Friday, December 31, 2010

Ferrety New Year’s Resolutions

I asked each member of the furry tribe if they had any New Year’s resolutions for 2011 and this is what they had to say...

Bailey?

Oh, Bailey...

Spaz?

Spaz, that would be great! I don’t have enough pictures of you.

Nacho...

That would be nice, Nacho, because sooner or later you’re going to make me fall flat on my face.

Mocha...

Sure, Mocha, sure...

And there you have it, folks; straight from the furry mouths. We’ll see how they do with these resolutions in 2011. Personally, I’m not holding my breath.

Vriesea Splendens

If I was limited to growing only one family of plants, it would undoubtedly be the Bromeliaceae (Bromeliad) clan. This would not be an easy decision to make, especially when my beloved Dracaenas, Aglaonemas, Marantas and Philodendrons would have to be sacrificed. But how could I possibly resist Bromeliads, such amazingly, incredibly, unbelievably, totally cool plants?

And.

Not only are they cool-looking, but there are so many attractive ones, each unique in its own way. And they come in enough different sizes and colours to satisfy every houseplant enthusiast’s palette. Each family member offers interesting foliage, a distinct style and striking flowers. The leaves on these plants may be green, gray, maroon, striped, variegated, spotted, marbled, leathery, wiry, broad, grass-like, miniature (Tillandsias) and even several feet long. In fact, there is such a drastic difference in appearance between so many Bromeliad members that you can decorate an entire home solely with these plants and it’ll appear as though you are surrounded by a multitude of different plant families. Definitely cool plants.

Furthermore.

Not only are Bromeliads awesome-looking, they’re also a wonderful choice for indoor greenery. They adapt effortlessly to a variety of growing conditions, handle neglect better than most other plants and are quite easy to grow, making them particularly attractive to beginners and negligent plant growers.

But.

Unfortunately, Bromeliads are not available regularly in my neck of the woods (maybe not even in yours). And on the rare occasion when they are offered at the local garden centers, they’re usually the less glamorous varieties and alarmingly pricey. But once in awhile, lady luck (who has a green thumb, by the way) comes to town and brings with her a striking Bromeliad at a reasonable price. And of course, I end up buying the plant because it’s been on my wish list for a long time. And because I’m too weak to resist this type of temptation.

So.

Such was the case with the spectacular Vriesea splendens, a Bromeliad admired for its outstanding foliage and its spectacular flower display. Green-thumbed lady luck smiled upon me a couple of years ago and delivered this incredible Bromeliad to a greenhouse nearby that placed a reasonable price tag on it (okay, as reasonable as a Bromeliad prices can be). I’ll admit that the amount I paid was a little more than what I’m usually willing to dish out for plants, indoors or out, but since this dazzler is rarely available for sale, I bit the bullet and took one home.

Well.

A long time has passed since I scurried home with my newly-purchased Vriesea splendens and I have to say this: It was worth every penny I paid for it. It is one of the most undemanding plants I’ve ever grown, and it looks as beautiful as the day I brought it home.

Now.

With all that being said, I’d like to share whatever experience I’ve had with this plant, in terms of its care requirements.


Vriesea Splendens – Flaming Sword

Just like most other Bromeliads (aside from the cute little Tillandsias), Vriesea splendens, commonly-referred to as ‘flaming sword’, is sold in a pot even though as an epiphyte it requires no soil. In its native home of eastern Venezula, French Guiana and Guyana, this plant grows on rocks, or on tree trunks and branches. But since most of us don’t have rocks and trees in our homes, it makes sense to sell these lovely plants in pots of soil, which is obviously much more practical. And if you choose to grow this lovely plant that way, no problem. All Bromeliads do fine as potted plants, including this one.

Here is what you need to know:

Bromeliads do not have extensive root systems compared to other indoor plants you may own. And the roots of an epiphytic Bromeliad such as Vriesea splendens – a plant that absorbs nutrients and moisture from the air through its leaves and tank – function primarily as an anchor system. As a result, proper drainage is not only recommended, it’s absolutely essential. Pot up your ‘flaming sword’ in a very porous medium that allows for sufficient air circulation and prevents water logging. Pick up a prepackaged mix for bromeliads or prepare your own. Mediums used for orchids or succulents are also fine choices.

