Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Grass Is Not Always Greener...

...on the other side:

(Healthy and relatively weed free lawn. So far)

No matter how many other areas of the backyard need a gardening upheaval, I’m happy to say that the lawn is not one of them. My neighbours may have nicer flower and vegetable gardens, for the time being, but their grass in not greener.

Frankly, I’m not a big fan of lawns and all the maintenance required to keep them plush, weed free and reasonably attractive. But since I’m stuck with one, and one that’s quite sizeable at that, it’s nice to see that it’s in good shape. For now.

There are a lot of lawns around the neighbourhood that are being held hostage by dandelions. I figure it’s only a matter of time before those evil plants find my helpless grass and march right in. Let’s hope it’s not for awhile.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Moving Day Is Finally Here

The moving truck is arriving at 7:00 AM to load up our stuff in Montreal and dump it in our new home in Kingston. We’re all very excited about our new place, and looking forward to exploring our new city. Since we’ve had possession of our house since the beginning of April, settling in should go fairly quickly (I hope). Every weekend for the past few weeks has been spent in Kingston, and during that time, we’ve managed to get a lot of things done, which will help our move go much smoother. The painting is finished, the carpets are washed, the floors are mopped, the bathrooms are scrubbed and stocked, the kitchen is fully equipped with appliances, dishware and cutlery, most of our clothing is already there, and some small pieces of furniture have been moved over. It should be easy to settle in, but we’ll see.

(A Lilium longiflorum (something I plan to grow in my garden) getting ready to bloom)

I hope to have my computer and internet up and running by the end of the week; I’d like to get back on track with my Water Roots website and this blog. This message is prescheduled like so many others before and after it; that’s why you’re finding new posts even though I’m not online. Ain’t technology just dandy? (Until your computer gets a virus)

In any case, I’ll be back online sooner or later. Hopefully sooner.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Birds And Peanuts. A Perfect Match

A couple of weeks ago, I offered my backyard critters some peanuts. I’d read somewhere that they’d appreciate something rich in protein. I admit I was a little skeptical at first, unsure if the birds would go for this.


It took the birds about one hour to polish off all the peanuts in the basket I hung on the tree.

Yeah, you can say they like the new treat. A lot.

Here’s a happy, peanut-loving critter:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Garden Is Not Totally Hopeless

Okay, so I’ve been sighing. And whining. And pouting. And boring you all to tears about my sad-looking garden. And it really is a sad-looking garden. But not totally hopeless.

There is this:

A Lilac tree.

I’ve never had one of these in my garden and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do like the pretty flowers that are produced, and how nice they smell. But after the flowers fade, the tree looks pretty ordinary. At least to me.

I would like to give it a hard pruning to make it more compact but I’ve read that it may hinder flower production, sometimes for as long as two years. Other sources say that hard pruning is a great way to rejuvenate the plant. Whatever that means.

Still. I haven’t decided if I like this tree or not. With or without flowers. But I intend to keep it.

If anyone has advice on pruning, please share it with me!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Impatiens Can Be Grown Indoors And Out

Just like the glorious morning glory, Impatiens have always taken up some space in my garden. I’d grow them in containers, enjoy the abundant blooms throughout the summer and then toss them in the trash in the fall when the gardening season (which, sadly, is very short in Canada) would come to an end.

But what I didn’t know for years is that these lovely plants don’t need to be tossed. They can continue to be grown indoors (or they can be grown exclusively indoors) because they make excellent houseplants.

(My Photo – Taken At Montreal Botanical Gardens)

Here’s how to care for them inside your home:

Place your Impatiens in bright, indirect light and protect them from the sizzling rays of midday sun. In the winter when light levels are poor, let them bask in the sun or provide additional lighting through artificial means. Grow them in soil that drains well and keep it evenly moist. Never allow the compost to get bone-dry, which can cause premature bud drop. Keep humidity levels above average; dry air will invite spider mite attacks. To avoid lankiness, and to keep plants compact, pinch back the stems when needed. Take stem cuttings any time to create new plants.

That’s it.

It’s no wonder these pretty little bloomers are so popular. There are a variety of flower colours to choose from. They are easy to grow. They bloom nonstop. And they can be grown indoors and out.

