Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cacao Leaf

Translucent Cacao Leaf
I think I've said this somewhere before but it's amazing how much like a city a leaf looks.  You have the main highway down the middle of the leaf with collector streets merging at intervals and little neighborhood streets coming off of those.

A leaf really does have the water and sewer system going on through the veins you can see.  They do double duty though unlike a man made city where you'd better separate them or face a major disaster.

Even the drainage, or rainwater, that hits the leaves will travel down these paths and end up flowing off of the point of the leaf.  Trees that are more adapt to a rainforest environment even have a more pointed tip to the leaves to assist the water as it pulls together toward the tip and falls off of the leaf to minimize the weight, and thus potential damage, on the branches.

Pine needles are really good at this.  The pointy long leaves barely hold any water at all, dripping like nobody's business.  We used to camp a lot and the piny woods of East Texas was a favorite.  The smell of a pine forest after a summer rain is something you don't soon forget.

A good leaf picture also makes a good desktop wallpaper.  Not sure if this works real well since it's only taken with my iPhone, but it could be worse.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Dried Green Beans

Dry White Green Bean SeedsI know I like green beans and I know I like dried beans.  But I never thought to see if I like dried green bean seeds, which are of course dried beans.

It takes longer to get them and you can get dried beans so cheaply in the store so It's probably why I never though to grow my own.  Finding references to doing so was also not easy to come by but there are some.

So instead of taking the green beans and eating the young pods, I'm going to be patient and wait for these guys to mature and make beans.  Not sure yet if I want to make a bean soup or possibly try to do a white chili. One of our friends said they don't think they've ever had white pepper, although I'm sure they probably just didn't notice there was pepper in the food since it doesn't give it that distinct peppered look, for instance in alfredo sauce.

Any way you look at it though I was going to make sure some of them dried anyway so in the end I'll just see how many beans it makes and make sure to save enough for later planting and eat the rest.

So far it seems like you don't have to soak the beans for very long if you have to soak them at all and the flavor is supposed to be even better since they haven't really fully dried.  Hopefully I'll get a good recipe I can share later.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Bloomy Magnolia Tree

Purple Flowers
In the courtyard of the apartment there are these trees with big flashy pink flowers on them.  After looking them up they seem to be some sort of magnolia tree, possibly the bloomy magnolia tree.  I've only been used to the grand magnolia tree which grows everywhere in southeast Texas but not so much these.

They really are a nice showy pink flower that I'm sure will all fall off in a week or so.  There were already some petals on the ground and no new buds.  This would be an interesting tree for landscaping but it's a very seasonal color for an area.

I've seen some really nice colorful plantings at the Fort Worth botanic gardens.  These were mostly anuals though, not trees, but I've heard of seasonal layouts that come back year after year and these trees are a perfect example of a usable tree.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Asian (Asiatic) Jasmine

Groundcover
If you've lived in, or even visited, DFW for any real length of time, you've seen asian jasmine.  It's everywhere.  Any place someone doesn't want to maintain very well and is all by itself in a boxed area or even lining sidewalks, this stuff is used like a cure all.  But it's far from it.

Asian jasmine will take over areas before you know what happened.  Sure you think it's nicely isolated by a five foot sidewalk, but no....  It will send roots under and vines over that sidewalk to reach the other side.  And then it will just keep on growing.  It's not as fast or invasive as kudzu or as entrenching as some bamboo but it's doing its best considering its size.

So is it always a bad idea to grow asian jasmine?  No, but you have to keep in mind what it is and the time it will take to keep it under control.  I've seen it used very well around trees where grass won't grow and kept there with a beautiful lawn surrounding it.  You just have to keep at it.

That being said, if you do have lots of it growing and you want to replace it with say, a little garden.  You have to more or less cut down a ways and pull up the roots, sifting the dirt as best as you can to make sure it doesn't pop up and choke out a once thriving tomato plant.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Edible Office Beans

Indoor Office Green Bean Plants
The little beans have gone from cute to ready to eat, not that there enough of them right now to make a side dish.

I'm going to wait until these guys get bigger and form viable seeds though so I can replant them later.  This wasn't really for a crop of beans.  It does show though that you can grow your own vegetables in your office cubicle even if you only have room for one pot.

