spiritual link between people spanning time and distance.

 

 

Words from a Hermit:

Like a bee that secretly fashions its comb in the hive so also grace secretly forms in hearts its own love. It changes to sweetness what is bitter, what is rough into that which is smooth.  ~Pseudo-Macariusfile0001318067946

 

 

 

Velvet PetuniasPurple Velvet Petunias: A dear friend, Elizabeth, loves elegant well designed dresses and fanciful cloths. This purple velvet skirt of a petunia might delight her as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Neighborhood Helpers: And the most beautiful thing today? The two neighborhood boys, John-the-Tall and Gavin-the-Loud, insisting I needed help with my yard. And I do so they did!Neighborhood Helpers

 

Fall Blooming Pansies, Practical Gardening

Image morguefile.com

In the Midwest, we’re all pretty familiar with fall mums, Russian sage, and flowering kale as the main staples of the late-season garden. These plants are tolerant of cold nights and less sunlight. But why not add pansies to your selection?

Until recently the general public was unaware that the pansy is not heat tolerant, dying out in the summer. It flowers best when night temperatures are in the 40s and day temps in the 60s. Many areas of the Pacific coast are blessed to grow them all year round! The pansy grows well in Zones 3-7. In the northern zones if you plant the little lovelies in late September it will bloom until covered in snow.

Image by loneangel at morguefile.com

Image morguefile.com

Things are a bit different for species violas (Johny Jump-up or Heartease). It is the small flowered parent of the bold faced pansy, and will winter over–usually for only two years–and bloom in the spring, being a tender perennial that reseeds. The pansy, a hybrid viola, is a biennial grown as an annual.

Agrilife Resources gives a bit of history of the pansy’s evolution from the wild viola:

Viola is a large genus containing 500 species…. and were familiar to people living in Greece in the 4th century B.C. The center of origin for the plant was continental Europe. The hardy but delicate viola was cultivated by the Greeks for herbal medicinal use and much later inspired William Shakespeare to write of romance.

Some time after the 4th century B.C. in Europe, an acute observer noticed a plant similar to a viola but growing in open areas with more sunlight. This plant thrived in alpine meadows and on rocky ledges. Someone named this plant a wild pansy. Possibly, it was a person living in France who noticed this plant because the word pansy is traced back to the French word pensee, meaning thought or remembrance….

In the last 50 years much of the innovative pansy breeding has been in Germany, the United States and Japan. New pansy colors such as shades of pink, rose or orange and unusual bicolor designs have expanded the variety of pansies available to gardeners in North America

Compact and low growing, pansies are not fussy plants, growing best in a loose, rich soil. They prefer full sun. If you want instant color in their garden, you will find packs and flats of pansies at local nurseries or garden centers. Select the flower colors that suit your garden design. Choose plants that are stocky with dark green leaves, with a few blooms showing but lots of buds.

With the short growing season, plant them closer together than what the tag instructs for a burst of color. They are lovely planted at the base of fall mums, replacing spent flowers in containers, or in a grouping filling in where more tender annuals were removed.

 

Feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower

On this first day of October, as we take our daily walk through the prayer garden, it seems so very appropriate that the Saint of the day is St. Therese of Lisieux. A Carmelite nun, St. Therese is, of course, lovingly known as the “Little Flower” and is the patron saint of florists.

As someone who lived relatively recently, at the end of the 19th century, St. Therese’s story is very well known. Her devotion to praying for others, especially priests, has inspired many. St. Therese, who died at the tender young age of 24, saw great beauty in her redemptive suffering and in emptying herself for the fulfillment of others souls.

