Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Purple Aspirations

Art washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.
- Pablo Picasso

'Twas a nutty Christmas to say the very least. Kicked it off at a glorious vintage holiday festival in the quaint village of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 

Where my dear friend lives in this storybook purple cottage. I'm way impressed with creative types who have the good sense to doll up a one hundred year old home. When you get to be this old, it's cool to strut your stuff.

My friend's darling New Hampshire cottage.
This New England town is home to Strawberry Banke. Settled by colonial types in 1623 ~ where I learned how to make pretty wreaths from natural goodies collected in the woods nearby. We saw the Nutcracker Ballet and did all things vintage Christmas. It was pretty special.

And then... I hopped on a plane, squished in like sardines, seated next to a woman who was very ill, should NOT have been flying. 

She gifted me with her illness 2 days before our own celebrations began.

Persimmons in the wreaths
So that slowed me down a bit but it didn't stop any of the festivities. You can't exactly call off Christmas, now can you?

Living in a ski resort we're guaranteed to have our own storybook setting ~ fluffy white snowflakes and a winter wonderland. But, not this year. It was warm as toast. A brown Christmas in a ski resort? Strange days.

We cooked and cooked in anticipation of the big Christmas Eve party. The second everyone arrived, the power went off. And, stayed off for hours. Until most of the partiers gave in, gave up, and went home.

Sounds awful, doesn't it?

Oh, it wasn't so bad. Relying on dim flashlights and plentiful holiday candles, we sat quietly by a cozy fire and welcomed in the big day.

Took this week off to recuperate. I am clearly in the minority on this, but I kind of like December's short days and early sunsets.

Spent my evenings curled up on the couch reading The Deep Middle Blogger's book: Sleep, Creep, Leap

Between his great book (3 years of ups and downs in a Nebraska garden) and M's fancy purple cottage, I'm bursting with big ideas to make some colorful changes in my own garden during the new year.

So... how was your holiday? Here's hoping you had a warm and wonderful celebration, complete with working electricity so you could enjoy the tree!

Portsmouth, NH Holiday Stroll
Best wishes for a Very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Poinsettias

Ever wonder what's up with those brightly colored Poinsettia blooms?

In her natural state, she'll show off green, red and mottled leaves.
 Poinsettias are simply celebrating what we humans are lamenting ~ the long, dark days of winter.

For more Wordless Wednesday participants click here!

* Flor de la Noche Buena means Flower of the Holy Night. Introduced to the US by the Minister of Mexico in 1828. Another fine reason for us to stop being so damned prejudiced.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Forever Christmas Trees

We need more ornaments!
The great debate continues... what's best for the environment?

Buy a fake tree? 
Buy a live tree?

Well, they're not exactly 'live' if they're leaning against a chain link fence in the Christmas tree lot at your local supermarket.

There is another option. 
Buy a REAL, live tree!

Yesterday, I decked out our Christmas tree from 4 years ago. We bought her live and then transplanted the tree into the garden, the following spring. This year, she's sporting some festive twinkling lights.

- If you opt for a truly live, potted evergreen keep it in the house for a maximum of ten days.
- Set it outside, in the pot, in the shade, through the rest of the winter. (Water if there is no snow cover.)

Our tree doesn't look anything like this!

Good 'Christmas trees' for gardens:

Norway Spruce is a popular cut Christmas tree but not so great in the garden. She drops her needles all year long.
  • Happiest in High Altitudes: Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri) has soft needles and strong boughs, ideal for heavy ornaments. USDA zones 4-7.
  • Korean Fir (Abies koreana ) grows to approximately 40 ft, a perfect size for most yards. USDA zones 5-7.
  • Noble Fir (Abies procera) is an absolutely stunning silvery-blue tree with fragrant tips, though too tender for the mountains anywhere but the Pacific Northwest. USDA zones 7-10.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Tribute to Auntie Edna

This is Aunt Edna, my most beloved houseplant. I get all silly about her, every Christmas.

A gift from my Mom, back when I was in college. The poor dear drank a lotta beer* back then and, apparently, developed a taste for it!