Stylish and low-maintenance, Vriesea splendens can tolerate a wide range of light levels but does best in brightly-lit spots. Direct sun is not necessary, but some early morning or late afternoon sunlight is handled very well and seems to be appreciated. Avoid midday, summer sun and dark areas; low light can be endured for an impressively long time, but should not be the plant’s permanent location.

Average room temperatures between 15°C (60°F) to 24°C (75°F) are satisfactory but if you have a young plant that has not flowered yet, it may require temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and above to bloom. The standard advice for this Bromeliad and many of its cousins is that humidity levels of 40 to 60 percent are the preference. And while I certainly encourage you to provide above average humidity if you can, it’s not crucial. Vriesea splendens, at least from my experience, does not seem to be bothered by lower levels. I have not noticed any signs of discontentment (brown leaf tips or leaf margins, curled leaves), even during the winter when humidity levels plummet.

When it comes to watering, there are two sacred words that you must commit to memory: NEVER OVERWATER. Improper watering practices are usually the cause of most problems associated with this lovely plant. Prone to root rot, keeping a Vriesea splendens too wet for too long and too often will damage and eventually kill it. Water the compost only when it dries out considerably and then water thoroughly until it runs out of the bottom. Never allow the pot to sit on a saucer full of water; dump the excess right away. You can also water this Bromeliad exclusively through its funnel of leaves and eliminate the soil entirely by growing it attached to driftwood or in hydroculture. Keep the tank (cup) filled with water, flush it every 1 – 2 months and refill with fresh water.

If your plant is growing in ideal conditions, feed it about once or twice a month with a general liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half strength or less. Do not fertilize during the winter months or if your plant is growing in poor lighting. You can add the fertilizer inside the funnel of leaves, apply it through the medium or fill a spray bottle with a very weak solution and mist the leaves lightly.


If you’ve done some research on this plant, you probably have discovered a couple of things: 1) That you can’t get the story straight about the care requirements of this plant; the information is ambiguous at best, lacking at worst and 2) Many of the resources available paint the Vriesea splendens as quite challenging, much more difficult than the other Bromeliads commonly sold as indoor plants.

Obviously, I can’t do anything about the lack of information, aside from contributing some on my own blog that may help my readers better care for their plant. But I can do something about the second point, which discourages growers from attempting to grow a Vriesea splendens, by telling you that this is not a difficult plant - at all. Just go ahead and pick one up. You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Today's Trivia – New Year

Well, of course this week’s trivia is all about the New Year. What else were you expecting?

Sheesh.

Let’s get to it...

New Year’s Day is the oldest known holiday celebrated by mankind. The Babylonians first observed it about 4000 years ago. They celebrated it in March around the beginning of spring and the festivities lasted for eleven days.

The people in China believe that there are evil spirits that roam the earth. So on New Year they burn crackers to scare the evil spirits. The doors and windows of every home in china can be seen sealed with paper. This is to keep the evil demons out.

In 153 B.C., the Roman senate voted to have January 1st to be the 1st day of the New Year, but the emperors kept messing with the calendar. When, in 46 B.C., Julius decreed the New Year to begin on January 1st, it meant that one year had to be 445 days long in order to get in synch with the sun.

In Brazil most people wear white clothes on New Year's Eve to bring good luck and peace for the year that will follow.

The Scottish tune Auld Lang Syne actually stands for “Old Long Ago”, written by Robert Burns. The song was not published until 1796 well after his death.

In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-size male doll with things that have bad memories or sadness associated with them, and then they dress it up in old clothes from each family member. At the stroke of midnight, this 'Mr. Old Year' is set on fire.

The New Year in Scotland is called Hogmanay. Barrels of tar are set afire and rolled down the village streets to symbolize that the old year is burned up, and the New Year is going to begin.