What more can you ask for?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Growing An Avocado Plant From Seed

The pit of an Avocado will grow into a hardy, attractive houseplant so don’t throw out that sticky, slimy seed after cutting up and eating the fruit. Start an Avocado plant; it’s very easy.

Photo downloaded from SXC

Here’s what you do:

Wash the seed by rinsing it with water. Insert three toothpicks around the pit on the bottom end (the top is the pointed end). The toothpicks should be about halfway down from the top.

Suspend the Avocado seed over a narrow glass or jar filled with water (the toothpicks will hold it in place) with the bottom half below the water line. Change the water regularly and make sure that the base, which is the root end, is submerged at all times; never let the bottom end run out of water.

Photo downloaded from Wikipedia (Released to the public domain)

Anywhere from two to six weeks the bottom of the pit will suddenly split in two and roots will emerge; keep the seed out of direct sunlight during this period. A pale stem will emerge from these two halves and start growing upwards, stretching towards the light.

The stem grows quickly in the beginning, as much as a few inches a week. As soon as you see more growth, move your plant into brighter light. Avocados can grow in moderate light but the brighter, the better. Small leaves will appear when the stem is a few inches tall and grow larger as the plant itself continues to get bigger. Now that the roots have formed and the plant is well on its way, remove the toothpicks and pot it up.

Photo downloaded from Wikipedia (Released to the public domain)

Avocados grow very quickly in the beginning so don’t worry about that delicate looking stem collapsing or breaking. That little stem is the early stages of a tree trunk that can grow anywhere from 30 to 60 feet tall! But don’t be alarmed, it’ll slow down way before it reaches its full potential. And it will be a very long time before you have to worry about it breaking through your ceiling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Thumbs Up For Bees

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I have an irrational fear of bugs. Not to the point that I climb on chairs, hide under the kitchen table or run out of the house screaming (all the time) whenever a tiny (winged or wingless), slimy, multi-legged critter flies, hops, crawls, walks, buzzes, slithers or marches its way into my home. But still. Bugs intimidate me.

Whenever I spot one of these ‘things’ in my home, I stand frozen for a few seconds while I try to decide what to do next. Should I smash it into oblivion with a shoe (that belongs to another family member)? Suck it up with my vacuum cleaner (and then vacuum the entire house to reduce its chances of crawling out)? Throw something weighty at it (like the refrigerator) that will squash it instantly? Jump up and down a few times shouting “Eww! Eww! Eww!”?


Though it may come as a surprise to many, most of the time I trap the menacing pest in a glass jar or paper cup and set it free in the great outdoors. Because I feel guilty if I kill one. Unless, of course, it’s a wormy, larvae type. Then I go get my husband. And let him deal with it.

But I’m not repulsed by all pests; there are a few that I really like. And some that I think are kind of cute. For example, ladybugs are cute. So are butterflies. I even think praying mantises are pretty cool. And dragonflies too. Unless they’re flying around my head. Then they’re more nerve-racking than cool. But I still like them.

And of course, I really like these little critters:

(My Photo – Taken At Montreal Botanical Gardens)

Is there anyone who doesn’t recognize these dudes?

When bees accidentally find their way into my home, I go out of my way to move them safely outside. This is an example of a bug that does not repulse me, one whose life I will definitely spare.

And I’m not the only one that gives bees a thumbs up.

In general, bees are held in high regard; this is mainly due to the fact that they play a very important role in pollination. And because they are basically harmless to humans. They do not sting unless they are threatened, and they are not a nuisance like wasps that buzz around your food, your drink and your head.

If you discover a bee while you’re puttering around your garden, don’t harm it. It’s a gardener’s friend. And if it wanders inside your home, escort it outside. Unharmed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Want An (Almost) Immortal Plant? Get A Snake Plant

If you’re searching for a plant that will forgive all your botanical sins and keep on growing despite of them, no need to go further than a Sansevieria trifasciata, commonly-referred to as the snake plant (because of the shape of its leaves) or mother-in-law’s tongue (because of their sharpness). This is a plant that is as close to being immortal as any plant can ever be. In fact, it’s so exceptionally hardy, it should qualify as artificial.

Sansevieria trifasciata’s ability to tolerate just about any growing condition - full sun or shade, humidity or dry air, frequent or infrequent feeding, and even extended periods between watering - makes it a perfect choice for beginners, chronic plant killers and houseplant abusers. It is almost impossible to kill this plant. The only thing that will ultimately defeat it is over-watering.