She's graced me with gorgeous flowers every holiday season since we lived in the dorm.

Edna was a cutting off my Mother's Christmas Cactus. Who was born from a cutting off my Grandmother's Christmas Cactus.

She's a more important holiday tradition (for me) than a tree, having brightened up many a crappy apartment during my younger years.

Try as I might, I cannot capture a great photo of Auntie Edna from afar. Making me wonder if her beauty is an optical illusion based solely on sentimentality? She has mesmerized me for 25 years. And, shows no indication of slowing down.

Growing Tips:
* No more beer for the old gal. These days she's content with groovy, organic tea.
* Cool temps, bright sunshine and turn her loose every once in awhile. She plays outdoors in my garden (under a shade tree,) all summer long.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Petunia Sting Operation

I was scarred (for years!) by these conniving little Petunias.
 Popped over to visit Garden Faerie's magical blog ~ intrigued by her post title: The Story Behind the Name. She was curious about how we came up with our blog names and what's the {sometimes secret} significance to the name we actually chose.

I explained that choosing High Altitude Gardening was boring. A no brainer. Though, I suppose my 'secret' would be that I've always regretted deciding upon it.

Here's the full story ~ the Petunia Sting Operation ~ that's worth a giggle and the background as to why I picked that lame name.

Clumped together, Petunias can be pretty persuasive!

I was house shopping in Park City, Utah ~ which is kind of like window shopping on Rodeo Drive. Me being the poor soul who can barely afford to peer in the window, much less fantasize about buying anything. I'd spent 6 months seeking a non-dumpish house, that fit within my price range, when my real estate agent announced he'd found one that was right up my alley.

I pulled into the driveway of the soon-to-become over-priced Kate mistake ~ and gazed upon an impossible garden. (I didn't know it was impossible at the time.) At least a thousand stunning Petunias were waving in the breeze.

The inside of the house barely registered. All I could see was that gorgeous garden. Bought it on the spot! It wasn't until after we moved in that I realized the house was missing one important item: a bedroom. (Could have swore there was 3, turned out to be 2. But, oh! That garden!)

One less bedroom to clean? Not that big a deal.

Discovering that after an early freeze my impossible garden was dead as a doornail? Well, that was absolutely heartbreaking.

At the time, I did not know Petunias were annuals. And, that all it took was one night of nasty weather and they were done for.

The following spring I started asking plant companies for advice on PERENNIALS that would do well in my high altitude garden. Of course, none of them lived in the mountains. They had no idea what they were talking about and recommended annuals claiming it's impossible to grow perennials at higher altitudes.

Having been burned once I was not falling for that again. Anyone who has hiked a mountain trail can clearly see that perennial flowers are simply delighted to live up here.

Hence the inspiration to spread the word in a blog. Hence that lame blog name so other mountain gardeners could find me. And, the tagline (Growing an impossible garden at 7,000 feet) to constantly remind myself that plant companies aren't the be all, end all, when it comes to advice.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Your First Gift of the Season

I'm giving away TomatoFest heirloom tomato seeds.
Spent a good bit of time standing in line at the post office yesterday. They're holding my brand new cowl neck sweater hostage, claiming they don't have my package, when Athleta swears they do.

I'm pretty sure they do, too. It's a RARE situation when our local postal service does anything right. And, I'm not just mad about the sweater. They sat on my hiking boots for 5 months before admitting the package was in their back room.

Have you ever grown tomatoes indoors? It's easy!

While I was standing in line, I sorted through the rest of the stuff retrieved from my PO box...

Gary Ibsen, of TomatoFest sent me these goodies.

And, look what I found!!! 

An oh, so, generous stack of heirloom tomato seeds from Gary Ibsen, owner of TomatoFest. I'm happy to call him a 'friend,' now. As in friends on FB.

Leave a comment for a chance to win yummy heirloom tomato seeds.

Do you Facebook? People can be very passionate about Facebook. Either they love it or they hate it.

