Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Silliness

Ready for some humour? Let's do it...



Ways To Describe Someone Who Is...Well...Not Too Bright...

- An intellect rivaled only by garden tools.

- As smart as bait.

- Doesn't have all his dogs on one leash.

- Doesn't know much, but leads the league in nostril hair.

- Elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor.

- Forgot to pay his brain bill.

- His belt doesn't go through all the loops.

- If he had another brain, it would be lonely.

- Missing a few buttons on his remote control.

- Proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.

- Receiver is off the hook.

- Surfing in Nebraska.

- An experiment in Artificial Stupidity.

- A few beers short of a six-pack.

- A few peas short of a casserole.

- The cheese slid off his cracker.

- Warning: Objects in mirror are dumber than they appear.

- Couldn't pour **** out of a boot with instructions on the heel.

- He fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.

- Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

- Not playing with all 52 cards.

- A few sandwiches short of a picnic.

- A few feathers short of a full pillow.

- Somewhere, a village is missing its idiot.

- A few links short in a chain.

- A door without a handle.

- A few bits short of a byte.


Dear Abby

Letters Dear Abby was at a loss to answer...

Dear Abby, A couple of women moved in across the hall from me. One is a middle-aged gym teacher and the other is a social worker in her mid twenties. These two women go everywhere together and I've never seen a man go into or leave their apartment. Do you think they could be Lebanese?

===========

Dear Abby, What can I do about all the Sex, Nudity, Fowl Language and Violence on my VCR?

===========

Dear Abby, I have a man I can't trust. He cheats so much, I'm not even sure the baby I'm carrying is his.

===========

Dear Abby, I am a twenty-three year old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years. It's getting expensive and I think my boyfriend should share half the cost, but I don't know him well enough to discuss money with him.

===========

Dear Abby, I've suspected that my husband has been fooling around, and when confronted with the evidence, he denied everything and said it would never happen again.

===========

Dear Abby, Our son writes that he is taking Judo. Why would a boy who was raised in a good Christian home turn against his own?

===========

Dear Abby, My forty year old son has been paying a psychiatrist $50.00 an hour every week for two and a half years. He must be crazy.

===========

Dear Abby, I was married to Bill for three months and I didn't know he drank until one night he came home sober.

===========

Dear Abby, My mother is mean and short tempered. I think she is going through mental pause.

===========

Dear Abby, You told some woman whose husband had lost all interest in sex to send him to a doctor. Well, my husband lost all interest in sex and he is a doctor. Now what do I do?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Houseplant Pet Peeves

Ah, pet peeves; those minor annoyances that, although quite insignificant, can instill great frustration in anyone, even the most easygoing of us. We all have a few of our own ‘insignificant’ irritants that grind on our nerves. And I’m no exception. Below are a few things that wind me up:

1. Unnecessary double parking. What is it with people that double park when there are parking spots available? And they quite often do it between cars right and left of them, which makes it difficult for other drivers to get by.

2. Stopping in ‘no stopping’ zones. Why do people stop in clearly defined ‘no stopping’ zones that absolutely forbid drivers from pulling over even for five seconds, causing other drivers to stop unnecessarily?

3. Shopping cart abandonment. Would it kill some people to take a few extra steps to properly put away their shopping cart instead of leaving it in the middle of a parking lot, many times in front of another car?

4. Dirty tables at fast food joints. Yes, I know it’s easier to be a slob but how much energy is needed to move used food containers, wrappers, utensils and napkins from the table to the trash can that’s, oh, about ten feet away?

5. The aisle hogs. No matter how spacious an aisle is in a store, some people assume it’s all for them. They block the way by parking their shopping carts (and themselves) right smack in the middle and then look annoyed when someone says “excuse me” so that some room can be made (grudgingly) for them to pass.

The above is a small sample of some of my pet peeves; there are others but not all that many. For the most part I’m a fairly easygoing person that isn’t bothered by a great deal. But I’m certainly not immune to the aggravation caused by people who are selfish, inconsiderate, lazy, arrogant and just plain dim-witted.

Hello! No the universe does not revolve around - or for - you. Yes your mother told you that you are special when you were growing up, and that’s all very nice. But what she didn’t tell you is that the rest of the world doesn’t care what mom said. So pick up after yourself, share the space with other people and respect the rules that apply to everyone - yes, even you. And walk a few extra steps from time to time; it might do you some good.

