Saving My Ears

Elephant ears are mostly water.

Mojito Elephant Ears Colocasia

So if they freeze, they turn to mush.

I let the frost kill the leaves, then I cut off the droopy parts.

I dig them up and haul them inside my already crowded workshop.

There are too many plants in there to get much work done,

but it’s a great place to go think and breathe.

Black Beauty came inside in its pot.

My Mojitos are in a box.

The Frydeks are in a bucket.

And YES, I did bring in those trouble causing Coffee Cups.

They are reclining in my lawn cart.

Flower has more heart than sense.

I must not end this post without a photo of the cutest ears of all.

Bunny ears.

Barley and Charlotte, New Zealand Lop Rabbits

FLOWER

 

How Do They Know?

(Lyrics sung to the tune of “How Will I Know?” by Whitney Houston)

How do they know that it is November?

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They’re making buds on every segment.

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They will be blooming in a few weeks.

I’m asking you what you know about these things

How do they know that it’s time to get lovely?

I brought them in to escape the frost (Halloween)

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Watching them bloom is such a sweet treat.

They won’t bloom long, only several weeks.

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How do they know?

How do they know?

How do they know?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from the Thanksgiving cacti , Schlumbergera truncata

Singing FLOW

 

The Four D’s for Dahlias

Dahlias cannot survive our winters here in North Carolina,

so they must be stored inside over the winter.

There is a process to doing this.  I call the steps of the process the “Dahlia Four D’s.”

The first D is to let them die.  Okay not really, but they must be killed back by frost to know to go dormant.

The second D is for dig.  I chop off the dead stems to about three inches height.  Then I dig around then down. That way I do not chop the tubers with my shovel.

The third D is for dry.  They need to spend a few days drying before the soil is removed.

The forth D is for divide.  Once the tubers have dried a bit, they shrink a little. This makes it easier to untangle the separate stems.

Store these in peat and/or vermiculite. I use boxes that I can stack on shelves.

Leave room for air.  I shake these boxes periodically and open them every few weeks to make sure none are rotting or shriveling.

So if you have dahlias, it’s time for the four D’s.

Die, dig, dry and divide.

FLOW in the Know

Itty Bitty Bird’s Nests

These fungi have the common name of “Bird’s Nest” or splash cups.

Each may look like a tiny nest full of eggs, but it acts like a catapult .

No bird mama would shoot her precious eggs out of the nest like balls from a canon,

but this Cyanthus olla does just that.

These tiny splash cups are ripe and ready for rain.

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Bird’s nest fungi Cyanthus olla

When a raindrop plops into the cup, it triggers an ejection mechanism (funiculus)

to shoot out the eggs (peridioles) with a coil and sticky blob attached.

This contraption flies a few feet into the air and the coil wraps around whatever it hits.

The “egg” hangs around until it dries and splits open, releasing its spores.

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Bird’s nest fungi Cyanthus olla

Then many more itty bitty bird’s nest form.  Who knew fungi could be so fun?

FLOWER

Camellias: Too Hip to Be Square

I first saw this beautiful Camellia sasanqua decades ago in a church yard.

Jean May Camellia sasanqua

A wise (or maybe careless) person left the plant tag on it. That’s how I learned its name.

This particular church has a big barbecue the same week as my daddy’s birthday.

My family has gone to this barbecue every year for over thirty years.

So each November, I have looked forward to eating the wonderful food and seeing this shrub in bloom.

Jean May Camellia sasanqua

In 1994, I found a Jean May Camellia sasanqua of my own.  

I love its evergreen leaves, its white bark, its open shape and  its dreamy pink blooms.

I even love when it loses its petals. It’s like pink confetti.

Jean the Party Queen throwing her own fall festival.

I am not sure of when this happened, but several years ago some well-meaning person trimmed the church’s Jean May.

I arrived at the BBQ to find a square shrub with only a few blooms visible. No confetti. No petal party.

Square shrubs make me scream.

There is such a thing as plant abuse. (Just ask a Crepe Myrtle.)

