Thursday, May 31, 2012

Color Scheme

We finally got the annual flowers in for the gardens.  This year I'm going for reds to golds to yellows for the main color accents as you come through our bucolic manor.

In a way it seems really late to be putting in the annuals - I feel as though we should have had them done weeks ago and I really feel a bit behind the gun on getting everything done for the tours in July.  But when I stop to think about it, it's not really late at all - it's actually exactly on time.

Our last "killing frost" was only 3 weeks ago even though it has been really warm for the most part.  A lot of our friends lost their early plantings.  And our late frost date was only 11 days ago.  So it's not really that late.

At least that's what I'm going to keep reminding myself.

This weekend is going to be a major planting time.  I think if I can get the south drive planted and the rest of the vegetables in I'll be pretty happy.  My DH will be dealing with the new beds - which is only right and proper since he's going to have to break ground and spend quality time with the tiller to make it happen.

But everything is here and ready to go.  It seems like a lot of plants to put in, but I know that they will all just blend into the perennials as soon as they are in the ground.

I'm going to hope for gentle evening rains and warm sunny days for the next 6 weeks before the tours start.  Just enough so we don't have to water and the flowers start popping out all over the place.

6 weeks.  Plenty of time.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pea Harvest!

Today I went for a walk in my vegetable parterre and my to my delight - the peas were ready for harvest!

I had so much fun watching them grow week by week that I kind of forgot that the end result would be - well, the end result is actually compost, so this is more of a middle result - the middle result would be crispy sweet crunchy pea pods.  Best served just rinsed off.  No dressing, no cooking, just good to eat.

Before I tell you about the intricate trellising scheme I came up with, I just want to take a look back at the peas ...

We started on St. Patrick's Day - the traditional day to plant peas.  I don't know why, but it's supposed to be lucky so I do it each year.  Luckily - this year it actually worked and I didn't have to dig through a couple of feet of snow and ice to plant them.

A week passed - and not a single pea was in sight.  With my usual optimism, I was convinced they were all dead.

But, by the next week, there were little pea leaves shooting out all over the bed.  And a few weeds.  I pulled the weeds and left the peas to grow some more.

Not much seemed to happen over the next week.  They grew some more leaves.  There wasn't even any weed drama to keep the interest up.

They just kept growing along.  I just looked at them.  It wasn't very exciting.  I started to think I should put in a trellis.  Those bamboo stakes seemed like they would play some part in the whole trellising event.

Finally their tendrils started shooting out along the stalks.  They were ready to start climbing on something, but I still hadn't gotten the trellis up.

They got to be around 6-inches tall and really, if I didn't put in the trellis, I should at least remove that oak leaf that blew into the bed.  Something should be done.

Actually, I kind of forgot about them - oops!  I went back today - 25 days later - to take a look and it seems like they handled the problem all by themselves.  I'm not sure how this happened.  It's the strangest thing I've ever seen in the garden!  I don't think that I was gardening in my sleep, but you'll note that the bamboo stakes have moved into the peas and have crossed over each other to form a basic trellis that the peas are clinging to.

My DH claims no knowledge of this - and I don't think our pup did it, even though she is the smartest dog there is.  I've narrowed it down to 2 possibilities.

1 - a kind pea rescuer who was passing by heard the call of the peas and came over to help them, finding only the bamboo stakes available they did the best they could to fashion a rudimentary trellis out of them or

2 - gardening squirrels have struck again.  They think that the peas are really for them, so they deicded to take over the garden bed and trellis them the way that they want with no regard for my dinner table.

I'm leaning towards #2.

This is why when I saw the peas were ready for harvesting, I quickly snapped them off and brought them inside for dinner.  After all, I worked so hard at growing them - what with poking holes in the ground and forgetting they were even there and all.  But let's not forget that I took pictures of their progress - until I forgot about them.

Okay, so maybe I didn't work so hard at growing them.  I left some on the vines for the squirrels.

These are the ones I harvested for dinner.  They were delicious and my DH and I loved them.  Our pup refused to even give them a try, but that's okay, it just means that there will be more for the gardening squirrels.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bored Commute

I had some time to kill before the train, so instead of going uptown to my usual stop, I went down to Grand Central Station.

I think that there is a reason that I don't go downtown to catch the train.  It's a tad crowded.  Do you know how you can tell the tourists/travelers from the commuters?  The commuters wear black.  The others are actually wearing whites and colors (gasp!).  I don't know if that's an unwritten rule for NYC, but most folks who work here actually do wear black everyday.  I don't think that we are mourning anything - I know I'm not - I just think that black doesn't show dirt the way a lighter color would.  Besides, it all matches.  I wonder what would happen if I actually wore something colorful and bright to the office?  I'm going to have to give that a try.

This is just the line for the tickets being bought by the people who don't know exactly where they want to go.  The regular ticket buyers are around the corner using the vending machines.  The line is just as long there though.

You have to love the architecture of the space here.  I think it's those windows.  They let in so much natural light that it makes it seem really open, even when you're walking alongside several hundred people.