As I prayed this week to find the words for this day, I came across a beautiful quote from a homily from St. Macarius of Egypt, an influential Desert Father of the fourth century. In his homily, St. Macarius writes,

When a farmer sets out to till the ground he has to take the proper tools and clothing for work in the fields: so when Christ, the Heavenly King and the true Husbandman, came to humanity laid waste by sin, He clothed Himself in a body and carried the Cross as His implement and cultivated the deserted soul. He pulled up the thorns and thistles of evil spirits and tore up the weeds of sin. When thus He had tilled the ground of its soul with the wooden plough of His Cross, He planted in it a lovely garden of the Spirit; a garden which brings forth for God as its Master the sweetest and most delightful fruits of every source.

The imagery of Christ as a farmer, tilling the soil with the wood of His cross, is a beautiful picture of God caring for His children. Christ took upon his shoulders the weight of the cross and thus the weight of all human sins. He plunged the base of His cross deep into the earth; an earth parched and withered from the flames of sin, and by His own blood made it a fertile garden for good seeds to take root and beautiful flowers to grow.  St. Therese, the Little Flower, is a wonderful example of the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

As we contemplate this, I find it humbling to consider that the same soil that Jesus cultivated that resulted in the beautiful Little Flower of Lisieux, is the same soil that each and every one of us is spiritually planted in. Each of us is called to Sainthood, just as St. Therese was. We pray to the Lord this day that the examples of giving ourselves up in prayer for others, the example we see from St. Therese, be a loving model of how we are called to live. We pray for the humility to serve others with the same loving heart that Jesus had for us when he bore the weight of human sins on His cross.

Finally, on this day where we contemplate the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, let us consider her own words from her autobiography, Story of a Soul. “What matters in life,” she wrote, “is not great deeds, but great love.” As we reflect back at the end of our day today, and with God’s grace each day of our future, let us look back not at what great deeds we may have accomplished, but what great love we showed for someone that day.

Forcing Bulbs for Preseason Color, Practical Gardening

file0002136272075When I plant containers of bulbs in the fall, I am thinking about the color they will bring indoors during late winter days or as outdoor focal points early next spring.

To force a bulb means that you are manipulating its environment so that it will bloom out of season. Before spring flowering bulbs can be forced to flower in a container, they require a cold period of 12-15 weeks at temperatures between 38°-48°. This allows production of a good root system. A spare refrigerator is excellent for chilling the potted bulbs.  I have even used my basement window wells and covered the pots with a heavy layer of straw…much to the delight of the field mice!

Paperwhite Narcissus and Amaryllis do not need to be cooled when you buy them. They have already been prepped for forcing by the supplier. Plant them as directed, set them in a sunny location, and let nature take its course. Paperwhites can also be grown in water, much like hyacinths.

Hyacinth bulbs are first chilled in a doubled paper bag for 13 weeks and then set in a special water vase to grow; the basal plate of the bulb must touch the water for the roots to start developing. To prevent diseases, Hyacinth bulbs are treated with an agent that will irritate skin. Be sure to wear thin plastic gloves and wash after handling.

Forcing spring bulbs in a container is simple. Select a container from 6-24” wide with good drainage. Fill 2/3rd full with a good potting mix; do not use garden soil or fertilizer. Plant the bulbs so they almost touch each other and cover with more potting mix, leaving about a half an inch from the top. Tag your pot with start date and cultivar. Water the container and place it in a cold (38°-48°) dark location for the duration. Check it periodically to be sure the mix has remained damp, but not wet. Too wet and the bulbs will rot.

If you have a beautiful container or basket you want to use when your bulbs start blooming, find a plastic pot that will fit inside it. Plant and chill the bulbs in this plastic pot. When the time is right, place the pot with a saucer inside the container and set in a sunny location

The number of bulbs for a 6” pot: narcissus, 3 large bulbs and up to 6 if smaller bulbs are being used; paperwhites or tulips, 5-6; hyacinths, 3; minor bulbs like muscari or crocus, 12-15.

For a 24” pot and using a single kind of bulb you will need up to 50 tulips or smaller narcissus, or 30 of the larger flowering narcissus, and possibly 80-100 of the minor bulbs.

