MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Fun To Participate In All These Memes

I'm joining in the memes hosted by Nature Notes hosted by Rambling Woods, St Germain's and Today's Flowers meme.

It's fun to participate in all these memes because you not only get to see other blogs; read others'experiences and stories; enjoy others' pictures and videos. But, you also get to discipline yourself to remember to participate in the memes; find appropriate topics; take required pictures and/or videos; write it up. Otherwise, with a full-time job and work-load and responsibilities increasing every year, it's very difficult to maintain a blog unless there are some kind of discipline or external pressure. So, these memes keep me in tow, and I would really like to thank all of them. Are there any more memes that I can participate in? If you know about them, please let me know.

For todays-flowers meme, I present to you two native wild flowers of the USA. Robin's Plantain (Erigeron Pulchellus) is an an esay-to-grow, low-maintenance, mat-forming plant. It slowly colonizes through rhizome and seeds and form a neat ground covering math with evergreen basal-rosette type leaves. Thus, it's a good ground-cover plant that will suppress any weeds. But as I mentioned, it colonizes slowly. It neither like too much sun; nor like shade. So, it's ideal for a place where there is dappled sunlight or perhaps sunlight for a couple of hours max. It likes dry, drought-type soil. Too much water can kill it. The flowers are daisy like and absolutely gorgeous with a hint of purple/pink/yellow. They form on tall stalks and blooms profusely from spring to the beginning of summer (say from April to June; or whenever spring comes and ends). The flowers are good source of both nectar and pollen and native bees really like them. The flower is found throughout the eastern and south-central USA. I have two of these plants in my garden. I do not take any sorts of care of them -- not even pruning or dead-heading or cutting down of the dead stalks -- absolutely nothing required. It's a self-cleaning plant which thrives on neglect. The picture below shows when the plant have just started blooming. You can see all the many buds on the plant.

Another native plant is two-leafed Miterwort. It's a shade-loving plant. So, if you have a dark-shady region, plant a group of these plants. At least during the spring, that place will become bright with it's tiny white flowers. Again, it's a plant that thrives on neglect. I do not take any care of these plants -- no pruning, weeding, nothing -- but they come back year after year with more vigor and beauty. It's an woodland plant. It's ephemeral beauty can only be enjoyed during the spring. Rest of the time, it's an evergreen low ground-covering plant. It also spreads through rhizomes and seeds. It's found throughout the eastern and central part of the USA and Canada. The flowers are good source of pollen and nectar and liked by native bugs. Native Americans used both the plants -- Robin's Plantain and Miterwort -- for various remedies.

Aren't these two beauties? Such small plants but with big hearts and beauties who want to share all its pollens and nectars and flowers with everyone. But alas! such native plants, nowadays, have no place in most gardens. True they only bloom for a few weeks; true their blooms (not the bloom of Robin's plantain though; it's blooms are size of Asters) are tiny. But, they bring important source of food, at a time when food is most required after the long harsh winter, for native birds and bugs. Their seeds are eaten by native song-birds. People plant tulips and daffodils in their places but they do not provide seeds for native birds; also, how many native bees do you find on tulips and daffodils? At least I don't find any. I'm not against daffodils and tulips. I have lots of them in my garden. But along with such exquisite flowers, people should also plant some native plants as well.

Okay enough preaching for today :-P. Now, I present some other cuti-pies from my garden. The last picture is very hazy because I had to take it through two layers of glass. The Blue-Jay has decided to make its nest outside our main door, in the Rhododendron tree!! If I go out with a big camera, it flies away. I have somehow tamed it though by offering sunflower-seeds and peanuts. Apparently, Blue-Jays can be easily tamed; they also can mimic human-voice (much like parrots) if they are brought up from a hatchling stage!! But with all its intelligence, I have to say that this bird is quite dumb. I gave it a big peanut. It took it and planted in the lawn, perhaps as a future food-stock. But the dumb bird doesn't know that it will not remain as a future food-stock but will become a peanut plant :-). Blue-Jays are credited for spreading oak-trees throughout the USA, after the last ice-age. Acorns are their most favorite food.

A Blue-Jay
The Blue-Jay in the Nest. Can you see her? 
If you click on any of the pictures, they get enlarged and you can see them in more details. Here are the thieves of bird-food. I love squirrels but I'm now getting a bit annoyed. They are dominating the bird-feeders. Here are some of their poses -- the way they sit and steal all the sunflower seeds.