Just because there is no bite with their bark, doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

So my dream  Jean May shrub at the church is now square.

But my own Jean May is a giant delight.

If you have a square shrub, please at least go out and cut off its corners.

You don’t want to find FLOWER in your yard screaming.

FLOW

 

Filling in the Holes

This is the time of year when I do a lot of digging.

I have to bring in all me tender plants that will not survive the winter outside.

So when these plants are dug up and brought in, there are empty holes.

This is the perfect time to amend the soil for next year’s planting.

I start out by throwing in a few shovel fulls of nasty compost.

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This gets chopped up and mixed with some of the removed soil.

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Then I top this off with some seasoned bunny litter.

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More dirt and mixing.

Then the hole gets filled in with the remaining original soil.

There is a science to this messiness.

My compost is never seasoned enough nor balanced before going into the ground.

Therefore, I have to chop it up in the hole

and mix it with soil to get the bacteria in good contact.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Re-nitrification first involves de-nitrification.

Never put unseasoned compost near a plant.  It needs to decompose.

Also, the bunny litter on top tends to discourage the critters

that would love to dig up the slimy fruits and veggies for a nasty feast.

Come next spring, the soil in these holes will be fertile and full of worms.

This is my dirty way of preparing for spring as everything dies.

FLOWER surviving the fall.

All Those Arms

I tend to change the names of people, places and things.

Just ask my students and family.  New names are the norm with the FLOWER.

So I call this Life Saver plant ( Huernia zebrina) by the name Starfish plant.  Which is NOT its correct name.

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Life Saver plant/ Huernia zebrina

This is not due to senility.

It’s  because this plant reminds me of a starfish story I used to tell my students.

Starfish/Seastars are capable of regeneration. If they lose an arm, they grow a new one.

This is important to know if you are harvesting oysters.

You see starfish eat shellfish.  They use these arms to pull open the shell and stick their stomachs inside to secret acids that dissolve the guts of the victim. Then they slurp up the goo.  Yummy.

Oyster fishermen  in the past tried to kill off the competition by chopping them into pieces.  This only multiplied the problem, because if a piece of the central disc was left on the arms, all those pieces became new starfish.

So the lesson here is to know your enemy.

Okay… back to the plant.

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Life Saver plant bloom/ Huernia zebrina

The Life Saver plant likes to drop arms around.

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If these land in a neighboring pot, the pieces produce new plants.

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So all those arms are a way of reproducing asexually.

So the Life Saver gets called the Starfish at FLOWER’s house.

It’s no surprise that Wingrid loves this plant.  It’s the extra arms she can relate to.

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Anybody want some Starfish…I mean Life Saver plant parts?

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FLOW

Saving the Tigers

Some of my plants are too precious to leave their survival to chance.

I put my new Tiger lilies at the top of my precious list.

I know they are supposed to survive in zones 4 through 9.

I am in zone 7, so I should relax and leave them out, but…

Some winters are extremely cold, others are soggy wet.

Our soil is red clay so things rot. I have to put pebbles under plants to ensure drainage.

Why would I risk the only lily the mama deer did not eat?

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These Tigers are the only lilies that came through the “deer delicatessen ” month uneaten.

So both the bulbs and the bulbils are coming in.

I removed the purple bulbils from the stems.

I immediately popped these into some cactus soil in shallow pots and watered them.

Label these babies in the pots.

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Then I removed the yellowed plants from their giant pot.

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I shook the damp soil off the roots.

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I let these dry a few days and then knock off the remaining soil.

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I store them in a cardboard box full of damp vermiculite separated be used packing paper.  Separation prevents the spread of diseases.

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The big, heavy, empty pot will have to stay outside.

Always keep the label with the bulbs.

If you think you will recognized them in the spring,

you are either young or very optimistic.

I always have WTF (What’s This Flower) moments in spring.

Now these Tigers , big and small, will be safe through the winter in my workshop with my hundreds of other precious plants.

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The FLOWER knows she is forgetful and plans accordingly.

FLOWER in the Fall