When I worked in Dallas I tried growing some plants in my cubicle and they did pretty good. One such plant was a sunflower.  I don't think it would have produced well but it grew nicely in the little cup I was growing it in.  They really do require full sun though to mature and make seeds.  I also had a little bonsai tree. I don't recall which variety it was but it lasted nearly a year. Lastly that was where I started my first lemon tree which lived in a pot for a good long while. You can see an old post here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

False Garlic (Poisonous)

False Garlic Toxic Flowers
Here's a favorite flower of mine.  Back in southwest Louisiana these things grew everywhere.  In every field or yard that wasn't really well maintained these guys would spring up and make a nuisance of themselves.  They were pretty to look at though and so I really liked them.

My mom specifically told me not to eat them though or I'd have an upset stomach.  I of course didn't eat them but I did decide one day that they would make a great flower bouquet for mom.  So I went around the neighborhood and picked what seemed at the time to be thousands of them although it was probably closer to twenty.

I could tell she wasn't really thrilled to get them but she still thanked me for the flowers and put them in a jar of water so they would stay as long as they could after being picked..  I'm sure some of them were already wilting and I soon forgot about them.  For all I know she tossed them an hour later after I'd gone back outside to play.

Something similar really did happen with a pair of earrings I found in a muddy drainage ditch.  They were plastic hoops and she thoroughly cleaned them before wearing them once and then they were never seen again.  I remember asking about them though but don't remember the reply.  Probably something like, "Oh, they're in the jewelry box."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

White Clover

White Clover Flower Field
When I was a kid I used to make chains out of white clover flowers. I'd just go out to the school yard and sit in a field of them and make as long of a chain as I'd like or at least as long of a chain as I could make before dinner was ready and I had to go inside to eat.  This has to be one of the few plants I never thought about eating though.

Bees sure do like it and it's one of the more popular honey flavors but to look at it it doesn't seem like a food stuff. Like most greens you find in a field it's bitter but it's been used to make teas and can be put into salads.  All of the plant is edible and the flowers make a nice tea.

Fair warning though, make sure you wash them just in case the wildlife has found the patch of clover first.  You never know what happens out there.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Butterfly on Cherry Blossoms

Butterfly
Apparently around the same time I was taking pictures in Las Vegas, our friend, Monica, was taking pictures just south of Dallas at Cedar Ridge Preserve.

Where I only got a picture of a plum tree she got a nice picture of a western tiger swallowtail. Granted, I didn't see any butterflies at all in Vegas.  I'm glad to see the butterflies are starting to show up around here already though.  It should be a nice spring soon.

Blooming Plum Tree

Blooming Plum Tree
While in Las Vegas we were able to do a little driving around.  We were told that if you want anything to grow there you have to water it yourself and typically trees don't grow on their own.

This lovely plum tree was a great example of someone taking good care of their trees.  It's bloomed out beautifully and, although one of the best in show, it wasn't the only plum tree around.  People in Vegas really like their area and are working hard to make it even nicer.

I was surprised to find out that in Henderson, just outside of Vegas, they didn't have a recycling program.  With how neat and clean most of the places I saw were, I just expected recycling went right along with it.

Speaking of flowering out though, when I got back to my office today the bean plants had several beans growing.  I guess I didn't need to hand pollinate after all.  Still it never hurts to try.  Might get an extra bean or two that way.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Manzanita Shrub

You can't tell from this picture but for Spanish speakers you probably can already tell that the name of this plant means "little apple".  It didn't click in my head immediately but after looking up some information about this plant it was obvious I spelled it right.

This particular plant was a shrub although there are many varieties ranging from ground cover to small trees.  Many parts of this plants caught my attention as we hiked around Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas.  The leaves were thicker than I would have expected.  You can see the thick edges in the picture.  The flower clusters reminded me more of the agave plants.  The red bark though caught my attention first.  I could see it from a good distance away and is what drew me over to the bush in the first place.  It's not as visible here but it's a smooth dark red.  I can see why it has been used in decorative wood objects for centuries.

The plants range in hardiness depending on the cultivar but can be grown in most of the country as long as you keep it's watering requirements in mind.  We found this I a very rocky area that drains fast.  They're used to dry areas.  Propagation is not necessarily easy.  The seeds don't like to germinate unless specific conditions prepare them first.  This sounds like the issue I have with lemon seeds.  Getting the outer shell off of the seed first seems the easiest way to sprout.

Some of these plants are fire resistant and can come back even after several fires.  This type though will make a burl at the base of the plant and resprout from it though I doubt anyone gets a plant for their homes on this basis.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Moss Lichen

Out at Red Rock Canyon a couple days ago, climbing on some of the huge rocks out there.  Lots of the colorful lichens grow on these rocks (like around the moss lichen) but the moss lichen was the fuzziest and neatest looking.