So that’s that. [Breathe in...hold it...breathe out]

Along with the day-to-day nuisances, I have pet peeves that revolve around the houseplant world, which I will share with you today. The focus is entirely on retailers who sell indoor plants, not on individuals who care for them, so I won’t grumble about a neighbour, friend or family member’s deplorable plant care habits. At least not today.


My Top 10 Houseplant Pet Peeves

1. Artificial flowers glued on cacti. Okay, so this isn’t a major issue. Truth be told, I find it more ridiculous than annoying. And somewhat entertaining. Why? Because some novice plant growers honestly believe that the fake flowers are real. Imagine, as a novice, how being able to keep your cactus in bloom for years makes you feel. Damn proud, I would imagine. Hmmm. I guess for the beginner this is a good thing.

2. No care instructions. Now this really bothers me. Would it be a big deal for greenhouses to include a little care information, which may help extend the life of a plant? This is very useful, especially for beginners who need a little guidance. Most plants I see for sale include nothing, which is bad enough. But then there’s the totally lame effort that includes a label that reads something like this: Light, little water, fertilize. Oh yeah, that helps.

3. Unidentified plants. In addition to no care instructions, most plants are not identified. At the very least, if a store/greenhouse is going to purposely exclude care information, they should provide the plant’s name so that the buyer can research about care information on the internet or in a book.

4. Pebbles glued on top of soil. Yes they look pretty, but you’ll find out soon enough that small rocks glued on top of your plant’s pot can cause problems. A couple of negative aspects include: 1) you can’t verify if your plant needs to be watered since you can’t see the soil, so you may end up over or under-watering and 2) the pebbles are glued so tightly together that air is prevented from circulating properly; this will cause the soil to stay wet longer than it should, which will lead to root rot.

If you’re going to buy one of these decorative setups, consider removing the layer of glued pebbles from the surface as soon as possible.

5. Pots without drainage. Even the most experienced houseplant owners have trouble managing houseplants in containers without drainage, so I certainly would not recommend this type of growing environment to anyone. Proper drainage is extremely important. Without it, you can’t leach the soil every now and then to remove excess soluble salts. And your chances of over-watering are extremely high.

Visually appealing containers without proper drainage don’t have to be eliminated entirely; use them as cache pots instead. Pot up your plant in a container with drainage holes and slip it inside your preferred pot.

6. Inexperienced staff. While I certainly don’t expect the convenience store that sells a few potted plants to have people on hand that are reasonably knowledgeable in houseplant care, I do expect this from large retailers that have greenhouses in (or attached to) their stores; places like Home Depot, Lowe’s or Rona, for example.

Large, fully-stocked greenhouses that sell a multitude of plants and plant products should have at least one person who is experienced enough to answer your questions. I’m not asking for someone with a degree in botany, just someone with some basic – but relevant – knowledge who is able to assist shoppers, many of which are clueless in plant care.

7. Painted foliage. You can now find Poinsettias with blue, hot pink, purple, orange, lilac and fuchsia leaf colours. Although quite striking, they are not shades that are produced naturally by the plant. Rather, the leaves of ‘painted Poinsettias’ are sprayed with floral paint; some of them even have a sprinkling of coloured glitter added on top. Apparently, this fad that started awhile back in Europe and making its way here in North America is very popular with younger generations that are quite fond of the dramatic colour schemes.

Even though I know that the paint is not harmful to the plant, I’m not a big fan of this latest trend, especially when it includes glitter, which I can’t stand in general. I don’t have a logical argument to offer that can explain why I’m so opposed to this; it just feels wrong in so many ways. Maybe it’s taking marketing just a little too far for my plant taste. [Shrug] Or maybe I’m just too old to appreciate it, since I’m no longer part of the ‘younger’ generation.

[Sigh]

8. Boneheaded bagging. To whom it may concern: No, you do not shove, toss or drop a helpless little plant into the same bag as the 3.78-litre jug of windshield washer fluid any more than you put sandwich bread in the same bag as the 10 pound sack of potatoes. And please don’t roll your eyes and grunt at me when I ask you to put my little plant in a separate bag to prevent its untimely death.

9. Contaminated soil. Although this is a rare occurrence, when it does happen it makes me want to run out of my house screaming. I would much rather eat a large plate of nausea-inducing, hairy, slimy okra (which I suspect is nothing more than a mutated green bean that some farmer successfully introduced as ‘new discovery’ after his crop went bad) than to find millipedes in my newly-purchased bag of soil that – according to the packaging – should have been sterile.

