Sunday, July 25, 2010

What I learned today

First of all, it's really hot. Soul-grabbing hot.

This is Darado (a.k.a. the Luck Dragon) and he's my favorite dog in the world. What's he doing in this picture?He's pushing himself into the floor and making himself as flat as he can get because I just asked him if he wants to go outside. It's that hot.

The second thing I learned today is that Elephant Ears (Colocasia esculenta) aren't great cut flowers. Here are some I cut this morning:What's really interesting is that they have a clear sap that turns the water the color of weak tea. I looked it up, and they are high in oxalic acid; I'm going to assume that's what's causing this reaction.

I was curious to know if there was any way to keep these leaves turgid (I used to grow flowers for wholesale florists in Georgia), so I checked my copy of Specialty Cut Flowers (Allan Armitage) to see if he had any information about it. Nope.

Some flowers have to be handled in a certain way to extend the post-harvest life. This includes searing the cut end with a lighter, plunging in hot water or splitting the stem. I decided to try to seal the ends with a lighter and hot water- it was obvious that they were losing turgidity quickly.And here's what I found. The jar on the top shelf is the original container. I just cut those and put them in regular water. The jar on the bottom left had their stem ends seared with a lighter, closing off the vascular system and holding in the sap. And the stems on the bottom right were put into hot water. I think the water was too hot though cause it made the stems mushy like overcooked asparagus.
The water became a little stained in the two "treatments," but not like the original jar. They didn't wilt as fast either. Next time, I'm going to submerge the stem ends in hot water for 30 seconds, then put into room temperature water.

That's all! Nothing ground-breaking.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I love the South. It's so cute.

I pulled into a parking lot a couple of weeks ago to look at a map as I was cutting across South Carolina. And as luck would have it, it was the parking lot of this restaurant: It made me smile. So cute.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's happening again: Southern Blight

After a long week of scouting in the blistering heat, I'm exhausted. Under-hydrated and wilted. I'm like a newly planted Hydrangea in full sun.

I don't have it in me to write anything, but I'm re-posting my information about Southern Blight 'cause I'm seeing it everywhere. For all you nurseries growing hostas: You need to be checking for this disease. If you have it, carefully dispose of the plants (and pots) and drench with the fungicide Prostar (flutolanil).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blue Jay Update: The Final Chapter

I have a classic Aries personality. This means I have a fiery streak that sometimes can't be managed. I like to think of myself as pretty laid back.....but push me to the limit and I can boil over. Therefore, I have had to use my label maker (aren't they the best?!) to create a note that says, "When in doubt, don't." It is taped above the screen on my laptop so that I don't send regrettable e-mails. I highly recommend it.

But today, I'm going to ignore my own advice and post this last picture of Baby. I haven't shown it before because it's just not a good idea to have a bird loose in the car. But this is how Baby got into my life. She was a fledgling in need and she arrived by car, squawking the entire time. When Chris turned the steering wheel, she simply rode the wheel around until it was returned to center. She insisted that she sit on the wheel and it is impossible to argue with a hungry bird!

I'm happy/sad to say that Baby has become a wholly independent Blue Jay.

I still see her occasionally along the edge of the woods. She's easy to recognize because she has a distinguishable habit of rubbing her beak back and forth on pine branches, as if she is sharpening a knife on a whetstone. And she still answers with a distinctive "Meh" when I call her. But she doesn't come to me anymore.

It's good. The chances of a car-riding, hand-fed bird surviving in the wild are slim, but she's doing it. Blue Jays are tenacious like that. I think Baby must be an Aries, too.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You want this plant: Supergreen Giant Liriope

If you've been battling to keep 'Evergreen Giant' Liriope alive the last few years, you probably have a disease called Phytophthora Crown Rot. This disease has become a major problem in the coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Each summer, right about now, these plants begin to turn yellow and collapse at the soil line. Here is a picture from a nursery:Once a Liriope is infected, it is not likely to recover. We suffer from this at nurseries year after year and have yet to find a reliable or economical cure.

Fortunately, there is a replacement on the market called 'Supergreen Giant.' Dark green foliage, upright habit and evergreen- this plant has all of the great characteristics of 'Evergreen Giant' and it is disease resistant.

You will pay a little more for this plant because it has been patented and therefore there are royalty fees. But it is worth every penny! The amount of money you will save on fungicides and labor and replacements make this a no-brainer.Landscapers/Landscape Architects/Landscape Designers: You can get this plant in 1's and 4-inch pots at Parson's Nursery in Georgetown. If you are specifying 'Evergreen Giant' on landscape plans, start making the switch to 'Supergreen Giant.' It is a superior cultivar.