And when the dogs shoo them away, they go up in the trees, sit and watch for the dogs to go away; then they again come down and start the broad-daylight stealing!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Spring is here And Work has begun

In this part of NJ, the last day of frost is usually around May 15 but seems like, here, the frost-period is over for this year (fingers crossed). So, I have started planting out tomatilos, pepper, potato, onion and other cool and warm weather vegetables. Along with planting and seeding, I have started cleaning out the garden, and making newer raised beds. But I will not bore you with all these. Rather, enjoy these photos/video taken in my garden as the garden is coming back to life.

This is Viburnum Jodii. I planted it last year. The fragrance of this cluster of white flowers is absolutely mind-blowing. It perfumes up the whole garden.

The cow-slips (kind of wild primrose from the UK) have started blooming more profusely. The dainty dangling flowers is indeed a sight to behold. The British country-side must be an amazing place in spring.

Creeping phlox. Plants are real wonder. I do not take care of them; do not even fertilize them. But year after year they come back to please us, to provide magnificent sights for us. How unselfish they are. A real lesson that we should learn from them. How wonderful the world would become if we all become so giving and unselfish.

The native Dogwood plant in full-swing. I only wish the flowers were fragrant.

The Persian Lilacs are also coming into bloom. The whole garden is now inundated with her fragrance. We have quite a few of these trees on our property -- both in the back and front garden. The previous owner of this house must have been in love with this lilac. But, it's a very invasive plant as it sends out suckers everywhere, and it's big job to constantly prune them.

Lady's slippers are coming up as well. Good! for the next couple of weeks, I don't have to worry about going bare-foot :-P

A kind of Azaleas -- the buds have appeared. It will also start blooming soon.

Poppy. Do you know that opium comes from these poppy plants only? Poppy plants originated in Afghanistan/Iran/Central Asian region, and then spread across the world as flower collectors collected these plants for their beauty. There are thousands of varieties of poppy plants in that region and in the Himalayan region of India/Nepal/Bhutan. The flowers are exquisite. Many of those seeds can be bought online; but don't buy them unless you are an expert horticulturist as the seeds are extremely difficult to germinate. For each variety, you have to exactly mimic its home-condition.

The Three-Sisters -- close up of dogwood flowers

The best is for the last. I don't have to go to any circus. Circus is always happening in my garden.

I'm joining in the memes hosted by Nature Notes hosted by Rambling Woods and St Germain's and Today's Flowers meme

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

It is still 11:30 pm here; so, April 15 is still here, and that means I can participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by May Dreams Garden. I always think of participating in it but never remember. This time also I just remembered at the nick of time. So, here are are the blooms in my garden now.

Alyssum, Pansy and Dianthus. The fragrance of this alyssum is intoxicating; so is that of Dianthus though it has a much more sweeter-cinnamony fragrance.

Yellow Wallflowers (Erysimum); the red ones are yet to bloom but will do it soon. I'm forgetting the name of the third flower. I will have to look it up tomorrow morning.

Various colors of Hyacinth which are in full bloom now. The larger pictures show some more color.

How can I ignore my weeds which not only provide food for me (a topic to be written about later) but also makes my lawn look beautiful in the spring. Dandelion, Speedwell and Violets, all growing everywhere in every nook and cranny around my garden. They look the lawns very pretty, and also provide food to all the bees that are now waking up.

Euphorbia, Cow-slips (when will it spread and colonize the whole area? I can't wait any more though I just planted it in the fall of 2015), Grape-Hyacinth, Daffodils and Persia Purple Fritillaria

Fritallari flowers and creeping phlox

These are yet to bloom though the buds have become fatter -- Rhododendron, Dogwood and Ajuga. Hopefully, I will be able to showcase them in next month's bloggers bloom day.

I'm also joining in the memes hosted by Nature Notes hosted by Rambling Woods and St Germain's meme

Monday, April 11, 2016

Buy One Get Millions Free

Okay, I would not like to have millions free since I don't have a huge garden but having ten plants out of one plant is great indeed. Since winter is refusing to leave, and I'm growing hungry without the fresh produce from my garden, so I'm trying to grow/propagate edible plants inside. That's how I'm also fulfilling my gardening-itch.

MINT: From one mint plant, one can literally get million mint plants through propagation. To propagate mint from cuttings, cut a young shoot about four inches in length. Strip away all the lower leaves and then just lower the bare shoot in some water. Within two or three days, you will see roots coming out from the shoot. Once some healthy roots are developed, put it out in garden, and a whole big mint plant will grow out of it. However, mint is a very aggressive plant though very beneficial to bees, butterflies and other insects. So, unless you have lots of use of mint in your cooking and/or looking for creating bees/butterfly gardens, do not put mint in your garden. It will spread very fast through under-ground suckers. So grow them in pots. Another point to keep in mind is that not all mints are suitable for all climates. There are many different types of mints; some mints can be perennial even in zone 1 while some mint will not even survive the chill of zone 7. So, if you are looking for perennial mint, you need to buy the mint that's suitable for your zone. One of the best mint-family plant that I have in my garden is the native bee-balm, and about which I will write later.