10. Dead plants lying around. Here’s an experience I had a few years ago: A retailer advertised in their weekly flier that they were having a big sale on all the plants in their greenhouse. The prices were enticing so I went. When I got there, I noticed that there were some dead and dying plants amongst the healthy ones; this demonstrated to me that the plants were shoddily cared for, which had me wondering if I was going to end up with a lemon of a plant with all the apparent negligence in the place. In the end I bought nothing.


While this doesn’t bother me all that much personally because it is the retailer’s problem, I can’t help but question the wisdom of it. Note to companies: For crying out loud, at least get rid of the evidence of neglect – before the customers arrive.


That concludes my top 10 pet peeves about houseplants. Do you have any of your own?

Ferrets And Hairballs

Like cats, ferrets lick themselves while grooming. And like cats, the swallowed hair can cause hairballs, which, in the case of ferrets, can cause intestinal blockage. To avoid this, brush your fuzzy regularly and give him treatments of a hairball laxative to help prevent this problem from happening.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tune Time – Everybody Hurts

This song by R.E.M. was released as a single in 1993 and peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100, #4 on the UK Singles Charts and #3 on the French Singles Chart. It was originally released on the band’s 1992 album ‘Automatic for the People’.

This is the ideal song to listen to when you’re in the mood for something mellow, or when you’re having a hard time and feeling a little melancholic. Everybody hurts sometimes, so hold on...


Today's Trivia - Ants

Ants are one of the most fascinating creatures on earth. They have survived and thrived for millions of years, and exhibit many of the characteristics and behaviours that we associate with intelligence and civilization. Below are some facts about these amazing insects.


- Scientists have estimated that ants have been living on the earth for more than 100 million years.

- Army ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight with their mandibles.

- When a worker ant finds a source of food, it leaves a trail of scent to attract other ants in the colony to it.

- Some ants form "super colonies", massive communities of ants that can stretch for thousands of miles.

- Ants lived alongside the dinosaurs.

- Ants started farming long before humans.

- The Slave-Maker ant (Polyergus Rufescens) is so named because it raids the nest of other ants and steals their pupae. Once the pupae hatch, they are made to work as slaves within the colony.

- Ants sometimes herd or tend to insects of other species, like aphids or leafhoppers.

- The total biomass of all the ants on Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of all the people on Earth.


- Certain ant species defend plants in exchange for food and shelter.

- Soldier ants use their heads to plug the entrances to their nests and keep intruders from gaining access.

- Male ants often have only one role; mating with the queen. After they have performed this function, they may die.

- Ants look very much like termites, and the two are often confused by homeowners.

- Ants are social insects that typically live in structured nest communities located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees.

- Carpenter ants nest in wood and can be destructive to buildings.

- Ants are the main insects in tropical forests, living in colonies of anything from 20 to millions.

- Ant colonies are all female. Most species have one or several queens which lay the eggs. Hundreds of soldier ants guard the queen, while smaller workers build the nest and care for the young.

- Wood ants squirt acid from their abdomen to kill enemies.

- Army ants march in huge swarms, eating most small creatures they meet.


- Groups of army ants cut any large prey they catch into pieces which they carry back to the nest.

- Over 10000 known species of ants exist in the world.

- The average life span of an ant is 45 to 60 days.

- The ant has very strong legs which help it to run very quickly.

- Ants appear in shades of green, red, brown, yellow, blue or purple.

- An ant uses its antenna for touch as well as smell.

- Ants normally range from 2 to 7 mm in length. The carpenter ant is an exception to the rule, as it can stretch to 2 cm, or even an inch.

- There is at least one queen in each ant colony.

- An ant has two stomachs, in one stomach it stores food for itself and in the other it stores food that is to be shared with other ants.

- An ant has the largest brain amongst insects. It is said that the processing power in an ant's brain and a Macintosh II computer might be similar.


- Some ants are able to sleep seven hours a day.

- Ants are mostly omnivorous, that is, they eat other insects, seeds, oils and bread.

- Queen ants are provided with wings at birth. They lose these wings after they fly off to start new colonies.

- Worker ants are given the responsibility of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it into the rubbish dump.

- Ants are related to wasps and bees. They evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago.

- Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organized colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals.

- Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands.

- Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems.

- A new worker spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the queen and young. It then graduates to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging.

- Contrary to popular belief, some ant nests have multiple queens while others can exist without queens.


- The winged male ants, called drones, emerge from pupae along with the breeding females (although some species, like army ants, have wingless queens), and do nothing in life except eat and mate.

- Species that have multiple queens may have a queen leaving the nest along with some workers to found a colony at a new site; a process akin to swarming in honeybees.

- Ant colonies can be long-lived. The queens can live for up to 30 years, and workers live from 1 to 3 years. Males, however, are more transitory, and survive only a few weeks. Ant queens are estimated to live 100 times longer than solitary insects of a similar size.

- Ants are active all year long in the tropics but in cooler regions they survive the winter in a state of dormancy or inactivity.

- Ants attack and defend themselves by biting and, in many species, by stinging, often injecting or spraying chemicals like formic acid.

- Some worker ants maintain the hygiene of the colony and their activities include undertaking or necrophory, the disposal of dead nest-mates.

- Many animals can learn behaviours by imitation but ants may be the only group apart from mammals where interactive teaching occurs.

- Ants may form subterranean nests or build them on trees. These nests can be found in the ground, under stones or logs, inside logs, hollow stems or even acorns. The materials used for construction include soil and plant matter. Some ant species are nomadic and do not build permanent structures.

- Most ants are generalist predators, scavengers and indirect herbivores.

- Foraging ants travel distances of up to 200 meters (700 ft) from their nest and usually find their way back using scent trails. Some ants forage at night. Day foraging ants in hot and arid regions face death by desiccation, so the ability to find the shortest route back to the nest reduces that risk.


- Unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking. Some species are capable of leaping.

- Ants identify kin and nest mates through their scent, which comes from hydrocarbon-laced secretions that coat their exoskeletons. Any ant that enters a colony without a matching scent will be attacked.

- Myrmecophilous (ant-loving) caterpillars of the family Lycaenidae are herded by the ants, led to feeding areas in the daytime, and brought inside the ants' nest at night. The caterpillars have a gland which secretes honeydew when the ants massage them.

- Ants perform many ecological roles that are beneficial to humans, including the suppression of pest populations and aeration of the soil.

- In some parts of the world (mainly Africa and South America), large ants, especially army ants, are used as surgical sutures.

- Although most ants survive attempts by humans to eradicate them, a few are highly endangered.

- It has been estimated by E.O. Wilson that the total number of individual ants alive in the world at any one time is between one and ten quadrillion.

- Ants classified as pests include the pavement ant, yellow crazy ant, sugar ants, the Pharaoh ant, carpenter ants, Argentine ant, odorous house ants, red imported fire ant and European fire ant.

- The tiny pharaoh ant is a major pest in hospitals and office blocks; it can make nests between sheets of paper.

- Anthropomorphized ants have often been used in fables and children's stories to represent industriousness and cooperative effort.

- In the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, ants are held up as a good example for humans for their hard work and cooperation. Aesop did the same in his fable The Ant and the Grasshopper.

- In parts of Africa, ants are considered to be the messengers of the gods.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

And The Garden Keeps Growing On

I must admit that this has not been the best month of April we’ve ever had; there hasn’t been a lot of sunshine and the daily temperatures haven’t been that great. But at least the garden continues to keep growing on, which is providing me with some hope that there are better days up ahead that will be filled with beautiful colours from my garden – and every garden around me. Let’s hope so.

So here’s what’s happening in my garden these days, starting with the first flower display from my perennials. I wondered which plant (aside from the spring bulbs) was going to flower first; turns out that Pulsatilla vulgaris wins first prize.


Isn't this just the prettiest flower?
The daffodils (trumpet mix) in the back of the house are still putting on a pretty good display, but there’ll be a new kid on the block fairly soon. The tulips (purple flag) that were planted in the same flower bed with them are starting to wake up.




I. Can’t. Wait. To. See. These. Flowers.



My Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, given to me by my dear friend, Joy, last year, is eagerly springing back to life. I am thrilled about that; it’s one of the best garden plants I’ve ever grown.


Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’ is on its way. A beautiful plant that is also so easy to grow.


Clematis 'Niobe' is making an appearance. I’ve never grown Clematis in the past, so I have no idea if I’ll succeed or fail with this plant. In any case, it’s worth a try.