Late on the evening of December 31, people of Japan eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles called "toshikoshisoba" ("year-crossing noodles") and listen for the sound of the Buddhist temple bells, which are rung 108 times at midnight. The sound of these bells is said to purify the listeners of the 108 sins or evil passions that plague every human being.

The New Year in Swaziland is called “Newala”, for the harvest festival and fruits ceremony. The Ngwenuama (lion) King is believed to have supernatural powers and exemplify success and fruitfulness.

In Greece children leave their shoes by the fireside on New Year's Day (also the Festival of Saint Basil in Greece) with the hope that Saint Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts.

The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. Followers review their past and vow to do better. Children are given new clothes and New Year loaves are baked to remind people of harvest time.

In Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, those with hopes of traveling in the New Year carry a suitcase around the house at midnight. Some even carry it around the block to ensure traveling at greater distances.

In Spain people eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (one each time the clock chimes) on New Year's Eve. This peculiar ritual originated in the twentieth century when freak weather conditions resulted in an unseasonable bumper harvest of grapes. Not able to decide what to do about so many grapes at Christmas time, the King of Spain and the grape growers came up with the idea of the New Year ritual. Spain also follows the custom of the three kings. Children put their shoes out on the windowsill or balcony so they may be blessed with toys and gifts from them.

Tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was started by ancient Greeks around 600 B.C. They would carry a baby around in a basket to honor Dionysus, the God of Fertility and symbolize his annual rebirth.

And finally, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let It Snow

A friend who I’ve known since we were 12 years old moved to Greece (lucky her!) over fifteen years ago where she’s enjoying lots of sunshine, warm weather and the beach. But no snow. And although she doesn’t miss the long, hard Canadian winters, she does miss seeing snow. Especially around Christmas.

So.

She asked me to snap some photos of the recent snowfall in my city and post them on Facebook for her to see. And because she’s such a good friend, I did. I slipped into my boots, bundled myself up, stepped out into the cold and snapped photo after photo. What I go through for my friends, eh?

Anyway, I’d like to share some of the photos taken in my snow-covered garden with you today. In case any of you are missing – or craving – snow.

Shall we?

Here they are...

Thank goodness the bird feeder has a roof to keep the snow off the food!

Canadians don't leave footprints in the sand; they leave them in the snow.

The flower bed on the right side of my home.

We didn't get a lot of snow, so you can still see the grass.

What's left of my neighbour's hydrangea blooms.

The flower beds in back of the house.

This is one of my rudbeckias.

Mini roses.

The only evergreen tree in my backyard.

I believe this is my morden sunrise.

I love how red these berries are. Great contrast with the snow.

An old bloom on my morden sunrise.

Another pretty berry picture.

Old blooms from one of my perennials.

The flower bed in the middle of my yard is now covered in snow.

More Canadian footprints in the snow.

Do you get snow where you live?

Words Of Wisdom


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Yet another delicious chicken recipe I’d like to share with you all. It’s worth making...

Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Ingredients

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 chicken leg quarters, skinned
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 pimiento-stuffed green olives, halved
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 c fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

How to make it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine first 7 ingredients, marinate at room temperature 30 minutes.

Pour marinade into 13x9-inch baking dish. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Arrange chicken in baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with olives and lemon slices. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until thermometer registers 165 degrees.

Remove chicken from dish; keep warm. Strain sauce over a saucepan, reserving solids. Bring sauce to a boil; cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thick. Stir in olives and garlic; serve with chicken and lemons. Top with parsley.

Mmmm...mmmm...enjoy!

(Note: I didn’t have olives on hand, so I didn’t add any. The chicken was delicious even without the olives. Just so you know.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

100 Things I’m Thankful For

"Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don't unravel."
~ Author Unknown ~

As 2011 approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past 12 months and how fortunate I am that, once again, it’s been a wonderful year. With that in mind, I decided to sit down and make a list of small – and big – things that I’m thankful for. It was a little challenging at first trying to come up with 100 things, but once I got started, I was on a roll. Because, my goodness, there is no end to how many little things there are to bring us happiness.

So without further ado, here are 100 things I’m thankful for, in no particular order...