Use a fast-draining, highly-porous soil and water only when the medium dries out completely. Be extra vigilant with the watering can during the colder months when susceptibility to rot is high. If you’re not sure if you should water, put the watering can down and step away from the plant; Sansevieria trifasciata will easily survive a drought but not a flood. In fact it can go without water for a mind-bogglingly long period of time. For an alternative growing style that will eliminate all water woes, grow your snake plant in hydroculture.

Sansevieria trifasciata will tolerate any type of lighting, including shade, but the ideal location is one that offers very bright light and even direct sun. During the winter time direct sunshine is handled very well, especially the early morning eastern or late afternoon type. In the summer, you may have to protect against the direct rays in a southern location. Place your plant where it will receive bright, filtered light.

Average warmth is the preference but the plant can manage to keep on looking good even in temperatures as low as 10ºC (50ºF). A snake plant can also live through a level as low as 2ºC (35ºF), but it’s best to keep exposure to such low temperatures to a minimum to avoid cold damage. Humidity is not an issue; dry air does not bother the plant. Feed infrequently. A liquid fertilizer applied once a month during the spring and summer is sufficient. Do not feed during the fall and winter.

If you are one of those people that likes to water plants regularly, don’t buy a Sansevieria trifasciata. You’ll kill it. For everyone else, this is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a plant that is – almost – indestructible.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In Case I’m Missing...

My internet service is going to be disrupted sometime today (Monday, June 22) because it’s being moved to our new home in Kingston, Ontario (which we’ll be moving to on June 29th). Every post up until now (since June 20), including this one, was prescheduled. And any posts after this are as well. I’ve tried to add as many blog posts as I can, but it’s impossible to write enough to fill up all the dates until the internet service is restored. Plus, I don’t know exactly when it’s going to be restored, so there’s that too.

I’ll probably disappear for awhile, but I will resurface as soon as my internet service is up and running again. Also, I am unable to check comments on my blog or emails sent to me. So I’m not ignoring you or trying to be rude by not acknowledging/answering your comments/emails. When I’m back online, I’ll be in touch.

Okay? Okay.

Don’t ya hate moving?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Glorious Morning Glory

One of the things I attempted to grow when I first began outdoor gardening is Morning Glory. How can you resist flowers that look like this:

(Photos from MorgueFile)

Nothing beats this popular, undemanding, fast-growing annual for attractive blooms that come in a variety of colours, including pink, red, purple, blue and white.

I am considering adding this popular vine to my new home’s garden, which won’t really come to life until next year. Since I can provide the sun it needs to thrive and the space for it to spread out, it's on my list of ‘plants of interest’.

The large, funnel-shaped leaves also attract butterflies and hummingbirds, so, you know, just more reason to consider it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who Invited This Dude To The Housewarming Party?

Ah, the joys of home ownership...

Backyard, gardening, butterflies, deck, birds, barbecue and this:

Photo downloaded from Wikipedia (Released to the public domain by author)

"What is that creepy-looking thing Water Roots lady?"
Why, it’s a house centipede my blogging friend.
"And how does it make you feel?..."

Until very recently, I was in my happy space, completely unaware that there’s such a thing as a house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) that (usually) lives, as its name implies, inside human homes. Well, at least in colder regions like Canada.

How’s that for a kick in the head?

I’d also never seen one indoors either. Until about a week ago. In my new home. First in the living room. Then in the kitchen. (I’m hoping real hard that it’s the same critter).

Furthermore, I’d never witnessed anything so small move so fast, which explains why I uploaded a picture I found on Wikipedia rather than one taken from my own camera, of my own multi-legged houseguest. I barely had enough time to think about snapping a photo, never mind actually doing it.


When I saw this little beast dart across my kitchen floor at an incredibly high speed, I was amazed. Wow, can this thing move! It was quite impressive, I tell you, albeit a little alarming. And after doing some research, I learned that it’s not my imagination (or fear); these centipedes really do move fast. They can reach speeds of up to 406 mm (16.0 in) per second (0.9 mph/1.46 kph). And they can do this across floors, along ceilings and up walls. (Can you imagine looking up at the ceiling when you wake up in the morning and having this thing over your head?)

