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2010-05-14_01peonyRoy and I started this lovely day by replacing the whiskey barrel planter out front. We had had the current one for a decade...the bottom had rotted out, as had a couple of the staves, and the metal bands were falling to the ground.

So I pulled up all the iris (ick! aphids in the interstices! there will be no mailing of plants to anyone), and then we removed the soil, installed a new barrel (this time with plastic liner), replaced some of the soil and mixed in new soil, watered and let it sit. I planted one big pansy in the center as a signal that this is a work in progress.

I need to get some chemical warfare stuff to go after any aphids that are living in the soil. I pulled off dead leaves and triple-washed the iris, and will put some back in.

We had the front door propped open as we worked, and the Scamp alternately prowled around the steps and skittered back into the depths of the house. He does not love the internal combustion engine.

The peonies are about done, so last night I snipped one off and floated it in a glass bowl, set it on the piano, and played a couple of Chopin preludes. For years, that had been my definition of being a lady of leisure: "I will play Chopin and arrange peonies in a glass bowl." When the outside petals open up completely the bloom is a good 9" across.

The first oenothera opened today. I think I see obvious buds on the rose campion.

The front pansies were definitely past their prime, so I cut them back. I don't know whether they will come back, but they're masked by volunteer feverfew right now, so it doesn't matter.

Yesterday I set out the parsley seedlings in a big planter and today I planted a variegated basil in the center of them. I also made up a hanging planter with the prostrate rosemary I bought at the Flower Show as well as seedlings of parsley, thyme, and marjoram. I tucked some thyme seedlings here and there in the flowerbeds. I also re-potted my new oak seedlings so it has a little more room for the taproot to go down, and surrounded it with parsley and thyme.

Now I am drinking coffee but not succeeding in staying awake. There may be a nap in my future.
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Entrance to Longwood Gardens, April 10, 2010We spent the better part of the weekend at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, about a 45-minute drive from Philadelphia. (Click the picture to reach some 60 frames of flowery squeefulness)

Longwood is a 1,050 acre estate-turned-foundation, owned by Pierre S. du Pont, who shepherded both E. I. du Pont de Nemours and General Motors to enormous financial success -- and who had the last two years of his life made hideous, I'm sure, by testifying at federal anti-trust hearings. He died in April 1954, less than two months after his last testimony. He didn't marry until relatively late in life, when he married his first cousin, herself past her child-bearing years. Longwood was their passion, and a testimony to what might happen to a garden when an M.I.T. graduate has gobs of money to spend. Mr. du Pont made all the calculations for the hydraulics for the complex fountains himself. He did not envision the estate as a bastion of botanical research but rather as a place to entertain his friends, his employees, his neighbors, and the public.

This weekend was the opening of Longwood's first exhibition (as opposed, of course, to showy displays of plants) -- "Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance." For this exhibition, the Music Room adjacent to the eastern conservatory was dedicated to displays of the tools of the perfumer's trade (including a reproduction "scent organ," with banks of vials arranged by top, middle, and bass notes of fragrance), a short video, and three "mix your own perfume" stations where the visitor can sample nine scents and then combine a top, middle, and bass note, which is then printed as a scratch-and-sniff panel. (Roy made three!)

Additional displays throughout the conservatory showcase particular plants used in perfume, their role in history, the process of breeding for fragrance and the chemistry of extracting the essences. For our multimedia, attention-deficit age, having smaller displays interspersed with other plants strikes me as more effective than one large exhibition. It did not, however, give my nose a chance to clear and I was pretty overstimulated, scent-wise, by the time we'd made it through the greenhouses.

Meanwhile, in the home garden and windowsills, I still have five blooms on the Nopalxochia, and the second seedpod on Hippeastrum 'gervase' appears to be all right, despite the first one collapsing. I've installed a half dozen pansies and a half dozen dusty miller in the back beds, noting that the pansies I purchased are the very same 'charon' pansies that didn't germinate.

We also noted something alarming/annoying in the back. The Scamp was alerting on a corner of the yard, sitting and staring intently at the ground. When I went over to investigate, I found what appears to be a freshly-dug rat hole! Roy has installed some rat-b-gone, and I hope the poor thing(s) don't suffer too much when they eat it and die. Roy also filled in the top of the tunnel and covered it with a few bricks. Sigh...
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I am pleased to report that there is now new growth on every hippeastrum I brought in a couple weeks ago, as well as the two new bulbs. The current seedling crop continues to thrive and I think I will pot them on into a larger container in March.

Last night I brought in the last of the adolescent hippeastrum and tried giving them the hot water bath in the bathtub, being as the container was too big to fit in the sink. Bad move. Filling the bathtub enough to submerge the container totally depleted the hot water tank, so I had no reserve of hot water to compensate for cooling. But I think they got close to the 30 minutes at 110F they're supposed to have gotten, so we'll see.