I like the fact that it connects me with people like Gary, King of the Heirloom Tomatoes. I've ordered from him before. I order from lots of plant companies. But, what a great treat to be able to talk to the guy.

He sent me a whole stack of heirloom tomato seeds. Indoor container collections (I grow small tomatoes in winter, in my sunny window.) He included a stack of outdoor heirloom tomato seeds, as well.

12 packs in all. 
I'm giving away 10. 
To random blogging friends who leave me a comment.

Now Gary didn't realize I was going to give these away. He just wanted me to have a bunch. But seeing as how it's the holidays and all... I thought it would be good to share the love.

So, back to my question. Do you Facebook? If so, go buddy up to TomatoFest. You could pop over and say hello to me, too.
Simply leave a comment to participate.
10 randomly selected commenters will receive a packet of
TomatoFest Heirloom Tomato Seeds.
Winners selected by my darling daughter (who claims she cannot be swayed by bribes.)


Monday, November 28, 2011

A Most Wonderful Guilty Time

A gifted bouquet ~ One of the many perks to hosting Thanksgiving dinner.
I have a laundry list of things to do and at the very top of it should be... laundry. (Don't ya just hate the day after a long and lovely holiday weekend? When all of life must return to normal.)

Entertaining guests can be exhausting.
Laundry. My second most hated task on the planet.

Shopping for holiday gifts can be equally tiresome.
Vacuuming weighs in at #1 on the Damn! I hate to do this! scale. That's on today's dreary to-do list, as well.

I'd vaccuum every day if some brilliant mind would simply invent a totally silent vacuum cleaner. Whenever I see a Dyson commercial I find myself hollering at the guy on the tv. In high hopes he might hear me and stop worrying about suction.

Paper Yellows ~ as fragrant as the more common Paper Whites.
Speaking of t.v. We had a simply marvelous, couldn't be better, Thanksgiving. I hope you did, too. 

Who dares bring THIS to my party?
Burning This and That:
Playing hooky from the usual obligations, daughter L and I bustled about the kitchen... From the moment we woke up, until the second we plopped down... to enjoy that Go Ahead, Loosen Your Belt meal.

Complete with a homemade pecan pie! Not this atrocity featured on the right. Homestyle my eye...

Afterwards we watched t.v. The last time we laid around the living room watching bad movies was 2 years ago. On Christmas Day. Which was the last time we bagged our obligations and hunkered down for some serious laziness.
Store Bought Pie Perp

Holidays are always fun.

But, they can also be difficult.

So many expectations. So little time. Everyone expecting you to attend their party. Instead of the 6 or 7 other parties you've been invited to.

It makes me feel guilty. Over digging in my heels and doing my own thing. I'm not Catholic but I wonder if should be... I carry enough guilt to qualify for the nunnery. Though I highly doubt they'd accept me. (Given past sins.)

In spite of my silly fretting I will say... last Thursday was a most wonderful time. And, I think we've started a brand new tradition. Of doing absolutely nuttin.

It's fun to do your own thing.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ November, 2011

Rescued Geraniums
This Garden Blogger's Bloom Day is all about annuals! Well, at least the lucky two that I've turned into "perennials."  As in... I wonder just how long I can encourage you to bloom?

Call me a softie, but I just couldn't bear to let them freeze to death. Winter came early this year. They're as delighted as me to be parked indoors, comfy and cozy.

I'm head over heels in love with her peachy color. :)
In the sunny window ~ lots of buds but very few blossoms.

Edna's gettin' bizzy.
Edna, the Christmas Cactus that I've had since college (nearly ancient, now) is working 24/7 on her version of a holiday greeting.

Kids these days... always trying to one up the elders.
This is Lucy, a younger Christmas Cactus I received as a gift a couple years ago. The poor kid is clearly possessed. Timing her blossoms for Halloween.

Perhaps inspired by the snow, I have one re-blooming Butterfly Orchid. (Plus, a whole bunch more on the way.)

And, that's about it. A sorry state of affairs that I hope will improve very soon. This was 'compost year' when every happy houseplant that had bugs, or wasn't doing a good enough flower job got the proverbial axe.

