Pseudo-Peonies

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While the weather might be warmer than it was before, and while I pulled these lovely daffodils out of my garden last week …

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… my garden still looks like this.  Which means that my peonies haven’t bloomed yet.  If they’re going to bloom at all.  And I like peonies.  They’re one of my favourites.

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So I’m going to make my own here.  It’s not that hard.  I found a quick tutorial at Two Shades of Pink and had at it.

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Start with a bunch of coffee filters.  I don’t know how many.  A bunch.

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And some warm water.  And some food colouring.  Or watercolour paint.

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Dissolve some of your paint/dye in the water. This is some Crayola stuff I broke off and stirred in.

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I tried this craft paint but it wasn’t water soluble, not really.

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Then dip your filters into the coloured water.  You can do a bunch at once. And they don’t need to sit in the water for more than a few seconds.

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Experiment with the outer edges.

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Versus the inside. Or the whole thing.

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Squeeze out the excess dye with your hands.

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I totally dyed my hand pink.

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Spread out the filters to dry completely.

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Mine took a few hours, less when I fully separated the layers and put them in a place with lots of air flow.

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This is the full stack next day.

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Now, in addition to the filters, you will need scissors, a stapler (with staples), and then some tape or wire (I have floral wire here).

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Grab between 6 and 8 of the filters and stack them up.  Flatten them a bit with your hands.

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Fold the filters in half, then half again so you have a little cone.

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Take your scissors and scallop the rounded edge of the cone — don’t worry about perfection, it’s all good.

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Now unfold the thing and ruffle it up a bit.  Pinch that spot at the very centre where you made your folds.

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Flip the filters over and you can see what I mean by that pinch.

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Staple over that pinched spot to hold things in place.

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Now flip it back over and smooth it out a bit.

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Pull up the edges of the topmost (innermost) filter and, working from the bottom, squish the filter in on itself, leaving a nice fluffy gathering on top.

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Keep going with each successive layer.

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Make sure to keep the top nice and fluffy, while still jamming the paper against itself.

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Gather up the bottom layer and push it upwards, squeezing into the little handle you’ve created for yourself.

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The paper will hold its shape for a short time, but you want to fix it more permanently.  You can use tape around the little nub here or floral wire, which is what I used.

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I attached one flower to one end of the wire and another to the bottom.  What am I going to do with it?  I’m getting to that.

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Because of the variation in the way I dyed the filters, you can see different colour gradations in the finished flowers.

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On this one I put the darker filters in the middle.

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This was the resulting bloom.

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I used 8 filters per bloom and ended up with 18 flowers finished, which means I had 144 filters dyed.

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When I was finished I gathered some of the blossoms that were tied together and I used an additional piece of floral wire to wind their stems together.

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And it made two lovely little bouquets of 9 flowers each.

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I don’t even want to talk about that horrible plaster job in the background.  The landlord took our chimney away and now I have no place to display my work.

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So until I figure out how to compensate for my lack of a fireplace, I’ve put my pseudo peonies flanking my television.  Because I’m classy like that.

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Zombie Mint: IT’S ALIVE!

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Before I left for the west coast, I conducted a wee experiment with a decaying mint sprig in a pot of dead cilantro.  To recap, I took a sprig of mint that had spent a week in a jug of water in my fridge and jammed it in the soil.  I took a fresh sprig of mint and did the same.

My suppositions were that the decaying sprig was displaying new growth, while the freshly cut sprig probably wouldn’t survive.

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When I came back, this is what I found.  You can see that the fresh sprig is in its death throes, but the zombie sprig?

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Check out that new growth!

Zombie Mint 2

Who knew that freezing something a few times makes it grow?

These Iris

These Iris

My mother sent these iris to me about four years ago, in the mail.

I planted them according to her instructions (which is to say, I sort of set them gently atop the soil and hoped they wouldn’t wash away).  And I waited.

Greenthumbing Day Two

Every year, the leaves would grow tall and green.  But no flowers.

These Iris

This year, the year I have given up on my garden officially (too many rocks, too many weeds), this year they decide to bloom on me.  Just in time for my mother’s visit, thankfully!

