Free Garden Labor

My kids are now 10, 12 and 14 and I’m just starting to reap the benefits of having kids…..FREE LABOR!!!! On Thanksgiving weekend I still had a shit-ton of tulip bulbs to get in the ground. If anyone needs to know the quantity of shit-ton, I think it falls somewhere between 500 and I lost count.

Here I was with a lot of clean up and planting to do, a Christmas tree in the house and I was running out of time when a light bulb went off! Well, it was more like a tulip bulb. I said in my most excited voice “Let’s all go out and do it as a family!” (insert moans and groans here) Let’s revise the question: “You are going to help me plant the bulbs so we can decorate the Christmas tree. If you don’t help with the bulbs, no Christmas tree for you!” So we all bundled up, grabbed some rakes, shovels and started opening boxes of flower bulbs.

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A few things occurred to me as I was half listening to the 14 year old complain about having to do this “horrible” job. 1) When I was his age, I had already been mowing the lawn for 5 years and knew how to change the oil in the 76 Monte Carlo  and 2) complaining is an effective way to annoy someone so much that they just need you to go away. He’s either really shitty, or really clever (likely a combination of both). I still made him do it – I just walked away with my headphones on and ignored him….like a teenager. Boom!

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My kids have been helping me garden for years. My 10 year old daughter is the most interested and asks me a bunch of questions and is always offering to help (her attention span is about 10 minutes into helping before she’s done). My 12 year old son will do whatever job I ask, and he will do it really well. My 14 year old….well, we already covered that one. My dogs kept grabbing the bulbs and running away with them which made all three kids laugh and chase them around the yard. I love every one of my little weirdos. They make my heart happy and now they make my landscape pretty.

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Regardless of the complaining, dog thievery and a couple of situations with dog poop on a shoe, we had a really good time outside planting bulbs. The kids planted while I decorated the porch with evergreen pots, garland and the ‘big balls’ (as my husband likes to call them). Because we did it together, it only took 2 hours and we are ready for spring and Christmas!

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RIP Dahlias

I know it’s only 15 sleeps until Christmas, but I have dahlias on my mind because I did this really cool thing and I never wrote about it! So, take a break from your regularly scheduled holiday garbage online and let’s rewind to the time to when it was only Halloween…..

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Dahlias are awesome. If you’ve never grown them before, I highly suggest it! I plant mine in very early summer when I pull my tulip bulbs. They take a while to come in and bloom, but when they do, I get flowers well past Halloween! I’ve never saved my dahlia bulbs, but I was inspired to do so this year in the spirit of conservation, nurturing what I have and out of a genuine sense of curiosity…..yeah, I wanted to see if I could do it. In past years I’ve tried and failed miserably so I really had nothing to lose! So I put the Halloween decorations away and got my garden shears and shovel out to dig up some dahlias. I found a new method and hopefully it will work!

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This is Gallery Bellini. I love this dahlia. I love the depth of colors and I love that she’s named after a cocktail you drink with brunch. I love this dahlia so much I want to grow her again next year! So I’m going to store my Bellini tubers using this really simple method.

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  1. Trim stem down to about there (I’m pointing to photo on the left).
  2. Dig around and lift the tuber, careful not to damage the bulb (I’m pointing to the photo on the right).
  3. Place tuber with whatever dirt comes out around it in a plastic garbage bag and store in a cool place (I’m pointing to the bottom photo). You don’t have to clean the dirt off the tuber. Close the garbage back and store in a cool place that’s not too warm and not freezing cold (now I sound like the garden version of Goldilocks). I’m storing mine in my attached garage.

Pretty simple, right?!

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I’m going to check on them occasionally to make sure they aren’t getting too moist or freezing (who am I am kidding….I don’t have time to babysit tubers). Next June one of two things will happen….. 1) RIP Dahlias for real, or 2) the dahlias will go back in the ground and bloom beautifully for me. I’m hoping for the latter.

Before I go into planting tulip bulbs, here’s your complimentary cute dog photo. He’s glad Halloween is over because the whole holiday scared the shit out of him (as if he could possibly shit anymore than he already does). I caught him trying to kill Halloween before it killed him. I think he won.

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Bloom on!

Winter Wander-land

As a work at home mom, I’m used to getting my shorties up in the morning, off to school and home from school. These 4 hours of my day, to quote Charles Dickens, are “the best of times and…the worst of times….” Last week (thankfully before Juno hit the east coast) I was in New Jersey for work. I feel VERY blessed that I have the best job in the world. I feel even more blessed that my kiddos miss me when I am away!

Upon arriving at the airport, I texted my 8 year old (she texts from my iPad) to let her know that I landed safely. Kids are so honest in a raw and super cool way:

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Despite my suitcase arriving slightly later than I did, I did not die….and to an 8 year old girl, that is grounds for true gratitude. I can appreciate the simplicity of that. The week consisted of texts flying at me from 3 different directions between the hours of 7-9pm all about how daddy isn’t doing things correctly. These just made me laugh from the comforts of my quiet hotel room.