Lilium 'Star Gazer' is growing along nicely. I’m looking forward to the beautiful flower display. I just hope that I don’t have too many problems with those nasty red lily beetles that devour lilies.


My Anemone hybrida (x) 'Honorine Jobert' is beginning to grow, but since it’s not supposed to flower until late summer, I can only enjoy its pretty foliage for now. That’s okay.


I expected Aquilegia 'McKana Hybrids' to be the first to bloom since it began growing way before any other plant, but so far, nothing. Waiting patiently for further development.


The spring bulbs in front of the house have decided that it’s warm enough to come out and play. I’m really looking forward to seeing these blooms because in addition to daffodils and two types of tulips, I’ve also planted crocus and hyacinth in the flower bed. So it’ll be a nice display.



Last year we planted a red maple tree (Acer rubrum) at the end of our yard. It seemed so tiny and vulnerable that I worried it wouldn’t handle the harsh winter very well. Well, it not only handled the winter well, it was one of the first trees in our backyard to bud this spring. Way to go, little one.





That’s it for today. There is a lot more going on in the garden, but it can all wait for another day. Happy gardening, folks.

Words Of Wisdom


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quick Brown Rice And Mushroom Pilaf

We all know that brown rice is healthier for you, but unless you add a few ingredients to it, it’s not very tasty. In fact, brown rice on its own has as much flavour as cardboard. This recipe adds so much good taste to brown rice that you’ll never want to go back to the white kind.


Quick Brown Rice And Mushroom Pilaf

What you need:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 4 oz.)
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups instant brown rice, uncooked (I used regular brown rice, not instant)
1/2 cup PLANTERS Walnut Pieces, toasted (I omitted the nuts)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
(I added some corn and peas to the recipe)

Make It:

HEAT oil in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add onions and celery; cook 3 min. or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.

ADD mushrooms; cook 3 min. or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth; stir. Bring to boil.

STIR in rice; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 min. Remove from heat; let stand 5 min. Add walnuts and parsley; mix lightly.


Original recipe can be found here.


Monday, April 25, 2011

How Can Anyone Resist A Fragrant Cloud?

I had no intention on buying anything yet, mostly because I haven’t felt motivated to do so with the bleh weather we’ve been having, but when I ran across the rose bushes on display in WalMart’s garden centre, and noticed that one of them was called ‘Fragrant Cloud’, well, no need to tell you that I just couldn’t leave the store without it. How can anyone resist a plant with a name like that.

So here it is:

The flowers are supposed to smell...um...heavenly.


I have no idea how this will turn out. There isn’t that much information about ‘Fragrant Cloud’ on the internet (maybe it goes by another name?), so I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants with this particular plant. But...meh... What is a garden without a little adventure?

It’s been planted, and as you can see from the picture, it’s doesn’t look like very much right now. But it’ll grow.


At least there are signs of growth. That’s good.


I’ll post an update about this lovely rosebush later this summer. Let’s hope for the best.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter


Wishing you all a blessed and happy Easter...

Leaf Buds

"You will find something more in woods than in books.
Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters."

~ St. Bernard ~



Nothing says spring in Canada like leaf buds on a maple tree... 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Silliness

Let’s get right to this week’s humor...


Top ten excuses for not doing homework:

I accidentally divided by zero and my paper burst into flames.

It was Isaac Newton's birthday.

I could only get arbitrarily close to my textbook. I couldn't actually reach it.

I have the proof, but there isn't room to write it in this margin.

I was watching the World Series and got tied up trying to prove that it converged.

I have a solar powered calculator and it was cloudy.

I locked the paper in my trunk but a four-dimensional dog got in and ate it.

I couldn't figure out whether I am the square root of negative one or i is the square root of negative one.

I took time out to snack on a doughnut and a cup of coffee. I spent the rest of the night trying to figure which one to dunk.

I could have sworn I put the homework inside a Klein bottle, but this morning I couldn't find it.


Signs Your Cat May Be Planning To Kill You...

- Seems mighty chummy with the dog all of a sudden.

- He actually *does* have your tongue.

- You find a stash of "Feline of Fortune" magazines behind the couch.

- Cyanide pawprints all over the house.

- You wake up to find a bird’s head in your bed.

- As the wind blows over the grassy knoll in downtown Dallas, you get a faint whiff of catnip.

- Droppings in litter box spell out "REDRUM."

