Monday, March 22, 2010

Pinky Rabbit

Hippity hoppity, Easter's on its way. I know because my pink flamingo finally got its rabbit ears.

Yes, we're livin' large here at Garden Faerie's Musings.

Back in early December, I managed to find a Santa hat (purchased as an ornament for 25¢ at the Ann Arbor ReUse Center), and to make a scarf from random scraps, for Pinky, the pink flamingo that graces my front yard.

Since I'm not very crafty, I was rather pleased with myself.

[Gertrude and Siegfried, the backyard pink flamingo pair, have a more delicate constitution and overwinter in my basement. But Pinky's a self-sufficient old dame who can fend for herself. (Remind you of anyone?) Well, except that she has to put up with ludicrous outfits.]

For St. Patrick's Day, I removed the hat and turned the scarf around so it was green.

Today I went back to the ReUse Center and found this homemade magnet for 25¢. And hey bang presto, nothing up my sleeve! five minutes later I had turned it into the rabbit ears above.

I'm really pleased with how that turned out, too. The photo tickles me no end.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, pink flamingos really add a touch of class to the garden.

Breaking News: For immediate release. For the first time in 40 years, against all odds, not one, but two (2) Lindt chocolate rabbits have survived unscathed in the home of the Garden Faerie for well over a month now. A well-known chocoholic famous for finishing multiple chocolate rabbits well before Easter, the Garden Faerie is as dumbfounded as the rest of us about the origin of her new-found will power. "A dark chocolate one (not shown) is for my mom, but for me an Easter rabbit has to be milk chocolate (pictured)," the Faerie was quoted as saying by a neighbor, who saw her clutching the rabbits and muttering quietly to herself. We have confirmed reports that the sugar-free Peeps are long since gone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Folderol Friday

Folderol Friday is just like Mish-Mash Monday, only on Friday. I know this is my third post in under a week, so please don't faint or have a heart attack! Today's topics are sparklies, spring, seeds, and fuzzy friends.

Ooh, Sparkly
The tree, adorned with sparkly strands, hanging from the ceiling at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show reminded me of some cool sparkly strands hanging from the ceiling in a hallway at the Detroit Institute of Arts. See?

Spring Comes in on Little Cat Feet
Around March 5, we still had lots of snow, but it was sunny and getting warmer.

The very first signs of green in my garden (this year on March 5) aren't aconites, snow drops, crocuses, or hellebores, but tiger lilies.

On March 9, I saw the hyacinths, the first bulbs to come up in my garden.

By March 11, all the snow had melted. Still, I admit spring is the worst time to have blogging friends in warmer climates. It makes weather that is natural and normal in Michigan seem stunted, lagging, and like it should be riding the short bus.

Fortunately, I have a close friend in Finland, Jaana, who sent me these photos of what her world looks like in early March. Here she is at her mailbox....

...and here's her hubby Matti shoveling their roof! That makes me feel a lot better, LOL!

Here, it's been really warm, in the 60s, but it's supposed to cool down and possibly snow next week. Which is entirely normal because it is still March and it is still Michigan.

A few years ago, I bought a little stick of a witch hazel for $8 at a fund raiser. Now, even $8 seemed like kind of a lot, all things considered, but it was for a good cause and I'd been wanting a witch hazel. It hasn't grown much over the years and is still more or less a stick. I wasn't expecting it to bloom this year, either, until Garden Girl showed her similarly sized witch hazel blooming, which forced me to go out and look at mine.

Jackpot! She is blooming! The flowers are only about half an inch in diameter. I'm not even sure what kind of witch hazel this is. It was labeled Hamamelis vernalis in handwriting as I watched, and only after I asked, by two amusing older gentleman who were arguing with one another in hushed tones about the species and each other's competency. They finally agreed to "just mark it Hamamelis vernalis and be done with it."

I had wanted the witch hazel native in Michigan, Hamamelis virginiana, and even called ahead of time to ask which species would be available. I was assured that, yes yes there now, that is what they had. At the time, I therefore thought I in fact did have a virginiana and that the confused gentlemen just mislabeled it vernalis. But now that it's blooming, I can tell I have neither, as both virginiana and vernalis have yellow flowers. I suspect I have a hybrid, probably Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'. I still like it a lot, but, well, um, oh never mind.

Fuzzy Friends
James was excited to check out dried plants in the cat garden on March 5.