I had a great trip because 1) I love to travel for too many reasons to list here in this particular blog, 2) the meetings were very productive and 3) it’s important to be there. Travel also makes me miss my kids; and let’s be honest….absence really DOES make the heart grow fonder. However, I think re-entry into a busy family of 5 is harder than total submersion 100% of the time.

At my fabulous job we just wrapped up the winter indoor selling season and moving into photography for next year as well as gearing up for the spring-planting season. I feel compelled to tell you if you’ve never grown paperweights or amaryllis, I suggest you put it on your 2015 top 10 things to do list. If you don’t have a list, make one RIGHT NOW and put this as #1. I promise you won’t regret it!

Look for some winter blooms from me as I intend to plant some amaryllis soon! Bloom on, friends.

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Holland Tulip Festival – Veldheer Gardens

Spring in West Michigan is famous for the Holland Tulip Time Festival. While I didn’t make it to the actual festival due to a million hours of soccer and baseball crammed into one weekend, I was able to take in some flowers at Veldheer tulip gardens. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that wanted to take advantage of the (finally) warm weather over Mother’s Day weekend. The farm was shoulder to shoulder in some places.

I will definitely visit Veldheer again next spring, however I’ll stick to a random weekday morning instead of a busy Saturday afternoon!

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So This Happened Over Winter

It’s been a REALLY long winter. According to the calendar spring started last Thursday, but according to my thermometer, that’s a big fat lie. This winter my dog and I gained 8 pounds each, we broke snow and cold records across the state and there are still piles of snow covering my garden. To add insult to injury, it’s snowing right now (again) for the third season in a row. My very insightful son said to me this morning “This would be really pretty if it was November, but now it’s just mean.” As usual, he’s astute, straightforward and right on. I’d like to think he gets that from his mom.

Despite the cold, lack of sunshine and my personal irritability, winter can also be kind of nice. Cold days and being snowed in are good ways to enjoy some (forced) downtime, unless you’re into extreme winter sports and love the snow…which I am not because my favorite outdoor winter activity is going inside. The thought crossed my mind that maybe spring won’t come I embrace winter and the good things that happened. So, here are a few of my favorite winter moments.

Snow and ice can really be quite pretty.

Winter in the Park

Winter walk through the park, before the ice froze.

After the ice storm

After an ice storm, the snow fell.

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Frozen nature is beautiful.

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Ice on Lake Michigan.

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Snowbanks taller than my 2nd grader!

I played A LOT of indoor soccer with a pretty cool group of people. We started off really bad, but now we don’t suck. We aren’t great, but at least we don’t suck and I’ve found my groove and starting scoring some pretty sweet goals. It’s great exercise once you get past the fact that I’m twice the age and ten times less the skill of the other players in our ‘beginner’ league. Ha! Beginner league my arse….I’ve learned soccer players LIE just because they are more concerned about winning. Case in point: scoring a goal with your head, backwards, is NOT a beginner move. It’s been a lot of fun though!

Can't play outside, but playing inside is dangerous! That's a soccer ball imprint on my leg.

Can’t play outside, but playing inside is dangerous! That’s a soccer ball imprint on my leg.

Winter is a great time to visit our local indoor botanical gardens. The humidity feels good and it’s always decorated so nicely.

A trip to the Botanical Gardens was needed!

A trip to the Botanical Gardens was needed!

Watching the water and birds in the warmth of the tropical gardens.

Watching the water and birds in the warmth of the tropical gardens.

I grew amaryllis and paperwhites all winter and had blooms from January up until the first week of March.

Amaryllis Nymph opening up!

Amaryllis Nymph opening up!

Pleasantly surprised by Minerva. My least favorite in photos, it bloomed beyond my expectations.

Pleasantly surprised by Minerva. My least favorite in photos, it bloomed beyond my expectations.

My favorite Amaryllis - Lagoon!

My favorite Amaryllis – Lagoon!

I cooked a lot. Maybe that’s why I gained the 8 pounds (or it was for survival, I needed the extra weight because -14 degrees could kill a thinner person). On top of cooking a lot, we also ate a lot of really yummy food!

Comfort food….simmering bacon jam!

Comfort food….simmering bacon jam!

Warming up with a giant goblet of his favorite caramel salted browie sundae!

Warming up with a giant goblet of his favorite caramel salted browie sundae!

At the end of the day, there was nothing warmer than the fireplace and a plush heating blanket.

London Le Chat warming up in his favorite spot in the house.

London Le Chat warming up in his favorite spot in the house.

What were your favorite winter moments?

