Sunday, May 28, 2006

I Was So Excited When it Bloomed....

A few years ago a friend was moving and gave us his huge corn plant. It has been very happy. About a week ago I was surprised to see that it was blooming (flowers much whiter than those in the picture)!

Yesterday morning we noticed a light scent in the house and determined it was the flowers of the corn plant. However by late afternoon it was getting stronger. My son ate dinner right next to it and declared it was strong, but okay. As the evening wore on I became more concerned. It had become very noticeable throughout the entire house. The flowers were quite attractive, but was the smell just too strong? Well, I woke up at 1:30am and the first thing I noticed was the smell. Tried burying my nose in the blankets, but it didn't work. So down I went, grabbed some scissors, cut off the three flowering stems and chucked them out onto the deck. Then I went and opened doors and swung them back and forth to get the air moving, hopefully to speed up the exit of the stench.

While looking for a picture online I discovered that the Latin name is Dracaena fragrans Massangeana. Note the word fragrans...

I have been reminded of my time at a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica, where one of the owners was happy to find the source of a scent she detected outside. She brought a single stem in and it scented the room. I am quite sure that this is the very same plant, as it was growing all over Costa Rica, and is used for living fences.

The picture is from a website that has an HUGE number of pictures of tropical plants, including fruit I haven't heard of: Top Tropicals.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Flooding in My Town

From the CBC website

At first they said this was a picture of another town and then miraculously later in the day they correctly identified it as Grand Forks. We still aren't shown on the map lower down in the article. Weird thing is that we are the largest town affected by flooding.

Two pretty big rivers meet just above the top of the picture (hence the name Grand Forks). The one that comes from the north goes by our house, well, way out in front of our house. There is a big field and about 50 to 60 vertical feet between us and the river. But the field was 90% covered in water on Sunday. My son and his friend went canoeing on the new lake. Now it is only about 50% covered.

Grand Forks was a bustling place on Sunday, when the rivers reached their peak. Dumptrucks dumping loads of sand for people to fill sandbags, emergency crews out and about, sump pumps running, sandbagged homes and gawkers, both on two feet and in cars. Our normally quiet North Fork road had a steady stream of cars driving the 20 mile loop up to the Hummingbird Bridge and back to town. Pretty dramatic scenery when the normally beautifully green valley bottom turns to water. I have heard that the road past the bridge is washed out.

Mother Nature still rules.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Willow Catkins

This willow is called Salix udensis 'Sekka'. It has a huge number of catkins in the spring, making it a magnet for bees. I rarely water it and in our dry climate that is unusual for all but native plants.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Alfalfa Tea for Roses

The rose growers on the GardenWeb forums are very excited about alfalfa tea. I have been putting alfalfa pellets around my roses for the past couple of years, but evidently the tea works faster and there seems to be an added benefit in the fact that it is fermented. Why alfalfa? It contains triacontanol, which is a growth stimulant, and it is said to produce higher yields. I keep hearing about increased basal breakouts. What is that? New growth from the bud union. Hmm, wonder if it helps own-root roses....?

I have read lots of interesting stories about alfalfa tea...mainly regarding its smell. I make my own wine and beer, so I am familiar with the smell of fermentation. No problem I say. However the description of the brew, "It makes my nose hairs stand on end", "It looks and smells like vomit. Is that normal?"..."No, that doesn't sound like it smells bad enough. ;~) You're looking for week old vomit from a vegetarian wino who has a dead fish in his pocket." Yikes!! Seems that wearing a gas mask, rain slicker and gum boots is a good idea.

Despite the scary storis I started a batch a good distance from the house.

The recipe calls for:
10-12 cups of alfalfa pellets in a 32 gallon garbage can (with lid)
Add water, stir, steep 4 to 5 days in the sun
It is ready to use when it has a yeasty (or vomit, etc) smell and foam on the surface.
Use about 1 gallon per large rose bush.
Recommendations for frequency of use varies from every week or 2 to twice during the growing season.

When at the bottom there will be sludge left. Simply fill again with water, let ferment and use again. After that just throw the sludge in the compost pile or bury somewhere.

Just before adding to the roses you may want to add to the barrel epsom salts (1 cup), chelated iron (1/2 c), fish emulsion (1-2 c), seaweed (1 c), chelated iron (1 c), or any liquid fertilizer. Just be careful to keep the nutrients balanced so that you are not adding too much nitrogen, etc.

So I made my alfafa brew, but we had cold weather and I think that the yeast were killed. It foamed but it didn't smell. However I have added it to the plants that were not moved this spring. Then I added it to those that had been moved and had been in the ground about 3 weeks. The bareroots I am waiting until they show signs of aggressive growth. Evidently they need to wait about 2 weeks after planting. However the soil has been cold so I don't think they are settled in very well yet, so they will have to wait another week. Besides I hope to have the proper stinky stuff to offer them then.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Time for Some Pictures

I have still not purchased another camera, after mine was stolen in Costa Rica. But my son is here for a few days, with his camera. So I captured a few shots.

This is a sensational tulip I picked up last fall. This picture is a smidgen more yellow than it really is. Should be slightly more orange. It glows. I must get more. It is a kaufmanniana tulip called 'Donald Duck'. Another really gorgeous kaufmanniana is 'Stressa'. Huge blooms. I really like the short-stemmed tulips, preferring them to their more famous cousins.

In the background of the above photo is one of my favourite plants, Brunnera. For two months it has a sea of clear blue blooms floating above rich green foliage. Then the stems carrying the leaves need to be cleared out (it will self-seed) and huge hosta-like leaves take their place, similar to what Pulmonaria does. For those who have a problem with slugs, you could try Brunnera as a substitute.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nitrogen Requirements for Roses

From Mike on the GardenWeb forums, when replying to someone's question about feeding roses:

“The average daily nitrogen need of a green house rose has been determined to be 70 mg per day. This amounts to 0.21 ounces over a 3 month period. If you feed each rose 1 tbs of 10-10-10 , that's 0.5 ounces of fertilizer or 0.05 ounces of nitrogen - about 1/4 of what the rose needs. If you feed 4 tbs of 10-10-10, that's 2 ounces of fertilizer or 0.2 ounces of nitrogen - exactly equal to what the rose needs. I would go on the high side with 6 tbs per rose.”


I am making alfalfa tea for my roses. It is supposed to promote basal breaks, the branches that start from the bud union (the bulge in the trunk, just above the roots).

Have also been soaking my new bare-root roses in diluted willow water. My hands sore from cutting up willow rods, so those roses had better like it. But it is time to get out and finish planting them!!