001 - My beautiful children
002 - My loving husband
003 - The wonderful childhood I experienced
004 - Great parents
005 - Good friends
006 - My sweet and fuzzy pets
007 - A comfy home
008 - Plenty to eat
009 - Being healthy
010 - My lovely garden
011 - The critters that visit my backyard
012 - The lovely city I live in
013 - Good neighbours
014 - Living in a free society
015 - My love of reading
016 - Vacations I’ve been able to take
017 - Quitting smoking (It’ll be 5 years in February!)
018 - My electric blanket!
019 - Hot showers
020 - Indoor plumbing (Trust me; the whole world doesn’t enjoy this!)
021 - The beautiful parks all around me
022 - Music
023 - Full moons
024 - Sunny days
025 - My pocket-sized digital camera
026 - My blog
027 - Blogs I enjoy visiting
028 - My photo albums full of memories
029 - Homemade food
030 - The Christmas cards I receive
031 - Gardening magazines
032 - Books
033 - The internet
034 - Email
035 - Dollar stores!
036 - Garden centers!
037 - Cookies straight from the oven
038 - Homemade bread
039 - BBQ
040 - My ancestry
041 - Flip flops
042 - Taking walks with hubby
043 - Scented candles
044 - Dancing
045 - Reading glasses!
046 - Pizza
047 - Houseplants
048 - My washing machine
049 - Hot soup on a cold day
050 - A starlit sky

051 - My sense of humor
052 - Popcorn
053 - Bubble baths
054 - My faith
055 - Hiking trails
056 - The colour blue
057 - Morning coffee
058 - Walking barefoot on a sandy beach
059 - Rainbows
060 - The honking of geese announcing their departure (or arrival)
061 - Electricity
062 - My computer
063 - Vacuums!
064 - Comfortable shoes
065 - Family gatherings
066 - Out of town visitors
067 - A good haircut
068 - Ice cream
069 - Canadian Maple Donuts (At Tim Hortons)
070 - Sunsets and sunrises
071 - Christmas
072 - Buffet restaurants
073 - Bookstores!
074 - Watermelon (my absolute favourite fruit)
075 - Cookbooks
076 - Pina Coladas
077 - Peanut M&Ms
078 - Air conditioning
079 - Heating
080 - A first snowfall
081 - Good movies
082 - Old comedies
083 - Cheesecake
084 - My treadmill
085 - The smell of bacon cooking
086 - Afternoon naps
087 - Dragonflies (way cool!)
088 - Christmas lights
089 - Fog
090 - Throw blankets
091 - Friendly cashiers
092 - Great service at a restaurant
093 - My vivid (and wacky) imagination
094 - Iced cappuccino (Tim Hortons)
095 - Eating dinner as a family every night
096 - Garden perennials
097 - Sunflowers
098 - Finding happiness in the simple things
099 - Twizzlers
100 - Today

I’m sure I can come up with hundreds of other things for this list, but that’s enough for now.
What are you thankful for?

Let’s end this post with a beautiful song that takes me back in time, and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Single Photograph

I snapped a few photos in my backyard when we had our first snowfall a little over two weeks ago. And this was, by far, my favourite:

I love the bright red colour of these berries against the snow. It’s such a pretty contrast.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Have a wonderful day, everyone...

Saturday Silliness

I wasn’t sure if anyone would be around on Christmas day, but just in case, here’s a little humor to start the day off right.

Let’s start with some funny pictures...


...and finish with these jokes...

God’s Christmas Email

Just before Christmas God was looking down at Earth and saw all of the evil that was going on. He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out. So he called one of His best angels and sent the angel to Earth for a time. When she returned she told God, “yes it is bad on Earth, 95% is bad and 5% is good”.

Well, he thought for a moment and said, “Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another point of view”. So God called another angel and sent her to Earth for a time too. When the angel returned she went to God and told him “yes, the Earth is in decline, 95% is bad and 5% is good”.

God said this was not good. So He decided to email the 5% that were good. He wanted to encourage them, give them a little something to help them keep going.

Do you know what that email said?

Ah, so you didn't get one either?

[grin...]