Nurseries: You need to start offering this plant.

Homeowners: You need to ask for this by name at your local garden center.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ahhhh, summer.

Well, I've baited the crab trap with menhaden I caught last year. These oily bait fish have been in the freezer since I caught them with my aunt's cast net.
And tonight, we're having fresh local shrimp, squash and onions (or maybe a squash casserole), creamed corn and tomatoes. Lazy Girl peach cobbler for dessert. I love summer.

While it may be hard to work this time of year, I must admit this is when I feel most alive. Long days, warm water, shrimp jumping. It's the only time of year when it's okay to be barefoot and a little dirty. Clothing and conversation seem so much more casual and easy. It's good.

Working outside as I do, I have a different summer experience than most. For one, I wear long pants and huge straw hats to work, shying away from the tank tops and shorts everyone else has on. And any exposed skin is coated with three distinctive layers: sunscreen, perspiration and a final dusty layer of potting soil. While at times this is absolutely unbearable, most days I secretly love it. You know how great a shower feels after you've been camping for a few days? I get that experience every day in the summer.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and I'll teach you how to throw the cast net! I'm not that good at it (one time I threw the whole thing in the water and forgot to attach it to my wrist first. Not good!), but I plan to be a pro by summer's end.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How very southern

I think we can all agree that the New York Times is a pretty sophisticated newspaper. So I was beyond excited when I read that you can make your own perfume using a mason jar, some fragrant flowers and a splash of Everclear. After all, if the NYT is going to give detailed instructions for do-it-yourself tinctures, it's gonna work. Right?
Picture from NYT article

So, it all happened like this. I was on a Beechcraft airplane (I really was. Amazing.) and someone had thoughtfully put an array of the day's newspapers on the seats. On the front page of the Home section of the NYT was an article called "A Fragrant Harvest: Summer's Pleasures, to Inhale Anytime." As coincidence would have it, I had just seen an exhibition at Longwood Gardens about perfumes and scented flowers. Fate!

The article was well-written and witty, profiling natural perfumers from across the United States. It talked about the process of making botanical perfumes and the scents these people were creating. Very Etsy of them.

So, anyway, on page eight of that section, they had a side bar with instructions on how to make perfumed tinctures. Using a mason jar and pure grain alcohol. I was hooked.

Armed with this new information and a sister up for an adventure, I asked for the keys to my dad's convertible and told him that we were off for the liquor store over in Walnut Grove. When asked why I plainly stated that I was going to make perfume. After receiving the obligatory rolling of eyes from my parents, Kelley and I set off for a bottle of 190-proof with the top down.

It was about the hottest day of the year (I think this fact my my story all the more southern) and by the time we got to the store, my wind-whipped hair was the texture of garden twine. We did a once-over and couldn't find the Everclear, so I was forced to talk to the lady behind the counter.

Me: "Do you sell Everclear?"
Lady: "Yes, we keep it behind the counter."
Me: "I would like some, please."
Lady: "You want Golden Grain instead? It's a dollar cheaper and it's the same thing. You makin' Hunch Punch?"
Me: "No, I'm makin' perfume. The cheaper one'll work."
[Note: It was around $9.00 for 750 ml bottle.]

At this point, all was quiet in the store and the lady gave me a look like I was out of my mind. I'm sure as soon as I left she said, "Now that's just country."

Kelley and I laughed all the way back to my parents' house in Jersey. We took the long way home.

I won't bore you with the details of the perfume experiment. I tried Magnolia root (as per Jenks Farmer's suggestion), Rosemary and Gardenia. Kelley tried Lemon peel. And it all smelled like "Possession of Alcohol by a Minor." That's what I've decided to name it.
As it turns out, when you mix Golden Grain with anything, it sucks. And I don't know if this is just further proof that I'm getting old, but after seeing the warning label on front of the bottle, I don't know that it should be legal for consumption.This stuff is so toxic, it's illegal in 14 states.

Well, that's the story of how I tried to make perfume. Although it didn't yield the results I had imagined, it was a lot of fun to do. Here's the link to the New York Times article from June 10, 2010: Making Flowers into Perfume. I'm sure that I just didn't take the time to do it right- one of y'all should try it and let me know. My guess is that I should have splurged for the Everclear! Next time.

P.S. Etsy is a really great website that sells handcrafted things. It's worth a look.


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