- Catch him with a new mohawk looking in the mirror saying, "Mew looking at me? Mew looking at me?"

- Takes attentive notes every time "Itchy and Scratchy" are on.

- You find blueprints for a Rube Goldberg device that starts with a mouse chased into a hole and ends with flaming oil dumped on your bed.

- Has taken a sudden interest in the wood chipper.

- Instead of dead birds, leaves cartons of Marlboros on your doorstep.

- Ball of yarn playfully tied into a hangman’s noose.

- You find a piece of paper labeled "MY WIL" which says: "LEEV AWL 2 KAT."

... and the Number 1 Sign Your Cat May Be Planning to Kill You ...

- Now sharpens claws on your car’s brake lines.


You Know You're in Trouble When...

Your accountant’s letter of resignation is postmarked Zurich.

You have to hitch hike to the bank to make your car payment.

Your suggestion box starts ticking.

Your secretary tells you the FBI is on line 1, the DA is on line 2, and CBS is on line 3.

You see your stockbroker hitchhiking out of town.

You see the captain running toward the railing wearing a life jacket.

They pay your wages out of petty cash.

You make more than you ever made, owe more than you ever owed, and have less than you've ever had.

You tell the barber what you think about his prices before you get your haircut.

Getting there is half the fun and three-fourths of the vacation budget.

The simple instructions enclosed aren't.

A black cat crosses your path and drops dead.

You take an assertiveness training course and you're afraid to tell your wife.

The plumber floats by on your kitchen table.

Your pacemaker has only a thirty day guarantee.

The candles on your cake set off your smoke alarm.

The pest exterminator crawls under your house and never comes out.


Let's end this post with a funny photo...


Friday, April 22, 2011

Health Benefits Of Houseplants

Below is a link to a concise and interesting article about the health benefits of houseplants that I want to share with all my readers.

15 Fabulous Health Benefits of House Plants


Chicken Gizzard Plant

Houseplants have scientific (botanical) names and common names, and almost every book I’ve owned and read lists both of them. The scientific name is typically more prominent but in many of my books it’s the other way around. In fact, a few of them list the common name on top, in big bold letters, and place the scientific name below, in smaller, lighter font. Of course, the scientific names are used for the alphabetical order in either case, but it’s still surprising that the common names are occasionally given the spotlight since they’re not very reliable.

There are no set rules to common names; it’s mostly regional. An indoor plant can have more than one common name, depending on where in the world it’s grown. Additionally, the same name may be shared by a number of different plants that are from entirely different families. And common names are not set in stone; they can be modified and completely changed as time passes.

In any case, a lot of people for whom houseplants is a hobby, not a profession, tend to use common names when referring to their plants. And although I agree that if you are growing plants as a hobby you should be free to call your plants whatever you damn well please, if you are selling plants to the public or supplying the public with information about them, the focus should be on scientific/botanical names. Common names can lead to misinformation, which can be misleading. For example: if your pet or child had a bad reaction after eating parts of a plant, the attending physician would need to know the scientific name, not the common name, which may refer to more than one plant, some of which may not be toxic at all. Well, you get the picture.

But despite the unreliability of common names, there are some that have been around for so long, and used by so many people in so many different areas around the world, that they may as well be set in stone. For example, most people use the term Pothos instead of Scindapsus Aureus, Epipremnum Aureum, Epipremnum Pinnatum, Scindapsus Pinnatum or any of the other 100 or so aliases that this commonly-grown plant is known by. Then there’s the phenomenally-popular Saintpaulia Ionantha that is referred to as African Violet. Even organizations about this plant use the common name, which, in my opinion, sounds better. And what about the most celebrated holiday plant, the Poinsettia? Does anyone call it Euphorbia Pulcherrima? How many are even familiar with that name? And Schlumbergera instead of Christmas Cactus? Highly unlikely.

Some plants even resemble their common names. When I brought home a Beaucarnea Recurvata, my younger daughter said “The way the plant’s leaves hang looks like a ponytail” Hence, the common name: Ponytail Palm. Some common names represent the flowers that a plant produces, like the Lipstick and Goldfish plants. There are plants with animal references in their names (Burro's Tail, Elephant Ear Philodendron, Fishtail Palm, Panda Plant, Snake Plant, Spider Plant, Squirrel's Foot Fern and Zebra Plant) and others with human references (Fingernail Plant, Mother Fern, Old Man Cactus).

