Tropical Wally WoollyPocket

I mentioned quite some time ago that the #gardenchat consensus on simple wall mount planting was woollypockets, and I've finally gotten around to planting my first one :)
The fantastically large leaves brighten up this still bleak cold early-spring office!


5 Minute Furniture DIY

I think everyone has a piece of furniture like this - some generic flatpack shelf from somewhere like IKEA or Walmart.  Because mine is next to the stove and I rest my tea and ladle and all sorts of other things on it, the top is frequently grimy!  So I got some self-stick shelf paper from the dollarstore (it's like a giant sticker with a grid pattern on the back) and resurfaced the top to make it easier to wipe down.  I folded an extra strip down over the corner to really finish the edge.  Finally, I found a new home for my cookbooks and am only keeping tea under this shelf :)  5 minutes, and my kitchen shelf looks that much better!


Faerie Terrarium

Today, our interiorscaping class made terrariums!  And because I've been enjoying the recent trend of miniature gardens, with faeriesque charm, I brought in some whimsical dollhouse furniture I've been hanging on to :)


Full Circle Stupice Heirloom Tomatoes

My Stupice tomato seedlings are now transplants, living in my sunny windowsill!  These are the first plants I've grown from seeds that I saved myself :) and I have so many more types & varieties coming in the next few weeks.

The history of these lil sprouted seedlings?
    1. Linda Crago from Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm came to visit our class and gave us the first Stupice seeds to set off our research.
    2. We started growing the first round of tomatoes as seedlings at the Niagara College greenhouse.
    3. They were transplanted and grown out in the Niagara College research greenhouse.
    4. Running out of space on our research bench, I brought the first set of seedlings home around Christmas.   
    5. In February, when the plants had grown huge and taken over the research greenhouse, I had to bring a few more plants home.     
    6. A few weeks later, both sets were producing their first tomatoes!
    7. I saved as many seeds as I could from the earliest (but also the tastiest) tomatoes.
    8. Both sets of plants have continued to produce so many tomatoes... 
    9. That I decided to try my hand at taking them to the farmers market!
    10. A few weeks ago... it came full circle!  The seeds I had saved and planted finally sprouted :)


Rant in Pictorial Form


Finally! A replacement for Picnik!

When I first discovered Picnik, I fell in love.  Because I am always updating from libraries, internet cafes, couchsurfing hosts, freelance offices, and friend's houses my "computer" is a harddrive and I can't install all the programs I need each and every time.  In-browser editing, via Picnik, was a fantastic solution!  Though not as flexible as photoshop, I found it powerful enough. With diverse settings and a wonderful array of effects, type and frames.  Imagine my dismay when Google announced it was buying Picnik and while aligning many of the features into Google+, would be shutting down the original site.

I've been at a loss.. but I've just discovered the solution: PicMonkey!  From many of the same engineers and team that created Picnik, but with more features - its intuitively similar to its predecessor.  You can see above, a few samples of what I've managed on PicMonkey, I'd suggest trying it out :)


The Power of Introverts

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've come to realize that I am an introvert.
This video really helps me find the value in that fact :)



We've had rather odd weather this spring, with an early spell of very warm days everything started to grow and bloom from the magnolias, to the bulbs to the fruit tree buds.  Now we've had a few days of cold frosts and a thick blanket of snow.  I hope it clears soon or I fear that new growth might die...

To Daffodils
Robert Herrick (Hesperides,1648)

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
      You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
      Has not attain'd his noon.
                Stay, stay,
           Until the hasting day
                Has run
           But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.
We have short time to stay, as you,
      We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
      As you, or anything.
                We die
           As your hours do, and dry
           Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.


Pennies Ain't So Lucky Today!

As part of its federal budget delivery today, Ottawa has announced its decided to scrap the penny coin  - you can read all the specific details here.   As a former cashier and retail sales manager, I support the decision, I think it would be much easier to simply round prices than roll and supply the change/coins.  We're saving environmentally, too, the energy and metals required to produce pennies.   But the first thought that came to my head?  I couldn't help be reminded of a scene from one of my favourite shows!  I watched The West Wing faithfully throughout my teen years, and my opinions of political policy are often shaped by it ;)

Another of my favourite scenes from that episode wasn't on youtube:

Suddenly, Sam knocks and pokes his head in.
SAM:  Excuse me. Excuse me, General.
ADAMLEY:  Hey, Sam.
SAM:  Margaret wasn't out here.
LEO:  What do you need?
SAM:  No, if you're in the middle of something, I can come back.
ADAMLEY:  We're eliminating genocide. What are you doing?
SAM:  Eliminating the penny. So I'll come back.
LEO:  Yeah.
ADAMLEY: See you later.
Sam closes the door.


