Slow flowers

I’m giving some serious thought to becoming the kind of person who has fresh flower arrangements in the house. I’ve wanted to be that lady for a long time but have never been much good at keeping flat surfaces free of paper, books, and other random bits of stuff that make the addition of a vase full of flowers, which will sooner or later drop their own trash on the table, feel overwhelmingly chaotic. I also have cats. One’s favorite sport is Smack Things Off and the other has Rocket Butt, which is a super fun and contagious affliction that manifests in lightspeed skids from one flat surface to another three rooms away.Mums, lacy carrot, and spiraea

But last week I was lucky enough to hang out with Debra Prinzing, founder of the Slow Flower Movement (and website) and author of Slow Flowers and The 50 Mile Bouquet, and she, being a fresh-flowers-in-the-house sort of person — and a real beauty to boot, made the idea very appealing.
When Debra mentioned the commitment she made when she was working on those books to create a flower arrangement every week for a year using locally sourced and sustainably grown stems, I found myself biting the hook. (For more information on why we should care about where our flowers come from, here’s an excellent rant.)

Aside from clearing surfaces and discouraging kitteh mayhem, this week’s arrangement was too easy. I didn’t have to buy anything. There were plenty of pickings (I snagged a bunch of Robin Hollow Farm mums) left over from Debra’s Eco-Floral Design workshop and we haven’t had a frost yet so I grabbed plectranthus and spiraea foliage from the backyard and ended up with three little bouquets. Perfect subject matter, as it happens, for my return to painting. (Will I up the ante and pledge to make paintings of each arrangement? Maybe.) Next week, after our first polar vortex melts the annuals and strips branches, I’ll get to really sink my teeth into the challenge of finding/buying locally grown stems.

mums, asters, hypericum and spiraeamums, etc in oil

Do you bring flowers into the house? Do you pick from your own garden? Do you support your local flower farmers? Are you up for the challenge?

Literary kitteh (or the BBC Big Read)

I’ve been a little bit sidetracked lately and if this were a blob that I felt under obligation to write, I’d apologize for my absence from it.  But as it is, I will just offer up this diverting and completely non-garden related meme that I just encountered on one of my time sucking forays within the facebooks:
The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.  (copy and paste to do your own)

I have put two x’s by the ones both Z and I have read and one x if only one of us has read it.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (xx)
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (xx)
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (x)
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (x)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (x)
6 The Bible – ()
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (x)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell (x)
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman ()
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (x)
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott (xx)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (x)
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (xx)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ()
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier (x)
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (xx)
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk (x)
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (x)
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger ()
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot (x)
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell ()
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald (x)
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens ()
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy ()
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (xx)
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh ()
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky ()
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (x)
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (xx)
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (xx)
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (x)
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens (x)
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (xx)
34 Emma – Jane Austen (x)
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen (xx)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (xx)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – (x)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres (x)
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (x)
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne (xx)
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell (x)
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (x)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (x)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving (x)
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (x)
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery (xx)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy (x)
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (xx)
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding ()
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan ()
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel (x)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert (xx)
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons ()
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (x)
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth ()
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (x)
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (x)
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (xx)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon ()
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (x)
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck ()
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov ()
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt ()
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (x)
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas ()
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac (x)
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy (x)
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding (x)
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie ()
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville (x)
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (xx)
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker (x)
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (xx)
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson (x)
75 Ulysses – James Joyce (x)
76 The Inferno – Dante (x)
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome ()
78 Germinal – Emile Zola ()
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray ()
80 Possession – AS Byatt (x)
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (xx)
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell ()
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker (xx)
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (x)
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert ()
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry ()
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White (xx)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom ()
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (x)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton ()
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (x)
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (xx)
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks ()
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams (xx)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole (x)
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute (x)
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas (x)
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare (x)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl (xx)
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (x)

We’re feeling so snart [sic] that between us we’ve read 72 out of the hundred (me 62, Z 33, Audrey 20 – she prefers kitty porn to the classics).  Z wanted me to mention that between us we’ve seen 49 of these adapted to stage or screen, including a few cartoons.  Your turn.