Fiona was pleased to be able to sit on wood, as opposed to snow. (She loves that old chair, which is her scratching post.) She had the cutest pose on the top of the chair, but by the time lumbering hooman came back with the camera, she had moved on.

Speaking of which, here's a rare instance of Fiona holding a pose until I got the camera!

I get lots of ducks at the feeders. They're nature's vacuum cleaners.

Also, the groundhog is awake from hibernation.

Seeds & Sprouts
This photo couldn't be more boring, but it shows a rare phenomenon here at Garden Faerie's Musings, one that hasn't happened in over 6 years: indoor seed starting. I've been happy winter sowing and had no intention of setting up the grow lights or clearing out room in my closet for seed flats (my house is small and I have very few open spaces elsewhere). A friend once grew Mary Jane in the closet and so I have vague fears about cops knocking on my door thinking I'm growing pot... when it fact it's cactuses! Yes, I couldn't resist a packet of mixed cactus seeds. I did try two with winter-sowing, but broke down and sowed the rest in a warm (actually I keep my house embarrassingly cool) bright environment.

Winter-sowing tip: If ice or snow turns heavy enough to bow down the lids of winter-sown flats, remove the snow. Otherwise, let it melt on its own.

Winter-sown sprouts: Of the 75ish variety of seeds I've winter-sown this season, here's what's sprouted so far (in order): turnip 'Purple-Top, White Globe' (above), pasque flower, annual baby’s breath ‘Convent Garden,’ lupine ‘Russells Prize Mix*,’ grass ‘Bunny Tails,’ catchfly ‘Carmine Pink,’ and morning glory ‘Ensign Red.’

Have a great weekend, everyone! I'm having dinner at my friend Pete's this evening and tomorrow my friend Amy and I are off to the Growing Great Gardens conference in Taylor.

*As an Arrogant Worms fan, I always parse this as Russell's Shorts, but that's just me!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Out and About in Chicago

Today I'll share some photos of Chicago from my recent trip to the Flower & Garden Show. It was warm and overcast, and spring was definitely in the air. I really liked the softness of the fog contrasted with the starkness of the skyscrapers, all nestled in the limbs of Mother Nature.

I just can't not go to Millennium Park. I liked the foggy grayness juxtaposed with the bright, shiny, and illuminated artwork there.

On March 11, I think it was home to the last bit of snow downtown.

Daffodils are making their way up from the beds surrounding Millennium Park.

Most of the Lurie Garden has been cut back...

... but not all!

The garden at the Art Institute of Chicago has also been cut back. (I'm looking forward to the upcoming Matisse exhibit there!) And, Phoenix C., the bench is just for you!

I also never get enough of seeing the Cloud Gate (or bean).

On this overcast day, it was really obvious how the Cloud Gate was named.

It's interesting in all weather...

...and from so many angles.

The flower show took place on Navy Pier, which juts into Lake Michigan. Lots of boats provide tours in warmer weather.

There are a lot of attractions on Navy Pier, like this ferris wheel. I was congratulating myself on the great composition of this shot when I realized I'm in the photo, which means it's good because Mr Brown Thumb took it!

I was tickled by the reflection of the ferris wheel on the glass palm house.

My favorite way of traveling between Ann Arbor and Chicago is megabus. It's comfortable, and faster and cheaper than the train. Costs vary depending on how far in advance you book, with rates being slightly higher Fridays through Mondays. My last journey was $20 round trip and a ride I booked for April was $11 round trip. What can I say. I'm a cheap date.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chicago Flower & Garden Show

On Wednesday I met Mr. Brown Thumb (who hooked me up with a press pass) and Bintie (who has the coolest hair) at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Garden Girl was supposed to meet us, too, but wound up home sick instead, though she still graciously provided me with overnight lodging. You guys are the best!

Here are my impressions of the show, in no particular order. Just get a littler clocher so we can chat as we go!

Why are these people looking the other way, when there are brains on sticks and a disembodied tree hanging from the ceiling to be seen?!

I really thought this was a great combo; the flowers really work with, and soften, the stark wood and stone.

Something about these two lady slippers and their surroundings makes me feel like they're Muppet characters.

A macro that actually worked.

Spring, spring, spring, spring! Soak it up, take it in.

I love the pieces of wood which add a whole new dimension to this little waterfall.

A sign next to this bonsai Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora) said an alarm would sound if you touched the plant. It, in fact, did not. (Don't panic! I asked first... I just wasn't believing this was a white pine, but upon feeling its soft needles, I was convinced.)