Plants can have geographical/regional/cultural names: Amazon Lily, China Doll, English Ivy, German Violet, Indian Laurel Fig, Jamaica Sago, Japanese Aralia, Kentia Palm, Madagascar Palm, Mexican Fan Palm and Swedish Ivy. Even food-related names: Asparagus Fern, Beefsteak Plant, Milk Bush, Pickle Cactus, Strawberry Begonia, Swiss Cheese Plant and Watermelon Peperomia.

Common plant names can also be fun (Caricature Plant, Freckle-Face), cute (Baby Tears, Polka-dot Plant), cool (Dragon Tree, Earth Star), spiritual (Hindu Rope, Moses in the Cradle, Angel Wing Begonia), mocking (Mother-In-Law's Tongue) and, sometimes, very unimaginative (Red Ivy, Striped Dracaena).

So, as you can see, there are a variety of names used for a variety of plants, and most of them are pleasant enough, or flattering, or at the very least, respectable. Except for one. In all my plant growing years, the most unflattering common name I have run across is ‘Chicken Gizzard Plant’, which belongs to the brightly-coloured Iresine Herbstii, mainly the ‘Aureo-Reticulata’ cultivar. Personally I think it’s a terrible name for an otherwise charming plant. I can certainly understand applying a word or term that parallels the colors or structure (leaf or stem shape) of a plant, but why this one? Surely whoever gave this plant its common name could have come up with something that didn’t include gizzard (a muscular organ in the digestive system of some animals that grinds and digests food) in it, no?

Yes, the common name stinks. But the plant is very pretty and well worth learning about. So, let’s do that.


Caring For A Chicken Gizzard Plant

There are a few Iresine Herbstii cultivars, but my favourite continues to be the ‘Aureo-Reticulata’. With its apple green leaves, yellow (or white) veins and bright red (or hot pink) stalks and stems, this flamboyantly-coloured plant looks like it belongs in the psychedelic 70s. And it just may have been part of that era, because according to a couple of folks slightly older than me, the Iresine Herbstii was one of the plants grown in terrariums in the 1970s, which was a huge fad. I personally can’t recall if it is so, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me with such an ornamental, humidity-loving specimen.

Native to South America, the Chicken Gizzard plant requires plenty of light to sustain its brilliant colours, so choose a spot that provides very bright light. Ideally, this sun-loving plant should receive some direct sunlight (full to filtered), at least 3 – 5 hours a day. When grown in shade, the vibrant colours fade, the plant becomes lanky and the stems may become brittle. Depending on where you live, and what quality of light is available in your home, you may have to protect against the summer’s scorching midday sun. Watch for signs of discontentment. For example, if the light is too intense, the leaves will look washed-out and the edges will brown.

Pot up your Iresine in a well-draining, porous soil and keep it moist at all times during the active growing season. Water thoroughly whenever the soil surface feels dry. In the winter time, be more careful with the watering can; water moderately and allow the soil to dry out more. Do not allow the plant to dry out completely any time during the year.

Dry air is not something that is tolerated very well, so keep the humidity levels above average for optimal health. Place the plant on a pebble tray, keep a humidifier nearby or grow your Iresine in a terrarium, which it will flourish in. Average household temperatures are fine. Many resources recommend that you do not expose this plant – which is very sensitive to the cold – to temperatures below 10°C (50°F), but my personal suggestion is not to expose to temperatures below 15°C (59°F).

Iresines, especially if grown in areas without adequate light, will eventually become tall and leggy. You can avoid this by pinching back regularly to keep the plant bushy. In addition, trim back young plants a number of times to encourage them to branch. You can also start new plants with cuttings that root easily in soil and in water.


A Chicken Gizzard In Hydroculture

Transplanting to hydroculture is simple and rapid. Wash the roots well to remove all traces of soil and trim them back by 1/3 to encourage the development of water roots. Instead of potting up the plant in clay pellets during the conversion period, place it directly in a glass of water until new roots develop. Because the plant is so sensitive to dryness, and it roots so effortlessly and rapidly in water, symptoms of stress such as wilting, leaf loss and yellowing of leaves (possible during the conversion period) are greatly reduced by keeping the roots constantly moist. (How do I know this? I tried it. Half the stems were placed in a glass of water, the other half directly in clay pellets. The former showed very minor signs of stress while the latter struggled to get through the conversion.)


