Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Cheerful house plants

 Dear Readers, In the waning days of 2021 TPP "enjoyed" the hospitality of our neighboring hospital where it was determined that was not a complete picture of health.  Now getting used to this idea may take a bit of time.  So your indulgence for my infrequent blogging is requested.

That said, some house plants are tremendously cheerful in those dark and rather gloomy post-holiday, not so cheerful days of January.  Today's cheer is actually a quite easy plant to grow in your house, and believe it or not it is a non-hardy azalea.  These are commonly sold during the holiday season and they can stay in flower for weeks.  Actually this azalea was purchased 3 or so years ago, and grows outside in hanging basket on a garden hook for 6 months and brought inside this year well into October.  It started flowering about a month ago and has been in full bloom for 2 weeks.  Last spring it was pruned back and given acidic fertilizer (Heath family).  The double flowers are not totally to my liking, but it is a huge long-lasting flower display.  Very cheerful. It likes to be kept evenly moist so it needs careful watering both inside and out.  Not sure what species if used, but it is not hardy. The flowers are quite large on this rather small plant.  The short days and cooler temps certainly promote flowering in this plant.

Pandemic, indeed

 Covid to the left. covid to the right, covid in front of us, and onward, onward we go, vaxxed and boostered, but still the worry remains.  The F1 has given us a supply of KF94 masks and they have even been certified by South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, no less. The Phactors don't do bars or similar establishments presently, but then suddenly you realize that you have friends that you haven't seen in a year or so, and largely because it seems as though the virus is closing in from all sides.  That the omicron strain is more transmissible and perhaps somewhat less severe makes sense evolutionarily, but you still don't want to catch it.  Why tempt fate?  The ER is all of five minutes' walk away, but ICU beds are full of people who have not acted prudently, so best not to catch covid if that remains possible.  Presently TPP has little sympathy for antivaxxers or the gullible who say no to a functional vaccine, but will readily treat themselves with horse dewormer or some type of bleach/disinfectant, and then wonder why it didn't work. TPP's only comment is "don't look up." 

Holiday cocktail - Cranberry Julip

 Here's a present for all of you.  During the holiday season, it is always good to have the makings for a nice holiday cocktail on hand.  First you make a cranberry flavored syrup.  Cranberries are a constant item; we buy them fresh and freeze them until needed.  And for other items a bag of dried cranberries is always around too.  To make the syrup, put a cup of cranberries in a cup of water, add 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 largish orange peels.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 min.  Use the back of a spoon to crush any berries that remain whole.  Strain the syrup (a large tea strainer worked fine in 2 batches).  Save the "berry jam" and put on a half pear.  Use 1/2 to 1 oz. syrup (adjust to taste) with 2 oz. bourbon in a short silver julip cup filled with crushed ice.  Stir.  Garnish with a half round slice of orange around a cranberry.  This is a very festive looking cocktail, and quite tasty.  It isn't too sweet.  The syrup will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Enjoy, and Happy holidays.

Friday fabulous flower - Berry pretty, pretty red

 Lately TPP's relationship with the calendar has been quite tenuous but having determined that today is a Friday means finding something fabulous to blog about.  Today is actually the end of the fall semester at the university, graduation day, and a former master's student is getting his PhD today.  It was not done under the supervision of yours truly, and that's OK mostly because he still considers TPP to be his mentor. And that's how TPP knows it's a Friday.

The leaf color is long gone, but two patches of fruit color persist, and as my readers know fruits are flowers at the stage of seed dispersal and the advertising for seed dispersers is what attracts us.  Seriously this is a native plant that will eventually provide meals for migrating birds.  The fruit display becomes dramatic after the leaves fall.  What surprises many people is that this is a holly, and mostly people think that means an evergreen, but this swamp holly, or possum haw, or winterberry is deciduous.  In fact that is also it's latin name Ilex decidua.  You really should find a place, or like TPP several places, in you landscaping for this plant.  Probably the only draw back is that this holly is also dioecious, so you also have to grow some pollinators that will be bare this time of year and the flowers are quite small and do not produce much of a display.  

Leaving leaves

 Our property is one big garden with lots of big trees, deciduous trees.  They produce lots of leaves.  Getting lawn care people to even stop by and then offer a fair and decent price to clean them up is a challenge just in itself, and it's just too big of a job for a couple of gardeners as old as we.  Now we do string a rope and put a large net over the lily pond because otherwise it would fill up with decaying leaves and turn anaerobic and nucky.  We do manage to pull the net off and dump out the leaves, often wet, and this year it took two dumpings before the leaves were under control.  A low fence acts as a snow fence and piles up the leaves adjcent to the pond where they can be vacuumed up and put in a place where needed.  Mostly we hire guys to blow leaves into a pile and then drag them to a part of the garden where woodland conditions are wanted.  The area is generally home to spring ephemerals, like 7 or 8 species of Trillium about half of which are natives, but unfortunately the recent invasion of jumping worms processes the leave much faster than before rather than build up a humus layer.  You don't think of worms being invasive but this species along with the much better known nightcrawler, are both introduced and move way more organic matter around the soil then the natives.  Too bad there isn't a plant that they just hate so much they stay away.   By spring the thick layer of leaves witll be substantially reduced in thickness, and some native plants will do well as a tesult.  Wild garlic or leek, and seedlings of spice bush are appearing in lots of patches, and for the time being these are being welcomed. This is all still better than burning the leaves (against city ordinances) or bagging them for composing by the city.  This year the leaves stayed green so long into October that we began to wonder it they would provide color at all.  Any more ideas out there for dealing with lots of leaves?  

