I loved reading “The Artists Way” many years ago. It was my first encounter with a book written about the importance of nurturing one’s creativity. I have always been a creative person, but as is often the case, my creativity made me appear flighty, restless and a bit odd as a child. It was something that I was taught to hide rather than flaunt. Thankfully, things are different now and I am thrilled to part of such a network of creative types. Here are some posts highlighting some of the more creative things I’ve read recently:
Succulents and cinder blocks. I love it when everyday items are turned into truly inspiring works. Check out Jenny Peterson’s succulent wall. Inspired by this post on Apartment Therapy @MulchMaven’s use of old, weathered cinder block gives the wall a much softer, established look. Her solution to not being able to cut cinder block (I’m in that camp) is brilliant and easy. For another take on this idea, take a look at Pam Penick’s post of her work in progress.
With my heavy clay soil, raised beds are more of a necessity than a convenience if I want to garden sometime in this century. But I must admit, although I’m not shy around power tools, I’m a crappy builder. That’s why I love these Garden Braces featured on Sunset’s Fresh Dirt. Just slide in some pre-cut 2×8′s and you have an instant frame. Even better, you can move them.
For even more succulent creativity inspiration, take a look at Rebecca Sweet’s visit to DIG nursery. I have been sharing this posts with my co-workers and we are all ready to cut our coffee tables in half and get planting. I also enjoy the Wooly Pocket tropical wall hanging. For another take on a vertical tropical garden, visit the Rainforest Garden. Steve Asbell shows us a plan that is both quick and affordable.
And since I like to save the best for last, we must remember that being creative doesn’t always mean being serious. Sometimes a bit of silliness is the best way to get your creativity on. Why just check out this hilarious video cover of the song ‘Soul Sister’ with a bit of a twist. I’m not going to tell you who it is, but if you’ve been reading gardening blogs for a bit, he’s a familiar face. But now you get to see a bit of talent that he has previously hidden from us. Enjoy, have a fabulous weekend and do something creative.
My crystal ball has been a bit hazy and it’s been difficult to get a clear view of the future, but now that things have cleared up I can predict few things will become big or bigger in 2011. First off, let’s talk about science. Gone are the days when gardeners are willing to completely accept concepts based purely on sage advice handed down for centuries. Perhaps instead of this being the “me” generation, we could dub it the “but why?” generation. Thanks to smart phones, answers to almost any question are available from anywhere at anytime. But how good are those answers? I think we are starting to see a new breed of gardener and garden writer who is no longer willing to accept or dispense information without first-hand experience or scientific testing. Fine Gardening has realized this and added not one but two scholarly writers to their list of contributing editors in Jeff Gillman and Linda Chalker-Scott. Jeff Gillman’s books on organic gardening, garden tips and even trees gives blend scientific data and lore in such an enjoyable way that we don’t just browse them, we read them. Linda Chalker-Scott’s weekly quiz on The Garden Professors not only keeps us on our toes but educates as well. Their responses to garden related science in the news are both interesting and thought provoking.
There once was a time when the Wellies crowd and the white lab coat crowd rarely mixed or agreed, but those days are gone. Gardeners are embracing science in new, exciting and smart ways. Whenever a new tidbit of news is released on the state of the bee population, the Twitter stream is flooded with links pointing to studies and data rather than merely passing on a sound byte sized morsel of information that may or may not be true. Gardeners are thinkers, not merely followers and the garden writing world is reflecting that. But science isn’t foolproof and open to interpretation. Luckily we have Joseph Tychonievich at Greensparrow Gardens to explain why.
For 2011, it also looks like the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. For several years now, the momentum towards water-wise, lawn-less gardens has been picking up fast. In Fall of 2009 we saw the the formation of the Lawn Reform Coalition which educated us on the wastefulness of the traditional lawn and more appropriate lawn substitutes. Native plant awareness was everywhere with blog roll calls. Meadow gardens were popping up in front yards. Succulents were everywhere. And for the most part, we gardeners get it. But something else started to happen. Gardeners started to miss things. We started to miss the lushness of that spring green color. We missed the dramatic effects of bold tropical leaves. We missed plants that were a bit more exotic than what we saw in the local hills. Does this mean that we are going to dismiss our responsibility to future generations and stop conserving water? No. What it means is we will relax a little. The finger pointing will subside a bit and we can start to enjoy variety again–within reason. Perhaps gardeners will indulge in one of the gorgeous Alocasias from Hort Couture. Or join Steve Asbell at The Rainforest Garden in a bit of epiphyte experimentation. Whatever form it takes, I predict we are going to see a more green, more lush and more tropically dramatic additions to our gardens.
