It is a bit chilly outside this Memorial Day. Well, the breeze is chilly anyway. The garden plants are swaying in the wind and I am enjoying the type of peace and quiet only a garden can provide. Directly in front of me are two large pots that could quite possibly accommodate small trees or shrubs if I were so inclined. Actually, now that I think back, at one point, I believe I did have some small conifers in each of these but they did not survive. For the last two years I have dedicated these pots to growing a very special flower – the Flanders Poppy. As you all know, I am a very sentimental gardener and this particular flower provides more sentiment than most other flowers I grow.
Today, as in most Memorial Days that have passed, I like to sit quietly and reflect. My garden, my solace, my one place I can commune quietly with my thoughts is in perfect form today. How fortunate I am! I have a home, food in the kitchen and a decent size garden to just sit and relax.
I watched a documentary last night on PBS that focused on those that lost their lives in World War I and II. Men and women as young as 18 or 19 died by the scores to save the world from tyranny. I am forty-seven and I have never been drafted nor have I been anywhere near a war. No, in my late teens and twenties I was out gallivanting around enjoying my freedom to do pretty much whatever I pleased. I never had to advance on a beach head attempting to dodge constant gunfire, secure a post deep in enemy territory knowing that any minute an explosive could go off and end it all or worry if a sniper was hiding somewhere ready to end my life. I never had bombs going off all around me as I watched my friends lose limbs or being blown to pieces. No, I have been blessed by not ever having to experience any of these things.
In one part of the documentary, it showed bombs hitting the ground and as they exploded it was as if a geyser of earth had erupted. The narrator then mentioned that men were buried alive under all the many tons of dirt and debris. Imagine that! You are marching forward and bombs fall and there is so much dirt and debris falling over you that you are buried alive. What an absolutely horrific way to die! Maybe if the fates were kind something would hit you on the head to either knock you out or kill you instantly as opposed to breathing in dirt and slowly suffocating.
Thinking about all this now actually has brought tears to my eyes. I think of all the black and white photos of men and women smiling in their uniform or pre-military photos of home life. Men and women who died. These people were someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter and because of their bravery and selfless dedication, they gave their lives so that I can sit here in this garden enjoying a type of freedom most still only dream about. It is because of this I view this day not as a chance to have a three day weekend or perhaps take advantage of some sale, I consider it a duty of sorts to sit peacefully in quiet reflection and thank those from my heart who gave so much.
When the bombings were over and the earth was a disfigured war-torn mess, one beautiful thing did happen. Where once there were bodies,carnage and earth stained with blood, a flower grew. Poppies love to grow in disturbed earth as they need light to germinate. With all the seeds brought to the surface, the red of the blood spilled was replaced with the red of a most beautiful and humble flower. It is interesting to note that in many major wars throughout history, poppies would grow from the disturbed earth. With their soft, papery petals swaying in the wind, Lieutenant John McCrae was inspired to write a beautiful poem dedicated to the flower and honoring the men who perished.
Here is John McCrae’s poem as it appeared in the December 8th 2015 issue of Punch Magazine:
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
IN Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Every year I spread Flanders Poppy seeds in more and more places in the garden as it is my way of honoring and remembering. I absolutely love all poppies but there truly is something special about the small corn poppy now known as the Flanders Poppy. Beyond the confines of my own garden, it is my hope to inspire others to grow this flower in their own garden. If you live in a cooler climate, you can spread them in February or late autumn. If you live in a warmer climate, you can spread them in September. Not much is needed really. Just ensure the earth is a bit loose, grab a handful of seeds and broadcast them. That’s it. They will come up faithfully after the cool weather ends. When they have finished flowering, the dried seed heads can be pinched off and when you are ready to plant again just squeeze the dried seed pods to break open the hundreds of tiny seeds inside. To get you started, I definitely recommend buying your seeds from Botanical Interests. If you would like some of my seeds, please leave a message in the comments section and I will contact you asking for your address and will be happy to send you some.
As always, thank you very kindly for reading. I pray your day has been blessed.
Here are photos of the poppies that have graced my garden throughout the years:
As I mentioned in my last post, my garden was responding to the unseasonably warm temperatures. The daffodils were rising ever higher toward the sky, clover was sprouting all throughout, irises were poking through, more violas were springing up in containers and all throughout the garden, chives and garlic onions were poking through the earth and if I am not mistaken, there was a mass of Flander’s poppy seedlings emerging. I say all these things in the past tense because the garden was quite rightly responding to what they perhaps considered an early spring. Then, in typical Colorado fashion, it turned very cold and six inches of snow blanketed everything. Snow is a natural insulator so I am not too worried but I can’t imagine these upstarts are enjoying the sudden rudeness of the cold. Maybe they are? I mean I LOVE the snow so perhaps they are enjoying it as well.
It is currently a balmy 41 degrees outside and the snow is disappearing rapidly. I am a strong proponent of conserving as much water as possible so I have been removing the snow from the stamped patio, the furniture, etc. and piling it in the various beds. We live in an Alpine desert environment so water is extremely precious and I garden with that in mind. As the snow recedes, I can see that the plants braving the sporadic nature of late winter don’t look too worse for wear. Unless we have another incredible heat spell, I think slow and steady will be the name of the game for the bulbs, etc. and those other plants that have yet to grace my garden will do so at a more appropriate time – I hope.
