Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sketch - Key West

Found this sketch while I was looking through some things today. Painted on the Casa Marina beach in Key West, FL.


Not my best work. Posting anyway. When doing botanical sketches/watercolors, I'm always on the fence about the background. What to do. Leave it blank, or with a muted colorwash fill? Try to approximate the actual background in a blurry way? I think the most successful botanical sketches I've done have used the texture/form of the plant as an abstract element in the background. Or I could go all Georgia O'Keeffe and just say "there shall be no background!"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Iris reticulata

Finally in bloom today are these Iris reticulata, which I've been planting every fall (I'm aiming for large drifts, eventually). I adore these dwarf iris, and especially the fact that they are found in so many variations of purple and blue. In my garden alone, there are three shades; a clear ultramarine blue in addition to those pictured.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cozy neckwarmer

I came up with this neckwarmer because I wanted a stash-busting, no-cost, and colorful addition to my ski wardrobe. I had bought some chunky merino two-ply in blue and fuschia from the sale bin *years* ago, and I paired those with half a ball of navy-ish Plymouth Tweed, held double. Lo and behold, the fuschia matched some North Face gloves and a Patagonia hat I already had, so much the better.

I actually tried this first on size 13 needles, but then realized that would yield a softer, squishier fabric than I desired--I wanted a thicker fabric that would stand up on its own and stay in place nicely. On size 10.5 needles this knitted up fast and was soft and stretchy, yet still fitted enough to fit under a parka or coat.

I knit this in a weekend day, not expecting any great hoopla, but have since received a few compliments and requests for the (very simple!) pattern. I'd say this pattern is suitable for someone who is a relative beginner to gain experience working with stripes and weaving in ends (there aren't so many, it's not that onerous).

Of course, there is no longer so much of the cold fluffy white stuff blanketing my yard, but I've heard tell that there is still plenty of it to ski on just a few hours north. Perhaps you could knit this up and throw it over a T-shirt for a splendid spring ski ensemble. Yeah.

Cozy neckwarmer

Yarn: Plymouth Tweed [held double] (C1), two colors of [name/brand lost in the sands of time] chunky 2-ply merino (C2, C3)
Gauge: 10 stitches=4 inches in stockinette
Needles: Double pointed, size 10.5

st=stitches; k=knit; p=purl; pm=place marker; k1r=knit one row; p1r=purl one row

  • With C1/Plymouth Tweed (held double!) cast on 54 st using the cable cast-on method. 
  • Join for working in the round. 
  • P1r. Pm at beginning of round. 
  • Switch to C2. Loosely tie ends together at beginning of round, leaving tails of 4" at minimum. K1r [note: knitting this row prevents the color change from showing on the right side], p1r, k1r, p1r, k1r.
  • Switch to C3. Tie ends loosely as instructed before. K1r, p1r. *K9, k2tog, repeat from * for remainder of row. 50 stitches. P1r, k1r, p1r, k1r. 
  • Switch to C1. K1r, p1r, k1r, p1r, k1r.
  • Switch to C2. K1r, p1r. *K9, k2tog, repeat from * for remainder of row ending with k6. 46 stitches. P1r, k1r.
  • Switch to C3. K1r, p1r, k1r, p1r, k1r, p1r, k1r. 
  • Switch to C1. K1r, p1r, k1r, p1r, k1r. 
  • Switch to C2. K1r, p1r, k1r, p1r. 
  • Switch to C1. P1r [note: purling this row causes the color change to be visible on the right side, here used as a subtle decorative feature], K1r, P1r, Bind off loosely. Weave in ends. 
  • Block, using a large vase or medium size bowl as a form. It may take up to 2 days to dry completely. I finished it off with a brief tumble in the dryer on low.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

spring: a photo essay

Oncidium hybrid orchid in bloom (a new addition to my collection, this was about to bloom when I bought it so I can't take credit for the bloom, but I hope it will flower again under my care)
Phalaeonopsis about to bloom
Dendrobium 'Aussie's Chip' in bloom (a new addition, bought at the Boston Flower Show)
Meyer lemon in bloom
Kumquat about to bloom
purple basil seedlings
cherry tree in bloom

ferns unfurling within the stone wall behind the house

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

one out of... eight... ain't... so bad?