Photo credit: MaRS Discovery District
Whatever holiday you celebrate, and however you celebrate it, I wish you much peace, love and joy this season.
Was this not the year of the succulent? I don’t think a week has gone by without a post on succulent containers, succulent wall hangings and terrariums and gorgeous succulent landscapes. And what was the driving force behind this explosion. I think the credit goes to Debra Lee Baldwin. Her book came out in early 2010 and the reviews were fabulous. Gardening By the Book listed it as one of five favorite books for the year. And it’s no surprise. Succulent Container Gardens is gorgeous and well worth the cover price for the inspiration alone. But what really draws people in is Debra’s passion for succulents. It’s evident in everything she does. You feel as those she’s discovered a secret beauty in these odd little plants and can’t wait to tell the world. In the gardening world nothing spreads faster and burns hotter than passion. We thrive on it. Succulent growers should be thanking their stars that they have such a champion in Debra.
And yet, with all that passion, things were still tough. With the economy taking a dive and home sales coming to screeching halt the nursery industry struggled. Sure, we still gardened. Vegetable gardening was huge, but most didn’t landscape and it hurt. Industry giants, some of whom we’ve heard about forever stumbled. Some even fell. Chapter 11 filings started to pop up all over. Hines nursery filed in November. Isley Nursery and Week’s Roses filed In October claiming problems caused by another giant, Jackson & Perkins Roses for not assuring to pay a 1.7 million dollar order. In September, Target closed all it’s remaining garden centers. Those that continued, struggled. In December Monrovia nursery sent out a plea to all it’s customers asking them to help increase their spring bookings by 20 million dollars to get the bankers off their backs. What’s a grower to do? Amy Stewart suggested on Garden Rant that wholesalers like Monrovia needed to reach out to not only the retailers but to the consumer. She even suggested that harnessing the power of social media might be one way to go. This set off a whole back and forth argument about the differences between wholesale and retail nurseries. As far as I’m concerned, in the end if the consumer isn’t buying we are all out of a job and that should be of concern to everyone in the trade.
Speaking of back and forth arguments, Cooks Source sure made a big mistake when it plagiarized an article from a blogger. Their subsequent lack of remorse and pathetic apology caused an uproar among bloggers, internet surfers and just plain trolls that was so violent they were pretty much out of business in less than a week. Theft of copy is one of the most frustrating problems bloggers face. Often you will find your photos or information posted on another site and when you go to contact them you find some made up company or such. The responses vary from “nothing you can do about it” to “so sue me.” The problem normally being you can’t easily find the person you need to sue. But with Cooks Source magazine, they were easy to find and perhaps that’s why the retribution was so harsh. Bloggers are angry. We work hard to provide interesting content. We take what we do seriously. And we certainly don’t take theft as a form of flattery.
And always individual tastes and preference can divide gardeners. Just look at the uproar Robin Ripley’s Garden Rant post entitled “The Dark Side of Grocery Gardening” caused. Gardeners were furious that someone would suggest that any vegetable garden was ugly. In reference to gardeners who don’t take care of their vegetable plots Robin stated, “If gardeners are going to approach grocery gardening in that lackadaisical way, I suggest they find another hobby.” This enraged folks who felt it was an attack on gardens that weren’t the epitome of a French potager. Mary at My Northern Garden suggested that ugly gardens was a feminist issue. Some gardeners (myself included) followed Gina’s lead at My Skinny Garden by posting pictures of our ‘ugly’ gardens for all to see. I especially enjoyed Colleen’s post “Giving Vegetable Gardeners a Bad Name Since 1996″ for the way it continued to inspire discussion in the comments. Obviously gardeners do have strong opinions that they aren’t afraid to share. With Rosalind Creasy’s revised Edible Landscaping coming out late this year and Ivette Soler’s The Edible Front Yard coming out in 2011, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last on this subject.
I’m sure there were plenty of controversies and newsworthy items in the garden blog world that I’m forgetting. What stood out for you in 2010? Did you comment on any rants or participate in any passion fueled debates? Do you feel 2010 was the year of the succulent or am I way off the mark. Let me know in the comments below.
