Friday, October 27, 2006

Garden Painting Day 16 : Patriot Hosta

After more than six weeks, I finally made some progress on my garden painting last night. Previously, I had outlined a cat and the white edges of a Patriot Hosta:

Now I filled in the hosta leaves:

And finally, after weeks of fighting with the site, which has been unable to upload my photos, I am hosting the images on, and linking to them. We'll see how this goes, it will be nice to be able to add photos again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dragon Fruit

Tonight I had dinner with the kids in an Asian mall, and picked up a couple of bags of persimmons. I first tried persimmons a couple of years ago, and found that I really enjoy the nonastringent (e.g. Fuyu) varieties. They are very mild, taste somewhat like a melon or peach, soft yet crunchy, not acidic. I loved them so much, I have planted a Fuyu persimmon tree in the middle of my yard. It may be a few more years before I see any fruit from it, but I am already dreaming about that...

Tonight I saw another fruit which looked pretty interesting, so brought it home to try. Looking on the internet, I see that it is the Pitaya or Pitahaya, also known as Dragon Fruit. It is the fruit of a night-blooming cactus, in this case, the Hylocereus undatus. It is native to Mexico and South and Central America, but also cultivated in Southeast Asian countries, where these ones, I am sure, originated.

The outside appearance is pretty exotic, it really looks like the fruit of a cactus (would add a photo, except Blogger seems to be having problems with photo upload again!!!). The inside was surprising to me, it was soft, white and speckled with tiny black tasteless seeds. The texture of the flesh is very reminiscent of a kiwi fruit, except the taste is mild and sweet, not nearly as tangy as the kiwi. My daughter really liked it (and she doesn't like kiwis).

I will buy it again, but perhaps not for a little while. After I pulled it out of its plastic wrapper, I found that the stem end was covered in little foreign bugs (ha ha, would have posted a photo, but Blogger won't have it - again!!). My 7 year old daughter had the great idea to use a strip of masking tape to catch the bugs. Otherwise, it would have been near impossible to try to squish them against the soft fruit, and I couldn't take the chance to just wash them off, in case they climbed back up my drain to invade my home and garden. So after that experience, I will be more cautious when I pick the fruit, make sure I don't bring any more of these bugs home with me again.

Looking around, I also see a site called "Canadian Dragon Fruit", based in Calgary, of all places, which encourages Canadians to grow this cactus (presumably indoors), and is selling 5 different varieties. The Spring Special (?!) is $19.95 per plant, including shipping. Interesting enough, it is described as a jungle cactus instead of desert cactus, so actually needs shaded light, and more water and food than one would expect of a cactus.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pumpkin Carving

With Fall and the Hallowe'en season upon, what better time to get out a carving knife, and create some pumpkin faces? Our kids were delighted when their grandparents brought two good sized pumpkins yesterday, and went out in the backyard, in the brilliant sunshine, to carve faces with them. My daughter chose a cat face, and my son chose a "nasty" face. Here is the result:

The real magic of the faces, though, appears at night, with a little help from a tea light inside:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Plant Recycling

I am a recycling queen. When I was growing up, I would have been called a scrounge. But now recycling is fashionable, or at least the pretense of it. Some people think that recycling is washing out your old bottles and containers, and setting them out in the blue box, or setting out your old newspapers. It's much more than that. It's a lifestyle. An attitude.

I don't just "recycle", I reuse. Or at least I accumulate lots of stuff which one day could come in handy... Glass jars with screwtop lids for canning. Jars without resealable lids as give-away vases for garden flowers. Plastic takeout containers for storing leftovers or keeping cookies in the freezer. It is not so clear what uses to put to other plastic containers and lids or metal soup cans, but it doesn't stop me from stockpiling them also. Toilet paper rolls for future crafts. Campbell's labels for future church or school fundraising drives (I occasionally find someone to pass my accumulations to). I even started collecting the twist caps from milk jugs (see photo right - once I get the photo upload working!!). They are so colourful, there must be some craft (plastic quilt, anyone? milk cap necklace?) which would use those (suggestions welcome, please).

The same holds true for extra plants. There is always some home for them (and I don't just mean the compost pile!). I am proud to be part of a group of gardeners who swap our extra plants every Spring and Fall. It is a win-win-win situation for all.

For the plant donors:
  • guilt-free cleanup of the garden
  • share your favourite and very successful plants
  • meet other gardeners, make like-minded friends

For the plant recipients:

  • HUGE savings over buying from the local garden shop!!
  • plants which are proven to grow in our weather conditions (not just in a fancy catalog)
  • some of the donors are serious plant collectors, so the plants may be rare treasures (not like mine, which are often the same aggressive and near-invasive plants which I originally received from the group!)

For the plants:

  • new home, new conditions - it sure beats the compost pile!!

This year, I managed to give away 20 seedlings from my too-successful Carex Pendula grass. I did warn everyone I gave it to, that this one grows to a large size. When I received it (from a previous Swap) it fit in the palm of my hand. Two years later (I have very rich soil) it has formed a solid clump a good 3 feet across, about 2' tall, with the long, pendulus seedheads rising about 5' high and reaching out in every direction.

I have been wondering what to do, since the grass is starting to bully the coral maple next to it (see photo right - once I get the photo upload working!!). I asked Karin, an experienced gardener in our group, and she told me that she had finally removed hers from her garden, it demanded too much space, and she had to make room for other favourites. Her quiet wisdom inspired me to take the shovel to my clump this afternoon. Or at least I tried... and tried... and tried... Without chopping that clump into pieces (which would be quite a feat in itself), I don't think I have the strength to budge that monster.

Hopefully, I do have a solution. I asked the landscaper of my next door neighbour (they are just finishing their landscaping, and could use a strong plant like this monster grass, to retain the edge of their yard - the back half of their lot is a very steep ravine). Thankfully, he seems to have agreed. He will also take the remaining butterfly bushes which I propagated.

I started with one butterfly bush, which may be the common purple type, or at least it is a very vigourous growing variety. In the Spring, I pruned it hard, and stuck the 2' trimmings in the ground. Nearly all of them took, and I ended up with about a dozen small bushes this summer, all of which bloomed also. I have found homes for all of them. I don't know if I'll repeat the exercise again, next year. I think I'm running out of homes which will accept them. I have acquired, however, 3 more uncommon varieties (from my trading group), which I will be very happy to propagate, once they take off.

If you don't have any organized trading group in your area, make friends with neighbourhood gardeners. Most gardeners are happy to give away their garden extras, and a lot of good advice while they're at it. Share your duplicate plants, too. It is not only rewarding, but good insurance, too, in case of unforeseen loss.

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