The Good Pastor

Pastor Tony is walking down the street on Christmas eve when he notices Larry, a small boy, trying to press the doorbell of a house across the street. However, Larry is very small and the doorbell is too high for him to reach.

After watching the boy's efforts for some time, Pastor Tony moves closer to Larry's position. He steps smartly across the street, walks up behind the little fellow and, placing his hand kindly on the child's shoulder, leans over and gives the doorbell a solid ring.

Crouching down to Larry's level, Pastor Tony smiles kindly and asks, 'Now what, my little man?'

To which Larry replies with a beaming grin, 'Now we run!'


Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Favourite Christmas Song

"The spirit of Christmas is a joyous reminder
of our responsibilities as people.”
~ Johnny Mathis ~

I wanted to share my favourite holiday tune with all of you.



Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

And all through my house
All the creatures were stirring
Except for the mouse...

(Because a mouse would never dream of stirring when cats and ferrets are around. Not unless it wants to be eaten. Yes, folks, ferrets eat mice just like cats do. In case some of you don’t know that. And, no, ferrets are not rodents; they eat rodents. In case you didn’t know that either.)

Anyhow, so since the ferrets are up waiting for Santa, I asked if they wanted to say anything to all of you this Christmas Eve. And they do. So let’s hear from them...

Bailey? This is your second Christmas with us. Are you excited?

Um, I don’t think so. Sorry, Bailey.

Spaz, this is your first Christmas all around. What are your thoughts about it?

Hmmm...we’ll just have to wait and see what Santa decides about that. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. [Snort...]

I was going to stop here but the cats threatened to bring down the Christmas tree if I didn’t include them in this post, so let’s hear from them as well. [Not like we have much choice...]

Nacho, technically this is your second Christmas, but only your first one with us. Are you happy about sharing the holidays with all of us this year?

A girl’s gotta have fun, Nacho. Especially at her cat’s expense!

Mocha, like Spaz, this is your first Christmas all around. What do you think about it?

He he he... Can’t say I blame you!

Incidentally, the reason why the ferrets didn’t mind me adding Christmas hats on their heads with my photo editor is because they can’t see the hats in the pictures. They have poor eyesight, so you can get away with stuff like that...

[Giggle... Snort...]

Hope you're all having as wonderful a Christmas Eve as I am!

Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’

If you’ve grown houseplants for as long as I have, and a huge variety of them to boot, you’ll have undoubtedly formed strong opinions about most of them. And these opinions will be biased, of course, because they’re mostly based on your own experiences that have either been successful or disastrous. Regardless of what the general consensus is about a plant, if it’s growing well for you, your opinion of it will be positive. And if it isn’t growing well, you’ll tell whoever is willing to listen to you ramble on about houseplants that [insert plant name] sucks.

For example, I do not have fond memories of Helix hedera, commonly known as English ivy, so I will not sing it praises. Not that it would sing praises for me; what with the harsh way it ended up in the trash. My dislike of ivy has nothing to do with the fact that it has a reputation as being difficult (although it certainly does), just the fact that it’s difficult, really difficult, with me. The same is true about Gardenias and Alocasias; two beautiful plants that I’ve tried numerous times to grow (unsuccessfully, might I add), despite the warning that they’re rated ‘challenging’ by most plant growers. You see, popular opinion doesn’t matter to me; I need to experience each plant myself before I can give them up. Not that I always learn from my experiences, mind you. The jury is still out on the Alocasia; about whether I’m going to try again. Yeah, yeah, I know: “A fool and his money are soon parted”. That would be me.

Then there are other plants that have a reputation of being easy, and yet I can’t seem to get a grip on them. Philodendrons under my care, for instance, lose too many leaves or end up with some infestation or another. Of course, it is possible that I cause this grief since I move them around so much and tend to forget about them; in fact, I change their location so often (to make room for other plants) that they don’t know whether to put out new growth or drop leaves and go dormant. Why do I treat them so badly, you ask? Well, I suppose I take them for granted, assuming that they can handle unfavorable conditions better than most plants, which for the most part they can, but not always. Especially when they’re being continuously abused.

