gardening

Succulent Sunday

combo in the hothouse

combo in the hothouse

Just going to share a couple photos of succulents today.  See more photos at www.flora-file.com

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Zig Zag

“Nature abhors a straight line.” – William Kent (via)

While nature provides many shapes that are pleasing to the eye, such as the parabola, the spiral, and the ellipse, the straight line is far less common in the natural world. It is human’s folly to try to impose such rigid regularity onto our constructs and architecture.

The zig zag is also a pattern that is seen regularly in nature, and sometimes it seems like an attempt at at straight line before the invisible artist that shapes the universe changes it’s mind.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge – Zig Zag

The Age of Grasses

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a path at Bamboo Giant Nursery

My Story about Bamboo

So part of the reason I like bamboo so much (besides the fact that it’s awesome) is that it was the first plant that I started to propagate and sell for cash. The story goes like this.

Once upon a time my Dad went through a Japanese Garden phase, (which is probably the root of my affinity for Japanese gardens), and planted some bamboo next to the patio of the house I grew up in. It was planted in a metal partition that was intended to keep this very aggressive bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) from spreading. But after my Mom and Dad separated and my sis and I went away to college, the yard went feral. Of course the bamboo burst through the partition and started taking over the yard, sending shoots up over fifty feet away from the original planting. Every once in a while the rhizomes would even make it all the way under the house and send up shoots in the front yard.

For years I went over to help my aging mother with the yard maintenance, and I would just cut the bamboo down, and sometimes even dig up the rhizomes. Sometimes I would just grab a stalk of bamboo and start ripping up the long underground roots, like pulling frayed carpet fibers away from the carpet backing. When I was done I would just throw all the boo into the green waste. Then one day I decided to try to put the rhizomes in pots to transplant them. After some simple trial an error in methodology and substrate I achieved a success rate of about 90% with my divisions. I would mix in a lot of sand into the soil mix to help increase drainage, which is very important for almost all species of bamboo. I would go to the dollar store and buy gallon dish tubs, because the bamboo grew better in wide, shallow containers.

Soon I began selling divisions of Golden Bamboo (P. aurea) on Craig’s List, planted in dish tubs, and returned to my Mom’s house about once  a month to restock my supply. I also started selling other plants on Craig’s, but the bamboo was my biggest and most expensive plant for sale. I made almost $1000 selling bamboo in one summer. Not exactly the summer job I had in mind, but from there things started spiraling out of control, not unlike the rhizomes of bamboo tangling through the soil in my Mother’s backyard.

Now, 10 years later, I am a complete plant junkie. I still have many of the divisions of golden bamboo that I dug up. I don’t sell them anymore. Instead I planted them in large pots, and they are all bushy and 8-10 feet tall. They are waiting patiently, I feel, for a careless moment when they can escape their container and begin taking over my yard, the state of California, and eventually the entire planet. I’ve thought about planting some in the earth, but decided I was tired of  breaking shovels trying to dig bamboo out of the ground. For now at least.

Bamboo has gotten such a bad rap as being invasive and rampant, and in many cases its true. Golden Bamboo is considered an invasive weed in many areas, and seeing how it started sending a web of rhizomes out through my Mom’s yard I can understand why.

I’ve also heard it said that if bamboo is so invasive then it would have taken over the world by now. But it is important to remember that the grass family (Poaceae) is relatively new in the plant kingdom, rising to its peculiar prominence during the most recent Cenozoic era. The Cenozoic is commonly known as the ’Age of Mammals’ (with our fauna-centric view of the world), but it could just as easily be called the ’Age of Grasses’. Even though Mammalia is a Class (K-P-Class-O-Family-G-S) and Poaceae is a family (two steps lower on the taxonomic hierarchy), there are twice as many identified species of grass than species of mammals. In fact, familyPoaceae is the fifth largest plant family, and three of the four most important food crops are grasses, not to mention the forage grasses provide for domesticated livestock. Grasses have not only drastically changed the course of human evolution, but the evolution of the entire planet as well.

Bamboo may still take over the world yet. It’s just getting up to speed. All it needs is another million years.

don’t let it escape!

