Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nursery school

As part of my transition,  I've taken on a job at Behnke's Nursery in Potomac.  It forces me to practice plant ID and really understand each individual plant's needs. I am a floater, so i work in houseplants, woody plants, perennials and annuals doing just about anything they can think up for me.  It is also forcing me to work on my 'dealing with rich obnoxious clueless entitled people customer service skills.' To help you understand what I mean:  the median income of this neighborhood is $150,000 and the median value of a home is 1.5 million.  So there you have it.  These people can't tell a mum from a clump of weeds unless there is a big sign and even then, they might not see it and they will blame you if you are standing there....In other news: I am a published writer now!  Just little articles here and there on plants!

Here are the links:



Transitioning into plants has been a wealth of opportunity for me, not really a financial windfall but an educational windfall and a chance to meet all kinds of people everyday (not just the ones I mentioned earlier, great generous smart people too.)  Interesting thing about opportunity: you can't bottle it and use it later.  It has no shelf life.  You can't take a raincheck, you have to be ready to do something with it when it shows up.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This is a photo album of some critters at the Arboretum.  I haven't been able to capture many quality photos lately, as about a month ago, I broke my camera.  The critters missing from this post are a pair of hummingbirds that have been flitting around the hosta blossoms, too fast to catch, many kinds of bees, wasps, various moths, black and yellow swallow tail butterflies and monarchs all very attracted to Purple Flox, Sedum and Russian Sage this time of year.  There have been a few juvenile Northern Cardinals and a large turtle who hisses when I get near him...probably because I picked him up and carried him around upside down one day last week.  (I am like a three year old, I have a hard time leaving the wildlife alone. This you will see is a common trait with garden people, so I guess in that way I fit right in.) 

The critters I have been able to capture on film are:  A blue butterfly,  a praying mantis, a stick bug, a nasty looking spider, and a teeny little ridgeback turtle.The pink flowers are called "Turtle Head" (Chelone) (because their blossoms look the heads of turtles). 

The photo featuring the Cicada and the mini Praying Mantis is from lunch time at the Arboretum and this one deserves some explanation. Tony is the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) specialist at the Arboretum.  As this story progresses, you'll see that Tony is a little intense and seems kind of mean, so I am surprised when I find out that he has a 5 year old daughter and that he is considering taking her to see the Nutcracker this Christmas...but don't worry that is not the subject of this story.  To continue, Tony seems to be over 40 based on his fed up speeches about how he isn't going to 'kiss @ss' any more now that he's over 40...A few weeks ago he 'adopted' an injured cicada bug and tortured it and all of us when he held its one functioning wing, forcing it to make the loud annoying cicada sound.  He carried this bug around with him for at least two days, and since it couldn't fly, it just clung to his shirt. 

(The ratio of men to women in the Gardens Unit at the Arboretum is about 10 to 1, and that particular day I was the only girl sitting at the lunch table.)

I'll set the scene for you... Tony walks in from one side of the building with his cicada pet/friend.  Either Coley, Pat, Nate, Michael or Joe walk in the other door with a small praying mantis. All gather at the table (where people are trying to eat.)  In the meantime everyone else is ooohing and aaahhing over a weird little catapillar on the Black Eyed Susans that are in a glass with water on the table.  (It's like show and tell for nerdy adults)  First everyone just tries to keep eating.  Then Tony starts by annoying everyone with his bug friend. After that he dares people to eat it, and even offers money to anyone who will agree to eat it, except Pat because Pat will eat anything...in the background of the photo you can see Nate eating cheetos, which I know they tried to feed to the cicada at some point.  The funny thing about these people is that being nerds they know that cicadas don't eat at all in their insect form, and they argue and debate this point while they attempt to get the cicada to eat the cheetos.  Eventually Tony gets bored of torturing the cicada.  At that point he and the other 'gentlemen' at the table get the bright idea to see if the cicada and the praying mantis will fight.  At this point that I snap the photo, feeling bad for the little delicate mantis.  I"ll just say this, the cicada lost one or both of his eyes prior to the 'fight' so either he couldn't see the mantis or he didn't care.  The mantis ran away as fast as he could.  Turns out that neither bug was interested in the other bug.  Eventually someone put the little Praying Mantis on the Black-eyed susans and he probably ate the catapillar because praying mantis's like to eat smaller insects.  This is a recap of a semi-typical  lunch on any given weekday at the National Arboretum.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Squash Vine Borer ...ew

Well it's official...I have the plague of the squash vine borer here in DC.  My squash and zucchini first showed signs in May when I planted them and now they are almost completely dead and still producing very little, sometimes rotted, always stunted fruits.  I haven't discovered as yet how to prevent them (it is too late to save this year's crop I think.) There is also a catapilar eating the blooms off my flowers. boo.  In other news: The herbs are all thriving, except for Dill who is beginning to go to seed.  I am still beating poison ivy in the challenge to stay poison ivy free until November ( the end of my internship at the Arboretum.) I had a close call the other day when I got into it and then washed my arms with TECNU.  After work I had some itchy suspicious red bumps on my wrist.  Either it was nothing or the TECNU got rid of the oil before it could really get inflamed and react.  And still I've been able to avoid a farmer tan.  Set small goals, people. It makes life grand :-)  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Since life can't be just about flowers and vegetables, I'll update you on some other happenings... The following stories involve my car insurance company ( I won't name names.)  First, the key to my car actually got stuck in the lock on the driver's side door.  I am old school--so I don't have the remote lock. At this point I'm halfway between DC (where I live, this will be important later) and Virginia Beach in Williamsburg, VA, where I have narrowly escaped spending $300 on a Kate Spade overnight bag, when I come to my senses and exit the store. I walk to my car and try to unlock the door.  Suddenly, the key is stuck. I can't open the door to the car, I can't start the car, I can't drive the car and it now it's raining.  "Ah ha!" I say to myself,  "I have roadside assistance through my insurance company.  I will call them!"  First they ask me if I'm sure I have roadside assistance.  Then they ask me if I'm sure I know my policy number and if I am actually insured by them...Finally they figure out how to work their computer to recognize me as a paying customer and this is their response,

"Well, we'll pay to get the door open for you, but if we have to extract the key, you'll have to pay for that, and the guy who opens the door won't know how to extract the key, so you'll have to pay for that too.  Probably you'll need to pay a tow truck to get your car to a garage and then pay someone there to build you a new transmission and create a brand new key...you'll have to pay for all that, and if you need a rental car during this process that will surely take your entire vacation, you'll have to pay for that as well. It's normal wear and tear, we don't cover that." 

At some point five hours and one monsoon later, a nice, very qualified locksmith comes to my rescue.  I'd like to give a shout out to Michael Wallin of Shorty Wallin Lock & Security in Hampton, VA for knowing what he is doing, and being nice and reasonable about it.  Eventually I was able to the leave Williamsburg (a little late but not much worse for wear.) 

Not long after this adventure I get a letter from my insurance company.  They are suspicions about my home address.  They don't seem to believe that I live in Pennsylvania, where my car is insured, and they want proof, they say, that I am a resident.  Now, between you and I, I haven't lived in Pennsylvania since about 2003.  Since then I actually held a residence in Norfolk, VA where I payed utility bills and taxes.  They never said anything about it then.  Here in DC, my circumstances are a bit different, so why NOW, after all this time, they are accusing me of some kind of fraud??  My reaction:  There is nothing 'Progressive' about either of these situations.