My first reaction when I saw this creepy crawler was to run out of the house screaming. But my husband grabbed me before I got out the door, shook me and said “Get a hold of yourself woman!” Slap, slap. “These things are our friends”

Our friends? (Looks like hubby’s been hitting the bottle...)

After some research on the internet, though, I found out he’s right. Damn it.

As hideous-looking as house centipedes are, they are very beneficial inside a home. They feed on flies, moths, crickets, termites, earwigs, spiders, cockroaches, bedbugs, silverfish, ants and numerous other household arthropods and their larvae. They are a natural, non-toxic form of pest control, helping to rid your home of unwanted flying, crawling, slithering guests.

So that’s kind of cool.

I should have stopped there (it was enough data), but I didn’t. And I ran across this:

“...are known to sometimes emerge from drain pipes...” (Now can I run out of the house screaming?)

There is a thing called too much information.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More Garden Sighing...

On a previous post, titled Sigh…, I uploaded a photo of my (sad-looking) garden. I didn’t want that part of my backyard to be lonely, so here are more sad-looking areas to keep it company.

There’s the sad-looking area under the kitchen window:

I haven’t decided yet what I want to do with this section of the yard, but I do want to get in there as soon as possible and clean it up. I’m hoping to get that chore down by mid-July, two weeks after we move into our new home. This part of the backyard is a southern location, so the gardening choices are quite extensive.

And the sad-looking area under the Maple tree:

Now this is an area that I’m not sure about at all. On one hand, I’d love to create an interesting display. On the other hand, I’m not sure what I could grow there. The Maple tree blocks the southern sun from entering.

In both cases, there is a lot of cleaning up to do first. Once that’s done, I’ll decide where to go from there.

If anyone has any suggestions for these two sad-looking sections in my backyard, please share them with me! Two gardening heads are better than one...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Old Man Cactus

Could there be a cooler cactus than the Cephalocereus senilis?

Okay, maybe there can be. Let me put it another way. Isn’t this one of the coolest members of the cactus group? It sure is.

Here’s how to care for one indoors:

Cephalocereus senilis – known as Old Man Cactus - is one of the most popular and identifiable members of the cactus group. Aside from its charm, the fine hair that covers the entire fleshy, columnar body and hides the sharp spines serves an important purpose; it protects against the harsh desert sun, which is common to this plant’s native home.

Grow in a well-draining, highly-porous soil mix to prevent rot. During the active growing season, water thoroughly and then do not water again until the soil is completely dry. During the dormant period – late fall to early spring – keep almost completely dry; water enough to keep the plant from shriveling. Select the sunniest spot available, especially during the winter when the quality and quantity of light is reduced considerably by shorter, cloudier days. Ample sunshine keeps this unique cactus healthy and encourages hair growth.

Humidity is not critical; a drier environment is preferred. Provide warm temperatures (18°C - 29°C / 65°F - 85°F) during active growth and cooler ones (13°C - 16°C / 55°F - 60°F) during dormancy. Do not expose to temperatures below 10°C (50°F) for extended periods. Cephalocereus senilis is one of the best performers in hydroculture. Transplant with great care to avoid being stabbed by the sharp spines. Conversion is rapid with no ill effects. Make sure the water level is always kept below the roots; let it dry completely before adding more water.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It’s Good To Be Back

I had my first experience as an outdoor gardener about twenty years ago. Although I was very excited about the prospect of finally building and maintaining a garden, I was also very inexperienced and perhaps a little overzealous. Instead of planning ahead, I simply plowed ahead, basically gardening by the seat of my plants. Er...pants.

I bought too much, planted too much and ended up with a jungle of annuals, perennials and everything in-between; more than I needed. Or wanted. There were too many different types and too many different sizes and too many different colours and too many different care needs. My garden gave new meaning to the word diversity. In addition to there being more greenery than my little garden could accommodate, some of the plants were placed where they didn’t belong. Like sun-loving plants in the shade and shade-loving plants in the sun.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t a complete mess and there weren’t many casualties (plants can be remarkably resilient), but it certainly wasn’t the most organized or most eye-pleasing design. And with the heaps of plants to water and feed, it wasn’t the easiest to maintain either. Hey, who knew that some of these annuals that were so tiny at the greenhouse could grow so big – and multiply so quickly?