Taking my own advice

show off before the move insideYou know the adage “do as I say, not as I do”?  I’m the worst.  I did a little research for my post at work about citruses which pretty much confirmed what I already knew.  I am a plant slayer.  And I don’t like to take my own advice because it’s generally tedious or time consuming or otherwise inconvenient.  I have been keeping my ponderosa lemon orphan out in the plantry because it looks good out there showing its fruit off to the neighbors and because it would take up too much room inside.  I knew it was the wrong place for it.  Citruses, as I reminded myself the other day, can take temperature dips into the 40’s but prefer to winter at about 60°.  The plantry’s average nightly temperatures are in the 40’s but sometimes drops into the scary low 30’s like when I forget to turn on the heater or when it goes into the single digits outside – which has been a fairly frequent occurence this winter.  kittens help with leaf washingAnd the lemon doesn’t look so good.  Although, since I’ve moved it to the livingroom, scattering lemons, branches and leaves in my wake, I’ve decided it looked a lot better before.  Now it will be a daily reproof sitting sickly at the end of my couch, taking up half of a much darker room and plagued by horticulturally fixated kittens who don’t realize just how thorny the thing is.  But what’s a plant junkie to do?  I can’t bring it back to the greenhouse – the only reason I have it is because we don’t have room for it there.  And I can’t put it out in the very cold to die quickly.  The only thing to do is to do as I say, not as I do.

Why we didn’t get a Christmas tree

Christmas lightsI had a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  Could be because I didn’t once watch The Grinch, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, The Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life.  Could be because I started singing Christmas songs in September with a community chorus and the carols all invaded my head as earworms.  Could be because we put colored lights in the front window last Christmas and liked them so much that we never took them down.  Could be because we didn’t get a tree.

K and Z’s Top 10 reasons for not getting a tree:  (yes, thank you, Mr. Letterman’s list writers)

10.  kittens

9. being green. (although most Christmas trees are sustainably farmed and go back to the earth as slightly acidic town compost)

8.  laziness

7.  expense.  (although we know where to find the $10 cheapies)

6.  our decorations are under a significant pile of books and plants.

5.  kittens

4.  it’s a fire hazard when you leave the tree up until Easter.

3.  the dog might mistake it for “outside”.

2.  Where would we put it?  There’s a chair there…  (Do you all know about my thing for chairs yet?  Another post perhaps.)

1.  kittens

Given how the kittens have taken to certain houseplants like the aspidistra and the cyperus (subject of a future post), Z and I didn’t think we’d cope especially well with a fallen tree in our already crowded living room.  It’s not that we don’t like giving Audrey and Pigeon things to play with – we definitely do and I’m more than willing to sacrifice any non-toxic plant.  But a Christmas tree loaded with ancestral ornaments seemed like too extravagant a gift for our first year together.  So the kittens are sleeping on tissue paper, chewing on ribbon and we’re wondering was that Christmas just then and we missed it?  Thank goodness there are 12 days – there’s still time to send out cards (I probably won’t though) and get totally into it.  Merry Merry, everyone!

(Donations have been given in everyone’s honor to Heifer Project, Southside Community Land Trust, Amnesty International, the Nature Conservancy and WRNI)

Bite my shiny metal aspidistra

Bite me, says Audrey and Pigeon complies

I’m planning on doing a series of houseplant posts at work but I feel like if I don’t get Aspidistra eliator a little bit out of my system here, I might be inclined to say inappropriate things about it there – like “bite my shiny metal aspidistra”. (Are there any other Futurama fans out there?)

I have a pretty big aspidistra (yup) that I have ignored for years.  Ignorance is bliss.  This thing never even had pests before the kittens came along.  I didn’t really know about Cast Iron plants before I had to water the ones at work but it turns out that they are a Victorian cult classic and now I and the kiddens would be bereft without one in some dark corner somewhere.  My Cast Iron plant spends the summer outside in as much shade as I can find for it (see evidence of sun scorch on a few of the leaves – I haven’t groomed the plant for the sake of the kittehs.  I figure the more leaves it has, the less likely they’ll damage all of the new pretty ones.  Twisted Aspidistra Logic from a lazy indoor gardener.)  It’s made of tough enough stuff (cast iron perhaps) to live out in the frigid plantry during the winter  – it did last year – but without even knowing how entertaining it could be, this year I put it in my studio where now I watch it like TV.  — Incidentally, an aspidistra was a character named Uncle Rangdo (the ruler of Arg) played by Kenny Baker (R2-D2) on a British gameshow called The Adventure Game.  Audrey and Pigeon use my Uncle as one of their Jungle Jims and it is faring better than anyone else in the plant family that they have chosen to abuse.  More on those guys later.

I have posted an entire aspidistra vs. kitteh vs. kitteh  fight on my flickr…  Do you have a Cast Iron plant?  Do you remember to water it every once in a while?