Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Best Week Ever

I've been back since Monday, but this being the Best Week Ever, I've been a little busy. Certainly too busy to look at all 900 of my Cuba photos, let alone upload them and write about our vacation. So I'm giving you a very small sampling with the above photo of what the locals called Aroma floridita but I can only find referred to as 'Ohi'a Lehua on the web. In short, Cuba was awesome. Yay!

The day after we returned, we had the inspection for our new townhouse, which is finally finished (another yay!). I couldn't really concentrate on the finer details of the water heater and whatnot because ... Ben proposed! (In the kitchen, which is very appropriate for my gourmand boyfriend - whoops - fiance. Strange, that word.)

I can't stop grinning. Having a fiance - and a pretty ring - is so fun! Wheeee!

More later... when I can control my use of exclamation points.

Friday, January 13, 2006

La Habana

Well, we're off. I'll be in Havana and ViƱales, Cuba, until January 24. I promise to bring back photos, stories, and tales of Cuban gardens. Until then, here's an excerpt from the Havana Moon Handbook on the royal palm, Rostonea regia:
The indisputable symbol of Cuba is the majestic royal palm, which grows singly or in great elegant clumps and graces the Cuban capital at every turn. Its smooth gray trunk, which can tower 25 meters, resembles a great marble column with a curious bulge near the top. Long leaves droop sinuously from the explosive top, blossoming afresh with each new moon.

Even found on the national emblem and protected by law, the royal palm is as useful as it is stately. Its fronds make good thatch, and the thick green base of the fronds, being waterproof, also makes an excellent roof or siding material. The trunk itself makes excellent timber. Bees favour palm honey; and pigs seem to like the seeds, which are used for pig feed. Humans devour the delicious, succulent palm-heart from the centre of the trunk. And birds love its black fruit and carry the seeds all over the country.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Container water gardens

There are three - count 'em - three ponds where I live now (mind you, it's a half-acre property). I love the ponds. I love the sound of the waterfalls, I love the waterlilies that bloom in the summer, and I really love the koi. Kids get such a kick out of feeding them; some of the bigger guys are so tame, they'll eat out of your hand!

So, when I become a city girl once again, I'm contemplating the addition of a small water garden. I won't be able to keep koi, but I look forward to growing some water plants. Unfortunately, most plants, especially those gorgeous waterlilies, want sunshine - and lots of it. I doubt I'll get the required six-hours daily to keep them happy.

But I've read that there are some water plants that do well in shade and are also small enough for a container water garden, such as floatering water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), sweet flag (Acorus calamus), water mint (Mentha aquatica), Parrot feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), and broad-leaved taro (Alocasia or Colocasia spp.) for example.

Oh how I love a gardening challenge!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Exploratorium - Science of Gardening

I'm a fan of anything that gets kids interested in gardens and gardening. From planning a child-friendly garden to helping your (grand)child plant his or her first sunflower seed, anything that encourages kids to turn off the TV and get outside is okay with me.

Exploratorium: Science of Gardening might just do that. An online museum from the San Francisco-based brick-and-mortar Exploratorium, this is an incredibly beautiful site that kids - and gardeners of all ages - will love.

Props to Degan for the tip.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Rain, rain, go away!

Listening to the radio on the way into work today, I heard that Vancouver hasn't had a day without rain since December 15! Of course, that includes every time we've had a drop of rain, even if that was the only drop that day. But still, it feels like it's been raining forever. And the garden desperately needs me. (Or maybe I need the garden...)

I must be a true Vancouverite, because I'd rather have it wet and mild than cold and sunny. But the rain is probably the Vancouver gardener's biggest ally - and our biggest winter enemy. The winter wet kills more plants here than does the cold.

What's the weather doing in your part of the world? How does it affect your garden?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Horsetail in the home

In what seems to be a glorious moment of serendipity, I've discovered Livinglass, laminated architectural glass that can be used in furniture, doors, partitions, floors, countertops and more. Described as "inspired by the colors and textures of nature," Livinglass "captures organic materials within luminous sheets of clear glass." Perfect for gardeners, n'est pas?