When using one kind of bulb per container, create several containers with staggered blooming periods. You can also plant an assortment of bulbs in one larger container but be sure they have the same bloom period. When using an assortment of bulbs, plan on layering them in the container. Plant the larger bulbs deeper and first, add potting mix and then place the next layer of bulbs on top and add more mix. End with the minor bulbs planted closer to the edges, keeping mix a half inch from top.

As time draws near for removing your containers from the cold treatment, you may see pale whitish tips emerging. This is the start of your bulbs, and once placed in the light, they will soon begin photosynthesis and turn green. It won’t be much longer and your blooms will emerge for the long awaited color!

 

Big Difference in Naturalizing and Perennializing Bulbs, Practical Gardening

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Image morgeufile.com

Well, autumn is upon us and it’s nearly time for planting spring bulbs.

Let’s start this column with definitions that will help you get a handle on nomenclature: True bulbs contain their leaves and flowering parts inside. These include tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Corms carry their leaf parts on the outside to support interior bud development and include crocuses and gladiolas. Rhizomes like Canna lilies and iris form leaves and buds from a growing end or tip. Tubers, like potatoes, have “eyes” that develop roots, leaves, and flowers and include dahlias, anemones and ranunculus.

For the purpose of brevity, I will group all of these together and call them bulbs. From last week’s column, you learned about tender bulbs that are not winter hardy in our Zone 5. This second column on bulbs (with a third one next week) discusses hardy bulbs that spread.

There is a difference between naturalizing bulbs and perennializing bulbs—especially when talking about tulips. A naturalizing bulb will return year after year and multiplies, spreading out into the garden. A perennializing bulb grows and blooms for a few years with the bulb possibly increasing in size but not spreading.

Most hybrid tulips are perennializers—note that, perennializers. They look amazing for maybe two of years and then you are left with only leaves.

Species or botanical tulips, including Tulipa bakeri (aka saxatillis), T. batalinii, T. clusiana, T. fosteriana, T. greigii, T. humilis (adorabvle!), T. kaufmanniana are excellent candidates for naturalizing as are Darwin Hybrids. Some cultivars have mottled or variegated leaves, others have bi-colored blooms, and range in height from a demure 12” greigii to the sturdy 24” Darwins. I’m partial to the spreading T. greigii because of their adorable leaves and their ability to hold their petals longer on wide flowering faces.

Nearly all cultivars of Narcissus are naturalizers. Dwarf and species daffodils are excellent for rock garden because they are often more petite; Tete-a-Tete looks like its larger yellow cousins, and Minnow, my favorite of the dwarfs, is a dainty multi-blossom white with a yellow corolla.

Another good bulb for use in rock gardens is the species crocus. It and the Dutch crocus will both naturalize easily. Other smaller bulbs that will spread, and sometimes quickly, are: Glory-of-the-snow, Chinodoxa; Snowdrops, Galanthus; Summer Snowflake, Leaucojum; Grape Hyacinth, Muscari, and Wood Hyacinth, Scillia; and the precious Star-of-Bethlehem, Ornithogalum.

I love the looks of a grassy area dappled in these smaller spring bulbs. My grandmother’s front lawn was planted this way. If you have a lawn that you do not treat with weed-and-feed, try growing these harbingers of spring. Mow your lawn really short late in the autumn, and then plant groups of bulbs according to directions. After they have flowered in the spring, wait as long as possible to mow again, or do as grandpa use to—mow around the small clumps for a while so the leaves have a chance to nourish the bulbs.

Van Bloem Gardens, a Dutch supplier, recommends that naturalized plantings should blend in with the existing landscape and mimic nature. To achieve this, lay out your planting areas so they follow the contours of your land and be generous with the size of the areas to be planted. The impact of your planting will be much greater if you have several large areas of naturalized bulbs than if you have lots of small areas. Naturalized plantings look best when they are planted densely in the center then feather out to fewer bulbs at the edges of the planting. And finally, swaths of one solid color generally have greater visual appeal than drifts of mixed colors.