But it's time to stop watching and start heading for the track.  It's going to be nice to get a seat right away.  That's the best part about coming down here.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Our pup is so expressive.  The look on her face really lets me know that she is listening - and sometimes just what she is thinking.  Take this recent conversation we had for example:

Hi pup!  What 'cha doin'?

Are you having fun?

Are you bored?

Wanna go for a walk!?

Let's go for a walk!

See what I mean?  I think she wants to go for a walk - so that's just what we're going to do.  See ya!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Big Show - part II

After the grooming was done, I moved my iris to the display table - the card was filled out and I still had 13 minutes to spare before the deadline for entry closed.  No problems, everything was going along smoothly and my Caesar's Brother was sitting in the Siberian section ready to be judged.

I closed up my grooming kit and went to take a look at the rest of "the competition".  The tables were getting full with all types of irises.

The bearded iris were most impressive with their tall stalks and ruffles.  The shades of blues went from dark navy to the lightest sky blue possible.  Each flower was perky and looking its' best.

I spent a few minutes chatting with the president of the club.  He had emphasized at our last meeting that you could be disqualified if you were missing even a "." in the name of the iris.  Did it matter if I used the American spelling for Caesar's Brother?  He suggested I look it up.  9 minutes.

The iris registration reference books had Caesar's Brother listed, but there was no registration after the name, it referred me to Caezars Brother - and Caezars Brother did have the registration information listed.  I needed to change my card!  4 minutes.

I rushed back to the table, pulled my card, got a new card and went to fill it out - no pen! Wait! Got the pen from my grooming kit and filled out the card.  Siberian Iris Caezars Brother.  Z, not S and no apostrophe.  Okay.  Good to go. 2 minutes.

I looked over at the president's iris.  Stunning, gorgeous...siberian.  My little Bob didn't have a chance.  I quickly scanned the categories....dwarf - nope, miniature - no way, bulbous - I don't remember what that even is!  Historic - maybe Bob has a chance.  It's a 1932 registered iris and the cutoff for historic is...1983.  I rushed back to the table, grabbed my card, swapped out the section to historic and placed Bob over in that category.  Time's up - let the game begin!

The judges went through each and every flower, peering intently at every single leaf, petal and scathe.  They were very detailed and extremely knowledgable about - well, about everything that had anything to do with irises.  Each flower was first judged against the standard - was it what the registration said it should be?  And everyone that qualified was awarded a ribbon.  Pink - thank you for coming. White - it  was a bit messy.  Red - it could have been groomed better.  Blue - perfection!

Bob won blue!  He moves on to the next judging phase - rosettes.

All of the blues were gathered together for each section.  Sure, they were all perfect in their own right, but which one was the most perfect.  No pink, white or red here - just "you are" or "you aren't".

Bob won the rosette!  (Seriously? Yes, seriously.)  He moves on to the next judging phase - best in show.

All of the rosettes were gathered together.  The judges conferred, they peered some more, they conferred even longer.

The bearded, 'Going Home' won Queen of the Show - 1st place.  It's okay though - she's a bearded, they're flashy and tough to beat.  The judges narrowed it down to 2 - my Bob, a siberian historic and the club president's siberian.  There was no way Bob could beat her.

1st runner up - 'Sugar Rush' and she sure was a sweet little siberian.  Well done!

That meant that Bob was 2nd runner up!  He placed 3rd in show!! I was stunned.

Bob looked a little knocked off his axis as well.  Great job, Bob!  Even though you had to suffer the indignities of a sponge bath in public, you pulled through and brought home the prize.

So there they are - the winners of the 16th Annual Iris Show in all of their beribboned glory.

Of course, just like a flowers bloom, glory is fleeting as well.  Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head on home - back to our bucolic manor.

We passed out Bob II and Bob III to folks stopping by to see the show, but I held on to Bob I so I could show him to my DH.

Back in the crate and off we went - me knowing a lot more about irises than I ever knew before, and Bob?

I think he was happy to just be outside again.  He's not used to air conditioning - and I think the muzak music was starting to get to him.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Big Show - part I

The flower show was today.  I brought my Siberian iris 'Caezars Brother' (1932, F. Cleveland Morgan).  It was the 16th Annual Hudson Valley Iris and Daylily Society American Iris Society Iris Show.  This is a  big day for the iris grower's in the Hudson Valley and it is taken quite seriously.

Personally, I'm more of a daylily gardener, but they asked that everyone participate - bring whatever they could - because this was not a very good year for irises in our area.  I spent the last few weeks looking over my small collection of irises (less than a dozen types) and found nothing in bloom.  

None of my bearded irises even had he courtesy to put up a single stalk with even one pathetic bud on it - let alone a full blossom.  The closer it got to the show, the more sure I was that I wouldn't be able to bring anything.

Then it rained all week.  Things were looking really bad.  Until Wednesday.  On Wednesday I found one of my Siberian irises had a few dozen buds.  If they opened in time, I could get a few flowers for the show.  Whew!

I borrowed some books about irises and siberian irises from L- (thanks!) and read through them.  I wanted to be able to understand what they were talking about at the show!  They covered everything from the genetic makeup of the flowers, to color, height, placement in the garden, thickness of the petals.  I felt ready to go.