I mentioned serendipity because Ben and I were discussing the fact that, except for the fireplace, the back wall of our new living room is floor-to-ceiling window.

"But fireplaces are supposed to have art above them, not windows," I whined uncreatively. "Although, the extra light will be nice."

Livinglass's Sutra collection, one of five, would provide the perfect solution.

Although it's a menace in the garden, I love horsetail when it's enclosed in glass!

Via Inhabitat.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

All the gardening catalogues you'll ever need

As much as I try to reduce the amount of paper I use, there's something wonderful about settling in for the evening with a mug of tea, a cat on your lap and a big ol' stack of seed catalogues.

During these dreary winter months, us northern-hemisphere gardeners can mostly just dream about springtime and more active gardening ahead. I find gardening catalogues to be a great comfort at times like these. To that end, here's a fairly comprehensive list of gardening catalogues I've found. I'm sure you'll let me know if there's a fabulous nursery or seed house to be added, right?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Has the fat lady sung?

I was always told that paperwhite bulbs were only good for one round of forcing, and to throw them away after the party ended. Of course, I had to at least try to get them to bloom again. I saved last year's forced bulbs and replanted them, hoping to force them for Christmas. Sadly, only one of the five bulbs bloomed this year.

So, I've decided to try planting them outdoors, after reading that you cannot force the same bulbs year after year - oops! - with the exception of amaryllis, but that some gardeners have success replanting the bulbs in their yard.

I've learned that when you force a bulb, you interrupt its natural growth cycle. But apparently if you replant them soon after they finish blooming, bulbs will usually return to their normal cycle within a year or two.

Has anyone ever tried this? Did it work for you?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The New Place

Since Takoma Gardener asked to see the "before" photos of our new place, and since we've recently been informed that our final inspection is scheduled for January 9 (seven more sleeps!)... may I present... the New Place:

The photo above is of the view from the street, and actually isn't even of our place. We're going to be in the building behind this one (there's a courtyard separating them, accessed through the gate behind the porta-potty in this photo!). But it gives you an idea of what they're going to look like. This building has three-story townhouses on top of double-wide main-floor suites. Our building is comprised of just three-story townhouses.

This is a view of the back of our building. These are the tiny backyards, minus fencing. You can also see the third-floor decks in this photo, where I intent to abandon the carefully-chosen zen palette of the ground-floor garden and grow just about anything I feel like. It will probably be the sunniest place for gardening, too.

This is a close-up of a backyard like ours. I think there was a porta-potty in ours at the time of photographing! So, as you can see, they've put down the cheapest, ugliest pavers they could find. Those won't last very long in mine, though. And the fencing isn't in yet either, nor any of the "landscaping" (damn you, hornbeam).

Even considering the fact that these photos were taken over a week ago, could they possibly be ready in seven days??

Monday, January 02, 2006

Recycle your Christmas tree

Penny makes herself at home under the tree

If, like mine, your Christmas tree is looking a little worse for wear (why do cats try to climb them when they never attempt tree-climbing outdoors?), it's time to get rid of it.

Many cities allow you to put your tree, divested of trimmings, at the curb for recycling. Greater Vancouver has had a curbside yard waste collection program in place since 2001. Yard trimmings are collected bi-weekly and composted at the Vancouver Landfill. Once a year, Vancouver residents can pick up all the compost they can haul away - free! The rest of the year, it's $10/yard.

There are alternatives to curbside recycling of trees: most cities operate chipping stations in January. Check with your municipality for locations. In Vancouver, call the Recycling Hotline at 604-732-9253.

I've also heard that many zoos offer free chipping; they use the mulch for bedding for many of their animals.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy 2006

Happy New Year, all. Wishing you all the best for 2006. It's going to be a good year, I can feel it!