Hello there. Thought I'd pop in to see if the old writing muscles are still working. Actually, I'm talking about theoretical muscles because I'm learning how to use voice recognition software, or at least trying to. I have a bummed-up hand and making the best of it but really hoping that I'll be able to do some gardening come spring. At least this way I'll be able to write about it.
The strange thing about the exercise of writing is that my fingers on the keyboard have their own things to say. In a way, I talk with my hands as a born Quebecer would. I'm going to have to get used to telling my stories out loud. I'm also going to have to teach this a silly software how to speak Canadian!
Here's a gardening-related piece of news, at least as it concerns me. I am finally, after all these years, working toward becoming a Master Gardener. I am also working toward a horticulturalist certificate at the University of Guelph "because it's there". I'm actually way more interested in the sustainable landscapes certificate but since the master gardener qualifications get me part way through the first certificate, I might as well finish that before I move on to the fun stuff.
It's all fun stuff. I forgot how enjoyable learning could be when it's something you're actually interested in.
This is a great time of year to plant a tree, so here is some great advice from England:
we used to dig a deep round hole
and fill it with rich tree compost which we planted the tree into. We now
know that this encouraged the roots to stay in the planting pit; rather than
spreading out laterally in search of nutrients and moisture, they grew in a
circle. In severe cases the roots became almost “pot-bound” and there were
few wide-spreading roots to anchor the tree into the ground.
This article brought me out of my blog slumber. My first thought: 1600 plants!! Man, that must have been a beautiful display. I'd go ballistic if that were my garden. My second thought: Daisies? For cripes sakes, how do daisies get confused with marijuana plants? Those cops really need to spend more time in gardens looking at plants - not pulling them out.
A funny thing about orchids -- they don't die willingly. In a burst of energy one Sunday not too long ago, I pulled the feral grocery store orchids out from their neglected corner of the patio, and repotted them. Watered them and brought them indoors. It's the first time I've paid any attention to my orchids since I threw them outdoors last spring after a winter of neglect on the windowsill.
Not only are they not dead, one of them is going to put out blooms. Three fat and defiant inflorescences.
It's kind of like this blog. Neglected, ignored, but still... not dead.
And apparently (heart-swellingly), not forgotten either.
Just a few days afterward, I received an email from an orchid hero and blast from my botanical past, Aaron J. Hicks. He wrote to say hi and to tell me that a 4 year-old blog post of mine was "Boing-Boinged". Today, another nice note came out of the blue from my favourite Herbal Wise Woman of the Northern Light Centre, to say hello and tell me that she'd had a laugh over some of my blog posts. A laugh! Awesome.
It's been 5 years since I moved to Munich, and my horticultural/writing impulse has gone into a deep slumber. But these sweet nudges are encouraging me to come out of hibernation. To come out and play. I don't have a garden. The vast majority of my flower pots are upside down under a bench, and the only greenery I lay claim to are a few stubborn and unremarkable orchids. Orchids that have life in them still, and a few flowers - like this blog.
As every flower fades and as all youth Departs, so life at every stage, So every virtue, so our grasp of truth, Blooms in its day and may not last forever. Since life may summon us at every age Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor, Be ready bravely and without remorse To find new light that old ties cannot give. In all beginnings dwells a magic force For guarding us and helping us to live.
- from the poem, Stufen (translation) Hermann Hesse
In the week since I last posted, summer has turned over to a dreary autumn in a neat little turn of pathetic fallacy. Rain, rain, rain... even the leather grips on the handlebars of my bike are spotted with mildew. Indoors, the tears have dried up and life is returning to normal - more or less. It helped to hear from so many kind people who knew and loved Jake, or who know the pain of losing a beloved canine friend. Thank you.
But as we all know, seasons turn and life marches on. There are many things to look forward to, including blooms on two of my orchids: An ondontoglossum (I can't remember what it looks like) and a Burrageara Stefan Isler with two inflorescences. The red nasturtium outside my door has climbed all over my rose, which is just fine with me. The red geraniums are still blooming madly, in spite of the cold grey weather, and the clematis has happily leaped from the bamboo support that I jammed into the pot, over to a nearby bush. It is giving me more flowers.
My husband said it best: "Life is a garden, watered with tears".
Cool. Now there is evidence that orchids have been in existence since dinosaurs were running around the earth.
A 15-20 million year old bee has been discovered preserved in amber, with orchid pollen on its back. Apparently this helps end a certain amount of debate over how long orchids have been around:
Proponents of an older age for orchids had cited their ubiquity around the world, their close evolutionary kinship with the ancient asparagus family, and their bewildering diversity: Some 20,000 to 30,000 species strong, the showy plants comprise some 8 percent of all flowering species worldwide.
