Grow Write Guild # 9

The prompt for Grow Write Guild #9 is to change the lyrics of a song to reflect your relationship with a particular plant or food crop.

With sincere apologies to Barbra, Neil, and songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman:

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

You don’t bring me flowers  nearly dead rosemary bush

You don’t bring me fresh herbs.
You hardly look too green anymore.
Just a bare pile of gore
Just a mess of decay.
I remember when….

You used to be so shrubby
You used to have such green leaves rosemary first transplanted

Now after two long months in low light
It’s not good for you, babe.
You’ve clearly got mites.
Well, you just mold over
Like you’ve got a blight.
And you don’t bring me flowers anymore.

rosemary in flower

It used to be so natural.
I thought you’d grow forever.
But honeybees don’t come anymore.
They just fly past your lack of a floral display.

And baby, I remember
All the joy you brought me.
I learned how to cook Provençal roasts and pies.
Well, I learned how to prune you, though needles poked my eye.
So you’d think I could learn how to tell you goodbye.
‘Cause you don’t bring me flowers anymore.

Well, you’d think I could learn how to tell you goodbye.
You don’t flavor meat & three
You don’t bring the bees’ song
You don’t bring me flowers anymore.

The way of all projects?

I am keen to finish the rain garden project. I don’t have very much left to do; perhaps 25 square feet. But, as always seems to happen, a few other responsibilities have preempted that work.

I am having a large tree removed from my garden this week. Continue reading

Rosemary and pansies

The news here continues to be full of updates on the progress of the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings. But alongside those reports are stories of the different efforts of people around the country attempting to get back to normal. Stories of running clubs dedicating their workouts to those injured at the race. Prayer services and vigils are offered “in defiance of terror.” From the clothing they wear, to the donations they give, small gestures give people everywhere the opportunity to heal.

For myself, I don’t particularly buy into the dialogue we often hear about “not letting the terrorists win.” Perhaps such statements motivate others, but to me, such words seem vengeful yet simultaneously empty. I’d rather take time to reflect, to grieve appropriately, to offer what I can.

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

Hamlet, Act IV, scene v.

I hadn’t ever given much thought to the symbolism behind flowers, but for some reason this week, the quote from Hamlet popped into my mind. Never mind that Ophelia was losing her mind when she spoke these words. The thought prompted me to pick up The Language of Flowers, a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The book was loaned to me by my mother, and I haven’t read it yet, but it has in the back a small dictionary of flowers and their meanings. After referring to it, I gathered a small bouquet from my garden, which I offer as my tribute to the far too many people in this world who suffer or die in violence.

  • Bluebells: Constancy
  • Carnations, red: My heart breaks
  • Cypress: Mourning
  • Dogwood: Love undiminished by adversity
  • Fennel: Strength
  • Magnolia: Dignity
  • Rosemary: Remembrance
  • Pansy: Think of me
  • Yarrow: Cure for a broken heart

bouquet

Peace be with each one of you.

Propagation, part 2 (cuttings)

Following from my initial tutorial on plant propagation, here’s the second installment, on growing plants from cuttings. I meant to publish this ages ago. Sorry about that.

Propagation from cuttings is easier, I find, than from seed (at least, it was before I tried winter sowing). Lots of plants root easily from cuttings. Here’s how you do it.

1. Remove a section of stem, perhaps 4-6 inches long, from your plant of choice. Here, I have taken cuttings of some unknown variety of pink chrysanthemum. Cut off the flower, if there is one.

strip lower leaves

2. Strip the lower leaves off the cutting, leaving about 2 inches of bare stem.

rooting hormone

3. (Optional) Dip the end of the cutting into a small bit of rooting hormone. Rooting hormone is easily found at garden centers, and comes in powder and gel form. Don’t dip the cutting directly into the container; doing so will contaminate the rest of the rooting hormone. But it’s not absolutely necessary to use rooting hormone. Some plants will root just fine without it.

poking holes 2

4. Fill a squeaky-clean pot with your choice of potting medium (potting mix, coir, perlite, etc.) Moisten the mix thoroughly. Using a pencil, chopstick, or your finger, make a hole in the dampened growing medium in your pot.

completed

5. Insert your new cutting gently into the hole, taking care not to remove much rooting hormone in the process. Use the pencil or chopstick to gently firm the soil around the cutting.

6. When your pot is full, water the cuttings either from the top or bottom. Personally, I prefer bottom-watering, wherein you place the pot in a shallow bowl of water and let the water wick up through the drainage holes. Don’t leave it too long–just until the pot feels a bit heavy; maybe 15 minutes.

7. To elevate the humidity levels around the plant (important while the cuttings are forming roots), you can cover the top of the pot with plastic wrap, a plastic bag, or (my favorite), a cheap shower cap from the dollar store (they come in multi-packs and you can rinse and reuse them). Poke a few drinking straws into the pot to prop up the plastic; you don’t want it touching the surface of the leaves. Cut a couple of slits in the plastic to allow a bit of air to circulate; this will stanch mold development (alas, you won’t be able to use the shower cap for its original purpose). Or, you can leave it untented, but you must be more vigilant about watching the pot’s moisture level.

8. Keep the potting medium just moist, not wet. The classic comparison is that the soil should feel as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Check it regularly until you get a sense for how rapidly moisture evaporates from your medium.

9. Make sure the pot has adequate light. You can grow the cuttings under fluorescent lamps, or if you’re lazy like me, you can stick the pot outside and let the cuttings work with the elements. In the winter, this approach won’t work with tender cuttings, like those of houseplants or summer annuals, but hardier plants do just fine. These chrysanthemums spent the winter outdoors with no shelter at all.

10. You’ll know when the cuttings have rooted when they resist a gentle tug. Please don’t check them too often, or you will defeat the process. Patience is essential. Give them a solid 3 weeks, at least, or if you take cuttings of hardy plants in the fall, let them sit around all winter. I’ve propagated chrysanthemums, lavender, rosemary, Carolina jessamine, and Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ using the leave-it-to-the-elements method.

At the end of this document is a list of plants that reproduce easily from cuttings. Give them a try!