To booster or not to booster, that is the question.

 OK, officially TPP is a boomer.  And since experts say I should get a vaccine booster, then I shall.  TPP is quite fed up with people who aren't smart enough to know who to listen to and who to ignore.  The excuses given to avoid the vaccines do  not change my mind about thinking that the anti-vaxxers are not very smart.  Quite pathetic arguments on the whole.  Now TPP finds out that teachers and staff from our local grade school are taking the state to court because they are in a group mandated to get vaccinated.  Now of course they have already accepted a number of mandated vaccines (and some of us remember how grateful people were for a vaccine for polio), do what is the issue?  That they don't have a choice in the matter?  It isn't about YOU and your individual choice. it's a matter of public health. Need you be reminded that some 750,000 people have died of this covid.  And that millions of doses have been administered without and serious complications.  So get vaccinated already, or get fired TPP is tired of the whining and the masks.

first frost -Nov 2

This area got its first frost, and TPP picked green tomatoes from the garden on Nov. 1.  NOV. 1!

That's a good 2-3 weeks beyond when we usually have the first frost.  So until 10 days ago the gardens were pretty green.  Trees were not changing color because we hadn't had enough cool weather to stop the cholorphyll synthesis.  But with the first hard frost things changed dramatically, virtually overnight.  The image shown here is a Hydrangea 'endless summer" and it is flowering on new wood and it seldom does this because the new growth doesn't get old enough in time and the season runs out.  So here it is in late October and it looks great as a result of all the flowering.  Pretty pink for Nov. 1.  Sorry for being distracted of late.

Plant migration of a sort

 It's the 25th of October, and still no frost, which is now over-due by about 2 weeks.  Fall color may be a bit of a bust this year because the first freeze may be a hard one and not the lighter series of frosts that promote leaf color change.  The area is still pretty green.  But TPP got a bit nervous and started the plant migration shortly after mid-October.  This is when all of the tropical plants, or at least non-hardy plants, get taken inside after their nearly 5 month R & R outside for the summer.  The fluffy tailed tree rats decided to simply chew up two epiphyte cacti, so-called Christmas cacti, not actually eating, just chewing up.  Mrs. Phactor thinks they needed replacing anyways.  A number of plants are a bit confused by the weather pattern and some break-through flowering is happening even though the foolishness of this has been explained (stoopid azaleas).  Most of the tropicals flower quite well during their winter inside (just check out past Friday Fabulous Flowers during January and February).  A couple of tough bonsai trees that seem to do well with a taste of cooler weather a are all the remain outside.  Now the sun room porch looks cheerfully vegetative.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Toad lily

 Another late blooming perennial is called toad lily.  This native of Japan has never quite been hardy in TPP's gardens, but we're trying again.  There are  some differences among varieties in flower color, but most are light- colored with dark purple spots and splotches.  Nothing particularly toad like about it that TPP discerns but common names are common names.  In a shady spot, and protected location, this lily can make a pretty nice clump of flowering stems especially in.  Tricytis hirta is the species that they are placed in October, of course TPP still has tomatoes on the vine.  Thank you global warming.   

Friday Fabulous Flower - nearly last, not the least

The growing season is winding down, but not over as yet.  So far if anything the growing season has been extended a week or so.  But both this FFF and next week's too never have flowered before October, unless conditions have some plant confused, e.g., a yellow azalea has flowered a bit here in September and of course some of our Corydalis has never actually stopped flowering.  Roses are also putting out a few new flowers and so is the Abeliophyllum.  Interestingly enough this late flowering plant is also one of the first plants to sprout in the spring, and so far it has never been frost damaged.  By now the clump of stems is 5-6 feet tall, and drooping if they haven't been staked.  The entire plant is quite toxic, so nothing eats it, (true for many buttercup family members) and helps account for it's common name of wolf bane.  The shape of the flower made by petalloid sepals provides another common name, monk's hood.  This is probably Aconitum napellus, the most commonly cultivated species .

So no herbvorous pests, no pruning, no transplanting (doesn't like being moved).  By October most gardeners have forgotten that they have this plant.  Ours grow well in light shade, and so are sort of in out-of-the-way corners of the gardens.