I had originally been looking for jelly lichen but I'm pretty sure I was just looking in the wrong places.  I'm really not fit enough at the moment to get to some of the places I probably should have been looking in.

Amer was a little nervous where I had been taking pictures.  She said it looked like I was edging down the edge of a cliff for a while.  Really I was just a few feet higher than she was at and by a slightly steeper slope but no worry of falling to my doom really.

No worry to all those who are concerned about preservation though.  I only took pictures and made sure i didn't stomp on anything growing on the rocks.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Possible Garden Site

So, our office has a mostly unused courtyard.  It's overgrown with jasmine, as you can see, and rarely even cleaned out.  There is a drain in the middle of it so it doesn't flood but currently it's covered in leaves so I'm not sure how effective it really is.

My wife has heard me talk about the little courtyard and decided recently that it might be nice to do a little gardening in it.

The area shown really is the best spot in it for gardening but it'd be a lot of work to get it in a state that you could grow anything there.  We're already pretty busy people with her writing events going on throughout the spring and summer but we'll see.  First I'd have to ask my boss anyway but I think there's a pretty good chance he'd not mind as long as it really was kept up.  The only real pests would be the squirrels.  So as long as I plant something they don't mess with I should be ok there.

It's about 5 feet wide there and a bit longer so I can see something growing pretty good.  I'd have to figure out how to water it though.  And keep the water from getting into the building since it's up against the windows.  Maybe a strip of daylilies there?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Baby Green Bean

This cute little green bean is just the start of my green bean harvest this year.  Well maybe not quite what you'd be able to call a harvest but it is at least a bean.  I hand pollinated this flower when it was just opening and apparently I did a half way ok job doing it.

There is another smaller one but it was a lot harder to take a picture of so this is the one I got.

There are a lot of flowers at the moment though so I expect there to be a lot more beans as well. hand pollinating is one way to do this.  Not sure if the gnats will do anything with the flowers or not but I really doubt it.

I was looking at the vanilla orchids as well today and I believe they are quite a bit larger than when I got them.  I still haven't taken the time to get them something big enough but light weight enough for them to climb up.  That branch is still leaning against the wall but it really is too heavy to work well at the moment.  I have to cut it up or maybe even split it so that it can be used and not be unwieldy if it needs moving.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Eastern Redbud

The Eastern Redbud tree is a nice addition to a spring view.  The red/purple flowers bloom out all over it.  This year it's a bit early due to quite a few unseasonally warm days.

This one grows right outside our window.  Of course this is a picture of the red buds with a dark blue sky as a perfect contrast.  The sun rays were quite an accident but really does add an interesting accent to the composition.

This makes me miss the fig tree we used to have back at the house.  It would have also sprouted out by now.  Of course all of the flowers would probably have fallen off due to the hail storm we had this morning.  It really only ever had one good year of figs.  That is to say only one year we got more that five figs the entire year.

Again, not having a house really does distance you a bit from all of the problems that come about due to critters, weather, and the unexpected.  I get to just sit back and enjoy the view while someone else worries about how it got there.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Courtyard Squirrel

This cute little girl was in the courtyard at work the other day.  Started me thinking about all the animals we see around the city as we're doing whatever really important thing it is we do and just how many we don't really see because of it.

There's another squirrel, a boy squirrel, a coworker calls Fred.  He, the squirrel not the coworker, likes to sit up on one of the branches of one of the trees in the courtyard and flop on his back to nap.  It's like he thinks he owns the place.

Some of the other critters around include the rabbits outside the apartment.  We've seen several of them at a time so you know there's a lot of them hidden away.  A friend of ours has a hawk that likes to perch outside one of the office windows and either rest or, on a good day, have lunch.  A less popular critter is the skunk who seems to live under the walkway that leads up to the back door of our office.  You rarely see him though since they really do prefer to avoid interaction with people rather than spray them.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Garden Blogs Forum Now Open

The Garden Blog Forum is now up and running!
Garden Blog Forum
I hope to convince other garden bloggers to join up and share their blog links.  At some point I'm going to try to get a google map going with pins showing where the different garden blogs are located.

I know this is a far cry from Blotanical but I figured something is better than nothing. Of course there's a suggestion area and any suggestions are totally welcome.

I already started it off with my own login and post (here in Texas). If you think any more regionality is needed we can look into how that might better be handled.

Right now it's pretty vague and needs a bit of work but you have to start somewhere.  I was really disappointed with some of the sites out there who didn't really care what kind of blog you really had and were just after your money.  My blog is not a money maker.