 

Donne Sali

Nothing says summer like heat, whether it’s the atmosphere or the bounty from the garden. With this year’s bumper crop of hot chilies coming in extra spicy and all at once, its good to have a way to preserve that summer heat all year long. These photos are from last year’s crop. I had so many peppers last year that I still have a jar of this chili paste, even though I gave over half the chili paste away to anyone brave enough to take it. One of the biggest problems with growing hot chilies is that the peppers all ripen at the same time, and just one single pepper is way too much fire for one meal. This recipe involves no cooking and will help preserve that summer spice all year round, and you can add just as much at you need.


So you decided to grow hot peppers and now you have way too many. Solution: make donne. Donne is a chili paste made with spicy chilies and preserved with vinegar.

Ingredients:SONY DSC

Chilis, Garlic, Salt, Vinegar

  1. -Cut up chilies and garlic. Be cautious when cutting up very hot chilies. You may even want to use latex gloves.

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  2. -Place peppers and garlic in food processor. Add enough vinegar to allow the chilies to blend evenly. Sprinkle a small amount of salt on top.

  3. -Blend until an even consistency is reached. SONY DSC



  4. -Bottle and refrigerate.

 


The vinegar preserves the chilies and allows the paste to stay edible for up to a year. The flavor and potency will fade a little over time, but usually theSONY DSC paste is so spicy that  it is is barely noticeable.  Depending on how hot the peppers are, this stuff makes Sriracha taste like ketchup.

For this batch I had a bunch of Cherry Bomb peppers that were ripe, which have a very nice sweet flavor but are not overly spicy (I estimate ~2000-3000 Scoville units). To put a little more punch into it I added a couple ripe habaneros. Since this mix is ‘Sweet’, I used rice vinegar, though normally I used distilled white vinegar for a truer flavor.

I’ll be enjoying the peppers from my garden all year. Will you?

Read more about donne and the wild chilies of Guam click HERE.


Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin

 

Flowers in the School Garden

In case you didn’t know, I teach middle school. I also started and continue to run a school garden at my school. We have a summer watering schedule,  and students and parents have volunteered to come and water the unirrigated portions of the garden over the summer months. But I still like to stop by every couple weeks and check on how things are going, to make sure the equipment is still there, and make sure nothing is broken or destroyed. Unfortunately, vandalism is a big problem when you leave an area of a school open to the public. Sometimes it seems that teenager’s favorite way to enjoy something is to destroy it. This summer though, so far so good.

In my own garden that I see everyday, the growth and changes are subtle and hard to appreciate. But not seeing the school garden for weeks at a time, the growth and changes are much more dramatic. These are some photos from my last visit.

Now if we could just keep all the other garden pests out.

Floraphilia

flora (ˈflôrə) noun; the plants of a particular region, habitat, or geological period

phile: (combining form) denoting fondness, esp. an abnormal love for a specified thing.

I live in California. I grow plants and take photos. I run a school garden and teach Science. I am a floraphile.


 

Screen shot 2014-07-13 at 10.08.18 AMThis is the tagline for my Tumblr, which is where I post about my adventures as a plant fanatic. It started from a New Year’s resolution in 2012, and this Tumblr essentially jumpstarted my floundering creative potential. It started out with me just sharing other people’s photos of plants, and then I soon began taking my own photos. Then I got a better camera and started taking better photos. I tried to capture the photographic evidence of the beauty I witnessed in my own garden. I wanted that sense of calm and serenity I feel in the garden to be delivered through my photographs. Not sure if I can succeed in this, but I keep trying.

Just the act of creating my own content soon led to other things. Soon the writing began. Then a workshop, an online course, a novel in progress, a slew of potentially mediocre short stories. Then this wordpress blog happened because I needed somewhere to put all these extra words. Frankly, the wordy posts I had been composing about my plants hadn’t exactly proved popular on Tumblr, and every time I posted a short story at least ten people immediately unfollowed me. I have a sneaking suspicion that many Tumblr users refuse to read anything longer than fifty words, but I’ll be damned if they don’t like a pretty picture of a succulent. So now, I’ll just have to subject the blogoshpere of wordpress to all my rants, raves, and unfortunate literary transgressions. I apologize in advance.

This is a collection of some of the photos from my garden that I posted this week.

Originally posted on flora-file.tumblr.com