This is the year I shall take my indoor seed starting very seriously! Last year, I started my seeds too late and because my grow rack is down in the basement, I learned so many important lessons. One – It is chilly down in the basement, thus don’t expect the seedlings to be too robust without a heating mat. Two – Sporadic watering is not a good way to ensure success. In fact, letting your delicate seedlings dry out is a very quick way to kill them quickly. You would think I would know better.
Well, this year, I built a bigger rack and I attached the light properly (with the help of my handyman). Next I bought a self-contained kit which includes a 72-cell tray, a lid AND most crucial, a heating mat. It is made by a company called Hydrofarm and I bought it from my local garden center. It has mixed reviews on Amazon but considering it is under $40, I am hoping to have success with it.
With everything set up, I filled the cells with some Jiffy mix and then selected some seeds. Here is what I chose to get started:
These selections were purchased from Botanical Interests.
All the seeds were planted on February 22nd and yesterday I noticed some alyssum sprouts! This is a bit farther than what I got last year. Once the true leaves form on the alyssum, I will get them transferred out of the dome and into some paper pots. I need to purchase a second light, another mat and perhaps some other accessories such as a temperature regulator for the mats and timers for the lights. This can get very expensive very quickly but after this initial investment, the savings will be realized when I am not buying full grown plants from the nurseries. Anyone reading this knows that it is very difficult to walk out of a nursery without spending over $100.00 – particularly when you go in early spring and are very anxious to get immediate satisfaction with instant color!
The botanic gardens currently has a fantastic selection of orchids on display – most likely to entice more people to visit during the “drab” winter months. I don’t find winter drab at all. I find it peaceful and quiet. For me, the ideal time to go to the botanic gardens is during the winter for these very reasons. I am invigorated by cold so that doesn’t bother me either. Saying this, when I go to the gardens this time of year, I am there to take photos of dried seed heads or perhaps something exciting in the tropical conservatory.
A few weeks ago, I was delighted to see the many varieties of orchids and I enjoyed taking several photos of them:
Well, as luck would have it (I say with a tad of sarcasm) there was a local nursery selling some of these beautiful orchids. “Oh no!” I thought to myself. I have tried growing orchids before. I mean, how can anyone resist trying to grow these beauties at least once? That ended badly. Once those first blooms were spent, the plant never bloomed again. Was it light? Water? Too much or too little of each? I read that they like this or love that so was trying so many different things. In the end, I think I watered it too much (or maybe too little, I don’t know) and the stalks withered away to nothing. “No more orchids!” I exclaimed resolutely.
This crafty vendor proudly displayed her wares directly adjacent to the entrance of the orangery. Tuning into my affinity for her beautiful specimens, she softly and sweetly asked what I thought of her orchids. I was taking photos of them so I smiled and said I love them very much. “We have several varieties that will grow well in a bright spot of the home” she added.
“Oh, I am sure” I replied with a giggle. I then explained my woes of past growing experiences.
She then grabbed the specimen I was drooling over and had previously photographed. “I see you like this one.”
I swallowed hard. “Yes, it is so beautiful.”
“Well this guy is so easy to grow” she chirped. “All you need is a bright window facing south and this orchid will bloom for you easily.” She went on to describe its watering and feeding needs along with another declaration of how easy it was to grow.
I held this forbidden bit of temptation in my hand. “Look, she said. I have one here where the pods haven’t opened yet! Do you have a south facing window?”
“Just say no, just say no,” I repeated to myself “and this whole affair will be finished in one fell swoop.”
“Yes, I do” I said. “It is very bright and I have a coffee plant growing there along with other plants that love bright lights.”
“What! What are you saying! Stop, NOW!” I exclaimed to myself.
“Well, this would go perfectly in that window, don’t you think?” The sweet lady asked with the sincerest tone.
“It would actually” I said with a smile that stretched from Colorado to Texas.
I had to concede. I had to! I mean, look at this plant. This is MY plant after the pods opened. I listened carefully to all the advice this wonderful woman was willing to part with including light suggestions (my orchid would love the bright, south facing window) and water (at least once a week, don’t let it dry out).
“Do you have food?” She asked.
“I have some from when I tried this a long time ago. It is some smelly yellow powder” I responded.
“I have something here that we make ourselves.” She then handed me a tub full of white and green dots. It was almost like getting handed a serving of Dippin’ Dots. The tag of $20.00 was displayed prominently. “This is quite expensive” I stated after tallying in my head what all this was going to cost me (as you can see from the photos above, I also picked up another beautiful orchid — Neostylis Lou Sneary ‘Blue Bird’ — oh and a pot for the Cattleya).
“You only need ½ teaspoon” she returned. “So, this tub should last you a year. Do you have African violets?”
“I sure do” I responded happily because I am always on the lookout for a decent violet food.
“You can use this for your violets as well. They’ll love it!”
“I’ll get it!” And with that, after not intending to buy a single thing, I purchased two orchids and this wonderful, homemade orchid food. I was feeling good and optimistic about my purchases!
Before I left the gardens that day, I noticed (conveniently) they had several books on orchid care in the gift shop. I started thumbing through one called “The Orchid Whisperer”. I resolved to buy it but to save money would buy it online. I hate to say that but I dropped nearly $100.00 on the orchids, food, etc. and being on a budget, saving $15.00 on a book was very appealing.
Well, my orchid buying adventures went on for a bit there so discussing all my other indoor gardening adventures must wait until next time. I will end by saying that my orchids are still doing well and I am learning a lot from my book. I will touch more on that next time as well. Until then, happy growing. May you all have a very blessed day and as always, thank you so kindly for reading!
And, now some garden photos!