Browsing Archives for June 2012


June 15th, 2012

We had a massive rain storm last night. Foolishly, I had left my car parked in the driveway and since we do not have an attached garage, was forced to hustle out into the storm. I was worried that the storm would eventually produce some hail. Lightning was literally crashing on three sides of our property. I clutched a half broken umbrella in my fist to keep some of the deluge off of me, but not only was the broken umbrella flapping like mad in the wind, I was terrified that the metal knob on the top of it was going to pull a bolt of lightning right down on top of my head. So I am running to the barn scared witless with a crazily flapping umbrella that is going to kill me, sloshing through the puddles, getting wetter and wetter. When I finally reach the car, I fling myself inside, wrestling the umbrella from the wind into the vehicle after me. I then pulled my car inside and faced the storm down again to pull the CD’s truck inside. Finally, I checked the make sure the cats had food and water and took a minute to catch my breath while thunder boomed and lightning crashed and the fled back to the house. The CD looked at me as I drug my sopping carcass through the house. “Is it raining that hard outside?” he said looking me over.

And that’s when I jabbed him through the heart with one of the broken ribs of the deadly umbrella.

In other news…

The rain washed everything clean, filled up the pond, and gave me a cool morning to go outside and cut some flowers. So I did.

I’ve got Helenium, Rudbeckia, and cone flowers on the kitchen table.

Oregano, dill and cilantro over the kitchen sink…

Some blossoming sage in the bathroom.

But the piece de’ resistance has got to be the bouquet in the study…

I pulled the tiny white flowers with the yellow eye out of the meadow surrounding my garden. I’m not even sure what that flower is called.

There’s a bit of oregano in it (the purplish/mauveish flowers) and the pink is Red Valerian.

Topped off with a little bit of cilantro and a few stems of Russian sage.

It’s my favorite bouquet of the year so far.

I love a wild looking mass of flowers.

Mister Rogers Auto Tuned

June 7th, 2012

So love.
So, so, so, Love.

Hollyhocks are one of my very favorite flowers.  I have a strong preference for tall stalky flowers as well as flowers that bloom for long periods of time, require little to no effort and that appear in at least one Nancy Drew mystery.  Hollyhocks fill all of these requirements, plus I grew them from a paper bag of seeds that a friend gave to me from her own garden and I always feel more protective and more allegiance to the plants that I grow from seed.

Sadly, Hollyhocks are prone to developing a fungal disease called rust and over the past two years, mine have developed a very bad case.

Why, you may be asking???

Well probably because I didn’t remove the diseased foliage from the plants as they grew and I did not remove the diseased dead plant material from around the base of the plants over the winter months either!  In other words, my hollyhocks grew up in a world of disease and as a result, they looked pretty awful this year.  In an effort to cure my plants of their bad case of rust, I cut them all the way to the ground and removed all the diseased plant material.  If I am lucky, they may even re-grow by the end of this season.

You can see here that they are already sprouting new leaves.  (And it’s not diseased!).

Over the past few years, I have tried on several occasions to cut and display a bouquet of hollyhocks in the house.  But the cut flowers always drooped almost immediately after I cut them.  To prevent this, I tried hauling a bucket of water out to the garden with me so I could instantly plunge the cut stalk in water, but that did not help at all.  So I gave up on hollyhocks as a cut flower and just enjoyed them blooming in their bed by the screen porch.  But since I was cutting them all down this year, I decided to try and display them one more time.  I was sure that the internet would offer some sound advice on how to cut and display beautiful hollyhocks.

The first article I read, insisted that hollyhock stems are hollow and must be turned upside down and filled with water prior to displaying them.  So I grabbed a stem, clipped it off with a hose at the ready, turned it upside down to fill with water only to find that the stem was not even remotely hollow.  Instead, it was filled with a pithy white substance.  There was no way to fill the stems with water.  I went back inside to do some further research.

The next article I read said that I needed to submerge the hollyhock stems in boiling water for one minute to prevent a milky white substance from leaking out and sealing off the hollyhock’s ability to transport water up the stem. I gave this a try.  I brought the cut hollyhocks inside the house, re-cut the ends of the stems and stuck them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute.  Then I submerged the flowers in a vase and waited for the plants to revive.

Nothing happened.




So I went with plan C.

Following the advice of a third article, I once again re-cut the ends of the hollyhocks and burnt the ends over the open gas flame on my stove  until they were  blackened.  The same article also instructed me to slit the hollyhocks up the side a few inches after I charred them so that the water could get up the stem via the cuts in the side.  Or at least that is what I assumed.  It wasn’t really explained very well.

I put the burnt hollyhocks back in the vase and waited for them to arise.

They didn’t budge.

At this point, I came very close to throwing out the entire lot, cleaning up the wet, burnt mess in my kitchen and never cutting a hollyhock again, but then I looked at that vase full of drooping flowers and visualized how pretty they would be if they would just stand up straight and I decided to read a few more articles and see if I could find any other advice on how to get these depressed looking flowers to cheer up!

Finally, the last article I read mentioned changing the water in the vase every few hours and rinsing off the sticky substance that the hollyhocks secrete out of the bottom of their stems from each stalk.  I tried it.  Every few hours, I would pull the burnt ended hollyhocks out of the water, rinse the sticky, syrupy like substance off their stems, fill the vase with new water and re-submerge them.

Over time, (several hours) I began to notice a slight difference.

And over the course of several days, the stems eventually arose to their full height.

They uncurled and unfurled and even began to bloom more up and down the stem!

I have no idea what eventually caused the hollyhocks to straighten up.

Was it a combination of the boiling, the burning, and the rinsing?

Or did I only really need to do one of these things and just wait longer for the magic to happen?

I plan to keep experimenting with my hollyhocks.  Surely there is a way to get these flowers to look good in a shorter time span.  They are such a dramatic flower and make a fabulous display.  Completely worth the effort.  I may even have to plant some more!  They are terribly hard to display, but extremely easy to grow.  I just need to make sure and keep ahead of the rust problem.