winter’s havoc

It is not only the plants that have been beaten up by the freeze, thaw, freeze…

black hand

You probably cannot even tell that this was once a black ceramic hand rising from the creeping jenny. I quite liked the effect this noirish touch had on the bed, but failed to bring it in for the winter. I will now need to look elsewhere for something to provide a humorous touch.

flaking pot

It has taken several years for this terra cotta pot to reach this level of disintegration, with a few new shards flaking off after each freeze. I brought most of the clay pots onto the porch, where they still experience the cold, but they don’t get saturated with water that then expands and contracts to disasterous effect. This pot, tho, had literally grown into the lower level of the deck. If you look carefully at the base, you can see the Sedum dasyphyllum which migrates from pot to pot, and has even taken up residence in the moss of the porch.

tufa pot

Now here is a pot that can stand up to anything the weather wants to throw at us. Several years ago, I followed the directions in a magazine to create a hypertufa planter. It was a messy process, but I think I will have to hype myself up for another session and make a lot of these. The patina of moss and lichen adds interest, but even in the raw, brand-new state, they are quite attractive. When I get around to it, preferably mid summer when getting wet and muddy is rather pleasant, I will share photos of the process and the formula for the mix.

slim pickings for january bloom day

I had to do my exploring for flowers indoors this month. The constant rain has made the outdoors pretty uninviting, though the occasional frosty morning brings wintery beauty that is hard to capture with the camera (for me, anyway)

aloe ‘carmine’

You may remember the Aloe I scored on my last trip to Cistus. Well, it is putting out a flower spike.

aloe close-up

I am cheating a bit, because it has yet to color up and blossom fully. There were flowers on some of the plants for sale, but I chose based upon apparent vigor of the whole plant, and this would seem to be my reward. I think it will be a deep pinky-orange at its peak.

kalanchloe fedtschenkoi

Another cheater (you will forgive me, won’t you?) is the Kalanchloe fedtschenkoi. I have multiples of this from a recent dividing project. None of them blossomed last year, but this year every one of them is hard at it.

kalanchloe fedtschenkoi close-up

Like poppies, they start out with their heads bowed and slowly unfurl as they color up to a lovely shade I call “orange sherbet”. I’ll probably trot these out again next month so that you can see the full effect of the chandelier-like architecture in full bloom.

super market flowers

I seldom resort to buying flowers at the super market, but a “buy one, get one free” deal was just what was needed to push me over the edge. This combination of lilies and chrysanthemums kept my spirits up for the remarkable two weeks that they have graced our table. I will have to relent and toss them out today.

With her world-wide reach, Carol at May Dreams Gardens can introduce you to gardeners with much more to boast of in the floral realm.

books from hpso

book cover

The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon provides its members with many opportunities to get involved, i.e. volunteer. You can open your garden to other members, help out at events, write for the bulletin. It’s all fun, and a great way to meet new gardening friends. If that is not enough to prompt you to sign up, how about this? Each December, there is a volunteer appreciation event in the HPSO offices, where, besides coffee, treats and chatter, there are books for sale at cost. I never seem to be able to work the event into a busy holiday schedule, but the sale continues during office hours for the entire month. I have been picking up succulents wherever I see them for some time now, and often the labeling is slipshod or absent. I was looking for a book that I could use to identify my growing family of nameless urchins. This was not exactly the book I was looking for, but at half the cover price, it would do.

inside pages

The emphasis here is on design and grouping succulents in containers, but enough of the plants in question are identified to do me some good. Mostly, it is a visual treat, and I am sure that some of the ideas are seeping into my brain, where they will be stored, regurgitated, and claimed as having originated in there.


Some of the ideas that have made it into the pages of this book will never be claimed as my own. I imagine stately Agaves and Yuccas blushing with humiliation over having been tarted up for the holidays.

HPSO also runs a lending library, where I found exactly the tome I sought. Succulents II, the new illustrated dictionary, takes a no nonsense approach, with alphabetized photos accompanied by the basic pertinent information. I checked it out for the allowed three week period, but I think this is one I will have to put on order, along with the first volume. Together, they cover about 2000 species. The authors are Maurizio Sajeva and Mariangela Costanzo, and the book is from Timber Press.

meyer lemon marmalade

finished marmalade

When Meyer lemons show up in the market, I get all atwitter (no, I do not mean that I start sending short messages into the ether). Almost anything calling for lemons will be that much better if the lemons are Meyers. I started with 8 lemons, which I put through a fruit & veggie wash. I do this with most produce, as even organics can have picked up poisons from the air. Ream juice into a strainer set over a large, wide pot. Quarter the rind and scoop out most of the pith, then cut into strips and add to juice. Tie up all the pith, flesh and seeds into a cheesecloth bag and suspend to rest on mixture in pot. Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 2 hours. Squeeze all of the juice out of the cheesecloth bag. Put 6 cups of sugar into an ovenproof bowl and heat in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 minutes. Add warmed sugar to the pot and stir over low heat until it has completely dissolved. Increase heat and boil rapidly without stirring 15 to 20 minutes (220 degrees). Allow to cool for a few minutes so that the peel will be suspended rather than rising to the top. At this point, I stirred in toasted walnut chunks. Process for 10 minutes.

I gave a jar of this to a friend in her Christmas basket, and she said “Oh…you have made conserve.” I’m sure I read at some point that adding nuts to preserves makes them into conserves, but in culling through various cookbooks to come up with this hybrid recipe, it seemed that it was the addition of liquor that transformed preserves into conserves. Even that was not consistent, as one recipe for orange and whisky marmalade failed to make the leap. I blended a recipe from Harrods Cookery Book for lime marmalade with a Seville orange marmalade recipe from The Oregonian and added the nuts of my own volition. The nuts fail to make much of an impression on crunchy things like toast, but spread it on a scone or biscuit and oh, mama.

hello, 2011

Let’s start with a giveaway, shall we?

flower note cards

Here’s how it will work. Each and every time you leave a comment on any Sprig to Twig post between now and St Valentine’s Day, your name will go into the hopper. On February 14, the Day of Love, we will draw one lucky winner to receive a set of note cards culled from the best of last year’s garden photos. Sound like fun? I think so.

Now I have a question to throw out for your consideration. A while back, someone raised the question of closing their blog to comments. At the time, I thought “What? That’s the best part! Why would anyone do that?” Lately, though, a number of odd comments have made it through my filtering system. Mostly they are complimentary and sound almost like real comments, except for some very odd syntax here and there. Sometimes they will come in batches with almost identical wording from supposedly different sources. I am flummoxed by these, as I don’t want to ignore or reject legitimate new voices. I don’t really understand what there is to gain by these tactics. Anyone have any thoughts or similar experiences/advice?