Let’s not forget about the ‘oh so easy to grow’ Aloe Vera, which I’ve tossed I don’t know how many of in the trash. Is there ever enough sun for these in my house? Uh…NO. Without sufficient light, they don’t grow properly, and I eventually get tired of caring for them when there are other plants that need my attention, so I end up throwing them away. Terrible, isn’t it? I mean, it’s really not the plant’s fault that I don’t have the ideal conditions, especially its need for very bright light. And perhaps I shouldn’t bring one of these home to begin with. But. I. Can’t. Resist. The. Temptation. They always look so beautiful at the greenhouse.

And don’t even get me started on the plant that ends up on many ‘easy-to-grow and-perfect-for-beginners’ lists: Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily). Easy? Pfft. Puh-lease. This has to be the most neurotic plant on earth. Can you say drama queen? In fact, if I was new to houseplants, this would not be the plant I’d start with; it would discourage me from growing anything else. Although it will stick around even in dire conditions (it won’t die easily), it will whine about every little thing. For this princess, it’s always too dark or too light or too dry or too humid or too warm or too cold. And it will faint regularly, leaves sprawled dramatically over its pot, when it’s under-watered or over-watered, leaving you juggling the watering can in frustration. But alas, I do love them, and end up bringing one after another home with me.

Alright, so it’s obvious that I have strong opinions about certain indoor plants that I’ve grown over the years. And although it’s difficult to find a houseplant that can fit the ‘perfect plant in almost every way’ category, it’s not impossible. Because in all my years of growing houseplants, I have come to realize that there is such a plant. And it goes by the name of Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’. As far as I’m concerned this is the perfect plant, and if you are new to houseplants, start with this one. It will encourage you to keep going.


Caring For The Silver Queen

One of the most widely-used plants in residential and commercial areas, the Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' has an undemanding temperament and grows happily with minimal care. Resistant to disease and able to adapt to conditions that are detrimental to most other houseplants, this is the perfect candidate for the most inexperienced or negligent houseplant owner. Even pests are not much of an issue with this lovely plant. It’s not that they’re immune to infestations; it’s that they’re not easily prone to them. Because of their resilience, Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' is usually neglected, often quite severely. And yet, this accommodating plant hangs in there, for better or worse. But why just have it hanging on when it can be looking its best with proper care.

Here’s what it needs:

One of the first things people assume about this plant is that it doesn’t need much light, and although it will survive in low light areas, the leaves of this plant require adequate light to maintain their decorative variegation. And the plant itself needs to be placed in a location that offers medium light for it to thrive. A position right up against a north or east window is ideal. The direct sun of south and west locations is not recommended, but a little early morning sun from an eastern location is.

Like many plants, this Aglaonema is no different when it comes to water requirements; it wants a perfect balance. Extremely susceptible to root rot from over-watering, it’s important to try and find that balance, although there’s no need to fret over it; this is a really tough plant that won’t keel over easily, even with watering habits that are less than desirable. As long as the watering blunders are infrequent, Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ will survive them. If you’re ever unsure about whether your plant needs watering or not, give it one more day; it’s better to under-water than over-water.

If you live in an area where humidity is astonishingly low, usually during the winter months when the heating system is running, there’s no need to worry; Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ is one plant that hardly, if ever, makes a fuss about humidity levels. But even though this beautiful houseplant won’t grumble when the air is dry, try to provide extra humidity when the levels plummet severely. Your plant will appreciate it, and you will discourage spider mites from moving in. In addition, gently wipe the leaves now and then to remove dust. Regular cleaning will help the plant breathe better, make the leaves shine and remove a few pesky critters.

To eliminate water woes, convert your Aglaonema ‘Silver Queen’ to hydroculture; this plant is one of the most remarkable performers in this alternative growing style. Conversion is quick and painless; the plant hardly takes notice as you switch it from soil to clay pellets. Make sure to wash the roots free of soil to avoid the possibility of rot. Water roots should appear fairly quickly, anywhere between 4 – 8 weeks.

