Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seattle- LotusLand

I recently flew down to San Bernadino, California to get Matt, my fiance, and bring him home! After 16 months of working away Matt finally gets to come home. So to celebrate we decided to drive the Pacific Coast Highway and enjoy some sights along the way. Matt set up an amazing surprise for me our first day on the road. I got no clues except, "think of one of your hobbies and blow it way out to the extreme". Well, that was a tricky clue. What was it? On our first day on the PCH we hit Santa Barbara, CA. He scheduled us a tour of Lotus Land. I was floored! 

Lotus Land is a huge garden maintained on a 37-acre estate and includes everything from ferns to cactus to palms. They have incredibly rare plants. One palm we saw was the last of its species on the planet!! They nicknamed them, "The Bachelors" because Madame Ganna Walska (the woman who cultivated this amazing collection starting back in 1941) had three male plants put in her garden and now they are the only ones left. In the world! The garden was a complete wonderland filled with gorgeous flowers, trees, baby animals, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Lotus Land was a huge inspiration for me and I hope for any fellow gardeners it will be for you too. I immediately wanted to get home and garden! To spark your interest I have included about a million pictures for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy, I sure did. I have the best man on the planet, this was the perfect surprise. Not all the flowers are labeled name-wise. Another thing about Madame, she hated signs and a lot of these plants were new to me, but I did my best.

Me & Matt in the lemon groves

A grove of olive trees

 Buddha in the Japanese Garden

One great thing about Madame's plan for the gardens was her eccentric need for shocking change. We walked from that lush, water-filled Japanese Garden straight in to an Aloe Garden. Dry and arid it was full of every type of aloe. Such a change but it made you so much more appreciative of the climates and available variety on this amazing planet. Madame was quite the collector.
A peek at the Aloe Garden

The Lotus Pond

Hydrangeas. My fav, I know they're typical (and recently I learned symbolizes frigidity) but I love them

The single lotus bloom of June

Catcus; isn't it amazing the beauty and the thorns?

Gorgeous black succulents (they were the size of dinner plates)

A Dragon Tree (the sap used to be used to dye the wood of violins that red color)

How funny, huh?

A peek at the Butterfly Garden

Lemon Trees

The Cactus Garden

The blooms on the cacti are the most beautiful

The Topiary Garden

One of the owners of the home prior to Madame installed these gorgeous irrigation runs all throughout the estate. All were tiled beautifully and were Matt's favorite part of the gardens.

An irrigation run and fountain at the far end

The Succulent Garden

An update on my garden soon. Nothing died while I was gone (yay for cloudy/rainy Seattle) and in fact, my zucchini sprouted a strong, thick looking sprout. Pics soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chicago: Growin, growin, growin keep that garden growin, raw-hide

Sorry I have been off the map these past couple weeks. I don't really have much excuse since I'm just sitting at home applying for work, but let's pretend I've been really busy and just couldn't get away to update the blog.

So I have finally graduated! And passed my RD exam! And am officially unemployed, but hopefully only for a short time. Can't wait to join the working world. It finally just sunk in that I am done with school which means no homework, or thesis, or studying. That is just glorious.

The Marigolds are blooming!

Speaking of glorious, take a look at how my veggies are doing! We have been getting a lot of rain lately which the plants have loved so a lot of growth has sprung up. I was worried for a little bit that my little, tiny transplants wouldn't make it because they were so small. Sometimes I forget that I nurtured these plants from tiny seeds.

Yummy lettuce.

The strawberry plant has blooms!! Yay!

Bean plant!
 Look how big the Roma tomato plant is!  This guy is just flourishing. I feel like this one gets bigger every day.

There are also some zucchinis on the zucchini plant.

Look how funny this one grew. Weird...

And don't worry Dina- this is as big as my oregano is and I planted it at the same time as my Roma tomato!

Geez oregano, you are so lame.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Seattle- Coming Home to a Surprise

I spent the weekend in Chicago to see Devon graduate (yay, Devie!) and left my plants to the Seattle weather Gods. And what happened? Total awesomeness! Apparently I just need to leave my plants alone.

Spinach Take II, looking healthier right?

And remember the transplants kindergarten-style? They are kickin'!! I should clarify. The oregano looks ok but no bigger. It's a slow plant, according to Devon. The basil looks great.

Basil babies

The lettuce is coming back for another harvest

And the most exciting? Thyme! It's already blossomed! So exciting! 


With the aphid infestation behind me I'm just thrilled at how hardy mint is. Delicious and it looks so healthy.

Mint plant thriving

The catnip is flourishing!

Maybe what I need is just to not look at the plants for a few days and I'll be surprised. Well here's hoping! A long four day drive from SoCal to Seattle to bring my fiance home!!! It may be awhile until the next post. Hopefully it isn't all about dead plants when I get back. Wait and see!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Seattle- Crisis Averted

Ok. I'm pretty sure the infestation crisis has been averted. After much research I determined the mint was infested with aphids. That super sucks. They say that you can squirt them with water and they'll just slip off but with all of the articles and other blog posts I read through they all said if you had an infestation as bad as mine (as in millions of bugs) you just have to gut the plant ensuring those bugs don't get full and move on to your other delectables. GUT THE PLANT?!!! Oh no! So I called Devon and whined about it and then gutted it. I then checked all of my other plants (no aphids, yay!) and mixed a water bottle of soapy water. Apparently this is a great fix to keep future aphids away.

Fun fact: When worried that you may get aphids look for ants heading to your plant. Aphids secrete a "honeydew nectar" that ants think is delicious! Ants will actually herd aphids like shepards to sheep in order to harvest their nectar to take back to the queen. Gotta love the internet! (and yes, I had ants about a week before this infestation). 

Luckily mint is an incredibly resilient plant. I wanted to try and preserve the roots hoping it would come back and look! I actually have new growth already!!

A tiny mint leaf coming back to life!

After ensuring there were no other aphids on any of the plants (a few days later by the way. I was scratching like I was infested for at least a day) and harvested the lettuce! I had a ton and really needed to eat it before it flowered. I made an amazing salad to eat with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. It had avocado and heirloom tomatoes on it and I ate it up, looked at my empty plate and OOPS! I forgot to take a picture! Well, trust me, it was delicious.
 Lettuce leaves after washing

Next project were the seeds that never worked, remember? Well the basil and the oregano sprouted! The chives just grew mold, so I'm not really sure how to get those started. I'm thinking of putting the few seeds left in to the freezer for a few days and then re-planting them. 

Cute little basil sprouts

But of course there are always problems. I got some little cups to plant the transplants in and every time I would grab for a sprout it would tear! It was as if the sprouts actually netted through the wet papertowel. But I am a creative girl, so I just tore the papertowl around a sprout and planted them together. :) 

 Basil sprout now transplanted stage I

And I lined the cups up on the dining room table to get some sun and continue to grow before I move them outside.
Three cups for basil and one for oregano

I know you've heard me complain about how amazing Devon's spinach is compared to mine. I'm 100% sure mine was stunted. It's been over a month now and this is it?!

 Yellowed spinach

So I ripped them all out, supplemented with new soil and re-planted. Hopefully these guys will be kickin'! And since I was working on that I also planted the thyme and zucchini. Can't wait to see these blossom. Also the cilantro is ready to eat! Good thing Matt will be home in 1.5 weeks to eat it!!!!