I plan to reach out to some of the blogs I already know might want to at least get the word out more about their blogs and get a bit of conversation going.  Hopefully I'll find some new gems out there with something interesting to say and words of wisdom to impart.

EDIT: This forum has been closed due to 0 activity apart from spammers. If you know of any forums for garden bloggers I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

First Open Flower

The first bean flower to actually open.  It actually isn't very well formed and it's the only one so far but at least it feels promising.  There are several others forming so eventually I should be able to hand pollinate them and get some beans before it's even very warm outside.

If nothing else the flowers are pretty.  A blast of white (not snow) in the office among all the green.

My first flower that I really tried to grow was the daylily. It was a purple and orange mix.  I tried to bring it with me but planted it in a poor spot and it didn't survive but for a few years.  I thought it had just not flowered but when I went to dig it up for moving, after we sold the house, it was gone.  We had several other daylillies in the backyard at different spots some flowering and others too shaded to do anything.  They're another plant that's easy to grow for beginning gardeners.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Starting to Look Green

My boss Art came by asking about the large branch in my cubicle.  Ok, it is a little strange to have a branch against the wall but after explaining what I was going to do with it he seemed fine.

Of course I can't leave it like it is but for the time being it's ok.  The top of my cubicle is really starting to take on a greenish hue though.  It's kinds nice to have a little green in  my area.  Especially on these cold winter days it's good to be reminded that things are still growing.  It brightens up the day.

Still need to do a little tree separation though.  One of my coworkers still hasn't brought a pot for transplanting yet but again came by and looked at the plants and was like, "Oh yeah, I need to bring a pot..."  We'll see if this actually happens or not.

The other transplanted trees, you can kind of see in the background on the left, are doing just fine still.  Better than the left pot for sure.  But I think the left pot is starting to pick up well.  Lots of little leaves coming.

The bean plants on the other hand, while they have leaves, aren't fully flowering.  The flower starts to form and then just dies off.  Maybe while I'm at Vegas it'll try again to flower and make some beans.

Pure Chocolate Launch Party Today

Tonight at 7:30 at Bitter Sisters Brewery in Addison, Texas, my wife is having her book party for her second novel in the Chocoverse series, Pure Chocolate.

We just got the cake delivered to us and it's awesome!  (Didn't think to take a picture...)

She'll be there reading an excerpt from her novel as well as signing copies of her book which can be preordered through Interabang Books.

Yelibelly Chocolates will also be out there doing a hands on truffle rolling demonstration and helping to put together a chocolate and beer pairing, available at the bar.

Top it off with some free cake and you're sure to have a great time. Of course it's more a centerpiece than a cake but we'll eat it eventually.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Unusual Frost Resistant Plants

We all probably have our favorite plants that are cold hardy or at least keep coming back year after year.

For example, the rosemary pictured here just laughs off a bit of snow and keeps right on growing.  Sometimes it'll even bloom soon after as if to say, "Are we ready for spring?"

One of my favorite plants growing up, living on the Texas coast, was the azalea bush.  Every spring they would bloom around the city and you knew it was going to be so hot in a few weeks that you would soon rather sit in front of your tv until Fall than go out and do anything.  But for those few weeks, outside was the place to be.  A close second was of course the honeysuckle but that's a different post.

The point of this though is that even up here in the Dallas area there are varieties of azalea that will grow just fine up here and give that same sense of dread that summer is coming.  But with the addition of the azalea, those few weeks of spring will be so worth it.  It's unfortunate that not a lot of places grow azaleas as landscaping shrubs though.   Part of that is probably due to the heat we experience here.  Keeping them shaded and watered enough during the hottest part of summer is probably more trouble than it's worth.  On the coast it really doesn't get as hot for as long and when it does it at least has moisture along with it.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Not Fall Colors

Typically we think of reds and oranges as fall colors.  Here though these colors represent new growth.  The new leaves start out fairly red and start growing pointed downward.  Rather quickly though they grow to a full size leaf and go from red to orange to yellow and finally green.

Even after they are done growing they aren't at their final green color.  This can take several more days of development.  You can see here on this leaf the red node at it's connection point to the leaf stem.  This plant hadn't had these before but may fade as time goes on.  It's already a bit lighter than it was when it started.

New red leaves aren't an unusual sight though.  Look around this coming spring at the trees as they begin to leaf out and you'll notice that many trees start with red or orange leaves that turn green as spring continues on.

Right now the pear trees are blooming and look white, not quite rivaling the cherry blossom season but still a sight to see.  Unfortunately the cold snap that's coming may well knock all of those blossoms off. with icy rain.