These Iris

These iris are descended from a batch of iris given to my mother by a friend about twenty years ago.  They have traveled back and forth across the country a couple times.  When I leave Newfoundland I will likely take them back home with me.  That’s just how we roll in our family.  My mother has already taken a chunk of my garden home with her on this visit to keep it going until I get there.

Next-Door Tomatoes

Next-Door Tomatoes
The last day of the summer months (and Alidoesit’s 300th post!).  What better way to celebrate it than with tomatoes fresh from our next-door neighbour’s garden?

There are these ones that look like brains.
Next-Door Tomatoes

And these chocolatey ones.
Next-Door Tomatoes

And the tiny yellow gumballs.
Next-Door Tomatoes

And the regular garden-variety ones.
Next-Door Tomatoes

So fresh and tasty!
Next-Door Tomatoes

Wattle Fencing

Gren pees on my peonies.  It’s annoying.  He also gets his lead tangled around some of my more delicate plants, and he’s already dug up and eaten an entire lupin.  I needs me a fence.

When Doodle and I were last in Ferryland, we saw these lovely wattle fences surrounding the 17th century kitchen gardens.  This ancient style of building was very popular in rural areas, like most of Newfoundland, where scraggly vegetation was everywhere and iron nails were at a premium.  Settlers clearing areas of land for their houses and farms could easily re-use the saplings and brush they removed in making strong wattle fences to keep their livestock and gardens separate.

Photo by Doodle

I showed pictures of wattle construction to Cait, extolling the virtues of its sturdiness and simplicity — just sticks!  Cait then raised the counterpoint to me that the little pig who built his house out of sticks didn’t fare particularly well against the big bad wolf.  I rebutted by saying that if you saw the illustrated pictures in the books you could CLEARLY see the pig did not use the wattle method and his shoddy construction was at fault.  Cait then informed me that I was the Mike Holmes of fairy tales (which is only funny if you know who Mike Holmes is).  I take that as a great compliment.

You can use any flexible sapling for your weave, the longer and straighter it is the better.  We used mostly maple, as there are no shortage of those around.  In fact, there is a vacant lot about half a block from our house that has recently been sold to a developer for condominium building.  We figured that the property was going to be razed anyway — who would miss a bunch of scraggly teenaged trees?  Still, we did feel like we were trespassing, no more so than when an unmarked police car pulled up to us.  It turns out the officer was just there to get some paperwork done, but for a moment we thought we were going to get in big trouble.

Use pruning shears and a pruning saw to cut your saplings and remove any smaller branches and leaves.  Make sure to use the branches relatively soon after you cut them so that they maintain their flexibility.

Now I’m not making a particularly tall fence here, nor is my weave going to be all that tight.  I just want to use it as a barrier to keep out small dogs and children, but I still want to be able to see the plants that are behind it.

All the information I found about these fences told me that I would need wayyyyy more branches to do it than I even thought of.  I probably used a hundred or so sticks for a fence 12.5m long and 30cm high.

First I needed stakes.   I sawed off the thickest 50cm at the bottom of each sapling, cutting it at an angle to make a sharp edge.   I ended up with 25 stakes for my 12.5m garden bed.

Using a stout hammer (you can use a mallet as well), I pounded in the stakes, spaced about 50cm apart, as far in as they would go, which was about 20cm in most cases.  If you have one or two that hit rocks or aren’t as firmly embedded as the rest, don’t fret.  The more you add to the fence, the stronger it will get, and the more-stuck stakes will help to hold the less-stuck stakes into place.

Once you’ve got the stakes hammered in, you can start to add the saplings.

Start at one end of your fence with the thicker part of a sapling, and weave the sapling between the stakes until you reach the end.

Repeat with more saplings until you get to the end of the row.

Reverse the direction of the saplings for the next row, so that the thick and thin ends alternate, and make sure to work the saplings around the opposite side of the stake than you used in the previous row.  Use a hammer or mallet to wedge the saplings closer together if you want a tight weave.

Keep going and going.  And going.

Until your fence is as high and tight as you want it to be.

