Blessings of Such Beauty

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Garden Thoughts | 3 comments

Is it spring or winter?

Benny's Garden Journal 28 February 2017As 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.

Seed Starting Indoors

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.

Poblano pepper seed packed

Pepper Chile Ancho/Poblano Heirloom. Image courtesy of Botanical Interests

Alyssum Sweet Oriental Nights seed packet

Alyssum Sweet Oriental Nights. Image courtesy of Botanical Interests

Alyssum Sweet Tiny Tim seed packet

Alyssum Sweet Tiny Tim. Image courtesy Botanical Interests

Lobelia Trailing Cascade of Color Heirloom seed packet

Lobelia Trailing Cascade of Color Heirloom. Image courtesy Botanical Interests

Lobelia Cambridge Blue Heirloom  seed packet

Lobelia Cambridge Blue Heirloom . Image courtesy Botanical Interests

Cherry Roma seed packet

And finally some Cherry Roma seeds from Seed Savers Exchange

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!

Alyssum Seedlings

Alyssum Seedlings

What’s Happening Indoors?

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).

Pot. Dick Smith "Paradise" Cattleya Orchid

Pot. Dick Smith “Paradise” Cattleya Orchid

Pot. Dick Smith "Paradise" Cattleya Orchid

Pot. Dick Smith “Paradise” Cattleya Orchid

Pot. Dick Smith "Paradise" Cattleya Orchid

Pot. Dick Smith “Paradise” Cattleya Orchid

Neostylis Lou Sneary ‘Bluebird’ orchid

Neostylis Lou Sneary ‘Bluebird’ orchid

“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!

Flax preparing for spring

Beautiful seed head

A macro of snow

Icycles from table

Mysterious seedlings — possibly Flanders Poppies emerging


  1. A wonderful blog, Benjy!! And I can totally identify with that orchid buying orgy – same generally happens to e when I venture into a flower shop. I went to the Walmart store in Benson yesterday and they have a bunch of their flowers out already – I am looking for a fig tree. They didn’t have it, so I guess it will mean a Tucson trip – and after that, MY GARDEN IS FULL! Any more plants would have to spill over into the back yard which is the doggies’ night time domain, and that may not be good…..

  2. Hi there Eve,

    Such beautiful temptations everywhere. 🙂 A fig tree is a wonderful idea! You had one near the Far Away right? I can’t wait to see what you pick out Eve. 🙂 See you in a few weeks my friend.

  3. I am wide-eyed, grinning and have loved going to the garden store with you. Your photography expertise captures how visually stunning new life and orchids can be. I garden also. It’s in my genes passed down from generation to generation. I loved the emotional tug of war. “No more orchids” I exclaimed resolutely. I swallowed hard. Just say no. Well yes I do. Dippin Dots. Can relate completely. Ben this was so much fun to read as well as informative. Thank you for taking me along.

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