Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bonus Blog: Flower Show

For a week at the beginning of March, when the ground hasn't yet thawed and the gray sky is getting the best of everyone, the Philadelphia Flower Show comes to the PA Convention Center in the heart of Philadelphia. Outrageous color and wild creativity are the stars.  The flower show has the excitement of the Pennsylvania Farm Show with the scent of roses instead of manure. The exhibits are so well put together that from afar it's hard to believe they are living plants and not sculptures or silk. Being that it's freezing the plants are pushed green houses in anticipation of the flower show. They are then transported to the convention center and planted in real soil, to grow throughout the week before your eyes.

The flower show was like going to a museum where all the artists were required to use petals as brushes and pollen as paint.  Imagine a room full of jewelry constructed of plant parts, clothing inspired by blossoms, miniature landscapes made with dwarf plants and framed photographs made of dried petals. 

Not far outside of Philadelphia, in the heart of Buck's County lies Doylestown and the best kept secret of Eastern Pennsylvania, Domani Star, Italian Cucina.  It's worth the drive just to try the Polenta Cake and the Bread Pudding.

The pictures can do better than I, so enjoy the slide show!

Monday, March 28, 2011


So, the seeds are germinating.  The delicate ones are covered with plastic wrap in the window sills. When I stare at the wet potting soil, it's hard to believe that something will grow at all.  The others (spinach, salad greens and wildflowers) are in the ground.  Everyday I cross my fingers that we won't have a cold snap that will murder them just when they've opened up to let the sprout grow.  todays morning snow has me worried...i will just look at it like a challenge, like a variable to the conditions of the project...then i can report on the effect snow has on the hardiness of early spinach sprouts.

In a previous blog (Instincts) I mentioned fire as an alarm clock for one type of seeds. Alternately, these seeds are supposed to be looking for the cold as an alarm and want to be planted at least two weeks before the last frost.  It wakes them up and makes them realize it is time to reach for the sky.  

It feels like a complicated dance of air temperature, ground temperature, watering, and sun.  Some of which I can help with and some not so much. 

In other news, an update on Bulbs

At the end of last summer, while digging weeds at work, I accidentally dug up some Narcissus bulbs. I was allowed to take them home, and I put them in a container out in front of the house.  I suspected that they might not get enough sun in that spot but I wanted to try it.  Also, I saw the squirrels digging and sort of accepted the fact that the bulbs were probably lost.  But--- who showed themselves late last week? Yes!  They survived the winter and the squirrel attacks and now they are emerging!

...Do beautiful things come into your life when you put your heart into living, or do you put your heart into living when you have a beautiful life?  (let's be honest...It's probably a little bit of both...)


Monday, March 21, 2011


It's beginning to feel like spring!  I'm dying to get the garden started. This year my goal is to grow my entire garden from seeds instead of buying the plants at the nursery.

I let myself begin a few weeks ago with seed selection and purchase.  (I ordered my seeds from  John Scheeper's Seed Catalogue  and I am anticipating their arrival!) I'm looking forward to a season of tomatoes,  leeks, and lots of Herbs.  I'm planning to start the seeds with a bit of soil and water and keep them warm in the window sill until they sprout.  Once the danger of frost has passed and they are strong enough, I'll transplant them to their homes in the garden where hopefully they will flourish all season and yield lots of fruit. In the meantime, I'll begin preparing the soil outdoors when the weather allows. (The risk here is that I've never been overwhelmingly successful with seeds.  Nevertheless, I am not deterred.)

This beginning got me thinking (as usual).....In the description above, I use words like anticipation, prepare, danger, strong, transplant, home, hope, flourish and risk. That's pretty involved for something as simple as a garden.

It occurred to me--Having a garden is not a passive activity. You can't start a garden without admitting what you hope for.  The initial action is motivated by the end. I am not haphazardly throwing the seeds into the yard and wondering if they might grow into something, like an experiment. I am starting the seeds with the belief that they will grow into their determined species. After that, the success of the garden depends on my investment of time, energy and heart.