Pay a visit to Carol @ May Dream Gardens.

She's the gracious host of this monthly meme, Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

From her website you can connect with all sorts of talented gardeners ~ many of whom are living in kinder climates than me.

Now who's up for some snowshoeing??


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some Like it Cold

There's snow on the garden and change in the air. Pleased as punch I had the foresight to play hooky yesterday. Did absolutely nothing productive. Simply savoring what was likely the last warm autumn day to be had around these parts.

Apple Blossom Amaryllis
I keep marveling at our weather. How it's strangely predictable this year. Woke to snowflakes gently falling, and silence, having been abandoned by my sweet as pie, yet aptly named, Bad Dog.

I hear him on the hill, behind our house, barking like crazy... Perhaps in celebration of his favorite season. (He dearly loves to slide down that hill, head first in the snow. No one believes me until they witness it, first hand, but he really does do that!)

Try to find Amaryllis bulbs that have just barely started to grow.
Here I sit... sipping tea in front of a fire with grand plans to turn my house into an Amaryllis warehouse by day's end. I love Amaryllis bulbs ~ and, they make highly affordable holiday gifts.

Who can resist such big festive flowers? Plus, you gotta love a bulb with such chutzpah. She'll sprout in a dark box, without soil, or water, or TLC of any kind.

They lean to the sun. Rotate the pot each day so stalks don't bend.
I began this Amaryllis tradition awhile back, when I was beset by a bad budget. Spotted bulbs at Walmart for $5 a piece, and thought... hey! The bulbs, of course, don't look like much. But my little trick is to plant them 6 weeks before Christmas... delivering, not the bulb, but a pot of dinner plate size flowers inspiring lots of oohs and aahs.

To make them behave...
~ Plant in super small pots. About an inch or two bigger than the bulb. They'll grow faster and bloom quicker.

Carefully follow these steps to make sure that $5 Walmart bulb isn't dead as a doornail.
  1. Wait until the shopping aisle is empty.
  2. Open the box!
Patience is a virtue! It takes about 6 weeks from bulb planting to first flowers.
You can buy larger, higher quality Amaryllis bulbs from nurseries and they will produce bigger flowers. But, these are affordable. And, they're gorgeous. Therefore I think they'll do the trick.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Odd Bulbs

I'm a sucker for Camassia
Most definitely a first...

Allium Hair
I hesitate to acknowledge this...

Fears of jinxing and such...
Allium Fireworks

This weekend, it felt as if Mother Nature was on my side.

(At long last! :)

Minutes after I'd given a loving pat to the soil, covering the brand new bulbs that I needed like a hole in my head ...

Grey clouds stretched across our blue skies and a quiet rain finished up this last project of the season.
Monsella Tulip

It's been a dry autumn. I'd regretted turning off the outside faucets.

How very kind of Mother Nature to water my bulbs.
Replete Daffodil

This time of year, most every gardener I know is a card-carrying member of the I Dread Winter Club.

I'm a bit of a rebel in that respect.

I'll confess, I'm looking forward to some lazy days. Curling up with a good book and enjoying a whole lotta quiet time.

Allium Schubertii
My gardens were a ton of hard work this summer.

Flatly refused to plant bulbs because of that.

But, there's always somebody stirring up trouble. 

Allium Unifolium
Sat down, over coffee, with a friend of mine who was clearly in cahoots with every  bulb company on the planet.

Brightly colored catalogs stacked about her kitchen.

All I gotta do is look at a picture and bam! I'm slapping down a credit card for one gotta have it, or another. No matter how crowded my gardens, seems there's always room for new bulbs.

Tip: Mountain critters hate Alliums (onion) bulbs but they dearly love a good Tulip. I plant rings of Allium bulbs around the Tulips and it works like a charm. They can't find 'em! I'm pretty sure I heard those rodents groaning when they saw what I was up to.


Bonus Photo :)))))

Aftermath of Halloween:

My oh, so, creative darling daughter was Tippi Hedron, this year.

You remember her, don't you? Star of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller movie that L calls The [Angry] Birds!