Perhaps the only thing that needs a little more attention is temperature. Although this highly-tolerant plant does well in a variety of settings, it does not do well with the cold. It prefers the warm and fuzzy feeling of a reasonably warm room away from cold drafts. It also does not like dealing with temperatures that fluctuate abruptly so don’t place it in a room where your thermostat will go up and down like a yo-yo. Be careful when placing your Aglaonema 'Silver Queen' on a windowsill or near a door or window where the temperature is lower during the cold season. Keep your plant warm.

Although some sources will stress that this plant is a heavy feeder, that certainly has not been my experience with it. I’ve discovered that like many of its Aglaonema cousins, the ‘Silver Queen’ is a fairly slow grower and therefore does not need to be fed very often. My personal recommendation is to go easy on the fertilizer; give your plant a dose of liquid fertilizer, diluted to half recommended strength, no more than once a month during the spring and summer periods. I’d even go so far as suggesting that you feed only 2 – 3 times during the entire active growing season. Do not feed your plant at all during the late fall and throughout the winter, or if the plant is growing in poor lighting.


That’s all there is to it folks; the needs of this plant are simple and straightforward. It isn’t difficult to succeed with a plant that will put up with slapdash care. Even so, don’t just keep this lovely plant alive, care for it properly and encourage it to thrive.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today's Trivia – Christmas

It’s two days before Christmas, so you just know what this week’s trivia is going to be...

All About Christmas

Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday. This tradition began in 1836.

In the Ukraine, if you find a spider web in the house on Christmas morning, it is believed to be a harbinger of good luck! There once lived a woman so poor, says a Ukrainian folk tale, that she could not afford Christmas decorations for her family. One Christmas morning, she awoke to find that spiders had trimmed her children’s tree with their webs. When the morning sun shone on them, the webs turned to silver and gold. An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees.

The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year.

Many theologians estimate that Jesus wasn't born on December 25 but sometime in September between 6BC and 30AD.

California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon is the leading producer of Christmas trees.

Charles Dickens' initial choice for Scrooge's statement "Bah Humbug" was "Bah Christmas."

Christmas trees are edible. Many parts of pines, spruces, and firs can be eaten. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts, or pine cones, are also a good source of nutrition.

Although now mostly vegetarian, in Victorian times, mince pies were made with beef and spices.

In ancient Scandinavia, mistletoe was associated with peace and friendship. That may account for the custom of "kissing beneath the mistletoe".

Carols began as an old English custom called wassailing, toasting neighbours to a long life.

English Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas between 1647 and 1660 because he believed such celebrations were immoral for the holiest day of the year.

Gold-wrapped chocolate coins commemorate St Nicholas who gave bags of gold coins to the poor.

The abbreviation Xmas isn't irreligious. The letter X is a Greek abbreviation for Christ.

In 1999, residents of the state of Maine in America built the world's biggest snowman. He stood 113 feet tall.

In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. In order to get rid of them, salt or an old shoe is burnt. The pungent burning stench drives off, or at least helps discourage, the Kallikantzaroi. Other techniques include hanging a pig’s jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can’t sneak down the chimney.

In many households, part of the fun of eating Christmas pudding is finding a trinket that predicts your fortune for the coming year. For instance, finding a coin means you will become wealthy. A ring means you will get married; while a button predicts bachelorhood. The idea of hiding something in the pudding comes from the tradition in the Middle Ages of hiding a bean in a cake that was served on Twelfth Night. Whoever found the bean became "king" for the rest of the night.

In Sweden, a common Christmas decoration is the Julbukk, a small figurine of a goat. It is usually made of straw. Scandinavian Christmas festivities feature a variety of straw decorations in the form of stars, angels, hearts and other shapes, as well as the Julbukk.

Louis Prang, a Bavarian-born lithographer who came to the USA from Germany in the 19th century, popularized the sending of printed Christmas cards. He invented a way of reproducing color oil paintings, the "chromolithograph technique", and created a card with the message "Merry Christmas" as a way of showing it off.

The Christmas tree displayed in Trafalgar square in London is an annual gift to the UK from Norway since 1947. The Norwegian spruce given is a token of appreciation of British friendship during World War II from the Norwegian people.