Despite its unflattering common name, this plant is undoubtedly one of the most eye-catching choices for a sunny windowsill. Fairly easy to grow, and generally trouble-free, you really can’t go wrong with an Iresine Herbstii ‘Aureo-Reticulata’ – the chicken gizzard plant.

Fuzzies Can Be Messy

I’ve learned from experience (the hard way) that ferrets can make a terrible mess in their cage, especially with food and water, which they enjoy playing with. My advice to you (if you’re planning to get one of these fuzzy animals) is to use heavy ceramic bowls that can’t be tipped over, or to purchase containers that attach to the side of the cage (like the ones in the photo below). Make sure to keep the water and food bowls/containers close together; ferrets enjoy drinking water while they eat.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tune Time - Hit The Road Jack

This is the perfect song to listen to when you are getting ready to ditch someone in your life that just ain’t ‘no good’...

Love the beat, love the lyrics.


Today's Trivia - Animals

This week’s trivia is another round of useless but interesting information about animals.


- There are more than one million animal species on Earth.

- There are more insects in one square mile of rural land than there are human beings in the world.

- The world's termites outweigh the world's humans 10 to 1.

- The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand, weighing less than a penny.

- The Wild Turkey is the only bird with a beard.

- The venom of the king cobra is so deadly that just one gram of it can kill 150 people.

- The venom of a small scorpion is much more toxic than the venom of a large scorpion.

- The United States has never lost a war when donkeys were used. (Is this really true? I should check further...)

- The sting from a killer bee contains less venom than the sting from a regular bee.

- The starfish is one of the few animals that can turn its stomach inside-out.

- Hummingbirds can't walk.

- No one has ever been able to domesticate the African elephant. Only the Indian elephant can be trained by man.

- Anteaters prefer termites to ants.

- Spotted skunks do handstands before they spray.

- Spiders have transparent blood.

- Spider monkeys like banana daiquiris.

- Some species of fish have voices.

- Some ribbon worms will eat themselves if they can’t find any food.

- Hummingbirds can weigh less than a penny.

- Armadillos can get leprosy.

- Elephants are the only animals that can't jump.

- Eagles mate while airborne.

- Ducks will only lay eggs early in the morning.

- Drivers kill more deer than hunters.

- Dragonflies have six legs but cannot walk.


- Dragonflies can travel up to 60 mph.

- Domestic cats hate lemons or other citrus scents.

- Baby beavers are called kittens.

- Dolphins nap with one eye open.

- At 188 decibels, the whistle of the blue whale is the loudest sound produced by any animal.

- Dogs and cats, like humans, are either right or left handed.

- Dogs and cats consume over $11 billion worth of pet food a year.

- Despite the hump, a camel's spine is straight.

- Crocodiles swallow stones to help them dive deeper.

- Crocodile babies don't have sex chromosomes; the temperature at which the egg develops determines gender.

- Contrary to popular belief, possums, squirrels, chipmunks, and mice do not carry rabies.

- Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not only sweat by salivating. They also sweat through the pores on their feet.

- Chained dogs are 3 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs.

- Cattle are the only mammals that pee backwards.

- Cats make over 100 different vocal sounds; dogs can make about ten.

- Human birth control pills work on gorillas.

- How does a shark find fish? It can hear their hearts beating.

- Honeybees have a type of hair on their eyes!

- Greyhounds have the best eyesight of any breed of dog.

- Black Whales are born white.

- Goldfish lose their color if they are kept in dim light or are placed in a body of running water, such as a stream.

- Given the opportunity, deer will chew gum and marijuana.

- Giraffes are unable to cough.

- Giant Panda Bears give birth to a 4 ounce Baby Panda.

- Ants will enslave other ants, keeping them captive and making them do work for the colony.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pretty Spring Bulbs

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring”
~ Bern Williams ~

The perennials in the garden are waking up slowly, but it’s the spring bulbs that have been center stage so far. So far, the daffodils have been the most eager to get going. But I’m expecting the tulips to rise in this same flower bed (in back of our home) within the next month. Hopefully they’ll awaken while the daffodils are still around because it would create a nice contrast (the tulips are a purplish colour), but I’m not holding my breath. Still. Better some flowers than none.













The spring bulbs in the front of the house are just getting started, so I’ll be posting about them in the future. In that flower bed, there are also some crocuses and hyacinth bulbs, to I’m really looking forward to that.