Then I found out that not only do you have to bring a flower, you have to "groom" it before you place it into the competition.  This is the part where you clean the flower, get rid of any bugs, dirt, cobwebs, and trim off any nastiness.  All of this grooming is specifically outlined and quite detailed.  So I read up on that and started to get my tools together.

Okay - don't laugh, because they actually do this to the flowers.  (I couldn't believe it at first either!)

Here's what you need to groom an iris.

A good sharp knife and some sharp pointed scissors.  Fortunately I have a set of bonsai tools that were perfect for this job complements of my DH a few years back.  (The bonsai is long dead, but the tools live on!)  Thanks honey!

These are for cutting the stem to the right height, cutting off any spent buds and trimming burnt edges off of the leaves (up to 1/4-inch, max).

Then you have to have some paint brushes.  There was some white stuff in the purple on the petals, so I used the foam one to hold the petal while I brushed each one off with the square camel haired brushes.  Then I used the small paintbrush to clean off the inside of the flower.

Water, or course, for the flower.  It's a flower show, so naturally it had to be bottled water.  I also used this to give the flower a "sponge bath".

Tweezers with a magnifier for pulling off stuck on bits of cobweb, cotton and a teenie tiny bug that simply refused to get off my flower.  And a "Leatherman" tool for prepping the specialized carry crate - no handheld bouquets, please.

Floral wire and scissors for the crate, and a measuring tape for checking the height of the flower as well as the trimming of the leaves and such.

The cotton balls, cotton pads and cotton swabs for cleaning off the flower.  Paper towels for cleaning up all the water I spilled.  I didn't spill a lot of water, but there was a drop of water that fell on one of the petals as I was washing it and I quickly soaked it up with a paper towel before the petal absorbed it. It was a close call!  The water would have definitely left a mark on the petal.

Water picks for the flowers in case they were out of vases for extended periods of time, cotton gloves to handle the flowers - minimizing fingerprints, duct tape for the crate and baby powder for... Actually, I don't know what the powder is for.  I saw it listed on the West Texas Iris Society site as one of the things you should bring to groom your flower, but I never did figure out what to do with it.  

So you take all of that stuff and put it in a tool case.  I also tossed in some cleaning wipes for my hands and a pen for filling out the forms.  Even though I already have the forms filled out, you never know when you're going to need a pen.

So I finished putting together the "grooming kit" Friday night and went and picked out the blooms I was going to take with me.  I figured I'd take 3, then choose the best one once I got to the show.  One could break while I was going over, I could accidentally slice one in half when I was grooming it.  It was good to have a backup plan and anything that was half decent could go into the display (non-judged) part of the show.

Before even God woke up this morning, I had my toolkit out on the porch and my carrying crate assembled.  (3 2-liter soda bottles cushioned with paper bags in a crate with duct tape reinforcing the seams and a bamboo stake in the bottle for "stage 1" of the crate).

Out at my siberian iris (they look blue, but they are purple in person - it's a lighting thing).  I've already decided which ones to take, but I checked them over again just to be sure.

First up is Bob I.  He's 42-inches tall and looks nice and perky.  I call all of my plants "Bob".  I just like sayin' it.  (B-ahhhhhh-b - it's a good name!)

Next up is Bob II.  He's 37-inches tall, a little bit more delicate looking than Bob I, but he should do nicely.

Finally, Bob III.  At 32-inches he is a bit stockier than Bob I or Bob II, and he has a slight tear on one of his leaves, but he'll do okay in a pinch.

The directions say to cut the flower at the base of the plant, just where it emerges.  I don't know if you've ever tried to find the base of a siberian iris, but it's really crowded and hard to get just the right stalk.  There were casualties.

I managed to get down to the very bottom, though, and got the leaf and flower stem at the very base - still attached to each other.  Nice.

I put a paper towel tube on top of the soda bottle, stuck the irises and bamboo stakes in and used a bit of floral wire to make a little loop to hold the flowers steady, but not touching the stem because wherever you touch, you leave a mark.  The stakes were a little taller than the flowers to stop them from hitting the top of the car and breaking off.

You should have seen my friend's face when she came to pick my up for the show with my 4-foot tall crate and toolkit.  She thinks I'm nuts.  But then I explained what all the stuff was for... Well, then she really thought I was nuts.  We had a good laugh and we were off to Poughkeepise for the show.

3 mountains and an hour later, we arrived at the Poughkeepsie Galleria.  The parking lot was empty and not a soul in sight.  I found a shopping cart to carry my stuff and went inside.

It's a little strange to be in a mall when there is no one else there.  All the shops were closed, but they still had the muzak music playing.  Very surreal.  The Bob's and I did a bit of window shopping.  I think they like the tea sets.

After a while, the flowers started coming in and it was time to help set up the show.  We moved the tables around, put together the display vases, everybody pitched in and got it done.  Then it was time for me to groom Bob.

I followed the directions and suggestions as best as I could and Bob was cleaned up and ready for the show...