Nearly 60 million Christmas trees are grown each year in Europe.

Popular belief holds that 3 wise men visited Bethlehem from the east bearing gifts. However there is no mention in the bible about the number of wise men who visited.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented for a US firm's Christmas promotion in 1938.

The "Urn of Fate" is part of the Christmas celebrations in many Italian households. The Urn of Fate is brought out on Christmas Eve. It holds a wrapped present for everyone. The mother tries her luck first, then the others in turn. If you get a present with your name on it, you keep it; otherwise, you put it back and try again.

The poinsettia is a traditional Christmas flower. In Mexico (its original birthplace), the poinsettia is known as the "Flower of the Holy Night".

The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.

The twelve days of Christmas are the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany (6th of January) and represent the length of time it took for the wise men from the East to visit the manger of Jesus after his birth.

US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world's presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.

The typical image we have of Santa Claus dressed in red clothes with white fur trim is an amalgamation of cultural input over many years. Some people claim the image of Santa we know today is from Coca-cola advertising, but this simply isn't true.

There are 13 Santas in Iceland, each leaving a gift for children. They come down from the mountain one by one, starting on December 12 and have names like Spoon Licker, Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.

The world's tallest Xmas tree at 221 feet high was erected in a Washington shopping mall in 1950.


Say 'Merry Christmas' around the world!

Argentina: Feliz Navidad
Brazil: Boas Festas
China (Mandarin): Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Croatia: Sretan Bozic
Denmark: Glædelig Jul Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Finland: Hyvää Joulua
France: Joyeux Noël
Germany: Froehliche Weihnachten
Greece: Kala Christouyenna
Hawaii: Mele Kalikimaka
Iceland: Gledileg Jol
India: Shub Naya Baras
Iraq: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Ireland: Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Italy: Buone Feste Natalizie
Japan: Shinnen omedeto
Korea: Sung Tan Chuk Ha Lapland: Buorrit Juovllat
Netherlands: Vrolijk Kerstfeest
New Zealand (Maori): Meri Kirihimete
Philippines: Maligayang Pasko
Poland: Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
Portugal: Boas Festas
Russia: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Serbia: Hristos se rodi
Spain: Feliz Navidad
Sri Lanka: Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Sweden + Norway: God Jul
Thailand: Sawadee Pee Mai
Vietnam: Chung Mung Giang Sinh
Yugoslavia: Cestitamo Bozic

And finally...

Some Of The Names For Santa Around The World

Afghanistan: Baba Chaghaloo
Albania: Babadimri
Armenia: Gaghant Baba
Belgium: Pere Noel
Brazil: Papai Noel
Chile: Viejo Pascuero
China: Dun Che Lao Ren
Denmark: Julemanden
Egypt: Papa Noël
France: Pere Noel
Finland: Joulupukki
Germany: Weihnachtsmann
Hungary: Mikulas
Iran: Baba Noel
Iraq: Vader Kersfees
Ireland: Daidí na Nollaig
Italy: Babbo Natale
Japan: Hoteiosho
Norway: Julenissen
Poland: Swiety Mikolaj
Portugal: Pai Natal
Romania: Mos Craciun
Russia: Ded Moroz
South Africa: Vader Kersfees
Spain: Papá Noel
Sweden: Jultomten
Turkey: Noel Baba
United Kingdom: Father Christmas

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cactus In Bloom

I bought this little plant during last year’s holiday season, and although I didn’t expect it to bloom this year because I didn’t give it any special care or anything, it did so anyway. And right before Christmas, too! You gotta love a holiday plant that does that.


How a tiny little thing like this produces such bold, beautiful blooms is beyond me. When one of my houseplants flowers for me, I am simply overjoyed, especially this time of year when the outdoors (in cold regions like mine) is severely lacking of greenery.

This cute little plant sits in my kitchen where it receives a lot of light, but not too much direct sun. It’s obviously very happy in that spot, and that’ll be its home permanently. Maybe next year, it’ll bloom for me again – right before Christmas! One can certainly hope.