Butterfly Conservatory

Today we had a field trip to the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory!  :)  I had been there before, but today our interiorscaping class got to visit behind the scenes - the greenhouses where the plant habitats and caterpillars are raised!  After the lesson, we wandered around looking at all the beautiful butterflies.  The iridescent blue one that landed near me in the office was stunning, but my favourites are actually the ones with more quiet tones - owlesque owlets with dark browns, burnt siennas and muted oranges.   


Parmesan & Thyme Popcorn

I .. absolutely .. adore .. popcorn!
Its like an extra food group to me :)

I get my popcorn from local farmers at the market which means I have to find ways to pop it.  I usually do stovetop, but that makes it greasy and I should probably get around to getting an air popper, but I don't have one.

Remember when I mentioned cooking fish in a parchment envelope last fall?  (probably not) 

Well anyways, I've found a new use for Paper Chef parchment envelopes: DIY Microwave Popcorn.

More specifically Parmesan & Thyme Popcorn!


Plant Life - Totoro

If I haven't mentioned before, I'm a huge Miyazaki fan! I still sleep with a Totoro :) I'm not really so much of an Owl City fan.  But... I will say, their song Plant Life goes incredibly well with this series of clips from one of my favourite-EST childhood films: My Neighbor Totoro put together by Susie Markley


Just another day at work...

I seeded around 2500 gerbera by hand today.  To be honest though, I found it quite peaceful! :)


Tea Party Invitation Template

Drinking tea is an essential part of my survival at this time of year.

Warm, comforting tea is the only way I'm able to resist the dampness setting in to my bones.  So about once a month I have friends over for a tea party!  This month I used the free dover image that you see on the left to make the invitation you see above.

Feel free to print or save & type over the image, to make your own invites


Wild(ish) Floral Arrangement

I think this is the closest I'm going to get in floral design class to the sorts of wild, fanciful arrangements I enjoy making for myself .. but I did enjoy working on this one!

I used this vintage tea thermos I found in a thrift shop for inspiration :)


Full Circle Stupice Heirloom Tomatoes

My Stupice tomato seeds sprouted!  I'm soooooooo very excited!!  These are the first plants I've grown from seeds that I saved myself :) and I have so many more types & varieties coming in the next weeks!  

The history of these lil sprouted seedlings?
  1. Linda Crago from Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm came to visit our class and gave us the first Stupice seeds to set off our research.
  2. We started growing the first round of tomatoes as seedlings at the Niagara College greenhouse.
  3. They were transplanted and grown out in the Niagara College research greenhouse.
  4. Running out of space on our research bench, I brought the first set of seedlings home around Christmas.   
  5. In February, when the plants had grown huge and taken over the research greenhouse,
  6. A few weeks later, both sets were producing their first tomatoes!
  7. I saved as many seeds as I could from the earliest (but also the tastiest) tomatoes.
  8. Both sets of plants have continued to produce so many tomatoes... 
  9. That I decided to try my hand at taking them to the farmers market!
  10. Then, yesterday... it came full circle!  

    The seeds I had saved and planted a few weeks ago sprouted :)


Ranunculus - Floral Buttercups

I've been finding Ranunculus, otherwise known as Persian Buttercupall over as I've been searching for inspirational pictures in my floral design class... {LINKS:  RANUNCULUS on weddinggawkerpinteresttumblr

So I was pleasantly surprised to see these whimsical blooms carpeting and filling two of the greenhouse compartments I water at work as well :) I've always grown these as a spring flowering garden annual, and I find they're such a lovely alternate or compliment to roses in cut flower bouquets brought in from the garden, or I see a little bit of sophistication enter my kitchen table when they're bundled up on their own.


flowering aloe

Another rad thing about working in a greenhouse?  Unusual specimens!   I've never seen an Aloe vera  plant in bloom before, but today at work I noticed these tucked in a corner along the back drive.  My aloe plants have always done well in sunny windowsills, but they are only a few years old.   I think I remember from interiorscaping class that aloe will only flower when mature, when in a tropical environment, and only with a certain number of daylight hours over a certain number of months that most houseplants just don't achieve.  These ones though, look pretty well established, and seeing their sunny yellow blooms brightened up my day.


toooooo many toooooomatoes!