By applying the so-called molecular clock method, the scientists also estimated the age of the major branches of the orchid family. To their surprise, they found that certain groups of modern orchids, including the highly prized genus Vanilla, evolved very early during the rise of the plant family.
It must be some kind of big year for the Queen's anniversary, because there are lots of nostalgic articles in British newspapers about her wedding.
Either that, or it's a very slow news week.
My favourite so far is "The Mystery of the Queen's Missing Bouquet". The bouquet was made of orchids - cattleya, odontoglossum and cypripedium - a nice choice, I might say. The jist of the story is that the bouquet went missing and the royal couple had to have their picture taken without it. Ok, it's not exactly enthralling stuff, but here's the part I love:
"The bouquet was a gift to the Princess from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.".
We visited Madeira almost three years ago, a gorgeous little volcanic island off the coast of Africa. Madeira's year-round spring temperatures make it a gardener's paradise, and I brought home more than a few souvenirs, including orchids and some cuttings.
I also brought home a package of Geranium maderense seeds, also known as the Madeira cranesbill. I found the package in the bottom of my gardening bag last spring, threw the seeds into a pot of something already growing, and promptly forgot about it. I figured the seeds were old by then and wouldn't germinate. Well, a couple did, and when autumn came around I dug one up, put the seedling in its own pot, and brought it indoors for the winter.
When I bought the seeds I'd never actually seen a Geranium maderense, let alone one in bloom. I figured it was a just an ordinary geranium of some type, how exciting could that be? That is, until the thing started growing. And growing. It's a metre across now, and taking over my patio. No sign of flowers yet, and I'm wondering where I'm going to put this thing come winter since it's not cold hardy. I joked with my landlord that I'll just move all the furniture outdoors and bring all the plants indoors.
The leaves are quite pretty -- kind of fern-like. And despite what some of the sites I've found have said, my Geranium maderense is much happier in the shade. When the sun comes out the leaves wilt with a decided pout.
Orchids in horse poop... I've read about it, and I've always wondered if it worked. An entire website is devoted to the glories of growing orchids in horse manure, and I'm sure that I'm not the only fool who has read it and actually been inspired to try.
And so yesterday I was invited to go out on a cart ride with my friend Sylvia and her beautiful Halflinger horse, Albert, after work. Sylvia is a tolerant soul, and when I floated the idea by her she gamely brought along two plastic shopping bags with the full knowledge that she'd be transporting fresh horse poo home in the trunk of her car for me. Such a good sport. Her parents are gardeners so I guess that bizarre botanical enthusiasms don't alarm her any more; she's had experience.
The cart ride through through the tranquil Bavarian countryside was unforgettable. We spent over an hour exploring quiet car-free trails through farmer's fields and coniferous forests. We passed cyclists and joggers in our Roman-style chariot, and watched a deep red sunset and a big fat moonrise over the meadows. Wow. So beautiful. Albert is a gorgeous creature, with a ridiculously long and curling flowing mane and tail, and he seemed to enjoy the trip as much as we did. Halflingers are the equine equivalent of Golden Retrievers; loveable and friendly, and extremely intelligent. Not just a horse, but one of three friends out on an adventure.
After the ride, Sylvia led me to an enormous mound of manure and up along a long wooden board leading to the top of it. We balanced precariously on the narrow plank and giggled while we bent over and filled the plastic bag. No accidents, thankfully. Sylvia dropped me off back at the office where my bike was locked, and I rode home with a steaming warm bag of horse poo in the front basket. A memorable evening.
This morning, the experiment began. I repotted a small cymbidium, one from a bulb that I bought three years ago in Madeira. This has to be the slowest growing plant I've ever grown, and I'm so frustrated with its progress I don't mind if it becomes the victim of a bad idea. If this works, bonus.
This lovely yellow floribunda rose is growing in a large pot on my patio. It's called Sunlight Romantica, a floribunda from the house of Meilland in France. Meilland's Romantica roses are considered France's answer to the old English rose, and supposedly blooms better in hot weather than the English David Austin varieties. Makes sense, I guess.
Sunlight Romantica has a gorgeous old-rose style bloom and a heady old-rose scent, which is why I bought it. Roses are fussy prissy things and I normally wouldn't bother with them, but this one smells heavenly, and blooms continuously. It does have a little bit of black spot but in spite of the cold rainy weather we've experienced lately, the plant seems to be fending off serious infection without chemical assistance.
What's more, this is a rose that has inspired a Japanese man to break into song and post it on You Tube. A German song.