Trying to PNW up the place

I've always loved moss and lichen, even before gardening and plants became an obsession. Around here both usually go unnoticed, unless you're an astute observer of Nature or are a plant person. Or you're a rock person -- as I am.

The other morning when I was scraping together some frost photos before the early sunlight replaced the "frosty" description with plain old "wet", I happened to look up at the gutter above the deck. Imagine my surprise to see it dotted with lichen!


Surprising rare: frost

One of my favorite things about the garden in winter is those frosty mornings, the cold early hours where the sparkly beauty lures me outdoors with the camera.

This winter though, frost has been a rare thing indeed. Sure we've had some cold, cold mornings, but cold alone doesn't mean that frost forms. Even though yesterday's high was near 50ºF (10ºC), the morning was cold and a little bit of frost formed. I managed to take a few shots.


Looking for signs

We've had a fairly mild winter in St. Louis so far this year, with just a couple of exceptions. It's been especially snowless -- unlike some parts of the country -- which means that gardeners eager for spring get "the bug" early. And by "gardeners" I mean me.

Even though I know that the very earliest perennials (crocus, daffodils, dicentra) don't emerge until late February, I'm already out there looking for signs of survival. You thought I was going to say "signs of spring", right? No, I'm more curious right now about which plants survived the winter and which did not. So I start looking closely...


Lazy gardener, lazy plant

Perhaps "lazy" isn't the right word -- "forgetful" may be more appropriate -- but it's time again for my annual "hey, where did I end up putting those Amaryllis bulbs?" query. You're familiar with Amaryllis, right? Their blooms at Christmas are common in many holiday homes -- but not mine.

In order to get them to bloom they need a dormancy period of at least a month (maybe more), and then a few weeks at least before the flower stalk emerges. Timing it so the big, bold blooms appear at the end of December is not something that I've ever been able to manage.


Cuttings, fragrant

One thing that I do every autumn as the first freezing temperatures are forecast is take cuttings of plants with fragrant foliage. I keep them in a jar of water in the kitchen window, just to have them available for an occasional rub and sniff.

Sometimes I get a bonus and the cuttings actually root, but my main goal is not to produce new plants -- it's the fragrance! This year I preserved only two different plants from my own garden this way, but one from my mother's as well.


Question #3: why?

Today is a simple question, perfect for a Friday post when my brain is not up to the task of using too many words: "why?"

As in "why is it so difficult to notice seeds in my potting mix?". I reuse potting mix all the time, and well, I get surprise seedlings in there quite regularly.


Question #2: when?

I've been getting some good ideas on what to do with the metal drum, and I have another question for you: "when?"

Actually, "when do I water?", referring to the several potted succulent plants that I'm overwintering indoors. The first one is the pride of this new collection, the unhuggable Pachypodium lamerei.


Question #1: what?

I have a few questions that I thought I'd ask you about. The first is "what?" -- or more precisely, "what to do?"

I have a 55-gallon drum that spent the summer, and now the winter, on the driveway. I have a few ideas of what I could do with it this next growing season, but none of them is overly compelling.


Quiet, cool morning

I spent quite some time out in the garden yesterday morning, eager for visual excitement, searching for sights to share. So much time that I couldn't bring my camera indoors immediately (it's right into a ziplock bag to prevent condensation forming inside the camera and lenses while it acclimates to the warm air)... I wasn't able to post any of these yesterday. But that just makes for an extra-long series of images today! Lots of interesting stuff out there if you're willing to look.


Favorite photos of 2014

In January I like to show you what photos I think are best from the past year. It's not a list of my favorite posts of the past year -- that comes on my anniversary in March -- but it is a gallery of the photos I'm most proud of.

January 2013: the frozen pond can be so pretty

If you see something that you particularly like but don't remember reading about, use the "archives" listing on the right of this blog to browse for it. Links to previous "best photo" posts at the end of this post. Enjoy!


Winter geometry, patterns

When there's not much else to look at in the winter garden...

There are always shapes and patterns and textures.



We've got some warm weather coming this weekend -- highs in the mid-50's F (11ºC or so) -- although it's quite cold right now (15ºF/-9ºC). That prompted me to look back at this date over the past few years to see how this winter is comparing to those recently endured.

In 2011 I was taking photos of condensation indoors because it was "quite cold" outside. I didn't mention the temperature but it was below 20ºF/-7ºC. I'm going to say that it was also around 15ºF on this date in 2011.


They get big

On my recent trip to Chicago, to my childhood home, I was in awe of the trees. This happens every time I visit this place, where the trees that grew up with me have become towering giants.

It was too cold on this day (single digits F) to venture out with my camera, so I was limited to what I could see from the windows. But that was enough to impress me.



As is usual during the winter for me, I spend a lot of time looking at the plants under the lights in the basement. Once in a while I notice something that has me puzzled.

Today I share three discoveries with you, two of which have left me with questions. The first are these tiny spheres on my Cissus quadrangularis.


A waste of good moss

You know I love moss, right? I post about it a few times every year -- so soft, green, lush. Probably the main reason that I like it so much is you really have to look at it closely in order to appreciate it...

...and I'm a big fan of getting up close to everything in the garden. This moss is not in the garden though, and it isn't long for this world.


Winter plant bargains: think small

I did a little spur-of-the-moment plant shopping the other day while picking up building supplies at Home Depot. I certainly was not intending to even look at plants while there, as the houseplant selection is usually pretty uninteresting to me. The succulents though, they sometimes surprise.

Euphorbia tirucalli 'fire sticks' is a plant that I've grown and overwintered indoors for several years -- in the past, as my plant died last winter when I neglected it a bit too much. So I've been on the lookout for a replacement, and I found one.


Whooo is cold?

As I walked around the yard late yesterday afternoon, covering a few plants for the cold air that would be arriving sometime during the night (it was 22ºF when I was out there taking photos, but only 10ºF as I write this today at 10AM), a movement in the trees startled me.

An owl! A barred owl to be precise, probably the same one that we've seen three times in the last couple of weeks. The thought that an owl is getting comfortable in my garden is really exciting to me! This bird was getting verbally harassed by the smaller birds, but was half-heartedly hunting for ground prey and didn't seem to mind me walking around with the camera.


St. Louis to Chicago

On Christmas Day I made the drive, for approximately the 30th or 40th time, from St. Louis to Chicago. Since many of you who read what I write may not be familiar with the geography in this part of the country, I thought I'd document it for you.

I've only written about a road trip one other time (on 2013's summer RV vacation) and that trip was unique in every way for me. This trip is not. It is well known to my eyes, to the extent that it almost feels like a commute.


Look back: Summer 2010

I've got several interesting posts planned for this week, but since I've got a bit of a cold and a headache, I'm taking the easy approach today: a look back at summer 2010.

That was the year I started this blog, and this post shows what the garden was like in July of that year. One of the best things about documenting the garden's progress is looking back every once in a while, and I find it especially enjoyable on cold winter days to see some summer greenery.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year -- I hope 2014 was a good year for you, and that 2015 holds exciting prospects! At least I hope your prospects are better than this fellow's:

Hopefully you've remembered that photos of desiccated mantises mean that I've fired up my wood stove for the first time. For some reason, mantises are attracted to the stovepipe at the top of my chimney, traveling down the dark tube, ending up in the firebox.


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