Loved this container combo, though it was too large to fit in my purse...

I love this use for an older bike.

Yellow! When I had research colleagues who studied ergonomics, I learned that design features that help make something easier to use for a particular population (say, older people or people with limited eye sight) in general make the object easier for everyone to use. This wonderful cold frame, raised to a comfortable standing height is a case in point. Not only does it make gardening possible for those who can't easily bend down, it's easier for everyone!

My favorite display in the show.

Feeeeed me!

Look at those sweet little hypertufa pots. (Note to self: Find decent recipe and host 'tufa-making party in spring.)

This reminds me a bit of a spiral rock garden I once made under a hemlock. I also love the potager garden, with ornamentals and veggies intermixed.

Also loved this artistic combination of lettuce and wheat grass.

Was also intrigued by this ingenious lettuce planter--it's pretty but would also keep ground critters out (say, for instance, one rolly polly groundhog) because it's raised and has pokey edges.

A pretty combination of hyacinths and a climbing lily (Gloriosa rothschildiana) that Mr. Brown Thumb has named for me 113 times and I've forgotten 112 times!


The nice folks from the Chicago Botanic Garden who staffed the answer booth were able to ID this as Calceolaria herbeohybrida (say that three times fast!) for me.

As much as I like modern and minimalist design (and that's one heck of a lot, for those keeping score at home), this house struck me, overall, as a bit stark. Loved the orange front door, though.

I'm not wild about hardscaping, especially not as edges, but I really liked the use of logs in this display. It has more organic shapes and yet still provides a border.

Love this flower fireplace on the edge of the Alice's Wonderland display. The Red Queen was visible just over the fireplace, but she scared me so I cropped her out of the shot. But, look, there's Bintie to the right, taking a photo.

Loved this representation of the Cheshire Cat.

Alice, don't eat the mushrooms!

The Lincoln Park and Garfield Park Conservatories had a display highlighting their special yearly displays, from the winter holidays... spring displays (locally, Hidden Lake Gardens has an awesome display of azaleas in spring).

My favorite flower of the show, this sweet, sweet Persian lily (Fritullaria persica).

This probably wasn't meant to be a volcano of parsley, but that's how I see it.

The sign had that Alice in Wonderland theme... Bananas!

One of the vendors had these cool water-retaining gel spheres that one can use in vases with cut flowers. There were lots of pretty colors in lots of bowls... and again, the Alice theme comes into play and touch them I did. Ew!!! So creepy. It felt like slimy eyeballs. Um, not that I've ever felt slimy eyeballs, but it really freaked me out.

I know you think it was the Big Bad Wolf's fault...

...But it was really me who huffed and puffed and bleeeeeeew that straw house down!

My, what big ears you have... Or, elephant ears on steroids.

By far, the absolute highlight of the show for me was the "Pet A Bug" exhibit. I did in fact briefly touch the top of a giant cockroach, but admit that was freaky. I wouldn't hold it. The millipedes looked harmless enough. I held the little millipede first, and that was fine. Its feet tickled my hand. The bigger, African millipede was a bit unnerving, due to its hard coat and rigid, pokey legs.

I was not unnerved by how the tarantula moved, in fact, very gracefully, I just didn't want to be bitten because I have no health insurance. But look how sweet Tary is. Look at her cool color variegation! Come to mama!

That's my girl! She didn't feel ticklish at all and her weight was very evenly spread among her eight legs, so I could barely feel her at all. I was very comfortable with her. (Note: Tary, however, is probably thinking "Eek! Who the hell is that huge scary-looking human?!")

I really, really, really wasn't planning to buy anything at the show. But I have a bit of a thing for agaves (waves to Pam), and this super sweet dwarf narrowleaf century plant (Agave striata minima (nana)) from Ted's Greenhouse (which sounds similar to the sadly defunct Farmer Grant's in Ann Arbor) spoke to me (and besides, the nice woman staffing the booth gave me a Peeps!). I even had a retro flowerpot at home, ready and waiting for it.

At the Landreth Seeds booth, MBT may have bought some 'Great White' tomato seeds, which could in turn have inspired me to buy some 'Wapsipinicon Peach' tomato seeds (they get fuzz, just like peaches!), which we possibly split between us.

It was a fun day all around! Check back in a few days for my outdoor photos of Chicago!