Here is my eggplant and tomato germination setup:

South-facing windowsill, with a fuzzy athletic heating pad (hey, germinating is athletic work for a little seed) from CVS to keep them at the cozy 75-80F preferred soil temperature. On the right you can see the tomatoes shooting up sprouts all over the place. 7 out of 8 tomatoes are reaching for the light. On the left are some conspicuously inactive squares of dirt. No, those are not mud-pie brownies I made out of frustration with my (currently broken) oven. It's eggplant, doing not much of anything despite my coddling them with cozy heating pads. But wait, what's that I see?

We have an eggplant! It may be only 4 mm high, but baby, it's ALIVE and GROWING. Of course, the other 7 cubes of dirt are still doing a whole lot of nothing, but the tomatoes came up slowly over a week, so I still have hopes for the other eggplant seeds. Did I mention I've replanted the eggplant seeds three times? I had read conflicting information (conflicting "rules" are the special fun of being a gardener) regarding the correct depth at which to plant eggplant seeds--some say 1/4 inch, some say a bare dusting of soil, others say consistent heat is the most important thing--and so I ended up hedging my bets and planting seeds at three different depths. Unfortunately, I do not know which depth this seedling came up from, so there's a lovely science experiment opportunity missed.
Here is what I'm hoping my aubergine will resemble:
Seeds, again, ordered through Seeds from Italy. These babies take 80 days to fruit, so I'm hoping for a long summer.  

Edit: There are now three eggplant seedlings! I wish more had germinated, but now I know better how to plant them, for next year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

it's a gas gas gas

When we bought our house, back in October, we ran all-electric, all the time. Electric heat, electric hot water, electric stove, you name it, it ran courtesy of our town electric company. Having a municipal electric company has its perks. During the Freak Storm and Blackout of Fall 2011, our lights were out for 12 hours, whereas some of the neighboring towns, even those closer to the city, were without power for over a week in some locations. It also means our electric bills are fairly low. But, heating your house with electric is pricey. The former owners heated with wood, and used the electric to supplement, not as their main source of heat. The wood stove served us well, too, through Christmas, and Mike became quite good at getting it roaring hot quickly.
our Vigilant, circa 1977, in October
Just before the holidays, our gas line was run in from the street, and just after the holidays, we had nice hot water baseboard heat on the first floor, powered by a cute and powerful boiler in the basement. It was a good investment, and we hope to extend the gas heat to the upstairs once our pocketbook is no longer feeling quite so bruised and thin.

A gas boiler also means, eventually, a gas stove. Hurrah! I look forward to replacing our glass-top '90s vintage electric stove. I grew up cooking on gas, and learning to cook on electric was an adjustment I didn't appreciate (white people problems, as Mike would say, ha!). Plus, slightly more practically, I can use a real wok (the one I inherited from my mom, the real one with a stand and round bottom) on a gas cooktop.

It also means a challenge in the garden department. How so? Well, on top of our front yard looking like it recently endured the tunneling of a giant mole (from running the gas line, you see), we have this:
Lest you think that this is no big thing, let me assure you that it is right next to both front entrances (garage and formal front door), and that it is a blot on our otherwise welcoming dooryard. Here's another mugshot:

It sticks out about a foot and a half from the side of the house. On the left in that photo is the path going up to the front door. Just in front of that path is a sizable plot of dirt with not much planted within it that I especially want to keep (anyone want a green-and-gold creeping euonymus? I have a dislike of both creeping euonymus and of gold-variegated plants, so this one's definitely out. I'll even dig it up for you and put it in a pot, if you come pick it up). So the question is, what shrub would be most interesting and serviceable in this spot? Oh, also, this is the north side of the house. No direct sun at all. This shrub needs to be:
  • attractive for most of the year, i.e. no oak-leaf hydrangeas or cotoneasters that look like shite in winter;
  • fairly large so as to extend its branches gracefully outward from its place near the corner of the house and screen or otherwise distract attention from the gray metal atrocity;
  • not dwarf Alberta spruce or burning bush/winged euonymus; 
  • bonus points for flowers or other nice features.
But, you say, aren't you the expert? Why are you asking your blogience (blog audience, c'mon... don't give me that skeptical look, it's a great word, use it and spread it around) about what shrub to choose? Solve your own garden problems, you lazy thing! Well, yes, but I already have a list of shrub candidates for this spot, but I thought perhaps you might be more clever.

My short list: 
Viburnum rhytidophyllum Leatherleaf Viburnum
Viburnum rhytidophylloides Lantanaphyllum Viburnum
Hydrangea paniculata Panicle aka PeeGee Hydrangea

It really is intensely shady in this spot. The viburnums would most likely not flower, so it would be more about their leaves and form. What do you think?