And be sure to tune in next week at about the same time for some gardening predictions for 2011.
So quick and simple you’ll wonder why you’ve never done these before. These ice votive candle holders are a great way to dress up a holiday table and they really do last for hours. The ingredients can normally be found around the house so there really is no added cost. Plus putting them together takes no time at all. The most trouble I have each year is finding the space in the freezer to freeze them.
A pair of plastic containers for each votive holder. You will need one larger and one smaller. The smaller contain makes the pocket in the ice to fit the candle, so it has to be large enough to do that. You will want the ice to be at least one inch thick around the sides and bottom so the outer container must be that much larger than the first.
Some rocks or dry beans to weigh down the inner container.
Masking tape to center the inner container until the water freezes.
Some garden clippings to place inside. Here I’ve used some sedum, mini jade plant, cranberries and lichen.
Pour some water in the container until it’s about one inch from the top. Float the smaller container inside and fill it with rocks so it sinks until it’s about 1/2 inch above the water level. Start adding decoration by adding the ones that float first. (Unless you want the cranberries on top, then add them last).
Keep adding greenery until you have an arrangement that you like. Keep in mind that you don’t want to completely obstruct the light from the candle. In this case less really is more. You can pretty much use any sort of fresh or dried greenery as long as it hasn’t been dyed. The dye can sometimes run in the water. Try to arrange the greenery so that is is balanced on all sides.
Here I’ve added the lichen last because it does a good job at holding down the rest of the greenery. Make sure that when using something dry, like lichen, you completely submerge it in the ice. You don’t want bits of dry material hanging outside the ice where they might catch fire from the candle.
Tape your center container in place so it is equidistant from each of the sides. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just close.
Then pop it in the freezer.
I like to freeze overnight so it’s nice and solid. To unmold, pour a little warm water in the center container and let it sit about a minute. Then remove it. If the outer container isn’t ready to remove by this time, just soak it for 30-45 seconds in a larger bowl filled with warm water. Place ice votive on a plate or saucer to prevent the melted ice from getting on the surface of your table. Add a small tealight candle and enjoy the glow. If you need several, but don’t have enough plastic containers you can unmold and refreeze the votive and then make another one.
If you want to get photos of your ice votive, best to do it before your guests arrive so you don’t get distracted and forget about it until it’s melted.
Epiphyte n. A plant, such as a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients.
Dischidia pectinoides an epiphytic plant from the Milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae which carries on a symbiotic relationship with ants. Also known as the Ant Plant.
OK, how cool is that? This adorable little climber has balloon like leaves which, in the wild (not in my kitchen), provide a nest for ants in exchange for carbon dioxide and ideal conditions in terms of temperature and humidity. It also has tiny pinkish red flowers, that never seem to fully open, during most of the warmer months. It prefers bright, but shaded conditions and high humidity, but detests having it’s feet wet. (One website suggested you never, ever water it on a cloudy day.) It also needs a warm location, but not overly hot and protection from AC/heating vents. Well, it sounded like a real challenge, but was so cute in it’s little snail shell that I just had to get one. That was almost a year ago and so far, so good. I found it the perfect spot to hang in the kitchen above the sink. This way, I’ll remember to rinse it occasionally or mist it if it seems particularly dry. The window faces Northeast, so it gets only a tiny bit of direct light early in the morning. I use neither heat nor air conditioning so we were good on those counts. It bloomed for most of the summer and it’s color overall seems good.
There are so many things about this plant that I love. Some of the leaves at the base are puffy and balloon like, while the rest are tiny and oval shaped. It doesn’t seem to grow to fast (a concern since I’m not sure how I’d go about repotting it yet), but I understand the older they get, the faster they grow. It had been in bloom most of the (although it looked more like it was in perpetual bud). And best of all, once I found it a good spot, it’s actually pretty unfussy. In a way, I too have a symbiotic relationship with the Ant Plant. I give it what it needs to grow and that it grows makes me happy. A win-win situation, don’t ya think?
This piece is part of the blog carnival hosted by Steve Asbell over at The Rainforest Garden. To participate, check out the link to his page and just follow the directions. Steve’s passion about these curious plants is evident and I’m sure he will be a driving force in what is shaping up to be a pretty big year for the epiphytes. So what are you waiting for? Share in the fun and join the carnival!