I'm going a little bit crazy from the number of tomatoes I'm dealing with right now!!  Not only do I have a big clump of them growing in my office at home, and a crop of them growing in the research greenhouse... but now I also am responsible for watering huge long benches of tomato seedlings at work as well!! (see picture to the left)  

I am glad, though, that I can focus on learning about them.  Tomatoes are, after all, the number one greenhouse crop in Ontario - something I hope to focus on when I have my own greenhouse some day!  Plus the different heirloom varieties have always been a beloved part of my summer gardens.

So today I spent my day carefully tending the hundreds of tomato seedlings lining the back wall of the greenhouse I work at and I'm really glad to see a number of heirlooms were seeded in the mix :) Plus with this many seedlings going out to garden centers as part of the annuals program, maybe we'll see more tomatoes and less petunias!

*hopeful face*


Bonsai not Banzai!

Another repost because I'm so busy, but this was a project in 1st year so I figure its kinda related! :)

Bonsai is an ancient Japanese art form - pruning and shaping a small woody tree to create the illusion of a very old tree in miniature.  The word Bonsai can be broken down into two parts: Bon meaning tray, and sai meaning tree translating literally to Tree in a Tray and is an adaptation of the earlier Chinese word Penjing. 

 In the fall I chose a 2year old Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) specimen to create my Bonsai from.  Any plant that develops a woody trunk can be formed into a Bonsai provided it tolerates pruning well.  There are a number of specific Bonsai "forms" that can be created - I chose the windswept form.  We used wire to shape the main branches and pruned any extras to create the form we wanted and then left the plants in their original pots in the polyhouses over the winter.  

Today we stripped the roots bare, pruned them back by 1/3 and potted them in a potting mix that we created for ideal drainage and nutrients: 1/3 sand, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost.  After we potted them I chose to decorate my Bonsai with two types of moss I had found growing in the container and some shells I collected from Lake Erie last summer.  I was going for a windswept beachside look especially since the moss shoots look a little bit like reeds and I was also really happy how the butress roots were exposed.  One of my favourite classes yet this year!

If you would like to see some other great specimens of Bonsai and Penjing the US National Arboretum has a virtual tour of their collection.  The Montreal Botanical Gardens have some photos of their collection as well as great information about indoor bonsaibasic care of Bonsai, and suggestions for tree and shrub selection.


Gigantic Castor Bean Seedling

One of the things I picked up at Seedy Saturday was Castor beans (Ricinus communis) because after reading about them in Wicked Plants and seeing them grow dramatically in my neighbour's yard last fall (picture below, left) I thought they would look awesome and block out my view of what I call the "kegger house" backyard.  Oh the joys of living in a university town.  Anyways, I knew the castor beans grow multiple feet in just a few months and therefore must have a pretty high growth rate... but I wasn't quite expecting this monster seedling!!  Its awesome, I can't wait till it gets bigger and I can put it outside grins


Book Review: Good Bugs for Your Garden

School is taking over life so today's is a repost but one I love :)

"I’d like people to know that although some insects can be frightening and creepy, they are an important element in the garden, essential for plant reproduction and health. By learning how to properly identify the good guys you can learn to appreciate these wondrous creatures. I encourage your readers to take some time to sit in their gardens and watch the vibrant, vigorous activity that is taking place on and around their plants." - Allison Starcher (LoveToKnow.com)

Good Bugs for Your Garden is a whimsical little gem of a book written by Allison Mia Starcher.  This picture book style guide is perfect for the young at heart gardener who misses the days of illustrated anthologies. 

The charming illustrations bring interest to an important subject - the use of beneficial insects to control pest populations and promote healthy plants.  Allison's book covers a wide range in types of beneficial insects including: predators, parasitoids, pollinators, and soil builders and has neatly divided the insects into their orders.  Allison presents information that is scientifically accurate (I've been checking the information against my Entomology notes) while not imposing on the reader too much technical jargon.  From Damselflies to Nematodes this book is full of helpful information and wonderous critters.  