That was the first year.

With time – and a lot of gardening books - came knowledge. And that knowledge combined with a few years of experience resulted in an attractive garden. And plants in the right places. The sun-lovers basked in the sun. The shade-lovers hid in the shade. And all was well with my little garden. For many years. And as soon as I was at the point in my life where I could say that ‘I know what I’m doing’, I switched to apartment-style living and left it all behind. Aside from a little container gardening once in awhile, outdoor gardening was not a part of my life anymore.

That's what it's been for the past ten years.

In April, we bought a house. And with the house came oodles of gardening potential. There is absolutely nothing interesting growing in the front, back or sides of our home right now. But there will be. Eventually.

Because we’re not officially moving in until June 29, I won’t be able to make many significant changes. Instead, I will spend many weeks removing unwanted vegetation to make room for future plants.

This year will be mostly about clean up and preparation, so there won’t be much to brag about...I mean share. But come next spring, things will be different. As soon as the weather permits, I’ll be out there digging around. Since winters here in Canada are very long (sigh), I will certainly have enough time to plan out my garden.

So I’m glad to be back. Even at a minimal level.

(Some flowers would be nice...)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beaucarnea Recurvata – Ponytail Palm

This slow-growing, long-lived, attractive and intriguing specimen is an excellent choice for indoor gardeners in search of low maintenance houseplants. There’s no need for an experienced green thumb with the Ponytail Palm that thrives on neglect and requires very minimal care.


Truly an oddity with its large swollen base and long, grass-like leaves that cascade from the top like a ‘ponytail’, this native to Mexican deserts requires as much light as possible to grow happily – from very bright, filtered light to full sun. The Ponytail Palm can easily get through extended periods of drought with its thick trunk that stores water. With that in mind, pot it up in a loose, fast-draining medium, be extra vigilant with the watering can and allow it to dry well between each watering session. Humidity is not critical and average home temperatures are fine. To completely eliminate all water woes, switch this excellent candidate to hydroculture.

If the two most important requirements – light and water - are met accordingly, your Ponytail Palm will add a unique touch to your home for many years.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Will Beg For Food

The one thing I love about my backyard is bold little critters like this one:

I’d like to pick this pint-sized fella up and kiss his little nose. Not sure he’d appreciate that though.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dracaena Reflexa – Song Of India

With its shiny, lemon and lime striped leaves, this native of Madagascar and other nearby islands is one of the most dazzling members of the Dracaena clan. In ideal conditions the Dracaena reflexa may reach a height of 6 feet or more indoors and deserves a prominent position with its attractive foliage and unique form.


Like all Dracaenas, reflexa will tolerate low light conditions but will not be at its best unless it receives ample light. Place this plant near a window where it can receive bright, indirect light or some early morning sun. Protection against summer’s midday sun is recommended to avoid damaging the leaves. Use a fast-draining, porous soil, keep it slightly moist and do not water until it’s fairly dry. Be careful with that watering can; Dracaenas are highly-susceptible to root rot. This is a prime candidate for the hydroculture system; consider switching to eliminate water problems.

Place this plant in a warm location and protect it from chilly drafts. Dracaenas are very cold-sensitive; any situation that has the potential to cause cold damage should be corrected immediately or the plant will deteriorate rapidly. Tolerance to dry air is impressive but a little extra moisture in the air is preferred; increase humidity to provide a healthier environment.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Along Came A Spider

It’s been a little over ten years since I did any outdoor gardening. That’s a long time. And although there are many things about this wonderful hobby that are now just faded memories, this isn’t one of them:

(Photo from MorgueFile - Contributed by member: marykbaird)

The first time I got a glimpse of this eight-legged wonder sitting on a large web covering my tomato plants, I froze. I’d never seen anything so beautiful and yet so frightening. This was the largest spider I’d ever come face to face with, and although I’m far from being an arachnophobe, something like this can certainly trigger a few symptoms.

I found out later on that the beast holding my tomato plants hostage is the Argiope aurantia, commonly known as the Yellow Garden Spider, Writing Spider, Banana Spider, Corn Spider or simply ‘Garden Spider; one of the most beautiful – and intimidating – garden creatures.

And totally harmless.

