Thursday, January 30, 2014

Signs of an Early Spring?

The weather has been unseasonably warm for most of this month, with several days of 80 or above, but we haven't seen a drop of rain in 40 days, so I've had to water more than usual for this time of year.  The warmth has tricked some of the plants into activity that doesn't usually start until mid-February, so hopefully we won't have a freeze like we did last February.  The new irises are poking their heads up and since they're a mixed bag of rhizomes I received from my friends Nina and Marie, I'll have to wait until they bloom to see what's what.  One of the grapevines has started to leaf out, as has the Babcock peach, and the potatoes I planted three weeks ago are already poking their heads up.  Once they're all up and 4"-6" tall, I'll add the next layer of soil to the bed.

First grape leaves of the year.

Babcock peach leaf bud opening.

Potato sticking it's head up.

The celery experiment is working out well and the oldest one is looking really good, while the other two are holding their own but haven't started to really show new growth yet; I have a fourth one rooting on the kitchen windowsill that should be ready to plant in a few weeks.

The oldest one has tripled in size.

I added two new beds this week, one in the front yard under the birdhouse and one in the side yard behind the new gate.  The one in the front yard required a pick axe to remove what was left of the old palm tree stump which was there when we moved in 18 years ago and had finally rotted enough in the center to make removal feasible.  I'd planted sunflowers inside the stump in the past, and now that it's gone, I have a sunflower bed that's about 4' in diameter and sown with over a dozen different varieties of sunflower.  If they all come up, it should make for an impressive display.  The other bed is a raised one that I planted three blueberry plants in that are a early harvest variety called 'Misty'.  I'll also build a bed on the other side of the gate, and it will be planted with a late harvest blueberry called 'Legacy'.  Even though it's recommended that they be planted in full sun, I decided to try a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade due to our intense summer heat.

The new sunflower bed

Blueberry 'Misty'

I sowed some seeds in one of the hanging planters on the shed and forgot what they were until yesterday, when I got the first bloom of viola 'Helen Mount', and what a sweet little flower it is!  I also noticed a skipper butterfly on the lawn yesterday and try as I might, I couldn't come up with a positive ID for it, but it's still a welcome visitor.

Who can resist that face?

The birdcage I bought at the flea market got a new coat of paint and was planted with Senecio radicans glauca, the second senecio I've bought this month, and quite different from Senecio stapeliiformis.  I also bought a Cremnosedum 'Little Gem' to fill the vintage Pacific Pottery pot I bought two weekends ago at the flea market and it's already blooming!  The male and female Euphorbia obesa 'Basketball Plant' look like they're going to bloom at the same time, so maybe I'll get some seeds this year, even if I have to try hand-pollinating.  The Pleiospilos nelii 'Split Rock' is either growing a new set of leaves, or is getting ready to bloom, or both, but either way it's encouraging to know it has adjusted to its' new home.  Lastly, the stapeliad cutting I got at the last Spring Swap finally bloomed, after teasing me for over two weeks, allowing me to identify it as Orbea variegata, formerly known as Stapelia variegata.  Whether a Stapelia or an Orbea, it's a really interesting looking flower and another bud is already forming!

Senecio radicans glauca; It has several flower buds, which should open soon.

Cremnosedum 'Little Gem'; I can't wait until it starts cascading over the sides of the pot.

Euphorbia obesa; female on left, male on right.

Pleiospilos nelii 'Split Rock'

Orbea variegata flower

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Flea Market Finds

For the second Saturday in a row, we went to an antique flea market, this time in the parking lot of one of our favorite antique stores.  As usual, parking was difficult and we had to park nearly a block away, but it was worth it.  About a year and a half ago, I first laid eyes on some Co-Boys, which are gnome figurines that were made by Goebel, the same company that makes Hummels, but couldn't bring myself to pay $60 and up for them.  Today, I finally got my first two at the flea market and I only had to pay $15 for the pair!  These guys are definitely staying in my office, where they'll be safe from harm.

This is Bert, issued in 1975

Nick was issued in 1980.

I also found a solid cement frog lawn ornament for just $10 and as heavy as he is, I guarantee the dog won't knock him over and it's highly unlikely anyone will steal him either.  He's about 8" tall and my guess is he's from the 60's or 70's.

One dealer had several wire birdcages for sale and I picked out what I feel was the best one and got her down to $2.  After removing the seed tray and repainting it white, I'll put a potted plant inside and hang it on the front porch.

Lastly, I found a set of six mini bundt pans that were still in the package and paid the royal sum of $2 for them; I think I'll try them out tomorrow.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Gate and Some New Stuff

I've had the plans drawn up for a new gate for the side yard on the eastern side of the house for over a year, but never got around to putting the plans into action.  Last year I built planters for roses on either side of the gate area, which required slight alterations to the gate plan, but still I didn't get it built. The original plans called for the project to be built entirely using joinery instead of screws or nails, except for the hardware installation, and I realized that I was being overly ambitious and needed to scale back and simplify things. This week I decided upon the simplified plans and put them into action.  I cut four redwood 2" x 3" into 6' lenghts and screwed them to the back of the rose planters, then used the same type of cedar fence boards used in making the planters to create the walls on either side of the gate.  I screwed the first one on to the backside of the redwood boards, then placed two more boards on top of the first board, screwing the top board down and the removed the loose board.  I repeated the process until I reached the top of the redwood 2" x 3"s; at this point the wall looked like a ladder.  Moving to the front side of the wall, I placed two boards on edge, one on top of the other, on top of the planter and screwed the second board to the wall; repeating the process, I wound up filling in the blank spaces on the wall.  By alternating the boards on the front and back of the wall, I achieved privacy while allowing the wind to pass through the wall.  I repeated the process on the other side of the gate, then began building the gate itself.  I made the gate out of three panels from a pair of steel bi-fold closet doors, using self-tapping sheet metal screws to tied the panels together, then added a redwood 2" x 3" to the outer edges to make the door wide enough.  I added cedar fence boards too the back of the gate, across the top and bottom, to add rigidity.  Lastly, I attached piece of 1" x 2" across the gate opening to tie the two walls together, attached three hinges and a latch and drilled a hole above it for a piece of wire to allow the gate to be opened from the front yard and the project was completed.  Total time to complete it was about 3 hours and since I already had the closet doors from a remodel project, total cost was under $75.  I haven't decided if I'm going to leave the gate panels blue or paint them red to match the front door.