Available in St. Catharines, Thunder Bay, Guelph, Hamilton and Toronto Public Libraries under the call # 635.0497 Sta

For more information on the author visit: AllisonStarcher.com


flowering jade

I don't have time for much of anything these days except school - but on the plus side, horticultural school in a greenhouse certainly is pretty!  Here's another picture from our interiorscaping class:
Flowering Jade (Crassula ovata)


Ant Scanner

Pretty much the coolest video I've seen in a while - combines science, art & tech :)
ANTS in my scanner > a five years time-lapse! from françois vautier on Vimeo.


Tea Duckie

As awesome as my polkadot rubber duckies are, I think this might just be the greatest rubber duckie anyone has ever given me!  Thank you nettle  :) Underneath the duckie that swims in your mug is a mesh tea infuser... ingenious!


First Market Day

It all started with a tweet from @BeamersProduce while I was looking for apple cider vinegar for a previous post.

So, when I realized I have to do a business plan for class this semester, I figured - why not do one for a small business at the farmers market?  I never thought of going down there right now, though, until @BeamersProduce's more recent advice:

I realized...I do have local produce: tomatoes! at a time when mostly not available: now!  Not enough for a whole table, mind you, 2 or 3 quart baskets and maybe a half dozen pint baskets?
Local farmer Joe is kind enough to sell them for me on his table :)


Homegrown Winter Tomatoes

The winter tomatoes that I brought home in January are growing exceptionally well in my at home "grow-op" setup.  The red tomatoes that you see actually set here at home, not just ripened, and all the plants have new flowers forming, though I'll have to assist with pollination.  The large south-facing window seems to have  actually been enough to avoid turning on the over HID fixture very often.  (the pictures are a bit blurry cause I can't find my camera, but not bad for a cellphone eh?)


Beargrass Floral Accent

I'm taking Intro to Floral Design as a night course, and this evening's class lends itself well to a picture tutorial so I thought I'd invite you to follow along :)

The floral accent we learned tonight is a cluster of beargrass, circled in the picture on the left.
Our arrangement is all inserted into floral foam, such as oasis, but I thought it would also be a nice addition to a houseplant or mixed planter, picked into the soil instead.  Start by selecting 8 or so strands of beargrass.  Trimming one end, hold it against a floral pick and wrap the wire tightly around.  Cover with floral tape to secure, and repeat for the other end.  Securely stick the pick at each end of the cluster of grass into your arrangement or planter's soil so that the grass forms a semicircular shape.  You can also do this with the pick at only one end for an open cascade of grass.


Watermelon Plant (Easy Houseplants)

When people find out I'm a horticulturalist or that I work with plants they assume that I am good with all plants.  This would be incorrect...eep!  While I love vegetable gardening and practical edible plants, I still know very little about indoor tropicals, and manage to kill most of  my houseplants.  A current favourite came from the college greenhouse during one of my interiorscaping classes, and I've actually managed to keep it alive a few months.  It's a keeper!  I also love the fun name :)
Watermelon Plant (Pilea cadierei) is named for its foliage - dark textured green with silvery white splashes, though its also called Aluminum Plant and is so far the most interesting of the hardy/tolerant houseplants I've found.  It seems to handle the soil drying right down between waterings and is in a very cool, though moderately humid room.  Lightwise its getting bright but filtered sunlight through most of the day and seems to prefer that to the indirect lower light around the corner in my kitchen.  I've pinched it back a few times to keep it nice and dense, and I've noticed those cuttings root very well when I stick them back in the pot.  I'd certainly recommend this one as a houseplant for a sunny windowsill or room :)


Lucy Woodward with Snarky Puppy at the Rex

I love the Rex, a jazz & blues bar on Queen St W, Toronto where my ex used to work in the kitchen and play regularly, and my brother now bartends.  Its the sort of humble but tradition-steeped place where famous musicians and their proteges turn up to jam with open mic first timers and sit at long bench style tables elbow-to-elbow with Queen St. tourists and city regulars.

One of my most vivid memories from living in Toronto is getting a call at almost 2am that Wynton Marsalis had wandered into the Rex after performing at Massey Hall with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, was jamming and I could I get down there with my camera asap please (see picture to left) 

Its one of the places and experiences I miss most not living in the city, so I live vicariously through my brother's twitter @RexHotelToronto.  This video of Lucy Woodward joining Snarky Puppy on stage is the essence of the Rex, and just too good to pass up posting... Enjoy! :)


Urban & Organic Agriculture in Ontario

Remember Roots to Harvest, that I told you about when I visited Thunder Bay a few summers ago?
Well, here's an update! ...