Not only is it harmless, it’s also very beneficial. With its pest-controlling capabilities, and a voracious appetite to boot, it will polish off flies, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, thrips, (insufferable) aphids and numerous other garden nuisances that make you want to throw in the trowel. So although the Argiope aurantia looks imposing, it’s a gardener’s friend and should not be harmed. If you do find one in your garden, don’t kill it. Move it if you must, but don’t cause it harm.

For those who may be wondering what became of my garden spider: No, I did not kill this pretty critter the day I found it in my backyard - it’s hard to do that when you’re running away screaming – but I did destroy its web so it could move to another spot. Because while I do appreciate how hard it works in helping to keep my garden free of pests, having to reach through its overwhelmingly large web to get to my tomatoes is not acceptable.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Slight Taste Of Country

Although our (soon-to-be-living-in) home that we just bought is right smack in the middle of the city of Kingston, Ontario, it offers a slight taste (very slight) of country. Okay, not exactly full-blown country, considering one of the major malls is walking distance from us, but hey, a little country is better than no country. Our house backs onto open green space that also includes the ‘Little Cataraqui Creek’ that runs through it.

This is the view from my kitchen window:

With a countryish view right outside our (city) kitchen window, we get to enjoy some beautiful aspects of nature without giving up any of our city comforts. Like the mocha with whipped cream and the Canadian Maple donut at the Tim Hortons located five minutes (by foot) from our house. Iced cappuccino during the summer, of course.

Cool, huh?

Damn cool.

I know. I’m spoiled. I can’t live without the conveniences that urban areas have to offer. There’s just too much city in this girl.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saintpaulia Ionantha – African Violet

With no specific flowering season, these cuties bloom readily all year-round. Their popularity is also due largely to the fact that they thrive easily indoors. They not only appreciate the warmth of your heated house, they also handle the dry air rather well.


Brightness is one of the primary ingredients for successful flowering so let there be light; the morning sun from eastern exposure is ideal. Another popular spot is a bright, unobstructed northern windowsill. Over-watering is the fastest way to kill an African violet so be careful; keep the soil moist but never soggy. Convert them to hydroculture if you’d like; they are perfect candidates for this alternative growing style.


Average household temperatures that keep you comfortable will keep your plants comfortable as well. Dry air is tolerated but higher humidity is preferred; increase it if it's too low. Fertilizers are an important source of food for African Violets; feed your plants regularly if they are actively growing and visibly healthy.

Attractive, versatile, several flower colours to choose from and perfect for beginners – how can you not adore these renowned beauties? There are African violets growing happily in cozy windowsills around the globe. Why not on one of yours?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Pecking Order

I rarely ever see a finch on the ground; they’re usually glued to the feeders. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to see these two little cuties land right below my kitchen window.

The bright yellow ball of feathers to the left is a male goldfinch, and while I’m not entirely sure what the one to the right is, I believe it’s a male house finch. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, I was eagerly snapping away photos, trying to take as many as possible before these fellas took off, when all of a sudden, for no obvious reason, ‘Mr. House Finch’ pecked ‘Mr. Goldfinch’ on the head. Peck. Peck. Peck. Just like that.

What the...?

Because I have a soft spot for goldfinches, I tapped on the kitchen window and said “Hey! Cut that out, you big bully!” Like that would somehow make a difference.

Well, ‘Mr. House Finch’, a little startled by the noise, stepped away from ‘Mr. Goldfinch’, looked up at me and said ‘Look lady, there’s a pecking order in our world too, so chill out…”


What? Don’t the birds speak to you?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


This is the extent of my garden.

A sad-looking area.

According to one of our neighbours, the people that we bought our soon-to-be home from didn’t do anything around the house. Like repairs. Or renovations. And no one ever saw them. And they never cared for the garden. Ever. Ya think? To the point, apparently, that the grass was never cut and perhaps that explains why the children never played outside. Because they were very young and could get lost in the overgrown grass. Or they could be frightened or hurt by things that would live in the overgrown grass. Like (garter) snakes. Or raccoons. Or big ants. Or, you know, the menacing chipmunks.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m a little more alarmed by the fact that I seem to have a nosy neighbour than by parents that (maybe) didn’t allow their children to play outdoors. I suppose my garden will be up for scrutiny as soon as the family and I are moved into our new home at the end of the month. Since we’re only there on weekends until that time, we’re probably being given a little leeway for our neglecting-the-garden misdemeanors.