I'm now propagating five different types of mints through cuttings. You can grow such plants from cuttings to give away to your friends and families. Mint can easily grow in both shade or light; it can also be grown as beautiful hanging basket plants inside your house. So, you will have a plant which is not only edible but which will also make your room smell nice. And, they will grow and thrive throughout the year inside your house. To propagate from cutting, always take a fresh cutting from a leaf-node (node is the point on the stem where leaves grow, as shown in the second picture). In the third picture, you can see all the roots that have developed.

Not only mint but oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme and lavender -- all of these herbs can be propagated from cuttings like this. However, you cannot propagate parsley and cilantro from cuttings. I have also found that garden-sage, oregano and thyme can also grow in both shade and light; thrives as house-plants. However, lavender and rosemary really requires bright sun-shine.

Another easy plant to propagate from store-bought item is sweet potato. Take a small organic (not sure if inorganic chemical infested sweet-potatoes will behave similarly or not) sweet potato. Hang it in a cup of water by pushing in some stick to its side. Within a week, there will be roots growing; then within 2-3 weeks (or sometimes it can be 4-5 weeks also, just have patience; plants can really teach us how to be patient) stems and leaves will keep on coming out from the top part of the potato that is not in water. You can then put in the whole potato in the ground. However, the practice is to cut the stems (those which are about 4 inches in length at least), and put them in water; roots will again develop from those stems; and, so each stem will become a single sweet potato plant. These individual stems with roots are called snips; and that's what you get from online garden stores if you buy sweet potato plants.

Sweet potato requires lots of sun-shine and warm days for at least 4-5 months. That's why New Jersey's weather is perfect to grow sweet potatoes as we do have that long growing season. Sweet potato also grows best in neglected, sandy soil. In too rich soil, they will grow lots and lots of leaves and stem but very few tubers. That's why it's important to remember NEVER to fertilize sweet potato plants, if you want tubers. The plant is a vine, and can grow humongous. It will crawl around the soil; it will send roots and shoots into the soil; and wherever it does that, new sets of sweet potato grows underneath. If you have space and allow your sweet potato to crawl around, then you can find sweet potatoes 50 feet away from the point where you originally planted the mother-plant. It's a beautiful plant (that's why many non-edible sweet potato plants are grown for ornamental purposes), and you can eat everything of the plant -- stem, leaves, the tubers. The stems and leaves are absolutely delicious; you can boil them; saute them; put them in other preparation; and apparently extremely healthy and nutritious.

If you don't like to dig to find tubers; or don't have much space in your garden, then grow sweet potato in a 12 inch by 12 inch or larger pots. Put the plant in; do not fertilize; just make sure that it gets water when it's very dry; gets lots of sunshine; and then completely ignore. You will see the whole pot gets covered by the plant, and then it starts hanging out. At the end of the season, dump the soil and get the sweet potatoes; you might not get as many as you will get if you grow the plant in ground; but still you can find 5-6 or more potatoes in the pot. And, again I would highly recommend to eat the leaves and stem; they are absolutely delicious (not raw but cooked). If you want year long greens, then you can put a sweet potato plant in a hanging basket, and hang it inside the house in a front of a south-facing window. You will have a beautiful vine-plant inside the house that you can also eat

What other cheap way to grow edible plants? Go to any South Asian grocery stores, and buy packets of coriander, mustard and fenugreek seeds. For about 2-3 dollars, you will get big packets with thousands of seeds. Coriander is a herb and thus you cannot eat it as greens; but you can eat fenugreek and mustard as leafy-greens. Soak the seeds overnight and spread them out in some soil. The soil can be in a pot; or in one of those aluminium baking pans (trays, whatever they are called); cover lightly with soil; keep them moist, and within 1-2 days seedlings will emerge. Then, you can pick and eat the greens at whatever stages that you fancy -- really small seedlings; or about 4-6 inches in length; or let them mature and then pick -- at every stage, they are nutritious and delicious. The mustard greens taste peppery. Here is my jungle of fenugreek and mustard greens, growing in a pot in front of a south-facing window.

I'm participating in St Germain's meme; and also in Nature's Notes by Rambling Woods.