The finished gate viewed from the front yard.

The view from the side yard.  I'll probably add planters on either side of the gate.

In my last post, I promised to include a picture of the planter box I built for the Semi-dwarf Babock Peach tree, so here it is.  Rather than put it on the pallet decking, I decided to put it directly on the ground, but it has 2" feet, so bottom is raised off the ground.

I bought another interesting succulent at Baker's Nursery, this time it's Senecio stapeliiformis, spp 'Kilimanjaro' and it's despite its' species name, it not a stapeliad, but a member of same family as sunflowers.  It was rather pot bound, so much so that new shoots were growing out of the holes in the pot bottom, so I repotted it in one that should give it plenty of room for the next year or so.

Notice the part snaking along the base of the plant, showing how pot bound it was.

Saturday morning Steph and I headed out to an antique market and sale and I picked up a a couple of pots and another lady planter.  The lady planter is a dutch girl holding a basket and is probably from the American Midwest and was made in the '30's. The pots are both California pottery pieces, one by Pacific made between 1932-1942 and the other is not marked as to the manufacturer, but I believe it was made by Marsh in the '70's, based on the color and markings on the bottom.

Dutch girl planter

Pacific ringware pot, c. 1932-42.

70's dripware pot.

Lastly, an update on the Portulacaria afra I'm training as a bonsai.  I originally took the cutting on 8/13/13 and potted it on 9/16/13; since then it's been shaped twice, the most recent time being 1/16/14 and I think it's turning out quite well.  Not being one to waste things, the trimmings have been rooted and will be given away at this year's Spring Swap.




Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mid-month Update

The new year is in full swing and things are happening here at Mr' B's; new gnomes, new plants and new developments with existing elements.  Let's start with the new gnomes; Christmas brought two new gnomes, one from my good friend Jules and one from my daughter, Heather.

This guy came out of the box to have his picture taken, then went straight back inside.

This guy has hats for different occasions.

Every day hat.


4th of July



I also found a few hanging around some local stores, looking for a new home, so I offered them sanctuary.

I recently spent some time browsing the clearance racks in the garden centers at a couple of Lowe's stores near me and found some bargains, including a Semi-Dwarf Babock Peach tree for just $11.49.  I built a 2' x 2' x 22" cedar planter for it and will include a picture in my next post.  I also picked up four calla lilies for $0.99 each, a 'Frankly Scarlet' daylily for $5.49, a 'Mandarin Wind' hibiscus for $3.49 that had two plants in the pot, which I split up when I repotted them and a couple of 1 gallon Stocks, including a pink double.  I was hoping to save seed from the double stock, but I found out they're infertile, although some of the seeds from the other plants may carry the recessive gene for double petals, so I may still get some seeds that will produce doubles.  I think Lowe's clearance racks may become part of my weekly routine.

Calla lilies 

A bud waiting to open.

The hibiscus are in the urns on my carport.

Stock; notice the pink doubles in the bottom forefront.

I also found seed potatoes at WM and bought three bags of 'Red Norland' with ten potatoes in each.  I planted five in each of the two potato growing bags I bought last year but hadn't used yet, and planted the remaining potatoes in a raised bed in case the grow bags don't work out.  The grow bags have a Velcro'd flap in the front to enable harvesting without pulling the plant up, so they'll be used for baby potatoes.

Potato grow bags with a Velcro flap for harvesting.

The remaining potatoes ready to be planted.

The amaryllis came out of the fridge and were planted in early December, but didn't start coming up until early this month.  The winter veggies are continuing to thrive and hopefully there will be something to harvest by the middle of next month.  I planted a third celery plant rooted from the "butt end" of a store bought stalk; time will tell if I get a harvest from them.  The lettuce I planted in the bottom rung of the ladder planter is forming a head and if successful, will be the first head lettuce I've ever grown.  

Amaryllis soaking up rays next to my office window.

Winter veggie bed.

Three celery plants from the "butt end" of store bought stalks.

Lettuce head forming.

Huernia somalica continues to bloom and for the first time it has multiple blooms open at once.  Several of the Stapelias I bought last year have started to show new growth, reassuring me that they will survive.  The Orbea malanantha had to be repotted, as it was getting root bound and needed a larger, deeper pot.  I'm hoping the change will encourage it to bloom this year, as it didn't bloom at all last year.

Huernia somalica

Stapelia flavrostris with new growth barely peeking above ground.

Stapelia flavopurpurea with new growth.

Stapelia kwebensis with new growth.

Stapelia rufa with new growth, which is especially welcome, as I lost one of the two plants I bought.

Obrea malanantha repotted

Lastly, the roses continue to bloom profusely, including the miniature ones, even though they took a couple of months to come back after being trimmed since they were getting leggy.

Climbing Joseph's Coat

Miniature roses