Since I won’t be living there on a full-time basis until we near July, I’m unable to properly tackle the outdoor vegetation and make some noticeable changes. In addition to that sad-looking section in back of the house, there is the front of the house, the sides, underneath the kitchen window and a few other spaces that need overhauls.

I’ll get to all of them eventually. For now I’ll have to live with the sad-looking garden, and remind myself that next spring things will be different.


Monday, June 8, 2009

All Fudged Up

I only recently tried the popular Sucre à la crème, traditional fudge from the province of Quebec in Canada. And my immediate reaction after tasting it was:

“OHMYGOD! What the heck was I waiting for!?”

Yes, it’s that good.

Ingredients? Few

Preparation? Simple

Result? Awesome

Guilt level after gorging yourself? Enormous

Recipe? Below.

Sucre à la crème - Fudge
Sucre a la creme (Fudge)


150 ml butter
750 ml light brown sugar
150 ml cream 15% or 35%
250 ml icing sugar


Butter a 6 x 10 inch dish.

In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, add icing sugar and whisk vigorously until well blended.

Pour mixture into buttered dish, let it cool and cut into squares.

And finally, the most important step of all:

Hide it, so you don’t have to share with anyone.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

If I Could Be A Flowering Plant...

I’d want to be a Hibiscus. Outdoors. In a tropical area. I wouldn’t mind having big, bold, beautiful flowers that command attention and attract cute little critters like hummingbirds. And I think I’d want my flowers to be yellow. Not red, despite the fact Hummingbirds are very attracted to red. I guess they’d just have to settle for yellow. The nectar is free, you know, so they shouldn’t be picky about flower colours anyway.


And Hummingbirds are not the only small creatures I wouldn’t mind attracting if I was a flowering plant. I’d be okay with butterflies. And bees. Even though I have an irrational bug phobia, butterflies don’t really bother me. Neither do bees. Bees are kind of cool-looking, actually. At a safe distance.

Yup, a Hibiscus with yellow flowers. That would be my choice. Oh, but wait. There’s also the stunning Lilium longiflorum (Easter lily) that I adore. Oh my, that complicates things. Okay, maybe I’d be that. The Lilium longiflorum. But with orange flowers. Maybe. It’s awfully hard giving up the Hibiscus option.

Anyway. Let’s just say it would be a toss up between the Hibiscus and the Easter lily.

And since I’m more of an indoor gardener – for now – than outdoors, below is some care information for growing a Hibiscus inside your home.

Okay, time to get serious...

Caring For A Hibiscus As A Houseplant

What could be more magnificent than the brilliant blooms of this exotic specimen? With a variety of flower colours to choose from - including red, white, yellow, orange and pink – a Hibiscus plant is sure to satisfy every palette. Remarkably easy to grow, and one of the most reliable flowering houseplants, this tropical beauty requires only a few basic needs to be met to keep it thriving and blooming.

Provide this sun lover with as much light as possible but make sure you protect it from the direct rays of the sizzling midday sun during the summer season. All through the active growing season, keep the fast-draining soil moist (not soggy) at all times, especially while it’s blooming. Keep your Hibiscus away from drafts and place it in a room where the temperature is warm and humidity is high.


Sooner or later a Hibiscus will become straggly and long-limbed, producing fewer and smaller flowers, so at the beginning of the growing season – late February or early March – give your plant a haircut. Able to withstand heavy pruning, don’t be afraid to remove about 1/3 of the plant with very sharp shears. Cutting back your Hibiscus will stimulate new growth – more branches and more flowers.

With proper warmth and enough sunlight, your lovely plant will adorn your sunny windowsill for years to come. And although each papery flower will last for only a day or two, a Hibiscus is capable of producing dramatic blooms continuously from spring to autumn, with the greatest profusion in the summertime – just in time for passersby to catch a glimpse of it.

You know, come to think of it, there’s also the Adenium Obesum (Desert Rose)... Oh boy...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Psst... Need Some Dice?

I confess. I’m a board game junkie. I not only enjoy playing these types of games, I also own quite a few. In addition to an assortment of Trivial Pursuit games that I’ve accumulated over the years, which are by far my favourites, I have classics like Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk, Battleship, Clue, Trouble, Sorry!, Pay Day and The Game Of Life. These games hold sentimental value because I played them as a child, and now I’m playing them with my own kids.