Blooming Resolutions

The holidays are over and the New Year’s resolutions I didn’t make are holding their own! I’m really, really good at not making New Year’s resolutions. I’m really good at making Sunday night resolutions though, so I think that should count, right? A few Sundays ago I resolved to work on my winter bulb projects and this happened….

amaryllis and paperwhites projectI LOVE indoor winter gardening. By mid-January, I’m tired of the sub-zero, polar vortex air and am ready to smell some dirt! If you’ve never smelled a bulb, I highly recommend you try it before you plant it. It’s the perfect combination of the scent of dirt and potential.

I had a great time planting paperwhites and amaryllis in pots while sipping on my favorite red wine and listening to the Coffee House on Sirius (I had no idea Nine Inch Nails ‘Hurt’ could be converted into an acoustic blend of weirdness).

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I planted some bulbs in soil and some atop stones. A tip about planting on stones…don’t let the bulb sit in the water. The roots will find the water, but if you water it up to the bulb, the bulb could rot.

Here’s what is blooming so far.

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Hello sweetheart! Amaryllis Sweet Nymph starting to open.

I have 3 Nymph bulbs that I am waiting on right now. This little beauty will open up into layers of soft pink petals. I talked about Nymph in a previous blog and I’m finally able to grow it! The Nymph series , a series of 3 colors in pink, white and red, is shorter in stature and has larger, double blooms atop strong stout stems. I think Nymph resembles more of a poinsettia….only with more sparkle and beauty and if your cat eats it he won’t die (an added bonus).

Amaryllis Evergreen - such a unique shape!

Amaryllis Evergreen – such a unique shape!

Amaryllis Evergreen is also a new variety I’m growing this year. You can’t tell from the picture (or maybe you can) but the petals are actually shimmery! ONE Evergreen bulb gave me three stems with SEVEN flowers per stem. I couldn’t believe how many flowers I got and I was even more impressed with the fresh, lime green color.

The paperwhites are emerging slowly and seem to do better in the bathroom so I’m rotating them from my living room to the half bath (as if I didn’t have enough to do…yes, I love my flowers).

Do you grow amaryllis or paperwhites in the winter and have you had any success?

Worst Blogger Ever

Hi, my name is Marlene and I’m the world’s worst blogger. I think there should be an award for Worst Blogger Ever and it should come in the form of fermented grapes. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my blog. I think about topics all the time and say to the other voices in my head “I should totally write about that!” to which I respond “YES! You should!” to which I respond again, “I’ll do that tomorrow.”

Tomorrow’s list very rarely ever gets done and I cannot believe I let my blog’s one year birthday go by without so much as a smash cake to celebrate. I thought about it though. I know…shocking to think about the blog and do nothing about it. I realize this is a theme in my life….There never seems to be enough time to do the things I love to do for ME. There’s always another volunteer obligation, another load of laundry, another errand to run, another activity to drive my kids to. I know I need to be more aware of the things that are important to me and only me. I am going to thin out my excess baggage so that I can more fully enjoy the things I love. I know this will take time because I didn’t get this busy overnight. I’ve done it over years and I’m prepared to face what my life is if I’m not filling it with busyness.

This morning I stumbled across Brian Gardner’s blog post, Packing Light and Unloading the Excess baggage in Your Life. Sometimes someone can write something so fresh that it gives your soul the boost of oxygen it needs. That happened to me this morning and I thought about my kids, my unfinished fall garden projects and my blog. I started this blog with the intention of writing about all things I love that grow. I intend to keep it blooming.

Here’s a visual recap of the moments that made my heart bloom over the past couple of months. I’m moving on from from feeling guilty about not updating my blog and I’m going to make more room for writing, gardening and growing my children.

Summer was GREAT. Hot days by the pool, gardens in full bloom, warm nights, sun-kissed skin and bright skies.

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Summer birthday, summer beauty!

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Summer color in full bloom

Fall was fun! Cooler days, fall bloomers, Halloween, practicing for orchestra concerts and of course planting my bulbs in anticipation for spring.

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I have no idea where the sunflowers in my garden came from, but this rogue bloom brightened up this busy bees day and mine!

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Cornstalks, mums and dried liatris from my garden are a great way to make Halloween decorations a little stylish.

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Cutest. Witch. Ever.

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He doesn’t sound like a dying cat! I’m truly impressed with my little violinist.

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One landscape bed and 500 bulbs later. Multiply that by 5 and that’s how much bulb planting I did this fall.

Winter is on it’s way, I can feel it in the air (and duh, it is the end of November…I’m just saying it now FEELS like winter). The first frost was beautiful! My daughter calls it frosting and I’ve never had the heart to correct her because it’s incredibly cute. I hope when she’s 20 she still calls it frosting!

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‘Frosting’ looks so pretty on dahlias.

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Frosty raspberry leaves.

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IMG_1888Any tips on balancing life with taking care of your own soul are welcome!