All of this is to say--if the end is the garden, the beginning is the seed.  Life might be simpler if we were able to identify the end and plant the seeds to get to it.  In doing so, we'd weather disappointments, but for the most part, we'd get what we planted. Cultivation is key. Getting a beautiful garden is not an accident of fate or luck and for the most part neither is getting a beautiful life.  

"Take risks.  If someone tells you something is impossible, see if you can do it.  Gardening is a knife edge between disaster and serendipity."-- Jinny Blom (Landscape Designer, UK)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


"A succulent is a plant that gets its nourishment and water from the inside--it replenishes itself." --Sark

You may not be familiar with the term Succulent.  Sometimes these plants are called Sedums.  Sansevieria is a common one. The Jade plant is well known and is said to bring luck.   Cacti are succulents too.

The origin of their name lies in the inflated, fleshy appearance of their leaves. It's like biting into a sweet juicy strawberry--You might call it succulent.  

Succulents are the plant material most often used in green roofing projects.  Their ability to hold water gives them a cooling quality. They are low maintenance plants who can survive in high temperatures with less than ideal soil.

Most succulents have a waxy or plastic appearance. This thick skin acts as a protectant.  It keeps the water in and makes them impervious to surface damage and scarring.  They stay cool by growing in shapes that reflect the sun, creating shadows and shade.  The spiny needles of the Cacti have both a cooling and a defensive purpose.  The needles create a humid micro-climate around the plant's surface.  This reduces air movement, thereby diminishing water loss. In addition, the needles deter predators. Succulent plants keep their roots close to the soil surface so that they can absorb even the smallest rain or drop of dew. 

When we use these plants on the roof, their qualities go to work for us as well--lowering our energy costs.

Here is what they look like after a full season of growth:

                                     Lush and full

BUT, Here is what they look like when they are first planted:

                                    Sparse and dry.

Sark's quote goes on to say, "I wish for you the ability to self-replenish.  To be juicy, ripe and filled to over-flowing."  

I thought about this--The world can be dry and damaging. Succulent plants have adapted in ways we could emulate.   We could grow spikes to defend ourselves like the cactus. Or we could grow rich, juicy hearts, and have our roots near the surface so that we can absorb what good there is. We could replenish ourselves and be fat with life. We could retain like the aloe plant so that we have something soothing to offer. 

When you are discouraged, look at the green roof and remember that it takes at least a season to become ripe and overflowing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reckless Abandon

Until recently I'd call myself a firm believer in the reckless abandon brand of living.  Meaning: I look for situations that make me want to act with abandon and I use that as a guide.

My thought was that we should encourage our gardens to grow with reckless abandonI assumed the Egyptian protesters demanded their freedom with reckless abandon...and I was sure successful relationships were absolutely filled with it... 

THREE strikes you’re out--

Strike 1: Turns out -- the plants that grow with reckless abandon are generally called weeds or invasive species. 

Strike 2:  When I took a real look at citizens of Egypt, I saw that their revolution was successful because they pursued freedom with focused  purpose

Strike 3: Looking at loves that last, they are usually ones that begin with a statement of intent, and then some faithful building.

It occurred to me that neither 'reckless' or 'abandon' have very nice connotations and so I decided to look into it.

Reckless:  Heedless of danger or consequences; rash; careless, without regard.
Abandon: To leave completely; to desert; to give up; or discontinue. the United States changed its stance on issues like Slavery and Torture, I've officially changed my stance on reckless abandon. I'm no longer counting it as an reliable guide.

It's about time to start your seeds for spring.  They will need to be tended carefully each day. (i.e. Don't water with abandon but don't let them dry out before they sprout--balance is key in gardens and in life apparently....)  As we make our way in our pursuits, maybe we should tread with passionate consideration for that which we crave.  Because unless it's the 4th of July, nothing very meaningful burns up fast and bright.  Even the fireworks don't explode recklessly.  It's someone's full time job to make sure they don't burn the place to the ground.