Other games in my collection include Backgammon, Chess, Guess Who?, Mastermind, Checkers, Pictionary , Scattergories , Hedbanz, Yahtzee , Kerplunk, Mouse Trap, Snakes and ladders, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? and Mad Gab, all of which I’ve tried. Most of them are entertaining enough, but not all of them have the ability to hold your interest for long. For example: Mouse Trap, Guess Who?, Kerplunk and Snakes and Ladders can only be tolerated for a little while before they get on your nerves. I mean, how many times can you build that Mouse Trap with enthusiasm, even if you’re a young child? Pull out sticks just to (yawn) see some marbles drop? Or climb up ladders and fall down snakes?

I especially enjoy Pictionary and Hedbanz, both of which are fun family or party games. Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? is also fun to play with your kids or some friends but I find that they don’t provide enough questions, so you end up asking the same questions sooner than you’d like. All the rest of the games are fine; some newer, some older, all reasonably engaging.

And just when I thought I was through with buying any more games, I run across this:

And of course, I had to have it.

Smart Ass turned out to be a huge success; everyone loves it. It’s a highly amusing, fast paced game with Who, What and Where questions that all come with ten clues. As the clues are read, any player can yell out the answer. If the answer is wrong the player is eliminated from that round, so you have to be sure before you call something out. But if you wait too long, the ‘smart ass’ next to you might beat you to the answer and move ahead on the board. Whoever reaches the donkey’s butt in the center of the game wins. There are also spaces on the board called “Dumb Ass” (can’t participate in the next round), “Hard Ass” (you get a bonus question) and “Kick Ass” (must move back three spaces). This game definitely is worth trying out and I had to share it with my blog visitors.

Incidentally, I’m pretty ruthless when I play, taking down my opponents without batting an eye - even if the opponents are my own kids. Hey, it’s a cold, cruel world out there. May as well prepare them for it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dracaena Marginata – The Dragon Tree

Resembling a small palm tree, the popular Marginata makes a bold statement in the home with its thin, red-margined leaves that sprout from the top and hang over a slender, woody stem. Although a fairly slow grower, this interesting specimen can eventually grow to a height of 10 – 15 feet.

Like all its relatives, this Dracaena is highly-susceptible to rot from over-watering; this is not a plant for someone who is heavy-handed with the watering can. Use a fast-draining, porous medium and do not water until it is fairly dry; be especially careful during the colder months. Switch to hydroculture to eliminate water woes.


Able to tolerate different light levels – from low light to full sun – you can place a Marginata right up against a north or east window, near a west one or in a bright area of a southern location making sure to protect against the hot midday sun. Although it will survive very low levels of light, it requires better quality for optimum growth and appearance.

Place this lovely specimen - that is sensitive to cold drafts and chilly temperatures - in areas where it is warm; average household temperatures that are comfortable for you will be fine for your plant. Low levels of humidity are bearable but it’s preferable to provide higher levels of humidity for optimal health.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Whatchu looking at?

I’ve seen more Robins in Kingston, Ontario (my soon to be home) in two months than I’ve seen in my entire life in Montreal (my soon to be old home). They’re all over the place, including my backyard. I believed they were all more or less the same size (trim little critters) until this little dude dropped in for a visit:

A mega Robin.

The picture doesn’t even do this bird justice. He’s huge! So big, in fact, that he wasn’t easily intimidated by my presence, like the other birds that fly away the minute I take the slightest step towards them. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought he could take me if we got into a fight. Those big wings look like they could land a pretty good slap upside the head, so I don’t know...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another Good Houseplants Book

Here’s another book on houseplants that I really like. Fits perfectly into a purse, for those of us who carry one.

Simon & Schuster's Guide to House Plants
Author: Allessandro B. Chiulosi
ISBN: 0671631314

This book is the dictionary of houseplant books. Details for each of the 243 plant species include: full colour photo, the family it belongs to, origin, description, care, propagation and possible pests and diseases. Perfect for the novice or expert, this compact, pocket-sized handbook is perfect for taking along when you are shopping for houseplants. This is a very informative and practical guide that is fun to flip through and easy to reference.

Check to see if your local library has a copy of this good book. If they do, check it out.