Roots To Harvest - Urban Agriculture in Thunder Bay from Sustain Ontario on Vimeo.

& because I enjoyed this video as well I'm going to share it too:

Organic Council of Ontario - Organic Food Production in Ontario from Sustain Ontario on Vimeo.


March Calendar

While browsing craftgawker, I came across this great idea - put a calendar on your desktop!  


Tomato Seed Saving

Using these instructions I've been  cleaning the seeds that I saved from my winter tomatoes last week.  But instead of drying and saving seeds for another year I'll be planting them straight into seeding pots for this spring!  How cool is that?  2 generations of the same tomatoes in one season :)

I'm using glasses from the Muskoka Beer Festival because they have 4oz markers and I can put the same amount of water in each.  I think things are getting a little out of hand though .. when I went back into my fridge later on I realized there was even tomato seeds stuck to my cheese!


Ich Bin Ich

       This one's just me, all me.  Things I enjoy & daydream of... wistful sigh
Ich Bin Ich


Leap Day

In case you hadn't noticed, February has an extra day this month.  Its one of those "and sometimes 29" years and instead of taking the time to research and then explain why to you I'll be showing you this handy infographic while I take a cue from Modern Family and play hooky from life! :)


Seed Sprouting

All the seeds that I planted last week are starting to sprout now!  At this point in their life they are very tender.  Bottom heat is still necessary regularly - In my house I have conveniently large Victorian air vents, so my seeds are spread out across the floor, but the tops of radiators, refrigerators, front loading dryers and any other warm appliances are good (if risky) spots!  I mist them with a spray bottle, ensuring everything is evenly damp but not wet - a watering can or direct stream of water pouring in would be far too much.  Sometimes I sit the containers into a thin layer of water in the bottom of a tray, but only if they have dried out too much by accident.  Closing up the lid of the containers acts like a miniature greenhouse, but the seedlings need air circulation as well so I leave it open sometimes. Once the sprouts hit the "roof" its time for transplanting into individual containers :)

What you see sprouting: Tree and Twig Heirloom SeedsPerpetual SpinachSuehlihungNasturtiumsCherrybelle RadishesSSE Lettuce Mixture & more self-saved tomatoes!



A few days ago I asked friends on my twitter and facebook for music suggestions and one of them delivered Bon Iver (which reminds me of one of my longtime favourites: Boards of Canada) right in time for this brand new video, posted today.  I love how Towers so well captures the wonderous but heartbreaking essence of living off the land, and even though I know its the Pacific Ocean / Washington State, it reminds me of Thunder Bay / Lake Superior.  Slightly fantastical, peaceful and uplifting but then also crushingly melancholy I think its an excellent video for a quiet midwinter day.


Dear Car: Happy Birthday!

I have a confession to make.  Even though I advocate for transit, and commuted 45min each way by bicycle while living in Toronto... having grown up in the suburbs and rural areas of Ontario... I. Love. Driving.  I mean, I do long for the day that I find a sufficiently green vehicle that this pastime of mine becomes something I can enjoy again instead of a guilty pleasure or semi-enjoyable commute, but either way I have to admit now that I'm living in a car based area again, I'm not terribly upset that I get to spend time behind the wheel.

Back to the story at hand - I was driving down the QEW from Hamilton to Niagara when I saw that the mileage (kilometerage?) was getting near the quarter million mark.  It isn't actually my car (it's my mum's) but I learned to drive in it and she very kindly lends it to me for great lengths of time when transit isn't practical or my dad is out of town.  So I felt special that I happened to be driving when it happened haha  Being easily excited I decided to pull off and drive slowly along the service roads so I could stop and take a picture at the precise moment it clicked over.

The car is a 2003? Acura 1.7EL, essentially a version of the 7th generation Honda Civic created specially for the Canadian market.  Now, I know because I live in Canada and drive by the metric system the 250k kilometers isn't as impressive as 250k miles would be in the U.S.  However, 250 000 anythings from a  vehicle these days is indeed a remarkable feat.  I have these crazy pipe dreams of getting this car up to the mind boggling milage marks quite a few Honda owners seem to have reached: I was entertained by Million Mile Joe's awkward but feelgood parade and this guy is catching up quickly, with 750k+ miles on a 2006 Honda Civic in just 5 years.

So, Dear Car:  Happy Birthday!
Even though its official & you're old, ♥ you!

Have some flowers...