Roy was out at a dinner function last night, so I got to do Netflix-on-demand at my computer, finishing up the 1983 Jane Eyre with Timothy Dalton and Zelia Clark. I also finished up another set of those nice wrist-and-hand warmers. I bleieve I was using leftover yarn from the ben.ben.blankie, although I'm not entirely sure. With that little project complete, I've switched to crocheting the 2010 snowflakes. But first, I made another half-dozen of the 2009 version, of which I made too few in the larger size and too many in the smaller size.

Still no sign of life on the pansy seedlings. It's about time to give up on them, I think, but I'll water them for another week before I do.
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That would be amaryllis to most of us.

I am happy to report that there is a new leaf peeking up from one of the bulbs that got the hot water bath on December 30. There is hope for the other 15 or so that were first tortured by the cold then insulted by the half hour they spent at temperatures between 110-114.

090228_15hippeastrum_gervaseNo new leaves on my new 'exotica' and 'gervase' bulbs, but what did I expect? Their roots have barely had a chance to rehydrate, much less settle in. (That's a 2009 Flower Show 'gervase' over on the right, by the way.) I sure am glad I ordered them when I did, though: 'gervase' is out of stock. 'Exotica' is easier to come by.

The cells on the market paks for the pansies were dangerously close to dried out. Must remember to water them every three days.

It's a very pleasant 58F in my office and I'm enjoying a few minutes of procrastination before I dive into grant writing again. I'm nicely set up with my heating pad, my knitting, and Pandora. When my hair has dried I will brave the cold in search of Asian groceries. There's not much ice on the streets so I'll take a chance on my bike.


Jan. 5th, 2010 08:38 am
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060513pansies3I finally put 12 seeds in market paks last night and was surprised to find I still had 8-10 seed left. There's a slightly warmer spot on top of and to the back of the upstairs refrigerator. Now I just have to remember to check the market paks every day or so to make sure they don't dry out.

These are Chalon pansies from Burpee, packed for 2007. They're very similar to the pansies I grew from seed in 2006, pictured here. Alas, the 2007 Chalon seedlings died of thirst in the basement; I totally forgot about them during the running around as I coped with my mother's final illness. I don't know how viable these seeds still are. We'll see. Meanwhile, I have some hardy pansies in my front window boxes, bouncing back when the weather warms and lying flat as pansy pancakes when it's cold.
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I thought I'd take a break from digesting grant application guidelines to report that I've gotten one step closer to starting those pansies, although I'm already two weeks late:

I found two small market paks in a "pot saucer" composed of egg carton lids -- out back and of course frozen solid because it was 18F / -7.7C last night. They're up here where it's a balmy 59F / 15C and I expect they'll be thawed out by tomorrow. Or maybe even tonight.

Before starting the workday I packaged up 15 chicken breast halves, purchased at the PathMark at an obscenely low price, in individual baggies, and put them in the freezer up here.

So I'm thawing the frozen stuff and freezing the thawed stuff.

I learned yesterday that Schlumbergera blooms go all pink instead of white, yellow, etc. if the temperature is below 15C when they're maturing. No wonder my Gold Charm and Xmas flame are so pink. I'll have to try them under Gro Lights some time, but I think I'd need a different set-up. Mine are set for a 12-hour day for the coleus, and that would not work for the Schlumbergeras. Oh, well...
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
Time to start planning for Christmas 2010. This is the first attempt at the pattern for the 2010 snowflake (it came from a book, not my brain). I did it, starched it and blocked it yesterday. I can see that this one will require very close attention to the tension -- the lower right point is much larger than its fellows, probably because I was crocheting more loosely. I'm not sure I like it.

I also ordered cards from the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- they're half price after Christmas.

Now to finish wrapping the almost-last of the 2009 gifties, for my sister, her husband and the niblings. I have things for my other daughter-in-law, too, but they'll be extremely late, owing to my having forgotten to click the "send" button on my Amazon order.

Sister etc should be here in a few hours.

Time also to turn my attention to my various hippeastrum experiments. I believe that my current ones may all have the dreaded red blotch. Rather than throwing them all away, I think I'll wait till the younglings have bloomed, choose a couple to save, put them and their parents in a heat bath that is supposed to zap the fungus, and...and then what? Heat-bathe and re-pot the rest, if I know myself.

They were too dark and wet in the place I put them last year. This year I will keep them all in one room so they can't contaminate the youngsters up here on my office windowsill.

Do I start the pansies, or not? I can't decide.
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Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
Sitting in a hotel meeting room waiting to do a presentation.

This is a butterfly I saw on my way to the meeting site in Silver Spring MD -- first photo outing with the replacement camera.


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