Fall frosts and pre winter scenes

The last of the flowers and herbs have finally succumbed to the fall frosts.  The reblooming irises managed to open about half of the buds that developed before dying back and made for some wonderful fall colors..  The petunia flowers are also gone but surprisingly the plants themselves are still hanging on and actually look quite good. I hope this bodes well for them to come back next year.  I love how their iridescent purple, pink, and striped blossoms have spread all over the hillside.  In fact I am seeing some variations that I never bought because of the cross-pollination.  I even got a few pure white ones – which I never would have bought because as you know I don’t like white as a main theme.   I never was much of a petunia fan before this, but I have decided I like the way they spread and I have to plant fewer to get coverage in an area where it is hard to dig very deep.  Plus they are volunteering to return on their own.

Two weekends ago deer hunting season started with a 7 AM blast and I was a little worried about the bucks that live around here – particularly the 8+ pointer.  We don’t hunt ourselves but many of the surrounding neighbors do and I knew he would be considered a prize.  Still, he didn’t get to live to have 8-10 points without being pretty smart and yesterday as I was coming down the last fifty yards of the driveway to the house, there he was.  He stopped and I stopped.  We looked at each other for about a minute before I started to edge the car on and he bounded away.   I got one last glimpse of him as he turned back to watch me briefly.  Of course  I didn’t think to get my phone out and try to snap his picture.  One of these days I will see him close up in the yard and manage to get the telephoto lens so I can actually count the times on him.  I’m betting on at least 10.

Rosemary and oregano

And finally, for the last month, my studio table has been the has been doing double duty as a drying rack for the herbs I grew and picked.  I got around to stripping the dried leaves from the stems yesterday.  Who knew the rosemary could be so pungent after it was dry.  It actually had a piney smell to it and my fingers have had the aroma of herbs for half of the day.  I managed to dry over a cup of the rosemary and 1/2 cup of oregano which I will use in my cooking over the winter.  I particularly like to use the oregano in the artichoke spaghetti and the rosemary on the baked sweet and red potato fries.  Yum.

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Unexpected pleasures – take them when you can

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, no matter how I try. I guess the trick is to let it go and deal with what the reality is.  I had picked out a drawing to do and was preparing to start it when my new watercolors arrived.  Naturally I had to see what I had really bought since all I had was the pictures on the website and a sheet of recommended colors to purchase.  I altered my plans and made a still life with the gourds I found a week or so ago.  I was able to spend a few hours setting up the layout (jeesh are gourds hard to pose attractively) and lay down some preliminary colors.  That is where the fun stopped.  Other considerations intervened and that is where the painting sits.  I guess it is a good thing gourds are durable and long-lasting because I think it will be the weekend before I can get back to it.  I must say I am happy so far with what colors I bought.  I might make a few additions but not too much yet.

My confused iris

On the better side, these days my studio smells like an herb garden.  I recently picked most of the last of the tomatoes, peppers and herbs before an expected light frost.  The tomatoes are in the garden window to ripen, but I spread out the herbs on a piece of newsprint on the studio table to let them dry.  I did this last year and it worked out well.  I turn them over every day or two and eventually it all is dry enough to put into containers.  The aroma is quite pungent for the first few days and increases again when I turn them over.  I got a little bit of a surprise, though, when I picked the produce.  I glanced over to where the herbs were to check on them and something caught the corner of my eye.  There was something odd about the irises.  I did a double take when I realized several of them had sent up flower stalks and were attempting to bloom again.  They had never fulfilled their advertised promise of reblooming due, I guess, to the drought.  When we finally got some rain and more moderate temperatures, they must had decided it was fine to try again.  I held my breath through several more cold nights, but you can see that they made it.  I don’t know how many of the buds will actually get to fully bloom, but I am so glad to have the ones that did.  And you can see the petunias also made a great recovery.  Who’d have thought all these flowers were possible at the very end of October.  Certainly not I.

Fruit and vegetable medley – Peppers, potatoes, and green apples

I managed to get out earlier this week and buy the green pepper for my next painting. Actually I bought two – one to put in my artichoke pasta salad (yum) and one to paint. I still had the small, wonderfully knobby green apples that I picked from the old trees up on the hill and some potatoes from my sister’s garden. I tried the pepper and apples alone at first, but the composition and colors wouldn’t work out for me so I decided to add the potato.  It seemed much better then.

Fruits and Vegetables

I worked on the painting over the course of several days, a little bit at a time.  For some reason I had to let it set more often so I could “see” it again.  Maybe it was all of the greens involved starting to run together, but I felt I needed frequent breaks.  All in all, I am probably the most pleased with this watercolor.  I don’t know exactly why, but I like the colors and brush strokes of this one more than any of the others.  I finally had to stop when I felt that I was getting to the stage of adding a little here and a little there and suddenly it would become a little too much.

I think I’m about ready to go back to the architecturals now, feeling quite refreshed from all of the watercolor work.

I’m also thinking of making some prints of my work to sell.  Does anyone have advice on a good home printer that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to buy and use?  It is so expensive to print commercially, even on line, and I would really like to be able to offer some prints in my etsy store.