I used smaller branches to help hold in some of the more recalcitrant sapling ends.

But of course I ran out of sticks.  So I’m not finished yet,  and it will be a while before I can get the Pie to help me steal saplings again.  I’ll post a picture when I finally do finish, though.

For more information on wattle fencing, you can check out these links here:

Allotment Forestry

Heritage Foundation

I Can Garden

My Parents’ Garden

You may remember that my parents’ garden was featured in the Ottawa Style magazine in March.  Now that I’m home I am gratefully exchanging my horrible rock-and-slug-strewn pit of despair for this lush greenery.  Let me take you on a bit of a photo tour.  Keep in mind that I don’t know what many of these plants are called. I just like ’em.

My parents’ house is one of the larger ones on our block and has a lot of glass from which we can look out.  So it’s pretty distinctive.  Add to that the veritable jungle my parents have made of the tiny property surrounding the house and it gets quite a bit of attention.  This is looking from our infinitesimally small “back” yard (which actually is to one side, in the front of the house) towards the front jungle — I mean garden.My parents installed wrought iron grates in the fence so that they could converse with the neighbours.  There is also one at dog-level facing the street, so the dogs could converse with the neighbours, as well.Unexpected items are a staple to my parents’ decorating style, and this does not stop at the threshold.  Weird and wonderful objects can be found in the garden at any turn, like this gargoyle.The clay spheres in the succulent patch are another example.There’s also a turtle pond disguised at the back of the yard.That’s Darryl.  His sister Marge is camera-shy.  Don’t worry, they live in a big tank in the basement during the winter, and have been happily looking down on our family for the past twenty years.  We expect them to cause trouble for another thirty or so.  Turtles are definitely a lifetime commitment.And, of course, there are more tomato plants than you could really imagine.  We never, EVER want for tomatoes.It’s just as easy to get lost in the front yard, which is only about 2m deep.It’s amazing how much you can cram into such a small space.  You can see my dad nearly buried as he works on repairs to the front walkway.Everywhere you look there is beautiful detail.And vibrant colour.Lush greenery.

And homey accents.  Every small pet we’ve had since we’ve moved in, which includes a hedgehog, countless mice, and all the birds who break their necks running into our windows, are buried under the honeysuckle arbour.It’s good to come home.

Ottawa Style Loves My Parents’ Garden

My parents’ garden is more famous than I will ever be.  But I’m okay with that.  Now you can see what I have to live up to in terms of DIY.

My parents' garden, as photographed by Ottawa Style Magazine

Unfortunately that’s the largest image I have, so I’ve transcribed it below:

Why:
All the exuberance of spring. Peonies, irises, lupins, and poppies.
Best Time to Visit: Mid-June
What: When Janet and John Bell moved to their grey clapboard house 12 years ago, there was no garden.  But they brought the backbone of a garden with them in plastic bins from their house near the Rockliffe airbase.  Hostas and peonies, irises and lupins, 13 varieties of thyme, clematis, lavender, honeysuckle, and pink poppies now thrive in this garden that wraps around two sides of the house.  “We started from the house and worked outwards toward the road,” says Janet, an artist who works in fine detail in pen and ink.

The garden is a history of their marriage.  The peonies, a colour card of pinks from deep to pale, were all given to the couple by the minister who married them 34 years ago.  There’s also a hosta that came from John’s father and is over 20 years old.  These plants have travelled all over Canada with them as they have moved from coast to coast for John’s work.  Irises are a particular favourite of the couple — there’s a spectacular example of the pink bearded variety ‘Beverly Sills’ — and they have grown several unusual varieties from seed.  In high gardening season, they spend about three days a week keeping up with the exuberant growth, and in fall they fertilize their sandy soil with sheep manure and peat moss.  The secret to this splendour is simple: “If it doesn’t thrive, get rid of it,” says Janet.

The Shining: This garden is a riot of colour in early summer, with peonies, poppies, irises, clematis, and all manner of perennials.  Irises (show to full advantage at right) are a particular favourite of the couple, who, over the years, have dug up and taken their favourite plants with them whenever they moved.