Naked ladies and Russian sage

The white peonies are not the only things I was able to get from my grandmother’s flower beds right before her house was sold. She also had daffodils, some trace of which  must have been still visible when we took the peonies.  When we dug up a few of her daffodils, a pleasant surprise was unknowingly included.  It actually took me over two years to realize what had happened when we transplanted the bulbs.  Naked ladies (aka amaryllis belladonna) are so called because the foliage is only out for a few weeks in the spring, the same time as daffodils.  Then, some 4 months later, long past the demise of the reedy thin, daffodil-like leaves, the flower stem suddenly bursts out of the ground and in the space of only a few days, blooms with a proliferation of flowers from a main stalk.  The stress of a move or replanting will often cause them to skip a blooming cycle even though the foliage has appeared.  It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the leaves of the ladies and the daffodils unless you are looking for it and I most certainly didn’t notice them that first year.  I thought that the lack of daffodil blooms was just due to the move and hoped for better the next year.  What a wonderful surprise I had the following summer when in August the bare stalks erupted from the earth and flowered profusely.

Naked ladies and Russian sage

As you might have guessed, my naked ladies have just started to bloom.  With the die back of many of my black-eyed susans and cone flowers, I decided to cut a single stalk of flowers and a few branches from the Russian sage.  The sage has lovely small blue flowers coming off of each branch and I thought the combination of the delicate pink ladies and the blue sage might make a lovely arrangement.I painted the ladies first and then the sage.  After two painting sessions, I could not get the pink flowers to separate themselves visually.  I let it rest for a day and decided the only way to salvage the painting would be to delineate with the ink.  I have been very good so far about not resorting to the ink when I get frustrated, but I kind of gave up with this one.  I did not want to over saturate the soft pink color of the flowers and felt that a little bit of ink accents would help the painting as a whole.  I also put it in a mauve mat to see what it did to the color.

These flowers were one of Grandma’s favorites and she certainly called  them the naked ladies with some risqué glee.  For the longest time, I never knew they had any other name.  As with the peonies, I have half a dozen groupings now that I am sharing with family.  I know Grandma would be pleased.

This week I picked a few small apples from an old tree up on the hill top and bought a green pepper.  After I  try painting them I think I’ll be refreshed enough to go back to the architectural work.

Who says I have a green thumb – not me

I have been told on occasion that I must have a green thumb. Nothing could be farther than from the truth. The reality is that I get  plants, indoors and out and if they live, they live and I keep them, and if they die I don’t get anymore of those. Through a process of attrition I have learned what will survive with a minimum of care.   Nothing exotic for me.  If it looks exotic and pretty that’s fine but I have a rule.  I only plant it once.  And none of this put it in in spring and take it up in the fall.  If you can’t make for a whole year – too bad – no second chances – usually.   

Half volunteers

I have broken that rule once in a while, but not very often.  As a matter of fact, when we built the new house and I had to start from scratch, there were two plants that were supposed to be good to -40.  Both were evergreen types and had a pretty little spring flower.  I think one was pink heather and the other was bog rosemary.  I lost about half of them  over the first winter and decided to break the rule and replace them.  I should have kept to the rule.  Many of the new ones died and most of the ones that had survived the first year succumbed.  I gave up on them and have moved on to the next.  I do try to pick plants that are fairly cold tolerant needing little care.  The no care rule extends to mulching over winter also. 

All volunteers

The only exceptions are the few annuals for the flower pots and the petunias along the stone steps.  There is a lot of gravel just a few inches below the ground and I can’t really plant much there except some shallow rooted annuals.  I have managed to get some daffodil bulbs going  and I wanted something to cover the ground when they die back.  I never liked petunias much when I was growing up but I decided that the spreading wave petunias  (wave means expensive, you know, as in wave your money goodbye) would be a good choice.  They have actually done very well there, spreading up to a square yard each and lasting well into October.  Last year I had a few volunteers come up in mid summer quite far from the stair area.  I never knew that they could come up from a stray seed so I thought how lucky I was and perhaps that birds had helped spread them.  This spring when I went to look and see how everything had survived the drought of the fall and the very cold winter, I saw what looked to be petunias coming up where I had planted them last year.  Surely not.  In the spirit of doing the minimum of yard work, I decided to let them alone for a while and see what they might really be.  I went ahead and planted some wave petunias just in case I was mistaken (which was most likely given my plant identifying skills).  Low and behold after a few weeks it became apparent that they were indeed petunias.  They are starting to bloom.  The flowers are a little smaller than this year’s new ones and I can’t tell how much they will spread, but I love the fact that they have reseeded themselves.  I have more coming up about 25 feet away.  The colorful petunia blooms are quite lovely coming up in the midst of the vinca where they were never planted.  I think I’ll let them stay.

Oh, and I asked my mother and aunt who they thought planted the hardy peonies and both agree that Grandma was not a flower garden person.  Great Grandma must have planted them at some point.  Neither could remember the first time they remember seeing the peonies, but they must predate the early sixties.  That means they really are 50 to 100+ years old.  I am betting older rather than younger.